Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Gray Tree Frog

We have so many tree frogs around here.  There are many ponds; nearly every property has one.  Still, it can be fairly dry and these guys show up all over the place.  In the spring they can get so loud at night that you might think they are about to attack.  It is nearly impossible to locate them and even harder to catch them singing.  I was amazed to find this one and I did wait quite some time before he sang.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Cat Games

Stoli creates games to play with me.  One of his favorites is talking at me through the window.  We go through this routine at least once a week.  Silly silly cat.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Cat Walk

Probably not what you're thinking. This has nothing to do with models. Stoli insists on going for walks with me. We walk the half a mile to the mailbox. We walk to the swing by the pond. And by walk, well, this video shows you what we actually do.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Skinny Advice

I hate advice.  The fact that this is an advicey post isn't lost on me.  It's my blog and you chose to read this post, or you can just move along.  All the same to me.

We all have that skinny friend who thinks she's fat.  Maybe this dress makes her hips look big or she can't seem to find a bathing suit that doesn't make her feel gross.  And you're standing there saying, "You look great!  You're not fat.  *roll eyes and waves hand*  Puhlease, look at ME!"

If you have ever been the one to say those phrases, especially including the dismissive hand wave and eye roll, listen to me.

Your "skinny" friend is living in the same visually judgmental, male-dominated, pretty-equals-value world that you live in.  While you may see your friend as thin, gorgeous, every man's catch, there is a very good chance that she feels as insecure as you do about your body.  I'm not saying you shouldn't tell her she's full of crap, but do it slightly differently with a little more grace.

We are all in this battle together.  Short, tall, fat, skinny, jolly, insecure, confident...  DOESN"T MATTER!  We are all in this together.  If your friend, any friend, makes a comment about her body, just say, "I hear you.  Would it help to go shopping together so you have another pair of eyes?  Some things are hard to see in a mirror."  Then point out the positive qualities of the clothing or the less attractive qualities of the clothes, NOT her body.

Women of all shapes and sizes have body issues.  There are a few women who are above it all and move freely through this world not listening to anything but angelic voices and puppy kisses.  Most of us are not so enlightened.  A thin friend may have heard "I'm fat" from a thin mother her entire life.  A thin woman may have recovered from anorexia or bulimia.  A thin woman may lose interest in food in times of even light stress becoming ill out of both ends - yeah, I said it.  A thin woman may be self conscious about lumps or coloring because our culture is just mean like that.  Am I trying to say thin women have it worse than heavy ones?  NO.  I'm NOT.  I'm saying STOP COMPARING! And if you love a friend who says something negative about her own body, listen and love her some more.  Do not be dismissive and don't turn it around to a statement about how fat she must think YOU are!  Her statement about herself has zero to do with how she sees you.  If you're the heavier gal, you wouldn't want to be dismissed and told "just love your body." Women go to workshops and read books for advice like that.  You go to your friends for love and support. In a perfectly rainbows and unicorns world, we would all simply love our bodies.  If you are so enlightened, be gentle with your less-enlightened friend!

No matter what your size, no matter what the size of your friend, love, listen, realize there may be more to their experience than what you immediately see, and above all else do not compare and dismiss their feelings.  Their body image is possibly just as damaged as yours.  We are in this battle together.

Alternately, if your friend seems loudly obsessed with her body and how awful it is, a heart to heart about why she does this might be in order.  If it stabs you in the heart because it reminds you of your own issues, talk about it.  Maybe she's never had someone truly listen.  It is possible that she's fishing for compliments, or otherwise self-absorbed....  in which case, you have to make a healthy call for your own sanity.  This post is food for thought for that friend that might say something occasionally and could use a little support just like you.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Mamma Raccoon

At first, I thought this raccoon was a young naive creature, but after a little research, I figured out she was a mamma showing up about dusk looking for easy scraps.  She showed up every night for quite a while, so often that Stoli nearly got used to her.  I caught this video because there really wasn't anything I could do to rescue Stoli.

The last time she came around, she brought her children.  I was in the living room and heard quite a lot of noise.  Could be any animal, but I kept hearing more and more noise.  I finally went to the door and shined a flashlight.  I caught at least 6 small pairs of glowing eyes.  They scattered up the trees, out into the yard.  It was as if mama had promised this would be perfectly safe and my flashlight destroyed her promise.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Day 21: the going home, maybe

We take everyone's advice and head toward the airport early.  Our flight leaves about noon.  We have a car to return and customs to deal with.  Ashford, Co. Wicklow is south of Dublin and the airport is on the north side of Dublin.  We eat the breakfast we had in the fridge and head out the door.  We do hit some morning traffic, but we continue on, fuel up the car, and make it to the rental with what seems like plenty of time.

There are hoards of people returning cars at 9AM.  We filled up the car, so we are due a fuel refund or a ridiculous amount which means I get to go inside and stand in line.  Luckily, this actually doesn't take that long.  We waited through two shuttles and forced our way onto the third.  There were far too many people for the shuttles they had going and the pushy younger types somehow always managed to get on the shuttle first.  We helped push a couple who had two small children and all of the accompanying child junk with them onto the shuttle before us.  They had been waiting forever but with two small children, never could manage, and had WE been pushy, we could have pushed past them with no problem as the shuttle driver huffed at all the child stuff he was having to find a way to fit.  Off they went and I physically prepared to make the next shuttle.  I knew if I did, Gwyndolyn would, by god, make it too. And we did.  Sigh of relief.

We get in line to check our bags and it is a mighty line, though it could be worse.  A darling smiling man was questioning passengers in line about who packed our things, where we had been.  He tried to make this conversational, but he was doing his job jotting things down.

We checked our bags and got our boarding passes...  Sigh of relief.

Ah, the security line.  Yay!  Loooooong line that everyone is used to all over the world.  Shoes off, computers out, blag blah.  Finally make it though that.  Sigh of relief.

Pre-customs.  We go to a machine which asks us questions and takes our photo.  The photo is aimed for people who are 6 feet tall.  If you stand WAYYYYY back, it will capture a shorter person, but that means your arms can't reach the button to take the photo.  I watched this tiny woman struggle with this puzzle for too long before the employee noticed and helped her out.  We walk away with a customs print-out including the photo.  Awesome.  That should save some time somewhere.  Sigh of relief.

We are feeling pretty good about now and we spot a lovely gift shop.  Gwyndolyn does a bit of shopping and off we go to the customs inspection line.  This is pretty much exactly like the security inspection except you can bring opened bottles of water or whatever through the line.  They are looking for smuggled goods here, not explosives.  This one is long and it is frankly clear that all of these travelers are getting a little tired of this.  Faces are saggier, children are less bouncy, but we finally all make it through.  Sigh of relief.

Oh dear mother of god....  The line of lines.  The line to speak to the real live customs officer.  We are all hanging in there.  The people directing travelers had their hands full.  Those who didn't do the pre-screen, over here, those who did....  oh, excuse me, sir, sir....  over here.  How many lines are we at?  I don't even know.  I would love to speak to the officer in a clever manner, but my brains are scrambled by this point.  That's probably the WHOLE point.  If you are doing something illegal, you're either cool as a cucumber or a COMPLETE mess which would be a red flag.  All of us, we're just tired.  Finally through.....  SIGH OF RELIEF.

Oh good, it appears our gate is in the next county.  That's my fault.  I have THAT kind of luck.  The good side of my luck includes a little bit of money I forgot about.  Enough that we each have a beer ad split a toasty before getting on the plane.
Captain Ameri-cat is supposed to be good luck in our travels home.
We board, we fly, and service is so much better than our trip TO Ireland.  We are fed or offered drink every couple of hours at most.  I accept every single time.  I will not go hungry or thirsty again.  We make it to DC, sit in the terminal for just a little while.  We chat with a friendly traveling man and board our plane to Austin without problem.

And now, the fun begins.  There is major flooding happening in Houston and BOTH Houston international airports are shut down.  All of their flights are being diverted to Austin and San Antonio.  We are bumped and circle for some time before having to go to Corpus Christi to land and re-fuel.  There is no gate for us, so we sit on the tarmac for a good long while.  While sitting there we are informed that the computer has some sort of malfunction.  In awesome 21st century style, the pilot warns us that he has to turn OFF the system and turn it back on to reboot.  Maybe that will fix it.

We finally get to leave the airplane.  We take our things.  The reboot does not fix the problem.  It's now 9PM.  All of the restaurants in the Corpus airport are closed.  We are stuck.  Our crew has until midnight to fly or else they have to stay grounded.  Seems like a great time for a nap.  I lay down on the floor and SLEEP.  The only reason I woke up was that I was getting cold.  It's now 10:30.  Computer is still not fixed and people are getting super antsy.  We are told that we could leave, but if we do, we can't come back because there are no TSA agents to inspect people coming back in AND if it turns out they cancel the flight and you have left, your luggage will be stuck in Corpus waiting for you.  We either stay until they say so, or leave and be on our own without our luggage.  I know just a tiny bit about air travel, and I let Gwyndolyn know to stick close to the desk because all indications say this is going to be cancelled, vouchers will be issued, we will have to wait for those vouchers and get on a shuttle.  If we are near the front, we will be out of here much quicker.  And sure enough, the agent begins to quietly issue vouchers about 11:30.  She doesn't announce it, she just starts serving those in line.  We are about fifth.  We get on a shuttle and go to the hotel, check in and go to bed!  We don't have our luggage, but at this point, I don't care!  BED!

In the morning, we pack up our backpacks and head to breakfast.  We have vouchers...  that's nice.  Remember the traveling man we chatted with in DC?  He was there and told us he had rented a car and still had two seats if we'd like to go to Austin after breakfast.  The flight that we were all rescheduled boarded at 2:30.  A car ride would get us there about noon.  Sold.  One last problem, our luggage.  We decided if we could get our luggage, we would definitely take his offer, otherwise, we'd have to see if the luggage would be forwarded or not.

After breakfast, we drove over to the airport, went to the counter and asked about our flight and luggage.  We described ours and even though she said she didn't think there was any more back there, came out quickly with both of our bright pink suitcases.  Away we went.

Gwyndolyn had a friend pick us up in the cell phone lot at the Austin airport and our new friend drove away to turn in his rental car.  We were home.

Adventure complete.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Day 20: Sammy the Seal

It's May 25th, our last full day in Ireland.  We have been exceptionally horrible gift purchasers on this trip.  We decide to stick close to our home base, and focus just a tiny bit of our energy on gift purchases.

We chose nearby Glendalough to be our scenic destination.  This gorgeous place was... well... gorgeous.  We hiked to various sites, purchased toasties at a vending truck in the inner parking lot, and sat by the lake to eat our lunch.
Ahhhhh...  we're going to miss this place.

Wandered up here and found a Brown Creeper (a bird).

Founder of this monastic site, held his arm out in meditation for so long that a bird nested and the chicks fledged.
There were shops along the road into Glendalough.  We stopped at two of them on our way back toward Wicklow town.  We found a good variety of cute treasures.  We felt that our mission as shoppers was accomplished.  Well, almost.
Derrybawn Bridge, C. 1700...  in front of one of the shops.
 My favorite critter is the otter.  There was one in Ashford, Wicklow near where we stayed. He has a fish between his front paws.
Can I take him home?!?!?!
 On to Wicklow Town proper.  Our destination would be Sammy the Seal.  He's famous for knowing the time.  He is fed at precisely 4PM.  He is always there. On time.  Today was no different.  Such a sweet face.  The owner of the restaurant who feeds him got advice from an expert about what and how much to feed a seal.  Sammy likes his free meal, that's for sure!
Sammy the famous Seal.
Our final shopping stop was the grocery store.  We bought an absurd amount of Cadbury.  Even places that do sell real European Cadbury can not possibly sell every single kind they offer in Europe.  We did our best to support the chocolate loving economy.

Back at our BnB, we were due to meet with Dublin writer, Abby and Brian for one last drink on the porch.  They showed up and whisked us away to Hunter's Hotel which is a lovely place with gorgeous gardens and adorable sitting spaces near fireplaces.  We had a few pints, a few laughs and they took us home, practically tucking us into bed.  They tied up our Ireland adventure - the first and last days of our journey.  <3 p="">
It would be an early morning.  Off to bed.

To be continued.....

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day 19: Jerpoint Abbey

It is the 24th of May, 2016.  We are getting closer and closer to the end of our journey.  We decided to back-track and see some of the things Larry, from yesterday's Ferns Castle adventure, suggested.

Grennan Castle.
 Jerpoint Abbey was highly recommended.  We arrived to find out this is one of those places that is cash only.  We are near the end of the trip and really didn't want to withdraw from an ATM, so we scrounged up enough change to pay Margaret at the desk.  She was about to give a tour to an arriving bus of Americans.  We had such good luck with Larry, we decided to stick with Margaret for her tour.  We were not disappointed.  She was hilarious and kind and incredibly knowledgeable.
Many surviving carvings in this abbey.
 This is a 12th Century abbey that went through major changes through the centuries.  Margaret pointed out details of the architecture that dated changes and explained the changes in the ideas of the church that added certain types of things.
The ruins of Jerpoint Abbey.
 After we thanked Margaret, we were on our way to Dunbrody Abbey.  We parked and saw a sign on the gate that told us the key was in the gift shop.  We went into the gift shop, paid a small admission and took the key across the street and into the abbey all by ourselves. After such great tour guides, I truly missed them going into this abbey.  I bet there was some amazing history that made it right past us.
Pass the cows to the abbey.
Dunbrody from the inside.
We returned the key and went on to Ballyhack.  When we arrived, the big block structure did not look like much of a destination.  Larry had told us there was a man who worked here who knew EVERYTHING.  We walked around the corner and found steps that led into the big block structure into a brightly lit office area.  Cian met us at the door and immediately asked if we'd like a free tour.  without hesitation, I said YES!  Cian seemed younger and newer at this tour-guide sort of thing, but he warmed up to us and the jokes and information began pouring out.  We were first introduced to the "murder hole" which had intrigued us since reading about it in the tour guide.  Basically, it's just a hole above the entry way.  If the inhabitants of the castle don't like the visitors or intruders, they can drop hot oil or whatever they want down the murder hole.  I was too busy listening and talking to Cian to take a single photo.  Not a single one.  Maybe I left with a crush on the guy.

Onward we go to Tintern Abbey.  We set the GPS and it guided us to....  drum roll..... a LOCKED BACK GATE.  We could see the abbey from there and it was nearly time for them to close so I decided to leave the car and walk.  If we had not, we would never have seen this view.
Tintern Abbey from the back. GPS fail, or win?
We spent a short time looking around the abbey and then the sweet woman at the front desk offered to drive us back to the car.  I wish we would have said no...  it was a SHORT walk, but a long drive all the way around and down a very narrow tiny road.  And when we arrived, 2 other tourists were parked behind us.  We had to wait for them to come back and move.  It was lovely to spend a few minutes with this sweet woman anyway.

It wasn't long before the third tourist arrived back and backed down the tiny road.  We were free to go on to Hook Lighthouse which we arrived at just past closing.  These signs were my favorite part of the lighthouse area.  
I want to see the blow holes!!!!
We happened upon Templetown Church Abbey.  There was a narrow creepy stairway that led up into a room that had a small bit of roof.  This place needed some love.  I wanted to stay and clean it up.
The room up the creepy stairs.
Across the street was a pub.  Convenient.  I could stay at the abbey, taking care of it, and eat at a pub every day.  I would like to propose this to someone doing hiring for this sort of work.
Templetown from the pub.
To be continued....

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Day 18: Ferns Castle

It is actually May 23.  Time to head to Wicklow toward our final BnB home.  First we see a sign for Mahon Falls.  Not mentioned on the sign was the distance or the amount of hiking, but we had all day to make our way to Wicklow.  The place was peaceful and open.  Only a couple of other tourists were there, and lots of sheep with big blue dots on their bums called the place home.
If you click on this pic, you get to see the whole thing much bigger.
Brave sheep.  Not shown, blue rear end.
 On our way out of the area, we saw "Magic Road."  I WISH we had known what it meant when we were there...  unfortunately, we did not, so we did not test it!  (look it up :-)  )
MISSED scientific fairy experimentation!
 You know what we deserve after that hike?  A 99!  Mmmmmmmm!
Crazed Abby loves ice cream stops!
Along the road we see a sign for Ferns Castle.  We still have plenty of time in our day.  We head toward it and land a parking spot directly in front.  There are two men hanging out at the gate, and one of them is wearing an OPW shirt.  Office of Public Works runs many of these sites.  Larry, the OPW shirt wearer, greeted us with alarming enthusiasm.   Being Americans, we are not used to such enthusiasm, and it made me a bit cautious.  He asked if we'd like a tour.  It's free.  I considered the facts:  there were two of us and only one of him; he seemed unarmed; we were in sweet safe Ireland, and he was wearing an official OPW shirt.  OK, sure, let's go.  He hopped into action leading us first into the office so that he could get a torch (flashlight).  Another fact added: if we went missing, there were now several witnesses.

We walked to a park bench facing the ruins and he told us to have a seat.  He told us the history of the place.  Then we followed him around to the corner of what is left of the building.  The corner has been restored mostly to original, with some exceptions.  When we would come to an exception he would tell us how awful some restorations were and then quickly tell us about something else.  He was funny and fascinating.
Enter the castle from this modern staircase.
 We made it to the top where we could see the entire countryside.  He answered many of our burning Ireland questions like, "what is with the rows of plastic in some of the fields?", "and what are those yellow flowering hedges?"  Answers: Keeps the potatoes warm, and Gorse.
View from the top.
 As we came back down, I snapped more photos.  I was too busy listening to take photos before.
Door leading to restored space.
 After the tour, we went back into the office where Larry sent us on with maps and information enough to keep us busy for another month stay in Ireland.  Lesson learned.  If an OPW employee stops and asked you if you'd like a free tour.  Don't even hesitate.  YES is the only answer!

We went to have a look at Ferns Cathedral and graveyard.  On to Waterford to do a little gift shopping.  We made it to Wicklow a little bit early, but perfect time for dinner.  Our host was about a block from a pub.  I ducked in and asked about dinner.  They weren't serving today.  A man in the pub asked if we wanted a recommendation.  Again, when strangers offer to point you toward good local food, accept their advice.  He sent us to a place called Jacob's Well.  He gave us directions in a very typical Irish fashion, You can't miss it!  As luck would have it, a man was leaving and asked if we'd like to follow him that direction.  We plugged the place into the GPS for safe keeping and followed the man until his turn took him one way and we needed to go the other.  He stopped and told us which way to continue.  It was so very friendly and kind of him.

Beer and a lasagna.  This lasagna was so heavy, meaty, and quite tasty, I couldn't come close to eating it all.  Because we had driven 15 minutes away, now we were late to our BnB, but I sent our hostess a message and she let us know that her daughter would let us in and she'd be home after an errand.
Lasagna and a local beer.
We made it to our BnB and got settled into the large upstairs room with private bathroom.  Quite nice.  Edel came home and told us to chat with her husband Brendan in the morning.  He was the king of destinations and directions.  I just looked forward to a really good night's sleep!

To be continued!!! ....

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Day 17: Cork City

On our final day stationed in Cork, we decided to visit the city.  First stop was Blackrock Castle and Science center.  Nothing about the castle itself is original, but the science center housed there, while aimed for young people, is still rather in depth.  The young tour guide showed us a projected view of the night sky in an air-inflated space center.  And then she led us around and up to the top of the castle.
Blackrock Castle with a shipping container yard just across the river.
It rained on us at the top of the castle!  Glad to have a rain coat!
In times of rain, cities are good.  Cities have pubs.  Franciscan Well brewery has a back yard area which is home to Pompeii pizza.  Get your beer and go sit out back.  Order your pizza and enjoy!  The pizza place was just one man and a wood fired oven.  He only takes cash.  Always have some cash.  The pizza was fantastic.

I did have a Franciscan Well beer, but I couldn't pass up the chance to try this unique Ginger Porter which was quite tasty.  Some small breweries have taken to canning beers and slapping a sticker label to the can.  I pealed the label and saved it for my scrap book.  All around win.
Try all the flavors!
When the rain stopped and the sun mostly came out, we made our way to the "Four Faced Liar" otherwise known as St. Anne's bell tower.  I didn't really want to ring the bells, but I did want to see the view from the top.
Perfectly normal street in Cork.
 The cashier at the door gives construction site looking ear muff protectors.  To climb to the top, you go THROUGH the bell room.  If a bell rings while you are there, it is LOUD!!!!  Getting through the maze made me laugh.  There is no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks that you would be allowed to crawl your way through a bell tower like this in the states.  You had to contort your body and like a child on a playground climb through to the next group of stairs!
Climbed right past this guy.
 When we got to the top, another American tourist was there.  She was living in Europe and tried to take advantage of her location seeing everything she could while she lived and worked near so many points of interest.
The view from the top of things never gets old for me.  Practically the entire city of Cork.
 The day was clearing up nicely by now and we made our way to St. Fin Barre's Cathedral.
Crossing the River Lee
 This cathedral had so many things to see outside, hundreds of statue figures.  There was an admission to go inside and I just didn't feel like it.  The exterior had the potential to take days to explore anyway.
St. Fin Barre's Cathedral
 We walked by University College Cork and through Fizgerald Park.
Lovely scenic Fitzgerald Park.
 We stopped in at The Friary, a small pub with a lively bar tender.  They didn't serve food, but they certainly had plenty of beer.  We had a pint to hold us over to dinner.
We parked by this wall.  We knew we'd be able to find it again!
To be continued....

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Day 16: Skellig Michael

We had been debating a trip to the Skelligs for days.  The price tag to go out is now at €60 because of the recent Star Wars filming.  Not long ago, it was only €30.  €60 is pretty steep.  The other problem was weather.  We found the direct contact information to one of the boatman online.  An actually good website, it was a shock!  He told us when we called days before that weather had cancelled that day and the next day wasn't looking promising.  We called him again last night and he said there was a possibility and he did have 2 seats available.  If we wanted to start our drive from Cork, he would call about 8AM when he received the official weather report.  There would be no food or toilets, so plan accordingly.

We left our BnB about 6:30AM.  We needed to stop along the way to get cash.  The boatman didn't tell us that, but I had a hunch - never ignore a hunch.  The boat leaves at 10AM.  Best to be at the docks by 9:30.  The drive to Portmagee would be 2 hours and 45 minutes at least.

On the road, the sky would be beautiful one minute and raining the next.  We truly did not know whether the weather would cooperate or not.  We had decided that if the boats couldn't go out today, we would be close to other things we could see anyway.  The drive would not be a loss.  At 8:02, our boatman called and told us the trip was a go!  Even with this news, our trip could be beautifully sunny or light rain and cloudy.  Either way, we were going.

I stopped at a bank with two ATMs so we didn't even have to wait on each other.  We arrived with snacks in our backpacks, binoculars ready to see birds, and €60 safely stuffed into pockets with zippers.  Once at the dock, the boatmen were preparing their boats and slowly gathering their patrons.  Each boat was a 12 person boat and there were maybe 10 of them.  This is the total number of people who can go to the island each day.  The OPW guides on the island told us there was an annual number permitted, so once the numbers are reached, no matter how good the weather, that's it.  I can't find a confirmation of that, but the reasoning was to preserve the site.
Tiny 12 person ferry.  Gwyndolyn is a happy camper!
I hate dramamine.  Even in half dose, it makes me too tired and makes my head furry.  Gwyndolyn had brought some anti-nausea medication instead.  Being a healthy, otherwise law-abiding, non-drug taking person, I accepted a dose of this stuff.

The water was choppy, and it's always choppier going out than coming into shore...  because that's how waves work.  There was no standing at the front of the boat here, and even if you could have, you would have been SOAKED.  The first 15 minutes of the ride were quite nice.  I enjoyed being on the side of the boat that I could see things and watch the birds.  The second 15 minutes were still ok, but bordering on enough.  The last 15 minutes were a delicate lace of torture.  Both of us kept our breakfast, but many on other boats did not.  I just kept telling myself, we will be there any minute....  how many more minutes....  not sure how many more minutes I can stand...  If I decide I can't make it, how would one hold onto the side of this small boat without smacking your chest into the guard rail?  I was definitely concerned.  When we finally got to the dock, we had to climb stairs that were insanely steep even for a normal day.  The first couple of steps, I was not sure I was going to make it.  It was with a sheer will of the mind that I forced what strength I had left to take the dozen or so steps up to the flat part of the dock.  Then we sat on the concrete dock until a bit of color returned to our faces.  It wasn't too long, and we really didn't want to waste the short amount of time we had.  It was now 10:50 and the boat would leave at 2:15.

Off we go, still slightly wobbly from the boat ride.  We walked around to where the mighty upward journey begins.  The guide at the bottom explained in great detail how to manage the stone steps.  He included a physical demonstration.  And he went over these instructions over, and over, and ooooover, and OOOOVER....  I thought a few people in front of us were going to plow him down.  I think he was stalling to give the group ahead more space, and hold us wobbly people down here until we were less wobbly.  Smart all around, I suppose.  In 2009, there were 2 separate deadly falls.  Caution, watch your feet, and stop any time you need to.

Up 150 steps.  Stop for a photo.
Look at that SKY!  Gorgeous day...  what luck!
Up 125 steps.  Stop for another photo.
Natural stone.  Uneven height and depth.
Up 100 steps.  Oh my goodness, look how tiny the boats are getting.
There is a boat in this photo.  A very tiny boat.
Oh!  A group of young women were looking at something under one of the steps.  One of them held her camera over the edge into the den of a PUFFIN!  She showed me the photo.  The scene wasn't quite as dangerous as it sounds, but I saw the photo and that was good enough.
Nothing to stop you if you fall!
Up 150 steps.  A chain rail is installed at one point which is definitely helpful, but doesn't last very long.
See that tiny path? Those are stone steps about 3 feet wide.

Up 145 steps.  And, we're THERE!  The ancient monastic site with numerous beehive shaped stacked stone structures.
Skellig Michael monastic site dating to 600AD.
Beehive shaped dry stacked stone structures.
When we got to the ruins, the guide was finishing up her talk with the first group.  We wandered and took photos and I sat down for the next talk.  I sat just outside the doorway to one of the beehive shaped huts.  I could hear baby bird chirp.  I went inside and searched.  Searched and searched.  A stone stack construction hut has a million potential bird houses.  I found them with the flashlight of my phone.  Storm petrels.  They were old enough to look like adults in the face.  Most adult birds go hunting by day and will return in the evening.  We were told we might see a puffin or two, but if we don't, that's why.

I got antsy and wanted to go look for puffins.  Gwyndolyn didn't seem to mind following me in my search.  We started the descent.  As we came around a corner, one flew over!  A PUFFIN!  I was so excited, but remembered the caution our guide had explained.  We carefully made it down to the next rest area and sat watching a couple of puffins fly by and land for photos.

Those are PUFFINS on that rock just to the right of center in the photo.
Our boatman, who had apparently hiked to the top passed us on the way down and pointed out a puffin nest under a huge rock.  It was too dark to get a photo, but I could see the little guy.

The ride back to the mainland started with a circling of the Little Skellig.  This island is one great big huge home to Gannets.  In fact, this is the largest Gannet colony in the world.  Seeing the birds covering every rocky top was incredible.  Gannets are beautiful birds, by the way.  My photos don't do them or the puffins justice.  Look them up!

Little Skellig, home to a gazillion gannets.
The ride back was only slightly better than the ride out.  We made it to shore by 3PM.  The boatman paused the boat before docking to gather the fees.  CASH!  Toilets in the local pub, and then a sit on the curb with some pretzels had me feeling a bit better fairly quickly.  Not feeling quite settled enough for a real meal, we started our way back to Cork.

We stopped for dinner at O'Sullibhean's Tower Inn.  I had another bowl of seafood chowder that was ALMOST as good as my favorite one in Letterkenny.  A dog kept wandering in and out of the pub.  No one seemed to even notice the dog.  I was only disappointed that he wouldn't come hang out with us or at least let me get a better photo.

Pub dog.
We had an A+ tourist day.

To be continued.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Day 15: Jameson's

May 20th was a rainy day full of random sites.  We started with a tour Jameson's.  They chose 8 volunteers from the group to do a whiskey tasting at the end.  Gwyndolyn and I were chosen.  For our tour beverage, we chose Jameson's and ginger ale which was a very good combination.  And the tasting was very interesting.  While I'm sure they chose a Scotch and an American whiskey that would really show off the differences in the most harsh way, it did inform my mind which I had never considered.  The Scotch whisky was smokey which, for me, isn't a bad thing necessarily.  I like smokey flavors.  The American was harsh with the alcohol, and the Jameson's was sweeter which explains why it went so well with the ginger ale.
The quick volunteer gets the tasting!
 This is a picture of my favorite beer in the world (so far), Lon Dubh Stout made by 9 White Deer.  It's a smokey delicious Stout...  I would love to have this delivered to my door here in the states every day!  Can anyone make that happen?
 Our journey to Drombeg Stone Circle got foggier and rainier.  It was definitely a scene that could be used in either a horror film or a mystical time traveling flick.  We didn't see many other tourists out.
A really cool place to have mostly to ourselves.
 Finally Timoleague Friary right on the water.  The grounds were extensive and parts were being worked on.  In the fog it was almost too east to get lost in the scene.

To be continued!!!