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 London

What fun we had today, exploring the busy, high energy city of London. There was never a moment when we weren’t surrounded by people. Whether they were crowded with us on the underground tube, touring the London Dungeon alongside us, or milling about at Buckingham Palace, we had companions, curious travelers all of us.

The highlight of our morning was the London Dungeon Tour. This high quality experience, a cross between a walking tour and an amusement park ride, offers performers in period costumes portraying characters from London’s murky past. We saw executioners and Sweeney Todd’s lady friend, Mrs Lovett, a physician’s assistant during the bubonic plague and Mary Jane Kelly, Jack the Ripper’s final victim. The tour was a fascinating and well done look at the dark underside of London.

While photographs were not allowed, we had three pics taken during the tour that we purchased at the end, primarily because of my good natured mom’s hysterical expressions! The final ride features an unexpected element of surprise, and they snap a pic to capture the moment. We have giggled all evening, over the look on Mom’s face.

Mom-I’m supposed to be doing what?? Ashley is ready, though, to take off a head!

The London fire. Mom looks like she’s thinking Fire? What fire? And Debbie’s smile makes me think she started it!

What can I say?! Mom’s precious face…

After the dungeons, it was good to walk in the sunshine and fresh air, grateful for life!

Here are highlights of our wanderings:

The London Eye, on the Thames River.

Big Ben, undergoing repairs.

Buckingham Palace-the queen is not in residence currently. The palace is beautiful. There were a couple of uniformed guards on duty in their characteristic red coats and tall black hats.

Group photo in front of the palace gates.

The Lion and the Unicorn.

A piper on Westminster Bridge.

Exploring London today, I wore a t shirt from Solgave Clothing that felt very appropriate. Across the front of the shirt it proclaims, in bold letters, LOOK FOR THE HELPERS. In light of recent terrorist attacks in this city of 8.8 million people, I was very aware of the need for people who help, for souls who see beyond race and color and nationality and gender and age.

Walking across the bridge where an attack killed 5 people in March of this year, I didn’t feel fear. I felt compassion and a strong surge of desire for humanity to heal its rifts and open its collective heart. Tears came to my eyes as I watched the throngs of people walking along both sides of the bridge, as a lone piper played the bagpipes. The world was represented there, among those journeyers, from countries around the globe. They spoke many languages, dressed in a wide variety of clothes, had beautiful complexions in endless hues, and smiled when I made eye contact. I loved each person.

I was affected by those words on my shirt. I became more aware of being a helper. When we left the hotel, we almost immediately walked past a man begging on the street. He sat on the sidewalk, quietly asking for help as we walked by. I am never quite sure what to do for the multitude of homeless and destitute who beg for money. I’ve given cash…and I’ve looked the other way.

I had walked 20 or 30 steps past this man, when I looked down at my shirt. LOOK FOR THE HELPERS. How could I walk on by, wearing such a statement? Was it simply a sentiment on a shirt…or a belief to live by?

I went back, and gave him the cash in my pocket. Looking for the helpers meant looking within today, and then offering hope and love and a spirit of kinship.

Exploring London became a deeper exploration of my own heart.

Adventures in the Highlands

This morning we left the charming city of Stirling behind and headed north into the Scottish Highlands. This region is so wildly beautiful that it makes my heart ache and brings tears to my eyes. It has been a tremendous advantage, having a car. Debbie continues to excel at navigating through Scotland’s villages, cities and rural areas. She seems quite comfortable with driving on the left side of the road and from the right side of the car!

Our journey today was planned, but flexible, and naturally divided into three areas of the Highlands.

Loch Ness

We drove through Inverness and then headed west along Scotland’s most famous loch, the supposed home of a sea creature that has been sighted for hundreds of years. Affectionately known as Nessie, the existence of this water beast has never been proven, absolutely, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of people from stopping by the loch each day, hoping to be the one who captures the Loch Ness monster in a photo.

Monster or no monster, the loch is hauntingly beautiful with its murky waters and miles and miles of rugged shorelines. The ruins of Castle Urquhart add to the mysteriousness of the region.

We stopped for Scottish tea and bowls of homemade soup before arriving at Loch Ness. Loved the thistle tea set.

Loch Ness

Ruins of Castle Urquhart

Eilean Donan Castle

From Loch Ness we continued west and north toward our ultimate destination, the Isle of Skye. The Highlands captured our attention and drew forth our appreciation as we drove between towering hills covered in the last of the blooming heather and a variety of trees. We marveled at forests so thick that the ground beneath was shrouded in darkness. We exclaimed over cascading waterfalls and flocks of freshly shorn sheep.

Just before we arrived at the Isle of Skye, one of Scotland’s most picturesque castles appeared…Eilean Donan. For the third day in a row, we toured a castle! This 13th century medieval structure is situated on an island where three sea lochs meet. We enjoyed a tour of the grounds and the interior of the castle. This was another Scottish bucket list item for me that I got to cross off today.

Scottish Highlands

The picturesque Eilean Donan Castle

The castle bridge was the perfect spot for today’s group pic.

The waters surrounding the castle.

Isle of Skye

Our last stop for the day was the remote and breathtaking Isle of Skye. The only way to access the island is by ferry or by crossing the solitary bridge that connects the isle with the mainland. We crossed the bridge. After settling into our hotel rooms and enjoying a quick dinner together, the five of us got back into our rental car and drove to the Fairy Pools of Skye.

The pools are in a very rural location, down narrow, winding roads through gorgeous mountains and narrow glens with the occasional sheep wandering about. My heart almost couldn’t take in the beauty of it all. Because it was getting dark and the paths to the pools are not easily traveled, we elected to remain on the road high above and take pictures. The curious sheep were so cute that we wanted to pet them, but we only succeeded in talking to them. I crossed the pools off my must see list as well.

Isle of Skye, near the Fairy Pools

Looking down the glen toward the pools. There is one of the sheep in the foreground.

Although we didn’t hike down to the Fairy Pools, I did snap a pic of this beautiful little waterfall near where we parked the car.

Tomorrow we travel south back through the Highlands, to Scotland’s second largest city, Glasgow. It will be our last full day in Scotland, before taking a train into England the following day.

Today I wore another T shirt from Solgave Clothing that captured my thoughts well.

“You are not a drop in the ocean but an ocean in a drop.” Rumi

My heart is so full.

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!