Friday, July 11, 2014

Epilogue of a Dream

Now that we're home, our time is spent readjusting to the time difference and "normalcy". We get up earlier and go to bed earlier than we used to, although, Larry seems to be staying up later again, which was normal for him. We get very tired during the day and nap on the deck. We were used to several naps a day on the long bus rides abroad. Although the weather in Rhode Island has been glorious since our return, the couple of days' yard work has worn us both out completely. Larry commented that it seemed easier digging holes in high 90's temperatures with high humidity in South Carolina than it is using an electric hedge trimmer to clear the stairs to our beach. I haven't even been down to the beach yet. I just can't get myself down there. Swimming is not as much fun alone. Larry's not much of a beach guy.

I miss all the company of our trip; all the excitement of daily human interaction. I love my husband, and we have fun together, but I enjoyed the banter of strangers. It's tough to get back to being just the two of us, doing normal things. What we have been doing is weeding, pruning, trimming and raking. Our yard has not been touched all season because we have just not been here long enough until now. I'm not getting the joy from yard work I once did, or from planting herbs. Maybe I'm just experiencing some post-vacation blues. I know it will pass. It is another beautiful day in our gorgeous home. I smell salt in the air, and listen to the birdies sing. Hummingbirds are all out and we are enjoying watching their antics. But, I miss my family and friends.

Trying to connect with as many loved ones as possible in three weeks is certainly a challenge. Most have only weekends available. We have only three of those. But, I have been successful at scheduling some mid-week visits coming up. Schedules are tight, and we'll be leaving again for the south in early August. When I checked in at my gym the other day to assure my trainer I was returning in the fall, I received, "Oh no!", to information that we'd only be here for a few more weeks then leaving again. I hate getting that response. It makes me feel like I am abandoning people somehow. I know how difficult it is to make plans with someone when you "never know where they are or will be", but that's our life. We like it. It just feels a little lonely sometimes.

Ah, the grass really is always greener, isn't it. I am so grateful for our trip to the Celtic Isles. We had such a wonderful time. The sites and sounds and experiences we had were priceless. I can't wait to return for the Crowley Clan Gathering in Kinsale, Ireland in September, 2016. Until then, Slainte!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Last Day

We spent the morning with a local Belfast tour guide, Rosemary. What a hoot she was! Like the rest though, she was also incredibly knowledgeable and full of good humor.

As in Derry, we learned that it and Belfast were the cities most affected by the violence of the uprising in the early 1970s and beyond. It broke my heart to see what are called the "peace walls" in each city separating protestants from catholics in Derry, and British views from Irish views in Belfast.

In contrast, however, there are sculptures, muralled gable walls, reductions in the walls and a Peace Bridge to honor the peace and prosperity that has replaced the violence. In Belfast, Bill Clinton and George Mitchell are considered saints for what they and the Canadian general (I can't remember his name now) did for creating peace in northern Ireland. As Rosemary put it, instead of terrorists we have tourists now and people here are very happy about it.

She joked that just a few years ago conferences began coming to Belfast, but they came almost as a challenge to see if they could survive the conference. I laughed when she said it, but it is was sad state of affairs. Now Belfast has become a destination city and a safe place to visit.

It was also very sad to be on the the street where thirteen people were shot by British police on Bloody Sunday in 1972 in Derry. There is currently an investigation going on because people don't just want an acknowledgment of what they did, they want prosecution.

In Derry, the government said they will tear down those walls in 2017. In Belfast, it's 2023. Let's hope those awful reminders of hate and separation soon go the way of the dreaded Berlin wall.

Young people are more moderate-minded she said and so there is hope for the future. All over Belfast, though, are flags or colors showing neighborhood leanings: British view or Irish views.

She stated that a mere 1% of people caused all the trouble. Bad news leads the headlines. The peaceful people who live here don't get coverage and they are the majority.

It's the same everywhere really. A few brave souls have the courage to make waves and push boundaries for freedom. Some resent them; many are grateful to them, and everyone honors their ultimate sacrifice.
I pray that one day that sacrifice will not be necessary. Anywhere.

On a big side note, the Titanic was built in Belfast and a beautiful building sits on the site. Game of Thrones is filmed here in Titanic Studios and in Northern Ireland. Extras get paid £50 per day and a speaking extra makes £800 per day plus food.

Now, we've said a tearful goodbye to our Indian friends who left us to visit family. Mariam hugged me and told me I was an inspiration. I can't even express how much she touched my heart. I am honored to have touched hers and helped her in some way.

We're on the ferry now heading back to Glasgow. This is our last day of vacation. Larry never bought himself anything. I am encouraging him to get something in Scotland. We leave for the airport at 10am tomorrow.

Thanks so much for reading this blog and for sharing in our vacation. We had such a good time.

I highly recommend taking an organized tour vacation. Seeing sights only provides one dimension of a place. Without the history, stories and characters you can't get the feel of it.

I can't fully express everything I got from this experience,  but I can say that it was well worth what we spent. SLAINTE!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

From Yeats to Giants

We chatted with a couple from what we guess by their accent to be Belgium.  They were on holiday for a month and had just began touring Ireland.

Our first stop was to a graveyard. We saw a Celtic cross from the tenth century and heard about the origin of the symbol itself. It was believed that a Christian monk put the cross over the Pagan circle to create what Rome also calls the Papal Cross. This cross was also carved with depictions of Adam and Eve, and Daniel in the lion's den.

We were then taken to the grave of W.B. Yeats, Ireland ' s poet. Outside the graveyard is also a sculpture of him with a carved quote from a poem of his about not treading on his dreams.

The doors of the church were adorned with two metal swans and the inside was quite lovely.

An hour and a half drive and a nap later, we were in Derry.  Tony, our local guide first took us on a tour around the city then for a walk on the 400-year wall surrounding it.

Tony was born and raised in Derry and proudly declared that his father,  grandfather and great grandfather all sold tickets to Derry immigrants wanting to flee to America.  In the earliest days,  they fled in search of religious freedom. His family is all buried in the huge cemetary on the hill outside the wall. He wasn't much different from our family.

Tony told us the history of King James the first and second ' s seiges to control the city.  King James I had the wall built after successfully conquering it to the tune of £20,000. The wall is two miles around. After King James II was ousted, he came back with an army to get his throne back.

After he threatened to kill everyone inside, it took 13 orphan teenagers to think to take the keys and lock the four gates to the wall. The seize lasted 105 days and many starved to death. Finally they won out and the boys were credited with saving the city. Thirteen Sycamore trees are planted on the wall in their memory. It's blooms resemble sets of keys.

Tony was a very entertaining storyteller using his hands and feet to stress a point. Every time he talked about shooting someone, he put his arms up like he was holding a rifle. Then he'd kick an invisible can to dramatized kicking the king out if the city. It was priceless.

We had a nice lunch in the beautiful Guild Hall, with gorgeous stained glass windows and an organ with 3,132 pipes! Then we boarded the bus once more for the Giant's Causeway.

This place was fantastic. It is a huge geological formation of basalt columns fused together in various lengths begun initially by a volcanic explosion. We walked on the flat stones out to the sea; careful not to venture so far a huge wave would carry us away or allow us to slip on their wetness. It was really fun feeling like a kid again climbing all around.

Now we're at our hotel Stormont in Belfast across the street from the impressive government Assembly building. We don't have energy left to walk over and explore it.  We only have energy for supper and a nightcap.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Knock and Sligo

We were returned to a group breakfast table with more of the same. I love adding sautéed mushrooms, broiled tomatoes and beans for breakfast to my eggs and puddings.

Today was one of lots of riding and napping. The scenery all along our way changed from verdant shades of green that resembled a patchwork quilt to the more barren-looking Burren (beautiful in its own right). The quilt stitching was of stone walls. More sheep, cattle and horses lay, eat and stand staring at gates at every turn.

Ruins of stone dwellings: farm and tower houses with castles are everywhere. It is the most historical landscape I've scene. Between the sad songs sung that remind me of a type of blues in Celtic style and the ruins of abandoned homes from the famine, I want to feel sad. But I don't. Reclamation and restoration is everywhere too and this makes me happy. That and the glorious, albeit atypical, weather we've been enjoying the past two days all contribute to my light heart and smiling face.

My new friend from India is wealthy but seeks to "be happy like you", she told me in the elevator yesterday morning in front of her husband. I suggested she find the happy key in her head and turn it. She's been following me ever since.

She followed me, Larry and Julie up the hill to view the incredible Cliffs of Moher. What a sight! They are just magnificent. I told her I was happy she joined us and gave her a thumbs up.

There was a flora and fauna exhibit in the visitor center built into the side of a cliff.  A viewing window was built into the cliff off the cafe area. An architecture contest design winner determined the building form. It is very well done.

In an hour we were traveling through the gorgeous Galway Bay where we learned that a hooker here refers to a traditional, black - bottom fishing boat.

We spent two hours in charming Galway enjoying lunch in a fine old building of dark, carved wood and shopping.

Next stop was a Catholic pilgrimage site in Knock. In 1879, fifteen ordinary village people saw what appeared to be the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John, an alter with a plain cross and a lamb on it on the gable end of the church. Rome authenticated the event and in 1979, Saint John Paul II visited the site declaring it to be the goal of his visit to Ireland.

I went to the site which now is a chapel where Mass was being said. A lovely rendition sculpture all in white is now where the vision occured. I was very moved and prayed. I purchased a candle that was lit for me in a separate area outside and behind the church and said another prayer. Lastly I popped into the Basilica where Mass had just ended and an attendant was wheeling a large statue of Mary with her golden crown surrounded by beautiful flowers outside on a cart so we could photograph her.

I have never been to a purported visitation place but have always wanted to. I thought I might get to Majagoria in Croatia, but never did. My heart was full at receiving this wish come true in Ireland.

Now we're at the Radisson Hotel in Sligo waiting to go to dinner. We're too far from town so this is where we'll stay tonight. Larry and I just finished off the bottle of Jameson Gold Reserve we bought in Dublin. We vow to get a larger bottle to take home at the duty free shop in Heathrow.

Night, night for now. Slainte!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Killarney, Adare and Limerick.

What an amazing birthday today! First my loving husband gave me a pretty St. Bridget ' s cross necklace and a funny card. Then on the bus after breakfast my new tour friends gave me the perfect card and sang to me. I am the third birthday girl of this trip.

We drove around the majestic and magical Ring of Kerry. The weather could not have been more perfect. It was sunny and warm. In fact Ann Marie, our tour director, kept exclaiming into this evening that we're going to go home with the completely wrong impression of the weather here. She said, "You must be looked on quite fairly to be getting a beautiful day like this!" I feel it's true in my heart.

We made an hour's stop at a charming little Inn overlooking the ocean. There were stone ruins of abandoned dwellings from the famine years along with stone walls, greenery and those adorable painted sheep.

We shopped a little then got an Irish coffee and some delicious homemade bread pudding with custard sauce...warm. It was just delightful. I was in such a happy mood.

I went outside afterwards, slid off my flip flops and walked around barefoot on the Irish earth. I closed my eyes and said a fervent prayer of thanks before searching for my rock souvenir. I found two little ones: one was white and looked (to me) like a leprechaun's profile, and the other was a greenish slate star.

A little bird serenaded me on top if a sign to boot. He was so tiny and cute!

On we went around the Ring, stopping here and there to take pictures. We saw several 4,000 year old stone ring dwellings that were once covered in thatch. People lived here as far back as 9,000 years! Ann Marie said wherever a newer home was the stone remnant of the house that used to be there was close by. It's true! As we have been told, people had to leave here because they couldn't eat the scenery. My heart still felt sad to see in person what they had to abandon.

After our drive,  we checked into the Clarion Hotel in Limerick with time enough to change for our medieval evening at Bunratty Castle. What a fun time that was!

Before going to the castle, we walked around and visited a Victorian street village. In one house the peat bricks were piled in a basket and the smell still filled the room.

The musicians and singers who were also our wait staff were fabulous. And the food was just delicious. We were given a knife to eat with and that's all. My birthday was acknowledged as well as a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. It was truly a special evening and I thanked everyone on the bus for making my day.

Thanks also to everyone who sent me birthday wishes. They were truly apreciated. Love, Kathy

Kildare, Cashel and Killarney

The Riverside Hotel in Killarney is the first location where connecting with the Internet was problematic. It is an older place just dripping with charm though. Our room is furnished with lovely dark cherry wood. Instead of buffet breakfast, we got plated meaning they bring your order to the table.

Our first stop yesterday was at the Irish National Stud in Kildare.  A cute young man,  Kyle, was our guide.  He has been at the job less than a month,  replacing his best friend who is traveling for the summer and whose father is the CEO. His friend thought he'd be good with people so got him the job and gave him a crash course. The amount of information and knowledge he conveyed was impressive.  I'm trying to fix him up with my Goddaughter, Sophie. She works with horses too.

We learned a lot about stallion behavior, how horses are selected by owners, breeding and foal weening. It was fascinating and the foals were adorable. One nibbled my hand for a bit.

There was also a beautiful, 100-year older Japanese garden on the extensive grounds and we left just enough time on our visit for a quick walk through a small part of it. Just lovely.

We stopped at Cashel Rock castle next but it was more of a comfort stop to pee. Not enough time to explore the castle or the village.

Larry and I weren't interested in kissing the Blarney Stone because I already have a gift of the gab. Good thing too because the three people on our tour who did, spent our entire 2 hour visit in line. Cruise ship tourists make lines here ridiculously long.

We paid to go in and walked the grounds, got good castle photos and shopped in the woolen mill.

In Killarney, Billy the jaunty carriage driver took us on an hour tour of the national park, complete with Castle Ross (another property destroyed by Cromwell) and a lovely lake. Locals were relaxing on the shore while children threw rocks in the water. I learned the Stinging Nettle is delicious and is good for arthritis!

After dinner a couple women joined Larry and I at an Inn a five minute walk up the road from our hotel. Twelve local couples folk danced while the rest of us watched. The festivities didn't begin until after 10pm.

I asked one woman dancing what the dance was called. I think she said polkafit. It was a folk dance that combined fast polka with clogging and medieval pattern dancing. Nobody smiled. It was serious fun. British women sitting behind us laughed about their serious faces.

One woman said to me as we walked out, "I thought you was going to do a little dancin' yir self then?" "No", I said," I have to get up very early." "Aw too bad", she replied in a thick Irish brogue.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What did the chicken say to the duck?

"Don't cross that road whatever you do... You'll never hear the end if it."

Full Irish breakfast is like full English breakfast except we get white and black pudding plus really good crusty bread. Yum.

Our bus tour around Dublin lasted only an hour. In that time we learned that everyone in this country suffered from the recession caused by Lehman Brothers. Irish left because they had no choice. They had to go where the work was. That's how the suffering has always been here.

I realized my ancestors were among those. They were not able to return to the land they love. So by coming here, in some small way I feel like I'm returning for them. So when the cast sang a mournful ballad last night about coming home, I felt like I had a right to sing it as my song too.

Our tour director also told us that nobody is happy with their government right now. They feel like there are no real leaders in the world. We saw homes covered in "Virginia Creeper" vines of the movers and shakers of this city.

The Guinness family are almost revered here. They gave their huge home to the government and now it is the home of the Ministry of Defense (I think). Their old back yard is now Spencer Green and is enjoyed by everyone. They built worker homes for cheap rent and took good care of their workers "from womb to grave" with full health and dental coverage.

After our tour, Ann Marie took us into Trinity College to view The Book of Kells and The Book of Armagh" about Brian Boru, Emperor or King of Ireland. We also walked through the Long Room in the Library and my cousin, Robin's, ears must have been burning. I kept saying she would love it here. The room was enormous and contains 290,000 volumes. Apparently the College is a copyright institution so that a copy of every book published is kept here. Amazing.

Larry and I had a pint of O'Hara's Red Ale with a delicious lunch. I got soup and sandwich while he got "a board" with seafood, bread, huge capers and crusty bread. Yum.
I actually used a pull-chain toilet in this lovely old building. I thought of my grandmother's house.

We walked around the Temple Bar district and I took a picture of a different bar we went back and visited tonight. We enjoyed a pint and listened to rousing traditional Irish music played by a hot guy on guitar and another on fiddle. We clapped in time to "No, no say never...". It was exactly the experience I was looking for. Another fantasy realized.

I chatted with a young lesbian couple from Kildare. They lived in the country and were visiting the city for the weekend. I told them about my dilemma of trying to get to Skibbereen tomorrow and they encouraged me to ask about in Blarney. They were very sweet.

There is a gay marriage vote coming up soon and yesterday 40,000 people marched in a gay pride parade to celebrate diversity. Rainbow flags are flying all over the city including in our hotel and businesses sponsor flags mounted on their fronts. It's clear to us at least that many support it.

Larry and I did a tasting at the Jameson distillery and bought a small bottle to enjoy here. Later we embarked on a Guinness formal tour that included a free pint and a delicious dinner with our group.

All in all, it has been a fabulous day. Some members of our group think I'm crazy but others love my energy. I just laugh. Right now I must elevate my terribly swollen feet.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Northern Wales to Dublin

After another lovely breakfast,  we hit the road out of England. Everywhere the hills are shades of green with fells separated by pretty dry stone walls dotted with sheep. Farmers mark there sheep with paint: blue dots and swabs or red crosses, for example. There are lots of babies around too. White sheep with white or black faces or black sheep. Everywhere you look. It's just so charming and postcardesque.

Betws -y- Coed, Snowdonia National Park and Caernarvon were more of the same: beautiful green mountains with stone wall patterns and sheep or cows everywhere. Oh I can't forget to mention the beautiful sparkling lakes and rivers running through it all. Sparkling even in the rain if you can believe that.

One difference was the shale quarry we rode by. There were rock climbers in colorful jackets and climbing clips hanging off their necks. They all looked young and strong. These hills are made for strong legs. Walkers and climbers come here from all over the world just to experience the area's unique challenges.

I just can't seem to get enough of ancient churches. I love their architecture, baptismal fonts, ceiling trusses and adjascent cemetaries. Today I found one that housed a knight: St. Michael's Old Church. That was pretty unique.

We were introduced to Welch cakes. They look like little perfectly shaped pancakes served warm off the griddle. Traditional flavor is just a little sweet and cherry almond have a delicate flavor. The woman who made them was very friendly.

After multiple photo ops, we drove into the Irish ferry terminal in Holyhead to board our 9-deck luxurious ferry to Dublin. It was a 3-1/2 ride and was very easy.

While Larry charged our camera and phones, I slept through half of the new Godzilla movie I paid 6.35 pounds to see with my new friend Julie from Kentucky. It was awful. The cinematography was so dark I couldn't tell what was going on.

We arrived in Dublin and were whisked off to The Gibson Hotel on the north, very industrial side of the River Liffey. So far it's not a very pretty city.

We saw an Irish Cabaret dinner show at a thatched-roof building built in 1600. I had a delicious lamb stew. Larry liked his roast beef. The show was very entertaining with traditional instruments, songs and River- type dancing. The MC was a clown who 'd been doing it for 50 years. We laughed hard. It was a good time

Now we're resting in our very contemporary room and my legs and ankles are very swollen. I don't know why. It's late and as usual I am not very tired. Maybe I'll take some Melatonin before bed. Night all.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Northern English Lake District and Liverpool

We made three stops today. In between we napped on the bus. Larry and I couldn't do anything else! We weren't the only ones though.

First we stopped for coffee at Gretna Green. Then we visited Grasmere where Beatrix Potter and her brother summered and where the English poet William Wordsworth settled and is buried. In Viking language, Mere means lake.

The lake district is truly idyllic with dry stone walls dividing the little mountains (about 2,000 ft high) into "fells" for containing the sheep that roam everywhere. Sheep farming is the primary industry. It is all so green.

Larry and I had a really good local beer, Hawkshead Red Beer. It was delicious. I also had a sandwich of poached salmon, pickled cucumber and Wasabi mayo on crusty bread. Yum. With a light green salad and chicken lentil soup. Larry had a lamb burger. He liked it very much. While the libations were fabulous, we waited way too long for it. We only had an hour and a half there and lunch took most of it.

The village was very quaint with most of the houses built out of slate. We visited a 13th century church dedicated to Oswald of Northumbria, a king who preached on the spot in 642 A.D. A plaque inside was dedicated to William Wordsworth and much of his family is buried there with him. It was a lovely spot on a picturesque little river.

We bought some delicious (and purportedly world famous) gingerbread before running out of time. We made it back in time to pay 20 pence to pee before boarding the bus and continuing our journey south.

It was raining when we arrived in Liverpool. We were immediately taken to an exhibit called, The Beatles Story. We descended into caverns in a renovated factory district at the Mersey River docks. Gerry and The Pacemakers' song was the last song played on the bus before we got off. I loved it.

There we were handed headsets with an audio tour to guide us through a very extensive collection of Beatles memorabilia and elaborate sets of the rise and break - up of The Fab Four. It was extremely well done.

After buying a little teddy bear in a yellow submarine tshirt, we were taken to our hotel, Novotel Liverpool. It is very contemporary and nice. We had a delicious dinner with the group.

Larry and I were the only ones to venture out in search of the real Cavern Club reconstructed in the exhibit. We found the club only a few blocks away and it was very much like the exhibit. I was impressed.

We got a gin and tonic and found seats right in front of the stage. The young man singing and playing guitar was really good. Soon he engaged us in singing a couple of Beatles' songs. Then he played some good rocking tunes.

I cannot stay still and was dying to dance. I just danced in my seat until  a very 60s- looking mod young woman began to dance alone right in front of me. Of course I had to jump up and join her and my night was made! She wouldn't let me leave until we danced again and her friend joined us. It was great!

Oh, I also wrote our names on the brick walls along with thousands of others.

They kissed and hugged Larry and I both and we all shared a great laugh. I felt like a kid again and reliving my Beatles fan fantasy of actually being in the club where they played totally made my year. What a great day.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Today felt a little off. Larry isn't sleeping much or well at all so he is exhausted. We just can't get enough coffee.

First on our agenda was a bus tour of the city with Davey Macray. What a delightful man! He was born and continues to live in Edinburgh. He is cute, funny and a widower with a grown son.

Single ladies, he would be such a fun catch. He belongs to St. Patrick's parish, which he prefers to the one on NYC because it is much smaller and more intimate. Grandchildren just made a First Communion and a Confirmation there. He has a lovely singing voice, is very knowledgeable (he's been a tour guide here for 30 years), and speaks several languages.

He totally made the tour today. He knows everybody and they know him. It was a great small - town experience in the city.

We drove all around and saw where Robert Louis Stevenson grew up and where Sir James Young Simpson lived who invented Chloroform and forceps for helping ease women's birth pain and make the birthing process easier. It made me remember how a forceps delivery temporarily deformed my poor baby's head.

We toured Edinburgh Castle to where Mary Queen of Scots escaped seeking protection and where she gave birth to her son, James. Her apartment was of reasonable size but would have become chlostrophobic if one couldn't leave. We also saw the crown jewels of Scotland, the crown, scepter and sword locked away for protection in a wooden chest for 111 years.

The Guard was practicing in the Palace (not the castle) and a road leading to it was closed in preparation for the Queen's visit next week.

We saw The Elephant House (cafe and restaurant) where J.K. Rowling first penned Harry Potter. Larry and I tried walking back there but a map we followed had the incorrect address. That sucked because our hips and legs hurt from walking. So we had tea and coffee in Jenners, purported to be the Harrods of Scotland.

We weren't very impressed but then we were sore and cranky so we walked a few more blocks back to our hotel. We took Ibuprofen, put out feet up in our room, and cracked open a couple of Glenlivet nips I bought yesterday.

Beginning our walk we went over and ate lunch at an old place on Rose Street: Nicholson's. I had lamb shank pie and Larry had bangers and mash with a pint of ale each. They were good.

Larry is "resting his eyes" in the chair as I lay on the bed writing. Is that snoring I hear?

We may try venturing back to The Elephant House by taxi for supper later then walk back to the hotel. I'd like to go there being such a Potter fan. We'll see. There are many places closer by.

This is a lovely city nestled beneath a volcano. Who knew?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

High Road to Low Road

Drinking single malt scotch at 10am is certainly a great way to start the day. After another full- English breakfast in Inverness we boarded the bus once more and headed an hour and a half away to The Glenlivet distillary.

A handsome young man who barely looked old enough to drink whiskey gave us a very informative tour of the "no photos allowed" distillary during its "silent" season. Nothing was being made because they were cleaning for a month. I learned quite a bit about making single malt. Then we got a complimentary shot or dram. It was great fun.

Jet lag kicked in in a very big way today because we couldn't keep our eyes open on the bus. It was serious. I tried to fight it but the gloomy, cool weather was more conducive to napping.

We enjoyed a very nice visit to Balmoral Castle, sans the royal family of course. We walked around the grounds and were only allowed in the Great Hall filled with paintings of royal dogs and horses. It is quite clear how beloved their dogs are and have always been. The Queen's dog - walking outfit was even displayed along with staff uniforms.

Staff also seems to be quite respected as beautiful little silver statues were on display of the grounds - keeper or gilley, among others who loyally served the family until they died. I thought that sentiment was very telling and sweet.

We had lunch there and then boarded the bus once again heading south on the east side of the island towards Edinburgh. We drove past Braemar Castle and that's where it occurred to me that castles come in many sizes, mostly surrounded by walls. Balmoral has no walls but both castles have 50-70,000 acres each. Those news stories and Downtown Abbey showing the royal family and aristocracy roaming vast green lawns with their dogs where sheep graze free are true!  It was pretty cool to see it in person.

The rest of the day was riding through the remainder of the beautiful and romantic Highlands culminating with a great view of The Firth of Forth. I always thought this was a joke when it actually is the first cantilevered bridge in the world. It it very pretty.

We made it to The George Hotel in Edinburgh and had a little over an hour to rest before venturing out once again on our bus to The James Hotel for a Scottish evening of traditional music and dance plus "the ceremony of the haggis" complete with our very talented master of ceremonies reciting a poem written for the occasion. And, of course, more whiskey after another delicious supper.

All in all it was a lovely day. It's after 10pm and dusk is just descending on the city. I don't know how people get used to this. But as I said, room darkening curtains are a must.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Highlands

We enjoyed a lovely full - English breakfast along with good, strong coffee. We tasted haggis on brown bread and loved it's rich, full flavor. Our bags were taken to the bus for us and our tour was off at 7:45am. The morning began a little overcast and cool.

Our tour began with a drive around Glasgow. We drove by an eleventh century church and cemetary, bowling greens and contemporary buildings. This city has a little bit of everything.

We stopped on the bonnie banks if Loch Lomond and Loch Ness. Nessie the famous monster did not show her head but we saw her fiberglass replica and Nessieland. Yes, everything there is all Nessie.

We stopped for coffee which was much needed as poor Larry couldn't keep his eyes open on the bus. While riding up to The Highlands, Annie played lovely, melodic Celtic music to add to the ambiance. We enjoyed a perfect scone (moist but dry enough) and a delicious trifle (not too sweet). I bought  a hempstem silver bracelet and a few "wee drams" for later and we were off again.

We stopped for fish and chips in a little Highland village where an older woman treated us like the waitresses at Boston ' Durgin Park restaurant. Our food was served on real plates with plastic forks and no napkins because "people like us" throw them on the ground and "even with gloves you don't know what was in them". She made us all laugh more than once and was a delight.

We stopped in the rain to listen to a man in full-kilted costume play his bagpipes. It was lovely.

We walked through the Cullendon battlefield outside Inverness where we are spending the night. That battle was the last of "the Clans" who fought to support bonnie Prince Charlie against the British. It was a slaughter and stones are layed where they fell; carved with the Clan names.

Dinner was delicious tonight and Larry enjoyed haggis once again. We had a whiskey before dinner after a walk around the neighborhood near our Mercury Inverness Hotel. It's not as nice as Novotel Glasgow, but is clean and perfectly adequate.

We're settling in for the night where it doesn't get dark until after 10pm or later. Thank goodness for room darkening curtains.

We'll end up in Edinburgh tomorrow. Can't wait.

Monday, June 23, 2014

We're here!

After an easy six hour British Air (that was supposed to be FinnAir) flight, we landed in Heathrow, and proceeded to find our way through the crowded Maze of security lines. My carry - ons made it through Boston security easily. Not so in London.

My backpack had what I call my medicine bag in it and the security person unpacked and separated it all; re-xrayed and machine - sniffed it before telling me I had to fit my Beta dine cream and Neosporin, etc. Into the little plastic bag he presented me or lose it. I kept all but my sunscreen.

We proceeded onto an even easier BA flight to Glasgow on which I could not keep my eyes open. Once we reclaimed our checked bags, we hit the airport Starbucks for a latte to help us wake up. Airline white coffee just could not do the job. We got our second wind soon after.

We took our coffees with us in the taxi to our hotel, Novotel Glasgow, and upon check -in we immediately met Annie, our tour director. She was a very perky middle - aged woman from Yorkshire, England whose family also owns a farm in Sligo, Ireland. A lovely woman.

After changing my clothes and brushing our teeth we headed out to walk the streets of Glasgow. The taxi driver headed us in the right direction before finding the city visitor's center and there we got a map of the city.

The walk did us good. After all that sitting in planes, the walking helped reduce some of my ankle swelling. We saw Subway, McDonald's and Burger King. Starbucks is everywhere. In fact we were surprised how many coffee shops there are in Glasgow. Yankee Scotland is the Yankee Candle store here. I chuckled at seeing it.

We were directed to an indoor mall for the closest loo, and found an O 2 phone store to buy a prepaid SIM card for international emergency calls and messenging. It worked in the store and hasn't since. Larry'll get it working.

At 6pm, we met the majority of our tour group in the hotel bar. There are fourteen of us with one other "birthday girl" today. We had a lovely getting-to-know - you chat and meeting with Annie and Paul, our driver. We have a huge tour bus that seats fifty, so we will be very comfortable.

The group is lovely. So far we have four men but haven't met three of us yet so there may be more. We are from Vancouver, Brooklyn, Long Island, Washington state, Kentucky, Wisconsin and India. We had a lot of laughs at dinner and look forward to a great day tomorrow.

We have to have our bags outside our doors at 6:45 am then head down for breakfast. The bus leaves for the Highlands at 7:45am. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I'm Packing the Wrong Wardrobe!

Here in Tiverton, the morning is sunny and a cool sixty-five degrees. I checked the weather in Glasgow, Scotland, and the afternoon weather is sixty-four degrees. The afternoon weather. This evening will be forty-eight degrees. Then I checked the weather in Dublin for next week, and it'll be even cooler with three days of rain. I just realized I wasn't paying any attention to what the tour company said the weather would be: cool and wet. I'm packing all the wrong clothes for this trip! Truly I feel like a first-time traveler. How can that be? Why am I nervous? What are my expectations?

As Larry pointed out, it's early spring in the Celtic Isles. I just have to dress for that: more long pants and long-sleeved shirts with light sweaters. Layers. One pair of shorts just in case, and fewer crop pants. I guess this means more socks too. I'll be wearing my new walking shoes and my Merrill's more than my flip flops. Is linen inappropriate? I just want to be comfortable. We'll be riding in a bus longer than anything else. The distance between destinations is in the hundreds of miles; not tens. It is so difficult to shift my thinking in this way. I don't remember having this problem before. Turning sixty-five can't have anything to do with it. Right?

So today and tomorrow will be spent fine-tuning our packing and making sure the pups have everything they need, including lots of extra affection. We'll be abandoning them for two weeks at the local doggie boarding home. They suspect something is up, but are not quite sure what's going on. We'll be delivering them at 2:00pm on Sunday, then heading to our son's house to await the time for them to drive us to Logan Airport in Boston.

I let go of the dream of visiting New Grange outside of Dublin during our visit. The tour company representative I talked with over a month ago told me I had to wait until we arrived and spoke with our tour director to plan extra excursions. Now I learn from a different representative, that they could have arranged something with more time. It's too late for them to help us now. Figures.

So, I contacted someone through a link this latter representative emailed me, and all her tours are booked. Then I contacted a private tour person, but I can't justify the cost. A private tour would be $400 versus $47 for the coach tour. I realize this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the ancient voices of New Grange are calling to me, but this trip is expensive enough. I just can't go there. I'll plan to build a visit in when I return to Ireland for the Crowley Clan gathering in September of 2016. As soon as I made this decision, a weight was lifted in my heart. So, now I know this is the right decision for me. After all, we'll be seeing lots of other ancient stuff along the way. I'm sure I'll connect with my ancestors regardless.

One of the expectations I guess is driving my heightened energy is the idea of growing older and feeling the need to connect with my past. Not just my past, but that of my family: my ancestors across the pond. I'm not sure why I'm feeling this need now, but there it is anyway. I'm trying to honor whatever my heart is telling me. I can't be the only one who feels this way. Why now? I have no idea. I guess it really doesn't matter. It is what it is and I can't wait to get there and feel whatever I am meant to feel.

At any rate, I'll be letting you all know along the way, so stay tuned. Slainte!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I'm all set now.

I figured out how to download Blogger on my phone.  Now I can write blog posts from across the pond.  More soon.  This is a test.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Skibbereen, Ireland

I just realized that I cannot blog on my smart phone. At least I can't figure out how to do it. We will not be bringing a laptop with us, so I will just have to post pictures and captions on Facebook of our trip when we have WiFi internet access. Sorry, folks. Thanks for reading!

These pics are from the village of my father's family, the Crowley's. I hope to arrange for a visit during our tour.
Skibbereen, Ireland circa 1900

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Getting Ready

Crowley Castle in Aghakeera
I just returned from South Carolina, where my husband, Larry, and I finished rebuilding our lake house. Larry had to finalize a few projects, and remain for contractors to complete our drainage system and connection of our backup generator before he returns on Saturday.

Upon my return to our Rhode Island home, I found a package from Globus waiting with recommendations and more details about our trip. I already read through the booklet once and highlighted important information. Now, I have to go through it again and take action on some things: copy our passports and itinerary for our children. Copy credit cards in case one gets lost, etc. I already set up a couple of credit cards for international purchasing, and a debit card for ATM withdrawals.

Once Larry returns with some new clothes I bought down south, I can begin to think about packing. We leave a week from Monday on June 23rd and return on July 5th.

My ancestral research revealed that my father's family came from Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland. I am hoping to be able to arrange for private transportation to take us there on the southern-most leg of our tour. But, I found out I can't discuss any private excursions until we arrive and meet our tour director. The company assured me they will try to accommodate any request if there is time. Let's see what happens.

There will be time one afternoon into evening in Dublin for a private excursion to New Grange. Larry and I learned about it and a lot of other Irish history from the audio book, Ireland, by Frank Delaney. Larry and I listened to it on one of our trips to South Carolina. It is older than Stonehenge, and I haven't seen that in person either. Since I am naturally drawn to spiritual places (the older the better), I am concomitantly drawn to be at New Grange on this my first trip to Ireland.

Should we not be able to go to Skibbereen this time, I will plan for a vist when I go the the Crowley Clan Gathering in Kinsale, Ireland in September, 2016.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Researching My Ancestors

I have thought about joining for many years. When my husband, Larry, and I decided to take a thirteen-day tour of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland in late June, I began to think about my family tree in a new way. I needed to know if there were going to be a town along the way that one of my ancestors were born in because I really want to visit if we can arrange it. Also, I turn sixty-five this year. At every major age-phase of my life, I reflect upon it and everything about it.

At this time, I decided I need to be in Ireland on my birthday. It's time to get in touch with my "Peeps" across the pond. In the mid-1970's, one of my housemates introduced me to traditional Irish music. I have been a fan ever since. And, I have fantasized about playing the bodhran, but now my carpal-tunnel wrists couldn't take it.

While searching my ancestry on the web site, I discovered that my father's father was born in Skibbereen in County Cork. Our bus tour looks like it would come close enough that I may be able to ask Globus, our touring company, if Larry and I can take a private excursion to visit Skibbereen. Why not ask, right?

While completing my family tree on, I wanted to confirm birth dates for my grandmother's family. So, on a cold, crisp, sunny winter's day, I drove an hour plus to St. Mary's Cemetary in Needham, MA to visit our family plots. I took pictures of all the head stones I could find, then visited my sister, Margie, who still works at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Catholic Church in Newton Upper Falls, to check the records of St. Mary's for any family I may have missed. I got who all is there, and made a note to visit Calgary Cemetary in Waltham for my grandfather's family. I know his father is buried there.

My sister, Jeanne, told me that one has to pay extra to for international records. They only provide U.S. information. I noticed the latter, but not the former. So, I will get back on the site and check that. I'd really like to have all the information. I'm using a fourteen-day free trial right now, but I may pay to continue.

Larry has gotten on board with this ancestry search too, and we've added his tree to mine. He took pictures of his family head stones, and we'll enter those dates as well. I am finding this tree searching to be a very interesting project. It would be great if I could find out what my ancestors did for a living in Ireland. I know my grandmother's father was a machinist, but that's about all I found out so far.