Rebekah Lyn's Kitchen

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Rain Drops & Blossoms August 23, 2019

I could have spent longer exploring the shops of Galway but we were scheduled to meet up with another of Tricia’s friends from Facebook for dinner. We returned to the B&B and shared some our adventures with our hostess Pauline. The laundry we had left drying that morning was mostly dry by this time and Pauline had even been kind enough to fold them. She truly went above and beyond to help us out of this mess. We left a handful of stubbornly damp items by the fire and went to freshen up before heading to Donnelly’s pub.

 

Donnelly’s was one of the places recommended to us by the couple we’d met during our delay in Iceland and Pauline had highly recommended it as well. Turns out that Tricia’s friend Clare and her husband George also often stop in here when they are visiting Galway.

 

We arrived shortly after 7:00 pm with Clare and George only a few minutes behind. An observer would have thought Tricia had known this couple for decades the conversation flowed so quickly upon their arrival. With a very few exceptions, everyone we met in Ireland was warm and friendly. George and Clare were generous, funny, and just lovely to chat with.

 

We stayed out way too late and by the time we returned to the cottage the wind was howling. I lay in bed listening to it rage against the walls and felt like I was back in Florida during a hurricane. The morning came and despite the vicious wind, there didn’t appear to be any damage around the cottage. We packed up, something that was becoming a more arduous task as we accumulated souvenirs that hadn’t yet found a home within our suitcases. Pauline was already at work, so after checking several times to make sure we had collected everything we locked up and dropped the keys through the mail slot. (I love that there was a mail slot! I’ve never seen one in real life before.)

 

In our original plan, this would have been our last day in Ireland so we were headed back toward Dublin. Since we had been able to extend the trip a day to make up for our delay arriving, (if you missed that misadventure click here) we were able to take a more leisurely drive from Galway to Dublin. We decided to stop at Birr Castle, about 90 minutes from the cottage.

 

The sun was shining, with the ubiquitous clouds so we debated wearing our raincoats, but decided to risk it. At the ticket counter, we learned the castle itself wasn’t open yet for the season, but the grounds were and I really wanted to walk around. I’d seen some of the grounds on Netflix, Tales of Irish Castles, and was looking forward to exploring.

One wing of the tree fort

Just past the welcome center/gift shop, is a large play area for children with a gigantic tree fort. I imagine this place is mobbed with kids in the summers. Since we were the only people around, Tricia and I had to detour through the fort to check it out.

 

A fine mist began once we left the play area, but quickly turned to a steadier drizzle. We jogged across an open expanse to a small pavilion and caught our first glimpse of the castle; truly an impressive sight. The Parsons family has lived here for more than 400 years! One of the Earls in the 1800s was fascinated with astronomy and had a giant telescope constructed. It remained the largest in the world until 1917.

 

Leviathan Telescope

 

When the rain reduced to a light mist again, we ventured from the cover of the pavilion and within an hour the sun was shining again. There are more than 120 acres of gardens to explore, so it could take a person days for a full examination. There are so many picturesque spots that I imagine many of the residents have at least dabbled in painting trying to capture the beauty. A river with rushing rapids nearly kisses the base of the castle wall then makes a stately path through the property.

 

River past the castle

 

Despite the chilly weather, there were a number of flowers blooming. I’m enamored with fresh blooms and trying to capture their beauty in photographs so I took more than a few artsy photos here. One area had a walkway of cherry trees which were in bloom. I felt like I was walking into a cotton candy tunnel. I don’t know if a picture could possibly do justice to this area.

 

 

At some point my mom texted to tell us to be careful driving as Winter Storm Gareth had moved onshore overnight and was said to be causing flooding. This information helped explain the crazy wind the previous night. The flooding wasn’t surprising either. I believe I mentioned earlier that there had been rain for weeks prior to our arrival as well as pretty much every day of our trip. Most of the rivers, streams and lakes we had passed were exceptionally high, just waiting for one more storm to push them over the banks.

 

 

Tricia finally pulled me away from the gardens and we tried to get lunch at The Thatch, a pub a mile or so from the castle. She’d found it on Yelp and was set on having lunch there. When we arrived there wasn’t a single car and I deduced it wasn’t open yet but she insisted we try the door, which of course was locked. We headed for the motorway again, hoping to find another place to eat along the way.

 

The Thatch

 

We weren’t too far down the road when we came to a Lidl grocery store. I’d been wanting to visit one since landing in Dublin. I had seen one on a map near our first hotel, but with all of the chaos of our arrival hadn’t even thought to look for it while we were there.

 

I managed to convince Tricia to stop here and we wandered through. I frequent Aldi in my hometown so was interested to see how the two stores compared. I have to say, the bakery gives Lidl a bit of a boost. We purchased several baked treats for lunch and set off for the Hill of Tara.

 

Day of Discovery August 16, 2019

We woke Tuesday morning and found our excellent hostess, Pauline, had left out a bag of clothespins as well as her “clothes horse” drying rack. Tricia had sent Pauline a message during the laundry fiasco to see if it would be okay for us to use the clothesline. Pauline hadn’t received the message until that morning and left us a sweet note. Before we even had breakfast, we transferred all the clothes to either the line or the clothes horse, tried to stoke the fire to get the room warmer in hopes of the clothes drying faster, and went about getting ready for the day’s outing.

Laundry on the Clothes horse and line

 

The sun was shining and the wind was whipping so I was hopeful the clothes would dry quickly. We pulled out of the driveway and were maybe ten yards from the cottage when it started hailing. Well, hail isn’t as bad as rain, I thought, and it’s not coming down very hard. By the time we reached the end of the street, it had become a downpour, so we turned around and hurried to pull the clothes in off the line.

 

Back on the road, our first stop was a place we’d discovered the previous day on the way to the Cliffs of Moher. Hazel Mountain Chocolate is a small, family-run operation. You can view their facility and sample the chocolates, visit the gift shop or grab a bite in the cafe. They start with raw beans that they roast and mill themselves. Luke was manning the shop and provided us with an overview of the factory process. The resulting liquid is poured into molds and aged for three weeks before being turned into its final form. What they do is really an art. We bought truffles and chocolate bars to take home and Luke told us about a nearby Abbey he thought we might enjoy visiting.

 

 

Next we headed to The Burren Perfumery. I stumbled across this place on Instagram and it sounded so interesting I was glad we were able to fit it into our schedule. The road into it was maybe the smallest we had been on with high grass and bushes pressing in on either side. I was sure we’d made a wrong turn but then, in the middle of nowhere a sign indicated a turn and within a few seconds we were in the parking lot.

 

The road into the Perfumery

 

What a charming place! I felt like I was walking into something out of a fairy tale. A friendly lady greeted us as soon as we entered and took the time to explain each of the perfumes made on the premises and gave us a quick tour of the other products available. There is also a short film visitors can watch about the Burren. It’s a landscape of strange beauty that is both harsh and home to great beauty. We learned that perfumes change once they have been on your skin for a time and interact with your body chemistry. The associate recommended we try our favorite scent and allow it to transition for several minutes before making a choice. I liked all of the choices, but Winter Woods was unlike any perfume I’ve known before. It’s earthy and evoked within me a picture of a thatched cottage on a crisp night, a crackling fire in the hearth and a good book waiting to be read.

 

This is also a family-run company and in addition to the perfumes they make balms, soaps, and skin care item. There is an herb garden right behind the tea room that even in the days before spring truly arrived was still a place of rugged beauty. I could have spent a small fortune here, but I only came home with one bottle of Winter Woods perfume. However, they ship for free to anywhere in the world if you spend 60 euros on their website.

 

Upon leaving the perfumery, we started looking for the abbey Luke had mentioned. We knew it couldn’t be far, he’d said something about it being across from the Chocolate Factory. How we missed the sign for it on the way to the perfumery I don’t know, but we caught it the second time and turned down a gravel road that ended at Corcomore Abbey.

 

The road to Corcomore Abbey

 

This abbey was found around 1195 by Cistercian monks and holds the tomb of Conor O’Brien, king of the territory once known as Thomond. Aside from the missing roof, the ruins are in remarkable condition. We were the only visitors for close to thirty minutes. We were surprised by the number of graves that had fresh flowers on them and there was even a crypt with a burial from as recent as the early 2000s.

 

 

When another family arrived, we decided to move on. This was a slower paced day and we hoped to explore the shops in Galway a bit before meeting another friend of Tricia’s for dinner. Pauline had given us tips on places to shop and we found a parking garage with ease. Parking was another matter. I was sure the top of the car was going to scrape the ceiling of the garage and the spots were tiny. Thank goodness Tricia was driving.

 

It turned out the garage we had stumbled on was in an ideal location with the Aran Sweater Market steps away. I still hadn’t purchased a sweater yet and time was running out so I went inside while Tricia visited the jewelry shop across the street. I tried on a dozen sweaters, with three or four becoming quick favorites. There was another lady trying a bunch of things on also and we struck up a conversation. She and her husband were from Alaska, so it made sense she was planning on taking at least a couple of sweaters home.

 

I wasn’t ready to make a commitment by the time Tricia arrived and decided to see if there were any other shops that might have a sweater like the one I’d seen in Bunratty. The street was closed to cars, paved with bricks, and lined with shops, cafes, or restaurants. With street performers and banners stretched across the street there was quite a festive air.

 

 

We visited a number of shops, but no other sweaters caught my fancy so we returned to the Aran Market and I chose two to have shipped home. I also found a knit hat for my dad, whose head is always cold in the winter, and a small sheep to always remember our close encounters.

 

 

Cliffs and Castles August 9, 2019

The drive from Kylemore to the town of Barna, just outside Galway City, took about an hour and we arrived at Furrymelia Cottage around 6:00 pm. Pauline, the B&B hostess, was waiting to greet us and hurried to put the kettle on. When she heard we hadn’t eaten dinner she even fixed us some sandwiches and pulled out some cookies to go with our tea.

 

The kitchen had a cozy seating area with a wood-burning stove for heat. We sat in here getting to know Pauline and found out she had been down in Killarney the previous day and had raced home that morning to make sure she was there for our arrival. Her husband had remained in Killarney for a work project so it ended up being just the three of us in the house for the whole stay.

 

When we decided to retire for the night, Pauline fixed us hot water bottles. What a wonderful touch! I drifted off with the warmth of that bottle easing the tightness in my lower back from so much walking.

 

Monday morning we arose and found a continental breakfast laid out for us. Pauline gets up early to go swimming before work but made sure we had a nice selection of options to start the day. There was fruit, yogurt, a couple different jams, bread, cereal, and of course a selection of teas. There was also a small plate with what looked like cubes of cheese.

 

Do you see how the butter looked like cheese cubes?

 

I had started the keto diet a couple of months before leaving on this trip and tried to keep close to it during the travels so I was excited to see the cheese. I put several cubes on my plate. When I ate the first one it didn’t taste like any cheese I’d had before and slowly it dawned on me that it was butter! Knowing we were going to have a long day I shrugged and ate the rest of my cubes thinking about the wonderful fat content they were providing. Plus, it was some of the best butter I’ve ever tasted.

 

The skies were cloudy again and I kept hoping it would clear up as we were headed to the Cliffs of Moher. We took the more scenic Wild Atlantic Way rather than the motorway. It provided some excellent views but boy was the road rough. I would like to drive the whole Wild Atlantic Way, though. It meanders through small villages and along beautiful coastline that could take an entire month to explore.

 

 

We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher and while the sun was shining, there was still a gray haze in the air that made getting good pictures difficult. I’ve seen such vibrant pictures that I felt let down not being able to experience that vibrancy myself. There are pathways along the cliffs outside the official boundaries of the park, but they don’t have any safety features and people get blown off them by the whipping winds every year. We did venture out a few feet and Tricia wanted a picture near the edge, but I wasn’t about to risk going over the side. There was another pair of women out there. I offered to take their picture together but there was one sensible like me who didn’t want to risk it either.

 

 

Creamery Bar

 

From the Cliffs we headed back south to Bunratty Castle. We arrived in time for lunch and stopped in a pub called the Creamery Bar. This was one of the disappointments for me. The service was terrible and the food was just meh. Later we found out we could have gone across the street to Durty Nellys, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland.

 

Bunratty has been around since the 15th century and is starkly medieval. I don’t know how mothers navigated the narrow stairways carrying children. They are quite treacherous, especially when going down. It was interesting to see how spartan and rustic some rooms were, but one, the private family dining room was almost elegant.

 

There is also a “village” set up around the castle, with more than 30 buildings representing village life. We didn’t have enough time to fully explore this area or partake in the medieval banquet that was being served that night, but I would recommend it if you are planning to visit the area.

 

 

After exploring Bunratty we visited the shops across the street. I finally found a sweater that I really loved, but this shop wanted me to spend 250 euros to get the free shipping and I couldn’t find enough other stuff to make that work so I put the sweater back and only purchased some linen items.

 

 

On the way back to the cottage we stopped at a Revolution Laundry. We’ve been traveling for a week now and were getting low on clothes. Like the stores, laundry mats all seem to close early in Ireland too. Revolution Laundries, though, are located in the parking lots of gas stations and consist of two washers and two dryers.

 

It was raining once again when we dragged our clothes out of the car and dumped them into the washer. Fortunately there is a small overhang that protects the machines from the weather. It took about 45 minutes for the clothes to wash, but when I went to put them in the dryer I noticed they were really wet, like the washer hadn’t run a spin cycle. My fingers were nearly frozen when I finished getting them all moved.

 

We waited 30 minutes on the dryer only to find the clothes were still soaking wet, as in we could wring water out of them. Tricia came out of the car to help me wring them out and again fingers were like ice when we started the machine for another 45 minutes.

 

I should mention we hadn’t eaten since lunch, probably six or seven hours earlier. Well, we had some candy from the convenience store but nerves were raw and this wasn’t the best experience. After that second run through the dryer the clothes were still very wet. They weren’t even warm so I don’t know what that dryer was doing. We were frustrated and tired so I suggested we just put them back in the laundry bag and figure something out at the cottage. I knew there was a clothesline out back so I figured we could just hang them out the next day.

 

While we were putting them in the bag, they were so heavy with water that the bag started to rip in half! We managed to get them all in and get the bag into the car without it completely tearing. We must have looked like we were moving a body when we returned to the cottage well after dark. Pauline was already in bed so we quietly went about hanging the clothes around the bathroom to air dry as much as possible overnight. The heated towel rack proved an excellent place for socks and underwear to dry. Once we had covered every surface that could possibly allow the clothes to dry we fell into bed cold and exhausted. I really missed the hot water bottle that night.

 

 

I don’t know what it is about doing laundry while traveling, but I had a hard time with it years ago when another friend and I were in Paris. We’d been traveling for about a week then, too, and since we were staying at Disneyland Paris we figured that would be a good place to wash clothes. I had no idea a washing machine could be so very different overseas and all the instructions were in French. This was another late night and we were laughing so hard from pure exhaustion and the comedy of how something so simple could become so hard. We worried for a minute that we might disturb anyone who had a room nearby, but since no one came out to complain we just kept laughing. Sometimes that is the only way to deal with difficult situations.

 

Come back next week to find out if the clothes ever dried out. If you’ve ever had a laundry fiasco while on the road please share it in the comments, otherwise I might have to believe I’m the only one with this challenge.

 

What’s an Abbey? August 2, 2019

I wish we could have spent more time exploring County Kerry, but we had other adventures planned. We got an early start, making a brief stop in downtown Killarney. The blanket Tricia had purchased the previous night had a pull in it and she wanted to see about exchanging it. The lovely shopkeeper was able to fix the pull in the blink of an eye and we headed north to Connemara.

 

 

We passed so many places we wanted to stop but Kylemore Abbey was our planned destination and with last admission at 4pm we had limited time to make it there and do some touring. Not being Catholic, I wasn’t really sure what the difference was between an Abbey and a Monastery. Honestly, I’m still not sure I understand it, but the story of Kylemore is rather interesting. It began as a home for a wealthy businessman in the late 1800s. During World War I, it became the home of Benedictine Nuns fleeing Belgium and is still run by the Benedictines today.

 

Kylemore Main House

 

The sun was valiantly trying to shine when we left Killarney, but the clouds continued to build and rain showers intermittently fell followed by a couple of snow flurries. The moment we put the car in park at Kylemore it began to hail quite violently. I was worried about the car being damaged and the rental agency charging me for it.

 

When the hail let up a bit we made a dash for the visitor’s center. The ground was completely white with hailstones the size of large marbles! We get hail in Florida, but I’ve never seen it come down like this.

 

That is all hail!

 

At the ticket counter we learned the main house was closed for renovations but we could purchase a discounted ticket to tour the grounds and visit the chapel. Tricia thought I was crazy to want to tour the gardens in this weather, but the sun had come back out and we were already there so we bought the ticket and waited for the tram to the walled garden. (It was a reasonable distance away and I wasn’t completely crazy. There was still a little rain and a lot of cold wind).

 

Even without much blooming the walled garden was a sight to see. The brick wall helped to cut the wind, the rain had now stopped and the sun was shining brightly. I don’t remember seeing anyone else out here so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We spent around an hour admiring the design of the garden and visiting the head gardner’s house, a rather cozy and well appointed home.

 

 

We took the tram back to the visitor center and then walked past the Abbey to the chapel. There was a bit of hail along the way, but it was much smaller and only a brief shower. I’m glad we carried on. The chapel was amazing.

 

To think this was built for the man’s wife and obviously no expense was spared is mind boggling. I can’t imagine how much it cost to maintain much less build. We studied many of the intricate details, but could have spent hours more marveling at all of the carvings.

 

Kylemore Chapel

 

I sat in one of the pews to soak in the atmosphere and say a silent prayer. While I sat there, the clouds that had formed during our walk parted and a shaft of sunlight fell through one of the tall windows right onto where I was seated. It was a special moment that gave me goosebumps and I hope I will always remember.

 

 

My little hot pad

 

After a peaceful and restorative time in the chapel we ambled back to the welcome center as the sun was starting to dip down to meet the mountains. We had just enough time to pick up a couple of souvenirs. I found these hot pads with the cutest sheep comics on them. My mom used to collect hot pads with photos of waterfalls or other nature scenes from our trips to North Carolina when I was a kid but now they are hard to come by. I struggled to chose just one for her and a smaller one for myself.

 

Fortunately, our drive from Kylemore wasn’t too far, and we managed to arrive at our new bed and breakfast just before dark. We found this place on AirBnB and weren’t quite sure if we were getting the whole cottage or if the host/hostess would be on site. I am thrilled the hostess was on site because she was an absolute gem and a true highlight of our entire trip. I’ll tell you all about Pauline and Furrymelia Cottage when we meet again next week.

 

 

Sheep! July 26, 2019

It was a little before noon when we left Liam and his birds behind, headed for the Ring of Kerry, a scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula. Tricia and I had a bit of a debate about whether to drive clockwise or counter-clockwise. Most travel guides and articles about the drive discuss these options, primarily as a means of avoiding the numerous tour buses that make this journey. I felt we were early enough in the year to be ahead of most tours and were unlikely to encounter many buses. Tricia was driving at the moment, and wanted to drive counter-clockwise, so I let her make that choice.

 

Let the ring begin

 

If you’re driving straight through, it’s a loop that probably takes about three hours. Stopping as often as we did, it took closer to six. The western side of the loop, takes in the towns of Killorglin, Glenbeigh, Cahersiveen, and Waterville. From this side you can take detours up to the Gap of Dunloe or to the Skellig Islands. We missed the signs for the Gap of Dunloe and the ferry service to the Skelligs wasn’t running yet. We did turn off the ring onto an even smaller road into Reenard Point, where we could see across to Valentia Island and daydream about getting out to the Skelligs.

 

 

The views of the coastline were stunning, even on this overcast and growing grayer by the hour day. We pulled over at probably every third turn off, never tiring of the rugged beauty. We had our first close up sightings of sheep during this drive, which made me nearly giddy and I’m not sure why. The largest pullout actually had a parking lot and is part of a dark sky reserve. I imagine it must be a beautiful place at night. With no cities for miles around, the sky must be filled with stars. There are a number of these reserve areas throughout County Kerry, but our entire trip we never had a night clear enough to see stars.

 

 

I think to do the ring properly, one would need to plan to stop for a night at a couple of points along the way, taking time to explore some of the quaint villages. In Cahersiveen, we toured the Old Barracks, built as a police station for the Royal Irish Constabulary in the 1870s to protect the Irish end of the transatlantic telegraph cable. There are exhibits inside on the Great Southern and Western Railway, The Life and Times of Daniel O’Connell, The Fenian Rising of 1867, The 1916 Rising and Monsignor Hugh O’ Flaherty. Also in this town, we could have visited Ballycarberry Castle ruins, the Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church, or taken in two stone forts. Some of the places we passed through didn’t offer such an abundance of sights, but it would have been nice to take a walk along the main street, peek in the shops, and try a bit of local fare.

 

 

By the time we reached the southern point of the peninsula, though, we were starting to feel pressured to make it to the end of the ring before the sun set. The eastern side of the peninsula is more forested and had an entirely different feel. I had wanted to shop in Kenmare to visit the lace shops. I was hoping to pick up something locally made as a gift for my mom. Unfortunately, it was close to 4pm by the time we made it to Kenmare and we’d learned most shops close at 5pm.

 

We did stop at the Avoca Shop and Cafe outside Kenmare. It was getting ready to close so we didn’t spend too much time here, and the prices were well outside our budget anyway. The best part about this stop were the sheep crossing the road, and one was kind enough to pause in front of the shop for me to snap a photo. Avoca sells mostly woolen goods, so this scene made us giggle. Were the sheep checking out the place their coats would one day be sold?

 

 

Ross Castle and Muckross Abbey were places I had wanted to visit and why I’d wanted to do the ring clockwise, then they would have been our first stop as opposed to our last. By the time we arrived they were no longer admitting guests. As the rain turned from a sprinkle to a more insistent drizzle, we hurried from the car to take some pictures of Ross Castle’s exterior then set off in search of dinner.

 

Ross Castle

 

Before we’d left our Hawk Walk experience, we’d chatted with Liam about life in Killarney and asked for recommendations on things to do and places to eat. He told us his favorite for boxty was Bricín Restaurant. Boxty, he explained, is a potato pancake and it can be filled with seafood, venison, corned beef, and vegetables.

 

Bricín was wonderful! The interior is beautiful, it was warm and cozy against the chill, wet night, and the food was amazing. I had the venison boxty and for the life of me I can’t remember what Tricia had. I was so glad Liam had made this recommendation and told us about boxty, I may never have tried it if he hadn’t already explained to us what it was.

 

Feeling revived, we wandered down the street. Most non-dining establishments were closed, but a couple of tourist shops were still open. I’ve taken to collecting Christmas ornaments from the places I visit and so far this trip I hadn’t purchased a single one. I found a cute ball ornament and Tricia purchased some more wool goods, a blanket this time. She’s going to have to move to Alaska to use everything she ended up buying!

 

Coming up, we will hit the road again and experience every variation of wet weather imaginable.

 

Waterville has a Charlie Chaplin festival each year. He enjoyed vacationing here.

 

 

Birds of a Feather July 19, 2019

Killarney reminds me of a resort town one might find in coastal New England. The street we were staying on was lined with Bed & Breakfasts with a small hotel here and there and a few restaurants. We would make it into the town proper later to see more, but this morning, we were going on an adventure I never imagined I’d be involved with, a Hawk Walk.

 

You see, when I was in high school, I was in an aviary at the zoo and a large bird landed on my head. I had very long hair at the time and the bird proceeded to get tangled in my hair. Ever since, I’ve had an aversion to birds. I have mellowed over the years, enjoying watching birds from a distance, but now I was going to have birds of prey flying to me!

 

About a year ago, I had an idea for a character that was into falconry. I had no idea how I would research that but I filed it away in my idea folder. When I was doing research for this trip I had a whim to search for falconry in Ireland and I found Falconry Kerry. After reading some reviews I sent the link to Tricia to see if she was interested. She replied with a resounding yes and I sent an email to make a reservation.

 

We loaded the address into the GPS and found the farm where we were to meet Liam, the falconer. He greeted us and told a little about the farm and what we would be doing, then introduced us to Pablo, the falcon. (I can’t remember exactly which species of falcon. If you recognize it from the pictures, please let me know in the comments.)

 

Pablo was gorgeous! This was his first flight in about a week as he had been molting, so when Liam let him loose, Pablo took off, floating on the stiff wind. We weren’t sure if he was going to come back, but Liam had food and was able to lure Pablo back after several minutes.

 

Liam and Pablo

 

Pablo was gorgeous! This was his first flight in about a week as he had been molting, so when Liam let him loose, Pablo took off, floating on the stiff wind. We weren’t sure if he was going to come back, but Liam had food and was able to lure Pablo back after several minutes.

 

Tricia and I each had a chance to feed and fly Pablo while Liam gave us some background on falcons in general and the work he has done with them over the years. Previously, Liam worked for the Killarney National Park until he was bit by a tick and developed Lyme disease. Now he helps rehabilitate injured birds and does these Hawk Walks.

 

Tricia and Erin

 

After fifteen minutes of playing with Pablo, he was retired and Erin, a Harris Hawk, was brought out. What a smart bird! She followed us to the large field, flying from fence to tree to fence, tracking our movement. Again, we each had a chance to feed and fly Erin. To have these large birds flying right at you is impressive and can be intimidating, but I didn’t feel any fear, only awe and excitement.

 

After Erin had her fill of chicken, we went to a shed where two travel boxes were already waiting and Liam introduced us to a pair of his owls, Freddie and Bobo. Freddie reminded me of both my cat, Mia, and the Tootsie Pop owl. Their feathers were so soft and watching them turn their heads nearly 360 degrees was amazing.

 

 

Before we left, I shared with Liam about my experience in the aviary and the aversion to birds that had instilled in me, but that I hadn’t felt any fear during this encounter and I’d enjoyed it immensely. He was surprised to hear I’d been afraid as that hadn’t come across at all. That did make me feel a little warm and happy inside. I am so a happy we decided to book this. I have a better insight into what it means to be a falconer and I have a new contact I can reach out as I start to develop that character in a future book. If you are going to Kerry, I highly recommend the Hawk Walk. They are private sessions and truly a unique experience.

 

Next up, we would be driving the ring of Kerry. That was a full day in and of itself, though, and has so many breathtaking pictures, I will save that for next week.

 

 

What side of the road? July 12, 2019

Friday was our 4th full day in Ireland and it was time to pick-up our rental car. Deciding where to get the car consumed more than a few hours of my pre-trip planning. The idea of learning to drive from the opposite side of the car on the opposite side of the road inside the city terrified me but the next rental location was Cork. The train to Cork was an option, but there was so much to see along the way. What if we missed something?

(more…)

 

Who is this John Snow guy? June 28, 2019

Since I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, it might sound strange that a Game of Thrones tour changed the whole route of our itinerary for this trip and yet it did. Tricia really wanted to do a specific tour (there are dozens to chose from in Ireland) and it was only offered on certain days. I had planned to visit Belfast at the end of our trip, allowing us to travel in a loop around the island. However, the only day the tour was offered during our visit forced us to head north on Tuesday night so we could do the tour on Wednesday.


While I’m not a morning person, my job requires me to be in the office very early and I’ve become conditioned to move quickly once the alarm goes off. When my phone began strumming the wake-up music, I popped up to start getting dressed; Tricia did not, She groaned and pulled the blanket tighter.

 

Once I managed to get her up and dressed we popped into the Starbucks across the street and then made our way to the end of the block where the tour was meeting. Tricia and I made our way to the back of the bus so she could surreptitiously finish eating the muffin she’d been told she couldn’t bring onboard as the company was worried about messes.

 

We had to drive about an hour out of the city and the countryside was lovely. Unfortunately, Tricia had taken the wrong medication that morning and it put her to sleep so she missed most of the views. I was surprised at how the Mourne Mountains seemed to rise up from nowhere just outside the city. I’m used to the rolling foothills that precede most of the mountains here in the US. Maybe I didn’t notice the land rolling upward because of the city bustle.

 

We arrived at the ferry stop and I realized we were in the town of Portaferry. Now I was excited to be on this tour. I mentioned in my first post Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country Doctor series of books. Well, Portaferry is mentioned in them from time to time so I felt a connection to the place. I looked around, wondering which pubs Doctor O’Reily may have visited. Yes, I know he’s a fictional character, but as a writer, there’s something exhilarating about seeing a place mentioned in a book. Of course, we were on a tour to visit places of complete fiction anyway so why I am defending myself?

 

Portaferry as we departed on the ferry.

Tricia was still pretty sleepy on the ferry, but I enjoyed the crossing of Strangford Lough, watching as the town of Strangford grew closer. I watched for birds and wondered how far from the town the good doctor would have been when he went fowling.

 


Soon we arrived at our first stop, Castle Ward, which was used for Winterfell in filming Game of Thrones season one. There isn’t much left standing besides a tower and some courtyard walls, but the tour guide played us video clips that showed how the tower had been replicated and some other computer imagery added to create the castle.

 

Then we walked around the grounds to several other filming locations. The brisk walk helped wake Tricia up. We passed the Strangford Sailing Club and I thought about young Doctor Barry Laverty’s interest in sailing. We trekked close to three miles, mostly along the shores of Stranford Lough, which, even with gray clouds pressing in, was beautiful.

 

After our tour of Castle Ward we returned to Strangford for lunch at The Cuan followed by a visit with the “Direwolves”. They are beautiful animals. The story of the owners and how the dogs were cast on the show was interesting. It sounds like the directors/producers of the show took time to invest in the locals, casting many of them as extras rather than bringing in tons of people from Los Angeles or some other film-centric location.

 

From Strangford, we drove to Inch Abbey, a beautiful ruin on the banks of the Quoile River. We were given capes and swords, which we playfully swung around. Those swords weigh a ton! We all did our best to look menacing, but no one could stop grinning with delight. While the rest of the group engaged in mock battle, I wandered around taking pictures. The tour guide provided interesting information about lighting techniques used during filming here to make it look like the scene was taking place indoors as well as how the crew managed the changing light as the sun moved through the sky.

 

 

Our last stop on the tour was Tollymore Forest. A number of scenes were filmed here, I remember something about a dead stag being found in the road and the discovery of the Direwolf pups. Our hike through the park almost made me want to watch the show just for the scenery. If you visit Ireland and love the outdoors, I highly recommend spending a day in Tollymore, exploring the more than 630 hectares of forestland.

 

Entering down into Tollymore Forest

It had rained every day for weeks before we arrived, so the Shimna River running through the park was quite high and rushing downhill in a torrent of frothy rapids. One part of the trail crossing the river on large stepping-stones was completely covered and another section had been flooded as well, but there were enough dry patches to pick our way through without getting too wet.

 

We hiked another 3 miles here and one section was little more than an animal trail. I found it thrilling but Tricia wasn’t very fond of this section.

 

We returned to the hotel around 6:00pm, exhausted from both the lack of sleep and the exertion of the day. We debated going across the street to the pub, but ended up ordering room service and collapsing for the night.

 

I apologize if you were hoping to get more behind-the-scenes insights into Game of Thrones. I think the guide did an excellent job, I just didn’t retain much of what he said since it wasn’t the big draw for me. We used Game of Thrones Tours, Ltd and their guides have all been extras on the show, which allows them to provide first hand experiences.

 

Next week we face our first truly rainy day and meet up with one of Trica’s Facebook friends. I admit I was a little scared of getting together with a stranger.

 

The adventure begins…finally June 21, 2019

Filed under: Authors,friends,travel — itsrebekahlyn @ 5:17 PM
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Monday was supposed to be our first day in the city and we had purchased a Dublin Hop On/Hop Off bus and City Pass, but since we didn’t arrive at our hotel until nearly 9:00 pm, all we saw was Murrays Bar & Grill. Despite being exhausted from our 24 plus hours of travel, we enjoyed a late dinner accompanied by an energetic band and Irish dancers. I wish I had caught the name of the band to see if they have an album available.

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Will we ever get there? June 14, 2019

Filed under: friends,travel — itsrebekahlyn @ 8:05 AM
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Welcome back! I hope you are looking forward to reading out our Irish adventure. Cozy up with your favorite beverage, because this is a bit of a long post to set the scene.

 

The plan: Tricia, my friend from college, would come to my house the day before our flight to eliminate any last minute traffic issues and so we could review everything one last time. She arrived mid-afternoon Saturday and we both decided we needed to review what we had packed to see if there were any items we could eliminate or minimize. The bargain fair we purchased on Iceland Air didn’t include checked baggage and even paid bags had a strict weight limit.

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