Saturday, June 29, 2019

Castles and Coastlines -

Our pre-booked coach tour out from Belfast was probably the wettest day of our trip. . . .
. . . . . . but all was not lost.
It was a reinforcement of why Northern Ireland is a very green place and, 
quite honestly, the rain added to the feeling of being in the land of Games of Thrones
 much more than a sunny day would have. 

The wonderful cliff-top ruins of Dunluce Castle were the location for
 Castle Greyjoy - and if you watched the amazing series you know how atmospheric 
the settings were, making it a really great visual show, that being the main 
reason I got hooked and viewed the entire series.

We didn't book one of the actual Game of Thrones tours which sounded a bit too
commercial, however, while awaiting our coach to pick us up we chatted with one
of those tour guides who looked the part - long hair, straggly long beard etc. - 
and he showed us photos on his phone when he was filming with Kit Harrington 
(Jon Snow) and other 'stars', as an extra, and shared some of the back stories
of being in the show.

The Giant's Causeway - in the pouring rain.
That's not me - but I was soaked also!

Snippets of Northern Ireland country and coast - all taken from the coach.

OK this is where I have to digress from travel to the trials
 and tribulations regarding BLOGGER!  

What is going on with this blogging platform?
Why has it become so crazy lately and why are they not
 doing anything to make it publish/work better? 

For example - anyone else having problems leaving Comments?
I think so because I'm seeing others leaving Comments 
which repeat as many as three times as many of mine
 seem to do now. This is embarrassing when one has to go
 back and delete them from blog friends blogs. 
Do you, like me, hit Publish after you write a Comment
and find it doesn't appear to work - then later if you
go back to look at Comments there are two or even three
of the same Comment published even when you ONLY hit
Publish once?

 Just wondering and trying to deal with the 
frustrations blogging seems to throw at us.

Have a fabulous weekend dear friends - do be careful if you, like me,
have to deal with extreme heat - France appears to be seriously HOT!

I so enjoyed generous comments regarding the Pen Shop in Dublin and the 
fact several of you would enjoy a handwritten note card.  As soon as time 
permits I will gather addresses and follow up on that. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Pen and Ink. . . . . . .

This photo was taken from our table by the window on the upper floor of the little 
Dublin corner pub. It looked out toward the charming antiquated shop front. 
The rain had stopped, the early evening sun peeped out as it often does in Ireland, 
and, as we dined on very good fish 'n chips, I thought about writing.  
Writing with a very good fountain pen as I used to. 

On leaving the pub we crossed the street and peered in the windows at the 
displays. Beautiful writing instruments, boxes of note cards, papers and
 envelopes, I had to go back next morning when the shop was open.
The shop was quaint, pens and such upstairs with two knowledgeable 
young ladies behind the counter. Downstairs, a wonderful selection of 
greeting cards, writing papers, wrapping papers, note cards, notebooks
 and journals.
I could have spent an entire morning there just looking.
I picked out two boxes of exquisite note cards. Perhaps some day
you'll find one in your mailbox - would you like that?

I shared my fountain pen price point, not the cheapest but definitely not
the thousand Euros or more beauties! The clerk showed me several, dipped 
the ones I wanted to test, and showed me how modern pens are filled, 
cleaned etc. I chose a Parker fountain pen, very classic in design and
a brand I used for many years in a different time and place.

There are so many inks available now in every color imaginable.
I decided on a warm brown, choosing an ink from the French company
Herbin (depuis 1670) in Lie De Thé which translates to 'tea dregs'.

Marilyn, you will love that one!
Marilyn is my dear Oregon 'tea lady' friend and, if you want to 
know anything about that particular beverage, be sure to visit 
her always delightful blog, aptly named DELIGHTS OF THE HEART.
We met in person a few years back and shared some lovely cups
of tea together in special Portland places, including her lovely home.

My new pen and ink.
All photos via iPhone

Do you use a fountain pen?  If so, what color is your ink?
Are you interested in sharing the written word via snail mail - a note, 
a postcard with a stamp, handwritten of course - a surprise in your mailbox?
Let me know.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dark Hedges. . . . and the Game of Thrones -

Flying into Dublin from Charlotte, North Carolina was a breeze - 7.5 hours overnight
 on a smooth flight - despite the usual tasteless airline food, bad wine in plastic cups, 
and somewhat dour-faced attendants. Thankfully, an unoccupied seat between us 
allowed us more room. As we who fly coach class know, there is little remaining
 in the way of creature comforts showered on the occupants of the cheaper seats
 (which are no longer that) compared to the old days of passenger care.

We left home in 99F temps. and arrived in the expected cold, chilly rain, and 50F.
Clomping around our point of departure in winter booties, cashmere high-necked 
sweater and a hefty rain jacket brought side glances from the tank-topped, 
shorts and sandals set, but oh was I glad for thinking and planning ahead when
 it came to "there's no bad weather, just the wrong clothing" way of travel.

From the wet Dublin airport we were whisked by a comfortable, clean train through
 the beautiful countryside to Northern Ireland. Probably the best season to see fields
in all their glory, full of newborns - lambs, calves and foals by the hundreds visible
 in every direction, cavorting, curled up sleeping, or nursing from their proud mamas.

We had spent just one day in Belfast on our Irish trip 3 years ago, a rush visit with an 
overall view of the city via Hop On Hop Off bus. This time with 3 days planned 
we were able to relax, get out around the city, and to take a day trip by coach to 
the Giant's Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede and The Dark Hedges etc.

Of course it was raining - I'll be reiterating that statement in posts on Ireland often
 so don't be surprised.
If you were a Games of Thrones viewer you may well recall this beautiful, quite
mysterious place featured in the series as The Kings Road.

More posts to come on beautiful Northern Ireland.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Thinking and healing with movies. . . . .

Sometimes I think I think too much. Even Bob tells me "stop thinking and worrying so much, it's too stressful for you." I'm healing now from the miserable cold. Coughing still but feeling much better. I've passed the cold along to Bob, sorry dear.  I went grocery shopping yesterday as it was the first day I really felt I could handle public scrutiny - less coughing and nose wiping, more clean and shiny, blown-out hair, red lipstick, earrings and sandals. . . . . as it's back in the nineties here. It rained cats and dogs last evening.

I'm in green and pleasant Ireland in my mind. 
I'm still in slow motion.

I've viewed two amazing movies whilst housebound.  Second time around for the now old, but still wonderful, full of raw Italian post-World War II life. . . . . . Cinema Paradiso. The sub-titles keep you on your toes, eyes wide open, the actors hardly appear to be acting, it's all so captivating, funny, and often so sad.

The textures of life, rough, smooth, coarse, delicate and sturdy, all at once - Irish daisies on the train tracks.

The other movie was The City of Your Final Destination from 2009.  A wonderful James Ivory directed film full of beauty, longing, family, and breathtaking scenery of places not all of us are familiar with. Let's face it, families are different. I don''t think any are perfect. Observing them helps makes one understand more about one's own. Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, Omar Metwally, Charlotte Gainsbourg and supporting cast were excellent.  After the first half hour Bob commented it was "slow moving" . . . . I didn't reply because I was loving it so much and did not want my bubble burst. At the end, his first surprising words as the credits rolled were, "that was really great." Yes, he actually loved it.
I said we should do that . . . . . . . pack up, sell up, move to a beautiful place totally distant and new, enjoy the remaining years without ties and tribulations. Ridiculous I know, but escapism is something film has always given us - it makes us see life differently. 
Makes us think!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

From crystal to pure silver. . . . . . . .

Whilst spending several days in Dublin, we decided to be 'day trippers' on two of them,
taking train rides, one to Kilkenny and the other to Waterford, to view the countryside
and have a few hours to explore those towns. BTW, train travel in Ireland is really good
making it easy to get about in reasonably priced comfort.

Knowing that the majority of famous Waterford crystal is no longer manufactured in its
 original Irish home - but in Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany - and with
time limitations, we decided to skip the 'factory/gift shop' tour and spend our time just
viewing the town. On a quick stop into the tourist office for a walking map, we were also
 given a heads up about the local design studio where several of the makers were
former Waterford Crystal employees. Being Sunday, although open, there was only
one artist working . . . . . . . a former designer at Waterford who has moved on from 
glass to silver. I was hooked before even arriving at the attractive creative space.

KITE DESIGN STUDIOS, Waterford on another showery day, but by then we were 
used to walking in the "soft Irish rain" as they call it!

Gene O'Shea makes beautiful pure silver jewelry in patterns I love. 
No longer buying useless souvenirs from places I visit, I do have a penchant
 for locally made jewelry, knowing I will enjoy wearing it, recalling the place
 where it came from, and often will have met the artist who created it making
it even more special.

Gene was delightful to chat with. He polished the silver ring I was wearing (made
 for me years ago by a friend) which was so kind, and then gave me time to look
 at his display case full of beautiful pendants and earrings. It didn't take me long to
 choose a favorite from his Heritage Collection, this lovely necklace full of texture
 and with a story of Celtic origins.

I'm always enthralled by the work spaces of creative people, jewelers being my favorite
 as over the years I've had several friends who have done similar work.

I'm going to really enjoy my pendant to which Gene added a 20" chain.

This photo above is of Gene - for the interesting story of his creative journey
 from crystal to silver, go here to GENE O'SHEA Irish Silver Design

So, a visit to Waterford didn't see me really looking at crystal - though we did stop at a huge 
gift shop in town where there was enough extremely high-priced glass to amaze one, and
thoughts of dropping a piece with those price tags was scary!

................heading back on the train to Dublin after a lovely day exploring another interesting Irish town and finding a local treasure to bring home.

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.