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“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.” ~ Alphonse Karr

We celebrated Thanksgiving last month and I noticed that many people were putting a lot of “I am thankful” messages on social media.  I think that is awesome and I wish people expressed and demonstrated their “thankfulness” more often, not just once a year.  Sometimes I fall into the same trap of complaining instead of expressing gratitude.  It is often easy to think about the things in life that are missing or painful.  Often, if we appear too “grateful” it feels boastful and people are put off.   I am simply thankful for the multitude of blessings in my life.

This year on Thanksgiving I felt especially thankful.  Here are some of the thoughts my over thinking brain was working on that day.  I woke up early and was grateful I woke up, and grateful that I had a home and a warm bed.  With the help of my husband Skip, who loves me despite my many flaws (for which I am very thankful), we prepared a small feast.  I was thankful that I had the means to purchase and prepare the food and family to share it with. 

I tried to be in the moment and not to focus on who could not be there but at times my thoughts were melancholy that my son and daughter in law and grand-babies could not be here with us. I am grateful that they are healthy and happy and that they love me and I them.  My daughters, Becca and Kristen, were able to celebrate with us and I was grateful for their presence and their help.  My children, daughter-in-law and grandchildren are the best in the universe.  I am incredibly blessed.  My 91-year-old father was able to celebrate with us, as well as my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and some of my wonderful nieces and a nephew.

There are times when the missing of someone hurts and distracts me in the  moment.   To me, my mom was the embodiment of the holidays.  She brought us all together several times a year to celebrate being together with food and warmth.  She taught me how to make her special stuffing and how to cook a turkey. I cook it in her special roasting pan and it comes out perfect every time.  Her cookie baking skills were legendary.  I really miss that she is not here to share the holiday with all of us, but I am also grateful for the memories she helped to create.

“Grief is never something you get over. You don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’ve conquered that; now I’m moving on.’ It’s something that walks beside you every day. And if you can learn how to manage it and honor the person that you miss, you can take something that is incredibly sad and have some form of positivity.”     ~Teri Irwin

Sometimes I think people mix up being sad or melancholy with being ungrateful. Although I think those feelings can overlap to me it is not the same. There are times when its a little more difficult to demonstrate thankfulness.  Maybe I need to do a better job of celebrating being thankful in my words and actions.  I think I do a good job but there is always room for improvement.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it”.  ~William Arthur Ward

So to my family and friends I say, thank you. Thank you for reading my blogs. Thank you for taking the time to check in on me. Thank you for loving me especially on those moments I don’t feel particularly lovable.  Thank you for being you, and for being a part of my life.  Thank you for making me laugh.  Thank you for taking this journey called life and making memories with me.   I am grateful.

“There are good ships and wood ships, ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships, may they always be!” ~ Irish Proverb

Today is the last day of our trip.  Technically we fly back home tomorrow but today is the last day for touring and drinking.  Tomorrow we start the food, fun and alcohol detox.

“I can resist everything except temptation.” 

~ Oscar Wilde

The sun was shining once again as we ate our breakfast and left beautiful Abbyglen Castle in Clifdin. We have been incredibly blessed with good weather in Ireland for which I am very grateful.

We headed to our final tour of the trip, Aughnanure Castle which is a tower house in Galway, Ireland.  To be honest, I think my brain was on overload of historical data or I had reached my mental quota.  The castle was beautiful and the guide was very informative.

Today was a lot of drive time in the van and we were all a little spent after two weeks of travel.  We stopped in Galway for a couple of hours to break up the trip and for lunch.

It was a lovely city, very clean and full of life.  On such a sunny perfect summer day there were lots of people milling about, walking, talking, shopping and feeding the birds by the river.

Three of our group looked particularly fashionable in their Irish Tweed Caps.  Tom, if you remember is of royal descent being king so only wears a crown.

After a few more hours in the non air-conditioned van we were back in Dublin for the night before an early rise and flight tomorrow.

It’s been a wonderful, relaxing and yet tiring trip.  It’s been more than I hoped for and yet everything I hoped for in another way. I’ve tried whisky and confirmed that I really do not like it at all!  We’ve walked and climbed and wined and dined.  We’ve laughed and made more marvelous memories.  It’s time to go home, and that is OK.  Home is a good place to be as well.

“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.  That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”

 ~Pico Iyer

 

May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.

~ Irish Blessing

“Like the warmth of the sun And the light of the day, may the luck of the Irish shine bright on your way.” ~ Irish Blessing

After a rare but much-needed sleep filled night (and a filling breakfast) we were once again on our way.  Our first stop was at an Irish Portal Tomb called a dolmen.  Most date from the early neolithic age and consist of one or two vertical stones supporting a large flat horizontal stone. This one was in a particularly different sparse landscape, called the Burren, which consisted of limestone blocks and crevices formed from eons of water erosion through the limestone. At the entry to the area sat in a strange tent like structure a man playing a wind instrument.

 

We stopped to see the Dunguaire Castle, which is a 16th century tower house in Galway Bay.  Then we saw some homes with traditional thatched roofs.  Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as straw, reeds etc and laying it so as to shed water away from the inner roof.  It is densely packed and traps air and is used to insulate as well.  There are traditionally 36 layers to make a good thatched roof and it can last over forty years.

Near the castle were some young children playing violins and it was charming and sad at the same time.

It was a long day in the van today over narrow and hilly roads.  We stopped for lunch at the Hungry Monk Cafe  in Cong, a small village which straddles the counties of Mayo and Galway.  It was a lovely spot and is known for where the movie The Quiet Man was filmed. We spent some time after lunch walking through some shops and wandering through the ruins of the Cong Abbey.

 

We drove past the Connemara National Park where the landscape was drastically different from this morning.

We arrived at one of the highlights of the day, a sheep farm!  The farmer did a wonderful demonstration of using his Border Collie to herd some sheep, then he (and some volunteers) sheered a sheep and then fed some baby sheep.  It is hard work on rugged terrain for little money.

 

“The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same.”

 ~Stendhal

We arrived at our hotel for the night, Abbyglen Castle in Cliffton Connemara.  Tom was immediately singled out from the group to be our leader  king.

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“Dilly, Dilly.” ~ King Tom Haas

“When Irish eyes are smiling
Sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing
When Irish hearts are happy
All the world seems bright and gay
And when Irish eyes are smiling
Sure, they steal your heart away.”

~Bing Crosby,  When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.

 

“Wherever you go and whatever you do, May the luck of the Irish be there with you.” ~ Irish Blessing

It was another bright, beautiful morning filled with sunshine and we headed out on our next adventure and said goodbye to Dingle, perhaps my most favorite town on this trip! Our first “ninja stop” was to visit a memorial to Tom Crean, an Irishman who left home at the age of fifteen to join the Royal Navy.  He was a member of three major expeditions to Antarctica and received the Albert Medal for Lifesaving during one expedition.

 

We stopped for another photo stop in West Kerry, where the landscape was also stunning.  This place is sometimes referred to as the Valley of the Mad.  People would travel there to drink water from some wells to cure mental illness.  It was later found that some of the water contained high levels of lithium which might explain the results.  Again, the views were beautiful especially on the clear sunny day with which we were blessed.

It was a day with more travel time but we soon arrived at the rose garden of Tralee. which is exquisite.  There are so many varieties of roses, yet the scent is not overwhelming.  It was amazing.

 

 

Skip and I took a moment for a photo-op on such a lovely day in such a lovely setting.

 

“My wild Irish Rose, the sweetest flower that grows.
You may search everywhere, but none can compare with my wild Irish Rose.”

~Daniel O’Donnell from My Wild Irish Rose 

We stopped for a delicious lunch in Listowel before taking the Shannon ferry (very civilized and fast) from Kerry to Clare.

 

We arrived at our final tour for the day at the Cliffs of Moher.  They are stunning sea cliffs located in southwestern County Clare.  They are among the most visited tourist sites in Ireland.  From the cliffs, and from atop the tower, visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galaway Bay.   The views from the over 700 feet height on a clear sunny day are dazzling.

 “May the sun shine all day long, everything go right and nothing wrong. May those you love bring love back to you, and may all the wishes you wish come true.”

~ Irish Blessing

Of course every amazing place deserves an “I was there” photo.  (Sorry no photo of Gary and Peggy, as they were off ahead of us as they did not have to stop to catch their breath from the climb).

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“May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.” ~ Irish Blessing

Today was the first day of summer, also known as Summer Solstice.  It was a beautiful day full of sunshine.  It was perfect.

Today was the first day we got to “sleep in” on the trip and it was welcome and necessary.  After a leisurely breakfast we headed out through Dingle on our own.  The shops were just opening and they are enchanting.   There was an old church nearby we passed on our way to the waterfront.

The sun continued to shine and the storefronts beckoned us in to view (and purchase) their wares.  It was a morning of being in the moment, enjoying the weather and the only agenda being to enjoy our time together in Dingle.

“Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.”

~ Gordon B. Hinckley

We stopped for ice cream from Murphy’s, where the ice cream is made in Dingle from local cows as we strolled along the waterfront.

We stopped in a local grocery store for a drink and saw an entire aisle of gluten free foods!

It was soon tour time and we headed out to the Dingle Peninsula and Slea Head.  The guide told us that the show, Ryan’s Daughter had been filmed there as well as some of the movie The Last Jedi   The view of the landscape was stunning.

Thank goodness for digital film as it was nearly impossible to stop attempting to capture the beauty of the day.

It was truly some of the prettiest scenery I have seen. We stopped at a Gallurus Oratory in Dingle.  This church has a very  distinctive appearance, often referred to as resembling an upturned boat. It is constructed entirely out of locally sourced stone, and is corbel vaulted to support the structure.  It was charming.

 

“May the friendships you make be those which endure, and all of your grey clouds be small ones for sure.  And trusting in Him to Whom all we pray, may a song fill your heart every step of the way.”

Irish Blessing

We had a brief stop at Dingle Crystal.  The owner, Sean, was a master craftsman with Waterford Crystal before they relocated and he started his own business in Dingle.  They create and hand cut breathtaking collection of crystal gift-ware using Celtic themes with  six different and distinct patterns, It was stunning.

 

We returned to our hotel and were tired from our leisurely day so headed out to a pub where we found our new favorite drink, “The Dingle Gin Elder flower Tonic!”  It is concocted of Dingle Gin, Elder flower tonic water, and juniper berries and strawberries over ice.

It was a delightful day!

 

 

“There are many good reasons for drinking,
One has just entered my head,
If a man doesn’t drink when he’s living,
How the hell can he drink when he’s dead?”

~ Irish Saying

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“I only drink on two occasions – When I am thirsty and when I’m not thirsty.” ~ Brendan Behan

Today our journey began on the Ring of Kerry.  It is a 111 mile long circular tourist route in County Kerry, Ireland. It is a popular day trip for many, with narrow winding roads.  It is part of the mystical and unspoiled region of Ireland and it is a photographers paradise. We stopped at the “Ladies View” for a few pictures.

 

Our first destination was to the Killarney National Park.  It was the first national park in Ireland  created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932.  We climbed a small hill to the Torc Waterfall.  The path along the stream to the waterfall was almost mystical with every green in nature imaginable.  The sounds of the waterfall and the rushing water made you feel like you were indeed in a magic land expecting fairies to pop out around every bend.

Of course one should never miss a photo opportunity in a beautiful location.

 

“May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.”

~ Irish Blessing

We climbed onto (with help) our horse powered “Juanting Cars” and took a lovely ride to see Muckross House and estate as well as some of the Killarney National Park. It was lovely, fun and at times jaunting.

There was an old cemetery and some church ruins.  You can only be buried there is you are a member of the family.

The Jaunting Car ride was a delightful way to spend an hour viewing the park but all good things must come to an end.

We stopped for one of the best lunches on the trip so far at a pub called Murphy’s. We headed off in our van towards Inch Strand Beach in Dingle.  It is a long sand spit backed by dune system reaching into Dingle Bay, popular with surfers, anglers and swimmers.

Of course I could not pass an opportunity to photograph some sheep and cows nearby.

After a few more ninja photo stops we headed into Dingle to our hotel.  The landscape of Ireland is like a beautiful patchwork quilt.  It’s almost impossible to capture in photograph and maybe it is best kept in memory.

 

“May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all God’s blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you may your heart be strong. May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.”

~ Irish Blessing

“We may have bad weather in Ireland, but the sun shines in the hearts of the people and that keeps us all warm.” ~Marianne Williamson

Today was another day with rain on and off but we never seem to let it get the best of us.  As Dale Evans said: “Who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.”  After another mouth-watering meal we loaded up the van and headed off to our next destination.  Before we could leave I heard the sheep calling and  we said goodbye .  “Come baaaack someday” they said!

We arrived at Bantry House and Garden. It is a stately home situated on the Wild Atlantic Way overlooking Bantry Bay in the south west of Ireland.  The estate is unique since it is still lived in and managed by the family.   I am not sure with all of the pictures of dead birds and the stuffed bird collection in the house it would be my choice of a vacation destination, but the grounds, even in the rain, were picturesque.

Winding staircases (which I did not attempt in the rain) and lovely garden paths surrounded the stables and home.

We soon were ferry bound to Garnish Island for some more picturesque gardens.  The short ferry ride of less than ten minutes stopped to allow Kodak moments of seals and eagles.  The garden was designed for its owner John Bryce, a native of Belfast. He and his wife Violet, purchased the island in 1910. Their son Roland bequeathed the island to the Irish nation in 1953.

We did not have enough time to take the guided tour of the house the couple had lived in, so we took a leisurely stroll though the magnificent gardens.

We stopped for lunch in Glengarriff and then were off to the winding road of the Healy Pass.  Healy Pass Ireland is found in southwest, a perfect diversion from the longer Ring of Beara driving route. The serpentine road  winds through a desolate, otherworldly landscape, passing between two of the highest summits in the Caha mountain range and rising to 334 metres above sea level.  The road was created in 1847 during the famine years in Ireand to help prevent starvation during the famine of Ireland.  The landscape is rocky and serves as grazing land for flocks of sheep.

We continued on these winding roads finally reaching our destination of the Uragh Stone Circle which is a neolithic stone circle near Gleninchaquin Park.  It was a long walk up a long winding rock path covered in sheep and cow droppings.

The stone circle was guarded for some odd reason by some lounging cows which was very strange.

Down the path we carefully walked doing our very best to avoid stepping in anything while bleating sheep wandered seemingly without a purpose whilst calling out to Gary!

It was another memorable day and we arrived at the Landsdown Arms Motel in Kenmare.  We had dinner with Irish music and dancing in the pub.

“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, The foresight to know where you are going, And the insight to know when you have gone too far.” 

~ Irish Blessing