Montana and Arizona Adventure July 25 thru August 4th, 2015

After talking to Bill Knapp, a friend who lives in California, we decided to meet in Montana for a visit to our mutual friends, Sarah and Tom Foster.  Since I have a cousin who lives at Ennis, MT. I planned to spend two nights with him before hooking up with the Fosters and Knapps.  And, not wanting to have such a long time expire before seeing Savanna in Tucson, I tacked on a flight plus 5 nights in Tucson.

July 25: I got up around 4:00 this morning for shuttle pick up at 5:00. The flight out of Cedar Rapids was on time as well as the one out of Minneapolis so arrived in Bozeman a little after 10:00 a.m. local time. Picked up my rental car from Hertz and made my way to Ennis. Because of road construction, I was glad I brought my GPS with me. Arrived at Chuck’s shortly before noon; I was hungry so we went to lunch at a sports bar called Bynee’s. In the afternoon, we drove up to Madison River Valley which was the sight of an earthquake back in 1959; read the history of the quake at the Visitors Center and took pictures.  1959 Quake explains in more detail what happened.

An area of the quake

An area of the quake

Lake formed by the quake

Lake formed by the quake

Aunt Helen and Chuck

Aunt Helen and Chuck

Back in Ennis we went to Madison Foods where I picked up some wine and salad for our evening meal on Sunday. Stopped at the home where Aunt Helen lives but did not stay very long; I don’t think she knew me. Walked down to the Longbranch Saloon where I met some of Chuck’s friends with drinks and dinner. Was very tired from the long day so returned to Chuck’s and went to bed by 10:00.

July 26: We had coffee at the picnic tables outside of Chuck’s apartment. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I took a walk through the downtown area and on a trail provided by the Lions club that runs alongside the Madison River which flows on the east side of Ennis. We went to the Pharmacy for breakfast and, afterwards, I went through the local shops.

Sun rising downtown Ennis

Sun rising downtown Ennis

Madison River flowing

Madison River flowing

Pond in Lions Park

Pond in Lions Park

In the afternoon we drove around Ennis Lake, a place where we swarm as kids. Midway around we drove down to the power plant where Chuck had worked many years and my dad used to fish in the river flowing past. After completing the loop, we drove west out of Ennis going through Virginia City and arriving at our destination of Robber’s Roost. Robber’s Roost never served as a hideout for robbers but it did serve as an inn and stage station along the busy road between Bannack and Virginia City. It was the place where Bill Fairweather, credited as the discoverer of the vast Alder Gulch gold deposits, died in 1875.

Robber's Roost

Robber’s Roost

Returned to Ennis; we tried to see Chuck’s two daughters but no one was home at either place. Had some wine at the picnic tables; Chuck grilled steak for our evening meal. Organized things in my suitcase for departure in the morning and got in bed around 10:30.

July 27: Upon waking up, I poured myself a cup of coffee and took it outside; it was cloudy with drizzles of rain. After coffee and muffin, I gathered my things and prepared for departure. Drove to the Fosters outside of Bozeman where I settled into my room before we departed to the airport. Dropped off the rental car and went into the terminal for a brief wait before Bill and Barb’s arrival. After collecting their luggage, we drove back to Fosters for a lunch of chicken salad and fruit. While it rained outside, we talked the afternoon away with planning for the next couple days adventures and remembering old times. Took a walk around the neighborhood. Then we sat down for Tom’s fantastic BBQ ribs! Evening was spent with much conversation and laughter. Got to bed around 10:30.

Friends and laughter; can't get much better

Friends and laughter; can’t get much better

July 28: I got a cup of coffee and updated my notes in the bedroom. Got dressed and took a nice, long walk with the temperatures in the upper 40’s. Once everyone was up and ready for the day, we went to the Coffee Pot for breakfast. I had an excellent tasting quiche with fruit. After breakfast, we went to a couple antique stores where, at one, I purchased a lawn ornament for one of my flower beds. We had lunch at Bacchus in the Baxtel Hotel; had a great tasting bowl of soup.

Waiting for our food

Waiting for our food

Onward to the Museum of the Rockies for a showing in the planetarium, chocolate and dinosaur exhibits, and gift shop where I purchased an item for Savanna.

In front of museum

In front of museum

Huge box of candy in the chocolate exhibit

Huge box of candy in the chocolate exhibit

One of many dinosaur skeletal remains

One of many dinosaur skeletal remains

We drove to downtown Bozeman where we had librations at Bozeman Brewing Company tasting room; good beer, great conversation, and good merchandise. We had dinner at Mackensey River; had pizza and salad along with glass of wine. After dinner, we returned back to Fosters where we took a walk around the block as the sun was setting.

Night coming

Night coming

Glow of the sunset

Glow of the sunset

Not quite a full moon

Not quite a full moon

Went up to bed early where I sent a couple emails and read for awhile. Lights out around 10:30 or so.

July 29: We had breakfast at the Fosters and then headed to Gallatin National Forest where we hiked up to Palisades Fall; beautiful park with great views. There was a fella who came up the trail pushing a stroller with his little girl. We offered to take some pictures of them and send the pictures to him via email. He was really happy about the idea and said his wife would appreciate it. After walking back down the trail, we stopped at some areas for photo ops.

Hiking we will go

Hiking we will go

Palisades Falls

Palisades Falls

Happy to reach the falls

Happy to reach the falls

Forest scene; notice the snow

Forest scene; notice the snow

Beautiful view

Beautiful view

Onward to lunch @ Stacey’s at Gallatin Gateway. Back to Fosters where we walked over to see Marcia, a neighbor. She had delicious cookies and tea mixed with lemonade. After a wonderful visit, us girls went shopping downtown while the guys went to distilleries. Met back at Fosters for leftovers. While the Knapps and Tom took a walk, Sarah and I had a good visit. Earlier in the evening, I organized my stuff for departure tomorrow and printed out my boarding pass.

Dusty helping pack

Dusty helping pack

It seems like this visit to Montana has gone quickly. Up to bed around 10:30.

July 30: After breakfast at the Fosters, all of us went for a walk around the neighborhood. While in Tucson, I will be seeing Carol and Jim Davis; he asked for some pictures of the Knapps and Fosters which I took in the backyard with my iPad.

Final day picture

Final day picture

It was then time to depart to the airport. Everyone rode to the airport; after saying our good byes, I got checked in and went through their gift shop while waiting for my departure. The flight to Salt Lake City and from there to Tucson was uneventful and I arrived around 3:45. No problem picking up the rental car or checking into the room. Got to Greta’s and Steev’s around 5:00; they had ordered pizza so we ate and then it was time for them to depart for preschool orientation while Savanna and I stayed at home.

Sweet Savanna

Sweet Savanna

We had a good time playing with a puzzle, swinging, looking at a lizard, putting together the puzzle, swinging, counting stars, putting together the puzzle, swinging, counting stars…very, very active and I enjoyed every minute of it! When the kids got back, I said my goodnight and headed back to the motel. Tired tonight so lights out around 10:00.

July 31: I had the morning into the afternoon on my own so went walking, had breakfast, and did some shopping. Found four new tops for myself at Kohl’s for $6/each…what a deal! Went to the Container Store and located small containers for Greta to use when packing Savanna’s lunch for preschool which begins Monday. Picked up Steev outside his work building for lunch at La Cocina; very good food and great beer. Took Steev back to work and went inside to see his and Greta’s offices. Returned back to the motel and dropped off my purchases. Traveled to Greta’s; it was the last day for Patty, who has been Savanna’s nanny the past 8 months, so I got to see her. Savanna got up from her nap and the three of us hung out until Steev came home from work. Received a call from Monica, who watches over my house while I travel, and she said the air conditioner in the house was not working. I gave her to go ahead to call in a local repair place while hoping the cost to repair is not severe. We then journeyed back to the motel where the kids swam…Savanna is a natural in the water.

Montana Moose likes Savanna's new red boots

Montana Moose likes Savanna’s new red boots

Family fun

Family fun

Let me jump!

Let me jump!

They changed clothes and we headed to the restaurant for dinner. After ordering, Savanna started to have a meltdown so we asked for everything to go. However, it was decided Steev and I would stay and eat dinner at the restaurant while Greta took Savanna home. Once we ate, we picked up food for Greta and Savanna. Steev left for home while I went to my room where I had a glass of wine, read, and typed up notes about yesterday’s activity. Lights out around 10:30.

August 1: Had breakfast at the motel before taking a long walk to 4th Avenue shopping area. Steev, Greta, and Savanna went to an open house at the preschool so the morning was available for me to kill on my own. I stopped at Epic Cafe and purchased an Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade) which was a perfect drink for walking. Goodwill was open so stopped into the store to see what they had; it was good to get in air conditioning but, with 50% off everything, there were quite a few people in the store. Went back to my room and cleaning lady came to straighten stuff up. Afterwards, I took a shower and read until Steev called that they were home. Went over and had lunch. After lunch, I cleaned up the dishes while Steev put Savanna down for a nap; Greta was running errands. Spent the afternoon hanging out. Late in the afternoon, a thunderstorm occurred; I’ve never been to Tucson where it rained and this was quite a downpour with lots of thunder and lightening.

Storm's a'coming

Storm’s a’coming

Raindrops

Raindrops

I like Grandma's sandals

I like Grandma’s sandals

Steev's hops

Steev’s hops

Greta fixed a meal of pasta and salad for our dinner which was delicious. We had considered going to the Desert Museum in the evening but decided it was too late for Savanna so we took a walk around the neighborhood instead. With the rain, the temperature had dropped to a pleasant one and we saw a rainbow in the distance.

Walking we will go

Walking we will go

A rainbow

A rainbow

After the walk, I went back to my room where I had a glass of wine and read until time for bed.

August 2: First, breakfast at the motel and then I headed out for my daily walk. Got close to Epic Cafe when Steev called saying Savanna was up and ready for the day. Returned to the car and drove to Steev’s. We loaded Savanna and her stroller along with car seat into my car (Greta was on a 7-mile run with her friends) and headed to one of the local Farmer’s Market. Purchased a couple items for gifts back home and listened to a man play the banjo which was good. Left the Farmer’s Market, made a stop at Trader’s Joe, and went back to Steev’s. Greta was home and we had a visit until Savanna decided she wanted a nap so Greta laid down with her. Steev came in from doing a project outside and, since it was 1:00, I decided to head to 4th Avenue where I wanted to explore a couple shops. Made another gift purchase and stopped at Epic Cafe for lunch; their service was terrible…took them 25 minutes to box up 1/2 tuna sandwich along with cold soup. Got back to the room, ate, and read until Steev called saying they had decided to eat before swimming in the motel pool. So Greta picked me up and we went to Columbus Spa for pedicures; first time I had my toe nails polished in years, let alone the color blue with a white flower on each big toe!

Pretty blue toes

Pretty blue toes

We then picked up Steev and Savanna; drove to La Indita for a Mexican dinner. After dinner, it was decided it was too late for Savanna to swim so they dropped me off at my motel on their way home. Spent the rest of the evening reading with lights out around 9:45.

August 3: Got up and had coffee in my room before heading over to the kids where I saw Savanna off to her first day of preschool. Greta had made her delicious scones so I HAD to have two while drinking a cup of Steev’s excellent coffee. Took pictures of Savanna as she got on Greta’s bike and the three of them headed off to school.

I'm ready for school

I’m ready for school

Ready to ride

Ready to ride

Heading for first day of preschool

Heading for first day of preschool

Returned to the motel and organized my stuff for tomorrow’s early departure.  Went to Total Wine where I found a bottle of wine packaged in the color I’ve been looking for.  Stopped at Insty-Print to have Tom’s Calendar of Important Dates copied and sent to Allan and Steev. Then  drove to The Book Stop where I purchased two books to replace the one I had been attempting to read but could not get interested in. Got back to the room and packed my suitcase with everything except those last minute items that will go into my backpack. Time to head for Carol and Jim Davis for lunch; I took a bottle of wine as a thank you for them having me into their home. Spent a very pleasant three hours visiting with them.

Carol and Jim Davis

Carol and Jim Davis

Went to my room and waited for Greta to call; her and Savanna picked me up and we did some errands. We had an early evening meal and then the kids came over to swim in the pool. Another fun time!

Let's splash around

Time to splash around

Let's try the hot tub

Let’s try the hot tub

But the evening progressed quickly and it was time for them to head home while I got prepared for an early morning flight of 6:15.

August 4: Rose very early, loaded the car, checked out, and headed to the airport; Hertz personnel started work at 4:30 a.m. so there was no problem checking in the car. Checked in and got through security with no problem. This last part of my trip was first class on Delta so flew to Atlanta and then into Cedar Rapids. There were no problems with any of the flights…but the first class service from Atlanta to Cedar Rapids was disappointing with indifferent flight attendants. Landed in Cedar Rapids and was greeted by Joe and Mary Robinson. We went to Texas Roadhouse for an early dinner and then to Target so I could pick up some groceries. Homeward bound where I was greeted by Beauty and Cutie.

Another delightful trip but, as usual, it was good to be home!

Went to See Arlo

Arlo Gutherie was performing at Bayfield, WI so Kathy and Jim Young plus myself decided to see the performance. We left my place early afternoon of July 7th. Had lunch at an A&W restaurant in La Crosse, WI; proceeded on to our destination of Eau Claire, WI where we had reservations at the Best Western Trail Lodge. That evening we had dinner at the Green Mill restaurant; food was good. Next day, we checked out of our lodging and continued our way to Bayfield. We made a liquor and lunch stop in Ashland, WI.; lunch was at the Deep Water Grill. The food at the grill was excellent with a great atmosphere. Continued on to Bayfield where we checked into our lodging, the Seagull Motel. My room had a view of Lake Superior. After settling in, Jim and I drove into town for some exploring of Bayfield and their shops. Returned to the motel and had a drink on the deck which offered a fantastic view of the lake. That evening we had dinner at Maggie’s, a restaurant with lots of flamingos displayed because it was located right across from the Flamingo Park. For the first time in my life, I had whitefish livers for my meal; before any of you gag, they were quite tasty. Returned to the motel and had another drink on the deck before turning in for the night.

Part of Flamingo Garden

Part of Flamingo Garden

Three of us inside Maggie's

Three of us inside Maggie’s

On Thursday, we had breakfast at The Egg Toss Bakery Cafe where they served platters FULL of delicious food. It was then time for our Apostle Islands Cruise; the cruise lasted 4.5 hours and covered 57 miles of our weaving between and around the various islands. We saw lighthouses, fishing camps, sea caves, picturesque standing rock which is a resting place for seagulls and swallows, sail boats, kayaks, canoes, fishing boats, and lots of blue sky. It was a beautiful day and the boat captain was very informative of the history and stories regarding the islands or its past occupants.

Standing rock with seagulls

Standing rock with seagulls

Sea caves, lighthouse, keeper's quarters

Sea caves, lighthouse, keeper’s quarters

Lighthouse and quarters on Raspberry Island

Lighthouse and quarters on Raspberry Island

Enjoying the ride

Enjoying the ride

Fishing boat with seagulls hovering

Fishing boat with seagulls hovering

After the cruise, we had lunch at Greunke’s First Street Inn. This inn is a bed and breakfast that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is the former LaBonte House built in 1863. After lunch, we “stumbled” across a small park which featured old boats, pond with metal sculptures of children, and beautiful beds of flowers.

One view of the park

One view of the park

Pond view

Pond view

Fire fly

Fire fly

Before leaving for the concert, we spent time on the deck talking and watching the view. We decided to have dinner at the venue so we drove to Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua, a non-profit performing arts organization. This is the nation’s only all-canvas tent theater and it seats 900 people. As we were eating at one of the picnic tables, we talked to a couple from Minneapolis who recommended we have breakfast the next day at the Delta Diner which was featured on television series “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives”. After eating and shopping for souvenirs, we entered the tent and waited in anticipation for Arlo Guthrie. He is an American folk singer who, like his father Woody, is known for singing songs of protest against social injustice. Guthrie’s best-known work is “Alice’s Restaurant”, a satirical talking blues song about 18 minutes in length and celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The canvas tent

The canvas tent

Inside the tent

Inside the tent

Arlo and his band

Arlo and his band

Arlo did not disappoint us with stories of his musical career which started when he was 18 years of age. Tom would of thoroughly enjoyed the performance; there were times when Arlo was singing, I could hear Tom singing right along while bouncing to the music. It was a great night ending with a drink on the deck back at our lodging.

Friday morning I walked the trail along Lake Superior into Bayfield for a cup of coffee.

Scene from the walking trail

Scene from the walking trail

Backside view of our lodging

Backside view of our lodging

The three of us gathered around 9:30, packed the vehicle, checked out, and headed to Duluth with hopes of a stop at the Delta Diner for breakfast. We did find it…along with many other folks. We were added to the waiting list and was told it could be up to 45 minutes; however, it was much shorter than that and we were seated to an unique breakfast experience. A couple things of interest about the diner; it is a restoration of a 1940 Silk City Diner and it has a “no tip” policy with increasing the prices on the menu by 20% so personnel are making at least $15.60/hour. One other thing is they do not hand out menus; the listing is posted on a board and your waitress or waiter goes through each item with the customers without looking at written notes.

Outside view of the diner

Outside view of the diner

Kathy and Jim happy with the place

Kathy and Jim happy with the place

Inside the diner

Inside the diner

We arrived in the Duluth area and drove north up the shoreline to Two Harbors where we viewed the iron ore docks, an historic tugboat Edna G. built in 1896, and the light station museum. The iron ore docks process 10,000,000 tons annually with trains, full of taconite or ore, down load in hoppers and chutes drop down the product to the hull of boats. In 1885, because of the volume of ore being processed through Agate Bay, the Vessel Owners Association and the US Lighthouse Service recognized the need for a navigational aid at the bay. Thus authorization was granted by the US Congress to a build the light station. The station was fully automated in 1981 which eliminated the need for a keeper in residence. Congress passed an act in 1999 which gave the station to the Lake County Historical Society; the society opened a B&B as means to generate funds to maintain the facility.  It is the oldest operating lighthouse in Minnesota.  More information can be found at Two Harbors Lighthouse.

Two Harbors Lighthouse and B&B

Two Harbors Lighthouse and B&B

Edna G. and one of three ore docks in background

Edna G. and one of three ore docks in background

Fishing boat built in 1939

Fishing boat built in 1939

 Twin aerobeacons

Twin aerobeacons

Upon returning to Duluth, we checked into our lodging and then headed down to the water front for viewing the Aerial Lift Bridge. Originally built in 1905, the bridge was upgraded in 1929–30 to a vertical lift bridge, which is rather uncommon, and continues to operate today. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 22, 1973. The bridge can be raised to its full height of 135 feet in about a minute, and is raised approximately five thousand times per year allowing freighters, cruise ships, sail boats, etc. to pass through. We had dinner by the bridge at a place called “Grandma’s Grill; it had good food and service but, due to the number of people, it was a little loud. After dinner, we drove through downtown Duluth where we saw many old, beautiful buildings plus some great views of the waterfront. Got back to our lodging about 8:30.

Aerial Bridge lowered

Aerial Bridge lowered

Bridge rising for ship

Bridge rising for ship

Old school which is now a senior center

Old school which is now a senior center

Hazy Duluth view from the hilltop

Hazy Duluth view from the hilltop

Saturday morning we packed the vehicle, checked out, and headed for breakfast. Jim had asked at the front desk a good place to eat and they recommended “The Sunshine Cafe” which turned out to have awesome food and service. We then proceeded to head south and home. Had lunch at Culver’s in Clear Lake and arrived home about 5:00 PM; the outside temperature was hot so it felt great to enter an air conditioned house with happy cats greeting me.

Ireland: Part VI – Back to Dublin and Home

May 5: Had breakfast at lodging; our hosts, Eddie and Helen, were quite gracious and Eddie entertained us with stories about Ireland.

Our host, Eddie

Our host, Eddie

Four Seasons B&B

Four Seasons B&B

Loaded up our car and was on our way to Dublin. But we stopped at the monastery of Clonmacnoise located on the River Shannon south of Arhlone. Clonmacnoise was founded in 544 by St. Ciaran and over the years, it was a great centre of learning. Many manuscripts, including the 11th Century Annals of Tighernach and the 12th Century Book of the Dun Cow, were written here.

Clonmacnoise

Clonmacnoise

One of the high crosses

One of the high crosses

A tomb

A tomb

One of the towers

One of the towers

A ruined church

A ruined church

We were able to see three high crosses, a cathedral, seven churches and two round towers. On our way again, we found a place for lunch. Then onto to Dublin; it took us three different passes but we finally found our hotel, registered, unloaded, and took the car back to the airport after stopping to fill off the tank. Returned car, took Hertz shuttle to the hotel shuttle, got back to hotel where we found the bar for a couple drinks and dinner…Sarah and I split a veggie pizza. Went to the room to sort everything and pack back up. Read for awhile and lights out around 10:00.

May 6: We had been told, because we would go through US Customs in Dublin’s airport, to be there three hours early so we were heading down to the hotel shuttle at 7:30 for our 11:00 flight. Check in with our airline and through airport security went quite smoothly and quickly. Sarah and I had our bags prepared for some last minute shopping but we did not stop at the shops because we were told to go directly to US Customs where it can take up to two hours to process through. Well, it took less than 15 minutes and we found ourselves in a terminal that had NO shopping with made Tom smile while Sarah and I frowned. And we had close to two hours to wait until boarding of the plane. But time did pass, we boarded, and arrived back in Atlanta with no problems. Fosters had a 5:30 flight out while mine was 8:30 so we found a Delta lounge, had a drink, and talked about the trip. I walked with Fosters to their boarding gate and then found mine. In order to kill time, I did walk through some shops but tiredness was starting to set in. Another Delta lounge was located and I “hung out” there until it was time to board. Arrived in Cedar Rapids about 20 minutes early; retrieved my luggage and the airport shuttle was ready to take me home. Got home around 10:30; Beauty and Cutie greeted me which was wonderful. It was a long day and I welcomed my bed at 11:30.

Summary: The trip was fantastic with the Irish being so friendly and helpful. Ireland is a beautiful country and we hope to go back next year to explore the upper western and northern part of the country.  It was great to spend some quality time with Jeannette and Allan; with they being in Ireland, the opportunity to see them is quite narrow so really enjoyed the time we had together.  And, like every trip, there are good or things to change which I am going to list.

Great Things:  Jeannette and Allan supplying us with phone, card, and road atlas.  Fosters being fantastic traveling companions.  Automatic transmission in the car.  Flying business class.  Not making advanced reservations.  Having flexibility in the schedule.

Things to Change:  Need to pack more long sleeve shirts, waterproof gloves, stocking cap, and sweatshirt if going around the same time of year.   Two people should pump gas.  Shop after airport security and before US Customs.  Do something about the 5+ hour wait in Atlanta.

 

 

 

Ireland: Part V – Aran Islands and Galway

May 3: Had a great breakfast, packed into the car, and headed to the pier where we were boarding a ferry which took us to the Aran Islands. The ride took 1.5 hours with stops at the two smaller islands Inis Oírr (Inisheer) and Inis Meáin (Inishmaan). We were headed for the larger of the three islands called Inis Mór (Inishmore). On the way, we saw a dolphin but it was quite difficult to get a picture of it; however, Tom did.

The dolphin

The dolphin

When we unloaded, we were greeted by our tour guide Oliver Faherty. He drove a van which held 13 people and he grew up on the island (of 7th generation) so was very knowledgeable. As we drove toward the well preserved stone fort called Dun Aonghasa, he pointed out various stone forts, towers, and churches along with a stop at a seal colony. The walk to the fort took about 20 minutes and it was a walk well taken! It is semicircular, on the edge of a perpendicular cliff rising 100 meters out of the ocean. At the bottom of the walk, we had lunch in a small cafe. Once we all loaded into the van, we headed to the Worm Hole which is a rectangular shaped pool into which the sea ebbs flow at the bottom of the cliffs south of Dun Aonghasa. We walked over lots of rocks in order to get to the hole. The Seven Churches was our next stop; it is the remains of two small churches with ruins of late 15th Century monastic houses lying to the north of the church. The day was going quite quickly and we had about 15 minutes at the town center before our ferry appeared.

View of Inisheer with O'Brien Castle

View of Inisheer with O’Brien Castle

Road at Inishmore

Road at Inishmore

Seal colony

Seal colony

Finally saw a potato field

Finally saw a potato field

Dun Aonghasa fort

Dun Aonghasa fort

Sitting on edge of steep cliff

Sitting on edge of steep cliff

The Seven Churches

The Seven Churches

Worm Hole

Worm Hole

Loaded and headed back to Doolin. Drove to the nearest pub, O’Connnor’s, where we had libations and dinner; Sarah and I shared fish and chips. Took the car back to the B&B and then walked to Fitzpatrick, a pub that we had not been to before and found a wonderful surprise…Irish music by Tara Howley; the three person band played and sang beautifully. A couple from Florida was willing to share their table so we did not have to stand.

Tara and friends

Tara and friends

Tom, Sarah, and I walked back about 9:30 while the kids stayed behind to finish their drinks. Another wonderful day in this country!

May 4: After breakfast, we said our good byes to Jeannette and Allan; final destination today is Galway. On the way, we stopped Poulnabrone Dolmen which is a portal tomb even though it looks like a stone table. Four thousand years ago, it was a grave chamber in a cairn of stacked stones.  After seeing the tomb, as we were driving along, we came upon the ruins of a church which was sitting on a corner all by itself.  There was no one around so there was not much information available about it but Tom at least wrote down the name of it which is more than what I did!

Ruins of Killinaboy Church

Ruins of Killinaboy Church

Poulnabrone Dolmen

Poulnabrone Dolmen

Another view of Poulnabrone Dolmen

Another view of Poulnabrone Dolmen

As we continued our journey, we made a rest stop at Ballyvaughan which conveniently had a couple stores we had to look in. Then on to Galway; arrived at the Four Seasons B&B about noon and was greeted by our cheerful host. Once we settled in our rooms, we walked toward the town square.  In 1234, Galway was a medieval fishing village captured by the Normans from the O’Flaherty family.  Today it has approximately 76,000 people with one out of every four residents being born outside of Ireland. We came upon An Púcán Pub for lunch; I had goat cheese, red peppers, pesto sandwich which was excellent. After lunch, we walked to Eyre Square which is named for the mayor who gave land to the city in 1710. We really did not explore the square but found the pedestrian shopping streets lined with shops, pubs, and market carts. I made one small purchase while the Fosters found a couple things for their grandchildren.

River Corrib runs through Galway

River Corrib runs through Galway

One of Galway's streets

One of Galway’s streets

See any food?

See any food?

Then it was time to explore the pubs; we went to the Salt House and Monroe’s Tavern which were two recommended by Allan. It was time to eat so, after going into a couple pubs which only served drinks, we found Tig Cóilí…a cozy place…which had something on the menu we all liked. After dinner, we found out that music was being played at Taaffe’s Bar so we found a place to stand and listen; the folks playing were not part of a certain group but individual musicians coming together to “jam”. It was cheerful, lively music and I enjoyed listening but was time to walk back to our B&B and call an end to our day. But not before I ordered an orchid plant to be delivered to Jeannette the next day which is her birthday.

Inside of Salt House

Inside of Salt House

Outside Monroe's

Outside Monroe’s

Hmm..any new brew?

Hmm..any new brew?

Our dinner spot

Our dinner spot

Royal seating

Royal seating

Let's jam!

Let’s jam!

Ireland: Part IV – Dingle Peninsula and Cliffs of Moher

May 1: Happy May Day! Got up, showered, typed up my notes, and went for breakfast. Checked out and, with my driving, headed to the Dingle Peninsula which is named after the town of Dingle. The peninsula exists because of the band of sandstone rock that forms the Slieve Mish mountain range at the neck of the peninsula, in the east, and the unnamed central mountain range further to the west. Ireland’s highest mountain outside Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Mount Brandon at 951 m, forms part of a beautiful high ridge with stunning views over the peninsula and North Kerry. We found the correct road out of Dingle and started the loop. Took a picture of Currach Boat, a traditional fishing boat of the west coast Ireland, which was covered because of the weather. Stopped around Ventry Bay at a pottery/coffee shop; since it was a drizzly, cool day, a coffee to go hit the spot. Found a turn off for great photo opportunity of Dingle Bay and Dunbeg Fort. Next stop was Beehive Huts which look like stone igloos. We had lunch at Murphy’s Bar at Ballyferriter; I had tuna sandwich and, once again, huge amount of food. Continued on our drive and ended up back in Dingle. The drive around the tip was beautiful, even with rain. The loop was about 30 miles long on narrow road but, because of little traffic, easy to drive even with all the curves and mountainous terrain.

The countryside

The countryside

Currach Boat

Currach Boat

Beehive Huts

Beehive Huts

Time to eat

Time to eat

Along the coast

Along the coast

Lunch time

Lunch time

On our way out of Dingle, we stopped at Dingle Brewing Company for a sample; very tasty beer. Onward to the Tarvert-Killimer car ferry that we caught at Listowel with no wait time. The ferry takes you across the river Shannon so you avoid an 80 mile drive around Limerick to get to our final destination today of Ennis. The ferry ride was approximately 20 minutes.

Driving onto ferry

Driving onto ferry

Seeing land from ferry

Seeing land from ferry

We arrived in Ennis about 5:00; registered at Grey Gables B&B, got in luggage, and found a pub/restaurant up the street in the Grand Hotel. Tom and I split a hamburger which was quite adequate for dinner. We walked to Dunnes Store (Ireland’s WalMart) where I purchased a long sleeve undershirt and bottle of wine. Back in my room at 7:30. Tired tonight; a full day of driving with stops, etc. while rain fell off and on made me glad to get to our destination even though it was not late. Tomorrow we drive to Doolin for Cliffs of Moher; Allan and Jeannette will join us.

May 2: Left the B&B after a late breakfast at 9:15. Our plan was to explore the Cliffs of Moher from the top in the morning and take a boat to view them from the water in the afternoon. The drive was uneventful as we passed thru the beautiful, green countryside and then along the coastline as we got closer to the cliffs. Paid our entrance fee, parked the car, and started to walk. We walked to the far end of the cliffs taking in the magnificent sight. Returned to the center and walked to the tower; did not go up the tower but got some great pictures and view. Purchased a couple gift items in one of the shops.

Part of Cliffs

Part of Cliffs

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

Another view

Another view

The tower

The tower

Left and drove to Doolin where we had lunch at O’Connor Pub; I had cauliflower coconut soup with basil…very tasty. Went into a couple shops but did not find anything. We located the pier, talked to the boat company personnel and found out the boat journey was delayed by at least 30 or so minutes. Allan and Jeannette arrived and we poked around on the rocks until it was time to board. On board and away we went! It was great to see the cliffs from the water; gave us a totally different perspective than above.

Poking around

Poking around

View of the cliffs

View of the cliffs

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Enjoying the ride

Pictures don't do the beauty justice

Pictures don’t do the beauty justice

Birds everywhere

Birds everywhere

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Half Door B&B

Returned to the shore and went to Half Door B&B in Doolin to register. Settled in the room; took off to the nearest pub, which was McDermott’s. Had a drink, and headed to McGann’s for our evening meal; Sarah and I split a chicken dish. Found out local music was playing at Riverside Bistro so went there and listened to Irish songs for a few hours.

Listening to music

Listening to music

Back to our lodging and headed to bed.

Ireland: Part III – Killarney and Ring of Kerry

April 29: Showered and typed up my notes from previous day. Got my things gathered and packed for check out later in the morning. Breakfast downstairs with the Fosters. After calling and making reservations for the next two nights at the Abbey House B&B in Killarney, we checked out, went into a couple stores, and we’re on our way. Drive to Killarney went well with minimal rain and traffic. Stopped at pottery place out in the country; the owner was raised in Virginia, met her Irish husband of 37 years at a craft show, and moved to Ireland.

Shop in the country

Shop in the country

After making some purchases, we were on our way. Found our B&B, checked in, unloaded luggage, and headed toward Killarney National Park which is the second oldest and largest in Ireland. Our hostess at the B&B recommended we make reservations for lodging to cover the upcoming week end since the next Monday is considered a banking holiday so, during lunch, calls were made and reservations firmed up. We wanted to tour Muckross House and Gardens but, at the entrance, decided to take carriage ride to the Torc Waterfall, Killarney Lake plus others, and the Muckross Friary which is in ruin.

Ready for carriage ride

Ready for carriage ride

Torc Waterfall

Torc Waterfall

One of many lakes

One of many lakes

Muckross Friary

Muckross Friary

Upon returning, we toured the Muckross House which is a stately Victorian home built in 1843 and set at the edge of the park. Walked the walled in gardens with beautiful flowers, plants, and shrubs. Spent some money in the gift shop purchasing gift items.

Muckross House

Muckross House

Fosters in one garden

Fosters in one garden

Gardens by the house

Gardens by the house

Drove back to our lodging, parked our car, and walked into town where we found a pub for liquid refreshments, place for fish/chips, and more shops to look at stuff. At the lodging, lights out around 11:00.

April 30: Had breakfast at our lodging; best scrambled eggs I have had in awhile. Walked down to town center and checked in with Deros Coach Tours whose bus will take us around the Ring of Kerry. We shopped in a few stores and then it was time to get going. The ring is approximately 112 mile long circular tourist route which runs, clockwise from Killarney it follows the N71 to Kenmare, then the N70 around the Iveragh Peninsula to Killorglin – passing through Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen, and Glenbeigh – before returning to Killarney via the N72. As we started around the ring, our driver pointed out the St. Mary Cathedral in town. Outside of town we circled around the MacGillycuddy Rocks mountain range. There were many picturesque villages; we stopped at Red Fox Inn around Killoglin for coffee, tea, and restroom stop. Entered the bog areas and saw the “soil” used in fireplaces for heat. There was a great stop where a sheep herder had different types of sheep and two dogs who demonstrated how to herd the flock.

St. Mary Cathedral

St. Mary Cathedral

Leaving Killarney on the bus

Leaving Killarney on the bus

View from the mountain range

View from the mountain range

One type of sheep

One type of sheep

Dogs herding sheep

Dogs herding sheep

At Catherdaniel, we stopped for lunch; while everyone ate in a pre-chosen restaurant, we sat at a picnic table and ate the food we brought with us. On the road again, we traveled over Coomakesta Pass and stopped for pictures. Waterville was another stop where we saw a sculpture of Charlie Chaplin in the town’s park with great views of a lake and surrounding countryside (there was also a man with his goat sitting by the hotel so Sarah and I petted it and felt its horns). On to Ladies View which was another stop; man there with baby reindeer and another playing the accordion. Back to Killarney through the oak woods of the National Park.

Good picnic with Jeannette's home brew

Good picnic with Jeannette’s home brew

View of countryside with ruins

View of countryside with ruins

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin

Can we pet the goat?

Can we pet the goat?

Ring Fort of Kerry

Ring Fort of Kerry

Another pretty scene

Another pretty scene

Want to play?

Want to play?

Got off the bus close to our hotel and, while walking, came across Killarney Brewing Company where we went inside only to find it was still under construction and not open. The gentleman we were talking to was one of the owners so he offered each of us a sample glass of their beer which was very tasty. At the lodging, I got rid of unnecessary items and then a walk to downtown to find Murphy’s Bar. It was located and we had liquid refreshments plus dinner; I had Irish stew which was quite tasty. Tom went back to B&B while Sarah and I shopped at Aran Woolen Mill store; I purchased a couple Christmas presents. Had delicious Rum and Raisin ice cream cone and returned to our lodging. Tomorrow we leave for Dingle Peninsula with overnight stop at Ennis.

Ireland: Part II – Waterford and Kinsale

April 25: Breakfast at hotel; checked out of the hotel which was a clean, unique place to stay. Taxi to Heuston train station where we purchased tickets to Waterford.  An Irish man, whose speech was difficult to understand because of his strong accent, “entertained” us with tales of the Irish while we were waiting for our train.  The train arrived and we were off to Waterford.

Inside the station's loading area

Inside the station’s loading area

Tom and I waiting

Tom and I waiting

Upon arrival, we discovered the hotel we were staying at was right across the bridge from the station so we were able walk over. Checked into the Treacy’s Hotel; Allan and Jeannette arrived and we settled in our respective rooms before meeting in the lobby. Lunch at Donnelly’s Hotel; while there, it really started to rain so Allan went back to the Treacy’s for my rain jacket. We walked to the Waterford Crystal Center and had a tour. In January 2009 its Waterford base was closed down due to the bankruptcy of the Wedgwood Group. After several difficulties and takeovers, it re-emerged later that year. In June 2010, Waterford Crystal relocated almost back to its original roots, on The Mall in Waterford. This new location is now home to a manufacturing facility that melts over 750 tons of crystal a year. The facility offers visitors the opportunity to take guided tours of the factory and also offers a retail store, showcasing the world’s largest collection of Waterford Crystal.

Wooden molds used for each piece

Wooden molds used for each piece

Heating, cooling, shaping process

Heating, cooling, shaping process

The five of us

The five of us

Marked for etching

Marked for etching

Fine art of etching

Fine art of etching

Finished product

Finished product

The tour lasted until 4:30 which was past the time for us to pick up the airport at the airport but Jeannette drove Tom and I to the airport in hopes the representative would still be there; however, the Hertz representative had left so I called him on way back to city center a couple times but no answer. He did call back before getting to hotel and we agreed to pick the car up tomorrow at 1:00. Had a green curry dish at Thai Restaurant in hotel; said my good nights to all, went to bar for a glass of wine to take to my room, went up, looked at pictures, read and fell asleep.

April 26: Out early but no place open for breakfast until 9:00; we wandered around until then and found coffee shop for coffee and scone.

A 'wonderful' round-a-bout

A ‘wonderful’ round-a-bout

One of many churches and statues in Waterford

One of many churches and statues in Waterford

Coffee and scone time

Coffee and scone time

We went to Reginald’s Tower; a historic tower built in Waterford in 1003. The tower has been in usage for different purposes for many centuries and is an important landmark in Waterford and an important remnant of its medieval urban defense system. It is the oldest civic building in Ireland and it is the only urban monument in Ireland to retain its Norse or Viking name.

Reginald Tower and wood boat

Reginald Tower and wood boat

Silly Allan

Silly Allan

Depicts walls of old  city triangle with tower at front

Depicts walls of old city triangle with tower at front

 

Three of us in the tower

Three of us in the tower

Sarah finally saw an Irish chicken

Sarah finally saw an Irish chicken

After exploring the tower, we wandered around Waterford; Jeannette, Tom, and I went to airport at noon but had to wait for the Hertz representative to appear and, once he did, he remembered he left his keys at home. So we waited until shortly after 1:00 to get the car which we drove back to the hotel, met up with Sarah and Allan, and had lunch at our hotel with Cravery board buffet. We then drove to Jerpoint Abbey which is a ruined Cistercian abbey, founded in the second half of the 12th century, near Thomastown, Ireland. Jerpoint is notable for its stone carvings, including one at the tomb of Felix O’Dulany, Bishop of the Diocese of Ossory. The abbey flourished until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. It has been declared a national monument and has been in the care of the Office of Public Works since 1880.

Inside the abbey

Inside the abbey

Another view of abbey

Another view of abbey

Tomb at the abbey

Tomb at the abbey

Our next stop was to Donway for Kilmogue Portal Tomb; also called the Harristown Dolmen, at 18 ft. tall, it is the tallest dolmen (a single-chamber tomb usually surrounded by three standing stones) in Ireland. Most dolmens were built around 3000 BC, and despite their being widely accepted to be burial sites there is little concrete evidence to identify them as actual tombs. Whatever the site’s true purpose, the Kilmogue tomb’s massive standing stones remain as a site that inspires awe in most visitors.

Lane to the tomb

Lane to the tomb

The tomb

The tomb

Irish countryside

Irish countryside

Cathedral of Most Holy Trinity

Cathedral of Most Holy Trinity

Jeannette, Allan, and I tried to skype Savanna for her 2nd birthday but no one there so left video message. We ate dinner at Gastrpo Brew Pub called The Revolutionary. Back to the hotel for night cap and in the room at 10:15.

April 27: Had breakfast with the kids and then headed out for our eventual destination of Kinsale. I drove and Tom navigated with Sarah’s help in the back seat; rain came down on our final way to Dungarvan, a coastal town situated at the mouth of the Colligan River, but stopped by the time we arrived. We found a place for coffee which helped to warm us all up and then set out to explore the town which is comprised of many shops along which was a shopping mall where we found a couple cards. Our hope was to tour St. John’s Castle, a castle commissioned around the 12th-13th centuries by King John of England; however, we discovered it is not open until May. Got back into the car and drove to Ardmore, a seaside resort and fishing village with a population of around 330, where we had lunch in an art gallery/tea room; I had the daily soup special of vegetable soup with brown bread. The vegetable soup is not the same in Ireland as in USA; it is parried but has excellent favor. Sarah and I were on the look out for pottery so went to the Ardmore Pottery and Gallery but was disappointed. Next we drove, in the rain, to Kinsale where we plan to spend the next two nights. Found a great resting place at the Old Bank Town House for 59 and breakfast; the room, bath, and bed are huge! Found a bar for libations and, upon the recommendation of our waitress, went to Jim Edwards which is known for their sea food.

Old Bank House

Old Bank House

Place for libations

Place for libations

I had small shrimp scampi with salad which was very good. After dinner, Sarah and I went to local grocery market for some purchases. Read and turned out the lights at 10:30; sadly, I got sick and am not sure if it was the food but certainly not a good night.

April 28: Went downstairs with Fosters for breakfast; what a spread! Delicious food but too much; cannot believe this was included with my room for a low rate of 59/night. We moved our car from parking area in front to free parking a few blocks from Main Street. There were a few shops open so we shopped; I found a knit cap and socks for myself. Next stop was tourist center where we got some information on Killarney, our next overnight stop, plus Rings of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula. Upon the center’s recommendation, we signed up for a bus tour of Rings of Kerry instead of driving it; we decided all will enjoy it more. Outside the center, we joined a “historical stroll” of Kinsale with Barry, an excellent local guide. During the tour, it started to rain, then would quit and then would start again (we found this quite common many of the days we were in Ireland). During the last downpour, we took refuge in The Greyhound bar. We did learn much about the town and its history including the sinking of Lusitania which got the US into World War I.

Barry, our guide

Barry, our guide

Thatched roof

Thatched roof

Tall mast

Tall mast

Lunch was at the White House; good tuna sandwich and great chips! A short drive of narrow, winding road brought us to Fort Charles, a classic example of 17th century star-shaped fort. Early in the trip we purchased the heritage card for €20 which has paid off; we do not have to pay entry at any of these sites using our card. It was fun, even with rain, walking around the fort and there were two rooms of displays which helped tell the history of the fort.

Model of star-shaped fort

Model of star-shaped fort

View of fort from upper level

View of fort from upper level

Another fort view

Another fort view

Next we parked our car across from our lodging and walked to Desmond Castle which was build as a custom house in the c. 1500. It later, during the 1600’s war, was turned into a French prison. Today it now houses the International Museum of Wine. On our way to the Greyhound for liquid refreshments, we stopped at a local book store where I made a purchase. The Greyhound, nestled in the back lanes, is a very traditional Irish pub which steps you back in time. It was quiet, warm, and cosy and we got to talk to some locals because there were no tourists in the bar.

Desmond castle

Desmond castle

Inside the Greyhound

Inside the Greyhound

Dinner found us at the Blue Haven which had an expensive menu but none of us wanted to find another place, so we settled for salad or sandwich. Back to the hotel to settle in for the evening.

 

Ireland: Part I – Dublin

April 21: Travel day to Ireland. No problems with any of the Delta flights out of Cedar Rapids or Atlanta; hooked up with the Fosters at their incoming gate in Atlanta and we killed time until our departure of direct flight to Dublin.  The flight was over 8 hours flight time.

Lunch in Atlanta airport

Lunch in Atlanta airport

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Harding Hotel

April 22: Arrived in Dublin at 9:30 their time. Went through Customs (much easier than USA), retrieved our luggage, grabbed a taxi which took us to the Harding Hotel; rooms were available for us to check in, and we agreed to meet in a couple hours. Settled into my room, took a shower, put on my pajamas, and took a nap. Sarah called around 1:00 and we met in the lobby. We took off walking for our first exploration of Dublin. Across the street from our hotel was Christ Church Cathedral which, like many other cathedrals in Europe, is huge. From there we walked to the Dublin Castle which was built in 1204 as a defensive fortification. It was very impressive from the outside with the Record Tower, the last intact medieval tower, not only of Dublin Castle but also of Dublin itself. It functioned as a high security prison and held native Irish hostages and priests in Tudor times. We wandered thru a lovely garden with central courtyard by the Chester Beatty Library and across from the castle. It was a beautiful, sunny day so many people were relaxing in the park atmosphere during their lunch breaks. We proceeded to the Brazen Head Inn for lunch and a Guinness. This is Ireland’s oldest inn established in 1198 and the present building was built in 1754. After a delicious lunch of Seafood Chowder, we continued on our way with the purpose of finding a place to purchase wash clothes. I remembered hotels in Europe, many times, do not have wash clothes but forgot to pack some from home. A local gal told us of a shopping area where there was a Penney’s which we found thanks to Tom’s navigation skills plus having a map. Purchased three wash clothes for 2 and continued on our way.  We walked the Temple Bar district and stumbled upon the Norseman Bar so went inside for a beer; I had O’Hara Stout which was quite good. We walked back to the hotel, relaxed in our rooms, went to bar for drink while waiting for Allan and Jeannette. They came and we went to a fish/chip place which was around the corner from our hotel and is considered the oldest fish and chip establishment in Dublin. Ate our dinner on a bench outside a church. We wandered around, got another drink, and went to the hotel to crush with the three of us very tired.

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

Fosters in front of Dublin Castle

Fosters in front of Dublin Castle

Record Tower

Record Tower

Lunch at Brazen Head

Lunch at Brazen Head

April 23: Met Fosters at 8:00; we had breakfast in the restaurant associated with the hotel. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day so we walked to the Guinness Storehouse. Once there, we started on the self guided tour of the brewing process along with how they made wood barrels, their advertising, had a sample room where they showed the proper way to drink the beer while getting the full bodied taste from it, we learned the correct way how to pour your own using the six-step method…the pour master gave each of us a free pint of beer which we took to the Gravity Bar, the high point of the storehouse which provides a 360 view of Dublin and beyond. We ate lunch at Gilroy’s Restaurant on the 5th level; I had beef and Guinness stew which was excellent. Before leaving the storehouse, we all made purchases at the gift shop.

Guinness levels enclosed in glass shaped as mug

Guinness levels enclosed in glass shaped as mug

Learning proper pouring technique

Learning proper pouring technique

Fantastic view and free Guinness

Fantastic view and free Guinness

From there, we walked to Kilmainham Gaol which opened in 1796 and served as both a jail and debtors prison. In reality, this jail was actually used by the British as a political prison. Many who fought for Irish independence were held or executed here. Kilmainham was finally shutdown on July 16, 1924. It was an interesting place and the tour guide provided an excellent overview of its history.  We walked to the National Museum of Arts to look in their gift shop.

Hallway of the gaol

Hallway of the gaol

Outside the gaol

Outside the gaol

In front of National Museum of Art

In front of National Museum of Art

On Saturday we will leave Dublin by train and, because the train station was near, we walked to the Heuston Station where we inquired about the departure schedule; we will leave on the 10:15. Next destination was heading toward our hotel. Ended up at the Brazen Head for liquid refreshment while waiting for a call from Allan. When I did talk to him, it was decided he would not come into the downtown area so we ordered our evening meal at the Brazen Head. After eating, we returned to our hotel and went our separate ways; time around 8:45.

April 24: Had breakfast at Beshoff Brothers on our way to Trinity College; had the mini Irish breakfast which was quite good except the sausage which had an unusual flavor. Before entering the college, we found a great gift shop where I purchased a couple items. And then we entered into Trinity, a place established by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592 for the purpose of establishing the Protestant way. We were interested in seeing the Book of Kells but the line was so long that we did not want to spend our morning standing in line. So we walked about the area which is 47 acres of grounds.

Trinity College entrance

Trinity College entrance

We were there but line too long

We were there but line too long

Lawn sculpture

Lawn sculpture

Fosters with skeleton of giant Irish deer

Fosters with skeleton of giant Irish deer

Green square at the college

Green square at the college

Once we left the college, we headed for the O’Connell Bridge and O’Connell Street on the other side of the river. We took the O ‘Connell Street stroll recommended by Rick Steves. The street is a 45-yard-wide promenade with lots of history so there are lots of statues and monuments. At the base of the street is a statue of Daniel O’Connell who was “The Liberator” for founding the Catholic Church and demanding Irish Catholics rights in the British Parliament. Others points of interest was Millennium Spire, General Post Office where the Easter Uprising began in 1916, Moore Street market, Garden of Remembrance, Charles Stewart Parnell monument…Parnell was a visionary of a modern, free Irish country made up of Catholics but not set up as a religious state, and Dublins’ Writers Museum. We ate lunch at Parnell Street Bar and Grill where they had a delicious vegetable wrap on their menu.

Lunch vehicle on O'Connell Street

Lunch vehicle on O’Connell Street

Irish Republic celebration outside post office

Irish Republic celebration outside post office

Ready to hear speakers

Ready to hear speakers

Garden of Remembrance

Garden of Remembrance

Next we walked to St. Michener Church which has a crypt of mummies; guide made the tour quite interesting. Jameson Distrillery for another tour which detailed the whiskey making process and had a tasting at the end.

St. Michener Church

St. Michener Church

Down to the crypts

Down to the crypts

Entrance to Jameson's

Entrance to Jameson’s

Distillery cat

Distillery cat

Whiskey sampling

Whiskey sampling

By this time, it was 6:00; Allan called and we decided to meet him at the Brazen Head. After a drink, we went to the Porter House for dinner. There was a 45 minute wait but it went quite quickly. We then walked to the Harp Bridge which was quite impressive even in the rain. Allan then lead us to the Beer Dock, a bar where we had a drink while drying off. On our way back to the hotel, I discovered I left my rain coat at the bar so we said good night to Allan and headed back for it which meant, by the time we retrieved my coat and got back to the hotel, it was 11:30 and time for bed.

Band playing Irish tunes

Band playing Irish tunes

Allan and I

Allan and I

Harp Bridge

Harp Bridge

 

Winter Escape to Florida

On Monday, January 26, I was to leave on an Allegiant flight @ 10:45 am to fly to Punta Gorda, FL. for a week’s vacation.  Mary was on her way to pick me up when I found out the flight would be delayed until 12:45 so we stopped at WalMart on our way to the airport which killed some time.  After saying goodbye to Mary, I checked my bag, shopped the small gift shop, went thru security, and headed to Millstream Pub where I ordered a sandwich and Bloody Mary.  By the time I finished my lunch, it was afternoon so I went to the gate where the plane would be arriving and read until we boarded around 1:00; we took off at 1:30.  Arrived at Punta Gorda without any problems and called brother Bob to let him know I had arrived.  Luggage was retrieved, rental car acquired, and was shortly on my way to check in at Wyvern Hotel.  Settled into my room and went to the lobby for Bob and Linda to pick me up for dinner.  We went to Whiskey Creek where all of us ordered steak which was delicious.  Returned to the hotel around 9:00 and found the Iowa State game on TV; watched it and lights were out around 11:30.

View from my hotel window

View from my hotel window

I did not wake up until 8:30 on Tuesday, the 27th.  Had coffee in the room, got dressed, and went outside for a walk.  It pleased me that I could walk across a parking lot and pick up the boardwalk that goes over water and along the harbor which I enjoyed so much on my last visit two years ago.  Returned to the hotel, had breakfast, and headed out to Bob and Linda’s.  Bob and I drove to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Audubon Center outside of Naples approximately 90 miles from Arcadia.  In December 1954,  Audubon agreed to take title to 4800 acres of land and manage Corkscrew Swamp as a sanctuary.  Today, from the Center, the 2.25 mile Boardwalk meanders through pine flat woods, an open prairie, a strand of pond cypress, and into ancient bald cypress forest, where many tower more than 100 feet into the sky.  It was a peaceful, quiet walk in which we saw egrets, storks,red-headed woodpeckers, turtles, snakes, blue herons, anhingas, and alligators.  Fantastic time!  We returned to Arcadia, picked up Linda, and had dinner at El Pirata Mexican Restaurant.  By the time we finished eating and went back to Bob’s, I was ready to drive back to the hotel…got there around 8:30.  Found a special on PBS about Thomas Edison which I watched so it was after 11:00 before the lights went off.

Boardwalk over water with hotel in background

Boardwalk over water with hotel in background

Tired snake

Tired snake

Heron resting

Heron resting

Turtle

Turtle

Birds in the swamp

Birds in the swamp

Time for a nap

Time for a nap

Resting on a log

Resting on a log

Got out of bed at 7:30 so did not have time to take a walk.  Showered, packed my bag with clothes for lunch, and took off to where my friends, Yvonne and Earl, are spending the winter months.  Yvonne and I went to Curves and then we had lunch at First Watch which was very good.  I left their place around 1:30 and headed to Bob’s.  When I got there, Linda brought out  deviled eggs which she made for me…I love her deviled eggs…she makes the best!  Bob and I, along Charlie the dog, walked at Morgan Park which has beautiful trails through the woods  and along the river.  We probably walked 3.5 miles or so; it was great being outside in short sleeves!  Returned back to Bob’s place where Linda had dinner ready; spaghetti, garlic bread, tossed salad, and fresh berry pie.  It was delicious; Linda is an excellent cook!  I was so full that I could not eat any eggs when offered (maybe my breakfast tomorrow).  After cleaning up, I headed back to Punta Gorda and got to the hotel around 7:45.  Plan on reading and turning out the lights early so I am rested up for the shopping excursion Linda and I are going on tomorrow.

Earl and Yvonne

Earl and Yvonne

View from Morgan Park trail

View from Morgan Park trail

Bob and Charlie on the trail

Bob and Charlie on the trail

Charlie fetching stick from water

Charlie fetching stick from water

Got to Arcadia around 8:40 on the 29th and picked up Linda for our shopping adventure.  On the way out of town, we stopped at McDonald’s where Bob was meeting with his friend “Big” Jack who I wanted to meet.  We proceeded to St. Armand Circle; it is centrally located on the lushly landscaped island of Lido Key.  Superb exclusive shops, galleries, exotic boutiques, sophisticated restaurants and nightlife all located on St. Armand’s Circle which is a huge, round about with shops all the way around.  What a good time we had and the weather was perfect for outside shopping.  Both of us made a couple purchases but mainly looked.  Had lunch outside of a place called Cha-Cha Coconuts; the Mahi sandwich and French fries were very good!  Instead of taking interstate back to Punta Gorda, we took 41 South and stopped at Siesta Beach which is supposedly the #1 ranked beach in Florida; it does not say who did the ranking.  The sand is very fine plus cool (no burning feet!) and there were many people relaxing on it.  Once we left the beach, we drove to Port Charlotte where we went to Beall’s outlet and I purchased a couple tops.  We went to a couple more stores and then met up with Bob at Red Lobster around 6:30.  Another meal of good food.  Bob and Linda headed for their place while I headed to my hotel in Punta Gorda.  Since I will be turning in the car tomorrow to the rental agency, I filled it up with gas on the way.  Got to the room and packed in anticipation of checking out tomorrow and heading for Key West.

Linda and I having lunch

Linda and I having lunch

Some of the shops

Some of the shops

Statues around the circle

Statues around the circle

Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach

Linda and I on the beach

Linda and I on the beach

Got some coffee in the lobby and headed out for a walk before showering and getting ready for Bob/Linda to come.  It was a beautiful morning for walking and many people were out/about; saw a twin of Charlie by the water and talked to its master.  Returned to the hotel, showered, talked to Yvonne, and checked out.  Bob and Linda pulled up, we loaded my luggage, and I followed them to the airport where I turned in my rental car.  And then we headed toward Key West.  Stopped at Best Buy so I could purchase a replacement battery and charger for my camera.  Very slow traffic heading south so we did not get to Key West until after 5:30.  Checked into the hotel and headed to the beach where Charlie could run and we get some pictures of the sunset.  Went into downtown Key West where all the action was…packed with lots and lots of people.  We decided to have dinner further away from all the action.  Found a TGI Friday’s and ate there; it was after 7:30 and all of us tired.  Got back to the room around 9:30; got ready for bed, checked emails, charged my camera battery and iPad, looked at literature about Key West and turned out the lights around 11:00.

On the road to Key West

On the road to Key West

One of many bridges over the water to Key West

One of many bridges over the water to Key West

Sun going down

Sun going down

Paddle boarders

Paddle boarders

What a glow!

What a glow!

Sunset with silhouette of Bob, Linda, and Charlie

Sunset with silhouette of Bob, Linda, and Charlie

Sun is down

Sun is down

On the 31st, I grabbed some coffee from the lobby, and took a walk along the ocean. Had breakfast with Bob at the hotel; we packed, checked out, and headed for a day of adventure. First stop was at the southernmost point of the continental USA for pictures; at this point, you are 90 miles from Cuba.

At the southernmost point

At the southernmost point

We proceeded to Hemingway’s House which is designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. This was Hemingway’s home from 1931 to 1939, although he retained title to the home until he died. It is a private, for-profit landmark and tourist attraction now populated by six and seven-toed cats that are descendants of Hemingway’s cats. The furnishings are from the Hemingway era, there are many cats inside and outside the house, and the grounds are beautiful with gardens/swimming pool.

Hemingway's House

Hemingway’s House

Inside the living room

Inside the living room

Three of 50-some cats on the property

Three of 50-some cats on the property

The pool area

The pool area

After the tour, we drove to Duvall Street where many shops and restaurants are located. We did some shopping and had lunch at the Irish Pub (the Iowa Hawkeye men basketball team was playing on the TV). After eating, we returned to our vehicle and took Charlie to the dog park/beach. Charlie did not like the park as much as the beach so, while Bob watched over him on the beach, Linda and I went next door to the Key West Garden Club and West Martello Tower. The tower is a Civil War fort and National Historic Site; it is home to the Key West Garden Club and Joe Allen Garden Center. We strolled the brick pathways through arched courtyards and lush, colorful foliage. The grounds have a rare collection of native and exotic trees and plants.

Lunch at Irish Pub

Lunch at Irish Pub

Garden at Joe Allen center

Garden at Joe Allen center

Walking path at garden center

Walking path at garden center

Next we parked the vehicle and walked several blocks to Harry S. Truman’s Little White House; along the way we spotted several old, beautiful homes and many free roaming chickens which Key West is known for.  At the start of the tour, we were told no picture taking due to security; we learned the house was originally waterfront when it was built in 1890 as the first officer’s quarters on the submarine base naval station. The wooden duplex contained Quarters A for the base commandant and Quarters B for the paymaster. In 1911 the home was converted into a single-family dwelling to house the base commandant and additional land was filled in front of the house. In November 1946, President Harry S. Truman had finished 19 months in office, but was physically exhausted. His doctor, Wallace Graham, ordered a warm vacation. Truman arrived in November, 1946. As he was leaving he promised to return whenever he felt the need for rest; as it turned out, it became the winter White House for President Truman for 175 days during 11 visits.

One of many free roaming chickens

One of many free roaming chickens

One of many large, beautiful homes

One of many large, beautiful homes

Truman's Winter White House

Truman’s Winter White House

After the tour and walking the grounds, we decided it was time to depart Key West for the long drive back to Bob’s. We stopped on one of the keys for dinner at Wendy’s, got some gas, and arrived back to Arcadia around 11:30. All of us were ready to hit our beds!

Bob and I went into Arcadia on Sunday morning to meet up with his friend, Paul. After having coffee with him, we went back to Bob’s and left for Babcock Ranch which is outside of Punta Gorda. We had signed up for a tour with Babcock Wilderness Adventures which takes you on 90 minute eco-tour through the ranch. It was a nice way to spend a few hours learning a lot about the history of Florida cattle ranching, facts about a variety of ecosystems and wildlife while getting a view of a Florida panther as well as lots of alligators and birds and a walk on a boardwalk through a cypress swamp.

Baby alligators

Baby alligators

Swamp scene

Swamp scene

Birds and cracker cattle

Birds and cracker cattle

Florida panther

Florida panther

Alligators among the stumps

Alligators among the stumps

What a beauty!

What a beauty!

When we returned back to Bob’s, Linda and I went into Arcadia for more shopping. That evening we watched the Super Bowl through the third quarter but went to bed because of having to get up quite early in order to be at the airport for my departure at 8:00 the next morning.

Monday saw Bob and I leaving his house at 5:30; we went into Arcadia and got some coffee at McDonald’s. Arrived at the airport around 6:30; Bob came into the terminal to make sure there was no problem.  And there wasn’t so we said our “good byes”. By the time I got my bag checked, through Security, and to the restroom Allegiant was boarding the plane. With only a 5-10 minute wait after being seated, we took off. Arrived in Cedar Rapids early but my friends, Mary and Joe, were waiting for me. We retrieved my luggage and headed out into the bitter cold…I’m not sure if it was above zero. On the way, we stopped at Target and had lunch at Koop’s in Shellsburg. The area had been hit with 12” of snow the day/night before so roads were not totally cleared and the gravel going by my place only had one lane plowed. As it turned out, the person who plows my drive made the lane in order to get to my place. If not for that, we would not of been able to drive down the road. But we made it down and I was greeted with “Meow, Meow” from Beauty and Cutie upon entering the house. It is good to be home!

Welcome back to deep snow

Welcome back to deep snow

It does look pretty

It does look pretty

 

Sister Visit

My sister, a traveling nurse, is working a 13-week contract in Fayetteville, AR. and I visited her from January 15 thru the 18th when she had a long week end off.  I left by 7:00 on the 15th and the drive to Fayetteville was uneventful with my arriving shortly after 4 pm.  Edith and I had dinner that evening at Dickey BBQ close to her apartment; the beef was quite tender and tasty.  The next morning we drove to Eureka Springs where we shopped and ate lunch at Nibbles Eatery; the drive up and back was through some beautiful countryside.  That evening we ate at the apartment.   On Saturday, the 17th, we drove to downtown Fayetteville where we talked to a gentleman in the Visitor Center regarding things to do around town.  After our visit, we walked down Block St. to Dickson St. where all the shops were supposedly located; the amount of shops was minimal so it was a disappointment but the beautiful day made for it.  After walking around the square, we drove to the outskirts of Fayetteville where we found San Migual’s, a Mexican restaurant for a late lunch/early evening meal.  We drove to Lake Wedington, a recreational area outside of town that Edith wanted to visit.  A very pretty area with walking paths alongside the water.  That evening, we located a Braum’s ice cream place; this was the first time for Edith to taste their delicious favors.   In the early morning hours, 1:37 am to be exact, we were awaken by loud pounding, shouting, and kicking at the front door.  Upon Edith opening the door, she discovered a gal with her boyfriend who stumbled (with the influence of alcohol, we think) upon the wrong apartment.  Talk about increasing the beat of my heart!  On Sunday, the 18th, I took a walk around the apartment complex on a walking path that took you through the woods and around a pond; it was a beautiful, quiet morning so the walking was very relaxing.  Around 11:00 am, I said my good byes to Edith and her two cats…Junior and Midnight…and headed to Bella Vista where I met up with Joyce and George Sheldon for a visit at their apartment and lunch.  Mid-afternoon found me heading north while listening to the Green Bay Packers/Seattle Seahawks football championship.  At Cameron, MO. I decided to stop for the night at Comfort Inn where I had a good night’s sleep.  Monday, the 19th, found me on the road early; because I had been recording high blood pressure thru the whole week end, I called my doctor’s office when I was south of Des Moines and drove to his office before going home.  Blood pressure was still high so he put me on some medication and ordered blood tests in another few weeks.  Arrived home and was greeted by my wonderful cats, Beauty and Cutie, who are siblings of Junior and Midnight.

Junior

Junior

Arkansas 011

Midnight

Frozen on the hill

Frozen on the hill