Thursday, October 23, 2008

Final Bloom of the Season

This shot of a coneflower (or Echinacea) was among the first taken with my new camera this month. I'm so glad it's Friday ... and you?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eagle Team Work

IMG_6509, originally uploaded by Meridith Louise.

The Chicago Hope Academy Junior Varsity Volleyball team placed third in the CPC JV Volleyball Tournament this past weekend. Caitlyn (holding the trophy) and her teammates played well. The long volleyball season is nearing an end.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

West Coast - Day Two: High Crosses, Warning Signs & Portal Tombs

The majestic Cliffs of Moher.

The original tower house of Leamaneh Castle dates back to about 1480AD.

"Wild horses couldn't drag me away."

Janice & Meridith take it all in.

Look, Mom - no railings!

King Albert (waving) and Queen Paola of Belgium just happened to be on an
official state visit while we were at the Cliffs of Moher.

Hand-built stone walls are found throughout the countryside.

Kinvara Bay

Balancing Poulnabrone Dolmen

Wildflowers of The Burren

A high cross in Kilfrenora

Random email exchange from earlier today:

M: Ah, the change in the air during the two hours we were at the Cliffs. Being enthralled by that snail clinging to a blade of grass. Our bus driver and his stories. Our fellow tour mates. The ancient graves and the wildflowers that grew all around (and which I could not pick).

J: "LOL! The double potato! YES! I remember not being afraid of looking over the regulation side of the cliffs, but then going over to the “No Trespassing” side & FREAKING out about all the people walking along the path with no railings, only cliff. I mostly remember ... the beautiful live music coming from the top of the tower."

M: Unbloody believable! We even got to see a king!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Galway or Bust: Irish Rail is Your Friend

I will let Janice's words describe our first day in Galway: "So, I’m thinkin’ we were in Galway at the great fish place (McDonagh’s) that seemed to be filled with tourist & only the locals used ‘take away’ service. Mushy peas … not so great. Curry sauce … FAB … or at least I thought so! You, not so much. But kudos to you for trying it!

Before dinner, we ambled through the shops on the main street & wandered to the shore to look at a bit of history. After dinner, you took a picture of the patches in the pub behind the bar. There was a Chicago patch there … as well as one Chicago fella & some American girl who was looking to hook up … so it seemed. The music was sporadic & the pub crowded & we were tired. I think we got an ice cream & a cab back to the B&B.

We were dead-dog tired by the time we made it back to the B&B … up that REALLY big hill (remember hauling our stuff up there?? YIKES!)! During the night, some fellow who was a “wee bit drunk” tried to get into our room! “Ian, Ian … .”

Sigh….good times! Tomorrow we go to the Cliffs!"

Sidebar: pulling into the train station in Galway, we noticed a lot of police action along the bay. Turns out that a young college student was found murdered earlier that morning. So, when the strange fellow was attempting to get into our room at the Asgard, it was a tad bit creepy. Geraldine, our host at the Asgard, didn't hear a thing. And, yes, there really was a BIG hill that we had to hike up to get to our B&B. We had a difficult time once we left the train station just trying to find College Road. It was really hot that afternoon, too.

Best fish 'n' chips in Ireland!

Our room in the Asgard.

Chicago's finest: perched on a bar on Galway.

Another pub.

The sign was hanging in the Galway train station.

The Spanish Arch is located where Galway's river meets the sea.

Lots of wool scarves and sweaters to choose from.

Galway Yoga Center is on the right.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Looking Back 10/8/07: Birthdays, Bewley's, Books & Bailey's

It was a very cold October morning. We got dressed and walked east to grab some breakfast. "Nude" is a small chain of cafe shops which emphasizes healthy foods. It is owned by Bono's brother (I'm pretty sure he was there the day we stopped in, but someone does not believe me). It is the home of the best raspberry muffins in the world!

Janice and I started off our day with a guided tour of the historic Trinity College. Our very knowledgeable (and cute) guide told us all about Trinity, which included a stroll through the grounds and then we were able to view The Book of Kells, which is an illuminated manuscript in Latin of the four Gospels. It was transcribed by Celtic monks back in 800. It is an amazing piece of artwork. Only two of the four volumes are on display at one time. It was neat to learn about the inks and papers. The colors are still so vibrant. Learn more at: Book of Kells - Trinity College Library Dublin.

Shopping along Grafton Street. I love big red doors.

We headed over to Bewley's on Grafton Street for lunch. (Bewley's is famous for their tea). Let's just say it was interesting. The waitress we had was very confused about what was on the menu. I don't think Janice or I actually got what we ordered. We should've just went with a scone and tea.

St. Stephen's Green is a beautiful public park that is situated at the sound end of Grafton Street. Autumn was in full swing and the park was overflowing with color. The sculpture below was created by Edward Delaney and is entitled "Famine." It commemorates the Great Famine that occurred in Ireland in the mid-1800's.

"St. Patrick's Cathedral ... brought to you by Bailey's Irish Creme!"

One of my favorite pictures. Always read the small print! "Bring your own bag."

Happy Birthday to Janice! We celebrated her 40th birthday with a fabulous dinner at The Tea Room where everything is locally sourced. I surprised Janice with a collection of birthday wishes from family, friends and colleagues that I had collected before we left. After dinner, it was off for a night of "craic" (Irish term for fun).

We spent the rest of the night at Oliver St. John Gogarty's in Temple Bar singing along during a traditional Irish session. "Hey Jude" was sung at one point and later on everyone joined in for a rousing version of "With or Without You", which is when our English friend (in gray jacket below) grabbed my camera and filmed us for posterity. During the late night, a group of Danes and our English friend taunted one another, trading old World War II insults. We Americans were stuck in the middle. A dance-off ensued. We were asked to play spoons and dance. Carry on, shall we?

Our Danish friends.

Our English friend.

Monday, October 06, 2008

One Year Ago Today ...

"Welcome to Ireland!" greeting at the Dublin Airport

Janice and I left Chicago aboard an American Airlines flight on our way to Ireland to begin an adventure which would mark the celebration of her 40th birthday and my first trip to Europe. I've been having flashbacks of our journey and would love to go back again one day. Until then, there's always pictures and words.

Now playing: Coldplay - X&Y
via FoxyTunes

Morning Has Broken ... October 7th in Dublin

Of course, we stayed here; it is owned by Bono and The Edge.

The River Liffey (Ha'penny Bridge is in the background).

The back of Christchurch Cathedral (founded in 1030).

With the time change, we actually arrived in Dublin on October 7th, which was an early Sunday morning. Janice purchased the bus tickets with Euros that her mom had given to her. We soon learned that "Quay" is not pronounced the same way that us Americans would pronounce it and it was the first of many trips on buses and trains managing our luggage. It was a cold morning and my knee was a bit swollen from the flight. We were alert enough to get off the bus in the Temple Bar area - not too far away from the Clarence - but not close enough that it was a hop, skip and jump. Cobblestone streets and empty Guinness kegs dotted our route up to Wellington Quay. Once inside the Clarence, we were treated wonderfully ... and we kept our sleepy eyes open just in case Mr. Hewson happened to be in the house.

Janice and I did take a little nap and then took a walk west toward Christchurch Cathedral, where we took part in the late afternoon Vespers service. The church is amazingly historic. On the way over to the cathedral, we walked past the place where Handel's first performance of "The Messiah" took place.

We attended an evening Vespers service at Christ Church Cathedral. This was a "light a candle for peace" display.

The view from our room.

As we were leaving the evening song service, we noticed this woman preparing a late Sunday afternoon picnic for this kitty. It was very formal and cute.

Orchids in the Clarence Hotel.

A pub dedicated to writers in Dublin.
Looking up ... St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Our first day concluded with an early dinner at a restaurant/pub off of Dame Street. We sat up on the second floor in a room adorned with a tin ceiling and ate fish & chips. It was difficult to understand our waiter because he had such a thick Irish accent. He told us about how differently the people out west in Cork spoke. I was tired, but it was one of the best meals I've ever had because we were excited about the week before us and the adventure of traveling in a foreign place all on our own. Although I was thousands of miles from home and my family, they were never far from my thoughts ... I wished they could've shared in the adventure.