Irish Memories

When I set off on adventures, my daily blog becomes a travel blog, capturing the highlights of each day. Because the days are full and long, these posts are necessarily brief so that I can get to bed and catch a few hours of sleep before the start of the next exciting day. It has become my custom to share additional thoughts, stories and photos in the days after the conclusion of the trip.

Today’s post focuses on memories from the first two days of our girls’ trip, in Dublin, Ireland.

Ireland was the only country, out of the three we visited during this trip, that none of us had seen before. My mom, sisters, niece and I all have Irish, Scottish and English heritage. We were excited about the opportunity to visit Dublin, Ireland and connect more deeply with our Irish roots.

Additional photos and thoughts from our Dublin stay:

Gorgeous architecture…

We walked around the streets of Dublin, gawking and gazing upward at the beautiful old buildings. Our primary mode of transportation in this city was the hop on/hop off bus, which we made excellent use of.

Green parks and soothing rivers and lakes…

I loved St Stephens Green, a large park in central Dublin. However, there were other parks, some surrounding monuments and memorials, and there was a zoo. We rode past the zoo many times but did not stop. I appreciated the dedicated green spaces in Dublin where people could walk or stretch out on the grass. And like other European cities, many residents create their own miniature gardens in hanging baskets, window boxes and on roof tops.

Friendly people…

As much as we enjoyed touring the city and admiring the buildings and sampling the food, it was the people of Dublin that we fell in love with. The first thing we adored was their charming Irish accent. I’ve heard Irish actors speak on talk shows and in movies. However, this was my first time to be immersed in the culture and hear many people speaking in the same lilting cadence.

We looked forward to the tour bus drivers’ narratives, especially when they said, “The next stop will be stop number thirty-three…” The Irish don’t pronounce the “th” sound like Americans do. So thirty-three sounds to our ears like “turty tree”. And “with you” sounds like “wit choo”. We smiled every time. My sister Linda pointed out that our sister Debbie, who is my mom’s third daughter, was the “turd daughter”, which became a little family joke!

While in Dublin, we picked up the slang word feckin’. Let me just say it’s a colorful word, similar to an American word that begins with the same letter. The Irish version sounds more playful and less crude and found its way into our vocabulary over the next 11 days.

The Irish people we met were happy, light hearted, fun and gracious. Of the three countries we visited, Ireland’s citizens were the most humorous and by a slight margin, the friendliest.

I enjoyed this first glimpse of Ireland. Our stay there was short and unfortunately we didn’t have time to venture out into the countryside, which for me warrants another visit in the near future. The five of us embraced our Irish roots to become Celtic women while we were there. Ireland called to my Irish blood and awakened my poetic soul, kindling the desire to learn more about this part of my heritage.

I’ve been told I have Irish feet. It was explained to me that Irish feet is a way of saying I have an inborn desire to travel and move about. I understand that better now.

Ireland, I will be back. You are a part of me, and I of you.

Exploring Edinburgh Castle

The focus of our second, and final, day in Edinburgh was the castle perched solidly atop volcanic rock, high above the sprawling city. The weather was decidedly Scottish…cool and drizzly, with periods of light rain. We weren’t deterred. Donning hoodie jackets over warm layers, we set out on the day’s adventures.

Here are the highlights of our explorations:

Edinburgh Castle has existed in varying degrees of size and fortification since the second century AD. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest surviving structure in the castle complex, and also the oldest in Edinburgh. Most of the other buildings have been destroyed during bombardments and rebuilt.

Our tour guide, Robby, was knowledgeable and guided us expertly around the castle grounds, telling stories and sharing interesting facts.

Looking out over the battlements, toward the Firth of Forth. The castle is at the top of the Royal Mile, in the heart of the Old City. Edinburgh’s New City stretches out toward the water.

And looking to the west.

The stone structures comprising the castle are beautiful. The castle grounds spiral upward by way of cobbled courtyards and streets. The former royal residences are at the peak, where they were most protected. Today the castle house’s numerous museums and exhibitions and it is one of the most visited sites in the world.

The Great Hall.

The Royal dining room, and a sculpture representing the crowning of Robert the Bruce, located in an alcove off of the room containing the Crown Jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny. Photos were not allowed in the Crown Jewels room.

I love the Stone of Destiny, a slab of ordinary looking stone that the kings of Scotland were crowned upon. King Edward I of England took the stone, and for 700 years, it rested beneath the throne of the English monarchy. But it was officially returned to Scotland in 1996.

Group pic in front of the castle.

We walked through a stark recreation of the living conditions in the castle’s prison rooms, where prisoners of war were held. Americans ended up in here as well, when they were captured as enemies against Great Britain. The rooms, while fascinating to explore, held a troubled energy that empathetically created discomfort in my chest. We viewed the original wooden cell doors, where prisoners had scratched words of hope and detailed works of art, including an American flag.

We enjoyed a light lunch in the castle’s tea room, and later shopping on the Royal Mile. However, most of our day was spent within the castle walls, looking, listening, learning. This was not just a tourist stop for us. The history here is part of our history as well.

The Scots are my people. This is my land. My heart dwells here in joy and peace, and embedded in my DNA are characteristics that sprang from this rich and fertile land. I’ve loved every moment spent in Edinburgh.

Tomorrow we head south to Lauder, in the Borders. This area of Scotland has great significance for my family. I am looking forward to visiting Thirlestane Castle again and

sharing that journey with my mom, sisters and niece.

Alexander McCall Smith wrote about Edinburgh: “This is a city of shifting light, of changing sky, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.”

I so agree. I love this city. My heart has been pierced by its beauty and energy. Edinburgh, I will be back.

Edinburgh Says Welcome Back

I first visited this amazing Scottish city in 2014. I’ve dreamed of returning since the moment my airplane lifted into the skies above Edinburgh, homeward bound. What a powerful feeling of anticipation I experienced this morning as our small jet flew low over the Scottish countryside, in preparation for landing.

Edinburgh feels like coming home to me.

We are staying in a wonderful 2 bedroom apartment in the center of old Edinburgh. As we waited for our quarters to be ready, we explored the neighborhoods nearby, found a delightful little cafe for lunch, and eventually ended up touring the city in our favorite way on a hop on/hop off bus.

Here are highlights of the day:

This huge sign greeted us as we exited the Edinburgh airport, perfectly expressing the way I feel. In ways I can’t fully explain, Scotland feels like home to me. Although my ancestors came from the Scottish Borders south of the city, and I love that region as well, Edinburgh calls to me like no other place on earth. It is my favorite city.

As I was looking for a quote about Edinburgh that I only half remembered, I came across another one that expresses my sentiments as well: “I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways I am coming home.” What surprised me was who said those words…the late actor, Alan Rickman, who has been foundational to my year of inspiration. I should have known he had a connection to Edinburgh as well.

The ancient Edinburgh Castle sits high atop a craggy hill, overlooking the city. We will visit this fortress in the morning.

Beautiful architecture throughout the city, in both the old side and the new side, which is still more than 700 years old.

One of the places all of us wanted to see was the site of the Greyfriars Bobby statue. Bobby was a wee terrier whose owner passed away after a sudden illness. For 14 years, the faithful dog stayed near his owner’s grave in the cemetery. People cared for him, providing food and shelter. When the loyal pup died of old age, he was buried just inside the graveyard gate, near his human.

We toured the Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard as well. This old cemetery has a very gothic look, with headstones and memorials dating back to the 1500s. The overcast day created a gloomy atmosphere that was perfect for our exploration. Bobby’s grave is marked by a headstone that matches his owner’s, John Gray.

We completed our first day in Scotland with a delicious dinner at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. Debbie and Linda tried haggis for the first time. Mom and I had a veggie burger that was awesome. And I got to enjoy a Scottish cider called Thistly Cross. This light and refreshing hard cider has simple ingredients and no added sugar.

It was an enchanting day, full of glad remembrances and happy reunions as I recognized landmarks from my previous trip. I dearly love this city. The energy is lively, uplifting and intriguing. My heart beats in sync with the rhythms of Auld Reekie, so named for the smoke that used to rise from the cottages.

Riding in the top deck of our tour bus, I couldn’t help but notice bright yellow flags along a street. Welcome Back they declared. Thank you, I silently answered. I am so happy to be back.

Irish Blessings

After a long and restorative sleep, I spent the day exploring Dublin with my traveling companions. This international girls’ trip is proving to be extraordinary. We are enjoying this time of being together and learning new things.

Making use of the convenient hop on/hop off tour bus, we wound through the city again, hopping off at various locations to further our knowledge and appreciation of Ireland’s capital city.

Here are highlights of our fun day:

We crossed a bridge over the River Liffey, which winds through Dublin to empty into the bay.

One of the most well known pubs in Dublin, The Temple Bar. It was too crowded inside to dine there but a least we found it! I enjoyed wearing my No Regrets t shirt from Solgave Clothing in Dublin today.

People are very friendly here!

Linda found her leprechaun!

We had a wonderful lunch at Quays. Mom and I have not had any problems eating plant based, I’m happy to say! We both enjoyed veggies and rice and a hot peppermint tea.

I LOVED St Stephen’s Green, a 22 acre park in the center of Dublin. My gardener’s heart was right at home here as we wandered the paths through this beautiful green space.

The day’s selfie was taken on the stone bridge in St Stephens Green. This became a daily tradition that I started when Dayan, Elissa and I traveled to Italy earlier in the year. I change my Facebook profile pic and my cover photo everyday, by capturing a snapshot of the day. With five of us to get in the photo, we are relying on the kindness of strangers to take a pic for us!

Busy Grafton Street and the area surrounding it is the shopping center of the city. We loved the lively energy here as we joined thousands of other shoppers and tourists wandering around.

I love Dublin’s colorful front doors!

More sad sculptures depicting the Irish Potato Famine.

We had an incredible day. There was more that we wanted to do and see, however we simply ran out of time. Tomorrow we fly out of Dublin, and land in Edinburgh.

There is no other possible decision to make about it…we must plan another trip to Ireland! May the road rise up to meet us…and may the journey lead us back to Ireland.

Getting to Know Dublin

We arrived in Dublin, Ireland about 8:30 am this morning, after leaving Tulsa at 3:27 pm the day before. It was a long day of travel, however I am grateful for flights that arrived and departed on time and skies that remained free of storms. Other than the fact that none of us slept well on the plane, it was a smooth flight across the Atlantic. I watched movies and chatted with my family and seat mate, and closed my eyes and rested for a short time.

Today we decided to forego naps, even though we have all been awake for 36 hours, and get to know Dublin.

One of the best ways to get to know a new city is to take a tour on a Hop On/Hop Off bus. We found a café in which to enjoy our first Irish meal together, and then boarded a bus for a tour of Dublin. Come along!

We dined at Copper Alley Bistro, where Mom and I sampled the vegetable soup, which was puréed and served piping hot, and the others had traditional Irish fare such as fish & chips and beef stew. All of our meals were delicious and filling.

We sat on the top deck of a double decker tour bus and appreciated learning about this busy city. About half way through, the driver/tour guide changed and Bill was not only knowledgeable , he was humorous with a delightfully thick Irish brogue. He kept us interested and entertained.

We loved the impressive gothic structures that appeared moody against an overcast sky. We were surprised when we exited the plane this morning to learn it was a brisk 46 degrees in Dublin. Long sleeves and a jacket felt great today to protect against the chill.

We learned about Dublin’s history and heard colorful stories about founders, residents and events. This city has many national art museums, which can be visited free of charge. Today we didn’t “hop on and hop off” of the bus so we could get an overview of Dublin and learn where areas of interest were so we could return to them tomorrow.

One of the saddest stories, accompanied by sobering sculptures, was of the Irish Potato Famine that lasted from 1845-1852. The population decreased dramatically in Ireland, due to death by starvation and the exodus of people seeking to survive by emigrating to other countries. According to our guide, Ireland’s population has not recovered from that great tragedy.

We had fun, on this second day of our adventure. We learned how to get around the city, where to shop for simple dinners eaten at our apartment tonight, and we have a general idea of where major attractions are. As we ate this evening, we each contributed to a list of things we most want to do and see tomorrow.

And now, although it is still daylight outside, one by one the others have gone to bed for a long and well deserved night of rest. Dublin is beautiful and rich with architecture, history and legend. The people are friendly and helpful. We are excited about the possibilities and the opportunities that the new day will bring!

Dublin Bound

I am at the Tulsa airport, awaiting departure on the first leg of our journey to Dublin, Ireland. I’m sitting with my mom, sisters Linda and Debbie, and my niece Ashley. We’ve already laughed as we fumbled our way through the airport, dragging our carry ons, dropping travel pillows, watching my mom have to go through a security check because of metal in her knee.

This is going to be an amazing adventure, a one of a kind trip.

I’m posting early because our time is short here and even shorter at the Atlanta airport. And then we will lift into the air and arc over the Atlantic. I am looking forward to exploring Ireland, Scotland and England with my family. Even these times of sitting together at airports is precious as we chat and laugh and dream and wonder.

Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible. ” Charles Haughey

Next stop, Dublin.

The Next Adventure Begins

The last day before my next adventure was full of real estate related work, which was fine. I am grateful for amazing clients and a bustling business. And…everywhere I went today, the question I was asked was “Are you packed yet?”

The simple answer was…no!

I started packing about 8:00 this evening as work wound down and fresh clean clothes began coming out of the dryer. As I rolled clothes and tucked them into my carry on, the excitement that has been building for the last week bubbled up. It is almost adventure time!

My post is brief tonight, as I still have a couple of real estate emails to send and a few things yet to cross off my “to do before I go” list before I sleep. However, I am smiling as I write this post. I can’t help it. My wandering heart gets to venture forth, starting tomorrow.

The beginning of the packing process…piles of clean laundry and an empty suitcase.

Keeping an eye on the final work for the day.

Tomorrow’s simple travel clothes laid out and ready to wear. I’m excited to carry the plaid poncho onto the plane and let it double as a blanket.

Young Living Essential Tangerine Oil in the diffuser keeps my energy up.

All packed, in a carry on: one pair of jeans, two jackets, pjs, a pair of walking shoes, a dozen pairs of socks, a dozen undies, two bras, thirteen shirts, supplements, a clear makeup case with my BOOMstick trio and essentials such as a toothbrush and comb, and my quart sized zip lock bag with travel sized liquids such as shower gel, lotion and toothpaste. There is room yet for a few more items after my morning shower.

I have several new shirts from Solgave that I look forward to wearing on the trip. This one expresses well where I am in my life journey: having fun and following my heart and living with No Regrets. I am doing what I want to do, and living large, so that at the end of my journey those words will be my epitaph.

Fifteen hours and counting. The next adventure begins!

Investing in Myself

Before I called it an early night, I spent a few minutes starting a list. It is five days, in the countdown, until my next travel adventure begins. I’m a list maker, and this evening I made a Packing List and a Need to Do Before I Go List. I began gathering. My travel documents, my passport, and my maps have started the “to pack” pile.

I have always loved anticipation. So these next five days will fill me with delightful tingles of keen anticipation and excitement as my preparations to leave begin in earnest.

Tonight, because it has been a very full week and I am weary, I have one predominant thought to share.

Yes, traveling is fun. It is an opportunity to see enchanted places and experience different cultures and meet new people. It is the fulfillment of a desire that I released to the Divine 10 years ago. Traveling strengthens connection with the family members I travel with as we share the adventure. It broadens my perspectives, deepens my trust, expands my mind, ignites my soul.

Matthew Karston writes, “Investment in travel is an investment in yourself.”

That resonates with me so much. Travel is all the things I listed above…and more. And most importantly, travel is an investment in myself. It feeds my gypsy heart and my old soul. Traveling allows me to honor who I am and my desires to explore and go on adventures and see the sun set and the moon rise on the other side of the world. It touches something at my core that nothing else can.

Ireland, Scotland, and England are calling to me. I’ll be there soon. I don’t know where the next journey will lead me. I just know that every trip I take and every country I visit has a profound effect on me. And ultimately, that is not only good for my soul, it is good for the world.

Seven Day Countdown

One week from today, I will be flying over the Atlantic, destination – Dublin, Ireland. My traveling companions will be my mom, my sisters, Linda and Debbie, and my niece Ashley. We will visit Scotland and England as well.

I learned during my Italy trip earlier in the year that it is possible to pack for a twelve day trip in a carry on suitcase. Tonight I spent a few minutes with Mom and Linda, demonstrating just how doable it is.

Mom was a good sport, laying out her clothes and toiletries so she and Linda could practice rolling each article of clothing tightly. Shoes were added first, then pants and a jacket rolled to start the foundational layer. Heavier shirts were rolled and completed the first layer.

Linda practicing her packing skills.

The cutest pic ever…my mom making decisions about which toiletries to pack. A quart sized plastic bag isn’t very big!

I rolled pajamas and shirts and started the second layer. There is plenty of room left to tuck in socks, underwear and supplements or meds. And there is yet more empty space to fill with purchases made during the trip.

The trick is to roll tightly. And fill every space by packing the rolled clothes snugly together.

Mom and Linda got the hang of it and discovered that you truly can pack for twelve days in a carry on. With that detail out of the way, we can focus on the growing excitement of discovering new places and experiencing different cultures.

Seven days and counting! The next adventure is about to begin.

St Stephens Green -Dublin

Three weeks from today, I'll be in the air, flying to Dublin, Ireland. My sisters, mom, niece and I have been planning and anticipating this trip for a year. As always, that time does indeed pass. We are counting down the days until our adventure.

I've had a very full day, with back to back appointments. Coming in this evening, with more work to do on the computer, I suddenly realized I didn't know what I was going to be writing about tonight. Two things happened, after I had that thought, as I sat on the side of my bed.

Checking Facebook, I saw that my sister Linda had posted a pic of an Irish pub in Dublin, commenting that we are leaving in three weeks. And looking up from my phone, I saw the book 20 Things to Do in Dublin Before You Go for a Feckin' Pint on the bedside table. There it was, double inspiration.

I've enjoyed some downtime this evening, reading in the humorously written book and thinking about Ireland. Dublin will be our home base while we are in that country.

Must see site #7 is St Stephen's Green.

This 22 acre park is located in the heart of Dublin, at the top of Grafton Street. According to the book, you can't miss it…it's the big green thing with all the trees! We are staying in the heart of the city, so I hope for at least a stroll through this gorgeous park.

Although this green space is peaceful and filled with ponds, statues, flowers and trees, the history of this place is anything but serene. In the 13th century there was a leper colony in this swampy, boggy spot, associated with a nearby church, St Stephen's. By the 17th century the area was converted into a park and the plots surrounding it used for building palatial homes.

The park became popular as a place of public executions. Until the late 18th century, most of Dublin's executions took place here. Crowds would gather to watch the unfortunate law breaker receive his punishment…which eventually led to the residents in the area protesting. The park became a private garden for the wealthy home owners surrounding it. In 1877, the great grandson of Arthur Guinness, the brewery founder, bought the park and donated it back to the city.

The park enjoyed a time of peace until the 1916 Easter Rising, when rebels used the Green as one of their bases of operation. Trenches were dug and the greenhouse used as a first aid center, but after a day, British soldiers began firing on the rebels, driving them out. Bullet holes can be seen in the Fusiliers' Arch entrance. An aside to this event: both sides agreed to a brief ceasefire so that the park groundsman could feed the ducks!

The arch is the most popular entrance to the park. It was built in 1907 to commemorate the soldiers of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who fought for the British Army in the second Boer War.

Statues are scattered throughout the Green, including an artistic installation in honor of Irish poet WB Yeats. There's also one dedicated to Lord Ardilaun, who purchased the park and gave it to the city.

Other highlights in the park include the impressive facade of the Royal College of Surgeons, and the St Stephen's Shopping Centre, built to look like a conservatory.

There is also The Little Museum of Dublin, full of 20th century memorabilia, and one of Ireland's most famous hotels, the Shelbourne. Among the hotel's famous guests have been actors and actresses, authors, and John F Kennedy and his wife Jackie. The hotel features an equally famous pub, The Horseshoe Bar.

Reading about St Stephen's Green, including its colorful history, ramps up my anticipation for this city. This will be my first trip to Ireland…it is a first for all five of us…and I am excited to explore and discover and soak it all in.

Learning about some of Dublin's sites before I visit stirs a longing to see it all myself, and also creates a sense of familiarity when I do arrive. If we visit St Stephens Green, you can bet I will be checking the arch at the entrance for bullet holes!