Emerald Island Escapades – Week 1 of 5

Lynne and Claudia in Medfordmedford airportLynne and I left Medford airport in Southern Oregon on May 9th with great anticipation of a grand time in Ireland together for 5 weeks.  We had great views of Mt. Shasta as we flew south to San Francisco to catch our next non-stop flight to Dublin.Mt Shasta

passport and boarding pass

About 11 hours later, we arrived in Dublin the following day, got our rental car, and found my friend Desi who also flew in from Italy to join us.

The first stop was just slightly south of Dublin at Powerscourt House & Gardens.

house & pond

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Dbl Pegasus at pond

Desi strolling  dolphin pondfiddleheadspagoda & bridgeweeping willow

Afterward, we headed a little further south to Glendalough, where we would be spending the night for a couple of days in the beautiful Wicklow mountains. Glendalough is the home of an ancient monastic city where monks lived and preserved Christianity during the Dark Ages.

tea towel of Glendalough

entrance to monastic city  cathedral

Lynne and I walked around the Glendalough Park on its many pathways & enjoying its many vistas and historic site.  We also visited the Monastic City.

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Then we jumped in the car and took a nice ride over Sally Gap.  We saw a waterfall, a moor filled with Heather, and came upon a glacial lake, Lough Tay, but more affectionately known as “Guinness Lake” because it looks like a nice pint of the yummy brown stuff!

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The next day we got in the car again. We drove the back roads to Jerpoint Abbey, where we visited monastic ruins at this 12th century Cistercian abbey with a magnificently sculptured cloister arcade.

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IMG_5632IMG_5634IMG_5643Killkenny Castle2

The following day we packed up and headed down the road toward our next destination, Blarney.  Along the way, we stopped to visit the town of Kilkenny and the beautiful Kilkenny Castle.

Killkenny Castle

I had visited the castle a couple of years ago, so while Lynne and Desi took the castle tour, I wandered around the grounds and nearby sights.

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After their tour, I met Lynne and Desi in the castles’ tea room and was drooling over all of the delectable delights they offered.

macaroons at Killkenney castle tea room  marzapan slice at Killkenney castle tea room  tarts at Killkenney castle tea room  cupcakes at Killkenney castle tea roompastries at Killkenney castle tea roomyummy things at Killkenney castle tea roomcarrot cake at Killkenney castle tea roomcustard slice at Killkenney castle tea room





cute little VW van in Killkenny

Then we strolled through town back to our parked car near St. Mary’s Cathedral and saw some interesting shops and sights along the way.

IMG_5748downtown KillkennySt Mary's Cathedral in Killkennyrestored to original St Mary's Cathedralwrought iron fence at St Mary's








Our next stop was Cashel.  Unfortunately, that’s as far as Desi could go with us.  She jumped on a bus in Cashel to head back to Dublin to catch a flight home to Milan. We had such a great time with her.  Short, but very sweet to have the opportunity to spend time with her once again. She’s off to Spain to walk the pilgrimage to Santiago!  Way to go, Desi!

After saying our goodbye’s, Lynne and I headed straight for the Rock of Cashel.  Wow! What a place!  The Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most spectacular archaeological sites, a prominent green hill, banded with limestone outcrops, rising from a grassy plain and bristling with ancient fortifications.

Lynne approaching Rock of CashelRock of CashelCormac's Chapel at Rock of CashelCormac's Chapel at Rock of Cashel2

IMG_5833carvings from Rock of CashelIMG_5630  IMG_5834IMG_5835inside Cormac's Chapel at Rock of CashelIMG_5852  IMG_5836IMG_5837  IMG_5839  IMG_5847  IMG_5638IMG_5848IMG_5850iron work at rock of cashelmonks table in kitchen rock of cashelRock of Cashel chapel-auditoriumwrought iron door hinges at Rock of Cashelcarvings from Rock of Cashel2choirs' chapel ceiling at Rock of Cashel


pub in Cashel where we ate lunch

We had worked up an appetite visiting the Rock, so we slipped into a pub for a sandwich and coffee before heading further down the road to our next destination – Blarney.  We stayed at the Muskerry Arms, a lovely little B&B above a pub.


Lynne’s friends, Anne & Gregg, had been touring Ireland in the opposite direction that we are and our paths crossed in Blarney.  We got to spend a lovely evening with them in the B&B swapping travel stories and having a perfect time.  We were all particularly looking forward to the advertised “local traditional Irish music” in the pub that night, but alas, they were only playing “soft rock & pop” music!  Dang!

IMG_5858Greg, Anne, Lynne and Claudia at Muskerry ArmsIMG_5862

IMG_5859We enjoyed an excellent breakfast together in the morning.  Gregg ordered the full Irish breakfast. That’s a lot of food!

Anne & Gregg headed east to Dublin while Lynne and I were headed further west to Kinsale.






Before we left town, however, we visited the Blarney Castle and the lovely gardens on the grounds surrounding it.

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Just a short drive later from Blarney, we were at our final destination for Week 1 of our adventures – Kinsale.  We checked into our hostel, and since the sun was shining, we headed right down to the center of town and spent the rest of the day wandering about the twisty and interesting streets of this delightful town.




We even chanced upon seeing some brave souls swimming into the harbor after a swimming marathon!






We finished up the day in Kitty O’Se’s pub for dinner and some traditional Irish music.  The owner, Seamus, made sure we were taken great care of!  He’s the one on the left with his hand near his ear below. What a great host and a fantastic singer as well!



Destination – Disneyland

IMG_4871 (1)I have a new traveling buddy – my great grand daughter, Alaska!  Didn’t take her long to catch on to the tricks of the trade.  She’s a natural!

Having not spent any time with her in a car for a long trek before, I wasn’t quite sure how she would do on the 2-day excursion  traveling south almost the entire length of California. I was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable she was with it. She was enjoying the view, liked to talk about what we saw pass by the window – very inquisitive.  We played the ABC game trying to find specific letters on the road signs and she was quite content amusing herself as well.  Of course we had a great ‘snack’ box filled to the brim on the seat next to her so she could help herself at any time.  She thought that was pretty cool!

As we left Oregon it was pouring down rain.  We drove up into the clouds to Siskiyou Summit with very bad visibility.  I was hoping the storms wouldn’t last very long but was prepared to hunker down and not let that stop me.
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IMG_4889 (1)Just as we crested the summit, the cloud abruptly broke clear to expose sunshine and blue skies from that point forward as we descended down the other side of the mountain pass and down into California! Are we lucky or what?

It was simply wonderful to see everything growing so vigorously the entire length of the state. Now that the drought is finally over it’s refreshing to see it return to its healthy and abundant nature once again.  It’s absolutely amazing how much food grows here!

IMG_4901 (1)Our first night on the road was spent at the Harris Ranch.  She became as expert on elevator operations.

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Soon we were enjoying the pool & hot tub too!


The following day we didn’t have far to travel before we were sliding right through Los Angeles on our way to Anaheim.

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For the next 3 days, we stayed at the Hilton for free through the Hilton Honors program!  She sure liked that (as did I!)

Since it was still rather early in the day after we got all checked into our room… we headed straight for the shuttle to Disneyland! Let the good times roll!

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Soon we were flying with Dumbo, exploring castles and having a grand time in the spinning tea cups!

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It was so fun to get in the spirit of a soon to be 5-year-old and enjoy Disneyland again. We laughed and played and had such delight.  According to Alaska, the highlight of her visit was getting to meet and talk to none other than Cinderella!

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IMG_5013 (1)Our  room was on the 10th floor with a view of the pool where we spent many an hour! We could see Disneyland from our room too and enjoyed the fireworks!IMG_5048 (1)  IMG_5062 (2)

Those 3 days just flew by…and we started heading back north once again through the San Joaquin Valley and it’s vibrant growth.

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Mile after mile for as far as you could see, fruit trees, grapes, nuts, you name it….IMG_5190 (2)IMG_5186 (2)

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It was another wonderful drive with beauty all around that day.  At the end of our days’ journey, we stopped in Folsom to visit with some really great folks who I met on the ferry from Cairnryan, Scotland to Larne, Ireland last year. When Ed and Colleen heard I was going to be traveling near their home, they invited Alaska and I to visit them for a day or two on our way back from Disneyland.

IMG_5217 (1)Alaska and I had such a great time with these two characters!  We were so graciously greeted and welcomed into their home, as if we were family. We had such a great visit reconnecting and spending time together.  It was just divine.

Their home was an absolute oasis of love and good energy at every turn.  Alaska and I enjoyed exploring Ed’s gardens and finding beautiful glass chimes, animals and flowers at every turn.

IMG_5210 (2)Colleen is a very talented glass artist and this is an example of the chimes she produces and sells worldwide.  Aren’t they beautiful?IMG_5208 (2)  IMG_5202 (2)  IMG_5206 (2)

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I really enjoyed sitting by this pool with my feet dangling in the water while drinking in the visual beauty of the surrounding gardens. What a pleasant and healing spot to just hang out for awhile in and indulge myself.  Ed & Colleen knew exactly what I would need after keeping up with a four-year-old for the last few days!

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Ed and Colleen are also avid cat lovers and have a number of their own. In addition they are active with the local animal rescue programs in their community. Just recently a litter of 6 kittens were rescued and they made arrangements ahead of our arrival in order that Alaska could have a kitten play date.  She really liked that!

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All around their home are gorgeous and colorful glass pieces to admire,  beautiful photographic shots of Eds’ and various art pieces to enjoy. Quite a creative couple they are!

IMG_5243They fed us wonderful fresh fruits from the local farmer stands, and totally spoiled us with delectable meals and refreshments.

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Colleen even taught Alaska how to make one of her chimes and let her choose all the colors of glass that she wanted to make a set to give to her mommy for Mother’s Day. That was so sweet, generous and loving for Colleen to teach her.


To top it all off, as an added surprise, we had a very merry un-birthday party and celebrated together!  What fun!
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I hated to leave such a great family and such wonderful people.  I sure meet the nicest people while traveling and feel so blessed to be able to stay connected with them. This trip wouldn’t have been the same without stopping to see them and getting to know them even better! It was very pleasant. We had fun talking about traveling (of course) and sharing with one another each of our plans for this season’s adventures waiting to happen, we shared genealogy discoveries we’ve made, gardening tips and discovered many more topics we didn’t know we share in common.

As I relaxed at their home and enjoyed their ultimate hospitality, I found myself shifting gears internally from “normal” daily life, into “holiday” mode for the season. This trip was just what I personally needed to prepare for the next adventure in Ireland and the UK coming up in just one weeks’ time! That “shift” I could feel was a welcome sensation coursing through my body!

Although neither Alaska nor I were in any big hurry to leave, we said our thank yous and good byes and got a few hugs and got back on the road. The last leg of our drive home through northern California was delightful and full of roadside beauty to enjoy the entire way…. sunshine was abundant and the views were splendid.

IMG_5279IMG_5287Mount Lassen

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It was wonderful to see Lake Shasta filled to the brim.  Last year when I drove by on my way to Paris there was only a meager trickle in the creek at the bottom of this giant lake! Huge difference!


Castle Crags in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest was spectacular…

IMG_5328Little Shastina at the base of Mount Shasta was rising up nicely to the heavens, and as usual Mount Shasta was crowned with a cloud and therefore obscured. No photos of Mt Shasta today….IMG_5329

As we approached the mountain range bordering between Oregon and California, the vistas were amazing.  I enjoyed the ranch land at the base of the high mountains.



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IMG_5358At the top of the mountain pass we arrived at the Siskiyou Mtn Summit, (Elevation 4310 feet and the highest mountain pass along the entire route of Interstate-5 between the Mexican and Canadian borders).


This is the view I look forward to below, just after the summit as you descend down into the Rogue River Valley where I live.


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Table Rock Mountain (above) and my favorite view (below) coming down the west side of Blackwell Hill which means I am just a few miles from home.


What a fantastic, fun-filled, be-a-kid kind of week it’s been with Alaska. I do believe that we will be taking a few more trips together again in the future. She is a girl after my own heart in so many ways and I’m thrilled to know she has a bit of that wander lust in her too!

Now it’s time for me to sign off so I can get my suitcase packed for a 4 1/2 month trip.  I’ll be leaving in just 6 days!  Stay tuned!  There’s a lot more adventures just around the next bend!