Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Capture - Pretty

We were in Kerry this past weekend, so lots of opportunity for pretty pictures! I didn't want to repost pictures from earlier in the week. So, these two are from the gardens at Muckross House in Killarney.


Stream Garden


Monday, May 23, 2011

Co. Kerry, Ireland

We spent the weekend on Ireland's best side, i.e. the west coast. Our friend's family has a house in Kerry and once she heard I had never been there, she was kind enough to invite us down before we moved away. Her family's home is in Sneem which is on the lower road of the Ring of Kerry and about 5 hours from Dublin. That's just a note to all you people who think the Ring of Kerry would make a great day trip from Dublin. It's not. We were on the motorway for about 2.5 hours, but you get off of that and are on small two lane roads that have posted speed limits of 100 km/h, which is about 62 mph. Let's just say we were lucky to go about 45 mph and our friend was very familiar with the roads. Fortunately we only ended up behind one tractor and counted ourselves lucky for that!

It was a nice, relaxing weekend which is always the way when you're visiting with a local. The downer was that it did rain on Saturday morning, but managed to clear up in the afternoon. The wind was blowing and it was COLD, so we all forgot that it was actually the end of May and wore winter hats. Fortunately the rain and clouds lifted and we were blessed with the gorgeous views of the region. It was truly spectacular and we agreed that if the world was going to end on Saturday, we were in the right spot for it!

We started off by checking out Ireland's most famous view:
That's about right.

Then we headed on to Derrynane House. It was owned by Daniel O'Connell aka The Liberator. I didn't know a thing about him, but now I know he fought for rights for the Catholics and he accidentally killed a man in a dual (he just wanted to shoot him in the leg). Oh, and he kind of looked like Nathan Lane. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside and it was chucking it down outside, so I have no pictures. Here's a picture of what it looks like on a nice day!
Photo Courtesy of

After that we headed to Valentia Island. We had lunch in a great little coffee shop then headed to the heritage museum there. Again no pictures, but believe me when I say that this tiny island has a buttload of history. Most notably the first transatlantic telegraph cable was sent between the US from Valentia Island in 1866. Oh, but if that's not old enough for you then check out the tetrapod trackways discovered on the rocks on the northern side of the island. Yeah, they're 385 million years old.
(They're the dots running across the middle of the picture)

Fortunately the weather broke a bit while we were there. The seas were angry!

We were headed to Ballinskellig to watch the rugby match with some friends so we left Valentia Island via the Skellig Ring. We didn't even consider going to Skellig Michael because the weather was so bad, but here's a shot of it on the drive over. Crazy to think people actually lived out there! It's a beautiful drive and I highly recommend it.

When we got to the pub, the weather finally broke!

After the match we headed back to Sneem for dinner and got another look at Ireland's most famous view:
Okay, there it is! That's a big change from the morning!

On Sunday we headed to Killarney to visit Muckross House via Moll's Gap. The road went through the national park, so again, the views were just stunning.

Muckross House - the tour was 7 quid, but it was worth it. The tour was an hour long and you saw quite a bit of the house. The gardens are free. You can also visit the farms which are an additional cost (we didn't do this, so I can't comment about it). We could have spent the whole day there! The views were amazing. This is the view from the main bedroom. Imagine waking up to this!

The rhododendrons were gorgeous and we also came across this fallen tree. Or is it??

After making like the Victorians and taking in airs at Muckross we headed into Killarney for lunch. We ended up having coffee and cakes at the cutest tea room. I really liked this:

And it wouldn't be Ireland if we wouldn't have seen someone we knew on the train back to Dublin. Not only were we on the same train as Wes' friend, we were one seat away from him!

We had a wonderful weekend and I'm looking forward to visiting Kerry again on future trips back to Ireland!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Practically BFFs!

Queen Elizabeth II is visiting Ireland this week. I'm not Irish, so I'm not going to comment on the politics behind the visit, but the majority of the country seems pretty happy to welcome her. My American self thinks it's pretty cool that she's here. Let's be honest, I love a good celebrity sighting. Unfortunately due to such high security, they haven't allowed onlookers at any of the scheduled venues during her visit. Well on Tuesday I was walking home from meeting the newest little princess in Ireland and I saw people congregating along the barriers currently lining the city centre. Since I had nothing better to do but stand around, I stood around for about 30 minutes waiting for the Queen!

This is looking towards Trinity College. I think every police officer in the country is in Dublin this week.

Looking north towards the Spire. You can guess where the Queen is because of the helicopter hovering above her all the time. At this point she was at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square and you can see the helicopter here just next to the Spire.

Here's the Queenmobile!

You can (not very clearly) see Prince Philip in the back seat. The one thing I found handy was that they have a little flag on their car so no guessing which car it was going to be. And, unlike the US president, there isn't a dummy car in the motorcade, used to confuse bad people. There were no dissenters where I was. Some of you may have seen the news footage of people throwing stuff at the Garda on Dorset Street. Please understand that this wasn't the norm. People around me were either waving, clapping, or taking pictures. 

So, I trotted home, all excited that I got to see the Queen.

Fast forward to Wednesday evening. I had my outdoor yoga class in the Phoenix Park. The Queen is staying up in Farmleigh and while they'll let people into the park, security is pretty tight and they have barriers lining Chesterfield Road, the main drag through the park. Well, after class I saw a few people standing up along the barriers. I headed up there and the officer told us the front gate was closed and the Queen was running late for her dinner in Dublin Castle and would be by in about 10 minutes. Once again, I have nothing better to do but stand around and wait for the Queen! I thought it was pretty nice that they let us stand there and didn't shoo us away from the barriers. This sighting was much better because there were only about 6 or 7 of us standing there waving, with no one on the other side of the road. This meant they actually leaned forward to give us a wave and you could clearly see the beautiful tiara the Queen was wearing. I'm pretty sure she remembered me from the day before!

Next up: President Obama is visiting next week and will be addressing a crowd at Trinity College. Apparently there will be free tickets available, but I have no idea how to get one. If anyone out there knows, I'd appreciate a comment!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh Monday!

It is only 2:18pm and it's already been an eventful day!

1. Went for a run and saw them picking up the trash cans around the Phoenix Park in anticipation of the Queen's visit. Also saw a phone booth (I know, they still exist!) and it was all taped up so no bombs could go in there either. While most people in Ireland understand the benefit of having Queen Elizabeth here, a certain select few people are out to ruin this visit. Fingers crossed this goes off without a hitch.

2. While running, I was stopped by a woman asking me how to get to the city centre*. I showed her, then she asked about the 46A bus. I pointed out that it picks up on the other side of the road. At this point she started questioning my directions. "So the city centre is really that way!" (Pointing in the opposite direction of my original directions to her.) Well, that's the direction that particular bus goes, but it does turn at some point! Look lady, if you think you know, then don't ask!
*As an aside, most runners would be annoyed when people stop them. Not this runner. I'm always looking for an excuse to stop!

3. All of my friends are off having babies (in a hospital that doesn't allow visitors, pfft!) or gallivanting in Greece so I was stuck having lunch on my own today. They opened a Sbarro in the Jervis shopping centre and I know that sounds awesome, but it isn't. It's not nearly as good as Sbarro in the US. The bases are pre-made and they just put the toppings on them and heat it all up. But, I had it today anyway and pretended I was at the mall in the US. The thing they do get right is the pepperoni. It's thin and American-style. Most pepperoni here is too thick.

4. I was standing outside of M&S texting said friend in the hospital and the security alarms went off. Now, these alarms go off all the time. I've seen it happen with 3 staff members standing right there and no one bats an eye. But today, two security guards came flying out, stopped this old couple, and brought them back into the store! They must have been stalking them all along. Very exciting! At first I felt bad for the old couple, but then I didn't because they're thieves.

5. Next I was headed home with my groceries and this American guy stopped me and asked for directions to the Guinness Storehouse. They were clearly lost (hello, wrong side of the river!) and the group of guys he was with were embarrassed that he was getting directions because they all kept walking down the street. I'm pretty sure he saw my Nikes, jeans, and Columbia fleece and made a beeline to me for directions. From one American to another.... I'm always happy to help out my fellow countrymen!

Re-reading my post I don't think it's been very eventful after all. See what happens when your friends are away and you don't have a job?? I must just be comparing today to our weekend which was Boring with a capital 'B'! What if I had something actually exciting happen to me!? God, I wouldn't know what to do with myself...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Over the May bank holiday weekend we headed up to Belfast for Wes to run in the Belfast marathon. Living in the Republic of Ireland (aka The South), you hear things about Norn Iron/Belfast and well, unfortunately they're not very good. We get reports of bombs found on the Dublin to Belfast road, police officers killed by car bombs, and who can forget that pesky railway bridge that collapsed in 2009. And of course that whole Protestant/Catholic/Loyalist/Republican/Orange/Tan thing that I still have a hard time understanding. It's weird in Ireland and deadly in Northern Ireland. It doesn't really endear you with the idea of travelling north. But, Wes wanted to run another marathon before we left and he was told Belfast was flat and fast, so we risked our lives for his psychotic love of running (okay, that's a little dramatic) and headed north.

The trip on the coach bus was fine. Thankfully the scenery was gorgeous because two hours on that thing was my limit. We made a stop in Newry and I said a little prayer thanking God that I don't live there. It might be the armpit of NI. When we finally got to Belfast, my immediate impression was the number of fences. Every inch of the town has a fence around it. Fences have fences. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture, but I really wish I had since it was something I couldn't stop noticing.

After eating lunch and checking into our hotel (Holiday Inn Hotel Belfast - highly recommend!) we had to go to the city hall where they had the race packs and runners village.

When we came out of the city hall we were treated to our first loyalist parade. It was kind of strange because it was a Sunday afternoon and this parade wasn't really celebrating anything. In fact, it was celebrating something that half the town doesn't agree with and could potentially incite violence. It didn't feel sinister or anything, just strange. It seemed like it was impromptu, but I imagine they have to clear lots of things with the council before marching.

When we were walking up towards the city hall I mentioned how it reminded me of Leeds city hall. Later we were walking around I said how it reminded me of the red brick buildings in Manchester. We were in a shopping center and I said it reminded me of Cabot Circus in Bristol. The views of the hills outside of the city made me think of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. I'm sure Belfast wasn't planned to look like a bit of every other city in the UK, so I decided to stop comparing it and just enjoy the Belfastness of it all!

In 3 days I think I gained 10 lbs. Why? Well things like Nando's, banoffee pie (DELICIOUS!), Pizza Express, Guinness, and a cinnamon sugar pretzel from Auntie Anne's! You can smell that place a mile away and I was like a homing pigeon to my destination! There is AA in Dublin, but it's in Blanchardstown and that's on the way to nowhere.

Why were we in Belfast again?? Oh yeah! The marathon! It was a beautiful sunny day, but it was a bit windy. And by windy I mean freezing-ass-I-wish-I-had-my-hat cold. Apparently though, the Norn Irish don't feel cold. See?
I've never seen so many season pushers in my LIFE! The season pushers in Dublin have NOTHING on these people! Rest assured, the group in the picture weren't participating in the race, they were just spectators. They looked like intelligent people. Why are they dressed like that? When I was contemplating putting Wes' jacket on OVER my jacket, a girl in a mini skirt and tube top walked past. In the sun, it was bearable, but it was only about 55 degrees and the wind was blowing at about 15 mph. FREEZING!!!

Wes' review of the marathon can be found here. He was hoping to get a new personal best, but that didn't happen. Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of crowds out there cheering for the runners. I was in the city center for this picture and you can see a bit of the pathetic crowds:
Wes is actually in this picture. He's the first runner coming up on the left. Yeah, I felt a little strange since I was basically cheering by myself. They would probably have larger crowds if the entire town wasn't participating in races that day. In addition to the marathon, they had a relay, fun run, and charity walk. I believe the participation was around 20,000 people. That's why there were no crowds!

Even though it wasn't a great day for Wes, it was a great day for this guy. He won the marathon, setting a new course record just under 2:15. He was from Kenya and it took him 3 days to travel to Belfast. In those 3 days, he only slept 1 night. When he ran past, he looked like he was just starting out. Amazing! Color me impressed!

This guy, however, looked a bit like he was hating life. Yeah, he looks pretty good here, but you didn't have to walk with him! After we made it back to the room and had some lunch, he went back to the room to lay down and rub Bio Freeze all over his legs, and I went out to take advantage of the cheaper British prices in the shops!

That's about it for our trip to Belfast! Honestly, the best thing about Belfast were the people. Both of us commented on how friendly everyone was to us. Shopkeepers would make small talk with you and they were genuinely interested in having a quick chat. They were hands down the friendliest people I've encountered while in the UK. Another thing about Belfast were the amazing pubs. We walked into a couple of interesting places, but the Crown Pub was amazing! It's actually a National Trust property, so everyone should check it out!

All in all, Belfast was a lovely city and it was a nice weekend trip....even if we did risk our lives to get there!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Flat Sara

Last month my cousin emailed me and asked if we would like to have a visitor. Her daughter's class at school was reading Flat Stanley, a story of a boy who gets flattened. The bonus of being flat is his parents could stick him in an envelope and mail him to various places around the world. Much cheaper than plane tickets! Sara's class was making flattened versions of themselves to send out to friends and family. Our job was to show her the sites, taking pictures of her while she was here, and buy her souvenirs to send home with her. They were going to display their 'Flat' projects at the school's open house in late April.

I thought Flat Sara would be this little flat person on a stick that I could pull discretely out of my handbag when necessary. So, you can imagine my surprise (and Wes' horror) when I pulled her out of the envelope and she was a life-sized version of Sara. No discretion here!

Wes had a business trip to Cyprus, so he took Flat Sara along! Unfortunately she didn't get to leave the room, but she had some nice views from the balcony! Lucky girl!

 Flat Sara with a post box.

 Me and Flat Sara on a walk to the Phoenix Park, with the Wellington Monument in the background. 

 Flat Sara stayed in the Smithfield area of Dublin. Margadh na Feirme is how you refer to the Smithfield area in Irish. 

 Flat Sara and me in front of a local primary school.

Out on a walk to show Flat Sara the sights and we got caught in a shower. There was another woman standing under the doorway with us and when I pulled out Flat Sara and Wes started taking pictures, she decided to take her chances out in the rain rather than with the crazy people in the doorway! Ha!

 Flat Sara at the pub watching the Munster vs Leinster rugby match. Munster won! Woot!

Flat Sara on a picnic in the Phoenix Park. She got to try Club Orange and Tayto Potato Crisps. Two Irish favorites!

The thing about Dublin is there aren't really distinct landmarks here, like the Eiffel Tower or the Coliseum. Instead, I decided to go with everyday things that I thought 10 year olds might be interested in learning about. When I sent Flat Sara back, I sent her with a power point presentation giving more information about the various places she visited, an Irish flag, a potato cookbook, a shamrock, a Guinness postcard, a book about Ireland, and a t-shirt.

I hope she had fun while she was here!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Kingdom of Boxonia

And I'm the Queen! I'd love to tell you about our weekend in Belfast, but instead I'm packing. Packing wouldn't be so bad if we actually had room to put the boxes. We made good progress last night, but there's still lots to do. Our hallway looks like this:

And this is the view into the bedroom:

They're coming tomorrow to pick everything up and I can't wait. Right-o! I'm off to wash the dishes so I can pack them! The mixing bowl is getting packed, so a whole month without mashed potatoes! Ack!