Destination – Disneyland (and then another Kingdom – the United Kingdom & Ireland!)

Oh I love this time right before an adventure is about to start! The excitement begins to build incrementally each day and my stomach has that ‘giddy’ feeling churning around. I find my mind often wanders off to places I plan to visit and explore and that sometimes it is somewhat difficult to concentrate on matters at hand. That’s a good sign!

Just one week from tomorrow I will begin this season’s travels. I get to start my adventures this year with my great grand daughter, Alaska. IMG_4537

She will be celebrating her 5th birthday in July. Since I will be in the UK the rest of the spring & summer I decided to take her early for her birthday surprise. I started a tradition with my own 3 kids years ago. Whenever one of them turned five, I would take just that one child to Disneyland for a day (mostly because that’s all I could afford, but also to give that particular child my totally undivided attention.) They ate up that attention too! That lovely tradition became quite a treat for us all. Now, after 3 kids and also 3 grand kids, I am celebrating my first great grand childs’ 5th birthday! How lucky am I? I am really glad I started having children early in my adulthood (my first was born just after my 21st birthday) so I could live long enough to enjoy great grandchildren! They are the best!

Luckily, I am still young enough (and with enough energy) to entirely devote myself to following a 5 year-old around the Magic Kingdom all day; experiencing & seeing it through her eyes. I also get to be, and act, like a kid myself all the day long at least one more time! There’s nothing quite like it! I enjoy the wonderful experience of letting my inner child out to play wholeheartedly. It should also supply me with a wonderful springboard to jump off from into my travel mode for the rest of the season –  a great way to spend an adventure holiday in Ireland, Scotland, England & Wales – exploring with the awakened wide-eyed curiosity of a child!

As you might imagine, Alaska is pretty excited herself. Each week when she comes to my house to have a ‘sleepover with GG ‘ on Thursdays she immediately heads over to the calendar, the one we marked up with our travel plans, to count the days until our departure – a girl after my own heart! We leave just one week from tomorrow! Let the countdown begin!

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We will travel almost the entire length of California from our home in Southern Oregon to the Los Angeles basin. It will take us two days to travel that distance along the Interstate 5 freeway. Even though it requires two constant driving days to get there; its worth it – especially in the springtime with all the lovely views along the way of fresh food growing in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley – breadbasket of the world.  (And thank goodness for freeways! As I recall from when I was Alaska’s age and living in southern California, my family would make the trip to visit my grandparents in Seattle, Washington. It was only a two-lane, undivided Hwy 99 back then and the entire route taking us much longer than 2 days time to complete!)

We will be staying at the Hilton Anaheim just across the street from Disneyland and will have a birds-eye view from our room of the fireworks each night exploding over the ‘Matterhorn’ inside the park! She ought to like that – I know I will!

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Alaska is even excited about just getting to stay a couple of nights in a hotel and most importantly – getting to ride the elevator! How I love the delight and innocence of small children; they’re so precious! Its the small things you know….

img_6427As you might know if you’re one of my avid “followers” on this blog that one of the things I enjoy most about traveling is making new friends along the way. Last year when I traveled from Scotland to Ireland via the ferry from Cairnryan to Larne I met the nicest couple, Ed & Colleen.

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We had quite a bit in common as it turned out – we both write a travel blog. Imagine that! Naturally, we became fast friends, traded traveling information, and although we only had the brief time together during the ferry crossing to spend with one another we’ve kept in touch all year. On our way back to Oregon, Alaska and I will get to stop and spend some time with Ed & Colleen again at their home.

What a delight that will be! I love visiting friends along my journeys and spending time with the ones I’ve met during them. It will be so good to see them and enjoy their company once again.

After Alaska and I return at week’s end, I will need to get my laundry done and repacked into my suitcase pronto because just a week later, on May 9th, I’ll be boarding another jet headed to Dublin, Ireland to tour all around that magical place with my good friend, Lynne, for 5 weeks!

Since I’ll be with a friend, and consequently not have a lot of spare, alone time to blog as often as I usually do during my travels, I won’t be writing daily blog posts as is my usual practice. However, you can be sure that at least once or twice a week, I’ll find the time to keep you updated on my travels this summer, sharing many photos and telling you about the places we’re visiting. It’s bound be be quite the adventure; one you may not want to miss.

If you would like to see every entry I post, I invite you to “follow” my blog by pressing the “follow” button which should appear somewhere nearby on your screen that you are viewing this post on. If you “follow,” each time I post something, an email will come directly to your inbox and you can view the post at your leisure. You won’t miss a single entry either as I’ll be spending over 4 months touring around all of both the islands of Ireland and Scotland/England/Wales from one tip to the other!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do I do when I’m not traveling?

I was introduced by a good friend at a gathering as “someone who travels a lot.”  I shyly replied, “Well, I don’t travel that much…” My friend corrected me and said, “No, Claudia, actually you travel a lot!” 

Her comment made me pause, reflecting on the fact that although I have not traveled as much as I would like to, nor visited all of the places I dream about – she’s right; I have traveled a lot! More than I had ever imagined I would, quite frankly, and am still amazed that I am being introduced as a ‘experienced and well-seasoned” traveler; something I previously had only dared to dream.

Still, I feel the surface has barely been scratched. To know there are so many places yet to explore contributes to my individual pursuit of happiness.  I do not, however, travel all of the time. So what do I do when I’m not traveling?

Many things!

First and foremost? Plan a new trip! Now there’s a novel idea. Planning and dreaming about it really is half of the fun. Lynne and I have been doing exactly this for the last couple of months in anticipation of our upcoming adventure in Ireland.

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If you’re not familiar with what our Ireland adventure consists of, see the six blog posts before this one. We have quite the tour planned! We leave in just 42 days – but who’s counting?

We’ve spent a lot of time working out and mapping our itinerary, noting probable routes to follow, approximate travel distances and times to make sure we aren’t rushed, sights to see along the way, booked all of lodgings and have scoured our guidebooks and online sources for information and great locations to enjoy. Now we’re beginning to gather our goodies to put in our suitcases and packs. The time to leave is getting closer and closer!  Yeah!

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Since I am a gardener, one of the sights I particularly enjoy visiting in Ireland and the United Kingdom are gardens.  When I’m not enjoying a garden elsewhere, I am tending to my own.

Last July, just a month before I left for Scotland, I bought a new house and moved into it.  After unpacking most of the boxes, I promptly went on holiday until the frost was on the pumpkins for Halloween.

img_1322-5I’ve spent most of this winter and early spring gradually preparing and planting various trees, bushes, vines, and flowers all around my new yard landscape front and back.

For the past 5 years I’ve had many of these plants growing in pots on my mother’s deck.  Now they are being placed in their permanent locations at my new home with the help of my new gardening buddy – my great grand daughter, Alaska – and just in time for me to take off for yet another adventure.
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Always wanting to do something ‘creative’ is a prerequisite for maintaining my happiness.  I consider gardening to be a creative outlet but I also enjoy variety so I look to additional outlets, like writing this blog for instance, or some form of sewing or needlework.

2. IMG_4517I recently joined an informal ‘art quilt’ group with some other local gals and found some inspiration from them worthy of my attention. That lead to a discovery of a new talent, ‘thread painting,’ as my friend Lynne referred to it.

What do I like to paint with thread?  None other than some of my favorite photos of beautiful places I’ve visited on my travels!
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First I practiced the free stitching on some fabric printouts of classic Art Nouveau posters by artists such as Toulouse Lautrec.

Then I tried something more daring – a photograph of beautiful Eilean Donan Castle at Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland. Love visiting that place.

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Followed by a stone carving of King Brian Boru on the east entrance doorway of the Royal Chapel in Dublin….8a. IMG_4559

9a. IMG_4570and some gargoyles perched atop the tower of Notre Dame in Paris.

 

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10b. IMG_4585Another one of my favorite castles – Craigievar near Alford, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

 

 

 

Who couldn’t resist the iconic Eiffel Tower?

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I even tried my hand at some black & white portraits of my great grandfather, William Rose Frew, who emigrated from Scotland along with his Montana bride, Nancy Anne Brundage.

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This is what I “do” when I’m not traveling….. somehow it all still relates to and leads me back to my one true love – traveling, connecting with the world and learning about my ancestors and where they came from – all part of my individual history.

 

 

5th & Final Week in Ireland – Ahoghill to Dublin

img_4508-1One of the treats about being in Northern Ireland with Deirdre and Roy is that we will have an opportunity to attend the Cloughmill’s Annual Fair where Roy and the band he is in, “The Down & Out Bluegrass Band” is the headliner!

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What fun it will be to attend a local fair, have fun with the locals and listen to some toe tapping music!  Here’s a poster from last years’ fair – it promises to be a fun filled day!

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We will spend a few more days in Ahoghill, possibly visiting Antrim Castle & Gardens and the town of Balleymena..

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…and getting our fill of some great fish & chips at Stewart Frew’s Chip shop…

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all before saying fare thee well to our hosts and heading south to our first stop, Newgrange, which was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) making it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza!

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Our driving route will then take us south from Newgrange to Trim where we will spend the night in a lovely B&B called Highfield House.

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Trim is an absolutely delightful village, complete with a castle, where the film “Braveheart” was filmed.  11666239_1003896072968423_101061314621389409_n

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Great places to eat and hear live music as well.

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Next stop, the bustling historic town of Dublin!  We’ll spend a couple of days exploring as many sights as possible… the Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin Castle Chapel, St. Stephen’s Green, Guinness Brewery, the national museum and art galleries… you name it, this place offers a wide selection and it might prove difficult to choose!

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Soooo many things to see and enjoy!

The final week ends when I take Lynne to the Dublin airport on June 15th to catch her flight back home. I will turn in the rental car after dropping her off and wishing her safe travels and head straight for the ferry dock to catch the ferry as a foot passenger to Holyhead, Wales.

I look forward to my adventures which will continue for another 3 months through Scotland, England and Wales, but I’m sure I’ll miss Lynne’s company after we part! We have such a great trip planned; it promises to be filled with laughter, gorgeous drop-dead scenery, music, lip-smackin’ food and great friends!

Donegal to Ahoghill and the Giant’s Causeway – Week 4 in Ireland

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Our fourth week in Ireland will start out with a drive through the countryside starting at Slieve League, one of the highest and finest marine cliffs in Europe. According to an article I found at www.ireland.com “Words fail to capture the majesty and sheer height of the cliffs. With twirling seabirds flying overhead and nothing but crisp blue ocean before you, it feels like you’re at the very edge of the world.” That sounds intriguing wouldn’t you say?  slieveleague

After that fine specimen of a view we will be working our way to Londonderry through what promises to be a beautiful drive through some more fantastic views of lakes, bogs and mountains in every shade of green one could imagine.

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Our lodging in Londonderry, Saddler’s House, is a nice historic B&B, named to commemorate the first owner who hand-crafted saddles in the 1860s and 1870s.

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It’s a nice quick walk to the very old walled town we can explore.

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Since we’re staying in Londonderry for a couple of days, we also plan to take another drive out west into the countryside to visit Glenveagh National Park  and drive a loop tour in the peninsula out toward Falcarragh and Dunfanaghy before returning to Londonderry.

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dunfanaghyLooks like quite a scenic route, doesn’t it?

 

Next stop? Ahoghill!  I look forward to reconnecting once again with my dear friends, Deirdre & Roy, who will be our hosts for the rest of the week. This is going to be fun. Perhaps we’ll even have the pleasure of enjoying another “Genealogy Night” with the Frew girls too! They are always a sure source of some good laughs and fun times!

Deirdre is so much fun to spend time with and it promises to be much the same once again as we explore the Antrim coast with her visiting places nearby such as Dark Hedges, Raithlin Island, Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Dunluce Castle.  dark-hedges-tree-tunnels

Rathlin Island

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It certainly promises to be yet another wonderful week filled to the brim with beautiful landscapes and vistas, interesting historical buildings and friendships brimming with giggles and genealogy!

With just one week left, we won’t want our 5 week tour of Ireland to come to an end!

 

 

 

 

 

Week 3 in Ireland – Doolin to Donegal!

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Doolin to Donegal!

This portion of the trip, the third week, promises a wonderful variety of new sights and exciting discoveries.  With the exception of Galway (at Point D on the map above) and then further north, immediately around Westport (at Point F), this is one region of Ireland  I have not explored very much at all yet! It will be fun to check out some new territory and roads not traveled.

Doolin is where we begin week 3 of our 5 week trip around Ireland.

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Having never been even near Doolin, I’m relying heavily on guidebooks for suggestions and ideas.

I hear it’s a great spot and a major centre for traditional Irish music nightly in the local pubs – this sounds like a bit of fun waiting to happen!

 

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We’ve booked a bed in the Aille River Hostel situated on the banks of the river.  Nice! Always enjoy a water feature!

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The Cliffs of Moher (a must see) are also close-by so a guided walk might just be in order to enjoy their magnificence to its fullest.

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There’s also Doolin Cave, Doonagore Castle and the hostel we’re staying at even has free laundry services!  We’ll probably need that after 3 weeks traveling – ya think?doolin-cavedoonagore-castle

 

 

 

aonhasas-walkers-lodgeThe Aran Isles are just offshore so we’ll hop on the ferry at Doolin to explore Inishmore and spend the night at Aonghasa’s Walker’s Lodge.

 

 

 

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The way to get around the island, other than walking or bicycling, is by pony carts.  So many interesting sights to see on Inishmor and what a fun way to see them!

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Course, it wouldn’t be complete without a stop at an Aran Sweater shop!

doolin-ferriesAfter we take the ferry back across to Doolin to gather our car, we’ll load up and drive to Galway to spend a couple of days.

Galway is a busy Gaelic city, with a vibrant historic old town bustling with the young and old alike.

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We’ll be staying at a fun hostel that sits right in the heart of the old town called Sleepzone Galway. Its clean, has great service and a wonderful self-catering kitchen to cook in!

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The road will take us further north after Galway into the Connemara National Park. We’ll be staying in a remote hostel within the park’s embrace as we work our way through the scenic wonderland to the town of Westport on the other side of Croagh Patrick.

Along the route we’ll pass Aasleagh Falls, the “Coffin Ship” monument to the great Famine and then the peaceful estuary of Clew Bay before arriving at our hostel, the Old Mill, in Westport!10403218_999849306706433_4196422339906328817_n

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We will end the week by traveling from Westport, through the town of Sligo (stopping to visit it along the way because my 3rd great grandmother, Mary Finnigan, was born there) before driving on to our last stop for the week – Donegal – where we will rest our heads at Donegal Town Independent Hostel.
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That concludes week 3 of our adventures in Ireland.  Until the next time… enjoy dreaming travel dreams of your own. Next time we’ll continue our travel plans by heading to Londonderry and Northern Ireland!

Finalizing Trip Plans – Week 2 in Ireland!

Our second week will begin at Ballinskelligs on the Ring of Kerry at Point A on the map below.  

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At Ballinskelligs we’ll be staying at Skellig Lodge just a 5 minute walk from the beach!

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During my first visit to this wonderful place I didn’t have enough time  to visit the World Heritage site, an ancient monastery – Michael Skelligs. I’m really looking forward to taking a boat ride to it and exploring its treasures.

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It sits on an island on a terraced shelf 600 feet above sea level, and was developed between the sixth and eighth centuries.

 

It contains six beehive cells, two oratories as well as a number of stone crosses and slabs and a later medieval church.

After enjoying the beach and islands we will head inland to Killarney – the town in the Park – Killarney National Park.  This is another spot I wanted to spend more time in having just driven through one day en route to somewhere else during my last visit!  kilarney-area-map

We plan to spend two days here exploring all of the beautiful wonders via bicycle and “jaunting” rides.

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So much to see: Ross Castle, Muckross House & Gardens, Innisfallen Monastery, Tore Waterfall!

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Our hostel looks quite inviting kilarney-hostelas well as the town!

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The next stop we’ll head for is Dingle and the Dingle Penninsula!  What a fun & colorful fishing village! Hopefully I’ll be able to reconnect with Eileen, a local who lives there and that I made friends with one evening enjoying some local musical talent two years ago!
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Perhaps we’ll even have the opportunity to go out on another boat ride and get to interact with Dingle’s very own famous dolphin, Fungie!

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The town is delightfully charming and filled to the max with sights for the senses.

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The possibility of enjoying some local color by visiting a pub that is half pub/half hardware store is also quite likely!

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We will finish off our week with a nice drive along the coastline further north to Doolin – our jumping off point to the Aran Islands!dingle-to-doolin-map

But that’s another post about the next week of our trip.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finalizing Travel Dreams – First Week in Ireland!

After dreaming up a new trip in my last post,  “Travel Plans for 2017,” I’ve been quite busy this past month taking the steps to make this dream a reality.  I’ve been reserving lodging, renting cars, and planning out a detailed route and itinerary, but…. I haven’t been doing it alone!

A couple of days after I posted my last entry  I received a message from a dear friend, Lynne, that I’ve known for many, many years. Like a lot of you, she also ‘follows’ my adventures on my blog and is an avid supporter.  (Thank you Lynne!) Recently, after she read about my current dream, she’s exclaimed, “I wanna go!”  I’ve inspired someone else to dream; this is cool! So I responded and said, “Welcome aboard Lynne – let’s start dreaming up this trip together then. Now is the perfect time!”

I already had purchased my plane ticket, so she started looking at her calendar & my itinerary to decide where she might be able to dovetail into my roughly sketched plans. A couple of days of checking her calendar, available flights and the like, she announced that she wants to join me right at the onset of the trip.  She found a seat at a reasonable price on the same flight (non-stop from San Francisco to Dublin) that I had booked and we’re set!

She also allotted enough time to completely tour Ireland with me – a full 5 weeks! Originally, I had thought about flying over to Amsterdam from Dublin for a couple of weeks but I have decided to save that portion of the dream for next year. I’m going to spend the entire time right there in Ireland touring clockwise around the Emerald Isle with Lynne instead.

We will be taking the same basic route that I took by myself a couple of years ago, revisiting some sights I vowed to return to and adding a few stops I had previously missed. On my previous trip I only allotted 3 weeks time to complete this circuit, but this time we’re tacking on an additional 2 weeks to allow for more exploration and fun. From my first trip to Ireland, I learned that I wanted to spend more time at each place because there are so many things to see and do in each place as well as along the route between each stop.

Below is the route we’ll take (designated in blue) and the places we will stay in overnight lodging (designated by the yellow beds).ireland-driving-route-and-lodging-map-2017Quite a route, isn’t it?  It’s going to be a lot of fun. We will start out in Dublin (which is barely visible on this map about midway on the east coast of the island. You can just see the “n” in Dublin sticking out on the right.)  We will rent a car in Dublin and head south toward our first stop, Glendalough, as we begin our clockwise tour around Ireland & back to Dublin again. This will all transpire from May 10 to June 15th.

The next map view denotes some of the various “sights” we’ll stop to see and admire along our route with a partial list on the legend to the left….  Castles, Abbey’s, pubs, waterfalls, ancient burial mounds of the Irish Celtic nobility! As you can see, we’ve been scouring our guide books for places we don’t want to miss and have placed a marker on the map so we’ll know when we are near one while traveling and don’t accidentally drive past it.sights-to-see-ireland-2017Our first stop, Glendalough, is a gem of a place.  There is a lovely Youth Hostel there called “The Lodge.” It is nestled in the pleasant green valley right next door to the ancient monastic ruins where the monks created the illustrated Book of Kells during the middle ages.st-kevins-church-glendalough

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10553516_993416654016365_5854738671859989715_nThe view below is taken from Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains above the beautiful valley and Glendalough as seen below.10532126_993994307291933_8130756409417233461_oThis the “The Lodge” where we’ll be staying for a couple of nights while we explore the ruins and the gorgeous and extensive trail system around the valley and Glendalough lower and upper lakes. 11407054_993416594016371_5983251527336200980_n

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We’ll spend a couple of days and then travel south and west toward Blarney, visiting the Rock of Cashel en route.

 

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11168007_994630877228276_8585755916422946530_oWe’ll spend the night at the Muskerry Arms Pub and B&B in Blarney. That’s handy!  Some friends of Lynne’s are currently touring Spain. Toward the end of their 3 month trip they will also be going to Ireland and plan to do a similar route as ours only in a counter clockwise direction.

Our paths will cross in Blarney. They’ve also booked a room at the same B&B the same night. We’ll have the wonderful opportunity to connect up with them, hear about their travels as they are about to complete their final week of traveling and as we are just getting started on ours!  What fun that will be. There will probably be some good craic that night and libations all around. Good thing we will only have to stumble up the stairs afterward!muskerry-arms

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The following day we’ll make an attempt to kiss the Blarney Stone and be blessed with the gift of eloquent gab. We will also plan on exploring the vast & varied grounds of Blarney Castle afterwards.

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11219527_995682093789821_4142126572551383489_nWe’re hoping to get to the castle early in the morning to get a choice spot in line in what can become a VERY long line that can take a very long time in order to kiss the Blarney Stone. (I didn’t do it the last time I was there because the wait was about 3 hours long and very very boring!) 10343664_995682843789746_7716757954075529985_n

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11028967_995682620456435_1860892608053842918_nAs you can see the castle is fantastic but the surrounding extensive grounds are equally outstanding to explore.  10252165_995684777122886_3294598328229549683_n

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blarney-castle29It will be a full day complete with visiting a Chocolate Shop in town! After that full day schedule we will travel a short distance to the tidy seaside fishing town of Kinsale to spend another couple of nights.11059455_995677980456899_7556119262196213940_o

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1506040_994961530528544_5424404912137018417_nKinsale is a delightful town, full of color, charm and hospitality around every turn. There are all kinds of wonderfully delightful pubs to whet your whistle in and where you can catch some foot-stomping traditional Irish music too!10291056_994965577194806_4131782932780896882_n

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11412371_994961477195216_2031011047503962447_nThere is a wonderful waterfront to stroll along with all kinds of fascinating and whimsical things to admire…11017698_995030337188330_8762024086611425117_n

Great places to eat freshly caught seafood prepared to perfection…
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11415530_995030517188312_969265952435813754_oand if it’s shopping you’re looking for, Kinsale has a plethora of shops to choose from up and down the twisting, turning and colorful lanes of town!11234810_994965513861479_2648656310316098221_n

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11220114_995015307189833_1501058840826957314_nKinsale even has a Castle and a nearby fort!

To finish off the first week Lynne and I will travel next to another lovely little village, Kenmare, stopping along the way to stop & smell the roses at the Garnish Island Gardens.

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That takes care of just the first week!  Wow! We still have four more to go!

On my next post, which will be following soon, I will share the plans we have for the next week – starting in Ballinskelligs and visiting the famous Michael Skelligs island; a Christian monastery  founded on the island at some point between the 6th and 8th century which remained continuously occupied until it was abandoned in the late 12th century. The remains of the monastery, and most of the island, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.