Before we left for Ireland, I discovered a finch had built her nest in one of the hanging baskets on the front porch. I cautiously watered the plant from the one side, dribbling the water down the side so the nest would be okay.

Two days before our trip, I peeked and found four beautiful eggs. I watched the mama bird flutter in and out, leaving the nest any time people went in or out the front door.

The week in Ireland disappeared in a flurry of activities. Our friend and neighbor, Kate, sent us a photo of two baby birds that had hatched and all we could see were their yellow beaks stretched open as wide as a big yawn!

When we came home, the plant was fairly gone. I caught glimpses of the feathery hatchlings and the mama bird making trips to feed them. There seemed to be only two.

Yesterday one fledgling remained in the nest. I used a pair of binoculars to see him through the livingroom window. I don’t think his mama came, although I had seen her just the day before.

This evening before we left for Longwood Gardens, I spied the fledgling in the sunburst locust near the porch. He flew to the hanging basket and perched on the plastic hook for a long time, waiting and watching. I know he was watching for his mama. After a small eternity (I think I was holding my breath), he decided to fly away. I swallowed hard and fought back hot tears. As my vision blurred, I thought about how much I was missing my own mother. After all these years, it still hurts.






Dublin Castle

Dub Castle courtyard

For more than 1000 years before the Vikings came to Ireland’s shore, there has been a settlement at the site of the Dublin Castle. King John of England ordered the construction of a castle here. It functioned as the seat of colonial rule and the most important fortification in Ireland for eight centuries.

We were charmed by the 19th century cantilevered staircase. Above the double doorway you can see the official symbol of Ireland, the Gold Harp against a blue background. The throne room is set in the heart of the State Apartments. Visiting monarchs received homage here of local subjects. The throne was actually made for King George IV’s state visit to Ireland. It is a massive throne, and was probably built to fit a rather large man. When Queen Elizabeth came to visit, they quickly made an elegant stool so that she could first step up on it to position herself on the throne, and then be able to rest her feet so they would not awkwardly dangle in the air!

The Portrait Gallery was a banquet room where dinners often consisted of 16 to 30 courses (How is that possible?!) and were served on a table so long it took up the length of the room. The original wood paneling that lines the walls dates to the late 1740s. This room houses a collection of portraits of former Viceroys.  The State Drawing Room was restored after a fire in 1941. Its large mirrors, pier glasses, and console tables were all carefully restored.

Dub Castle stairs

St. Patrick’s Hall was formerly the Ballroom of the Viceregal court. It is home to the most significant painted ceiling in all of Ireland completed in 1790. Banners of the chivalric order of the Knights of St. Patrick hang from the walls. Today. it is the most important ceremonial room in Ireland and used for state banquets for visiting dignitaries and the inauguration of Ireland’s President, which takes place every seven years.

Dub Castle lightDub Castle entrance

How to Drink Guinness


When we were in Ireland, we visited Guinness Storehouse. I couldn’t leave Ireland without drinking a Guinness, so I decided to give it a try. The brew was a rich ruby-red with foam on top.

I followed the instructions of the guide we had when we toured Dublin Castle. I held the glass to my lips with my elbow parallel to my chest and slowly sipped the brew through the foam. The idea was to still have foam when I reached the bottom of the mug. I was successful!

The drink was exceptional. It tasted better than anything I’ve had in the States, but perhaps it was the atmosphere or the method I used to drink it. I shared with my friend Bruce who was not a believer. “Are you sure the Irish don’t have a good time giving instructions like this to Americans?”  I had never considered this. Noooooooo…..

Trinity College

It was so amazing! Trinity College is one of the top 20 schools in the world, Ireland’s oldest university and can claim Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Robert Emmett, Samuel Beckett, Oliver Goldsmith, Theobald Wolf Tone, John Millington Synge, and Bram Stoker as graduates.

Today there is a registration fee of about 3000 euros if you are Irish, and about 33,000 if you are not. Years ago, if you were Catholic, you had to get permission from your archbishop to attend since for much of its history, the university was seen as those of Protestant faith. Women were not admitted until 1904.

The college contains the Treasure, where the Book of Kells is housed. Two of the four volumes are displayed (the four gospels of the New Testament). These are opened to different pages each time (one showing an illustration and the other a page of text) they are displayed for public viewing, and the volumes are changes every 12 weeks. The pages were created from 185 calves – the calfskin is called vellum. The Book of Kells contains 340 folios. Once one volume, it was separated into four in 1953. Each sentence begins with an elaborately designed capital letter and ends in a three-pointed truangle that was above the sentence.

The huge library is magnificent! If you want to work in the library, you must climb the ladder on the second tier and remove a book from the highest shelf. If you cannot accomplish that task, you cannot work in the library! Although it has limited access, students at Trinity can still use the library. 



Irish National Stud

Ah! I had been waiting for this since we signed on for the Road Scholar tour! County Kildare, the heartbeat of Ireland’s thoroughbred industry brought us to this incredible place owned by the Irish government and visited by tourists from all over the world.

A Scotsman, Colonel William Hall Walker, established the farm in 1900. The Colonel perhaps believed that great horses were born, not made. When a foal was born, he had an astological chart drawn up, and if the stars and signs were not in correct alignment, the foal was sold. If the horse’s birthdate promised great ability, the foal was kept to be raised and raced. Although this sounds a bit crazy, horses born here have won some of the greatest races.

Retirement has been provided for great racehorses here. Five champions, Moscow Fkyer, Hardy Eustace, Kicking King, Beef or Salmon, and Rite of Passage reside here. They won races like the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Royal Ascot Gold Cup.

Over 100 foals are born at the stud farm each year. When horsemen come to choose a stud for breeding purposes, they watch the horse move in dront of the stables on a ruberized walk. Our guide told us they look for three things in a stud: the face of a model, the “bum” of a cook, and the walk of a lady of the night!20160617_061901


Desmond Castle

20160616_102953One of the last remaining examples of a  Norman castle in Europe, in 1227 this fortress on the Maigue River belonged to Geoffrey de Marisco. By 1228, the Fitzgeralds possessed the majestic castle.

In 1536 it was granted to the Earls of Desmond who gave the castle the name it is still called today.

The castle was originally surrounded by a moat. The front door is massive and reinforced with oak cut in horizontal fashion. If you did manage to break in, guards above would drop anything and everything in you from the hole above the entranceway, but not burning oil. Our guide told us they never would have wasted oil that way. The castle was constructed to have an inner most, too, another drawbridge and fortified door into the part of the castle where the earl lived with his family, and ‘stumbling steps” – steps purposely built unevenly and that rose in different heights to cause invaders to perhaps fall if they tried to run up them.

There was a keeping cell where prisoners or people who committed a crime were placed for a few days before they were taken to be beheaded. They would have had to stand in a foot or two of water since the cell floor was lower than the ground level of the castle. In those days, if you were caught stealing bread, you would be put to death. Times were hardh back then may be an understatement!

The castle walls were made of limestone, and mud, horse hair, horse blood, and later, blood from oxen to hold the stone in place.

The castle has a wide, grassy area in the middle where wooden huts made from oak would have stood. Everyone except royalty lived there. The castle had a separate kitchen area, and a grand dining hall with a stunning view of the river.. The servants stayed in the same area as the livestock.

From the castle site you can see the ruins of the Franciscan Friary, sometimes called the “Poor Monastery” and now located within the grounds of the Adare Manor Golf Club where Tiger Woods and many top golfers have played. Many architectural structures of the monastery have been preserved including the tower, nave, cloisters, and living quarters.

We also visited the Holy Trinity Church on Main Street inAdare, on the site of what was once the Trinitarian Abbey, nearly eight centuries old. It was originally founded around 1230. In the 19th century it underwent major restoration with money donated by the townspeople of Adare.


The Dingle Peninsula

National Geographic once called it the most beautiful place on earth, and I can certainly see why. Thank goodness the sun was shining all day.

The peninsula stretches for 30 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Mount Bandon is Ireland’s second highest peak, and the coastline consists of steep cliffs and sandy beaches. The Blasket Islands are west of the peninsula.

We learned that they had just finished filming the new Star Wars movie out in December 2017, so if you go to see it, you will see part of this spectacular scenery.  Also, Ryan’s Daughter was filmed here. It took almost two years to complete. Far and Away was also recorded here.

We walked to photograph cliffs with sea caves and Calla lilies growing wild as well as beautiful purple bell-shaped flowers on tall stalks. 20160615_093253

We stopped to walk to a well-preserved, early-Christian church known as Gallarus Oratory. Its stonewalls slope inward and capstones form the top. The entire structure looks like an overturned boat. It is probably almost as dry inside as when it was first built. It is in structures as this that monks copied Roman documents that were in this way preserved and passed on.

The town of Dingle was charming. Local craft stores dot the streets. We found a really good music store for Irish music thanks to our guide, Laura, and bought quite a few CDs including the music of the Clancy brothers and the Dubliners.

The journey home to Dunraven Hotel in Adare through fields of cows and sheep and sometimes horses was just heavenly!


Bunratty Castle

Built in 1425 and restored in 1954, this fortress is the most complete medieval castle in Ireland. The Folk Park is set on 25 acres and has over 30 buildings of a living rural village.

Ralph and I got to know Patrick, who manned the blacksmith shop. Although he wasn’t a farrier by trade, Patrick said in his youth he’d sometimes skip school to spend time at the forge. He showed us over a dozen tools and even let me warm a horseshoe and hammer it out on the snvil before cooling it in a trough of water. Of course, there was no horse to shoe…thank goodness for the horse!

From there we rode the bus to Adare. We will explore the village tomorrow.  Yesterday it was raining off and on all the time. It just became too wet to enjoy being outside. Glad to see a little sun this morning. It has been gray and rainy most of the time. Thank you, Glendia and Carolyn, for your advice not to travel to Ireland without a good raincoat!20160614_054701



The Cliffs of Moher

20160613_100445Yesterday we walked the Burren in County Clare with Shawn, a farmer, who showed us plants that grow on the tundra flourishing alongside orchids! This landscape was formed over 340 million years ago with glacial-era limestone, caves, fossils, and even archaeological sites to visit.

Then we went on to the Cliffs of Moher after some Guiness stew for lunch. It had been misting all morning. As we drew closer to the cliffs, fog settled in. By the time we arrived it was so thick we could hardly see anything. Rain came down as we left the bus and hurried for the visitor center.

Everyone was so disappounted, but when we stepped outside, it had stopped raining and the fog was lifting. We hurried up, up, up the walkway and there they were – 724 meters tall, formed over 300 million years ago and carved by time. Our spirits lifted like the fog when we gazed upon the beautiful cliffs rising up from the sea. Erosion by the sea waves are forming sea caves that are clearly visible. O’ Brien’s Tower serves as a viewing point.On a very clear day, you can see all the way to Galway Bay.

Later, when we get to Dublin, we hope the WIFI  band is strong enough to send photos. Here in Ennistymon the photos just won’t upload to the blog. Frustrating, but will share photos later and when we return home.

Today we are off to Bunratty Castle, Folk Park, and then on to Adare, County Limerick.We will do a walking tour of Adare, said to be Ireland’s prettiest village.20160613_100532


Yesterday we journeyed through a countryside filled with stone walls made of pilings and lush green  fields dotted with sheep, horses, and even lamas. Occasionally, we saw a mare with her foal.

Galway is referred to as “The City of Tribes.” Home to 14 famous merchant families and an impotant city of trade, it is a friendly, bustling city with the feel of a small town. We visited St. Nicholas Church, shopped, and bought a few items at the flea market. I took a picture of a statue of Oscar Wilde.

We stopped at Coole Park on the way home, where W.B. Yeats and George B. Shaw spent a good bit of time. The autograph tree is carved with initials of many famous literary figures.

Today we visit the Burren and Cliffs of Moher!