Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ireland Recap

The trip of a lifetime is over and we had a wonderful time.  There were thirteen of us who went on the trip: me and Mary, my friend Marcy, my dad, my nephews Aaron and Steven, my sister Joan and her daughter Shannon, my sister Maureen and her husband Jim and daughters Bridget and Kelsey, and Bridget's boyfriend, Joe. We all arrived in New Jersey on Saturday (June 12th) - our flight to Ireland wasn't until the next day.  My niece Bridget lives in New Jersey, so the kids spent the night at her apartment and the adults in a nearby hotel.

Hanging out at Bridget's apartment waiting for our rides to the airport

It took two cars and an SUV to get us and all our luggage to the airport

First group to arrive at the airport (we had our doubts we'd get there alive - our driver drove insanely)

We left New York at 6:30pm on Sunday evening and arrived in Shannon, Ireland at 5:30am the next morning.  

Our plane - Aer Lingus

Welcome to Shannon, Ireland

We were told that no matter how tired we were, we needed to stay up the entire day and not go to bed until bedtime Ireland time.  So, we were off...

Our first stop was Bunratty Castle.  I soon learned that once you've seen one castle, you've pretty much seen them all.  Although they each have their own unique history and village.  

Atop Bunratty Castle with my friend Marcy

We experienced our first pub (of many) in Bunratty Village.  We are all looking a bit tired at this point, having been awake for well over 24 hours

The beer of choice in Ireland is definitely Guinness.  I'm told that there are fewer calories in a Guinness than a Bud Light.  I was also told that Guinness in Ireland tastes better than it does in the US.  I did drink a Guinness because - well, when you are in Ireland you MUST drink Guinness! However, it's not my favorite beer (at home or in Ireland) - I preferred Carlsberg beer (a pale ale).  The drinking age in Ireland is eighteen which made Mary very happy.  A lot of beer was drank by all on this trip, but everyone was responsible and behaved themselves!

After touring Bunratty Village and having our first pub meal, we headed to the place we were staying for the week - Adare Manor located in -- oddly enough -- Adare, Ireland. Adare Manor is an 840 acre estate that includes a hotel, golf course, Villas and beautiful woodlands.   We stayed in two Villas - each Villa had three bedrooms, a den, 4 bathrooms, laundry room, kitchen, dining room and family room.  The place was amazing!

Front of our Villas

Back of our Villas

The second day of our trip we went to the Cliffs of Moher.  The Cliffs of Moher are located on the western seaboard of County Clare and from the Cliffs you can see the Aran Island and Galway Bay.  The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland's top visitor attractions.

After spending some time at the Cliffs of Moher, we headed to Aillwee Cave - one of the oldest caves in Ireland, also located in County Clare.  Mary wasn't feeling well, so she and I stayed in the car while everyone else toured the Cave. While waiting, I snapped a few pictures of the Irish countryside - it was just like you'd imagine it to be.

Day three we toured the Rock of Cashel (also known as St. Patrick's Rock) located in Cashel, South Tipperary.  The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion.  Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.  All that remains today are remnants of the early structures.

From the Rock of Cashel - you can see a former Benedictine Abbey off in the distance

We walked from the Rock of Cashel into the city of Cashel for lunch.  Cashel is a small and quaint city.

Day four, we headed to Blarney Castle - home of the Blarney Stone.  We all climbed to the top of the Castle (quite the climb, I might add) to reach the Blarney Stone.  Several of the kids kissed the Blarney Stone. However, I passed.  (Something about touching my mouth on something that thousands of other people have done the same just didn't appeal to me!)  I didn't really see a "stone" - it was just a area at the top of the castle that they sectioned off and called the Blarney Stone.  After seeing the Castle, we walked through the Blarney Gardens - which were beautiful.  We had lunch in Blarney and did some shopping at the Blarney Woolen Mills.

Blarney Castle

Grounds of the Blarney Garden

After seeing all we wanted to see at Blarney, the plan was to head down to Cobh, a seaport town located on the south coast of County Cork.  However, my nephew broke his glasses and he really needed them to see.  We were told we needed to go to a major city to find a place called "SpecSavers" that had an onsite lab that would be able to fix his glasses. So, some of us headed to Cork and the rest of them headed to Cobh.  Cork is a big and busy City - it reminded me of San Francisco in some ways.  The service at SpecSavers was wonderful and my nephew was able to get new glasses in about an hour and a half - which he was very happy about.  As for the group headed to Cobh - the GPS (and my dad) lead them somewhere else and they never made it to Cobh, but they did get to see lots of Ireland countryside.  

Street in Cork

Flower shop in Cork

Day five we rented a twelve passenger private tour bus (despite the fact that there were thirteen of us) that drove us to see Dingle Peninsula.  The Dingle Peninsula stretches 30 miles into the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland's south-west coast and was cited as one of the most beautiful places on earth by National Geographic.  We stopped many places along the way - it was a spectacular day!

Enjoying having someone else do the driving

Notice the lake is shaped like a harp - very cool.  The color spot on the sheep is how the farmers brand their sheep.  Each farmer has a specific color or color combination.  

At the top of a (very high) hill we climbed. When we got to the top, we were in the clouds.

Dingle Bay - looks like a postcard

The Dingle Peninsula coastline

Playing in the ocean

Remembering my mom.  She and my dad took many trips to Ireland together.  I'm sure this trip was bittersweet for my dad. 

Day six was spent in Killarney located in County Kerry.  Killarney was by far my favorite place. It was a fairly big city - but not too big.   It was clean and had lots of places to shop and eat. I could have spent more than a day there.  We spent most of our time in Killarney at the Killarney National Park.  The Park consists of 26,000 acres and includes mountains, lakes, woods and waterfalls.  It was spectacular and I've never seen so many shades of green as I saw in the Park. Below are a few pictures, but be sure and check out all the picture in my photo album (link below).

We drove through the park in a horse drawn carriage

My absolute favorite picture
 (make sure you click on it to make it bigger)

Day seven we left Adare and headed to Dublin. At this point in our journey, our group split ways.  My dad and five of the grandkids (including Mary) were off on their own.  They headed North and have been staying at B&Bs along the way.  We spent the remainder of our stay in Dublin.  We were anticipating lots of rain during our stay in Ireland because it always rains in Ireland.  However, we were remarkably lucky and saw very little rain the first six days of our stay.  It would rain on and off and usually when we were inside.  We couldn't have asked for better weather.  Dublin was a different story - it rained for the majority of our stay.  I'm not a big city person and Dublin is a big City. It's also old and crowded.  Add in the rain and the dumpy apartment we rented and you could say Dublin was not the cherry on top of our fabulous trip to Ireland.  I'm definitely glad I got to see Dublin, but it's not a place I have any desire to see again.  I didn't get many pictures of Dublin because it was raining all the time and I didn't want to get my camera wet.  We did manage to get in a tour of the Guinness Storehouse (does that surprise you?!), which was kind of cool.  

The City of Dublin as seen from the Gravity Bar located on the 7th floor of the Guinness Storehouse 

Street in Dublin

We also saw Trinity University which was pretty and had a lot of neat photo opportunities.  But, it was too wet to pull out my camera and get pictures.  

We headed home on Tuesday, but only made it as far as New York.  We spent several days exploring the City - or, rather I should say, my sister Maureen and my friend Marcy spent several days exploring the City.  I could only stand to spend one day in the City and that was almost too much (plus it rained the entire time we were in New York/New Jersey).  The day before we came home, we did go to Ellis Island and the Statute of Liberty.  Seeing Ellis Island was a very moving experience and made staying in New York all worth it.  We also stopped in at the Cake Boss' place - Carlo's Bake Shop (located in Hoboken, NJ), but we didn't see Buddy!

Ellis Island as seen from the ferry. 

Luggage of the immigrants 

As seen from the ferry 
(the lousy weather made for lousy pictures)

The Cake Boss' bakery 

I did get the chance to spend the day with my good friend (and former trach mom) Carrie who lives in New Jersey - so that was another positive about staying in New York the few extra days.

By Saturday I was so ready to be home, but also so grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my family in a land my mom loved so much.  I thought of her often during our trip and wondered what she would think about all of us going to Ireland. Going to Ireland wasn't something we really thought about before my mom died.  It was her death that got us thinking about our Irish roots and making the trip with my dad to a place he and my mom visited often.  It truly was a once in a lifetime trip. 

As for the other half of our group, they head home Tuesday and from what I hear, they are all very ready to be home. Two weeks is a long time to travel about a country.  They are now staying in a B&B near Dublin and will spend their final days exploring that City (and the Guinness Storehouse, no doubt!) My dad is feeling much better.  Yesterday my niece texted me and said "Grandpa is flirting with the waitress .... obviously, he is back to 100%."

Hope you enjoyed my recap of Ireland! I figured I'd better do it now before I forget where we went and what we did.  You can see all 242 of my Ireland pictures here:

(I put a description with the pictures so you can tell who is in the picture and where the picture was taken.)

And last but not least .... Jack is doing awesome and I don't think he even missed me.  I certainly needed the break and maybe he needed the break from me as well.  Nevertheless, he is stuck with me whether he likes it or not!

Have a great week my friends. Hope I still remember my way to the office .... it's been awhile.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New York Layover

We are back from Ireland and have been spending the last few days in New Jersey/New York.  I'm not a big fan of New York City, but my friend who came with us to Ireland has never been to NYC and she really wanted to see the City.  So, here we are.  But, I am so ready to be home!

My dad and the kids stayed behind in Ireland for another week.  It's been eventful.  My dad is sick and the kids had to find a doctor for him.  He was started on antibiotics and is feeling much better, but not 100% yet.  Yesterday the kids went horseback riding while my dad rested.  Three of the five kids fell off their horses!  But, they are all fine.  Here is my niece Kelsey's Facebook description of her horseback riding experience:

Synopsis of Horseback riding: Kelsey is given possibly the largest horse she has ever seen in her life. Mary's horse, too busy shaking its head doesn't see a sign and pulls a Bridget and runs into it, neighs and side-steps. Kelsey's horse freaks out, rears and jumps side-ways. As it's running sideways, Kelsey falls off the horse and lands smack on her tailbone.

and her sister's added comment:

THEN Kelsey does the stop.drop.and roll (helmet in tow) off the road and onto a patchy field of grass so as not to get hit by a vehicle!

We were told that Kelsey was driven back to the B&B they were staying at by the local pub owner who was driving by when Kelsey fell off her horse.  Too funny!

I'm working on uploading all my Ireland pictures to Shutterfly so that I can share them.  Hopefully, I'll have it done by the end of the weekend (I get home on Saturday).  Stay tuned!

On the home front, all is well.  Jack is doing great and hasn't given Mark (or his nurses) any problems.  It's just a wee bit humbling to know that they can survive without me.  I guess I'm not as indispensable as I'd like to think I am!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Few Ireland Pics

We are three days into our Ireland trip and I already have over one hundred pictures.  Here are a few sneak peeks (okay, so I am going to update the blog while I'm in Ireland!)

Our group

classic Ireland

Sweet! :)

These kids were with a school group touring the castle the same time we were and the kid on the right said "hey, take our picture".  To which I replied "and then what am I going to do with it?" and he said "I don't know, but take our picture anyway".  So, I did!

We have been drinking a whole LOT of these since we got here!

My phone company (Verizon) completely screwed up and I don't have cell phone access over here which is just a bit unnerving to say the least.  I'm keeping in contact with Mark via email and he tells me Jack is doing great.  He also told me to not worry about Jack because even if things weren't going okay there is nothing I can do about it! True, but how can a mother not worry?

We are having an awesome time in Ireland and it's been really great weather (very little rain).  I'll try and post more pictures later!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Emerald Isle

Mary and I are off to Ireland.  Catch me back here in a couple of weeks. You can be sure that I'll have lots of pictures to share.  Please send your positive thoughts, good vibes and prayers Mark's way for things to go smoothly with Jack while I'm gone.  I've never been away from Jack this long and I'm a little bit nervous being so far away. Thanks! 


Sunday, June 05, 2011

School is Out for Summer!

Last week was a busy week with the last days of school and Mary's graduation.  I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Last day of third grade and looking so grown up!  

Outside his classroom

There are only seven weeks of summer break for Eric and then it's back to school!  I've got him signed up for a couple of different summer camps and I'm giving him a couple of weeks off in between just to sleep in, play video games all day and have no agenda.  The first day of fourth grade will be here before we know it!

After dropping Eric off at school, Mary and I went to breakfast together

After breakfast, we did a pre-graduation photo shoot
(click on the picture to enlarge)

The graduate

Mary had a graduating class of over 700 kids and graduation was at Arizona State University. It was a bit tough to get any close-up shots, but here are a few after she received her diploma

After graduation celebration with family 

Ready to head out for some partying with her high school friends

Mary graduated with high honors and earned a full tuition scholarship to any of the Universities here in AZ.  She will be attending Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and she is beyond excited to be getting out of the house! 


and last but not least .....


Jack and I went out for a walk this evening and I stopped at this cool spot for a few pictures.  You can't really tell from the pictures, but Jack's face is 100% better.  It appears that my 12 ½ year old has acne - which has now resolved thanks to some creme his dermatologist gave us.  I'm so happy about that! 

Hilary is home from school and after much thought and discussion, we've decided that she won't be going back to RIT in the Fall ("we" includes Hilary).  As of now, Hilary needs to get a job and she needs to figure out what she wants to do with her life (and it doesn't involve living with mom and dad forever!) She'll likely attend a community college next Fall until she gets things figured out.  So, I get another kid out of the house and one comes back!  Oh well, I'm a long way from ever experiencing an empty nest, so it's no big deal.  

I'm leaving for Ireland next weekend. Not sure if I'll update the blog before I leave and I won't be updating when I'm gone.  So, catch you back here in no less than three weeks! 

Thanks for checking in!