Killary Harbour Coastal Walk

Killary Harbour

view of Killary Harbour and the farmed mussels behind us as we hiked towards Rosroe pier

I have lived in Ireland for 11 years and the beauty here never ceases to amaze me. There is so much to do and see, especially along the Wild Atlantic Way. To celebrate my Father-in-law’s 80th birthday, all 20 members of the extended family went away for the weekend to the Killary Lodge, which is a stone’s throw from Killary Harbour. Despite the bad weather we’d been having the past few weeks, we lucked out with two nice days of no rain! ūüôā

view of Killary Fjord from hiking path

The coastal path had a great view of Killary Fjord.

Killary Harbour (An Caol√°ire Rua) in Connemara is one of just three glacial fjords in Ireland, the others being Lough Swilly and Carlingford Lough. It forms a natural border between counties Galway and Mayo and is 16 kilometres long.

I turned to DiscoverIreland.ie to learn some more information about the area:

On the northern shore of the fjord lies the mountain of Mweelrea, Connacht’s highest mountain, rising to 814 metres. To the south rise the Maumturk Mountains and the Twelve Bens.

There are two minor settlements nearby. On the southern side near the mouth of the fjord lies the hamlet of Rossroe while Leenaun lies inland to the east.

Nearby lies the so-called Green Road, a rough road running along the side of the fjord back east towards Leenane at the head of the fjord. It stretches for approximately nine kilometres and was part of the famine relief program during the 19th century.

Aquaculture is important locally with a salmon farm based at Rossroe while mussel rafts are a common sight more to the east.

Killary Harbour

beautiful views of the harbour

Organizing activities for 20 people to do together is challenging. On this day, given the different abilities, we split into “hiking” vs. “non-hiking” groups. Our hiking group included 5 cousins, 2 brothers and two sisters-in-law. This hike was really nice. The only challenging part was the fact that it was 14 kilometers. It took us four hours to complete, and by the end we were all pretty tired! ūüôā

stone wall along Killary harbour walk

Stone walls are a (beautiful) common feature.

Here in the West of Ireland, the stone walls, typically for dividing fields, don’t have mortar and are thus called dry stone walls.

full view of a long stone wall

View of the other side of the stone wall along the Killary harbour walk.

climbing a gate along the path

Climbing a gate along the path.

waterfall

Waterfalls are great for photos ūüôā

waterfall

It is harder to see, but this is the view of the same waterfall taken from the Killary Harbour boat tour we took the day after our hike! You can just make out the stone wall pathway.

hiking along Killary habour

We hiked at a family pace, and whenever I needed a rest I just took pictures!

climbing high on the Killary coastal path

The walk was manageable with some rocky terrain, some dirt paths, and some country roads.

view of Killary harbour

A requisite selfie with my husband ūüôā

Killary harbour view

a blue sky backdrop looking to Rossroe

We stopped and had our picnic lunch when we reached Rossroe pier. Not only did blue skies appear, but the weather turned warmer at this stage, too.

Rosroe pier

Rosroe pier is where the coastal path ended and the country road path began.

stone cottage

stone cottage along the road

stone wall and sheep

Two common features: stone walls and sheep.

Mayo Blackface Sheep

Mayo Blackface Sheep, originally from Scotland, are mainly raised for their meat and not their wool.

looking down hill of path

The two littlest in our group, 9 year old cousins, added walking sticks at about 8 kilometers, helping them to keep going for the entire 14 kilometers!

view of hills

Although different from the coastal views from the first half of the hike, the views were beautiful along the entire walk.

lake view

We passed some lakes, too (see the sheep?).

rhododendrons and lake view

The Rhododendrons were at the very end of their season, with just a few blooms left.

lake and mountain view

It was at about this point (about 9 km) when we started singing Scouting songs! (Did you catch them on my Instagram stories?)

We saw some interesting things along the way!

donkey

a quiet donkey

turf drying out in pyramids

In the bog you could see the turf being dried out after being cut into briquettes, and arranged in pyramids.

turf pyramid

briquettes of turf

bog land

Harvested turf

bog cotton

Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium), also known as bog cotton (thanks goes to my sister-in-law for knowing this!).

sheep in road

Typical scene in Connemara

road sign

End of the hike for us

A picture of ‘just the girls’ at the start of our 14 km hike

I have to add that the next day, we went on a boat tour of the harbour and were delighted to see three dolphins! I managed to capture one of them with my camera, and enjoyed seeing the others “live”.¬† What a treat it was!

dolphin fin in Killary harbor

Dolphin in Killary Harbour as seen on our boat tour

Any plans to visit Ireland? ūüôā

In peace,
Dana

‚Äė1-4-3 Day‚Äô to celebrate Mister Rogers‚Äô message of love

Mister Rogers sculpture

‘Tribute to Children’ sculpture of Mister Rogers

I had the pleasure of seeing the ‘Tribute to Children’ statue of Mister Rogers, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in April. It was a beautiful spring day, and we were enjoying a pleasant walk along the river when we came across the statue. Seeing “Mister Rogers” brought back many happy childhood memories of watching his show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood!

Mister Rogers statue view over the river

Mister Rogers’ statue view over the river

Today, May 23rd, the 143rd day in the year, has been declared Mister Rogers day by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, to celebrate Fred Rogers’ message of love, which he often said as ‘1-4-3’ for ‘I Love You’.

‚ÄúHe would always refer to 143 as a way of spreading kindness, and remembering how he felt toward other people,‚ÄĚ said Roberta Schomburg, executive director of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children‚Äôs Media at Saint Vincent College.

I was feeling nostalgic, and bought the book “Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers – Things to Remember Along the Way” by Fred Rogers. It is a lovely little book so full of wisdom. One of my favorite quotes is this one:

“just who you are at this moment, with the way that you’re feeling, is fine. You don’t have to be anything more than who you are right now.”

Yes, I think it is a wonderful idea to bring back more of Mister Rogers’ ways of spreading love and kindness to our neighbors. What a gifted person he was! Creator, composer, writer, puppeteer, and host of his show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In everything he did, he was spreading the message of kindness and love. Always. It might be impressive for this Presbyterian minister to have been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, as well as having been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But I think the positive impact he had, and continues to have, on countless lives is the true gift which he gave to all of us.

Mister Rogers statue view from the back

Mister Rogers statue view from the back

Today’s recognition of Fred Rogers’ message of love and kindness is to encourage a statewide celebration of kindness (not just today, but especially today) – and people are being encouraged to use Twitter with the #143DayinPa hashtag.

Mister Rogers sculpture

Mister Rogers bronze sculpture in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The 7,000 pound (3.5 tons) bronze sculpture was created by famed artist Robert Berks. The 10’10” height was Berks’ way to convey the “overwhelming awe” children felt while watching Mister Rogers. The location with the beautiful view along the river was chosen to honor Mister Rogers’ love of swimming. The site also has a sound system, where visitors can listen to 29 musical compositions by Fred Rogers.

Tribute to the Children plaque

Fred Rogers always spoke in such a calm and soothing manner, and his message was always clear and simple. I think we could all benefit from going back to basics to truly focus on what is important: Love your Neighbor.

“Would you be mine, could you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor?”

In peace,
Dana

Phipps Conservatory – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

side view of Phipps Conservatory

Our family had the pleasure of visiting Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently to visit with family. It is fun to visit a location as a tourist, as you can really delve into what is on offer. We visited a few places that I would highly recommend to you!

display of flowers

one of the first flower displays at the start of the tour

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is one such place which we highly recommend. The history of the conservatory goes back to the glasshouse, which was built by philanthropist Henry W. Phipps as a gift for the people of Pittsburgh in 1893. Their brochure says that they “strive to demonstrate the important and innate connection between people, plants, health, beauty, and the planet.” Following our visit, I think my daughter and I would agree that they are right on the money.

my daughter was all smiles among the flowers

My daughter is 15, and I have to say that she is usually agreeable to joining me to see gardens (well, most of the time!). I wasn’t really sure how much she would enjoy this visit. But we went through the entire conservatory, each of us pointing out something interesting to the other with lots of “oohs” and “ahs”! There were beautiful artworks by American glass sculptors Dale Chihuly and Jason Gamrath featured throughout the displays, which we particularly liked. Truly, we both thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

These “Cattails” were created by Dale Chihuly for his first exhibit at Phipps in 2007.

blown glass display

“Seven Paint Brushes” glass art display by Dale Chihuly

I still surprise myself with how much I enjoy learning about plants and seeing them in their best state.  I find myself shouting out the names of plants when I see them. You do that, too, right? No? Just me?

blown glass display

These beautiful pieces are Jason Gamrath’s signature blue pitcher plants and reside in the Fern Room.

Jason Gamrath’s signature blue pitcher plants up close

blown glass flowers

These are oversized orchid blooms by Jason Gamrath and provide a colorful complement to the Butterflies in the Butterfly Forest.

There are a lot of pictures. It was difficult deciding which ones to leave out! I hope you’ll enjoy our little tour of Phipps Conservatory. It is well worth a visit, any time of year!

In peace,
Dana

glass light hanging with cactus plants

This glass work by Dale Chihuly was created specifically for this spot in the Desert Room.  What a gorgeous sun it is!

we had a lovely sunny day that wasn’t too hot in the glass houses

room after room with beautiful blooms!

the ordinary looking extraordinary!

Dwarf Fothergilla – Fothergilla gardenii (southeastern US)

Doublefile Viburnum – Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Shasta’

Doublefile Viburnum – Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Shasta’¬† ¬† (one of my favorites!)

I loved the glass art! This Celadon and Royal Purple Gilded Fiori piece is at the center of the Tropical Fruit and Spice Room.

floral artwork

child statue in garden

“Joyous Boy” also known as the “Teddy Bear Statue” was sculpted in 1923 by Geneva Mercer.

“Joyous Boy” also known as the “Teddy Bear Statue” by Geneva Mercer. Too cute!

Lot of things for kids (big and small) in the Discovery Garden!

having fun in the Discovery Garden

This is an Albutilon pictum, also knowns as a flowering maple. It was quite tall and the flowers were above our heads. (Thank you to Cheryl M. for giving me the plant’s name on my Mom in the Garden facebook page!)

These are referred to as “The longfellows” which are whimsical glass figures created by Hans Godo Fr√§bel, residing in the Orchid Room.Aren’t they neat?

“The Longfellows” by Hans Godo Fr√§bel

just a few of the many beautiful orchids

There were rainbows of colors throughout!

A full view of the oversized orchid blooms by Jason Gamrath. I’ll take a set of those, please.

lovely pink dogwood tree and Japanese maple

growing willow is on my “going to try this one of these days” list…

a very pretty Rain Chain

Japanese Stewartia – Stewartia pseudocamellia – Japan (isn’t that bark pretty?)

if only I could get my veggies to look this good!

joyous color!

 

this piece is amazing! (see photo below for more details)

This is the Goldenrod, Teal and Citron Chandelier created by Dale Chihuly which hangs from the glass-domed entrance of the Welcome Center.

The End! ūüôā

 

 

 

Nine Eleven, Because we will never forget…

Artwork from the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, Massachusetts July 2017

This year marks the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11.  It is hard to believe so many years have gone by since that fateful day.  I know exactly where I was, and what I was doing, when life as we knew it suddenly changed forever.

In this part of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza the trees were planted in an orderly fashion in neat rows

This summer I had the chance to visit New York City. I had not been to the 9/11 Memorial, so I wanted to spend some time there. I confess that I was unprepared for my reaction. It was a beautiful sunny day, yet the atmosphere upon entering the plaza was sombre. It was quite emotional, overwhelming, and yet beautiful.  So beautiful.

This part of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza is where the trees were planted in “chaos”

All of the nearly three-thousand names of those who were senselessly taken from us in those attacks are engraved along the rim of the memorial. ¬†I was struck … with sadness. I prayed for them, for us, for everyone.

The memorial pools

nearly three thousand names are engraved in the bronze parapets

The tree lined memorial pools are beautiful and serene.  I walked ever so slowly around them, needing to run my fingers over the names. So many names.

This brought more tears to my eyes …

I couldn’t speak. ¬†I kept my sunglasses on, except to continually wipe my eyes. It was all too much.

A rose is placed upon the victim’s name on their birthday

Seeing the roses broke my heart.  I thought it was touching how each person is remembered on their birthday. Yet the tears flowed.

“Reflecting Absence” was what the architect Michael Arad, along with landscape architect Peter Walker, called their design

It was such an experience.  I felt the weight of so many sad stories. The pools, though, were so beautiful. I cannot explain it but the continually flowing water was so healing to listen to and to see.

The Survivor tree

Then we met a volunteer. ¬†I was still choked up and couldn’t really talk, but I listened. ¬†I listened as he told us the amazing story of the “Survivor Tree”. ¬†This pear tree (or part of it, actually), was found at Ground Zero in October 2001. ¬†It was in a terrible state and severely damaged, but remarkably it showed signs of life. ¬†It was rehabilitated for nine years before being brought back here to the Memorial plaza. The volunteer pointed out to us how you could see the new limbs extending from the damaged stumps. ¬†This tree, in so many ways, represents the determination of a survivor: to beat the odds and then to even go beyond that by thriving.

water flowing over the walls of the 9/11 Memorial pool

I was emotionally drained. ¬†But what I was struck by was that over the course of the 24 hours I had been in New York City, this was yet another experience of a New Yorker being kind, warm and friendly to me. ¬†It filled me with pride to be a New Yorker myself, even though I’m not from NYC. ¬†In these times of uncertainty, it is heartwarming to see genuine kindness in so many people.

the 9/11 Memorial plaza

I hope that if you have the chance to visit New York City that you will make the time to visit this beautiful memorial and to pay tribute to all those innocent victims and national heroes. You can find more information about the Memorial here. ¬†The memorial is located at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan at 180 Greenwich St. ¬†I haven’t mentioned it in this post, but there is also a museum at this site.

May we never forget.

In peace,
Dana

 

Crochet fish go exploring to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge & the Giant’s Causeway

View from the walk near Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

View from the walk near Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

What a title, huh? ¬†I could not decide on whether to go the “crochet” route, or the “travel” route, so I combined them! The truth is that I thought it¬†would add a little bit of fun to my post. ūüôā

two crochet fish

two crochet fish

I’ll start with the story about the fish. ¬†Last year I visited my young nephew while on vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I scored some major points after giving him a cuddly seal for his birthday. He *loved* it. ¬†He did comment though, that he had no fish to feed “Sealy”, which of course was a very sad situation. ¬†Well, it was even more sad since¬†it took me an entire year to make some fish for him!

easy pattern crochet fish

easy pattern crochet fish

I wanted an EASY and free pattern and of course I found one on Pinterest. I won’t tell you how long I spent on Pinterest even after I found a pattern… ¬†Anyway, the one I used fit the bill perfectly.

http://oombawkadesigncrochet.com/2014/10/little-amigurumi-fish.html

If you follow that link and have a look, you will wonder if I used that pattern at all! ¬†It was an easy pattern, but I made¬†my fish a wee bit differently than the ones by the talented lady who created the pattern. ¬†And that I am going to call ‘creativity’! ūüôā

This yarn has sequins in it and is lovely and soft.

This yarn has sequins in it and is lovely and soft.

I found the eyes to be rather¬†challenging to make. ¬†I couldn’t decide in my mind what I wanted, which is a recipe for disaster. ¬†Never the less,¬†both fish ended up with eyes.

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge view

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge view

The older siblings of the¬†young nephew mentioned above were visiting us this summer. They would be taking the fish back to their brother for me. ¬†I finished the fish during their visit. ¬†They don’t take long to make, it is just that I never managed to find¬†the time to make them during the year. Deadlines seem to do the trick though, as I finished them on their last day while in the car fitting in some last minute sight-seeing! ¬†First stop: Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

Views around Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

Views around Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

Our family has been to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in County Antrim quite a few times. ¬†I am not a fan of heights and have never crossed it before. ¬†But this time the weather was quite mild (read: very little wind) and I crossed with no bother at all. ¬†Not wanting 5 kids to show me up might have something to do with that new found courage…

another view after crossing the rope bridge

another view after crossing the rope bridge

It is well worth the walk to the bridge and crossing the bridge.  The views are lovely. We were there late morning and only had a 10 minute wait to cross.  The kids really enjoyed it too (they are aged 12 through 17).

Rope bridge selfie with my daughter and niece

Rope bridge selfie with my daughter and niece

After our visit to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, we visited the Giant’s Causeway. ¬†We decided to take the scenic route which involved parking about 2 miles away and following a walking trail to the Giant’s Causeway. ¬†It was a pleasant¬†walk, especially since we had good weather.

on the stones at the Giant's Causeway

on the stones at the Giant’s Causeway

We had a very nice visit to the Giant’s Causeway, too. ¬†The boys enjoyed searching for fish and sea animals in small ponds of water, while the girls enjoyed climbing the rock formations.

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

Our 2 mile walk back to the car was along the water, which was so beautiful.

View from Giant's Causeway

View from Giant’s Causeway

a well traveled fish

a well traveled fish

We had the most wonderful time with my niece and nephew during their visit.  Ireland has so much to offer and is truly beautiful.  Those two fish are now in their new home in Connecticut.

two fish on their travels

two fish on their travels

I hope you enjoyed our quick visits to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Giant’s Causeway. ¬†If you ever come to Ireland they are well worth¬†seeing in person!

In peace,
Dana

The Famine Memorial in Dublin

famine memorial in Dublin

Rowan Gillespie’s sculptures

This blog post came about while I was walking from an event in Dublin this week. ¬†It was a beautiful¬†evening and since I wasn’t in any hurry and I had my camera with me I was enjoying a lovely stroll. I was walking along the water, and was actually admiring the trees when I came across this memorial. ¬†The statues are amazing. ¬†I thought the flowers which were placed on them brought another dimension to them, too.

Famine memorial Dublin

Dubliner Rowan Gillespie’s sculpture

Here is what I learned about the Memorial on  http://www.ddda.ie

“‘Famine’ (1997) was commissioned by Norma Smurfit and presented to the City of Dublin in 1997. The sculpture is a commemorative work dedicated to those Irish¬†people forced to emigrate during the 19th century Irish Famine.¬†The bronze sculptures¬†were designed and crafted by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie and¬†are located on Custom House Quay in Dublin’s Docklands.

“This location is a particularly appropriate and historic as one of the first voyages of the Famine period was on the ‘Perserverance’ which sailed from Custom House Quay on St. Patrick’s Day 1846.¬† Captain William Scott, a native of the Shetland Isles, was a veteran of the Atlantic crossing, gave up his office job in New Brunswick to take the ‘Perserverance’ out of Dublin. He was 74 years old. The Steerage fare on the¬†ship was ¬£3 and¬†210 passengers made the historical journey. They landed in New York on the 18th May 1846. All passengers and crew survived the journey.” (from Docklands)

Famine memorial Dublin

Famine memorial created by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie

The Famine happened in Ireland between 1845 and 1852.  Between starvation and emigration it is estimated that Ireland lost 25% of its population.

Famine memorial Dublin

Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie’s Famine memorial Dublin

Maybe you’ve heard it referred to as the Potato Famine. ¬†This is due to the fact that so many Irish people relied mainly on potatoes to feed their families and during the 1840s¬†a potato blight destroyed crops all throughout Europe and Ireland.

Famine memorial Dublin

Rowan Gillespie’s Famine Memorial Dublin

The Famine effected Irish history in so many ways: politically, socially, demographically.

The Famine Memorial statues in Dublin

The Famine Memorial statues in Dublin created by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie

I found this memorial to be a beautiful reminder to “stop and remember”.

In peace,
Dana

Monet’s Garden at Giverny …

Monet's water garden

Monet’s water garden

Now. ¬†It is time. ¬†Let me explain: We traveled to Paris four months ago and then I started a new work schedule, and then the kids’ gruelling swimming and Irish dancing schedules kicked in and life in general has just kept me all too busy to write about our wonderful trip to Monet’s garden. ¬† But now, following the terrible events in Paris on Friday the 13th of November,¬†¬†the situation has presented itself to me that to write about Monet’s garden will in some small way connect me to the people of Paris. ¬†There is too much beauty in our world to let the ugly acts of a few destroy that. ¬†So please, come with me on a little escape into the beautiful world of Monet’s Gardens…

beauty and tranquility

beauty and tranquility

I enjoyed the water gardens immensely. There was something peaceful and beautiful in that experience, despite being surrounded by many, many people!

water lilies

water lilies

I love the water.

collage of water lilies

collage of water lilies

plashes of pink

splashes of pink

such a sunny day to enjoy the beautiful views

such a sunny day to enjoy the beautiful views

You are HERE

You are HERE

Before touring a different section of the gardens, here are a few pictures from the inside of Monet’ house.

inside of Monet's house

looking out into the gardens

This room housed many copies of the artist’s work. ¬†There was a large, lovely window looking out into the gardens, as well.

another view

another view

Inside Monets house more paintings

The dining room.

The dining room

Color played an important role in the house, as can be noted in the (quite) yellow dining room.

The working kitchen had beautiful blue tiles

The working kitchen had beautiful blue tiles

The blue tiles in the working kitchen were my favorite, though.

View from upstairs in the house

View from upstairs in the house

My son was nice enough to take a picture of the rest of the family in front of Monet's house

My son was nice enough to take a picture of the rest of the family in front of Monet’s house

Let me now welcome you into the gardens at the front of the house.

View of the pink house with green shutters

View of the pink house with green shutters

The house is pink. ¬†Truly pink… with green shutters. ¬†ūüôā

arches of flowers and so much color!

arches of flowers and so much color!

which angle is best...

which angle is best…

of course there were chickens

of course there were chickens

I simply loved all of it

I simply loved all of it

a picture with no people!

a picture with no people!

I loved how they worked this cooking apple tree into hedging

I loved how they worked this cooking apple tree into hedging

apple tree hedging

apple tree hedging

It was rather difficult to get a good view of "everything"

It was rather difficult to get a good view of “everything”

so I captured groupings of flowers and colors ... or so that was my intention!

so I captured groupings of flowers and colors … or so that was my intention!

the orange section

the orange section

the yellow section

the yellow section

pinks and purples

pinks and purples and a piece of the house in the upper left corner of the picture

lots and lots of pinks...

lots and lots of pinks…

my new favorite: a mimosa tree!

my new favorite: a mimosa tree!

gorgeous colors all around the garden

gorgeous colors all around the garden

You can almost feel the sun with these pictures!

I can almost feel the sun with these pictures

Monets Flowers collage orange reds

yellow collage

yellow collage

peach

peach

more yellows

more yellows

timeless beauties

timeless beauties

splashes of color everywhere

splashes of color everywhere

There are sad times in our world today. ¬† But I hope we don’t stop showing compassion and love for one another, or stop enjoying the beauty which is all around us. ¬†Our prayers are of course with all of those affected by terrorism.
With Love and In Peace,
Dana

I'm not sure if it is so dreary now because of the world events and the recent weather, but the colors in this picture really jumped out at me...

a pop of color in what feels like “gray times”…

 

A Family Holiday in Paris + Helpful Tips

Bienvenue  Welcome to Paris!  (all in flowers and greenery)

A ‘Welcome’ sign at the airport made with¬†flowers and greenery

Our children are 16, 15 and 11 years old. ¬†When we sat down with them to plan our family vacation we weren’t sure what to expect. ¬†We happily discovered that they weren’t too old to go on holiday with us, that they were interested to explore a city, ¬†and that in fact they were quite happy to do so!

We walked through Place de la Concord early to explore the Louvre.

An early walk through Place de la Concorde

My husband and I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to Paris a few times.  This visit would be to show the kids how amazing, beautiful, and full of history Paris is.

fabulous evening sunlight

fabulous evening sunlight

I have to say that planning ahead is helpful. Start by making sure you are fit! There are so many stairs to climb all over the city!

We were walkable to this park outside the Louvre.  The 'arch' in the background is a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe.

We were within walking distance¬†to ‘Place de la Concorde’ which is the largest public square in Paris. The Arc de Triomphe can be seen in the background. Behind the fountain is an Egyptian obelisk.

We stayed in what we found to be a central location: Madeleine.  We booked an apartment through airBnB which worked out wonderfully.  It was a 10 minute walk to the metro station.

La Madeleine church

La Madeleine church

These details amaze me!

These details amaze me!

The best and easiest advice is to start your day early. ¬†The mornings we were at attractions by 9:30 A.M. or 10:00 A.M. we were first in line or nearly so. ¬†The mornings the teens needed to sleep late, well let’s just say we spent too much time in queues. ūüėČ

A view of just part of the Eiffel Tower to show the first and second levels

A view of just part of the Eiffel Tower to show the first and second levels

It goes without saying that everything in Paris is spectacular!  Take the Eiffel Tower for example; what a sight!  We arrived at 9:30 A.M. and walked right up (no line) to pay to climb the stairs.  I would highly recommend taking the stairs, all 670 of them to reach the second level! There are signs with interesting facts to read along the way. I think they have it set up that way so as to give everyone time to breathe while they read!  My children preferred to go non-stop, I think to show us up!  It is possible to walk around the first level and take pictures.  We did this, caught our breath and then began our climb to the second level.

A picture of us looking down through glass while on the first level of the Eiffel Tower.  The little 'dots' are people down below!

A picture of us looking down through glass while on the first level of the Eiffel Tower. The little ‘dots’ are people down below!

From the second level there is an elevator available to take you to the top. ¬†The elevator happened to be closed for an “hour” while we were there so we opted not to wait. ¬†We found the views at the first level to be the best, anyway.

a 'perspective' shot

a ‘perspective’ shot

Sights of Paris from the first level of the Eiffel Tower

Sights of Paris from the first level of the Eiffel Tower

view from first level of Eiffel Tower

view from first level of Eiffel Tower

We had pre-booked a boat tour of the Seine to follow our Eiffel Tower visit. ¬†This was a short distance from the Eiffel tower and since it was still early in the morning there was minimal wait. The weather was lovely to sit and enjoy the sights from the top deck. I’d highly recommend this.

boat tour on the Seine

boat tour on the Seine

A full view of the Eiffel tower during our boat tour on the Seine

A view of the Eiffel tower during our boat tour on the Seine

fun fish art along the Seine on our boat tour

fun fish art along the Seine on our boat tour

I was always on the look out for flowers and gardens!

houseboat along the Seine

houseboat along the Seine

a close up of the houseboat garden

a close up of the houseboat garden

boats along the Seine

boats along the Seine

I loved the buildings along the Seine...

I loved the buildings along the Seine…

Boat tour buildings... top photo is part of the Louvre

Boat tour buildings… top photo is part of the Louvre which extends for blocks

Next best piece of advice: use the side entrance of the Louvre (Porte de Lions), and be there for opening time.  There was no one at the side entrance when we arrived while we could see the line outside the glass pyramid of the main entrance! That is just crazy.

Building(s) and Statues around the Louvre

Building(s) and Statues around the Louvre (to the right of here is the way to the side entrance)

evening sunlight on these majestic buildings

evening sunlight on the same majestic building as photo above

The Louvre glass pyramid entrance in evening light

The Louvre glass pyramid entrance in evening light

If you prefer to miss the mob, then head straight for the Mona Lisa.  Even when we went there first thing, the painting was surrounded by people.  Later on the mob is many more people deep!

and here she is...

and here she is…

It is best to do a little bit of research before heading to the Louvre as it is huge! ¬†Don’t go and just wander (experience talking here…).

a few of my favourite things in the Louvre

a few of my favourite things in the Louvre

Here's a look inside of the musee d'orsay

Here’s a look inside of the musee d’orsay

One of our afternoons we went to Mus√©e d’Orsay, which is¬†on the left bank of the Seine. It was less than an hour wait outside to see the collections of major 19th & 20th century European art. ¬†Again, it is so helpful to know which artists’ works you’d like to see because if you just wander you might not have the energy to enjoy¬†seeing everything! ¬†I love impressionist art, so I had my rooms marked ūüôā

Different views of/from Notre Dame

Different views of/from Notre Dame

We arrived at Notre Dame late in the afternoon to a queue that completely wrapped around the courtyard out front. ¬†But this queue went incredibly quickly and within¬†a half hour we were inside Notre Dame. ¬†Writing “it was beautiful” is not a strong enough statement.

incredible beauty

incredible beauty

The downside of arriving in the late afternoon is that we were not able to climb to the top (either first or second levels).  Our schedule was such that it was early the next afternoon before we were able to return, which meant an hour and a half wait to climb Notre Dame.  We took turns going into nearby shops, getting coffee, and some people watching (lots of people watching).  But the wait to climb the 270 (approximately!) steps to the top was worth it. W.O.W.!

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Another afternoon walk led us to the Arc de Triomphe (Arch de Triumph). ¬†This is also climbable. ¬†At this stage we’d already seen the city from up high and we opted to just enjoy the views from street level.

A look at the catacombs. The top left picture gives an indication of  how far down below the city the tunnels are.

A look at the catacombs. The top left picture gives an indication of how far down below the city the tunnels are.

The Catacombs in Paris were¬†on my husbands “must see” list and so off we went to 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy to investigate. ¬†This was¬†one time we’d all wished we’d started our day a whole lot earlier. ¬†The wait¬†was going to be more than two hours long. We decided to join a guided tour at a much higher price (‚ā¨29 instead of the standard¬†‚ā¨10 entrance fee) but which allowed us to skip the queue. ¬†It was so worth it! Our kids were enthralled! ¬†Do you know the history of the catacombs?

We learned that the catacombs home the remains of six million Parisians.  The tunnels from the original quarries of the city were used to house the remains of people from the late 18th and mid 19th centuries after the graveyards were closed due to public health issues.

The bones are arranged in ‘a macabre display of high Romantic taste’ ( see more at¬†http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/catacombs/more-2000-years-history). ¬† This was such an interesting tour that we are glad to not have missed.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (we called this the "mini arc")

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (we called this the “mini arc”)

Phew! Those five days were so full and exhausting and wonderful!

Flowers in Paris

Flowers in Paris

My next post will be about our visit to Monet’s garden in Giverny! ¬†So much to write, so little time! ūüôā

we had a little bit of fun taking selfies :-)

we had a little bit of fun taking selfies all around Paris ūüôā

In preparing for this post I have spent hours going through photos and remembering the many wonderful things we did and enjoyed on our trip.  I have only mentioned a few things here!

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer where ever you may be.

Happy Travels,
Dana

 

 

 

Brian Boru 1000 year memorial in Louth Village

Brian Boru bagpipers lead the funeral procession

Bagpipers lead the Brian Boru funeral procession re-enactment in Louth Village

Ireland is a beautiful country with a colorful history.¬† There are signs of old and new all around us. Our village is a great example as we have the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey dating back to 1312 (¬†https://mominthegarden.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/historic-st-marys-abbey-and-st-mochtas-house-in-our-own-little-village/¬† ) while our church was just rebuilt in 2004.

Brian Boru supporter

Brian Boru supporter

My youngest daughter recently brought home a note from school informing us that there would be a re-enactment marking the 1000 year anniversary of a famous funeral procession  in our little village.  1000 years???  That is amazing.

The horse and carriage transporting the remains of Brian Boru from the Battle of Clontarf to the Cathedral in Armagh

The horse and carriage transporting the remains of Brian Boru from the Battle of Clontarf to the Cathedral in Armagh

Encouraged by the Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Inniskeen, our primary school children and local villagers participated in a re-enactment of the funeral procession.  It was such a fun way for the kids (and adults) to keep the history alive!  A few of the children read out speeches to inform the locals what would have taken place back in 1014.

Our school readers

Our school readers

The history of Ireland before Brian Boru is equally as important.  Ireland had been a land of strife for centuries; the main culprits being invading Norseman and Irish Celtic Chieftains. Simply stated, the Vikings were not wanted in Ireland.

Carriage carrying the body of Brian Boru from the Battle of Clontarf to the Cathedral of Armagh

Carriage carrying the body of Brian Boru from the Battle of Clontarf to the Cathedral of Armagh

While Brian Boru, who is from Killaloe, County Clare,¬† was king of north Munster he defeated the Vikings of Limerick and Waterford. With this he became the king of all of Munster.¬† Those same Vikings of Waterford and Limerick¬† supported him in battle and with that he gained control of Connacht, Leinster, and Meath.¬† The title of High King of Ireland followed his victorious “meeting” with Mael Sechnaill II who himself had taken control of the Vikings of Dublin.¬† Brian Boru had proved himself to be the strongest King in Ireland.

A Brian Boru supporter

A Brian Boru supporter

The kings of northern Leinster and the Vikings of Dublin wanted their freedom, though.¬† They were the organizers of the Battle of Clontarf¬† in April 1014, even bringing in 2,000 Vikings from overseas.¬† At this stage Brian was an old man. Some say he was in his 70s, other claim he was in his 80s. Either way, he most likely didn’t actively participate in the battle.

Brian Boru supporter (from Howth). His sign says in Irish:  Brian Boru Welcome to Louth

Brian Boru supporter (from Howth). His sign says in Irish: Brian Boru Welcome to Louth

At the end of the very bloody day Brian’s army lost 4,000 men, while the opposition lost 6,000 men.¬† A victory for Brian.

Supporters of Brian Boru following the carriage with Brian Boru's remains from Clontarf to the Cathedral in Armagh

Supporters of Brian Boru following the carriage with Brian Boru’s remains from Clontarf to the Cathedral in Armagh

A full victory it was not, though.¬† Brian’s oldest son had been killed in battle. Brian, himself, had been killed after the battle while praying in his tent.¬† His other sons were not strong enough to maintain a stronghold of their kingdom.

Local musicians in the procession (a Badhran drum)

Local musicians in the procession (a Bodhran drum)

Ironically, following the Battle of Clontarf there was a period of relative peace. The Celtic Chieftains and Vikings lived together with a common goal of integration, co-operation and commerce.  Thankfully, the battle was not all for naught.

My oldest daughter and I at the re-enactment

My oldest daughter and I at the re-enactment

Our little village did a super job with bringing the story of Brian Boru to life!  It was wonderful how many people made an effort to dress in costume and support the initiative of keeping history alive!

Brian Boru supporters

Brian Boru supporters

Brian Boru Funeral Procession from Louth Village to Inniskeen re-enactment

Brian Boru Funeral Procession from Louth Village to Inniskeen re-enactment

It was a long walk to the next village (about 5 miles).  We were lucky to have the weather on our side. What a glorious day it was!

When we arrived in Inniskeen there was a blacksmith demonstration.¬† I didn’t stay long enough to see it finished, but the blacksmith made a crown of commemoration for Brian Boru.¬† I must stop over to the Patrick Kavanagh Centre to have a look at it!

Blacksmith demonstration

Blacksmith demonstration. I love the huge bellow!

In the village of Inniskeen

In the village of Inniskeen

There was also tea and sandwiches for the weary funeral procession participants!¬† It was truly a lovely experience for one and all. I am so glad that so many people took the time and effort to make this such a wonderful experience.¬†¬† Here’s to our local historians who are so important to us!

Dana

Visiting Dorothy Clive Gardens in Staffordshire, England

Dorothy Clive Gardens Visitor's map

Dorothy Clive Gardens Visitor’s map

Two of my children are Irish dancers, and for the past year they have been working really hard towards the goal of dancing at the World Championships in London.¬† Those championships were last week and dance they did!¬† It was a wonderful experience for all of us, and their teams danced really well (spectacular, really!). I know I mentioned it before, but proud mama moment here: My sons’ team is 1st in the World for under 16 mixed ceili, and my daughter’s team is 3rd in the world for the Under 11 mixed ceili!

My son & daughter holding their Irish dancing teams' globe trophies! (1st & 3rd place)

My son & daughter holding their Irish dancing teams’ globe trophies! 1st & 3rd place

As part of our “going to London” family vacation experience we took time to drive through some beautiful English countryside.¬†¬† It was so lovely!¬† It really is a simply enjoyable experience seeing the different style country houses and gardens.¬† The brick houses are so pretty, and just that bit different than what we would see in the Irish countryside.¬† Our first day we stayed at Slater’s Country Inn in¬†Newcastle, Staffordshire which was lovely and cozy ¬†http://www.slaterscountryinn.co.uk/ and fit the bill perfectly for us. The restaurant provided delicious traditional English food with a personal touch.¬† Best of all, it was just up the road from the Dorothy Clive Gardens which is where we were heading the next day.

Slaters Country Inn Newcastle, Staffordshire, England

Slater’s Country Inn in Newcastle, Staffordshire, England

I was very lucky. The weather was mild and sunny.¬† I’m not sure how amiable my kids would have been if we’d brought them to gardens in the rain!¬† But given the day that was in it, they happily enjoyed going around the garden (and playing a bit of chase).¬† There were some visitors there who I’m sure would have preferred them to walk quietly.¬† But sometimes you just have to give a little.

Pond at entrance to the gardens

Pond at entrance to the gardens

The gardens! Dorothy Clive Gardens are in Staffordshire ( http://dorothyclivegarden.co.uk/ ) .  The entrance fee was 6 pounds 75 cents per adult and 2 pounds per child which I found to be a reasonable price.   There are 12 acres of gardens to roam through.  I loved so much about it!  For starters, I like the rustic fencing and beech hedges of the entrance.

Entrance into the gardens

Entrance into the gardens

Plant supports

Plant supports

Here are some natural and rustic looking plant supports.  I like how this blends in with the garden.  This actually is in the formal part of the gardens. One section is now hosting tulips and hyacinth.

Tulip walkway

Tulip walkway

Tulip garden

Tulip garden

The tulips were spectacular!  They definitely made me want to plant MANY more tulips in my garden!

Tulip garden

Tulip garden

I’m getting ahead of myself here! Before we even reached the tulips, as we were walking up the hill, we could smell the sweet smell of hyacinth. They lined both sides of the walkway and were lovely to see.

Hyacinth

Hyacinth

More of the formal gardens

More of the formal gardens

There were a few benches that the pathways lead to. Here is one that I really liked:

Pathway to a rest-stop!

Pathway to a rest-stop!  Imagine the plants that will shade that bench!  The matching obelisk are lovely, too.

Another part of the formal garden included a beautiful Laburnum arch.¬† It is at it’s best (in bloom) for about two weeks at the end of May. I thought it looked quite pretty even now. Those allium are going to be fabulous when they bloom all around the arch!

Dorothy Clive Gardens (Laburnum Arch)

Dorothy Clive Gardens (Laburnum Arch)

Archway

Archway

Leaving the perfectly manicured section of the garden, we entered¬† the woodlands.¬† Such a completely different feel to the garden, very relaxed and “messy” yet so beautiful in a completely different way.

Walking among the rhododendron

Walking among the rhododendron

I had a harder time capturing the overall feel to the woodlands, than of individual flowers.  But take my word for it, please, that it was beautiful!

Red rhododendron

Red rhododendron

Pink rhododendron

Pink rhododendron

Rhododendron and azalea are growing throughout the entire garden!¬† Yeah, so I tried to get a shot of every color…¬† I hope this isn’t too much rhododendron for you!

Light pink rhododendron

Light pink rhododendron

pink stripe rhododendron

pink stripe rhododendron

A bench to sit and enjoy the view

A bench to sit and enjoy the view

White rhododendron

White rhododendron

Woodlands walk

Woodlands walk

Rhododendron weren’t the only plants, though. There were lots of camellia – more than 50 varieties. This is down from the 125 varieties which were planted during the 1970’s!¬† Harsh weather has brought the number down to what it is today. They were still beautiful even as they near the end of their blooming season.

Camellia (we called star camellia)

My favorite Camellia (we called it the star camellia)

Camellias

Camellias

Light pink camellia

Light pink camellia

pink camellia

pink camellia

Magnolia

Magnolia

There were plenty of paths to choose from. We wandered for quite a while.¬† If you keep going up, these are the views you’ll see:

View from the very top of the gardens

View from the very top of the gardens

View from the very top of the gardens

View from the very top of the gardens

We really did enjoy our time in the gardens.  After making our way down the hill, we came upon the more kid focused section.  They had an amazing Insect Hotel!

Insect hotel

Insect Hotel

The kids were enticed to try some of the edible garden!

Edible garden

Edible garden

There was a small cafe & gift shop (of course!) too.  I was so glad we had visited this garden.  It was a lovely day out for our family.

I hope you have enjoyed my garden tour, too!
Dana

 

grape hyacinth

grape hyacinth