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.  🙂

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. 😉

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 Musée 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 🙂

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 (€29 instead of the standard €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! 🙂

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playful Roadside Artwork inspired by Patrick Kavanagh

Playful Artwork at the Carrickmacross Bypass on the N2

Playful Artwork at the Carrickmacross Bypass on the N2

Ireland has quite a few roadside sculptures throughout the country.  I love seeing them and how they relate to the locality.  I pass this very fun sculpture about eight times a week. It is along the N2 Dublin to Derry road, at the Carrickmacross bypass.  It is easy to see, especially since the people are on stilts!

Carrickmacross N2 artwork5The work was commissioned by the Monaghan County Council. This location is very near Inniskeen which is the homeplace of the famous and well respected poet Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967).  The inspiration for the sculpture comes from a line in one of his poems “Come Dance with Kitty Stobling” which reads: Cavorting on mile-high stilts”.   There is a wonderful website about the life and works of Patrick Kavanagh. I’d recommend a visit! https://www.tcd.ie/English/patrickkavanagh/comedancewithkittystobling.html

Inspired by Patrick Kavanagh's poem Come Dance with Kitty Stobling

Inspired by Patrick Kavanagh’s poem Come Dance with Kitty Stobling

The artist is David Annand (http://www.davidannand.com/).  His work is throughout Ireland and the U.K. and is simply amazing.  There were engineers involved with this project too, so they must get a mention as well: CS Pringle.  It is initially through their website that I was able to find information about what the sculpture meant.  Sure, here’s one more link!  http://www.cspringle.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=89&Itemid=78

David Annand sculpture from Patrick Kavanagh's poem Come Dance with Kitty Stobling

David Annand sculpture from Patrick Kavanagh’s poem Come Dance with Kitty Stobling

An official marker.

An official marker.

It is wonderful how the works of a local poet can be remembered and thought upon through such a fun piece of (roadside) art.

Enjoy the art in your life 🙂
Dana

Strumpet City (1913 Dublin) & St. Stephen’s Green Park, Dublin 2013

You could say we like to read...

This is one of our bookshelves.  You could say we like to read…

The libraries of Dublin City have chosen James Plunkett’s Strumpet City as their One City, One Book for 2013.  This summer my book club decided to join in and read it too. I am so glad we did!  What an incredible story.

100 years is really not all that long ago.  1913 Dublin City.  Workers worked, yet weren’t paid enough to live on.  Families lived in deplorable conditions.  There could be 100 people living in the tenement houses (which were meant for much less than 100 people).  Finally, in August 1913,  the workers had had enough, and demanded more of what they deserved.  The employers answered by locking them out of work – for four months.  Strumpet City tells the story of the lockout through the lives of its characters; the very rich, the very poor, and the very misguided.

I loved learning about the history of the lockout.  There were characters to love and definitely characters to hate in the book.  It was sad to learn how some working class people couldn’t pick themselves up from the life of poverty.  Even more sad were the rich people who felt superior to those in poverty.    …  I wonder, how much has changed in 100 years?

If you have the time (it’s a big one! 550 pages are divided between three books) I would highly recommend reading Strumpet City.

I thought this post would tie in nicely with my recent visit to Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green Park.  You know, the book takes place in Dublin, and the park is in Dublin. I think that works! 🙂 I took a lot of photos.  It is a beautiful park, and it was a beautiful day. The park was filled with both locals and tourists.  O.K., lots of tourists!  But lots of locals were also enjoying the park and the beauty it has to offer.

St. Stephen's Green Park map.

St. Stephen’s Green Park map.

At 27 acres, this Victorian park is a beautiful reprieve from the fast pace of Dublin.  The Office of Public Works have a brochure about the park that I found fascinating.  Here are some facts about the history of the park which I’d like to share with you:  The name comes from a church which used to be in this area (that goes back to the 13th century!).

One of the entrances to the park.

Fusiliers Arch built in 1907. Gateway arch into the park located at the top of Grafton Street.  It was built in dedication to the men of the Royal Dublin Fusilier’s who died in the Boer War in South Africa (1899 – 1900).

In 1635 a law was passed which made the park open and available to the public to use.  The first paid gardeners started tending the park in 1670.  This part of Dublin has always been “the place to be”.  Even going back to 1708 which is when Grafton Street opened, this is where the fashionable of society were seen.  The Dawson Street opening followed in 1723, as much sought after properties were also built in the area at that time.

 Irish Famine Memorial at St. Stephen's Green Park.

The Irish Famine Memorial is on the north-east corner of St. Stephen’s Green, the background consisting of a semicircle of rough stone pillars.

The Irish Famine memorial is on the north-east corner of St Stephen's Green, a semicircle of rough stone pillars.

The Irish Famine memorial.

Unfortunately, by 1814, the park was in need of an overhaul.  Thankfully, this was seen to, with new ornate Victorian railings built around the perimeter of the park, new walks were constructed, and trees and shrubs were planted.  Ignoring the law of 1635, the Commission closed the park to the public and made it available only to those who could afford to rent keys to the park.

Statue of  the Three Fates, presented to Dublin in 1956 by West Germany in gratitude for Irish aid after WWII.

Statue of the Three Fates, presented to Dublin in 1956 by West Germany in gratitude for Irish aid after WWII.

Statue of The Three Fates.

Close-up of the statue of The Three Fates.

The general public had to wait until 1877 to have free access to the park again.  Having grown up in the area of St. Stephen’s Green, Sir Arthur Guinness, also known as Lord Ardilaun, purchased the Green from the Commission, paid off all the outstanding debts, and opened it to the public. Not surprisingly, he and his family were well known for their generosity.  The revamping and designing of the park was begun, and Sir Arthur was very much a part of this process.

The man-made lake.

The man-made lake.

Another view of the water.

Another view of the water.

A 3 acre man-made lake, a bridge, formal flower beds, and fountains were all a part of the new design. The landscape of the park today very much reflects that work from 1880.  The center of the park is designed as a formal garden with symmetrical patterns of paths, lawns, and flower beds.  There are two granite fountains at the center of the design.

The formal central part of the park.

The formal central part of the park.

Perfectly manicured.

Perfectly manicured beds.

One of the fountains.

One of the two fountains.

So this picture is just to show you the palm tree.  Funny enough to me as I associate palm trees with really warm weather, but there are lots of them in Ireland!

This picture is just to show you the palm tree. Funny enough to me as I associate palm trees with really warm weather, but there are lots of them in Ireland!

An herbaceous border can also be found in the park (near Leeson St. gate).  Also notable of what is in the park:  The Bog Garden, Garden for the Blind, The Children’s Playground, and The Bandstand.

Monarda (bee balm).

Monarda (bee balm).

Helenium 'Waldtraut'

Helenium ‘Waldtraut’.

More photos of the herbaceous garden.

More photos of the herbaceous garden.

Different colors along the path.

Different colors along the path.

There are over 750 trees!  The park is able to keep out much of the traffic noise of the city, not to mention pollution,  from the many trees planted along the border.

This path leads to the W.B. Yeats memorial.  Careful or you'll miss it!

This path leads to the W.B. Yeats memorial. Careful or you’ll miss it!

Memorial to W.B. Yeats by Henry Moore.

Memorial to W.B. Yeats by Henry Moore.

Hidden away behind trees is this area that is used for drama productions (or so I've been told!).

Completely hidden away behind trees is this area that is used for drama productions (or so I’ve been told!).  It is in this area (behind me when I took this picture)  which the W.B. Yeats memorial stands.

I do have lots of pictures of trees. I love trees. Especially really big, old ones! I will just show you my favorite one!

(I'd love to just write the caption "tree"!)

(I’d love to just write the caption “tree”!)

It is such a lovely park.  It is well worth a visit.  And after you visit the park you can go shopping!

Stephen's Green Shopping Center.

Stephen’s Green Shopping Center beautifully adorned with flowers.

The shopping on Grafton Street is always good, too! I love to see the flower stalls.

Flower stall on Grafton Street.

Flower stall on Grafton Street.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little tour of St. Stephen’s Green.  There are really so many things to do in Dublin (it is a great city to visit!).  For me, on that day in the park I enjoyed both walking along the paths and sitting down on the benches (people watching!).  It was a day to savor!

I hope you’ll come and visit!
Dana

Moynalty Steam Threshing Festival … Just like the old days!

Moynalty Steam Threshing

At the Moynalty Steam Threshing Festival

My husband’s father’s family is from Moynalty, County Meath.  It is a lovely, picturesque, quaint village.  And every year, for the past 38 years, they host a Steam Threshing Festival which attracts upwards of 30,000 people.  It is always an enjoyable afternoon, and this year was no exception!

At the Moynalty Steam Threshing

At the Moynalty Steam Threshing Festival

I’m not a farming girl myself, so everything had to be explained to me.  Threshing is the process of beating the stem of the grain to separate the grain from the straw. Long ago, this was done by beating it by hand using a flail, but this graduated to using threshing machines powered by horses, and then later by steam engines.  Today, combines are used.

Threshing demonstration field.

Threshing demonstration field.

There is a tremendous amount of work involved, no matter which method is used!  It is lovely to be able to see how things were done “in the olden days” (which is really not all that long ago!).

One of the many steam engines.

One of the many steam engines.

The Moynalty Steam Threshing festival is a great day for the entire family.  They have vintage cars, antique displays, food, animals, crafts, and rides.  They, of course, have a web site: http://www.moynaltysteamthreshing.ie/

Steam Engine.

Steam Engine.

For us, we have the added benefit of being able to visit with family.  It is always fun to catch-up with everyone!  I must get pictures of the extended family next time! 🙂

Vintage steam engine.

Vintage steam engine.

The kids love to hear the whistles blow!  It’s classic.

Tractors through the ages!

Tractors through the ages!

Antique display of radios.

Antique display of radios.

Selling lavender at the festival.

Selling lavender at the festival with my helpers.

Having gone to the festival for years, I decided that it would be a perfect place to sell my lavender.  My lavender display was set up in the vintage car section.  I have to say that really, lavender sells itself!  The scent was enough to get people to come over to me (that’s the hard part!).  I think it worked well with the different variety of items that I had. I sold my lavender wands, mini-bouquets, larger bouquets, and two different sized pouches (sachets).   It was a lovely day!

It is always nice to find a fun festival to visit.

Dana
p.s. I most appreciated my husband taking all of the wonderful pictures in this post while I was busy selling lavender!

A beautiful visit to Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Gardens, Connemara Ireland.

Kylemore Castle.

The first full sunny day of our holidays beckoned us to visit Kylemore Abbey &  Victorian Walled Gardens.  It  is simply beautiful, and if you are  in Connemara it is well worth the visit. www.kylemoreabbeytourism.ie  Admission for our family of five was 33 euros (about $40).  The first worker we came across was a lovely Irish girl who informed us that midgets (very annoying, small mosquito like bugs) love the Connemara area, and that the best defense for them was spraying on Skin So Soft (an Avon product)!  She kindly handed us her bottle and said “here, you can spray your family”.  So then we were armed to enjoy our day at the Gardens.

Kylemore Abbey sits on 1000 acres with woodland, lakeshore, and the largest Victorian walled garden in Ireland. The castle was built in 1867 by Mitchell Henry (as a romantic gift!) for his wife Margaret. Tragically, Margaret died in 1874.  In 1877 a Gothic Church was built on the property as a memorial to her. It is often described as a cathedral in miniature due to its proportions.   It is beautiful, with pillars of stone from the 4 provinces of Ireland: red Cork marble from Munster, black Kilkenny marble from Leinster, green Connemara marble from Connaught, grey Armagh marble from Ulster.

The 6 acre walled gardens have been restored to some of their 1870s majestic splendor.  They only have plants and vegetables which grew in Victorian times, growing them all from seed on the grounds.  So far, two of the original 21 glass houses have been restored.  I was surprised to learn of the exotic fruits they used to grow in them. Fruits such as bananas, melons, grapes, and figs were grown and sometimes shipped to England.  The garden is divided into two areas; a kitchen garden and a flower garden, with trees and a stream dividing the two.

Since 1920 Kylemore has been home to a community of nuns of the Benedictine Order.  They are the directors of the Kylemore Trust, keeping a close eye on how the Kylemore estate is run today. In addition to their spiritual daily routine, they run their farm and make handcrafted products such as soaps, sweets, and jams.

This is just a small glimpse! There really is so much more to this beautiful gem of an estate.  It is well worth a visit. We were very lucky to have a lovely sunny day to explore the grounds, and some Skin So Soft to protect us from the bugs 🙂

I must get back to my garden plans … they need some adjusting after this visit!
Dana

View of Kylemore Castle from the far side of the lake. In order to preserve the family’s privacy, Mr. Henry had the main road re-routed to the far side of the lake, and used the original road, which runs in front of the castle, as his personal access road around the estate.

The Gothic Church. Note the stone which comes from around Ireland.

The Gothic church is often described as a cathedral in miniature.

View around the lake at Kylemore Abbey.

The gardens captivated me!  They were incredibly neat and tidy, with so many different sections!  I’ve tried to give a glimpse of as much as I could.  We were lucky to  manage some photos with very few people – it’s just how the flow of people moved.  I hope you like the little virtual tour!

The flower garden side of the walled gardens.

Flower garden side of walled gardens. The designs are exactly as they were in the original gardens.

The kitchen garden side of the walled gardens.

View of the mountains from the kitchen garden side of walled gardens.

Some of the cold frames. All of the plants at Kylemore are started from seed on the grounds.

Artichokes.

A splash of color.

Couldn’t resist a picture of a purple flower…

Beaches in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.

It’s summer vacation time and we had the opportunity to explore a bit of Ireland as a family.   We decided to head to the West, choosing to explore around  Connemara, County Galway.  The landscape in Connemara is so beautiful and unusual.  The surrounding mountains frame it perfectly.  There are rocks everywhere: making up the landscape, walls, houses, even the beaches! And of course there is the sea, which is beautiful from any angle.  At 14, 12, and 8 years old, my kids still love playing in the sand & water at the beach.  Thankfully, it doesn’t matter to them whether it is cold or not, or even if it is raining,  because Ireland is not known for its heat (or sunny weather)!  Some of the beaches in Connemara are incredibly pristine, and the water, I kid you not, was turquois.   They had a ball… while I was wrapped in a blanket. 🙂

One beach we visited was completely covered in stones, with no sand at all. We had to drive through a pillared gate to get to the beach and the sign appropriately read “stones” in Irish  (clocán). It was a short visit, but so neat to see.  Here are pictures from some of the beaches, and some wildflowers. I just bought a fantastic handbook of Ireland’s wild flowers. It is great to be able to put a name on all of the flowers we so often see!

Will you be visiting Ireland any time soon?  What are you hoping to see?

Happy Summer!
Dana

Errislannan, Connemara.

Irish sign on the stone beach in Errislannan.

A beach of stones in Errislannan, Connemara.

Stone wall with bell heather in Errislannan, Connemara.

Ballyconneely, Connemara.

Wild flowers of ragwort, pyramidal orchid and wild carrot, and my kids playing on the beach in Ballyconneely.

A pristine beach in Ballyconneely, Connemara.

Kids work.

A pristine beach all to ourselves in Ballyconneely, Connemara.

Sea Holly blooms in June, July & August. Only found by the sea, sandy strands and on the front of sand-dunes.

Sea Holly – an Irish wild flower.

The Pyramidal Orchid, an Irish wild flower, flowers from June through August, and can be found in dry grassland and sand-dunes.

On another day, on another beach in Ballyconneally (in the rain). Connemara.

Three happy kids on a sunny day in Cleggan, Connemara.

Stones in Cleggan, Connemara.

A visit to Tallanstown, Co. Louth, Ireland.

Yesterday was a great day to go for a family bike ride.  The weather was dry and mild which equals perfect!  Our littlest one is 8 and well capable of keeping up with the rest of us.  We decided to visit our neighboring village, which is called Tallanstown.   It was a beautiful and easy 10 minute bike ride.  It was fair day in Tallanstown, with lots of people, music, animals, and different fair attractions.  We enjoyed walking around, seeing the sights, and catching up with friends.  I confess that I didn’t take pictures of the fair (just my kids!).  I think the history and beauty of the village are more interesting.  I had taken some sunny day pictures of the park previously, and today I went back and captured some of the historical side of the village.  It was raining while I took my photos today. Bucketing rain.  But I had this blog post in my head, and that was that!

I enjoyed learning about Vere Foster (1819-1900), a man of wealth with ties to Tallanstown, who lived his life helping others less fortunate than himself.  The statue is fitting, displaying books, since his efforts brought about great change in the Irish education system. He did this to improve emigrants chances of success in America.

The park in Tallanstown is a lovely, peaceful place.  It has pretty paths with so many different plants and trees.  I loved all of the different textures, and sizes of plants (that’s what I go for!).  It is very well maintained.  They are currently putting in a new herb garden.

It came as no surprise when Tallanstown won the national Tidy Towns competition in 2010. The village is pristine and beautified with flowers, lots and lots of flowers!  There is a great deal of pride in the community, and it shows.

We really enjoyed our afternoon out and about.  We arrived home just as the rain started.  Great timing!

I am still figuring out the best way for me to display photos in my blog.  I’m trying a different way today. The pictures are small, but if you click on them it’ll open up a slide show.   Please feel free to let me know what you think!  Is it better to have less photos (I put more in today, to try this out!) enlarged in the blog? or more in a slide show?  Thoughts and comments are always welcome!

Enjoy this little tour of our neighboring village!
Dana