Middle Aged World Travelers, Day Tour to Cork, Blarney Castle, and Cobh, Chapter 4, Part 2

I got off-track with my travel log. Good thing I journaled some each day or I would never be able to remember all the adventures we had or the wonderful things we saw each day of our trip to Europe in May. One of the primary reasons I’m blogging about this trip is I never want to forget a single bit of it! Alan, my husband, and I had so much fun, just being together and seeing parts of the world we’d never seen before and might not ever get a chance to see again. If I haven’t said this before, I’ll say it now, “If you get a chance to travel abroad, GO!” It will change your life in ways you can’t imagine.

Ok, now on to the rest of our fourth day in Ireland, May 20! After we left the Blarney Castle, we took a driving tour through the center of Cork City, which is actually on an island in the middle of River Lee which joins the bay of Cork. Amidst narrow streets and many pedestrians, there were views of lovely little homes and old schools. Cork City is a university town and so there is that feel of academia that always makes me remember my years working at Texas Tech University. Here are a few pictures typical of what we saw in Cork City. I was especially fascinated by that pink house! There are many things to see in Cork City, but, being in a bus, it was difficult to take pictures in the narrow lanes.

Cork City Houses

The Pink House in Cork City. I’m not sure if it was a home or a business, but I love it!

After leaving Cork City, we drove further east and then south to the tiny town of Cobh, which is famous for being the last departure point from Europe to the Americas. We went to St. Colman’s Cathedral which is absolutely beautiful. It has a huge tall spiral which reportedly was the last thing seen by most emigrants as they left the Bay of Cork and headed to the Americas. I loved this Cathedral as it had such a peaceful, quietness to it that was very conducive to prayer. So I did. Pray, I mean. I’m not Catholic, but I love their churches and cathedrals because of that peaceful quietness.

St. Colman’s Cathedral

The Cathedral is in a lovely little neighborhood with very colorful houses built down the hill.

Photo doesn’t do this area justice. The houses are painted in very bright and cheery colors.

Finally, we went to the Cobh Heritage Center which at one time was where the ships left for the American and all points west. Some especially famous ships that left from this port were the Titanic and the Lusitania. As everyone knows, the Titanic was sunk in the northern Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg. The Lusitania was the ship torpedoed by a German U-boat during World War I off the coast of Cork. 1,198 people died leaving 761 survivors who were mostly rescued by Cobh and Cork residents. The Cobh Heritage Center has some very good exhibits about the mass immigration of Irish people during the Potato Famine, life on the ocean liners that took the immigrants to the Americas, as well as a good exhibit on the Titanic and the Lusitania.

We stayed at the Heritage Center for about an hour and a half at which point we went back to the train station, boarded our train, and took off our shoes for our aching feet and headed to Dublin. It was a long day, but a very good day. We saw so much that it seems like a fantasy in some ways now, but it was very, very real.

More on our continuing adventures soon!


Let God Be

This is a poem I had posted on another blog I have.  I posted it several years ago and just saw it again.  I wrote it in 1999 when my life was a little more…chaotic and very stressful and I had several other dear friends and family going through a very stressful time too.  I thought, perhaps it might serve to encourage others who are in that place today.  We all have chaotic and stressful times in our lives when we don’t know if we’ll make it through. Let me reassure you, if you hold onto God and let Him be in charge, let Him give your strength, courage and wisdom, you will make it through!  It probably won’t look like the way you think you want it to look or be the way you think you want it to be. Instead, when we let God take over, it will be better than you could ever dream or imagine! God loves YOU!  Yes YOU!  Even if you say you don’t believe in Him and even if you think you’re too messed up, too smart, too dumb, too whatever, God loves YOU. So. That’s all I’ll say about that.  I love all of you and hope you have a good day today!


Happy Father’s Day!

I thought I would share some photos of Daddy and myself taken as I was growing up.

Daddy holding me while Mother looks on when I was very young, but I’m not sure how old I was. My parents were older and I was a “surprise” so I always loved this picture. They both looked so happy.


Me, about 1 year old, in our living room on the farm in Lovington, NM. I didn’t have a lot of hair yet, but Mother or Judy, my sister, always tried to put a hair ribbon in anyway.


This was in our backyard at the house we rented in Lubbock, Texas after Daddy quit cotton farming. I’m about 3 years old in this picture and it looks like it was on a Sunday before church. Look at those little white gloves and hat Mother had put on me! You don’t see kids dressed like that for church any longer! Daddy always wore a hat to church too, but took it off for the picture. He was about 51 in this picture.

This was in the backyard of our new house that Daddy and Mother bought in Lubbock. That little sycamore tree behind Daddy eventually grew to be a very tall, large tree. I think I’m about 4 in this picture.

Nearly every summer of my childhood we went to Ruidoso, NM for vacation. No matter how many times I asked Daddy to take me to the river, he would get up and take me. Up and down the hill to the river and back. Poor man! He had the patience of a saint in that respect. I think this was probably in summer of 1969 or 1970.

Daddy on a Father’s Day in the late 1960’s. He loved red carnations so we gave them to him every year. Mother always insisted he have his picture taken with his flowers. I think one year he finally said, “Inez, I think we have enough pictures of me holding flowers. Let’s not do this any more!”


This was in 5th grade and was taken before Daddy and I went to the Girl Scouts Father-Daughter Banquet.


I can’t tell you how many pictures we have like this of Daddy sitting in his chair over the years, either reading the newspaper, a book, or working on a crossword puzzle. This looks like the early 1980’s when I was in college, judging by the chair he’s sitting in and his snazzy eyeglasses. 🙂

Daddy, about age 90, and me. Some of our best conversations took place with me sitting on that old hassock next to his chair so he could hear me. I think that place right there is where I got to know my father best.


Daddy was a good father.
He loved us and taught us
how to protect ourselves
and be independent.

He taught us the basic things
of life so we could make it on
our own and not have to ever
be dependent on someone else.

This included teaching us
car maintenance, budgeting,
basic plumbing, home maintenance,
and for me, helping me with what
was then “new math” homework.

Daddy is the one who taught
me how to overcome my
shyness and flirt with boys.
(He was good at flirting!)

Daddy drove me to my first
high school dance, even
when my mother disagreed
about me going.

Daddy always worked hard
outdoors in the elements.
His hands were rough and
calloused, but when he
patted us on the head to
tell us he loved us, there
was never a touch so tender
as his.

I watched my father go from
a strong, super intelligent man
to a tender, loving man who
took care of his invalid wife
for 15 years,
to a man with Alzheimer’s
who still had enough smarts
to disguise himself in an
attempt to leave a nursing home.

Daddy secretly helped others
whenever he could.
He called and visited the sick.
He stayed in touch with all
his cousins and siblings.
He worked hard at building family.

Daddy loved us.
He was proud of us.
He was tender with us.
He was tough with us.
He had the iciest blue eyes
in the world when he was mad.
I loved holding his hand and
telling him I loved him.

Daddy was a good father
and I thank God every day
for giving me such a good dad.

© Elaine Wood-Lane

Middle Aged World Travelers, Day Tour to Cork, Blarney Castle, and Cobh, Chapter 4, Part 1

Talk about a day of varied adventures and emotions! This day included everything from taking a train through the Irish countryside to the southeastern coast of Ireland to me kissing the Blarney stone to the shores of Cobh’ (pronounced Cove) where the Titantic and hundreds of other ships embarked for their trip to the new lands of the Americas. I will try to cover some of these grand adventures, but my pictures will probably tell the best story of all. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all, right?

May 20, 2015: My oldest son’s birthday and he was thousands of miles away in Chicagoland. As Alan and I passed the world-famous Guinness Brewery on the way to the train station early in the morning, I raised an imaginary glass of Guinness to my son in love and tribute for all the joy and love he has brought into my life. I can’t believe I have a son who is 31 years old with a son of his own. The years moved too quickly! The Guinness Brewery is not just a building, it is like a town within a town. Passing by it is really not an accurate description of it. Really it is more like you pass through a town of buildings of the brewery. You can take tours and get a free glass of Guinness at the end of the tour, but we didn’t have time to go.

As we arrived at the train station, wondering exactly where we were to go to meet our tour, I was delighted to find a kiosk with good, strong coffee and pastries too! I was feeling pretty hollow and the cup of coffee and perfect croissant I enjoyed did the trick! Fairly soon a man in a bright yellow slicker appeared and he was our tour guide. He was about 80 years old and has been doing tours all around Ireland ever since he retired from his “real” job many years before. He was like a little yellow-dressed leprechaun, darting from here to there and making sure everyone knew what to expect. He was also very relaxed. It was obvious he has been at this a long time and knew exactly how to help us enjoy the tour, but also to have time to breathe. I loved that.

First we made it to Cork and we transferred to a tour bus at that point. We took a ride through Cork with our guide sharing many important parts of history from that town and then we were at the Blarney Castle grounds. The emphasis is always on the Blarney Stone when you hear of Blarney Castle, but the entire compound is unbelievably beautiful and as you enter into the gardens, you feel like you’ve entered an enchanted garden. It is that magical. I felt like a little girl who had just been dropped into her favorite Disney movie as the princess heroine who was dazzled by all she saw. These are the first photos I made of the gardens. These flowers are show stoppers! I was so entranced by them, that I turned down coffee and food so I’d have time to drink in the pure beauty of these flowers.

I had never seen flowers so rich and pretty. I wish I could remember the name of them! I spoke with two ladies from Canada about these flowers at length and now…the name is gone!

As we continued on the path to Blarney Castle, we encountered this young man playing the old-fashioned lyric harp of Irish legend. You find the Irish lyre everywhere, even on their Euros! It has become the symbol of Ireland. This young man was very, very good playing this old instrument. It all added to the mysterious, almost magical experience of the castle.

We continued walking and would stop every once in a while just to gaze upon the beauty of the Blarney Castle grounds. You know how there are places in the world where you suddenly think that somehow you’ve entered onto holy ground, amidst a sacred place. Blarney Castle gives you that feeling in spades!


I mean, come on! Does that not look like a place where a leprechaun or fairy could pop up at any moment? As we neared the castle I suddenly heard an orchestra playing, of all thing, “Night on Bald Mountain,” which is a piece my orchestra played in high school. I confirmed with Alan that there was indeed music coming from somewhere so I knew I hadn’t made up the exciting, highly-skilled orchestra music.

As we reached the castle, the first thing we saw after crossing the algae covered moat was this, the dungeon of the castle and let me tell you; you never want to be in a true medieval dungeon! They’re tiny, dark, dank and slippery with water.


As we passed beyond the dungeon and the beautiful lone tower, we saw the orchestra that was playing. They finished playing their pieces and were putting away their instruments. We proceeded to the entrance of the actual castle, bought our tickets to see the Blarney stone and then started up, up deep to the inside of the castle. Two observations on the interior of the castle: 1) Those people were tiny in that day and age or there is no way they could have fit into some of those rooms! 2) The walls were of such thick stone that the temperature inside the castle was at least 5-10 degrees cooler than it was outside!

 This was a bed chamber for one of the daughters who lived in this castle.

The way up to the Blarney Stone is a very narrow, stone spiral staircase. The steps are small and shallow, the passageway narrow and without modern lighting, would be very dark indeed. Occasionally one came upon an opening, however, and you could see this bucolic scene below.

I’ve always wanted to say I gazed upon a bucolic scene, but let’s be honest. You don’t see things like this in the United States. At least the parts that I have seen and traveled through. We made friends on the narrow journey to the top of the castle. They were from Minnesota and Canada and had obviously known each other for decades. The gentleman directly in front of me was hilarious! He kept cracking jokes and I kept laughing, my laughter echoing eerily through the castle tower staircase.

 The Blarney Stone is actually a bit of a misleading. It isn’t what I imagined at all and the acrobats required to kiss it are quite the challenge! You have to lie down, tilt your head back over a narrow ridge and then kiss the stone within the wall of Blarney Castle. It looks terrifying, but is really quite safe as they have someone there to hold onto you as you kiss the stone. I, of course, had to kiss the famous stone that is supposed to confer upon the kisser magical eloquence or as stated in a poem seen along the wall, “which to the tongue imparts that softening tone.” I thought softening of my tone would definitely be a bonus so I went for it!

It lasted but a moment, but WOW!! A dizzying moment indeed!

After we descended down a backstair even more narrow and dark than the first, we were out in the bright sunshine and walked around the grounds to the market square that surrounds the castle. We found a very quiet pub to eat a quick bite and then went shopping at the famous Old Wool Factory. They’ve turned the old factory into a mall of sorts. Inside the first part are some of the finest and most beautiful woolen items I’ve ever seen, made from Irish wool taken from all the sheep we saw in the countryside along the way. Every item I saw, I wanted to buy and take home to wear forever, but the cost was a bit prohibitive for that! Finely woven and knitted capes, coats, scarves, shawls and jumpers (sweaters) come at a very high penny! Alan and I went our separate ways inside the mall and when we met outside he reverently handed me a little gift. I unwrapped it and it was nothing but a little jar with a clamp sealable top. I was mystified as to why he bought such a simple thing when there was a Waterford crystal outlet inside the mall. Well! Alan knew that one of the things I wanted to do while in Ireland was to get a wee bit of Irish soil to take home and cherish forever. (I have an eccentric habit of taking a bit of soil or stones from places we visit that are very meaningful and soulful to me.) He suggested we get some soil from right there, on the Blarney Castle grounds! I was worried we might be caught and arrested for such a heinous crime, but we made our way to the interior area of the grounds and Alan actually dug up some of the dark, loamy soil and put it in the jar for me. It is now gracing my display shelf of special soils at home. After that, Alan bought me a beautiful pink crystal heart at the Waterford Crystal outlet and I have to admit. It is hard to know which is more beautiful and appreciated; the dark loamy soil inside a simple jar or the crystal heart. Both are evidence, to me at least, that my husband not only understands me, but loves me to distraction.

My soil shelf at home. On the left is my arrangement of red sand from Zion National Park taken on my and Alan’s 15th wedding anniversary, topped by white sand from White Sands National Park collected by my father for me when I was 8 years old. On the right is the dark loamy soil from Ireland. On the far right is an example of the pink marble found all over Colorado.

Alan’s crystal heart, which to me represents his beautiful heart, given to me. (I’m such a mushy romantic, aren’t I?)

I took pictures of beautiful trees while Alan stole some soil for me. 🙂

This is a yew tree and is seen all over Ireland. I had never seen one before.

Well, I’ve covered enough ground for today I think, so I will stop here for now. In my next chapter, I will tell the story of Cobh, where millions of our Irish ancestors embarked for America!

May you have a beautiful day of your own adventures today!


The Pain Problem

I have fibromyalgia. I have been doing really well lately so far as pain goes. Even on my trip to Europe, I felt pretty good most of the time. Tired and a little achy in the evenings, but we scheduled in days of rest. This was very wise.

Since we have returned my sleep schedule has been all messed up. I tend to wake up in the middle of the night. I’m usually not hurting, but just can’t sleep.

Out of the blue last evening I started hurting. The all over the body, just shoot me now, kind of pain. The pain that no matter what you do or what position you get into, nothing helps. EVERYTHING HURTS. When my pain gets like this I swear even my eyelashes hurt. It’s that burning, pervasive, what-the-hell kind of pain. I always describe it as feeling like having a bad case of flu after you’ve run a marathon. You know, where you feel feverish (I’m not), your muscles are on fire, your joints hurt, your skin tingles and prickles and you just want to lay down flat on the floor, spread eagle and die kind of pain. I’m not in this kind of pain nearly as often as I used to be, but, dear, kind, merciful God, please remove it from me now!

I hate the pain scale question that nurses and doctors always ask. You know the one: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, what is your pain level today?” Usually it’s between 5 and 7, but I don’t even register that pain any longer. I’ve been inured to it. Get it above a 7, though and wow! Turn up the dial on that and it’s like 10 isn’t high enough to describe it. I personally think the scale should be 1-20. Tonight I would be a 20.

Ok, now, I’ve whined long enough. I know this too shall pass because it always does. I’ve taken my “only in case of real pain” medication. I’ll drink coffee and read something excruciatingly boring and the next thing you know, I’ll be asleep on the couch. When I wake up, most of the pain will be gone. The birds will be singing, the sun will bright and I’ll forget what this pain feels like. I’ll think, “Oh, good grief! There’s nothing wrong with me! Why was I making such a fuss last night?” and I’ll forget what I was feeling until the next time.

I read a blog post on Momastery tonight that made a lot of sense. It was referring to deep depression, but whether one’s pain is mental/emotional or physical, pain is pain. She recommended that when one is down and hurting, write a note to yourself so when you do go to the doctor two days later and you’re “fine,” you can show them the note of how you felt when you weren’t fine. Hence this self-involved blog post. I’m writing down my notes of how I feel when I’m not fine. I will take it with me when I go to the doctor’s office.

I’m not an artist, but in this I’m trying to represent artistically, how fibromyalgia pain feels. 

I feel better already! Confession truly is good for what ails you. God is good, all the time, and is bigger than any kind of pain we might bear. He won’t let us be tested beyond our abilities to get through things. I know that for a fact. Sometimes I just wish He didn’t think I could bear so much! LOL!

Peace and love,


Middle-Aged World Travelers, Cliffs of Moher-One Day Bus Tour, Chapter 3, Part 2

Good morning! I got a little too verbose the other day on my post about our one day bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher and the west coast of Ireland. I’ll try to do better today!

After we left the Cliffs of Moher, we continued to follow the western coast of Ireland in a northward direction. We were going to eat at a little pub along the way to Burren National Park. Our bus driver/tour guide, Wayne, kept getting messages along the way that Prince Charles was in the area and was worried we would be delayed by the procession, but so far we had seen no evidence of him.

We passed by Galway Bay. It truly is a beautiful place to see. The entire western coastline of Ireland is awe-inspiring because of the raw beauty of the cliffs and the ocean beyond. I would urge anyone visiting Ireland to make this a part of their trip plans.

We finally stopped to eat at Fitzpatricks Pub in Doolin and it was a quick lunch, but the food, service and atmosphere was absolutely delightful. Fitzpatricks is well-known as a gathering place for musicians, but since it was the middle of the day, no local music was to be heard. You know how you imagine Irish pubs to be these rather dark, low-ceilinged, places where people gather to visit, eat, and drink? Fitzpatricks is the very epitome of that image. My husband had the Irish beef stew, which was very good, and I had a truly Irish lunch of cabbage, ham, and mashed potatoes that were the best I ever tasted. My mother made boiled cabbage frequently and I love it, but my husband is less of a fan of it. I felt like I had gone home to eat at Mothers when they brought my plate out. They provide a lot of food, so there are no worries about going hungry there!

After we left Fitzpatricks, which unfortunately I did not get a picture of, several of us were hanging out across the street waiting for everyone to meet at the bus to continue on our journey. While I didn’t get a photo of the pub, I did get pictures of this peaceful bucolic scene directly across from where we ate.

Cows across the street from Fitzpatricks Bar. He was very interesting to talk to.

After we left Doolin, we proceeded on to the Burrens, which is a rocky, conservation area established by Prince Charles’ favorite uncle. As we arrived there and our driver was encouraging us to get out and see the fauna there that is seen nowhere else in the world except north of the Arctic Circle, it began to rain. Between slick rocks and misty rain, Alan and I decided to wait in the bus. Suddenly, our tour guide/bus driver bounces into the bus and says to me, “What’re ya doin’ in here love? You’ve GOT to see these flowers! You can’t find them anywhere else in the world but here and north of the Arctic Circle!” I laughed and replied, “I’m afraid I’ll get out there and fall on those wet, slick rocks and it’s COLD out there!” His response was to grab me by the hand and pull me out of my seat, saying, “I’ve got an extra coat just for you!” So I put on his puffy hooded coat and out we went.

As Wayne, our tour guide, walked me over to the pasture area where everyone was tiptoeing and taking pictures of incredibly tiny flowers, he said that the dark pink flowers were part of the orchid family. To get to the little pasture meant climbing over a partially knocked down brick wall, very slick, and Wayne helped me over it. The tiny little flowers were beautiful and I’m so glad I got out of the bus! I think we’re often like this in life. There is so much to see and enjoy in the world, but we’re afraid we’ll get hurt if we get out of the bus. These are the rare wonders of the world that I saw when I got out of the bus:

Oh, not long after we saw these beautiful flowers, guess whose motorcade passed us on the little two lane road? Ding, ding, ding! You guessed it! Prince Charles himself!

Peace and love, Elaine

What Are Your Hands Doing?

I was reading Guideposts this morning and came across a quote so profound, I felt I had to share it and some other thoughts I have on the matter.  Here is the quote:
“Our hands are really servants of our thoughts, so if you want to understand what you’re thinking, watch what your hands are doing.”   Jewel, singer

  What are our hands treasuring?  What are they doing each day?  I like the idea that our hands reveal our thoughts, and to a greater degree, our hearts.  I wish I could say that all of my days are spent using my hands to help others, to do good works, and to enourage, love, and build others up.  I would be lying if I said that is what I do all the time.  For, my hands are often spent serving and entertaining myself, especially online on my iPad.  I also use my hands for housework, some gardening, knitting/crocheting, petting my animals, and touching people, hopefully in a loving way. I waste a lot of time, though, when my hands could be serving and loving more.

I did a search on my Bible app (via my ever present iPad) for the word “hands” in the New Testament. Do you know what came up over and over again?  Jesus or his disciples laying hands on people to heal them.  Jesus laying his hands on the  little children to bless them. Jesus lifting his hands in prayer to his father in heaven.  In other words, Jesus used his hands for the same things we can use our hands for–laying hands on people, helping them and praying. I’m not suggesting that all of us have the spiritual gift to heal people when we lay hands on them. I am saying that as a people we should be touching others in love and encouragement, more. We don’t do that anymore. Our hands are too full of things to reach out and touch someone. Our hands are even clenched into fists of anger, frustration, and protests so much that reaching out in a friendly manner and touching someone has almost become a taboo activity. Why is that? Have we become a society so filled with fear that we can’t be human?

I like to touch people, especially babies and old people. Now, before you start thinking I’m a pervert, I’m not. These two demographics of people seem reach out their hands to be touched, patted, and/or in a request for help. The interesting thing is, these people seem to inherently know when they see me, a complete stranger, that I’m a person whom they can trust and will touch them with love. I’ve had complete strangers walk up to me in public places, take my hand, and ask for help or just start talking to me. Babies, in public, when I pass by, whether I’ve seen them or not, laugh spontaneously when they see me (yeah, I’m funny looking and make lots of people laugh!) and then reach out their little hands to touch me. I’ve even had babies out in public spontaneously jump into my arms! I can’t explain this phenomenon, but both groups are right. They can trust me. I won’t hurt them. I will do what I can to help them. I actually love it when people reach out to me. It’s always a blessing to me and fills me with peace and joy the entire rest of the day!

So why don’t I reach out and touch more people? Why don’t I use my hands more often to help and serve others and God? Why do I waste so much time? It is easy for me to say, “Well, I have fibromyalgia and have a lot of pain and weakness. I can’t do things like I used to do because I don’t have the physical capacity to do so.”

A couple of years ago, God told me my mission, if I chose to accept it, was to simply “Knit, Pray, Love.”  That’s it. Three words. I started knitting/crocheting prayer shawls. As I would work on the shawl, I would pray for whomever was to receive the shawl and pray that through that shawl, they could feel my love and, more importantly, God’s loving arms around them. Sometimes I knew who I was making the shawl for, but, more often than not, I had no idea who would receive the shawl. Every time I finished one, I learned who it was for and would pass it on to them. I felt a great deal of peace, love, and usefulness in this work, but somehow let it lapse. Oh, I keep buying yarn and getting patterns, but I’m not doing what I was doing, what God asked me to do. I need to do that again. I need to use my hands for good instead of entertaining myself. I need to reach out and touch people in real life too. We all do. We’ve become a society afraid of touching and it is isolating us and creating huge rifts amongst family, friends, ethnic groups, religious groups, and the world in general. I think if there was more handshaking, pats on the back and hugging going on amongst all people, a lot of these tensions would melt away. I think if we used our hands to help and bless one another, no one would be able to take weapons up against one another in haste or hatred. Lives would be spared. All our lives would be blessed. 

What are your hands doing? 


Middle-Aged World Travelers, Chapter 3, Cliffs of Moher, One Day Bus Tour, Part 1

Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 6:50 AM
We were told to meet our tour guide in the middle of Dublin at the Old Stone Church on Suffolk Street. When we arrived, we realized that there were several tours starting from there and heard a man shouting, “Cliffs of Doher Day Tour, follow me this way please!” A sleepy band of travelers tried to keep up with the energetic fellow, who introduced himself as Wayne, our tour guide for the day. As we each presented our vouchers and boarded the bus, Wayne looked at Alan’s voucher and said, “Alan Lane, Irish, right?” Alan was a bit taken aback, but said, “Well, at least part of me is Irish. The rest is mostly English and Scottish I think.” The bus was luxurious, immaculate, and comfortable. After everyone boarded, Wayne the Tour Guide told us that this would be a long day, but hopefully a fun one for everyone. He mostly had two rules. Rule #1 was that everyone be back on the bus at the times he told us to be back on the bus because it was going to be a very busy day and dawdling and being tardy would delay and inconvenience everyone on the tour. He reassured us there would be plenty of opportunities for bathroom breaks and such. He said that we might actually see Prince Charles that day as he was coming to Ireland and on that day was scheduled to see the Burren, which his uncle particularly liked and where his uncle and several other royal family members were killed by the IRA in 1979. (Our tour included a trip to the Burren also so the possibility of running into Prince Charles was high, but unlikely according to Wayne.) Prince Charles’ tour was billed as next phase of improved relations initiated by Queen Elizabeth’s first State visit to Ireland in 2011 and President Higgins’s first State visit by an Irish president to Britain last year. It turned out that Prince Charles’ trip to Ireland was also a historic one as he was to meet Gerry Adams, noted leader of Sinn Fein. Wayne the tour guide said the only problem with the possibility of seeing Prince Charles was that traffic and the tour might be delayed if we did happen to be in the same place as His Majesty, but he would try to stay on schedule as much as possible. Rule #2 was that we not trash out the bus or, if we did, that we clean up after ourselves before leaving the bus at the end of the day. Then off we went to explore the west of Ireland!

As we set off on our tour in the early morning, one of the first things I noticed was the very smooth and new looking highway we were traveling upon. Apparently Ireland had only in recent years developed a limited access roadway system (similar to our interstate highways) that allowed faster travel throughout the country. Also, I couldn’t help but be impressed by all the beautiful green countryside.

Beautiful green Irish countryside in the area where some of the world’s best race horses are bred and trained.

Wayne was obviously an Irish history expert and very proud of his country and his countrymen. As we traveled along, he gave us a complete history of Ireland from the Vikings to the current day. At every stop or even when passing a point of interest, he would tell us the historical significance of the place and point out fun things to know too. He was a jolly fellow and hilarity ensued throughout the bus frequently. We stopped in Limerick at the River Shannon so we could see King John’s Castle, built in 1200, which is one of the most intact old castles in Western Europe. Since we were there for about 15-20 minutes, we took pictures. Well, of course we did. That’s what tourists do when at historical locations, right?

King John’s Castle on the River Shannon in Limerick, Ireland.

We continued on our journey a little further and stopped at the Obama Truck Stop for a bathroom break and refreshments if we desired. (I kid you not! President Obama’s family traces back to the town of Moneygall, Ireland and he went to visit the town and area in 2011.)

On the second floor of the Obama Truck Stop there is a complete exhibit of American Presidents of Irish descent. I visited quickly as time was short and bathroom breaks are important, but it was really very fascinating!

If you’ve ever wondered what the town of Limerick looks like (especially if you’ve read the memoir, Angela’s Ashes), here is a view of the town. It’s very cute and quaint looking now, but I can imagine there being some very hard times of poverty here as well.

Homes in Limerick, Ireland

After a short while, we got off the Irish super highway and, as Wayne warned, were on the most narrow and twisted country roads I’ve ever been on in my life! As Wayne made several turns in small towns and navigated our huge bus around some very dicey looking twists, I have to admit I just closed my eyes! I was sure he was going to hit some of the building corners as we turned, but we often missed them by mere inches! In one particular tiny town on a very tight turn, we could see where other buses or vehicles had left their marks on the yellow building corner we passed. I was most impressed that we got such a close view of it, but also breathed a sigh of relief that we didn’t leave our mark as well!

Around 10:00 AM, we finally reached the Cliffs of Moher. Honestly, this was the most impressive view of Ireland that I encountered. The Cliffs are huge! They are all stone and the drop to the Atlantic Ocean is quite awe inspiring. Long before our trip to Ireland, I had imagined myself and Alan walking along the cliffs and spending time gazing out upon the ocean in a moment of perfect tranquility. Reality infringed itself upon my daydream when we were actually there. It was rainy with cold moist gales cutting right through our clothing. We scurried out of the Visitor’s Center as bundled up as we could manage to a view a jaw-dropping scene of the wild beauty of the Cliffs. They definitely are beautiful and awe inspiring, but there was no way we were going to be part of the brave people who actually walked out onto the Cliffs to gaze at the sea. Heck, we could barely stay on the path, much less walk out further without fear of being blown straight down those dramatic cliffs to the ocean below! We took some hurried, ill-posed photos and then scurried like the cold little varmints we were back into the Visitor Center where we could sit in the little cafeteria with hot coffee and view the Cliffs from the huge windows they had just for that purpose.

Elaine and Alan Lane on the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher. Beautiful, dramatic, ancient, and freezing cold in May!

While in the cafeteria, we struck up a conversation with a young woman who, it turned out, was from the state of Wyoming, which is just directly north of Colorado, our home state! She had been to Ireland a couple of times and the Cliffs were one of her very favorite places to visit. This time she had convinced her brother to go with her and he was one of the brave souls actually walking out onto the cliffs. She had done this before so on this day was taking refuge in the cafeteria as we were. She was in her 20’s and had toured all over Europe before with just a backpack and herself. I envied her independent spirit and ability to just go, by herself, and see the world. After chatting with her, we went to the area that described the geology and development of the Cliffs over the centuries as well as the history of the area. The Cliffs are in County Clare, which was devastatingly hit by the Potato Famine of the mid 1800’s. It’s a beautiful area, mostly inhabited by sheep farms and sturdy farming families who can endure the wild beauty and bleakness of cloudy days and stormy nights. We proceeded on to the ever-present gift shop and bought some gifts and souvenirs to take back to our family and friends. As I was looking at the wide variety of souvenirs, I realized that anything we brought back from here would never adequately relate to our friends and family the effect this wild area has on one’s heart and soul. Here is where I felt truly in the arms of Ireland and its wild and oftentimes cruel history. How can that be related through trinkets or photos of any kind? This is a place that people must see for themselves to really feel and understand Ireland. Nonetheless, we bought gifts and souvenirs and I took many pictures of the area to attempt to convey this soulful area. Below are some of the photos I took. Note in the third picture down, there is the crumbling remains of a home abandoned during the Potato Famine of 1845-1850. These are seen all through the area and are painful reminders of that difficult, killing era. Before the Potato Famine, Ireland had a population of over 3 million people. After the Potato Famine, due to deaths and immigration brought on by the Famine, the population had dropped to only about 1.7 million people. I will continue with the second half of our tour tomorrow as I’ve blathered on long enough today, I’m sure! 🙂
Peace and love, Elaine

Middle Aged World Travelers-Chapter Two Continued

When Alan and left our hotel to go to Trinity College and visit the downtown area, we were both a little apprehensive about such things as getting lost in the big old city, pickpockets, thieves, and also knowing where we were to go the next morning to meet our bus tour group for the Cliffs of Moher tour.  Ok, those are the things was worried about.  Alan was worried that I would get too cold and get sick on our first day out.  So I was constantly flittering about and mothering him to do this, not do that, did he still have his passport, his phone, his ticket, his butt?  He was fathering me with put your hat on, do you need my coat, are you warm, are you cold, don’t push yourself too far.  To put it bluntly, we ended up having our one and only little spat at Trinity College before the tour.  A few minutes later, we both admitted to being a little anxious and decided to loosen up.  We were on vacation for crying out loud!  So what if any of those things happened?  It wouldn’t be the end of the world after all!  We made up with apologies, a vow to quit being such pains in the arse, as they say in Ireland and England, and to have a great time!  It was amazing how much more fun things were after we relaxed.  Imagine that! Ha! If I’m offering advice in these stories of our adventures, the first thing I would advise is to r-e-l-a-x. You’re going to be fine and have a lot more fun if you do!

There are several things I forgot to mention about Trinity College yesterday. First of all, it is a beautiful campus and as old as the hills. Ok, not old as the actual hills, but it was established in 1592 by decree of Queen Elizabeth and was patterned after Oxford and Cambridge, although no further branches were ever added or built. For centuries, it was strictly Protestant. Catholics were not allowed to attend. Neither were women allowed to attend until 1904. Until more recent years, the Provost (head) of the College had to be a Trinity College graduate. The college’s buildings originally followed no true design pattern, but then an attempt was made to design buildings that did follow a neoclassical design in the early 1800’s. Additional buildings have been added in the 1900’s and are more modern in design. Some scenes from the famous Harry Potter movies were filmed at Trinity College in the Old Library.

Here are some more pictures of the Trinity College campus I thought you might enjoy seeing. I’m writing about our Cliffs of Moher trip now so hopefully I will get that post up tomorrow morning! Peace and love, Elaine

Middle-Aged World Travelers, Dublin Exploring, Chapter 2

On Monday, May 18, we woke up much more energetic than we had been the day before.  Our internal clocks had reset themselves from our one day of rest and we weren’t stumbling around tired as we had been when we arrived. We were staying at the Airport Hilton, which is misleading because we really weren’t very close to the airport at all. The hotel itself was spotlessly clean, offered a lovely breakfast bar, and had a very helpful staff. There was only one problem at the hotel and that was what seemed to be gremlins causing problems with anything mechanical or technological. We couldn’t alter the temperature via the thermostat no matter what we did and how well we followed the instructions. It was going to be 21C degrees, come hell or high water.  The wifi was a bit temperamental and the in-room safe was quite safe in that, if you put something in it, only staff could unlock the thing and get it out! 

Nonetheless, on a slightly overcast Monday morning, after finishing a light breakfast, Alan asked the front desk about the best way to get downtown without a taxi. They were quite helpful in telling us the bus route we needed to take, the exact amount of change needed to get on the bus, and even where we might buy a weekly bus pass. I was excited to begin our adventures!


Ready to explore!

We were told there was a little shop immediately down the street where we could find a bus map and bus pass for the week.  We stepped outside the hotel and were immediately nearly blown away by the cold winds sweeping around the building. By the time we got to the little shop, we both felt like our heads were frozen and that perhaps we had not prepared adequately for the Irish cold front making its way through Dublin and our spring season clothing. The little store offered no bus maps and no bus cards, but were very nice in giving us change for the bus. I also bought a Coca-Cola, my vice from home, and away we hustled to the bus stop. There are several issues with those simple occurrences. First of all, Coca-Cola anywhere in Western Europe is not the Coca-Cola we all know and love in the U.S. It tastes just a bit “off” for lack of a better explanation. They don’t use corn syrup (yay?), but sugar, and included in the soda are “vegetable additives” which could have been anything. I also discovered that whatever the soda had in it gave me a headache. I finished my first Coca-Cola and threw it in the trash. The second thing with hustling to the bus stop was that it was catty-cornered to our hotel which meant we had to cross two major thoroughfares to get to the stop. This was daunting because everyone drives backwards in Ireland. You know, on the wrong side of the street from the American view. Fortunately, at any crosswalk, there is the button to push to allow access to the crosswalk. Second of all, they have signs painte don the street stating “look right” before crossing or “look left” before crossing so we didn’t get flattened like a pancake by any of the high speed vehicles passing us seemingly randomly. We made it across the big streets! I felt five years old again after I had successfully, alone, crossed Salem Avenue by my home. We waited at the bus stop and as number 13 approached we used my Google Map to see whether we would end up close to Trinity College, which was first on our agenda to see.

The bus came, we gave change (incorrect and they can’t give change so they give you a ticket for a refund if you want to go to all that trouble for basically  35 cents). We stumbled our way to first level seats and felt quite accomplished. It doesn’t take much in a foreign city for two middle-aged Americans to feel accomplished!  Ha! We watched as various passengers got on and off the bus along the way, passed neighborhoods with colorful Irish doors, some prosperous, others not so prosperous, and tried to accustom ourselves to the lovely Irish accent. We became quite familiar with this route over the week. One thing we noticed were signs on nearly every lamppost or electric pole for an upcoming general election on Friday, May 22, whether to legalize gay marriage in Ireland. We were both surprised that in this predominately Catholic country, such an election was taking place.

Finally we reached the stop where everyone had told us we needed to get off the bus. We jumped off and wondered where Trinity College was from where we were.  We were mere footsteps from it! The wind was still blowing bitterly cold and Alan stated, “We need to get some warm hats or we’re never going to survive this and we’ll get sick. I don’t want you sick from day one!” Immediately across the street were two buildings with “Tourist Center and Information” signs on them so we hied across the street to get maps, ask questions and orient ourselves. The next order of business was hats! We found a little Irish souvenir shop right down the street and they had everything you could ever want in the way of hats, wraps, gloves, and other typical touristy things. While Alan looked at hats, I was enchanted by the baby section of the shop where you could buy cute little baby outfits with Irish sayings and things on them. Of course, I picked up two items for my new grandson Milo before I looked at a single hat! One has to have one’s priorities straight after all!

Alan found a hat for himself that I was not super-enthused about. It is a cross between an Elmer Fudd style, a Peruvian style, and an Irish style, knitted in the Irish Aran Isle pattern, lined with fur, and having two yarn braids hanging down the front. Alan loved it! 

Alan’s Irish Hat

I found a hat a little more traditional. As weird as I am, when it comes to hats, I’m rather picky. I want a hat that displays my lovely double chin!

Elaine’s Irish Hat

We went to Trinity College and learned their next tour of the college including a tour of the old library and the Book of Kells Exhibit was in about half an hour so we decided to find something to eat and come back.  We headed down Grafton Street, which is the local street mall in Dublin,  found a McDonald’s of all things, and sat on the second floor by the windows so we could watch the street scenes below. It was the perfect place! If you want a snapshot of modern Dublin life, this window was perfect!


Grafton Street

After completing our lunch off to Trinity College we went!  The weather was fickle. One moment you’d be freezing your buns off and the next moment, the sun would peek from behind the clouds and you’d immediately defrost and feel foolish in your woolen hat.

The tour guide at Trinity College was incredible! He had received his undergraduate degree at Trinity College in English and was pursuing a Master’s Degree in historical book and document restoration and translation.  He was in the perfect place to pursue this degree because Trinity College contains a huge collection of ancient books, including the  http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells. 
We learned a lot about the history of Trinity College and it’s buildings and then, just as it started to rain pretty hard, we were able to enter Trinity College’s Old Library, which I had wanted to see forever. It was as wonderful as I had imagined. If there had been less people, I could have stayed in there forever. I love the smell of libraries, especially old one. The architecture of this library is incredibly beautiful.


Trinity College Old Library


We sat down on the center benches a few times to both rest and sit in awe of the beauty of this library.  We did see the Book of Kells, but only briefly.  There were so many people crowded around its display case that we mostly got a glimpse of the beautiful colors and artwork and moved on to the library itself.

After our trip to the college and the old library, we went in search of food. There is nothing like wandering around in a damp, windy, rainy, sunny day to whet one’s appetite and we found the perfect place!  It was an Irish pub (imagine that!) called O’Briens and featured great Irish grub and suds. Neither Alan nor I are big on beer or ales (I know, shoot us now, because we never had a Guinness while there), but we are big on Irish food. It is wonderful and I think that is so because it is much like the food we grew up eating all the way back in Texas. When I found Irish Stew served on a bed of mashed potatoes, I knew I was home and life was good! We were warm and cozy, eating well, and had met some really nice people at the pub too! You never have to worry about people being unwelcoming or unfriendly in Ireland! 

After eating more than we should have, we realized the day was nearly past and we were exhausted. We hurried over to the bus stop, tried to figure out which route to take back to the hotel, became hopelessly confused, and decided the Star Bucks on the corner was perfect for trying to figure out our way back to our temporary home. What it helped us see most clearly is that right outside its doors was the downtown taxi rank. Hooray! I’d like to say we rode the bus back home that day, but I would be lying. We were too tired to figure it out so we hopped in a taxi and he drove us home as he discussed Irish history, gave us a mini Dublin tour, and even discussed the upcoming election.  

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were done for the day. This middle-aged couple laid down on the bed, turned on the TV, and promptly fell to sleep. After a couple of hours of napping, we got up, Alan went for snacks from the little store down the street and we feasted like kings on fruits and snacks. Then to bed I went, so sleepy I could barely keep my eyes open. 

The next day we were taking a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher and the area around it. We needed all the strength we could work up for that!  Tomorrow I’ll take you there with us.  ☺️  

Peace and love, always, Elaine

© Elaine Wood-Lane