Friday, September 30, 2011

Derry - Sept 30

We awoke this morning, had a lovely breakfast and were greeted by Tony, Derek's Cousin, who came to pick us up for touring for the day. We stopped by Derek's Grandfather's tombstone (on his Dad's side) and some cousins as well as an uncle and his Grandmother, who were in a different cemetery. We then went to a different cemetery which was just a couple km's out of town and in the Republic of Ireland and not Northern Ireland. Here, a couple cousins were buried, but something very odd happened here. Tony and his wife washed the gravestones of all the people that they knew in this cemetery. When I say the washed them, I mean they brought sponges, cleaning solutions, and cloths to wash down the actual tombstones. Weird!

After we left the third graveyard of the day, we went on a tour of where Derek's family has lived - we saw where his grandmother lived and where we think his dad grew up for a year or two, and then where his uncle lived as well as a number of different cousins. We also did take a bit of a tour around the city and visit Derek's uncle's Pub that he owned for a number of years.

After all this we ended up in Lizzy's living room (Derek's third cousin) where we spent a couple hours going through all the family history that she knew and writing it down... she is a volcano of knowledge and it was amazing that after 2 hours, we were still going and figuring out who was who and who married who... she was amazing, and brilliant for a 70 year old lady! She even "Phoned a friend" and called over Derek's other cousin on the Orr side to fill in some of the missing pieces... who knew Derek had such a big family! Lizzy was such a card, telling us all the family history that she knew - warts and all!

It was a bit of a shame that we weren't able to do the wall tour of Derry like we had intended, but it was good that we had such a good visit with Derek's family. Tomorrow - on to Enniskillin and Ballina and the Belleek Castle. Tomorrow will be a brilliant day!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Antrim Coast - Day 8

Today we woke up early and said goodbye to Aunt Maureen... it was more emotional than we had anticipated and I think it had something to do with Derek’s mom not being well and also that it was 20 years between Derek’s visits so she thinks she may not see Derek again. We hope to be back sometime soon so that we can see some of the things we haven’t and maybe co-inside it with a trip to or from Scotland!

Anyway, we wiped the tears away and headed down the beautiful Antrim coast, which is so beautiful that it is literally breath taking. Our goal today is to drive to the rope bridge and the Giants causeway and then off to Derry. Our first stop was in Ballycastle  in hopes of going to Rathlin Island where Robert the Bruce holed out for a while before the big fight that he won against the English – Bannockburn. We also hoped to see the Puffins on this Island. When we got to the ferry crossing, the ferry was going to be going out until 2pm and then returning at 4pm – it just would not work. Also, the puffins have left for the summer, so one of the reasons we were going to go was gone, so we just continued on the coast road to the rope bridge. It turns out that we took a wrong turn and ended up going into the interior, so we turned around and headed back to Ballycastle and found our way again.

We got to the rope bridge in no time at all and we strolled the 1km from the gate to the bridge at a leisurely pace. The weather was amazing today and so we soaked in as much of the great weather that we could and took a bunch of pictures. We then got to the bridge... yikes! When you are going down to the bridge, you have to go down about 20 steps straight down to get to the platform that holds the bridge. This bridge is a rope bridge with 2 planks of wood on the bottom of it as the place where you walk. The bridge originated in the early 1900’s as a way for the fishermen to get to their fishing hut on the island across from where we stood – they often brought a new bridge over every year. When it got time to cross the bridge, I went first... no fear right? I took small steps and made sure that I had a firm grasp on the rope on either side of me... it was scary, I am not going to lie and it was wobbly and the bridge moved and I thought I was going to plummet the 100 meters into the ravine below... but I managed to make it through and get across very well. Derek, like we had any doubt, had no trouble.

On the other side of the bridge was amazing... the colours of the greens in the grass, the blues and greens of the sea, the whites of the cliffs, it was all so amazing. I managed to get a little bit of Yoga in on the island and just sat and soaked it all in. We both loved it and didn't really want to leave, but time and hunger were calling and so we had to leave and cross the bridge again. Going back was easier than going across, but still scary. But, once across, we cruised down the 1 km long path and hit the car park. Derek was driving so it was an easy day for me! Off again, we were, but stopped at a road side pub to eat. One thing we have noticed here, is that the people of Ireland like to keep their houses and their pubs WARM - when I say this, I mean, this pub had a fire going in the fireplace and it was 20 degrees above outside... W-A-R-M! So, with a couple less layers off, we munched on some pub grub and prepped for the next event/site - the Giants causeway!

We found our way easy enough and once parked and paid, we were on the bus to the park. The driver took one look at us and suggested that we may like the 20 minute walk to see some amazing views... was it the hiking shoes and Canadian accents, the lonely planet guide, or the 3 cameras... I will never know, but we were game. So, we trekked (more like strolled) along a path towards the causeway and once we crested the hill, the coastline was revealed and amazing, beautiful scenery unfolded. We could look down on the coast and see the causeway and to our right was the path that we would take, down a crazy 120 some step flight of stairs and then on to the coast. It was a spectacular site and as the salt air kissed our faces, we got closer to where Giants walked.

The legend goes something like... Finn McCool was a Giant and wanted to make Ireland proud of his Giant prowess, so he planned to fight the Scottish giant just across the way. You see, you can actually see Scotland from the causeway, so Finn walked across the bay to where the Scottish giant lived. The giant was sleeping, and there was a lady there who seemed to be taking care of this giant. Being a clever lady, she said to Finn, "Shhh the baby is sleeping" - McCool thought that if the BABY was this big, what would the giant look like? So, he turned back to Ireland and tore up the causeway as he came back, leaving it in pieces as we all see it today!

haha! We go and grab something to eat at a near by pub and call Tony, the 2nd cousin. He comes to pick us up, and we head out to his brother, Charlie's house. A knock on the door and a warm reception was had - then we turn the corner... and ALL of Charlie's kids are in the living room... all but one. He has 4 children, and 8 grandchildren and they seem to be overflowing in the house. It honestly felt a bit like an ambush, but a welcomed one. We sat there and got to know some of Derek's 3rd cousins, chatting happily about some of the family history and sharing some pictures of Derek's Dad. I really didn't think Derek had a big family, but this proved that I was oh, so very wrong. Well into the night, we chatted, visited and got to know each other... what a wonderful night!

Tomorrow it will continue, with a visit to some of the gravestones of Derek's grandparents and great grandparents, Then we are going on a tour of the walls and hopefully murals, then for a walk across the peace bridge and a visit with more family... so much to do tomorrow, so I will sign off... happily, filled with fresh sea air, and family's happy words ringing in my ears... what a beautiful day!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Remembrance

This time, on this date, last year it was a sad day as Derek’s dad passed away. Today we had planned to go and see some monuments to famous Orrs – and we were in luck.

We got up early and were greeted with a lovely breakfast. We chatted for a bit and then headed out for the day. I was at the helm for the day and it looked like it would be a beautiful day. We headed first to the town of Carrickfurgus. It is here that there is a giant castle and also where William Orr was hanged in the 1700’s. We got to the castle, which was beautiful, and headed in to view the site. The castle is one of the best preserved Medieval castles in Ireland and it dated back to the 1200’s. This castle had a tower in it that was 3 floors tall and was very interesting and well preserved. We toured this great site and then asked for directions to Gallow Greens where William Orr was hanged – this however isn’t an historic site anymore and is just a petrol station. So, we drove past the petrol station, saluted Derek’s historic ancestor and drove on.

Next stop, we headed to Ballycarry. Here was supposed to be a memorial for James Orr the famous Poet. This man was told to be a wonderful poet, and it was even said to be the “Robbie Burns of Ireland” but better! So, we roam around this very small town, and find it in a square. It was a small plaque on a rock that indicated it was in memoriam of James Orr. We then looked up and saw a small church in ruins, so we walked over and lo and behold we see a giant monument for James Orr. In the church grave yard, there is a huge grave stone for James Orr so we took many pictures and wandered around. There were a number of other Orr’s and even a Hamilton stone in this grave yard. There was many VERY old graves and it was very creepy for me. There was even a grave where I could almost be certain that I saw the wood from a coffin. I am not sure why, but I was very worried that I was going to fall through the ground and into a grave, so needless to say, I had the creeps and stood outside of the gates of the graveyard for a while while Derek looked for more graves. He even hid and didn’t respond to me when I called, so I just sat outside the gates and waited for him... ha, ha, ha - funny boy!

After this, we headed to Ballymena where Derek’s mom and dad spend sometime and did some shopping before they headed to Canada. We did some shopping ourselves, picking up a couple books and such. We sat and had a bite to eat and planned the rest of the day. We figured that we would try to make it to the Carrick-a-rede bridge with the hope that we would make it before the bridge closed. We drove through some beautiful countryside, and we went over the last hill and we saw the beautiful coastline – it was literally breath taking. We found the rope bridge only just 10 minutes after the bridge closed, CRAP! So, we took our time to take in the amazing views and then drove along the coast back to Larne. It was an amazing view and drive, which we both enjoyed so much. It was dark by the time we rolled into Larne and although I did very well throughout the day driving, driving in the dark is a bird of a different feather. I had a hard time with the depth perception of where the car was and it caused some tense moments - we were very happy to roll into Maureen's drive at the end of the day.

We were greeted with a warm smile and delicious meal and a chat about the day. Maureen also helped with the laundry that we needed to do and also gave us some family heirlooms to bring home. It was a delightful day, filled with remembering Derek's dad and enjoying his native land. It was a perfect way to pass the day of the anniversary of Jimmy's passing. Tomorrow, we move onwards to Derry, passing the Rope bridge again and the Giant's causeway... so much to do! We are also meeting up with Derek's second cousin again in Derry so more family time is coming.

Stay tuned to the adventures to come! Love from Ireland - H & D

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A family affair - Toomebridge and Larne

Today was a day for family – we woke up early (too early for some) and breakfasted and headed out of Belfast. We found our way to a quaint little town where Derek’s dad was stationed as a RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulatory) or to us lay folks, the police. The little town is named Toomebridge and his mother, father and sister lived here for 7 years before moving to Canada. His sister was actually born in this town. We found the home they had, walked the streets they roamed and when we came to the police station, it wasn’t there anymore. Apparently since the ‘end’ of the troubles, they have removed some of the police stations in the small towns. We walked to Dan McCloy’s store that Derek has told stories of, where the family and Derek’s family were friendly by day and not by night by virtue of the “sides” they were on. We looked around and now it is a shop that specializes in selling guns... hummmm... Dan McCloy was not there and his son, although in the building was tending to other customers. So, we continued on our tour of this lovely town. We had a nice lunch in a pub/restaurant close by and then heading out of town, with me at the helm!

Driving on the other side of the road is WEIRD! With the gear shifter on the other side, I have often tried to change gears on the right side only to have my hand hit the window. The thing that I find most alarming is having vehicles come at me so close to the line.  I am not sure why this bothers me so much, as the same thing happens in Canada, but I think it is still because I see the side that I am on as the passenger side and it is weird having things come at you. All together, I think I did ok – I didn’t get lost and although I HATE round a bouts, I have grown accustomed to them – ish!

Larne was only about 45 minutes from Toomebridge, so before we knew it, we were in the middle of this small town trying to find our way to Derek’s aunts’ house. We stopped at an information guide (as our GPS had run out of batteries – we forgot to charge it up last night) and were on our way before we knew it. With a tiny bit of a detour, we made it successfully and were greeted delightfully with a warm hug and a cup of tea. We have been visiting since about 3:00 this afternoon and have caught up on all the news, the relatives and the best places for us to go tomorrow. Aunt Maureen made us an AMAZING meal of ham and chicken with 2 kinds of potatoes, carrots and peas – it was wonderful and delicious. For dessert, a big slice of apple pie and Ice cream... I am STILL stuffed! After supper, Aunt Maureen’s’ friends Heather and Stephanie came around for a bit of a visit and we chatted happily about the funny things we have seen in Ireland and how crazy and weird driving is for us. All of this entertainment and visiting on top of the court case of the year showing on TV. We watched the opening statements of the Michael Jackson trial – an historic trial for sure. So much going on and Derek and I are now pooped!

Filled to the brim with delicious food and biscuits and visiting and we are now settled in for a night of happy sleep. Tomorrow will be an interesting day as we venture out of Larne to see Carickfurgus and Ballycarry – both places where Derek’s family name holds history, be it in a monument or a member of the ‘clan’ hanged there. We are also hoping to run into some filming crews who are filming the TV show “Game of Thrones” here in Northern Ireland. We may have to wait for them to show until we get further up, but it may be on some of the lakes near where we will be tomorrow. Fingers crossed because how cool would that be?

Off to sleep now, and hope we get the rejuvenation we need for an action packed day tomorrow. I also hope to get to a store to do some shopping... fingers crossed! J

Until tomorrow – sending love from Nor’n I’rlan’ – or Northern Ireland. – H & D

Monday, September 26, 2011

Belfast - Day 5

We woke this morning with the anticipation of meeting a family member. We met up with one of Derek's second cousin's Tony for breakfast. We chatted here about some of the family links and by mid morning, we were acquainted and chatting happily as we went to down town Belfast to enjoy some of the sites. Tony had an appointment to attend to so we went along to the hop on hop off bus to see the sites. But first, we grabbed a cell phone so that we can contact people should we need to and so that we could get a hold of Derek's family and them us should the need arise.

The hop on hop off bus took us from the center of town to the Titanic quarter where the Titanic was built and was shipped off on its maiden voyage only to sink. This site didn't really have much in the way of things to tour so we didn't hop off. We then went to the Parliment buildings and some churches and rounded out the tour with the murals. We didn't stop and tour this site, as we needed to meet Tony back in the center, but we got a good sense of these and their meanings. It is incredible that there is still such intense feelings going about the troubles from the 1970's and that there are still fences that the government doesn't think they can take down for fear of reactions.

Once the tour was done, we caught up with Tony again for lunch. We went to the City Hall and ate some lovely Irish food in the cafe there. The city hall has an ornate dome that was so awesome and beautiful, but we had unfortunately missed the last tour for the day so we decided to head out of town for a side trip. Tony brought us to the lovely seaside town/resort of Newcastle, where we took in the sea air, walked on the promenade and took in some of the beauty of the Irish seaside. This little village was so lovely and quaint so we stopped for a tea. We weaved through the Irish country side on our way back in hopes that we would be able to get the "Historic Bar tour" - however when we got to the old Crown Pub Saloon, the bar keep informed us that this tour didn't run on Mondays - darn it, no wonder they didn't call us back! Oh well. Since there was no where to sit in this pub, we walked down the road to a pub, had a pint and planned tomorrow somewhat.

Tomorrow, we are off to Toome Bridge where Derek's Mum and Dad lived when married and where Derek's sister was born. Depending on what happens here, we may stay the night or we may venture on to Larne, where Derek's Mum is from and where Derek has an aunt. Tomorrow will be a day filled with remembrance and family.

We may not have internet for the next couple days as we are going to be staying with family - so if I can post, I will, if not, I will make sure to update when I can.

H & D

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Holy Scenic Route Batman!

Today I do not deserve the navigator of the year award... I was terrible!

We got up early and had breakfast at our delightful B&B and what a breakfast it was... EVERYTHING that is breakfast was offered. Fresh fruit and berries from the garden, cereal, yogurt, toast and homemade jam, scones and butter, eggs, bacon, sausage - let me tell you we were full for a while! Our hosts were chatty and our supposed to be quick breakfast turned into an hour long gab session... they were just so nice, it was very hard to leave.

Once we were on our way, we tried to follow the instructions we received from the lady who did the castle tour with us. However, we ended up lost, so we tried to find Bru Na Boinne (Newgrange) on our GPS that we had brought with us... finally after stopping and asking directions and an hour and a half (supposed to be a 30 min drive from Trim) we got there - just as it started to rain and just as a new tour was going out - great timing! So, we hopped on the bus and tootled out to the site. Newgrange is a 5000 year old building that is thought to be a temple to worship the sun - it is old, pagan and very mysterious. Our tour mostly consisted of standing in the rain, trying to take pictures of things while not getting the camera wet - and then we went inside the building. It was a very tight entry way (like most ruins I believe are) and once in, you are in this tiny little room with rock basins for the ashes of the cremated departed, which is what they believe was one of the purposes of the ruins. Then the guide turned out the light and talked about what happens on Dec 21st every year, for about 17 mins, there is a ray of light that comes into a hole on the top of the door and refracts based on the way the stone building is built and then illuminates the chamber we stood in... VERY cool! I must admit, I felt a tiny bit claustrophobic, but I think it was because he kept on referring to how tiny and small the chamber was and also how dark and closed it would feel - thanks for setting us up for success buddy! :) Anyway, it was a very cool tour and if you are interested in history of all sorts, a must on the list!

Then it was off to the Battle of the Boyne site - easy to get to, only about a 15 km drive, right? Well, after about 30 mins of driving we find it... sheesh, I am not doing so good! We drive down this majestic driveway that only seems to exist in Bronte novels and on either side are cannons or tables or items of old time war paraphernalia - I am intrigued. It looks like we are going to be rained out for the whole thing so we bundle up in our already wet rain gear and get ready for the rain. We walk up to the beautiful manor house and walk in. Thanks to mom and dad, we got in for free with our Heritage passes (Newgrange as well!) and so we took in the sites, learned about the history changing battle - we then went and sat in the tea room, had a snack and enjoyed the beautiful gardens.

Once we were finished with our tea, we started on towards Belfast, once again, after a 15 minute detour on the skinniest road to date, we were on our way. We got lost this many times in one day simply because I don't know how to use our GPS - I think I have it figured out now... FINALLY! So, after about 1.5 hours, we hit Belfast, drive successfully to our B&B and then go out to find some food. We are very close to down town, so after a 5 min walk, we are in the heart of city center and standing in front of Hotel Europa (the most bombed hotel in Europe) - we eat just across the street and beside the Crown Liquor Saloon (they didn't have room for us). Then it was off to explore a tiny bit before the sun goes down. We walked around and found the City Hall which was magnificent. Shortly after we get there, the sun goes down and we walk back to the B&B - the rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

Tomorrow we hope to meet up with Derek's cousins and maybe the hop on hop off tour as well as the murals and the place where the Titanic was born. There is more to see on the outskirts of the city but I think there will be more than enough to keep us occupied tomorrow.

Until next update, stay tuned for the next adventure! :)

Love H & D

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Trim - Day 3

We woke up relatively early, checked out of the Cassidy Hotel and had breakfast then hopped on the hop on hop off bus on our way to Kilmainham Gaol. After an hour of the same sort of commentary as yesterday, we landed at the Gaol with only a 10 minute wait for the next tour. Once the tour started, we knew that we were in for a treat. The guide knew all sorts of history, not only of the Gaol itself (which was incredible in its own right) but of Ireland politics, past and present. He was eager to answer any and all questions and was quick to let you know a fact or two.
Hearing the plight of the people who were prisoners at the gaol and what they had to endure was incredible! The conditions were horrid, the treatment very poor and the reasons for them being in prison in the first place, incredibly unjust. Just hearing the story of an 8 year old girl who stole a shawl to keep warm from the winter’s chill being imprisoned for 6 months is incredible. This tour was amazing and will be tough to beat – I think it may have even surpassed Alcatraz!

After the tour, we decided to bite the bullet (no pun intended) and take a taxi back to the hotel to collect our things and hit the road. What an adventure that turned out to be. Martin, our driver was so helpful with how to get to our next destination, what to make sure not to miss in some locations and where to stay in others. He even told us some stories from when he was a police officer working undercover in the North, he said that they would always put him in the Europa Hotel in Belfast, which is the most bombed hotel in Europe. It was a remarkable cab ride and reminds us how much we are looking forward to the rest of our trip, so we can meet more of the locals!

So, off to the airport we go, taking the number 16all the way there – thanks for the tip Martin! We get to the car rental place and we are late, crap! So, our car isn’t there and we are directed to find a different company – thanks Thrify! Alright, we make our way to Budget and Derek hooks us up with an automatic 4 door car – not really what I had ordered originally but oh well, we’ll take it. We find the car, start it up, pull out our maps, take a deep breath and look at each other... “ready?” – Alright here we go.

I must admit that Derek did really well, keeping calm and carrying on when I was making sure that we weren’t veering onto the curbs on the left and making sure that we were on the right road, while also making sure that the door handle was securely fastened to the car – no worries there, it sure is! We make it to Trim in one piece and without any melt downs and we pass our b and b – we then take the scenic tour of Trim and find our way back to it, only to learn that we don’t have a room – CRAP again! So, the proprietor arranges for us to stay at a neighboring place just down the road... perfect! We get there and park the car for the night.

Anne, the B and B hostess made sure we were settled in and then we went on our merry little way. We walked to the center of the town and got some food... the food was terrible. Derek’s club house had corn and coleslaw in it along with the bacon and tomato that it should include... weird! We escape the bad restaurant only to get lost and end up on the other side of the river... to get back we cut through this field and what a view we got! We ended up with a back view of the Trim Castle, a Defense castle built in the 1200’s – it was stunning. We wandered our way to the castle only to get on the last tour of the night! Yahoo! We spend our time waiting for the tour by walking around the grounds reading the signs and soaking in the beauty. Our tour rolls along and it turns out that Derek and I are the only ones to be on the tour – Score!!! So, we chat with the guide and she gives us a full tour, along with rooms that other people don’t see – double score. She is a wonderful guide and ends up giving us advice from the top of the tower on where to go tomorrow and how we should get there. We are set.

So, after the tour ends, we wander through the St. Patrick’s church yard only to come across a mass being delivered in the church... we try and see in but don’t want to disrupt so we continue. We head to the Caste Arch hotel for a quick bite to eat and a pint. We watch the people, drink our bevy, and then head back to the B and B. It is an early start tomorrow with a bit more driving needed!

Tomorrow – Brunne na Boinne, Battle of the Boyne site and maybe Tara Hill then off to Belfast. Turns that we don’t have accommodations like we had anticipated, so we will wing it once again... perhaps the Hotel Europa! :)

Until tomorrow – sending love and warmth from Ireland to you all!
H and D

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dublin - Day 2

Today is Culture night here in Dublin, and as I write this, we can hear the sounds of pubs rowdy with "Dubs" (Dubliners) over flowing to the streets! Dublin is wonderful!

Today we slept in a little, partly due to the jet lag and partly due to the colds that we are both fighting... what woke us was the cleaning lady asking for the room so she could clean it... ooops, we slept in a LOT! So, we scrambled our stuff together and after our showers, we brought our luggage to our hotel for the night and we were off in search of food and coffee... good thing is that we both feel SO much better after our sleep - I think we needed it to get over the cold.

So, after we hit a quick pub for breakfast/lunch we were off like a herd of turtles. Our first stop was the Trinity College - we got our selves on a tour within 2 mins of arriving and off we were. The tours are done by one of the students and the student we got was quick and witty and an Art and architecture student. She told us about all the buildings and the legends - it was great! We then were herded like cattle through the display for the book of Kells - although very interesting, it seemed very commercial. Then it was upstairs to the Old Library - it was awe filled. The books went to the ceiling and were in the thousands, it looked like a library from the 1700's - that's because it was! It was majestic, and awesome and inspiring. Thinking of some of the writers who had traveled the halls of this giant library was mind boggling. I loved this place and could have just stayed and wrote all day. But alas, Dublin called!

We then hopped on our Hop on Hop off bus and rode it until we hit the St. Patrick's Cathedral. We had to go and find cash to gain entry so we hopped down to the nearest grocery/convenient store and low and behold it had TIM HORTONS! I am not even kidding - so we got a donut and coffee (not as good, but was familiar) and relaxed for a minute. Then we were off to see the Cathedral - here Jonathan Swift and his "lady friend" were buried. It was very lovely. After this tour we went to the Christ Church Cathedral, but we were denied entry as they were closing to get ready for the Culture night. We left, disappointed, but thinking we would return. Well, off we went to get the hop on hop off bus and return to the tour.

Our next intended stop was the Guinness Brewery, bring on the free beer! However, all of Ireland seemed to have the same idea and before we got to the brewery, we could see where it was for the line up waiting for access - it was SO long. We decided that we wouldn't waste all our time waiting in line, so we continued on with the tour. The bus tootled on merrily, and we along with it, passing the old Kilmainham Hospital turned Ireland Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and the Kilmainham Gaol. We wanted to get off at the Gaol, but the bus kept on going, we thought it may turn around as there was a roundabout shown on the map, but no such luck. We went to chat to the driver and he said we should have pushed the stop button... who knew!!! He said that the Gaol was closed at that point and according to the Culture night brochure, it didn't open for another hour and a half... so, we continued on with the bus, seeing where the President lives and the Ambassador of the USA, and the zoo. We rode the bus until the Jameson Distillery and disembarked there.

We went to the distillery and were given a drink almost as soon as we figured out where we were. We walked through the halls of the museum of where they used to make the whiskey as we toured the old distillery. It was very interesting but it seemed that they pushed us through quickly, perhaps it is because we didn't have to pay - yup, it was free! Once we finished with the whiskey, which wasn't too bad, we hopped back on the bus and thought we would make our way back to the Gaol, but the bus then parked and we were told to get off... darn it. We asked the driver how we would get to the Gaol, and with his directions, we headed on our way to get back. We stopped quickly for a bite, and off we were.

We hopped on the LUAS or the train that goes through Dublin and rode to the Hauston station and walked from there. Total trip took about 20 minutes, but we found the Gaol, whohoo! We arrived and were elated we found it when we got told that all the tours for the night were booked and we were denied entry... that's TWICE! UGH! So, disappointed, we headed to the nearest attraction - IMMA. We walked down a lane that was framed with trees on either side and our goal was a beautiful stone building... it reminded me of something out of a Bronte book. It was very romantic :). Once arrived, we looked around viewing the massive square in the middle of the building, and the architecture, which was stunning. We were then informed that the Minister of Culture and Art was going to speak and were invited to have a bevy and wait for the speech... Politics and free beer? I am in! We had a Tiger beer, which was quite good, and listened to the Minister - he was less than inspiring. We went and viewed the art that was displayed and it reminded me that I really don't understand modern art!

We were off again, finding our way back to the city center, determined tomorrow to get to see the Gaol. We stopped and got some munchies and then headed back to the hotel, where we sit here planning our first day of driving tomorrow... on the docket for tomorrow, head out early to get the first tour at the Gaol and then head out to the airport to pick up our car and then the REAL adventure begins!!! :)

Until tomorrow - we wish you all well from Dublin! :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

We have arrived in Dublin!

Hello all! We have arrived in Dublin!!

We left home what seemed like days ago already, and flew direct to Amsterdam. The flight was the most un-comfy of my life, both Derek and I were in the middle of a 4 seat run and the people in front of us insisted of leaning their seats back - being tall has some downsides sometimes! BUT, we arrived in Amsterdam when lo and behold I feel a tap on the shoulder and a "Hi Heather!" - we had run into one of my coworkers on his way to the Ukraine for a holiday. How crazy! We hustled to our connection and we hop on our flight to Dublin. A smooth flight and a quick snooze and we arrive!

We had breakfast at the airport why getting a game plan together on where to stay and where to go. We hop a bus to the city center and find the hotel we had chosen. We go to get a room and they are sold out for the night - crap! Turns out today (which is now Sept 22, when we left on the 21) is Arthur's day - as in Arthur Guinness... the creator of the most famous Irish bevy out there. This could be a great night, but we have to find a place to sleep first. Damian at the front desk of the hotel we wanted to stay at called 2 other hotels and neither has a room for us... double crap! He suggests a hotel just down the street so, off we go (good thing we only have 1 suitcase between the both of us). We round the corner and fingers crossed, try the Best Western - STILL no rooms... they suggested one just on the corner of the street... SUCCESS! A little pricier than we hoped, but it is on O'Connell Street and has a great view. We went back to the first hotel and booked for tomorrow night as the gent there was so helpful! He also hooked us up for hop on hop off buss tickets and gave us a map of the city.

With our luggage stowed and a place secured to stay for the night, we went off to explore. We stopped at the Ireland's Writers Museum, with a hope that I would see my favorite poet Seamus Heaney exulted for his Nobel prize in Literature... it was a great little museum, with a lot of info, but NOTHING on Seamus... shame shame! Derek and I then went and roamed around O'Connell street and by this point, we were just zombies walking around. We staggered back to the hotel in hopes that our room would be ready and we could have a nap! It was and we did! A 2.5 hour nap was just the ticket, and we woke, showered and hit the town to celebrate Arthur's Day!

We ended up in Temple Bar, which I think was a great choice! There were buskers and hundreds of people pouring out of pubs and literally dancing in the streets. We had a great time people watching! We had supper at O'Reilys which was ok - nothing too exciting and a beer. We then found a delightful pub to watch people and we got there just before the band set up and played! We stayed for a pint and a number of songs, then went to roam Temple Bar again. We had a wonderful evening watching people, looking at the amazing buildings and feel of this city... it is a wonderful city!

We are now back at the hotel, wanting to sleep off this jet leg and might I add cold... I have been struggling (as has Derek) with a cold for 3 days now... I think the worst is over, but my ears are still sore from the flights - flying internationally with a cold NOT recommended... good thing Derek had a couple tricks up his sleeve for popping ears from his years of skydiving. The trick, suck on your tongue - sounds odd, but it sure does work! I am hoping my ears will be back to normal and my nose to stop running - once that happens, I will be a happy lass! :)

Tomorrow bods for a great day as it is Culture night here in Dublin! We sure lucked out with our timing! Many of the main attractions are open late and after 5:30pm, they are free!!! We are planning on going to the Guinness Brewery and the Kilmainham Gaol tomorrow evening for free... and during the day, the rest of Dublin! :) We will get the most out of our Hop on Hop off tickets! :)

Until tomorrow, we raise a glass of Guinness to you in honour of Arthur (Pronounced Arr-turr here :)) - have a wonderful day!

Heather & Derek

Monday, September 12, 2011


This Saturday I spend the evening with two friends who are Ironmen. Both of them have run several Ironman races each and that is quite a feat! What one of these races entails is a 4km swim, a 180 km bike ride, and a 42.2 km run - yikes! If one is a pro, you can finish it is just over 9 hours - for the less seasoned athelete, a finish time of 16 hours is acceptable. Either way the Ironman is long and arduous and, well, crazy!

My friends are so inspiring to me because they are so willing to offer me advice, and help and encouragement. They are there to ask when the next race is, and help with long runs and make sure I have the right nutrition. Through it all, they train and motivate through example and their stories and the war wounds and example. It is incredible to have such inspirational people to have in my corner.

I love going to their house and hearing their stories. I love talking about goals and plans and what is to come. It was a great dinner, an inspirational dinner where I learned what it is like once again to be an athelete with a goal, and how wonderful it is to achieve that goal... that is inspiration!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

a week and a bit

It is a week and a bit until we leave for Ireland. We have our reservations made for some of the places we are staying, our car is all but booked and our itinerary is set. I am so excited to get there, 16 days where all we do is explore and relax and visit family... it is going to be wonderful.

Things that I am most looking forward to are the stay in the Castle, the Carikadee-edee bridge, the North and Derek's family, and Dingle. I really am excited to see some of the museums, mostly the famine ship museum, and the university where the Book f Kells is. This trip is going to be fantastic!

I think the thing that is most exciting for me is to hear the stories that Derek will have of when he was there last time with his Dad. His Dad was a police officer in Northern Ireland during the troubles and he had some pretty incredible stories. I am looking forward to seeing the places that he spoke about (mostly through stories that Derek has told) as well as the places that his Mother was born and raised in.

For me, so much of who we are, is etched in where we are from... it will be great to see where Derek's family is from and to meet some of them. Now all that is left is for us to pack, and the time to tick away and we will be there, in the midst of where my husband's world began... it is going to be a great trip!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Corporate Challenge

Today was the first event for the Corporate Challenge for our company. Our team of 10 convened at COP with our brown t-shirts and water bottles. We were slated to do the truck pull... what this involves is teams of 10 pulling on a rope and pulling a semi truck aprox 200m.

I was the captain of our team and organized them into the order for the pull, we put the big guys at the front of the rope and then staggered the ladies in between the rest of the guys. The horn sounded and we were off... the initial start was difficult, but once we got going it was easier, but 1/2 through the pull we petered out and ended up getting 3rd out of 4 in the heat.

To celebrate our un-victory, our CFO treated us to beers in the beer garden... with the temperature up to 32 degrees celcius the beer tasted darn good! After an hour of just hanging and visiting, we were ready for the next round. 3... 2... 1... GO! We were off! We pulled until we couldn't anymore and we didn't stop until the truck driver (who was in there to reverse the truck) put on the breaks. We beat our time by 3 seconds and were 2nd in the heat.

Although we didn't win, we had a great time and got to enjoy some camaraderie and sunshine of a Saturday afternoon... A great afternoon.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Cake maker extraordinaire!

I have a friend who just turned 41 and completed an IronMan all in the same week. To celebrate, I am making her a cake with a Manolo Blahnik shoe box and shoe... I will post a picture of it when complete.

Making a cake like this takes hours of delicate work and planning. I have been planning this cake for months, thinking of how I am going to style the shoe, decorate it, place it on the cake and how it all should look. Although it NEVER looks as good as it should in my head, it often turns out pretty good. I often end up covered in powdered sugar and have a headache from all the sugar. :)

I really like the whole idea of creating a cake, it seems that most people like cake and are glad to see the creation that you have made. I am very excited to see my friends face tomorrow as I know that it will be full of delight and happiness for the delicious treat that I have created! After all, who could resist cake... especially if its chocolate! :)