Our 2023 Irish Dancing World Championships experience

Hi there! We’ve happily been an Irish dancing family for the past 18 years, when my son first started dancing at the age of six. All three of our kids have enjoyed it over the years. They have danced in teams (ceili) and solo. Currently, our 19 year old daughter, Cliona, is the only one dancing. The World Championships, of course, is the biggest competition, where people travel from all over the world to compete. Everyone at the World’s must first qualify to be there through regional qualifying competitions. To simply walk on to the World stage is a huge accomplishment!

Cliona on the World stage for her reel.

This year was the first time that Cliona qualified for the World Championships in solo dancing. The event always takes place over Holy Week, rotating between Ireland, the UK, the US and Canada. This year they were held in Montréal, Canada, and what a time we had!

Irish Dancing World Championships in Montreal, Canada.

The World Championships competition is a bit different for the girls, as it is held over two days for each age group, instead of the typical one day for the boys. Cliona’s competition was relatively small with just 105 dancers. They all dance their reel and hornpipe on the first day. Then there is a 50% recall where the top 50% are brought back the second day to dance their reel and hornpipe again. Then there is another recall of the top 2/3. Those dancers then get to dance their set-dance. There are five judges for each dance, and for each round of dancing there are five different judges. So for this competition there would be 25 different judges.

Proud parents with our Irish dancer

So many hurdles to jump through to get to the final results! Our daughter was delighted to get the two recalls and then to have placed 32nd. The caliber of dancers was incredible. We are so proud of her! Admittedly, the first day was quite nerve-racking. It felt like the blanket of stress was lifted once she knew that she recalled for the second day. And that upbeat feeling stayed with her – and us – through the second day, too, as Cliona fully enjoyed the experience.

Cliona getting her first recall medal, with her Aunt and Uncle, and hugging her father after learning that she recalled.

I have to say that everyone we met was so lovely. At this stage, Cliona has been dancing with many of the girls for quite a few years. The recall process is such an ordeal, especially when your friends who are also really good dancers, don’t make it through. I was touched by the kindness and encouragement shown to Cliona by girls who didn’t recall. It was a true showing of sportsmanship. The bottom right picture above shows Cliona getting a hug from her Dad upon finding out she got the first recall. The top picture is of Cliona and her proud Aunt and Uncle. And she was all smiles with me and her first recall medal. 🙂

dancing friends at the World's in Montreal
Friends and fellow dancers from our dance school

We are so proud of how hard our daughter has worked to get to this point. And we’re so thankful to be part of a school, Scoil Rince Móna Ní Rodaigh, that is encouraging, nurturing and supportive, no matter what the outcome is.

Two of our dance teachers: Ciara Lennon and Mona ni Rodaigh with our dancer, Cliona after getting her second recall medal.
Cliona with two of her dance teachers, Ciara and Mona, after the final results

While we were there for the dancing, we did manage to see a bit of Montréal and enjoy time with my brother and sister-in-law. The weather wasn’t quite as hospitable. We had freezing rain, and some cold, gray days, but thankfully we also had some sunny days. We managed to find some wonderful restaurants (Italian, Spanish, Lebanese, and Canadian). I also want to note that we thoroughly enjoyed some freshly made bagels at St. Viateur Bagel Shop – an absolute treat for us as there is nothing like this in Ireland! The weather on our free day was perfect for meandering through ‘Old Montréal’ with its cobblestone streets, markets, and souvenir shops.

collage of family pictures in Montreal
There’s nothing like family! ❤️
Homemade bagels, dinner with family, and at the airport to go to Montreal

We went to Easter mass at the Notre-Dame basilica of Montréal. What a beautiful experience that was, even with the mass being mostly in French.

The Notre-Dame basilica of Montreal
images from within the Notre-Dame basilica of Montreal.

We also discovered the most photographed piece of public art in Montréal, The Illuminated Crowd by Raymond Mason, which is located at McGill College Avenue. This was so intriguing. I must share the description of the sculpture:

A crowd has gathered, facing a light, an illumination brought about by a fire, an event, an ideology – or an ideal. The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man. Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence, murder and death – the flow of man’s emotion through space.

The Illuminated Crowd, Raymond Mason
1985
The Illumination sculpture by Raymond Mason

It was nice to get out and explore the city, and on such a sunny day!

family pictures around Montreal

What a lovely experience it was, to watch our daughter compete in the World Championships. It was such a pleasure to see her shine! Better still to have family there, with us! We’re so thankful that my brother and sister-in-law made the trip to support Cliona. And we all were able to enjoy Montréal as well! 🙂

Cormac with his World Champion first place globe for u16 ceili dancing and Cliona with her 3rd place globe for u13 ceili dancing

The above picture is a throwback to 2014 when my son’s under 16 mixed ceili team won the World Championships in London (That was amazing!) and Cliona’s under 13 mixed ceili team placed third! This picture was taken when we brought the globes home to show the family over Easter.

Here’s to more fun adventures in Irish dancing. 🙂

In Peace,
Dana

A March visit to Powerscourt House & Gardens (and Hotel)

Hello! I think one of the main things people are talking about here, in Ireland, is the amount of rain we’ve had over the past number of weeks. Oh boy, has it been wet! Thankfully, we didn’t let the rain stop us from visiting Powerscourt House and Gardens. It was well worth the visit – and the rain held off while we were in the gardens!

I last visited the gardens in September a year ago with my gardening enthusiast friend, Susan. We decided to visit again now, to see the spring version. 🙂 On both visits, we managed to pick times when there were very few people about, which is great for taking pictures. The Japanese Garden was our favorite on this visit. Although, I have to say that I really liked the formal Italian Garden, too.

View of the Italian garden and Tritan lake at Powerscourt House and Gardens

I loved these flower urns with the cherubs seemingly smelling the flowers (violets). This view looks down on part of the the formal Italian Garden, with Triton Lake down below. Sugar Loaf Mountain in the background completes the picture!

Fun fact: The fountain in Triton Lake is based on the fountain in Piazza Barberini in Rome.

View of the Italian garden at Powerscourt House & Gardens

Here’s another view of the formal Italian Garden. Susan noted that the boxwood hedging around the rose beds that we’d seen on our last visit, has been replaced. We surmise that this is due to the boxwood blight going around the country.

View of the Italian garden at Powerscourt

I took this last picture of the formal Italian Garden to showcase the trees in the background which have daffodils alternating between them. We thought that this grouping is a lovely alternative to a straight row of flowers.

Views from the Japanese garden at Powerscourt House & Gardens

The main splash of color in the Japanese Garden was provided by this beautiful Rhododendron (top right picture). I loved seeing the wild garlic (bottom right picture) and I didn’t realize it would grow on a wall!

rock formation covered in greens.

This interesting rock structure is covered in greens, with water provided by piping which is discreetly placed around the top. It is very pretty in person.

Japanese garden at Powerscourt

This is my favorite picture of the Japanese Garden. It is so serene and beautiful.

Pepperpot Tower

We walked to Tower Valley, which is where you can climb to the top of Pepperpot Tower.

Fun fact: Pepperpot Tower was modelled on a favorite pepperpot from Lord Powerscout’s dining table.

Dana and Susan at the top of Pepperpot tower

Susan and I climbed the 54 steps of Pepperpot Tower and enjoyed a view of the trees.

Daffodils at Powerscourt gardens

It wouldn’t be spring without a display of daffodils!

Powerscourt gardens view of the house and Triton Lake

Here’s another view of Triton Lake looking up to the House and the Italian Garden. The sky was quite gray, but we were happy it stayed dry for us.

Afternoon tea at Powerscourt Hotel
dessert at Powerscourt Hotel

We finished the visit off by enjoying afternoon tea at the Powerscourt Hotel. The food was delicious. Just look at those delightful treats! (We’d finished the sandwiches before I’d even thought to take a picture.) The view out to the gardens was beautiful from our table.

Despite the gloomy weather, we had an absolutely lovely day! And for shopping enthusiasts, there is a gift and plant shop as well as an Avoca shop, all on the estate – definitely something for everyone. It truly is well worth a visit.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed our visit to Powerscourt House & Gardens and Hotel! 🙂

In Peace,
Dana

flowers at Powerscourt Hotel

Flower display in the Powerscourt Hotel lobby.

A St. Patrick’s day to remember

Hi there! Whether you are Irish or not, celebrating the patron saint of Ireland is something that is done around the world. St. Patrick’s day, March 17th, is a national holiday in Ireland, and the festivities (and weather) in Dublin did not disappoint this year.

This was our first time attending the Dublin parade, and I have to say that there was a wonderful atmosphere. The theme was ‘We are one’, which was perfect, given the times we live in. We enjoyed the music of the marching bands, the costumes of the performing arts, and the festive nature of the many participants! We were very lucky with the weather, too, as the rain held off until the late afternoon.

After the parade, we headed across Dublin to the ‘festival quarter’ at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks. There we went to the Céilí Mór – hosted by Dearbhla Lennon with The Shandrum Céilí Band. As it happens, my daughter was part of the dance troupe. It was really nice to see her on stage, enjoying herself! They split the time between the Irish dancers performing for us, Ciara Lennon calling out steps to teach us how to céilí, and volunteers giving their best shot at speaking Irish. Dearbhla did a wonderful job hosting. It was fun, entertaining and best of all, everyone enjoyed themselves! 🙂 One look around the crowd spoke volumes, as we saw countless people céilí dancing – probably not perfectly (me included!), but definitely with smiles on their faces. Even some ‘soft rain’ didn’t dampen their spirits. Thankfully, the sun did follow the rain, shortly after.

I’ve collated a few of the pictures from the parade and the Céilí Mór. It is so difficult picking just a few to post!

I was in Dublin earlier this week, too. I happened to walk through St. Stephen’s Green and was delighted to see the park all dressed up for spring! There were daffodils, primroses and hyacinth galore. And the beds are all starting to waken, with many signs of what is to come. Even though the day was gray, the flowers were so uplifting.

I’m joining Garden Ruminations for the Six on Saturday meme, although I’m possibly stretching the guidelines a tiny bit. I hope you’ll enjoy the pictures I’ve selected!

In Peace,
Dana

St. Stephen's green flowers of primroses and daffodils and hyacinths
Flowers from St. Stephen's green (daffodils and hyacinth)

1 – St. Stephen’s Green park.

daffodils from St. Stephen's Green park

1 – St. Stephen’s Green park. I didn’t want to squish these pictures into a collage – so I’m sheepishly adding them to my first item. It is such a joy to walk through the park and see the beds so well tended to. As far as I could tell, the main beds were just filled with daffodils, primroses and hyacinth. I thought it was beautiful!

Floating garden pictures from Dublin

2 – ‘Floating Gardens’ in Dublin. I love seeing flowers tucked into places that you might not think possible. What are the Floating Gardens? “The Floating Gardens were designed to enhance the biodiversity of the surrounding St. Stephen’s Green area, providing a source of pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies. We commissioned the gardens as part of our strategy to enrich our buildings and green our portfolio.” (per IPUT Real Estate Dublin).

Collage of pictures from St. Patrick's day parade in Dublin, including St. Patrick
collage of pictures from St. Patrick's day parade in Dublin
Collage of pictures from St. Patrick's day parade in Dublin, colorful dancers, masks and the globe represented in a puzzle

3, 4 & 5 – Dublin’s St. Patrick’s day parade. Aren’t those colors fabulous? It’s impossible to give the parade full justice in just a few pictures, but I’ve done my best here. You might find a reel or two on my Instagram account this week, that might bring the colors to life!

Ceili Mor as part of the St. Patrick's day festival

6 – The Céilí Mór. The smiles say it all! Definitely head to my Instagram account for some reels from the dancing. 🙂

How did you celebrate St. Patrick’s day? I hope you had fun!

A quick spa getaway to Iceland

Hi there! My goodness, February sure flew by, didn’t it? It went all the faster for me with the anticipation of my trip to Iceland at the end of the month. What a treat that was! My husband and I had a whirlwind visit that was simply amazing!

I was actually meant to go at the end of January, but strong winds got in the way of that. Thankfully, we had no major weather issues in February.

But let me tell you a bit more about how this trip came about. We first visited Iceland in August 2021. We explored the south-east of the country for about a week and had a wonderful time. I made a mental note that I wanted to return for more time at the Blue Lagoon, given that it is just a two hour and twenty minute flight from Dublin, Ireland. Having just retired, I decided this was the perfect time for a special spa getaway!

It was a super quick visit: we arrived on Sunday afternoon and left early Tuesday morning. We stayed at the Silica hotel, which is a 20 minute drive from the airport, and just a seven minute walk to the Blue Lagoon. The Silica hotel has its own private lagoon, which we thoroughly enjoyed upon our arrival. We more or less had the lagoon to ourselves, with beautiful views of the landscape all around us. We managed to see the sun, briefly, as it was setting, which was stunning. The temperature of the water was around 38° C (100° F). We found the water here to be slightly warmer than at the Blue Lagoon, but both were still very relaxing.

While there are a few different packages for the Blue Lagoon, we chose to visit the Retreat Spa for the day on Monday. It’s a five hour package that nonetheless goes by much too quickly! There are a number of skin treatments to pass the time, as well as a sauna, private lagoon, polar bath, restaurant and quiet places to relax. We also had our very first in-water massage. This was quite the experience! Describing it is rather complicated, but suffice it to say that I loved the juxtaposition of being completely submerged and on my back in the warm water except for my exposed face, which could feel the elements (like when it started drizzling rain for a bit), while getting a back and neck massage under the water. It was super relaxing, and I’d definitely do it again.

We ate dinner both nights at the Lava restaurant, which is at the Blue Lagoon. The food was delicious. We enjoyed lamb, beef and fish (and desserts)! It was just a seven minute walk between the two locations. There is a lovely path to follow through the unique and beautiful moss-covered lava fields. Surprisingly, the path wasn’t lit, which I think would be a really good idea. There was also the option of a shuttle bus, but we preferred to walk. Despite being a short walk, we needed to completely bundle up as it was so windy and cold!

The getaway was everything I had hoped it would be, and more. I loved how convenient everything was and of course, the superb quality. I am already looking forward to the next time I will visit, whenever that will be!

In Peace,
Dana

view of the landscape and lagoon at Silica hotel

Look at that scenery! This is the view from the lagoon at Silica hotel. Off in the top right is the Blue Lagoon hotel & spa. We were very lucky to see the sun – briefly!

collage of images from Silica hotel, including the lagoon, view from the balcony and the hotel itself.

Here are some more pictures from and of Silica hotel. I was lucky that my husband captured these lovely pictures while I enjoyed the relaxing waters of the lagoon!

path from Silica hotel to the Blue Lagoon

These pictures are of the walk from Silica hotel to the Blue Lagoon. The views were of the moss-covered lava fields, and lagoons with beautiful blue waters.

Dana and Paraic at Silica hotel, on the walk to the Blue Lagoon, and in the Blue Lagoon.

We took these pictures outside of Silica hotel (top), on our walk to the Blue Lagoon (building in the picture on the bottom left), and our only picture from the Retreat Spa at the Blue Lagoon. It’s worth noting that there were very few people there in the morning.

The lagoon at Silica hotel at sunset in February 2023.

Ah, isn’t that amazing? 🙂

A February visit to Altamont Gardens

Hi there! Welcome to my blog. Something very special happened this week. It is something that I’ve been wanting to do for many years and this year it finally happened: I went to Altamont Gardens to see the snowdrops (Galanthus)! You know the story, schedules, weather, parenting duties, there have been many excuses for my not going over the years. But this year everything fell into place for me to go with my dear friend, and fellow gardening enthusiast, Susan.

You might remember that I mentioned my very first visit to Altamont Gardens just this past May (you can see that post here). As you can imagine, it was a completely different experience in February, but no less wonderful! We spent the first part of our visit in the nursery. Late winter and early spring is not just a time for pretty flowers such as hellebores and snowdrops. It is also a time for plants with sweet scents in the garden. As we walked along the path we were greeted with the amazing smells of daphne odora, sarcococca, and edgeworthia chrysantha, all stacked on a display cart. The fragrances from these plants can be enjoyed while just standing next to them! Ideally, they should be planted in areas where you’ll best get to enjoy their scent as you pass them by. I have a goal to add at least one to my garden next year!

But most people flock to Altamont Gardens in January and February to see the snowdrops. I’m a newbie to snowdrops. Honestly, I’m happy enough with any type of snowdrop. But you can get lots of different varieties! It is well worth a visit just to see the drifts of snowdrops throughout the gardens. They are a lovely plant for woodlands, and will spread naturally. I was quite surprised to see some very large varieties in the gardens (I prefer the smaller ones). What I didn’t know, was that the leaves of snowdrops have specially hardened tips which they use to push through frozen soil. This is how we get to enjoy them in the coldest months of the year. 🙂

The gardens and nursery were both filled with many different varieties and colors of hellebores, too: double, single, black, white, yellow, pink, green, speckled, plain, hybrid – you name it, they’ve got it!

The walk around the gardens, leading around to the lake, is serene and beautiful. There are benches along the way, to encourage you to stop and take it all in. There were plenty of birds (Great tit, Blue tit, Bullfinches, Goldfinches) and ducks to see.

We were lucky with the weather. It wasn’t too cold, it only sprinkled rain for a short while, and then we enjoyed glorious sunshine to finish out our visit.

It only costs €2 for parking, and is free into the gardens. But it is as much fun buying plants in the nursery as it is exploring the gardens, so be sure to bring your wallet!

collage of flowers from Altamont gardens with road sign for Altamont Gardens. Snowdrops and iris reticulata

Snowdrops, iris reticulata & hellebores greeted us first, upon our arrival at Altamont. The pictures speak for themselves! These beauties are shining bright in the garden, no matter the late winter/early spring weather! The iris reticulata were planted in bunches, which has such a lovely impact. It was the same situation for the snowdrops, with the added benefit of what looked like snow drifts through their naturalizing.

snowdrops

The top right picture is of galanthus Lucy. This variety has lots of green markings on the outside, which I found a little comical. I don’t have a favorite, as they are all beautiful in their own unique way.

snowdrops around the trees at Altamont gardens

Big, beautiful trees line the start of the walk, and they are surrounded by beautiful bouquets (clumps) of snowdrops. It is a sight to see.

iris reticulata in bunches giving an impact along the hedging

These pictures are from near the nursery. The spring flowering cyclamen (a bright fuchsia color) was shouting for some well deserved attention. It certainly broke up the coloring of the snowdrops and iris reticulata. I have to confess that I don’t usually plant bulbs so close together, as is done here with the iris, but what a wonderful impact it has! I will be changing my ways to do the same. (And isn’t that ‘pot’ amazing, in the top right picture?)

scented flowers for the winter and early spring garden: sarcococca and edgeworthia

These are two of the scented plants I mentioned earlier. I didn’t get a picture of the sarcococca flower, but it is a very small and delicate white flower with a big, beautiful scent!

different varieties of hellebores

Here is just a small selection of some of the hellebores at Altamont. There was something for everyone!

Views of Altamont gardens lake and formal garden

Those sculpted yews are my favorite! But of course, the lake is always beautiful.

Views of the lake at Altamont and the lake paths with benches to enjoy the views

An invitation to sit and relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of Altamont gardens!

Dana and Susan at the Daphne shrub at Altamont gardens

I will sheepishly admit that I was not fully sold on the Daphne plant when we first saw a small potted version in the nursery. It wasn’t until we walked near this particular shrub when my senses were fully awakened to the amazing scent of Daphne! I had to get a picture of myself and Susan here. It was such a highlight of the day for me. We laughed, we chatted, we enjoyed the beauty of it all. The day was made perfect by spending it with someone who truly enjoys gardening as much as I do.

Be sure to find yourself a friend just like Susan!

Thanks for stopping by!

In Peace,
Dana

Rare & Special gardening adventures

Hi there! Welcome to my blog. I had the great fortune of spending an entire weekend with a very dear friend, who happens to be as passionate about plants and gardening as I am. What an adventure we had! The end goal was to attend the Rare and Special Plant Fair, in County Cork, but I have to say that the adventures along the way were even more special than the actual fair itself (and the fair was very good!).

First of all, everyone needs to have a ‘Susan’ in their lives. She is simply one of those very good friends – someone who ‘gets me’. We have gone on a few gardening adventures at this stage, and each one brings laughter, smiles, discussions, and me taking notes, because Susan knows so much about so many different plants! When thinking about our trip, a line from The Sound of Music movie comes to mind: ‘these are a few of my favorite things’: spending time with a good friend, garden tours, buying plants, and good food!

Our first stop was to Rare Plants Ireland, in County Dublin, as I wanted another ‘Strong Annabelle’ (mine was called Incrediball, but they are the same), and the very nice proprietor, Finlay Colley, had one set aside for me. This nursery is well worth a visit, in it’s beautiful setting.

We stopped for lunch at one of my favorite places: Avoca (in Rathcoole), as we made our way down the country. Just in case you don’t know, you can be guaranteed of delicious food at any one of the Avoca locations. Their shop is fun to browse, and some locations also have plants for sale. It is always a treat for me, as there are none near where I live. From here, we set out for Altamont Gardens, in County Carlow. I have been wanting to go here for many years, and somehow it just never happened. We decided that this was an opportune time to make it happen.

Before we actually explored Altamont gardens, though, we spent some time in their nursery. A very long time, actually! Every plant that was in flower in the gardens, was available to buy in the shop. It is fantastic marketing – seeing plants in all their glory is definitely the best time to buy them. I had a list of plants that I’ve been thinking of buying, and came away with those and a few others! But I’ll save that for another blog post. Eventually, we did make it to the gardens. The mature gardens at Altamont are simply beautiful. We strolled along the paths taking it all in. The scents all around us were so fabulous! I’m sure I looked quite funny, but I kept ‘sniffing’ the air as it was simply wonderful! We were so lucky with the weather as it was a mild, dry and sunny day – perfect for meandering through the lovely scenery. While pictures are nice, it is always so much better in person.

We did eventually make our way to County Cork. Thankfully, while at Rare Plants Ireland, the owner, Finlay, gave us a heads-up that we should arrive to the Rare and Special Plant Fair 30 minutes before it begins, to get the best selection. We’re so glad he mentioned that! Arriving 30 minutes early got us parked up close and within the first 30+ people on line. We noted the long line of cars waiting to get in, as we were leaving, and were happy to have gone early. The fair itself is in a big open space, with many vendors. You really needed to know what you wanted here, as there were a lot of people and not a lot of space when you were in each vendor’s stall. There was quite a buzz about the place, and so many plants! Two vendors that I usually buy from are Camolin Potting Shed, and Leamore Nursery and they did not disappoint. I managed to find plants here that were on my list! 🙂

The last garden that we visited was Annes Grove Gardens, near Castletownroche, County Cork. These gardens were in the Annesley family since the 1600s. In 2015 they were gifted to the Irish state and entered the care of the Office of Public Works. They have only been opened recently to the public, and while extensive work has already been done, there is still much more planned. Due to ongoing works, you can only view the gardens on a guided tour, which we took part in. We learned interesting information about the gardens and the Annesley family (the name Annes Grove is for Annesley, explaining why there isn’t an apostrophe). It is rhododendron season, and there were many beautiful colors to see. There were also some white crabapple trees that were outstanding. I would definitely say it is well worth a visit. We hope that the OPW, who also run Altamont gardens, will bring the two houses on both estates to a state where they can be toured and appreciated.

I’ve only touched upon these beautiful places to visit. I hope you will venture to see them yourselves. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with Susan, doing what we love to do!

I hope you enjoy the pictures from my adventures!

In Peace,
Dana

collage of pictures of Susan and Dana

It is so much fun to be with someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Life is for enjoying. Do note, though, how we managed to match our outfits perfectly with our surroundings! 🙂

Altamont gardens

Here are some of the beautiful views at Altamont. I loved the sculpted yew trees!

the lake at Altamont

My favorite aspect of this walk was actually the smells and sounds of spring. The rich scents were glorious to enjoy as we made our way along the paths, with the delight of birdsong! The sights weren’t too shabby, either! (Altamont gardens)

Yews and lake at Altamont

There were so many beautiful sights. I tried to balance enjoying the moment with capturing the moment with my camera. (Altamont Gardens)

A bridge between two White crab apple trees

This is one of the first images that grabbed our attention at Annes Grove Gardens. The two white crabapple trees are truly outstanding among the woodlands. The waterway was actually created so that the family could enjoy the sound of the river (!).

The chorus girls, rhododendron

Look at those colors! This fantastic group of rhododendron and bluebells in Annes Grove are referred to as the ‘Chorus Girls’. A very fun name for some vibrant (and boisterous, perhaps?) colors! It certainly brightens up the evergreen background.

Some of the rhododendron at Annes Grove Gardens

Rhododendron are spectacular plants that can grow quite tall. Traditionally, they prefer acidic soil, although some new varieties (Easy-dendron) can grow in any type of soil. I purchased one of these types at Altamont garden – stay tuned for that update! This collage of rhododendron are from Annes Grove. The white ones were definitely my favorite. We were told by our guide that the soil in this area is actually not acidic, but that because of all of the pine trees, the rhododendron do well here. Interesting fact!

The man made pond at Annes Grove

These are some views from the pond / river garden, which as I mentioned, was man-made.

Formal gardens at Annes Grove

I love walled gardens, and this was no exception. There were little nooks and crannies that will hopefully be more open to explore as renovations are completed.

A Fuchsia Gooseberry plant, a black peony and a wedding cake tree

These images are of a black peony (top right), a ‘wedding cake’ tree (Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’), and a very interesting Fuchsia gooseberry shrub (Fuchsiaflower Gooseberry) – all from Annes Grove Garden.

This wild garlic and bluebells among some beautiful trees is from Annes Grove Gardens – an end to a wonderful weekend. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour, and that you will be able to visit the gardens yourself at some stage. As always, thank you for stopping by! 🙂

A visit to Powerscourt House & Gardens for ‘Six on Saturday’

Hello, and welcome to my blog! I had the pleasure of visiting one of Ireland’s beautiful country estate gardens a few weeks ago. It was my first visit and I can assure you that I will be back again as it was simply a wonderful experience. It is no surprise that National Geographic Magazine has rated it one of the top 10 gardens in the world. I traveled with my friend Susan down to Enniskerry, County Wicklow. We made a day of it, topping it off with afternoon tea at the Powerscourt Hotel (located adjacent to the gardens). I’ve decided to share my reflections on the day as part of the ‘Six on Saturday’ meme as led by The Propagator. So let’s begin!

Powerscourt House & Gardens Italian Garden
Dana and Susan with Italian Garden and urns with geraniums

1 – The Italian Garden. I like the orderliness of the Italian garden. Everything is neatly in its place, with formal lines and symmetry. I find that peaceful (and funny enough, the opposite of my own garden). October 12th happened to be mostly sunny and mild, which was perfect weather for walking the gardens. I was a tiny bit obsessed with the geranium planters. Firstly I really liked the foliage of the geranium. Some of the urns had sweet cherubs, facing in to the plant. But with the plant overgrown, it quite looked like they were hiding their faces. Some of the urns had devil-like faces and always with horns (a symbol of strength). Very interesting to see these on innocent flower planters. We also enjoyed the views of the Sugar Loaf Mountain, as can be seen clearly from here. As a note of interest, the terraces were designed in the 1840s by architect Daniel Robertson, taking more than 12 years to build.

Japanese Garden at Powerscourt House and Garden
Japanese Garden at Powerscourt House and Gardens, Dana and Susan

2 – Japanese Garden. As far as our timing, we were probably a couple of weeks out from peak foliage coloring. But we thoroughly enjoyed seeing the trees as they were in their transition state. The Japanese garden, created in 1908, has lovely, sometimes hidden, pathways. We meandered around the paths, taking it all in. It was so interesting to capture the views with different perspectives, as there are many different levels in the garden. This is a much more intimate feeling space than the Italian garden.

Images from the walled garden at Powerscourt Gardens
flowers from the walled garden at Powerscourt Gardens

3 & 4 – Walled Garden. This one definitely deserves two counts! I totally lost myself in the Walled garden, among ‘Ireland’s longest herbaceous border’. There was simply an abundance of color, shape and texture! Dahlia’s stole the show for me, but there were many supporting flowers. I have to add that one of the workers, who was busy weeding the beds here, was so kind and patiently answered our questions, even going out of her way to point out to us her favorite flowers. I spent a lot of time gawking. I loved the palate of colors, and with the mostly clear day, the mountains were a pretty backdrop.

fresh flowers in the entrance of Powerscourt Hotel
Afternoon tea at Powerscourt Hotel

5 – Afternoon tea at Powerscourt Hotel. Sure why not? What’s not to love about having delicious food in a beautiful setting with a dear friend? I have to confess that my love of flowers has me scrutinizing hotel lobbies, seeking out if they have fresh flowers. Powerscourt Hotel did not disappoint! The flowers, in shades of purple and pink, were quite showy and absolutely gorgeous! Our own dining table had a beautiful orchid, looking so delicate in a glass bowl. And sweetly, there were tiny flower petals on our sandwiches. I usually drink my (decaf) coffee in a heavy pottery mug. Drinking out of a tea cup made it feel that bit special. It was a treat that we both thoroughly enjoyed!

Triton lake at Powerscourt House and Gardens

6 – Triton lake. I’m always drawn to water. I usually find it soothing, especially fountains. This fountain is based on the one in Piazza Barberini, in Rome. It is a quite a focal point when looking out across the lake.

There were so many beautiful plants, trees and ‘things’ to see at Powerscourt House and Gardens! I’d highly recommend a visit, no matter what month it is. I’m sure the gardens are equally as lovely throughout the different seasons.

I hope you are keeping well. Take care!

In Peace,
Dana

Enjoying Ashford Castle in all its decadent splendor

Hello there, and Happy New Year! The garden is not showing a lot of color at the moment, so I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about our stay at Ashford Castle. Ashford Castel is more than 800 years old. While having been updated and restored through the years, the most recent refurbishment took place when the Red Carnation Hotels took over in 2013. We were very lucky with the timing of our trip in the fall, as there were no national travel restrictions and we were allowed to travel the two and a half hour drive across the country to Cong, County Mayo. My husband had organized everything as a special birthday treat to me, which had me feeling like a well loved princess!

I must say that from the moment we entered the grounds, there was a feeling of wonderment and awe. The grounds are beautiful. The castle is beautiful. The experience was beautiful. It was, simply stated, absolutely fabulous.

O.K., so what made it fabulous in my eyes? The grounds. We were able to roam the spacious grounds, admiring the gardens as well as walking the trails along the lake for hours. Luck was definitely on our side, as the weather was dry for most of our visit, so we were able to truly enjoy the outdoors.

What else did I love? I loved the grandeur of the castle. Every room felt special, and yet inviting. The staff played their part in making us feel welcome and at home, too. We decided to have a look around the area, too, and left the grounds to go hiking. It wasn’t too far from the castle: ‘Sean Bóthar’ (the old road) between Clonbur and Corr na Móna, Co. Galway. It was lovely to get out and stretch our legs. And what better way to follow up a hike than with a spa treatment back at the castle! Due to Covid-19 restrictions, my husband and I were the only ones allowed to use the recovery room and the pool after our spa treatments, which was quite peaceful. The atmosphere was so relaxing. It was simply perfect to just enjoy being present in the moment. I also found the decorative wall at the pool to have stunning ceramic work. 🙂

Every moment was enjoyable, honestly. We loved the food, the wine, the desserts. It was all delicious! Our two night stay went much too quickly. But before we left, my husband insisted that I watch The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. It was filmed in the area in 1952 and essentially ‘put Ireland on the map’, as they say. The hotel has it on demand on tv, so sure enough, we watched it! Still not my favorite movie, but at least now I can say I’ve seen it!

Celebrating our birthdays has become such a treat. Having lost my sister years ago when she was just 35, I make sure to always celebrate our birthdays, because it is such a privilege to do so. Especially given the year we’ve had with the pandemic and not being able to travel as usual, it was wonderful to get away to such a beautiful part of the country and enjoy such a time at such a regal castle.

I very much look forward to when we will return again!

I hope you enjoy the pictures!

In Peace,
Dana

Ashford Castle full view
Ashford Castle – (view of Tollman garden) what I noted here was the beautiful repeat of plantings throughout the gardens
view of Ashford Castle grounds from bedroom
View of the Tollman Garden, from our bedroom. This, and the other gardens, were laid out by the Guinness family in the nineteenth century, are said to be among the finest of the many beautiful country house gardens to be found in Ireland. The circular pond, which measures eleven meters, was added in 1996.
my husband and me in front of Ashford Castle
It was a perfect sunny day when we arrived!
view of the lake
The forecast was for rain, so we were delighted to enjoy an afternoon of sun!
garden art (bird)
Eagle with fish. Good time to mention their falconry school which is the oldest in the country!
Ashford Castle gardens
Since 2013, when the castle was bought by Red Carnation Hotels, it has undergone major refurbishment
formal gardens
I enjoy the peacefulness of gardens
a fountain
The fountain was a surprise and a delight to see
Ashford Castle green pathway
A lovely enclosed living pathway
kitchen garden at Ashford castle
more gardens at Ashford castle
Garden art - a rabbit at Ashford Castle
More garden art – this time a rabbit in the kitchen garden!
garden view at Ashford castle
Even at the end of September, the garden was still lovely
path in the garden at Ashford Castle
I enjoyed seeing the plantings
rudbeckias
I never pass on the opportunity to capture Rudbeckias
garden bench
There were plenty of seats in the garden!
garden bench
Here’s another place to rest and enjoy the moment.
view of Lough Corrib
Beautiful view of Lough Corrib
mom in the garden's husband
My husband was a good sport about having his picture taken!
view of Lough Corrib behind mom in the garden and husband
Lovely view of the lake behind us!
row of rounded box plants
But did I get enough pictures of the garden?
collage of the gardens
The tremendous, old trees were stunning.
Vase of roses at Ashford castle
O.K., confession time: I walked up and touched these roses. Yes I did. They were too perfect to be real, right? Wrong. They were 100% real.
roses in main entrance
I might have taken several pictures of said roses…
view of suit of armor
I suppose when the castle is 800 years old, you’re bound to see a suit of armour?
artwork at Ashford castle
Unfortunately, there was very little ‘hanging about’ due to Covid-19.
We were happy enough meandering around the castle, though!
artwork at Ashford castle
I love old artwork. And archways. And walls. Did I mention that all of the walls were covered in fabric? Each wall was more lovely than the next.
chandelier at Ashford castle
This chandelier was my favorite. It is made of Murano glass.
bedroom at Ashford castle
A very comfortable room with a beautiful view of the garden and lake.
bathroom at Ashford Castle
Yes, this is how I spent a lot of the time!
This was on our hike: ‘Sean Bóthar’ (the old road) between Clonbur and Corr na Móna, Co. Galway
hike near Ashford Castle long wall
There were a lot of winding hills and rock walls on our hike.
I could really say this about any part of Ireland, but this part of the country is beautiful! The difference it makes when the sun peeks through even for a few minutes!
two donkeys
I seem to have a connection with animals 🙂 Nah, they were hopeful for apples!
two donkeys
gorse
It is very common to see gorse while hiking. But don’t get too close as it is quite thorny!
the pool
The ornate ceramic wall at the pool was beautiful.
Perfect timing for pampering after our hike!
Cullen's at the Cottage, a traditional thatched cottage
Cullen’s at the Cottage, is a restaurant in a traditional thatched cottage on the ground of Ashford castle. The food here is delicious, too!
This is the beautiful garden at the front of Cullen’s at the Cottage (the traditional thatched cottage) which is just a stone’s throw from the castle
front entrance of Ashford castle
Just a photo at the front entrance of the castle 🙂
There was even a bit of a surprise when the staff sang ‘Happy Birthday’! (I think we had the restaurant to ourselves at this stage!)
I did indeed screen shot the movie! Proof that I watched The Quiet Man 🙂
Statue in honor of The Quiet Man

We certainly had a lovely time. The sun didn’t hang around as much as we would have preferred, but at least it was dry for most of our visit.

The main entrance
Leaving the castle behind us…

I hope you have enjoyed the tour. Please do stop by again! As always, keep well and stay safe. 🙂

Memorial Day – A Time to Remember

Arlington National Cemetery

Hello there! Although I’ve lived in Ireland for nearly 12 years, if you heard me speak just a few words you would know that I am American. 🙂  But my being American goes much deeper than my accent, of course. I will always be American, and proud of where I come from. So as an American, Memorial Day is a special day to remember those who have fought for freedom. On this day, I am reminded of a trip our family took last year to visit Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia. It was quite a somber experience. It was spring time, and I have to say it was the most beautiful cemetery I’ve been to, with spring flowering deciduous trees throughout the vast grounds which are punctuated with gravestones – many, many gravestones (of approximately 400,000 veterans and their eligible dependents). There was a strong feeling of gratitude for those who have fought for our freedom. The sense of awe and admiration was truly palpable. We didn’t say much as we walked through the grounds. It was a contemplative time, a peaceful time, a time to remember.

Arlington National CemeteryWe toured a number of national memorial monuments around Washington D.C. while on that trip, and I share with you today just a few of those pictures.

American flag at half mast at Arlington National Cemetery

American flag at half mast at Arlington National Cemetery

May we always remember those who have fought for freedom.

I hope you continue to be safe and well.

In Peace,
Dana

Arlington National Cemetery view of headstones

Arlington National Cemetery

From the Arlington National Cemetery website: Arlington officially became a national cemetery on June 15, 1864. The original cemetery was 200 acres, and has since grown to 639 acres (as of early 2020). Initially, being buried at a national cemetery was not considered an honor, but it ensured that service members whose families could not afford to bring them home for a funeral were given a proper burial. The first official “Decoration Day,” later renamed Memorial Day, was held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868.

Arlington National Cemetery Tomb of unknown soldier

Arlington National Cemetery – Tomb of the Unknown soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated on November 11, 1921, with interment of the Unknown from World War I.

Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Amphitheater

Arlington National Cemetery – Memorial Amphitheater

Memorial Day became so popular that in 1873, the amphitheater was constructed to hold the official ceremonies. Renamed the James Tanner Amphitheater, it has recently been reopened after reconstruction.

Arlington National Cemetery spring trees

Arlington National Cemetery – spring flowering deciduous trees

Arlington National Cemetery pink dogwood

Arlington National Cemetery – Pink Dogwood tree

 

Freedom is not free memorial

Freedom is not Free – part of the Korean War Veterans Memorial

A reminder that freedom comes at a cost.

The Price of Freedom - description of memorial

The Price of Freedom – World War II Memorial

The Price of Freedom - World War II Memorial

The Price of Freedom – World War II Memorial. Each star represents 100 people who died or remain missing in the war.

Discovering a ‘gem’ while on vacation! (the Chihuly collection presented by Morean Arts Center, St. Petersburg, Florida)

Carnival Chandelier, 2008, Chihuly Collection

Carnival Chandelier, 2008, Chihuly Collection

(close up) Carnival Chandelier, 2008, Dale Chihuly Collection

(close up) Carnival Chandelier, 2008, Dale Chihuly Collection

Azul de Medianoche Chandelier, 2004

Azul de Medianoche Chandelier, 2004

(close up) Azul de Medianoche Chandelier, 2004

(close up) Azul de Medianoche Chandelier, 2004

Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier, 2010

Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier, 2010

a description of Dale Chihuly's chandeliersIt is wonderful going on vacation, isn’t it? There are two aspects to vacation for me: 1. Relaxing with family and 2. Discovering/exploring/learning something or someplace new. I had the pleasure of visiting my family in Florida over Christmas. It was wonderful to get to spend time with family, especially over Christmas! We also ventured out to see the Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center, in St. Petersburg, Florida. What a collection!

I only learned about Dale Chihuly this past April when my daughter and I came across his work while visiting the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (I wrote about that here). During that visit, I learned that his work is renowned around the world! Interestingly, this building at the Morean Arts Center was purpose built to hold this collection of Chihuly’s work. They showed a documentary film which covered all of Chihuly’s work, which was fascinating to watch. It was so interesting to learn how his collections come about. First of all, he works in teams made up of anywhere from 5 to 18 people, although the concepts and ideas are his. He also doesn’t usually handle the glass, as he only has vision in one eye following an accident from years ago. He is a prolific drawer and painter, and from those drawings and paintings come forth the ideas for new collections. It is an incredible, fast paced, constantly evolving process.

The Morean Arts Center also has a studio and ‘hot shop’ just across the street from the museum where they give blown glass demonstrations. This gives a wonderful perspective on the process of how the items are created and how unique each one is. It is well worth the visit!

Our teenage girls also enjoyed seeing the collection and the demonstration, making it a successful family outing! 🙂

I hope you enjoy the pictures, although I’d highly recommend seeing the collection in person!

In Peace,
Dana

blown glass in the ceiling between show rooms (Chihuly Collection) Morean Arts Center

blown glass creations in the ceiling between show rooms (Chihuly Collection) Morean Arts Center

Float Boat, 2007 Gift of Bill and Hazel Hough

Float Boat, 2007 Gift of Bill and Hazel Hough

Float Boat, 2007 Gift of Bill and Hazel Hough

Float Boat, 2007 Gift of Bill and Hazel Hough

Dale Chihuly's drawings

Dale Chihuly’s drawings

Venetians

Venetians

Venetians description

Venetians

Venetians

Venetians

Venetians

Venetians

Venetians

Venetians

Venetians

work by Dale Chihuly

pieces from the Chihuly collection at the Morean Arts Center

Silvered White Spotted Ikebana with Gilded Purple Stems, 2006

Silvered White Spotted Ikebana with Gilded Purple Stems, 2006

Silvered White Spotted Ikebana with Gilded Purple Stems, 2006

Silvered White Spotted Ikebana with Gilded Purple Stems, 2006

 

Sunset Persian Wall - 2010

Sunset Persian Wall – 2010

Sunset Persian Wall - 2010

Sunset Persian Wall – 2010

The Mille Fiori (Italian for a thousand flowers) display is simply breathtaking!

Mille Fiori 2010 - Dale Chihuly

Mille Fiori – 2010

Mille Fiori- 2010 - Dale Chihuly collection

Mille Fiori – 2010

Mille Fiori - 2010 - Dale Chihuly collection

Mille Fiori – 2010

Mille Fiori 2010

Mille Fiori 2010

Mille Fiore 2010

The demonstration in the ‘hot shop’ brought the experience to life! It is very much worth going to see!

hot shop demonstration of blown glass

demonstration of blown glass at the ‘hot shop’

demonstration of blown glass at the 'hot shop'

demonstration of blown glass at the ‘hot shop’

family picture at the demonstration of blown glass

Family selfie before the demonstration!