School in the time of Corona

I went into the school building a few weeks ago to pick-up some things I needed for the remainder of the school year.

I’ve been in the school during the evenings, weekends, and over the summer. When I became a teacher one of the things that fascinated me the most about schools is that they are almost never empty! Evenings bring award ceremonies, sports practices, academic team competitions, and play practices. Weekends bring community groups, sports tournaments, and more play practices. The summer brings conditioning, renovations, elementary sports clubs, and more community groups.

I wasn’t involved in activities after school. I worked and was more involved in church activities than school. So it truly surprised me at how much activity buzzes around a school after 3pm and after the last day of school.

But when I went back a few weeks ago the school was almost completely empty. It was so strange. Eerie, even.

While I was there the period bells rang- which normally triggers an influx of sound. But that day— only silence.

No sportsball practicing
The silent hallways
Strangest of all… the always bustling media center

St. Louis, Missouri

Welcome to a new series on the blog!

Since last September, my blogs looked at my travels either by myself or with students. However, this Mother’s Day (in the US Mother’s Day was this last Sunday), I am starting a blog about the trips that my son and I have gone on — mostly by ourselves, but there will be a few travels that we also took with my parents.

We are kicking off the series with our very first mother/son trip.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a single mom of a fabulous 13-year-old young man. At the ripe ol’ age of 28 I found myself suddenly single with a 2-year-old– that’s a different story that I’d rather not get into in this light-hearted blog, but it gives you a little background.

Growing up, my family went on some truly wonderful vacations, and as my son got older, I felt like he was getting cheated out of those kinds of experiences because of my fear of traveling alone with a young child. So I decided that I was done “waiting around” for our life situation to change, and we began to go on trips, just the two of us.

So one day while driving home from Dairy Queen (an ice cream store for you non-Americans), I asked my son where he would like to go on vacation. He was five years old at the time, and I anticipated hearing something along the lines of Disney World or some other place that children have heard of. Instead he says boldly that he wants very much to go to St. Louis.

St. Louis? Where on Earth does a five-year-old year about St. Louis? And then it came to me… Veggie Tales… “Meet me in St. Louie, Louie. Meet me at the fair.” So I laughed, and figured when I asked him a few weeks later he might change his mind (as five-year-olds often do). However, Gabriel was consistent, and so a few weeks later I booked us a stay at a (cheap) centrally located hotel in the lovely city of St. Louis.

Though I grew up only a few hours away from St. Louis, I had NEVER been! I’d heard many lovely things about the place, but I mainly new about the arch and that was it. So I did some research, and a few months later, we were on our way- braving the road on our own!

Honestly, St. Louis was a wonderful place for us to start our adventures. For one, it’s only a four-hour drive from Indianapolis, which isn’t too terrible for a five-year-old to handle in one go. We did stop for lunch, where he lost his second tooth, and we found out that the Tooth Fairy does find you no matter where you are staying. AND she gives bigger gifts in new places because Mom didn’t have any change. 🙂

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Our first stop was, of course, the Mississippi River. We crossed the bridge from Illinois into Missouri, and pulled over almost immediately into the riverfront parking. We walked along the shore for a while enjoying the cool breeze off the water – the temperatures for the days we were there were in the mid-90s, so the breeze was welcomed!

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The first thing Gabriel noticed was a river boat, and we simply HAD to take the day cruise right that minute! So that’s what we did — it was the perfect way to see the city for the first time. The guide came over the speakers and pointed out famous landmarks and gave us historical insights into the city and the expansion of Anglo-invaders to the western portions of the United States.

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We chose the boat Tom Sawyer for obvious reasons– I’m an English teacher!

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The English teacher in me found the name of this boat particularly hilarious

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After our trip on the boat, we headed straight for the arch! Gabriel was blown away by the sheer size of the arch. We went under the arch where there is a museum run by the National Park Service and it is free (donations are accepted).  The museum gives much of the history of Westward Expansion, life on the prairie, and how people lived before the west was “settled.” It was truly fascinating for us both, and we came back the next day as well because Gabriel wanted to see it again.

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A statue of Thomas Jefferson – the president who pushed Westward Expansion

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partial replica of a sod house

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At this museum we had a defining experience. It seems strange to say that, but it is true. The park ranger who explained the museum to us gave us a worksheet for Gabriel to complete while we looked around, and he told us to come back when we were finished.

We walked around the exhibits and answered the questions and returned, as instructed, to the park ranger station. The ranger then told us about the Junior Ranger program, and explained to Gabriel (not me) the importance of keeping our National Parks and historic sights clean, safe, and protected. He told Gabriel that as a Junior Ranger, it was his responsibility to make sure he did whatever he could to keep the parks clean and safe. Then, he swore Gabriel in as a Junior Ranger and gave him his first (of many) Junior Ranger badges. Later Gabriel expressed to me that he thought the responsibility was too big for him and insisted that we go back and return the badge. It took quite some time before I was able to convince him that he was up to the challenge (so cute)!

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After leaving the museum, we went back above ground and walked around the arch.  We laid on the grass under the arch and looked up and traced it with our fingers and talked about how, from where we were, it looked like it got paper-thin at the top. He was fascinated and horrified (thankfully) that you could travel all the way to the top and look out at the world from the top.

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Here is a life lesson for you new parents out there: I should have stopped there. We had experienced quite a bit in our short time in St. Louis so far, and I should have steered us to the hotel and have been done with it. However, wanting to squeeze as much as we could into the day, I insisted that we keep going.

Five-year-olds do not have the same attention spans as their parents, and though I enjoyed the Old Courthouse quite a bit with its beautiful architecture…

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… Gabriel did not!

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This was after I told him we could get ice cream if he just stoped frowning. 

That night at the hotel we ordered a pizza and relaxed. Gabriel’s good mood returned when he learned that there was an entire channel on the TV dedicated to just golf! We watched golf for nearly an hour before I couldn’t take it anymore, and I finally got us both to sleep!

Day 2

We started out our day back at the arch, back at the museum, and of course the gift shop! We also took another cruise because our hotel gave us a free ticket… so we HAD to go! Then we visited the Dred Scott museum, and Gabriel was much more into that than he had been at the courthouse.

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Peek-a-boo!

We also encountered a lovely public park in the middle of the city with statues, fountains, and interactive art. I highly recommend going – it is just west of the Old Courthouse.

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Another note: You cannot do St. Louis the justice it deserves in two days! There were SO many things we didn’t do on that trip because we simply didn’t have the time. I’d learned my lesson the first day, and I let Gabriel guide the trip – and though I wanted him to see even more, I decided he would have the most fun if he got to choose the itinerary. So that’s what we did. We didn’t see the zoo, or the sportsball stadiums, the City Museum or Grant’s Farm. However, my son has the time of his life, and I enjoyed watching him enjoy the city!

All in all this was a wonderful first vacation for the two of us! We had an amazing time, despite the record heat they had that summer, and we made life long memories!

Come back next week to read about our next adventure – Mammoth Cave!

The End of Ireland… for now

The end of our trip was very sad for me – and probably a little for my parents as well. My biggest fear as an 18 year old was that I would never go back. Though we had traveled a good loop through Ireland (Dublin to Glendalough to Waterford to Cork to Blarney to Kenmare to Kilarney to the Cliffs of Moher to Sligo to Donegal to Carrick on Shannon and back to Dublin), I knew there was so much more to see– and so much more to see in the places we hadn’t stayed long… like Glendalough and St. John’s Point.

But our trip wasn’t over yet.

Leaving Carrick on Shannon we finally cut inland for the first time and headed back to Bellcamp Hutchinson. Though our trip around the coast of Ireland had held unimaginable joys for us, returning to Bellcamp was in many ways like returning home — to people we knew, beds we knew, and a few days of rest before the inevitable trip back to the airport.

We spent some time in Dublin again, but I have very little memory of those last few days. My mother reminded me that we went to a bookstore- a rather large one… two stories, I think. She wanted to find a book that was IRISH! So she asked a bookseller what she should get – if they had anything by an Irish author that would be good to get while in Ireland.

Coincidentally enough, they had just had an author signing there the week before and still had several copies of this man’s book, the first book he’d published. We’d never heard of the book or the author, but my mom bought it off the bookseller’s recommendation while I bought a book of Irish mythology.

On the flight home, my mom started to read the book, but she didn’t like the way it started and put it down. We didn’t think of it for months (or maybe even a year) until I heard the author’s name and title of the book again. I gasped and called my mom to see if she still had that signed copy of the book, and she did. And now on my bookshelf at school sits a signed copy of Frank McCourt’s book Angela’s Ashes with a unique cover that we didn’t get here in the States.

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Unfortunately I will have to use this picture as a place holder until I can go back to school again and get a picture of the actual book with Frank McCourt’s signature in it.

At this point, I feel that I have to admit an error in my memory from of the earlier posts — I mentioned going to Malahide Castle on one of our first days in Dublin, but my parents corrected me tonight (they’re good about doing that). We went to Malahide on our return trip to the Dublin area and enjoyed the grounds. The weather took a rainy turn, and we found a pub close by to get something to eat. None of us could remember what time of day it was, but we were nearly the only people in the pub, so perhaps it was a bit early for the lunch or dinner hour, but it was cold and rainy and they served us the most amazing potato leek soup that I have ever had in my entire life! Years later when I had a home of my own, I tried to duplicate this soup but fell miserably short.  Though my (then) husband said it tasted divine and asked me to make it again, it just wasn’t right. Maybe you need the Irish air, or Irish produce, or maybe it is just my mind romanticizing the memory, but I long to someday have soup that magnificent again!

My father also reminded me of something that I hadn’t put together. On our last day we went to a “small little village north of Dublin to see a regatta.” When my father mentioned this to me today in our weekly talk about Ireland, my heart jumped a little bit. I asked him if he would recognize the name of the town if I said it, and he said he probably would.

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“Howth?”

“Yeah! That’s it.”

On my My Take-Back Year (and a half) I traveled to Ireland on my own.  It was my first time back since I’d been in 1997. On the advice of a student, I traveled to the town that I thought I’d never heard of before.  Howth was the name of that town.  I spent the my birthday doing the cliff walk to the lighthouse and exploring the town. I loved Howth, and when (in my weaker moments) I start planning another trip, Howth is always on the list!

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Me on the cliff walk in 2016

The next day, we left for the United States, but I knew that I was leaving a part of me in Ireland that I didn’t quite understand. Ireland fed my soul. It spoke to parts of me that I didn’t know existed. I’d felt something tangible while in Ireland, a pull to go back, to find more.

I talked to my parents about their big take-aways from the trip, and my father talked about the magic of that night out on St. John’s Point. It was a place we just “happened upon” and had some of the most unique experiences there, like seeing the whales go out to sea. My mother talked about how much she enjoyed seeing the adventure through my eyes. It had been my graduation gift to go anywhere in the world, and she said it was fun to watch me experience Ireland. As an 18 year old, I wouldn’t have understood that, but now as a mom, I get it.

In fact, that has inspired me for my next blog series! I am going to talk about the trips that my son and I have gone on over the years and the joy of seeing things through his eyes. So, next week, we will start with our first big adventure as mom and son — St. Louis, Missouri! Stay tuned!

And if you missed any of the other posts from my 1997 journey around Ireland, you can click the links below.


The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

Dublin: love at first sight

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

Glendalough: My First Love

Waterford: More than Crystal

Blarney: Everything but Kissing the Stone

Kenmare and the Ring of Beara

From the Disappointing to the Magnificent

In Shadows and Sunshine

Surprised by Kylemore Abbey

Happy Little Accidents – St. John’s Point

From the Highest Cliffs to the Famous River

Bathed in Positivity

I’m taking a short break from my series about my trip to Ireland in order to infuse a little much needed positivity into the world.

As I walked around the neighborhood the other day, I ran across some lovely, positive messages from the people who live around me.

Sometimes we just need a few brief messages to bring a smile to our day!

From the Highest Cliffs to the Famous River

Our trip around Ireland was nearing its completion, but the surprises that Ireland had in store for us didn’t stop just because we left the coast. After our phenomenal find on St. John’s Point, we received yet another great tip for a spot off the beaten path. If I learned one thing from this trip, it is how helpful innkeepers are at helping you find the “ins” in Ireland. So many times we would have driven past amazing sights had we not been instructed to go “a wee bit down the road” and find something amazing!

Our innkeepers at Harbour Lights were no exception — I don’t remember how the topic came up, but they told us we should check-out the “highest cliffs in all of Europe.” And of course we had already been to the Cliffs of Moher — but no! That was not it at all. Though the Cliffs of Moher were very breathtaking and awe-inspiring, those were not the highest cliffs in all of Europe.

Sliabh Liag – or “Slieve League” in American – are three times as high as the Cliffs of Moher, and though the cliffs at Sliabh Liag aren’t as sheer as the Cliffs of Moher, they left me dizzy with the immensity of the place.

If you happen to be traveling in Donegal- Sliagn Liag is a must see– beautiful, and far less trafficked by tourists (which is a huge plus in my book).

Like so many times before, it was difficult to leave a place so impressive, but we started to slowly make our way back to the east side of Ireland where our plane would be leaving in three days time.

Cutting inland, we drove through mountains and past beautiful lakes on our way to the lovely town of Carrick-on-Shannon. This was probably one of my favorite little towns that we stayed in. The name comes from the fact that the town is amazingly situated right on the River Shannon – a river with a glorious history and even more fascinating mythology. The Shannon runs from Shannon Pot in County Cavan to the Shannon Estuary in County Limerick where it dumps into the sea.  It is the longest river in Ireland (over 360 km, or 224 miles long), and it was the source of much joy that day!

Our bed and breakfast that night was Hollywell Country House.

The flyer from Hollywell

Like several other places we stayed, I’m not sure if it is still a bed and breakfast. It is listed on TripAdvisor, but the last review was left in 2014, and they do not have their own website.  However, when we were there, it felt like we were staying in a storybook house.

The proprietors and me at the front door

Hollywell was named after the owner’s dog, Holly pictured below.

The house itself was absolute perfection – my father described it as looking like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice would come walking out the front door. The proprietors were very kind people — as were nearly all of the innkeepers we encountered. And they had a very inviting sitting area where my mom found an Irish picture book that she nearly stowed away in her luggage because she liked it so much (just kidding, Mom… or am I?).

Our room at Hollywell

The breakfast room

Me in the sitting room

Mom contemplating how she can steal that Irish picture book 😁

The view from Hollywell into Carrick-on-Shannon

After checking in at Hollywell, we walked across a bridge into the town and enjoyed walking around and going into the shops. My purchase of the day was a copy of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra because I had just finished Julius Caesar a few days prior. My parents razed me for being such a nerd that my “souvenir” was Shakespearean play which most people my age wouldn’t go near. But… I was/am an odd duck – I’m not ashamed to admit it!

The innkeepers told us that you could take a river cruise on the Shannon, so that is exactly what we did. It was the perfect day for it! The sun was shinning, and it was so warm I rolled up my sleeves on the boat ride. The boat was small, but we got seated near the front, and thoroughly enjoyed our time.

The dock

On the river

Getting some sun on the river cruise

We even passed the bed and breakfast on the boat trip, and my dad got a picture of it from the river.

Hollywell from the River Shannon

Hollywell from the river

As our time in Ireland was coming to a close, there was a certain melancholy with us that evening. I feared that though I felt such a visceral connection to Ireland that I might never get back to this place that had stolen my heart and showed me a beauty that I didn’t know was possible. And if you had told 18 year old me (in 1997) that I wouldn’t be back until 2016 I would have probably cried.

I hope you enjoyed the blog this week. If you are new and haven’t read the other posts in this series, I’ve linked them below in chronological order.

Thanks for stopping by! Next Monday’s post will wrap up my first trip to Ireland, and then I will have to decide what adventure to take you all on next.


The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

Dublin: love at first sight

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

Glendalough: My First Love

Waterford: More than Crystal

Blarney: Everything but Kissing the Stone

Kenmare and the Ring of Beara

From the Disappointing to the Magnificent

In Shadows and Sunshine

Surprised by Kylemore Abbey

Happy Little Accidents – St. John’s Point

The Things We Grieve

So many things have been lost in these uncertain times. From loved ones to the simple joys of going to a coffee shop to sit, drink, and read.

The ease of going to the grocery store is long gone- replaced with anxiety and empty shelves. Classrooms and hallways filled with lockers are empty now. Students who dreaded the daily routine now wish for some semblance of normalcy.

I’ve felt acutely aware of all of these things and have mourned various things – from death of a family friend to the smiles of my students every morning.

However, for some strange reason I got a gut punch today for something seemingly simple. My phone sent me a reminder that I purchased a ticket to see a play- and all of a sudden my mood took a nose dive.

Flashback to Valentine’s Day. As a single mom who has been terminally single for the last 11 years, the day has always been a struggle to maintain even a small iota is self-esteem. So this year I decided that I would “treat myself”— spoil myself by buying a ludicrously expensive (for me) single ticket to see a play later in the year. It was a novelty to spend so much on myself and dare to go to a play solo and to a play that I’d never seen before- one of my favorite- Hamlet.

I’ve read the play multiple times and seen nearly every movie version released after 1980– even spoof movies like Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead. And though I have seen over 15 other Shakespeare plays on the stage, I have yet to see Hamlet.

And then came the virus. But I said to myself, This will all be over by the end of April. And then schools shut down. And businesses. And I finally got the email mid-March that the theater was canceling the show. I was sad then. But then I forgot about it.

Until I got a notification on my phone for the show. I’d forgotten to delete it off of my calendar, and just like that, I was suddenly grieving the loss of Hamlet.

So much of our lives have changed. So much has been taken from us. But we’ll be ok. I’ll see Hamlet eventually- and I will even enjoy it more as I remember the time I lost that chance.

We’ll make it through this. We will. And we will be stronger for it.

Happy Little Accidents – St. John’s Point

On this very epic journey of Ireland, the first of many for me, my parents had planned the itinerary months in advance, booking bed and breakfasts along the route we planned to take around the coast of Ireland and finally crossing through the middle, back to Dublin. One night’s stay was left unplanned, though. According to the itinerary my mother typed up, our next evening was supposed to be in Letterkenny, Ireland (no affiliation to the Canadian sitcom that makes no sense to me at all).

When preparing for this blog series I looked at the itinerary and did a double take – a hostel? We most definitely did NOT stay in a hostel. In fact, as I was drafting the different posts for the series, I wrote on this page (it has since been deleted):

A hostel? There is no way we stayed in a hostel– I have zero memory of this. Must ask the parents.

I love my parents dearly, but they are not really the hostel staying kind of people.  And after consulting my journal, I found no reference to Letterkenny or a hostel.

So, as usual the Sunday before a blog post, I talked with my parents about the next leg of our journey in July of 1997. Nope. No hostel. They couldn’t remember why we didn’t go to Letterkenny, but when I read in my journal just before writing this, I remembered why we left. In the summer of 1997 (and July specifically) tensions were growing in Northern Ireland. Protests and riots were in the news, and Letterkenny was very near the border with Northern Ireland, so we decided not to go. Instead, we just decided to drive along the coast and see what we could find.

After leaving Ballina in County Mayo, we continued north up the western coast of Ireland – what I now know as the Wild Atantic Way – we encountered amazing little towns – like Sligo (for more information on the beauty of Sligo, read this blog!).

The most serendipitous part of our trip was happening upon Saint John’s Point in County Donegal. I’m not sure how we happened upon it, but I think we just saw a sign and were like Hey, let’s see what this is. And wow…

We stayed at a beautiful little bed and breakfast called Harbour Lights (no longer a bed and breakfast) – and from the front lawn you could see the water to the north and the south– that’s how narrow the peninsula was at that point. I wrote in my journal that night sitting on the stone fence looking out over the water.

The evening was magical. We decided to just get some groceries at a local store in Dunkineely and have a picnic out on the tip of the peninsula where there was a beautiful view of the ocean and lighthouse.

The evening at the lighthouse was phenomenal. We sat on our jackets and ate our sandwiches and talking. The weather was perfect. To top it off, as we were walking we saw whales jumping and playing just off the coast – probably a quarter of a mile from where were were standing. At first we couldn’t believe what we were seeing – but it was obvious, they were much too big to be fish or even dolphins — it was a pod of whales going out to sea. There were other people out on the point and we kind of looked at each other to see if we were seeing the same thing.

The coastline was breathtaking – watching the waves crash against the rock with the green of the grass and stark white of the walls around the lighthouse and the lighthouse itself.  We walked around for quite some time, and stayed around to watch the resplendent sunset well after 10pm. The colors were breathtaking.

As Bob Ross would have said, this adventure was a happy accident. And much like several of the other places we visited on this trip, I truly never wanted to leave that spot.


Other posts in this series:

The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

Dublin: love at first sight

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

Glendalough: My First Love

Waterford: More than Crystal

Blarney: Everything but Kissing the Stone

Kenmare and the Ring of Beara

From the Disappointing to the Magnificent

In Shadows and Sunshine

Surprised by Kylemore Abbey

 

Surprised by Kylemore Abbey

Leaving County Clare was not easy. Seeing the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher and the phenomenal wildlife coupled with the raw beauty of the coast made it difficult to believe that Ireland could continue to amaze me in more intense ways than it already had.

Oh, how little did I understand Ireland.

As we drove north toward Ballina (County Mayo), we passed through some beautiful landscapes.

We stopped for lunch in Gallway, which I wasn’t very impressed with at the time. I described it in my journal as being “like most cities” with “chain restaurants with their own parking lots.” I’m sorry, Galway! My more recent trip hit me very differently and I enjoyed the scenery very much. However, as an 18 year old in 1997, I found Galway to be very tedious.

Excerpt from my journal about Galway

Our weather this day was beautiful – sunny and warm. The sun does just as much for the beauty of Ireland as the rain. The greens in contrasts with the deep blues of lakes in the valleys of hills and mountains dotted with white sheep seems to shine even brighter beneath the clear skies. We drove most of the day, but I didn’t mind because of the beauty of the scenery.

While we were driving we caught sight of something that made us literally stop in our tracks – Kylemore Abbey. We decided to investigate, knowing nothing about this beautiful castle in the middle of nowhere on the edge of a lake. We were surprised to find out that Kylemore Abbey is one of the more famous places in Ireland.

Originally the home of a wealthy family, the castle eventually became the home of nuns who were displaced during World War 1, and they’ve been there ever since. Indiana connection: The have a partnership with the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana) for their study abroad program!

About a mile up the mountain behind the abbey is a giant statue of Christ with his arms outstretched, as if inviting people to the abbey. Unfortunately we couldn’t go up there because we needed to get to Ballina before dark, so we left fascinated by what we had happened upon.

In Ballina we stayed at Ashley House bed and breakfast which appears to still be operational, though it does not have it’s own website. TripAdvisor has a listing, though with very little information.

The host told us that Ballina was having a festival and that evening was “international night”, so we went into town. The center was blocked off to traffic and different sections were set off as different “countries.” The US section had classic cars from the 50s and a miniature Statue of Liberty. I don’t remember this, but my mother told me that they even had “hotdogs”– but they didn’t taste ANYTHING like actual hotdogs (which is probably a good thing in my opinion). France had an Eiffel Tower and can-can dancers. Germany had an oompah band and copious amounts of lederhosen. It was quite a night!

I checked online and Ballina still has the Salmon Festival– and as of April, it is still planned for the second week of July. Dear Ballina, I hope that you get to have your festival this year because I enjoyed my one night of it!


Other posts in this series:

The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

Dublin: love at first sight

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

Glendalough: My First Love

Waterford: More than Crystal

Blarney: Everything but Kissing the Stone

Kenmare and the Ring of Beara

From the Disappointing to the Magnificent

In Shadows and Sunshine

In Shadows and Sunshine

On this leg of the trip, we left Killarney and visited Muckross House, a beautiful stately home in Killarney National Park. The house has been restored to the way it was in the late 1800s when Queen Victoria stayed there. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside the house, but we have many pictures of the outside of the house and the beautiful grounds. At the time it remind me of the Breakers (in the US) – not so much in the architecture of the house, but in the grand style of the rooms and the extensive grounds.

Muckross House

View from the house

The gardens

After leaving there, we drove along the coast for a while and having lunch in Dingle (where I had my first “lamburger”) and then took a ferry to cut nearly 100 miles off of our trip as we headed toward the Cliffs of Moher.

Few places are as iconically Irish as the Cliffs of Moher. I have been fortunate to see them multiple times in my journeys to Ireland. Both in the “shadows” — or fog, and the sunshine. My first trip to the cliffs in July of 1997, they were shrouded in fog so dense you could barely make them out.
I was beyond disappointed, to say the least. I’d learned that an infamous scene of my favorite childhood movie, The Princess Bride, was partially based off of the Cliffs of Moher — in the movie they are called the Cliffs of Insanity. Consequently, I was so excited to see them in person. But as you can see from the pictures below, there were barely any cliffs to make out.

It was a rainy day, and the fog was incredibly dense. However, we did walk around a bit and took some pictures with the realization that the trip to the Emerald Isle was going to be hit or miss with fog. I was disappointed, however, that it had descended on that particular day.

Afterward, we drove to our bed and breakfast for the night – Berry Lodge, which (at least as of 2018) is still in operation, according to Trip Advisor. The accommodations were extremely comfortable, and view surrounding the house was stunning and remote.

The women who ran the bed and breakfast were sisters and were incredibly kind! We ate dinner there, and when they found out that this trip was a graduation gift for me (read more about that here if you are new to the blog), they baked me a cake in celebration of my graduation. It was incredibly touching. And though I don’t remember how it tasted, I remember how the women made me feel – loved and appreciated.

My mom, one of the sisters, and me

We told the ladies about our sadness having not truly been able to see the cliffs, and she mentioned that we should try again the next day because “everything could be different of a morning.” Well, we took their advice and went back the next morning, and they were right! The sun had cleared away the fog, and it was a beautiful, sunny, warm day.

We enjoyed walking along the trails (as far from the edge as humanly possible, for me).  Climbing on rocks, and posing for a zillion pictures, we spent a large portion of the day there when the day before we’d only spent a few hours. The biggest surprises for me were that there is almost no barrier between the trail and the cliffs and that it is incredibly windy. There were a few gusts that I worried would push me right over the edge!

My parents went up in one of the observation towers. I, of course, kept my feet firmly planted on the ground and walked around at the base of the tower instead.

As a self-proclaimed anti-touristy person, the cliffs are definitely worth seeing despite the crowds you will encounter. Just be careful on the trails and take care when being “daring.” Especially in today’s “selfie culture,” people often don’t pay close enough attention when attempting to get the perfect shot. I assure you, there are several places that are very safe and offer amazing pictures.

I was at the cliffs roughly a year ago, and I learned so much more about everything the cliffs have to offer, but you’ll have to come back when I do a series on that trip. As a teaser, I did run across a picture of me in 1997 that is in nearly the same spot where one of my co-workers took a picture of me in 2019.


The rest of the blog posts in this series: 

The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

Dublin: love at first sight

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

Glendalough: My First Love

Waterford: More than Crystal

Blarney: Everything but Kissing the Stone

Kenmare and the Ring of Beara

From the Disappointing to the Magnificent

 

A Social Distancing Walk around the Neighborhood

Today the first person that I knew personally died from Covid-19. His wife is now symptomatic and in isolation while grieving her lifelong companion. He was older. He had a lung condition. I hadn’t seen him in over a year (possibly more). But the news still struck hard.

And in a strange juxtaposition, today was the first truly gorgeous day since Indiana first encouraged social distancing. So today, after only having 823 steps on my fitness tracker, I decided to go on a walk. And what I found was beautiful and uplifting.

Despite the scary nature of the world right now, the neighborhoods around my house were a flurry of activity- all with social distancing, of course. I saw two teenagers long boarding down the middle of the street; five people cleaning out their garages; eight planting, weeding, or mowing; three cleaning out vehicles; nine dog walkers; a mom using sidewalk chalk with her small children, and five sets of neighbors talking to each other from their driveways.

Everyone was smiling. People were talking to people they normally might not have even looked at- including me. I am (sadly) one of those people who does the closed mouth smile when passing strangers. An introvert when it comes to conversation, I am constantly afraid of saying something stupid, so I don’t say anything at all. But today I found myself talking to people I’d never seen before – as I walked into the street to maintain the six feet rule.

And I smiled. I didn’t want to walk to end. So I kept walking. Normally I walk the same circle of the neighborhood, but today I just kept going and I found myself a little saddened when my feet led me back to my own home.

I am not the nature photographer that my blogger friend Jerry is, but I took a shot today that seemed fitting.

The start of new life despite being surrounded by the talk of contagion and death. New life.

I’m sure when we all emerge from this, and I hope that all of my readers do just that, life will continue. We will have learned some things (both fortunate and unfortunate) about each other and ourselves. I will learn that having more time doesn’t mean I’ll read more. I’ve learned that I don’t need iced mochas like I thought I did. And I’ve learned of the ugliness in humanity, even from people I know and love, that can come from situations like this.

However, most importantly I have learned that there are some immensely generous and selfless people are out there as well. And those people are the ones that I hope I’ll remember years from now when this has calmed down and is a distant memory. I choose to remember the beauty in humanity and strive to be more like them.