Wednesday, June 19, 2019

No place like it. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . when you're feeling ill!
HOME, even when requiring some TLC because you've left it to collect
dust, dirty windows, and a dead mouse in a trap (I apparently forget to take
 one up prior to leaving), is the only place to be.

So I've played with my hydrangeas, bringing many in the house, moving them about, 
to brighten up these days when I've had little energy to do much whilst coughing my
 way into oblivion. 

I've tried to start organizing the many photos (and the stories to accompany them)
  taken in Northern Ireland and Ireland in order to start posting here. 
For some reason PicMonkey editor is causing me many problems - I'm
 still using the old version - so am thinking I need to spend time learning to use
 the new version which just has to be better. Or, I my have to just forget about editing,
and post lower quality photos taken with my iPhone used on days it was raining (often)
when I didn't want to lug a bulky camera around.
I hate change when it comes to using the computer - I'm afraid I no longer have
 patience or skills necessary for technical challenges - and am always nervous I'll
totally mess up and never be able to keep my poor old blog going!

But then I met an interesting published author in a lovely
 pub in Kilkenny and, after exchanging stories, he said I might
 well have a book in me. . . . . . . . . . . but that's a story
for another day!

Even Blogger appears to be having constant hiccups since getting back. 
That said, I must just mention that Internet/WiFi in Europe is so awesome compared
 to here in the US. The speed, even in hotel rooms with so many guests using
laptops, tablets etc. blew me away. I had no connection problems and was able
to do things so much faster. 

"HOME SWEET HOME" and "Singing the Blues"

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Special Sunday. . . . . . for birds and Dads!

It turned out there were actually eight baby House wrens in that little 
nesting box on the front porch! How they managed to fit in there,
and sometimes one or the other parents would get in there with them,
I'll never know.  During yesterday's sunshine and perfect temperatures,
I spent much of the day sitting at the window, nursing one of the worst 
colds ever, watching these birds and getting quite an education.
This adorable little guy, No.4, actually decided not to fly away immediately 
spending about 5 minutes looking in the window from the back of
the porch chairs before flying off.

As darkness fell last night there were still two left in the box and they
tucked in for another night. This morning I dashed to the window at 
6:20 am and saw a parent feeding them. At 6:30 am the two of them 
were pushing each other out the entry hole and off they flew one at a
 time into the fig tree. Ten minutes later they flew back to the porch,
chirping for their mom I guess, then both flew onto the roof of my car
and from there into the back garden where hopefully the entire family
 was waiting to be reunited.

Returned home from Ireland to find the hydrangeas looking really fabulous! 
Apparently there was not only heat but also a lot of heavy rain here so 
everything grew abundantly. Need to shop for Boston ferns this week as
my two hanging baskets are still empty!
Hung the flags for Flag Day on Friday and decided to leave them up over
 the weekend as it's a special day today.

A very HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to all the dads here
 in the USA . . . . . . and everywhere around the world
 where they are celebrated on this date.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Ready to fly?

I took a few more photos of the wrens yesterday afternoon, actually sitting out
 on the porch just a few feet from them. The parents were coming and going and
 didn't seem to mind me there as long as I didn't move.........or breathe!  
My arms were aching holding the camera at the ready and I was stifling my
 cough, so I didn't stay long.  I really think they will be fledging any day now
 as they seem anxious to come way out of the entry hole when the parents arrive
with a tasty morsels.

House wrens love insects and rarely eat seeds at the feeders - these babies
 are scoffing down grasshoppers, spiders, moths in wild abandon. . . . . . 

. . . . . . . and, although I'd only seen two the past day, I did catch three in 
the photo below. There could be even more as the first brood in May had
 five - I was able to count them as they flew out of the nest box.

I'll be watching today as it's very warm, dry and sunny, perfect conditions
 for a first flight. 
Those poor parents must be exhausted by now and need a vacation trip after
 raising so many babies!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Being Welcomed Home. . . . . . . . .

We flew in from Dublin to Philadelphia Wednesday evening - a smooth 71/2 hour
crossing of the pond, done so many times now I've lost count - then a short flight
 to Raleigh.
It started to rain as we made our way home by taxi, but rain is what we are so used
 to after almost daily showers and the somewhat foreboding low cloud cover daily.
Ireland's weather is not for lovers of warmth, balmy sunshine, dry days and
 clear blue skies. Here it is halfway through June and no sign of days when one
 can leave off the hooded rain jacket and not stuff the collapsible umbrella into
 bag or pocket.

Ireland is beautiful, greener than any other place on earth perhaps.
 More on all that and the loveliness of the countryside, the towns, even
 the cities of Dublin and Belfast, soon. The trip was certainly a busy one
and we saw/did so much as always. 

So this is front porch, as usual a surprising little space. Arriving home to noisy
 squawking as we unlocked the front door, we realized the House wrens were
 back with a second brood of young in the same hanging box!

You know how much I love our garden birds, gosh sometimes I feel we spend
 more money feeding them than ourselves! We have never encouraged this particular 
tiny bird as they can be very mean to other nesting birds - pecking their eggs
 to destroy them, even flinging newly-hatched babies out of a nest and taking over
 their space.

The above photos I took this morning (pardon my dirty dining room windows) as the
 parents were back and forth feeding their new brood.
Note the long twig protruding from the entrance hole. The parent is apparently
 using it for balance. I read that this particular bird does often leave one twig
like this after building its nest, so I guess that's the reason why.

These earlier photos were taken the morning we were leaving for Ireland and this
 is actually a baby wren, one of five, we saw fledge all within a few minutes - great
 timing and really quite exciting to view.
Certainly didn't expect them to return to the same place even though it's usual
for them to have two broods each spring. Guess they liked their accommodation!
This decorative box has actually hung here at least three years and this is first time 
it has been used by any bird.

Not to be mistaken for the quieter, better behaved Carolina wren, the House wren 
though similar in size and coloring, does not have the white stripe over the eye so
is easy to identify. Their brash chirping is quite annoying and nowhere near as 
sweet as the songs of the Carolina wren.

Once again I've arrived home feeling under the weather - a miserable cold/cough
which hopefully is not another bout of what we now call "the European travel bug",
that one which hangs on for weeks and drags one down. Last day in Dublin I felt
 something was going on so started taking meds which obviously didn't work.  
At least I can't blame the recycled air on the plane this time.

Hope to catch up with everyone soon. . . . . good to be home.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Galway to Dublin. . . . . .

Another leg of our wander around Northern Ireland and Ireland brought us back
 to Dublin. The trip from Galway was enjoyable, more lovely green countryside
 to view from the train windows, and a slightly drier day with clouds and touches
 of blue. It has been quite wet and rather chilly much of the trip.

Traditional Irish music has filled our ears - whenever we could find it - bringing
 on toe tapping and hand clapping, both on the streets and within the low-ceilinged,
dark wood walls, and old planked floors, of historic pubs.

First night in Dublin we were back eating at our favorite Italian down by the
 famous Ha'penny Bridge crossing the River Liffey. 
Being the start of the weekend Dublin was of course crowded beyond
 belief - we felt somewhat like the oldest people on the street, and probably were!
Nights in big cities are definitely for the young.

Saturday we were back on the train heading south to Waterford for the day,
and today again, but not quite as far, leaving the train in Kilkenny.
More stories to come of two interesting and quite different towns,
 as we dodged raindrops, sighed happily when the sun popped out, climbed
 castle steps, found a great Irish silversmith (yes bought a beautiful keepsake!),
and had a lovely chat with an author in one of those enjoyable pub breaks to
quench the thirst.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Back to Galway. . . . . . .

If you ever go across the sea to Ireland. . . . .

. . . . .then maybe at the the closin' of your day
You will sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh
And see the sun go down on Galway Bay

Three days in Galway. . . . . . . showers continue, yesterday more like non-stop
 downpours, however today was much better with sunshine and a cool wind. 
It doesn't feel like June but actually is quite nice for walking and sightseeing.
So you grab your rain jacket, tuck an umbrella in your bag, and off you go!
There's plenty of traditional Irish music on the streets and in the pubs. 
A warming bowl of seafood chowder with Irish brown bread and butter, 
a couple of glasses of a favorite beverage to quench the thirst after lots of
 chatting with the very friendly locals, and other tourists from around the world,
and the day flies by.
Follow with a great night's sleep in a comfy bed in one of the best run, 
cleanest hotels we've ever stayed in. If you plan a visit here you can't go
 wrong with the Park House Hotel, just about perfect in every way.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Just half a day in lovely Sligo. . . . . . .

Working our way south, we traveled by bus to Sligo from Derry-Londonderry today. 
Rain fell intermittently, washing the windows, blotting the scenery, but gracing
 the overcast skies with rainbows as we began to travel the Wild Atlantic Way.
 This is the outer edge of Europe stretching along the west coast of Ireland starting
 in County Donegal and ending in County Cork. 

We passed through some beautiful scenery - high hills with gushing waterfalls,
 rolling fields, gorse and sheep covered moorland-type land, interspersed with
 huge stands of fir trees, and a castle here and there.

This afternoon we walked the town in sunshine. The Garavogue river winds its
way from Lough Gill through Sligo town, rushing by with water from recent rains.
It gave the town a feeling of France or Germany, small shops, sidewalk cafés, 
restaurants and historic pubs playing traditional music once late evening
 settled in. Some go back even before poet W.B. Yeats lived here. We listened,
and at the same time enjoyed chatting with young people from many countries,
working here or, like us, just visiting.

Tomorrow we move on to Galway. Having visited there before, and
enjoying it, we are really looking forward to our return.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Northern Ireland's Coast . . . . . . . .

This would be my kind of day at the beach. 
Three people walking dogs, no sunbathing, and a different kind of 'silence' 
as the spring tides wash in and out. 
Here the water can often be turbulent as two seas meet, The Atlantic from
the west and the Irish Sea.
Rathlin Island is just visible, six miles across the Sea of Moyle - the only 
inhabited island off the coast of Northern Ireland. Six miles long and one
 mile wide, the population is increasing and is now around 140. 
Basking seals, puffins and other seabirds have also made this northern most
 point of Northern Ireland in County Antrim their home.
The coach driver warned of riptides and dangers to swimmers. . . . . . . but 
of course we didn't even get to dip our toes or paddle up to our knees. 
We did enjoy the views along the Causeway Coast and scenic area of The Glens.

Belfast has been fun and we leave by train for Londonderry this morning.
Rain has stopped for a while however the umbrella is always close by. 

Friday, May 31, 2019

No wonder. . . . . . . . .

We arrived in rain and it hasn't really stopped yet - perhaps not constant pouring
 rain, but enough to dodge umbrellas and puddle hop throughout the day.  
Yesterday we took an all day coach trip to The Giant's Causeway and other
well known places. . . . . it rained most of the time but the countryside was
gorgeous and green.

We're in Belfast, Northern Ireland for a few days which, though full of history, 
is damp and dreary under a leaden sky. We now know why the pubs are crammed
 with people still in winter clothes and rain wear, boots, and warm scarves
 wound round cold necks, those dripping umbrellas everywhere. . . . . . it's cold
 and everyone is soaked!

So let's lift a pint, sip a glass, and chat to whoever is nearby, after all it's Ireland,
 the locals are happy, very friendly, talking is the national pastime. . . . . . .and if
 you're lucky enough to find a seat by the fireplace, you will be warm and it's
wonderful to come in from the rain. . . . . . . 

. . . . . . . there are also loads of coffee shops everywhere if it's too early
 for the pub, we saw an intersection with well known ones on each corner, 
all full of damp cheerful people!
Thankfully I'm prepared - boots, rain jacket etc. and of course my umbrella.
Tomorrow the train to Londonderry where of course it will be raining!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Day trip to beautiful Cornwall. . . . . . . .

When we meet up with long time blog friends gifts are not required.
Smiles, warm hugs, non-stop chatter is always lovely.
Reading a menu, choosing a wine, toasting to happiness,
good health and friendship . . . . . . . . and a ton of thanks for making time
 in one's day, perhaps traveling some distance, to get to a meeting point is
 what long distance friendship is about.
I've done it often around the world, and many of my blog friends 
have gone out of their way to meet up with me - and usually Bob is
there too!  It's always so exciting, and I have to say it has never been 

We took the train from Devon to Cornwall to meet up with Barbara
 (also known as Elizabethd) of the lovely blog Small Moments.
Barbara and I met via our blogs many, many years ago when she and her
 husband were living in France. They returned to the UK a few years ago and have
 made their home in a small Cornish village. She took a train also and we met
 just about halfway.

I must admit Barbara really spoiled me. Such lovely gifts, and all from Cornwall. 
 I wish you could see the exquisite, delicate embroidery of the 'Cornish Lane' 
framed piece. The rose hand cream smells wonderful, the beeswax candles are lovely, 
and the tea is actually tea grown in Cornwall - the only true English tea - delicate and
 perfect for a summer afternoon. These lovely gifts were packed in the canvas bag
also made in Cornwall - I will find it useful toting items to my car.
Barbara also included a great book for Bob about unusual Cornish places -
he's busy reading it so I forgot to add it to the photos.

Thanks so much dear Barbara. It was so much fun meeting up at long last
 and spending time together over lunch. Hopefully we can do it again some day 
when we're able to return to the lovely southwest of England.

Today: We're in Belfast, Northern Ireland heading out early on a coach trip
to the Giant's Causeway etc.  Guess what, it's raining and chilly!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Back across the pond today . . . . . .

Packed and ready to head east today. 
The overnight to Dublin followed by tomorrow's early morning train to Belfast. 
 A huge change in weather and temperature for sure. Prepared for rain, hoping for sun.
Green and pleasant Ireland with amazing history, scenery, music and food.
It may be hard to beat the trip there a few years back, but travel is what 
you make of it . . . . . . . . and we're planning to make it special.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday morning walk around the seafront. . . . . . . .

Our one Sunday morning in Torquay was cool and somewhat hazy across the
 bay, but with plenty of intermittent sunshine it was perfect for a leisurely early 
walk around the harbour and seafront.  Less exciting things awaited back at 
the flat. . . . . such as packing up to leave for London the next day! 
The tide was in so not much beach was visible, however there were other 
surprises awaiting.

Abbey Sands beach - tide in - and the Rock Walk.  Last visit we spent Christmas 
 in the condos on the far right of the cliff. Beautiful view but 277 slippery steps
 down and then back up was a bit much . . . . . . which is why we chose the much
 more convenient harbourside location this time! 

The cruise ship Artania had anchored in the bay!
In all my years of living in Torquay, then visiting so many times since leaving,
 this is the first I've ever seen. Some years back there was chatter about building
 a 'cruise port' here but apparently that didn't go over well. Ships come now and
 then I hear, anchor in the bay like this one, then ferry their passengers and crew
 into the harbour via their own tenders/lifeboats to enjoy some time ashore.
Passengers we chatted with during our walk were German and told us the call
 there was part of a world tour. . . . . . how nice.

As you can see we still required warm clothes - it was cool when the clouds came in.

The outer harbour and pier.

English dogs are very well behaved on the whole - rarely have I ever seen street
 fights between passing dogs. They walk politely on their leashes, sit quietly at
 outdoor cafés, sometimes indoors in pubs when permitted, and they like to
 pose for photos when requested by their person. . . . . . . and I can assure you 
this handsome pair did not try to bathe in the historic Victorian fountain!
Perhaps English dogs are well educated and can even read!

This sweet mix and matched pair had been for a swim and were drying off on
 the low sea wall - when their person told them to sit, smile and stick their 
tongues out for a photo shoot - they obeyed!
It just seems no matter where you decide to take a walk in England there are 
always really interesting dogs of every breed, color and size.

Yes, there are palm trees in Torquay!!!!
The Gulf Stream passes by the bay as it makes its way through the 
English Channel blessing the area with some type of micro-climate
in which the tropical palms do grow very well.

Corbyn Head and the historic Grand Hotel.

We walked as far as this little cove which holds many childhood memories for me.
When in elementary school - about a two mile walk from here - on warm June 
afternoons before school was out for the Summer hols, my neighbor, whose two
 children were in school with me (sadly all are gone now) would meet us at
 4 PM and walk us to the beach. She'd bring our swimsuits, towels, cheese
 and tomato sandwiches - delicious and soggy after an hour or so in the
 sun - and orangeade drinks, and we'd spend wonderful late afternoon hours
 swimming and hunting for hermit crabs in the rock pools when the tide went out.
Those are days I will always cherish.

Tide in, rock pools just visible. Wasn't until I looked at this photo whilst editing I
noticed the girl - could have been me as she even had pigtails as I did back then!!!!!

The café already busy, and sprucing up the beach huts at Corbyn Head ready for the summer season was in full swing.
I'd love to still be there - must plan to stay longer next visit!

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