Scotland & Ireland – Autumn 2016: Emylee

DAY 1: The Pain in the Apple


Early morning train to NYC. The adventure begins! (L to R: Katie, Emylee & Moriah)

Long before the birds awoke to welcome the dawn, we were up and showered and on our way, headed towards the train that would take us to The Big Apple. Being the only one of us who had not yet traversed the complex grid that is NYC, I was certainly excited to experience it. We had a one hour train ride before we stepped onto that platform at Grand Central Terminal. A bit of a maze in and of itself, there wasn’t much to look at until we stepped into the main area where the immense windows stretched up to touch the sprawling sky details on the ceiling. The constellations were the perfect choice to decorate the ceiling because it seems to span what is as vast as the eye can see in a single glance at the night sky. Cold wind whipped through our hair and carried the cacophony of scents that epitomize the big city through our noses and sang in our ears. We exited the east side of the Terminal so we had to walk all the way around to the West side. We created a longer walk  for ourselves but it was neat to see a bit more of the city. I discovered that putting my pack on with my thick winter coat is not an easy feat and results in me feeling a bit like that Chris Farley bit, fat guy in a little coat.


Times Square - NYC (c) Emylee-Noel Gussler

We dropped our packs off at a secure storage place on 46th street and made our way to down to Times Square for a bite to eat and a few snap shots. Murphy’s Law began to stalk me at this point with my boots (I didn’t pack my hikers…shame on me) and my foot was beginning to have that familiar sting of a blister starting. So I found a place to buy some socks and got a hat as well so that I could cover my windblown, melting hair before we made our way to Battery Park for our tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The tour company said that it takes 3 hours to do the tour. This, we discovered was quite NYC Skyline - (c) Emylee-Noel Gusslermisleading.  We had reserved tickets for 1pm, and were told we could not line up until 12:45. Upon returning at 12:45 we found we were of the last 20 people they let in during that time slot. We then waited in a line for 45 minutes to go through Airport style security and then went to another line to wait for another 10 minutes to board the Ferry to Liberty Island. Upon boarding, it took another 10 minutes to get fully boarded and then get on our way. Statue Of Liberty - Liberty Island - NYC - (c) Emylee-Noel Gussler


Once at Liberty Island we walked around the Statue and took a ton of photos (of course) and decided that we would be best off heading to the ferry to go to Ellis Island since we were already looking at 3pm. That line was another 45 minutes….Needless to say, we got just about 15 minutes at Ellis Island before we had to line up for the Ferry back to Battery Park. We had to catch the subway to return to pickup our bags and then catch the subway again to JFK.


Lesson 1: Don’t wear anything but the most comfortable shoes EVER if you are walking around NYC. Lesson 2: 3 hours is NOT enough time to see Ellis Island AND the Statue of Liberty. Lesson 3: 46th street is not the spot to store your stuff for the day when you KNOW the Statue of Liberty is going to be the last thing on your to do list that day before heading to the airport. We made it, eventually, to the airport and got on our flight to Dublin. At the end of the day, Murphy was pretty enamored with me. My knees and feet ended up 3x their regular size!

“Come along Nana, we’ve lots to see!”

DAY 2: Jet Lagged and draggin’

After a painful day walking around NYC, 5 hours cramped into an economy class seat, trying desperately to sleep, we woke to the sounds of the Airline  crew   prepping   for   arrival   in   Dublin.   Although   it   was   morning,   and   the   city   was   awake   and   lively,   we were   no t.   All   we   wanted   was a   good   nap, a   hot shower and to   get  on   our   way.   Unfortunately   we   were   unable to check into our hostel at that time so we had to walk around the city. We decided to lock our bags up at the hostel and go get something to eat while we waited. We went to JW Sweetman’s and we all chose some Traditional Irish Stew. I decided that some comforting hot tea with milk was going to be the best with this and it certainly warmed the body and the spirit some. It was difficult to take in the city at this point though.

JW Sweetman's Bread

Delicious bread at J.W. Sweetman’s – Dublin, Ireland (c) Emylee-Noel Gussler

Moriah and I were both so incredibly exhausted and sore that we wanted nothing but a nap and a shower. We made our way back to Paddy’s Palace Hostel, the city streets merging into one blurry gray mess of lines around tall gray structures and collapsed into our beds.


Side note: The staff at the hostel are helpful, nice and readily available to you. The wifi is free in the lobby, and there are outlets to charge your devices and some sofas. The showers are hot, but they have a push button you have to repeatedly push to turn water on. Some stay on longer than others, so we jut figured out which ones those were. Everything was damp in our room, no matter what you did. The floor always felt like it was layered in dew, the bedding smelled a bit musty like laundry that had sat in the washer too long and not allowed to dry a full cycle in the dryer. Our towels never fully dried and the room smelled a bit moldy. We thought it was the window being open, but even once our roommates closed the window, things never dried out.

Upon waking 2 hours later, it was time to wash off the grease and grime of the last 2 days of walking, subways, trains, airplanes and breathing in the stagnant air of other people’s lungs. We wanted to make our way around the town to see Trinity College and the Book of Kells, but unfortunately by the time we made our way over there it was closed. We had the same misfortune in trying for Christ’s church20161027_142111.jpg We stopped into a pub and had a pint of beer, a welcome consolation prize for our jet-lagged bodies, before heading back to the hostel for some WIFI time to call home, send messages to friends and family and to update our blog.

In all I can feel the excitement of being here welling up inside me. The exhaustion makes me feel a bit like I’m swimming through murky water, but it will fade by tomorrow. It doesn’t feel entirely real yet I think. I’m anxious to get to see, hear and touch more of the city and take in all the history!

“Come along Nana, we’ve lots to see!”

DAY 3: My Cup Runneth Over

Today, we got an earlier start. I can feel the grip of jet lag waning and my perkier self starting to come back to life. My feet still hurt but the massive blister on my heel was popped (I did it on purpose) and bandaged yesterday, so today it is feeling much better.

We made our way at about 10:30 am to Starbucks, we have found about 5 or 6 in the city so we know where the closest one is to our Hostel. IMG_20161028_151631-1.jpgWe had a small breakfast of coffee and a baked good. I chose fruit toast which came with Irish Butter (my favorite) and a tiny personal pot of raspberry jam.

The air was cool and crisp this morning, a slight breeze and gray sky threatened of rain but we never felt a drop. Which was a good thing because we had a long walk to Trinity College. We had been warned that the line (they call them queues in Ireland) can be quite long but we must have found the perfect time to go because we only waited about 5 minutes or so. We were able to get the student rate and save a couple Euros, which was nice. We were not allowed to take any photos in the exhibit, but it was incredible.

However, the university has a digital library where you can see images of the book here. The University website also has information regarding the exhibit which you can find here.

The Book of Kells is approximately 1200 years old and around the 1950s it was divided into 4 separate books, one for each of the gospels. Each page has been beautifully inscribed, though each of the scribes had a different style of writing. The vellum used was made from Calf skin and it is approximated that it took 183 (ish) calves to create this beautiful work of literature and Holy Word. It was incredible to be separated by a mere sheet of glass from such an amazing work of art. The time and attention it took to create the beautiful writing is one thing, but to see each image and design so painstakingly detailed and filigreed was just breathtaking.

The Long Room, Trinitiy College, Dublin Ireland

Trinity College – Dublin, Ireland (c) Emylee-Noel Gussler

We made our way to The Long Room, the famous library at Trinity College. Floor to ceiling bookshelves, loaded with old manuscripts adorned the room from front to back. Arched entryways framed each section and a ladder on each side. Warm glowing light bathed each bookshelf in an angelic hue. The wood that encased the entire room was deep and richly colored with a golden cast which I wasn’t sure if it was reflecting the light from the books or if the gold was in the floor itself. Marble busts stood guard between each section on the ground floor. The likes of Socrates, Milton and Plato, joined by many others, looked down the rows, along the corridors and upon the awestruck faces of visitors. Truly, my dream library. I would love to reach up and grab a book only to touch its pages and smell them. Plato, The Long Room - Trinity College, Dublin Ireland (c) Emylee-Noel Gussler

After a trip to the gift shop at Trinity College, and some shopping of course, we headed to the National Museum of Archaeology. This was a free outing, which was amazing because the building was HUGE and they had SO much to see. Moriah and I actually didn’t make it to all the exhibits, so we are going to try to bounce back over when we are back in Dublin at the end of our trip so that we can see the rest of the Bog Bodies display. DSC_6335-1.jpgThe Viking skeleton was very cool, and he surely was quite tall. We saw Medieval dress, jewelry and even weapons. There were religious relics that were pretty amazingly adorned with intricate carvings, embroidery and gem stones. It was apparent that just like with the Book of Kells, great adoration went into these works of art and faith.

Ploughmann at Bruxelle's - Dublin, Ireland (c) Emylee-Noel GusslerWe then went to grab some lunch at Bruxelle’s on our way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  I chose their “Open Ploughman’s Sandwich” which was SO good. It had Mature Wexford Cheddar on it that was to die for.  We shared some onion rings and fries and each got a pint of Smithwick’s which was also a great suggestion by our waitress. After our much needed siesta we headed the rest of the way to St Patrick’s Cathedral. As we start to get our bearings, maneuvering the city streets becomes easier. Even with the construction currently happening all over the place, the hoards of foot traffic and the speeding cars through winding, narrow roads doesn’t seem to slow us down anymore.

The Cathedral park was quite peaceful with a large fountain in the center with walk paths all around. The church is surrounded by a wrot-iron fence and trees at the corners. DSC_6373-1.jpgAs we stepped inside (after taking multiple photos from every angle as we walked towards the entrance) we were greeted by the cashier (it costs 6 Euros) and then by a kind gentleman who provided us with an information booklets in English and Irish. Naturally, I got one in Spanish (for my daughter), French (for my son), German and Japanese as well. I have always loved cathedrals. The intricate art, the comforting glow of stained glass windows, candles and the hollow echo of hushed voices, interrupted only by the occasional accompanying footfall, gingerly placed in an attempt to walk silently throughout. We each walked our own path throughout the church, taking our time to reflect if we wanted and to capture a few images.

There was a place for lighting candles in remembrance of loved ones, and so I took a moment and lit one for my Nana. As they were getting ready for Mass, we were not able to stay unless we were staying for the service. Outside, I chose a nice spot, with a view of St. Patrick’s and here, Nana will forever be in God’s presence and peace, while enjoying the view of this beautiful church.


Nana’s view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Dublin, Ireland

After a large and somewhat late lunch, we chose to stop into a market and grab something small for later and made our way back to our hostel. And the adventure continues tomorrow!


Elizabeth “Betty” McCumiskey Horn on her 90th birthday

“Come along Nana, it is on to Blarney tomorrow!”

DAY 4: A Paddywagon Adventure

Our day began while it was still dark. The air was heavy with moisture, as it has been so far this whole trip. People will tell you that Ireland is wet and that is certainly true. What I have discovered they are referring to is not the weather in and of itself, ie. rain, it is actually that the air contains a ton of moisture. Much like Japan in the summer, the air feels thick in your lungs and flattens  while it still curl the hair on your head. But I digress.

We waited in the crowded lobby of our hostel for the rest of the tourists to arrive and for our tour guide/ bus driver to retrieve us. We chose to sit in the very back of the bus because it was the only place where the three of us could sit together. Katie took one corner seat by the window and I took the other. Moriah sat in the middle where her legs could stretch out a little more down the aisle.

Side note: The Hostel also ran the tour company and the lobby of our hostel operates as one of their offices and departure points. This is truly where Paddy’s shines. They are a wonderful tour company that provides friendly tour guides who are engaging, knowledgeable, helpful and patient. The bus was comfortable, had working wifi and was clean.

The diver, James, started us off with some local slang, explaining “How’s the craic?” (pronounced ‘crack’) and & “What’s the craic?”, which I was lucky enough to already know since my friend Brendan is from Dublin and I ask him about the slang he posts to social media. James provided a quick guide to the other side of the city as we drove out of Dublin and got on our way towards The Rock of Cashel. We were all pleased that the wifi was working aboard our bus, as I had found out prior to the tour that the buses usually have wifi for these tours. Moriah struggled a little getting hers to connect, but we have discovered that her phone seems to like my ju-ju so the moment I had it in my hand, it connected easily.

Moriah and I passed the time, chatting and looking through our updates and posts from family at home while Katie chose to doze off and continue to attempt to overcome the grip that the jet-lag still had on her.

After about 2 hours of a bus ride, we pulled into the parking lot at Rock of Cashel, the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster dated to about 1100. Later, the site was gifted by the King to the church and it became a cathedral. The Rock of Cashel - County Tipperary, Ireland (c) Emylee-Noel Gussler

Luckily there was a restroom at the bottom of the hill, right next to the parking lot because Moriah and I had had a good deal to drink on the way. By the time we came out of the restroom, all but 2 people had made their way up the hill to the site, so we had a quiet walk, just the two of us, taking it all in. Saint Patrick's Cross - 12th Century - Rock of Cashel - (c) Emylee-Noel Gussler As we made our way up the steps, James let us know that he was getting everyone’s tickets taken care of and it would just be a few minutes. Moriah and I joined some of the other people from our tour bus in a side room where we found St Patrick’s Cross. The room was small but painted white. The dampness continued in this space as well and the growing scent of mold quickly adjusted in my nose to a point where I no longer noticed after a few short minutes.

After this room, we ventured into the Vicar’s quarters. An open space with high ceilings, it was cool and airy and adorned with a few simple furnishings and upon the wall facing the doors was a tapestry. At the end of a small hallway was a door which led out to the grounds between the Vicar’s room and the cathedral. The cool crisp air whipped through our hair and sang in our ears. It was easy to close my eyes and imagine the sounds of bells, or the quiet voices of prayer and song echoing through the corridors and sailing out through the moors of the Irish countryside. Moriah and I, ever the shutterbugs, alternated between our phones and DSLRs, dodging other visitors and carefully avoiding stepping into each other’s shots before locking eyes and with a wordless agreement, and headed inside. It is funny how you have those friends sometimes with whom you grow to communicate with little more than a nod or a look.

The beauty of this place is awe inspiring. The high arched entryways, the ceiling with its curves and angles would no doubt offer some angelic resonance to any song, prayer or sermon. Rock of Cashel - Cashel, Ireland (c) Emylee-Noel GusslerThe light that makes its way through the remnants of window frames, is heavenly, but I can only imagine the colors that must have stretched their rainbow fingers along the walls and warmed the faces of relics and parishioners alike. After a few minutes of trying to work around some of the other visitors, Moriah and I took a few quiet moments to gush over the beauty of the cathedral ruins and the immense peace that seems to wash over you, body and soul when you step into it.


The Voyagers at Rock of Cashel

It was then that Katie came back into the cathedral after being out in the cemetery and exploring on her own and we nabbed her for a selfie in the main courtyard.

It suddenly dawned on me and Moriah that it would be wonderful to let Nana be at peace here too.  So, when we were alone again in the main courtyard, Moriah and I opened my precious little jar and left a small amount of Nana’s ashes there in the light that came through the window, touched gently by the shadow of the round tower, the oldest structure of the original building from 1100. We then headed outside to the cemetery.

The cemetery is full of old High Crosses, and grave markers from Priests and Pastors, as well as local families. We split up a bit and each took our own path around the markers, reading those we could make out and taking photos of the ones that struck us. When I found my way to the top of the small hill, just outside the cathedral, diagonal from the round tower, I found a spot where three markers, each barred off by a low medal barrier/fence, I saw that I could see the whole of the countryside stretch out as far as I could see around me. Such a beautiful spot, right next to the cathedral and with the most beautiful and serene view. Rock of Cashel Cemetery - (c) Emylee-Noel GusslerIt was here that I decided Nana would love to stand. So I poked my finger tip of my left index finger into the wet dirt, up to the first bend and put a small amount, filling the hole with some of her ashes. I said a small prayer, silently to myself before Moriah and I started to make our way back to another area of the cemetery.

With only 10 minutes to spare, we headed down to the bus. I turned and didn’t see Moriah so I had assumed she had already headed down, so I went, just me and my thoughts, and Nana. When I arrived at the bus, I found the bus pretty much loaded. Katie was already situated in her seat, but Moriah was just a minute or so behind me. We had a good laugh when she made it on because we had done so well keeping each other within somewhat eye shot up until that point, not wanting to get separated too long and end up missing our bus.

Then it was a 30 minute or so ride to Cork City. Cork has quite a different feel from Dublin. Dublin is bustling and busy and BIG. Cork feels smaller and more laid back. This is where Nana’s family is from, and where my grandfather’s family is from as well. 20161029_071540-1-2.jpgImmediately, Moriah and I were smitten. With only an hour in Cork, we had our plan set. The three of us decided that we needed to grab a few little trinkets, some post cards to mail home, grab some air-post stamps, some food, find a toilet and run back to our bus. And so, I took the lead, somehow already feeling that the city was familiar. I found a shop on the left with some trinkets and postcards and we all chose some to send home. After selecting a few gifts, Moriah and I made our way to check out and I asked the cashier if she could tell me where I could buy postage stamps and a post box. She gave me the easiest directions ever, “exit left out the store, turn left at the second street and the post office is at the end.”

Katie was still shopping, so Moriah and I stepped outside to jot some very quick messages on our postcards before Moriah ran in to see if Katie was just about done. We then made our way to the second street and made our way down past shops and I saw a sausage place and suggested there for lunch since we could take it with us easily. We popped inside the post office at the end of the street and bought some stamps, quickly got them on the postcards before dropping them into the box. I really wanted to send them from Cork and the Dublin ones in Dublin, so I only sent my Cork postcards.

We quickly made our way to the sausage place, “The Hatch at O’Flynn’s“, and I got a “Cork Boi” which is loaded with I think chili, cheese, grilled onions, pickles and mustard. It was really good by the way.



On our way back down to the bus we stopped on the bridge over the River Lee and said another little goodbye to Nana, letting her stay and see the view of the River, the rowers, the swans and the beauty of Cork City forever, before running back, food in hand to our bus, bound for Blarney Castle.

It was a short ride to Blarney Castle, just 15 minutes really. The enormity of the place is a bit surprising at first. There are gardens, and out buildings, the castle, caves, a garden walk and lookout towers. Blarney Castle - (c) Emylee-Noel GusslerWe started with a stop at a standing stone with a hole cut into it for some photos of the castle on the other side before making our way down the rest of the path to the castle. Moriah and I began taking tons of photos, from every angle we could, trying to stay out of each other’s shot. Moriah and I just go into photographer mode and we start snapping photos this way and that, and laugh at how great minds think alike for angles. When we reached the bottom of the castle, I of course had to lay on the ground to get my vantage point I wanted and Moriah went left to check out the Kennels in front of the Castle while Katie went right towards the caves a few feet away. 20161029_085425-1

Moriah and I decided to head towards Katie and see what she was getting into and she hollered at us to come into the cave with her. It was dark and wet and smelled musty, but they have lights placed in various places so you don’t trip and die. Katie said that the ceiling was low, but I was able to stand upright, further solidifying that I am a short person, because I was the only one able to stand fully upright in the cave. (Katie’s whole inch and a half on me didn’t let her get quite upright.)

After this, Moriah and I made our way around the front of the castle while Katie explored on her own. She had already been to Blarney when she was 14, so Moriah and I drank in the place with a hunger that Katie must have had when she visited the first time too. We were very anxious to get to see all of it, every angle, every room, every stairway.


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We talked about kissing the stone, both Moriah and I being fearful of heights, but decided that if one did it, the other would too. So we made our way up the very narrow, steep and tight cornered stairway all the way 90 feet up to the top of the castle, before bending over backwards, hanging out over the edge and kissing the underside of the stone! All the while, I had a small amount of Nana’s ashes to kiss the stone as well.


While at the top, Moriah and I took the moment, because we certainly weren’t coming BACK up the stairs, to take photos from the top. With the adrenaline still rushing through my veins, I felt extra brave and leaned my upper body over the side of the wall and took some photos over the edge, down onto the observation tower below. 20161029_091948-1IMG_20161029_121024-1

There is a bell at the top of Blarney Castle, and we left a small amount of Nana’s ashes there so that she could enjoy the beauty and the adventure she’s had forever.



The trip back down allowed for the use of a different staircase with wider steps and a more forgiving width of the stairwell. By the time we reached the halfway point, Moriah started looking to explore more places in the castle, but my knees were starting to go weak with the waning adrenaline and so we decided to head down to the bottom. When we came out, we had to buy souvenir photos and got a certificate that said we kissed the stone before heading towards the poison garden. It was there, standing near a wall, looking towards the castle where a balcony was that we found Katie. She told us about a cave, just near the dungeon that she went into and came out a bit dirty from the wet and mud in the small space. She said it was pretty cool but was unsure if I would be able to do it. However, from what she said it sounded really cool, so Moriah and I decided to go and check it out while Katie went to discover some other areas and see if they had a cemetery on site.

Katie was right, the cave was cramped and very very wet. However, being the shortest of us, it wasn’t nearly as cramped for me as it was for Moriah who is at least 5 inches taller than I am. We managed to emerge from the cave without any mud or wet on us, and made a few friends in the cave too. They were other tourists, not bats or bugs or anything like that.


Moriah in the cave at Blarney Castle

We made our way towards the gift shop and were sitting to take a little rest when Katie came back down the pathway too. I realized that we didn’t take a selfie with the castle, not all of us anyways. Moriah and I had taken a photo at the top of the Castle together but Katie didn’t go with us, so she wasn’t in that one. We all decided to walk back down the path to the castle and take a photo before heading into the gift shop for some souvenirs.


Katie cracking up because Moriah was yelling at my phone to take the photo.

It was a long drive back to Dublin. We had  a stop on the way for the toilets and made it back to our hostel at about 8pm. After a quick room change, and a clothing change for Katie, we made our way down a street we haven’t seen yet for some dinner. We opted for a slice of pizza and a diet coke before heading to a corner market for snacks for the train  to Galway the next afternoon.

“Come along Nana, we’re off to Galway!”



DAY 5: Casey Jr Coming Down the Track


It only took 10 years, Myspace and Facebook but Brendan & I had a proper “hello” in Dublin!

Ok so it isn’t a circus train, and there wasn’t any music playing. However, today, we simply headed by train to Galway from Dublin.  We did get to have coffee and meet up with my long time pen pal Brendan, so that was certainly a HUGE piece of what made today so awesome.

We found our assigned seats and each settled in for the two hour journey. We each spent some time chatting with each other, writing in our journals or the blog, and reading at any point that we weren’t daydreaming out the window.

This is more my speed. I loved Dublin, it was lively and fun…but the slower, simpler life of the countryside is more what I like.


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Upon arriving in Galway, I was immediately in love. Seriously, this city is one of my homes away from my home away from home. It was crowded, but only because people were lining up to watch the Halloween Parade. People were still kind, friendly and forgiving with our huge packs.


We checked into our hostel and LOVED it so much more than our last one (Dublin’s Hostel was WET, MOLDY and SMELLED). We decided to cancel our other reservation for the rest of our stay in Galway, and just stay in the Savoy. (I Highly recommend this place.)

Side Note: The Savoy hostel is fairly new to Galway. It is located close to shopping, tons of restaurants and to the train station. We were in an all female dorm of 6 with a restroom en suite. Each bunk has a small enclosure instead of just rails and an outlet as well as a reading light and 2 USB ports for charging items. The room was clean, dry and smelled like new carpet and bedding. The hostel also offered free breakfast and had security lockers for our packs under every bunk. The front desk was very helpful and worked to get us into the same room for the extra nights we decided to do there instead of chancing it on the one we booked for the other nights. We weren’t able to stay in the same room, but Katie opted to stay in the other room and we just all met up for breakfast.

My brother, Justin, had been here in the summer and he suggested that we eat at The Pie Maker. Best.. Food. In. Galway. Period. Hands Down. I could eat this stuff every single day. Best suggestion ever. We decided to  get two different types of pie and share them between the three of us and also got some pints. SO GOOD.


“Come along Nana, the cliffs await tomorrow!”

DAY 6: Nana’s 91st Birthday

This morning I awoke, on what would have been a day I called my Nana to wish her a happy 91st birthday. Instead, I choked back tears as I got ready for the day and tucked my little jar of Nana’s ashes into my day bag before we made our way through the quiet morning streets of Galway and headed to the tour office.

We had booked a Lally Tour which began with a long bus ride to the Cliffs of Moher. Along the way we stopped at Aillwee Cave and drove through the Burren. We saw the traditional thatched roofs, ran out on the rocks in the Burren (I was first to run out across them, bounding from rock to rock) and stopped for a bite to eat and a pint.

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It was, understandably, a very emotional day for me. I felt a little out of sorts most of it, so I was a little less talkative than I usually am. Nana’s birthday, I knew would be hard for me. But we chose to be at the cliffs for it and Moriah and I spent a good bit of time talking about her and found a perfect spot on the cliffs to cast off some of her ashes into the Atlantic.

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Besides the emotional nature of the day, I took away a few things to share about the Cliffs of Moher.

1. They are far bigger and amazing than a photo can do justice to convey.

2. They look like a painting, even in real life…much like the Grand Canyon does.

3. This will always be a special place to me, since I shared it with Nana.



DAY 7: Let’s go for a bike ride, it will be fun…I don’t think they will ever forgive me

So today,  was part two of our two day Lally Tour. We took an hour bus ride to the ferry that also took an hour to take us over to Inis Mor. Inis Mor (which means Large Island) is part of the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway. I thought it would be fun to rent bikes and ride around the island. The tourist information said that it was a 4 mile ride to the ruins of Dun Aonghasa, however, we decided to go the long way around, along the coast and past the seal colony. This easy ride, as they say it is, involved a LOT of hills (read buns of steel necessary) and wild whipping winds.

Along the way we stopped at various places along the route to take photos of the farms, animals, ocean and beaches and ruins of houses and churches we saw. The farms and properties are separated by low rock walls, making the countryside appear to be divided like a giant chessboard from street to coast and street to hill-crest. Many of the ruins we saw along the way had no plaques or labels to indicate what it might have been when it was whole. I felt like this added to the sensation that we were somehow stumbling across an echo of a time long gone, rather than lining up in a queue to wait our turn to file through another touristy spot. 20161101_125544-1

We stopped at a small beach and I wrote Voyagers’ Pen and our names in the sand along with a little ink well and quill. 20161101_133030-1We walked along the sand and just took in the comforting scent of the ocean air and I knew this was a great place to cast some of Nana’s ashes.

We then continued on to Dun Aonghasa, with a few wrong turns and unnecessary hills before we figured out which way to go. We parked the bikes and paid our 2 Euros each before heading up the trail for another 30 minutes of hiking. Our legs were like jello by the time we got up to the top and Katie plopped into the grass to rest while I flipped myself in half to stretch out my legs and catch my breath some before heading towards the edge of the cliffs where I found Moriah, sitting gingerly on the rocks only a couple feet from the edge.20161101_142058-1 I sat myself down a few yards away from her, with my legs dangling over an edge, with another length of cliff just a step below and extending a few feet beyond me. A precarious spot to take some photos, especially with the forceful winds pressing against me, threatening to blow me over, I crouched near the ground and called Moriah over for a photo.

20161101_142212-1We found Katie where Moriah was before and made her join us near the edge for a photo of the three of us. Moriah, feeling extra brave from the increase in adrenaline, decided she needed to climb the cliff and wanted me to take a photo with her in a higher spot. We all tried to get a photo in the spot, all together, but there was no way to get all three of us, so I took a photo of the two of them.


We then ventured inside the inner walls of the ruin. It was wide open, with a table type ledge in the middle, at the edge of the cliff-side, so I decided to toss some of Nana’s ashes over the edge, on the Eastern side of the Island. 20161101_143443-1

Nana would have loved the beauty of this spot, a pre-historic ruin on an island where the primary language is still Irish Gaelic. A place where Ireland is still wild and the beauty that God bestowed on it is still untouched by modernity.

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After a long climb down, it was time for another hour of biking up and down hills, second guessing our map skills and hoping for the best. In the end, we figured it out and got back to the ferry with an hour to spare. In that hour, we met a horse, watched a gorgeous sunset, I did a kindness for strangers, someone did one for me (The Bike Shop guys mailed my postcards for me) and we laughed the whole way back to Galway.

“Come along Nana! We’ve lots to see!

DAY 8: Shopping, packing and FOOD…basic white girl things.

Today, we slept in, which meant breakfast at 9:30 instead of 8. After we were all fed and caffeinated we headed out to run a few errands. Because we are heading to Scotland, we had to find a bank for currency exchanges, pharmacy for contact solution for Moriah, post office for stamps and shipping questions and a bookstore for shipping supplies.

We then headed for shopping. We hit up some jewelry stores and nick-knack shops, Aran Wool shops and post card kiosks all before lunch. We grabbed a bite to eat at The King’s Head, a pub and restaurant we had been eyeing all week.

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A small red building with a warm open front room where a huge fireplace blazed into the biting cool air that accumulates in the foyer. We were ushered into the dining area and we ordered pints. Katie and I chose the two types of cider they had on the menu, Katie’s was more of an apple tasting one, mine was more of a dry and tart one…equally tasty. Moriah went for a Murphy’s which turned out to be a dark brew with a creamy head much like Guinness. It was causing all kinds of smiles and yummy noises from her, so I’m assuming it was tasty. Katie chose a seafood chowder and garlic cheesy toast while Moriah and I both chose the King’s Ploughman Sandwich which is made with corned Irish beef and Irish sharp cheddar.20161102_123507-1.jpg

Our tummies full and our bodies warmed up, we headed back out to finish our shopping. We then headed back to the hostel to pack up the shipping box and send home my boots that caused me too much pain with the miles I walked in them, a few items of clothing that neither myself nor Katie needed with us, most of Katie’s souvenirs, and all of the ones I had purchased so far. Once we got it all packed up, we sent it on its way to my  house in Ohio and headed back out for a little exploration.

We stopped in at Saint Nicholas’ Church, which was built in 1320 and dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of seafarers, in recognition of Galway’s status as a port. It is small, in comparison to the cathedral in Dublin, but its age doesn’t show as much as you would think. It smells damp, and the heavy scent of old stone lingers in the lungs and in the nose. The cool air carries a weight that only moisture can carry and is somehow warm even in its coolness.

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When I stepped inside I felt what I usually do in old, beautiful churches. Peace, overwhelming peace, comfort and reverence. I quietly, and solely, walked around the outer edges of the church, taking a few photos of the inside, while listening to the full-bodied resonance of the pipe organ. The only other person present in this house of God, besides myself and my two companions, was the organist. He made no sound besides the hymns he played on the pipe organ, worshiping and welcoming all, in a single breath.

After our quiet visit at the church, we made our way for a light dinner at Finnegan’s, an adorable little spot on the edge of Galway city center, a couple blocks from our hostel. It is housed in Galway’s oldest medieval building. Moriah and I chose to share a bangers and mash (it was delicious) so that we could have room for the gilato we had been thinking about all day.

In all it wasn’t a particularly eventful day, but we had a blast just chatting, shopping and doing what we do together. Joke, annoy and just be present. Thank you Galway, for an amazing time…until we meet again.

“Come along Nana, the adventure continues tomorrow!”

DAY 9: Birds of a Feather…

Today we bid farewell to Galway and are heading back to Dublin. We only connect through Dublin though, as we have to catch a flight from Dublin to Edinburgh. After sleeping in just a smidge, we loaded up our backpacks and headed to the train station, arriving 20 minutes before our train was to board.

We have settled into our seats and back into our usual positions. Moriah, writing in her journal, Katie listening to music and either letting the train lull her off to a zoned out/sleep, reading or writing in her journal. All while I either read on my tablet, write for the blog, watch a movie on my tablet or just watch the scenery pass by and day dream out the window. Days like this are a much needed reprieve from the busy schedule we have set for ourselves in an attempt to see as much as we possibly can.

Under the surface there is a bubbling, an anxious anticipation for what lies ahead. It bears no real description. The moments where I find myself without the words to adequately describe how I feel, are few and far between for sure.

Scotland has always been a place I have craved to see. My sister was lucky enough to visit many years ago and she has always said how wonderful it was. A place that is part of my ancestry, I have always felt that it held a piece of me that I had to discover in order to know myself better. I have felt the same about Ireland as well and I believe that I have discovered a little bit more of that part of my being.

Perhaps I have this overly romanticized idea of these places, and if that is so then I’m sure part of those romantic dreams will be shattered into a thousand shards, cutting my soul into a million pieces and the truth of myself will be discovered in the process.

This is not just a physical journey for me, it is also a way to find myself again, to know myself and allow myself to find inspiration. We must strive forever to be a better version of ourselves, to find inspiration in our own personal history and in the world created for us. We must listen to the song that it sings and feel it within our soul. We were not placed on this earth to be stagnant, unmoving and sad. We are meant to grow, to love, to learn and to share it with the world…and I intend to do just that. 

Part 2: 


So we arrived in Scotland, took a cab to our hostel, The Castle Rock Hostel, and got something to eat. Immediately, Scotland felt like coming home. The strangest sensation when you have never visited a place. I had the same feeling in Galway, but didn’t feel this at ease from the moment I stepped out on the streets Edinburgh is so far, my kind of town and Scotland calls to me to stay longer than a week. I will certianly be back…and I’ve been here a few hours. I’ve eaten in one establishment…pizza. And walked down 3 streets. I LOVE IT HERE. I can’t wait to see all that Scotland and Edinburgh has to give us…and to come back with Ben someday soon. 

Side Note: Castle Rock Hostel was wonderful! The staff are friendly, they have you show a card they give you each time you enter, to be sure you are staying there and they are a great resource for places to eat at a late hour! The view from the front door of the hostel is of Edinburgh Castle! A church on a corner divides the road that run along the base of the Castle on which the Hostel sits, and the Royal Mile. Of course, you can take the stairs on the Hostel side or you can take the road and walk the Royal Mile right up the ramp. The rooms and bathrooms were clean in the hostel, the beds were comfortable and all of our roommates were friendly and considerate. It was nice that they had mirrors and outlets in the hallway outside the rooms so those of us who rise earlier and need to dry our hair can do so without disturbing others.  They also provided a breakfast buffet which was nice.

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DAY 10: Switching gears…

Today we had plans to see Rosslyn Chapel. However that plan fell through when we found out the tour time was not the same as we had in our email and it left without us. The tour company was NOT very helpful, they refused to offer us a refund, saying we should have known and we should have looked at the website to make sure the time wasn’t different. We never received anything from them other than a confirmation of payment, no vouchers or anything, which they say they send. SO, after I talked to them, told them how disappointed I was in their version of customer service, they agreed to allow us to take a different tour tomorrow, which doesn’t do what we wanted to do, but we will make the best of it anyways.

20161104_122909-1Because of this little detour, we decided to do our shopping, or at least the bulk of it, today instead of later. I got just about everything I wanted to get for everyone back home (in California and Ohio) as well  something for myself…which I almost never do! I decided that it was time I got myself a nice cashmere scarf from  The Woollen Mill,  which you will see me wearing throughout my photos. I used to have a cashmere sweater I loved, but it got moth eaten a few years ago. The Scottish are known for their soft and beautiful cashmere, so it was a perfect souvenir for me.

We had had breakfast at the hostel, which was just coffee, toast and fruit, and had a small cheese platter, bread and coffee for lunch at St Giles’ Cafe before shopping.


After our little lunch, we decided to see Edinburgh Castle. It was stunning! It was also HUGE. There is so much to see, we didn’t manage to see every inch of it. Moriah and I ended up wanting to see the same things so we walked around together. We spent a lot of time, silently walking through the Military Memorial, Margaret’s Chapel (the oldest in Scotland) and also saw the Crown Jewels of Scotland.

It was quite cold today, so Moriah and I decided to check out the Whisky shop and they had a tasting available. It was SO good and warmed us up perfectly, so we decided to each get a small bottle which would be easy to pack in our bag. It is going to be tough  not cracking them open when we get cold on the trip!

We chose to go to Deacon Brodie Tavern for dinner, because they weren’t open when we got here last night and were starving. So we made it while they were open and were all set to get something hearty and hot to eat. Katie decided on Mac N Cheese and Garlic bread with hot tea to drink. Moriah and I each chose the Slow Cooked beef with Amber lager and wild mushroom pie wich came with greens and potatoes. I had hot tea too. It was SO good. Especially since they sat us next to the open window. The window had to be open because they have no AC.

By the end of our dinner, it was raining. Cold, windy and raining…yup we are in Scotland. We braved the cold a litltle longer to walk a couple blocks to find a gracery store to get some nasal decongestant since Moriah and I are dealing with some sinus stuff….it is ALLERGIES…we keep telling ourselves that. We have now settled back into our warm hostel for the night, cozied up in  jammies and ready to snuggle under the warm covers. Tomorrow we will be on to Stirling Castle.

DAY 11: You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road

Today we met early, 8:40 am, near the Nero Cafe next to St. Giles’ Cathedral for our tour to Loch Lomand, Stirling Castle and Doune (pronounced doon) Castle. Our tour guide’s name was Michael and he looked just like a friend of mine from my days working at Disneyland. I wish I had taken a photo of him to show my friend, but I forgot to by the end of it.

We drove through the Scottish highlands, which was one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen. Michael played some music for us along the entire tour. Some of it was traditional, bagpipes and the like, and some of it was more modern. All of it was entertaining. I actually knew quite a few of the songs he played, out of maybe 10 I didn’t know 3 or 4.

Our first stop was Loch Lomond and a small town of about 23 people called Balmaha. Our guide walked us down a walking path and upon reaching the banks of the Loch he told us there was a trail along the water’s edge that is much more rocky and narrow. This trail is called The West Highland Way and it stretches for 151 km from Milngavie near Glasgow all the way to Fort William at the base of Ben Nevis. NATURALLY, this meant that I immediately took off down the path, not really waiting for Katie or Moriah. I walked around the corner, out of view of the rest of the group on the dock, and found myself walking a path on the side of the small &cliff& with the hills to my right and the Loch waters, washingup against the rocks below like the ocean lapping at the edges of the shore. By the time I rounded a few more corners and found myself face to face with a bridge suspended over a small divide, the girls had caught up with me. Katie decided to climb down the little divide (it really wasn’t very far and it was a sandy/rocky beach area) and Moriah and I walked across to the other side.

We continued on around a few more corners, and up and down some little steps until we saw a beach stretching out before us. I started to edge my way down the embankment, between rocks and at the end just jumped to the sand/rocks below before making my beeline for the little collection of rocks that I could easily stand on. I got out there quickly and easily, with Katie following right behind. We took a few photos and then Katie went to explore another area of the littel beach while I took a few more photos and Moriah and I collected a couple rocks we found along the water’s edge.

It was so pretty and peaceful, so we decided that it was the perfect view for Nana. With a little prayer, and a loving thought I left a small bit of Nana’s ashes there at the edge of Loch Lomond with a gorgeous view of the Loch.

Katie had already headed back to the bus, afraid to not make it back on time and to handle an issue she was having with her bank card the last 2 days. So Moriah and I headed back a bit behind her and stopped a few times for more photos along the way.

When we got back on the bus and headed towards our next destination, Michael played a song for us that is about Loch Lomond. You’ve probably heard it. I’ve been singing it as long as I can remember. &You take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Scotland before you. But me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.& A song about two brothers who were imprisoned and told that one would be set free and the other would die, but they had to choose which was which. The one brother knocked the other over the head and while he was unconcious, the other had made the choice for him, rather than them trying to sacrifice themselves for each other. The &low road& means the road with the &faeries&. When someone dies, the legend has it, that the faerie road through the &other  realm& and they take you home to the place you started. So when the brother who was knocked unconcious wakes us, he finds in his pocket a note &You take the high road and I’ll take the low road. And I’ll be in Scotland before you.&

Our next stop was a choice we got to make. The distillery or Doune Castle. The girls and I picked Doune Castle. Doune Castle (pronouced doon) was used in the Outlander series as Castle Leoch and also in Games of Thrones in the pilot episode. (I haven’t seen it so I don’t know what site is was.) It was ALSO used in Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail. (Think Frenchmen on a wall shouting &I blow my nose at you& and &I fart in your general direction!&)

It was stunning. Absolutely stunning. This was the Scotland (along with the Highlands, the whisky, the bagpipes and the food) that I wanted to see. You could FEEL the history in this place. It isn’t a very big castle, not the areas we were permitted to see, but it just left me wanting more.

Our next stop was Stirling Castle. Again, we actually had a choice. We could see the Wallace monument or we could see the castle. The momument would be a great place to visit…if you want to climb the 246 step, narrow spiral staircase after hiking up the massive hill if the shuttle to the base of the monument isn’t running. We opted for the castle.

We had 2 hours here, but Moriah and I didn’t manage to see it all. Katie saw some things that we missed and we saw some stuff she missed, so as a team we managed to see the whole thing. It was amazing. Edinburgh castle was stunning too. But there was something about Stirling that was just…more. We walked along the halls, through the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Museum on the site, through the Bedchambers, the grounds and gardens…it was alive with the echoes of a time long gone. You know that feeling you get when you walk into an old building or a ruin and you can close your eyes and imagine life there in that time? Wherre the weight of it seems to fall on you and if you imagine hard enough you can smell the smells and hear the sounds? That is what it was like there. Impossible to describe adequately, even for a word addict like me.

As the sun was setting and our time was about run out,  Moriah and I made our way back to the garden next to the main house and watched as the sun bathed the castle in warm amber light. We found a place between the large tree and the castle, and over the wall, into the wind I sent some of Nana’s ashes. Here she will get to see the beautiful sunsets washing over the Scottish highlands, the roses in the garden as the bloom and the changing colors on the large tree beside the castle.

Upon arriving back in Edinburgh the girls and I went back to Deacon Brodie’s for dinner, this time ordering different food. Well, Moriah and I had fish and chips and Katie had their mac n cheese and garlic bread again because she said it was that good. The service is slow, they are nice but forget to bring you things a lot and they take forever even when they remember. But the food is really good. We stopped into &The Filling Station& for a whisky to warm us up and the bartender, a cute young guy with a rich Scottish burr in his voice and a sweet smile (the girls were quite taken by him) suggested Talisker for me. It was strong but GOOD. Had a nice woody, smokey flavor!

Then we decided to take one of the “ghost” tours of the underground vaults in the city. It was really neat actually. They took us to the Mercat Cross a place where they would hold markets and public executions. We then went down a close (alleyway) where they would leave plague victims. Sometimes they would wall up a close on each end and leave the 300-500 people who lived there to die together if they found people with the plague in the close. Then they took us under the city, underneath the bridge to show us some of the vaults. People lived in there! It was also used for storage, manufacturing, gambling, smuggling, prostetution and other nefarious things. Certainly a place and period of time I’d be interested in studying more. (That sounds terrible I know, but I’ve always had an interest in history and how societies dealt with sickness in times before modern medicine.)

We  returned to our hostel for a good night’s rest. Tomorrow is our final day in Edinburgh. I have loved this city and all its surrounding areas. I’m certainly going to be coming back here. 

Day 12: How do you do, let’s shake hands….

Today was our last day in Edinburgh, well our last full day anyways. We all chose to sleep in and get some much needed rest before we pop to several different cities in a matter of a couple days. The sun shone through the large window opposite my bed and I was up and moving by half past 8. I used this quiet time to watch the sun grow warmer outside and to write a bit before Moriah and Katie blinked awake. We were literally the last to leave our room for the day.

The three of us decided to get an early lunch instead of a late breakfast and chose to check out one of the places we had passed a couple times called The Jolly Judge. It was a cute little pub that served lunch and was tucked at the end of a close (which is what the Scottish call alleyways). I chose an open face chese sandwich and a hot toddy. All warmed up and no longer starving, Katie wanted to the the hike to Arthur’s seat, which is a hike up to 823  feet that overlooks the city in a panoramic view. It was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as &a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.&  Some theories to the origin of the name claim that the hill was the location of Camelot. Tradition says that it was at the foot of Arthur’s Seat that Scotland’s 12th century king, David I, encountered a stag while out hunting and thinking he would be gored, he had a vision of a cross appearing between the animal’s antlers before it truned away from him without harming him. David I believed that his life had been spared by God and founded Holyrood Abbey on the spot.

While Katie was exploring this beautiful spot, Moriah chose to explore more of Edinburgh and locate some candybars my sister has been missing since her visit to Edinburgh nearly 20 years ago. (We did find them by the way.) Moriah and I walked around the Royal Mile (which we had done a bit of during our days here) and popped in and out of shops looking for some last minute souvenirs for my family. While we were checking out on shop, we were greeted by a young man in a kilt. Not an uncommon sight or happening here in Scotland by any means. All are friendly and helpful, but this young man was quite interested in talking to us. So, being the friendly types we are, Moriah and I spent a good deal of time talking to Rob and hearing all about his trip he took to the US with his band and sharing our experiences on our travels.

After chatting for nearly an hour, Moriah and I headed out to check out the shop Rob had suggested that I try for the Daim bars my sister missed and sure enough, they had them! After another shop or two, Moriah and I decided that we needed some coffee and so we went to the coffee shop that Rob had suggested we try, which made a pretty darn good latte. Rob joined us on his break and the three of us chatted and visited while we warmed back up from the chilly weather.

As we were leaving, Moriah was unable to find her key for the hostel and so we had to try to figure out where she might have dropped it. On our way back to the hostel, thinking she may have left it on her bed, we decided to check the first place we went after leaving the hostel this morning and sure enough, the Jolly Judge had her key! All was not lost and so we went back to exploring the city. We ducked into a close and happened across the Writer’s Museum and being one of those awesome kitschy places, we felt the quiet awe we get in museums as wel stood mere inches away from things that belonged to Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. We were in writer nerd heaven to say the least.

We popped into a few last minute stores and on the corner before crossing the final street to our hostel, Moriah saw some dresses in a window and we had to duck in to check them out. She ended up buying an adorable dress for 70% off the original price!

We met Katie at the hostel and heard all about her day in the National Museum, a bookstore and then Arthur’s Seat before we headed out to one of the little pub/bistros on our street. We chose the Castle Arms Bistro for dinner and I got the girls to try fried haggis. I ordered Yorkshire Pudding for dinner and a side salad that was HUGE and had one drink after dinner before we all returned home to pack up our freshly washed laundry and rearrange our things for our early train to Inverness in the morning.

Come along Nana, we are off to Inverness!

DAY 13: You just gotta roll with it!

So, we got up early and got a cab to the train station, Edinburgh Waverley station. We arrived an hour early and settled into some seats in the waiting area where we could see the board with the times and platforms. At 7 minutes before departure time, they finally put up the platform, #16. A bunch of us rushed to the train and got on. We watched the time pass by and when the train was supposed to have departed 10 minutes ago, I watched the stations tick by on the ticker in the train and realized that Inverness was not on the ticker. I got off the train as did two other women and asked an employee which train was the Inverness train. It turned out that the train to Inverness was only the first half of the train and it left without about 8 of us.

We ended up being put on a different train that left an hour later and that required a connection, even though we had purposely chosen a direct train so that we could avoid connecting. We caught the train from the correct platform thanks to the nice Scottish ladies that missed the train with us and made our connection in Perth with them as well. After a long day on the train we arrived at the Inverness station and walked the couple blocks to our hostel.

After checking into our comically small room, equipped with very small lockers stacked nearly behind the door, allowing for barely enough room for the door to open. It also has 2 bunk beds that take up the only other two walls, one of which is already taken up by a window. Thankful that it is only the three of us in this tiny space for one night, we set out to check out inverness. We stopped in for some lunch then started shopping for some postcards to send home and located the castle, all lit up at night. It was stunning.

We started back to the hostel and decided to order some pizza from Domino’s (very Scottish, I know…but Katie wanted Domino’s) … then we settled back in at the hostel in the common room and had our pizza and wine while watching a movie.

Tomorrow we are off to check out the Castle and Culloden Battlefield before we head to Glasgow tomorrow evening. It is a short stay here in Inverness, but we will have a taste to keep our interest and desire to come back! 

DAY 14: Our blood is still our fathers, and ours the valour of their hearts….

Today, we saw Culloden Battlefield.

It was cold, it was windy and it was overcast.

Places like this always touch me, deep within the confines of my soul and pull at my heart. The sides don’t matter, the loss of  life and the valiant passion with which they fought for their causes tugs at the heartstrings and plays a sorrowful song. It is impossible for me to stand in a place like this and not feel the weight of the moments that passed here, the pain and the loss, the triumph and the defeat. It is not unlikely that somewhere in my own ancestry we lost people in this battle. My father’s family can be traced back to the Scottish Highlands and the Shetland Islands back to the 1500s (we are still making our way back through the geneology).

To imagine that it is possible to have a tie to such a huge part of history (here, in Ireland, Germany or the USA) makes places like this echo through my very bones and ignights a longing in me to touch more of it, feel more of it and live more of it.

I have always been a lover of stories, true and fictional. I’ve also always felt the pull towards the very threads that have been woven through time and generations in the tapestry of my very being. Each thread is a piece of me, how I came to be and each one intrigues me. I want to know the pasts that have created my parents, grandparents and so on…it is a thirst that I do not know if I can ever fully quench. My parents both have a passion for history and I spent a lot of my childhood in museums, watching the history channel and imagining what it may have been like &way back when&.

Today I discovered that these things drive my stories. Each story I write has some piece of myself in it. A thread of my tapestry is laced into the premise of every story that flows from my mind and onto the page. I think perhaps this is why I tend to say &writing is like bleeding your soul onto paper&. For me it is a pouring out of my very being, in some way or another. It makes me wonder if writing is what I should study for a Master’s Degree or if History & Folklore would be a better choice for me…specializing in these various threads…German, Viking, Scottish & Irish. It is certainly something to consider…it is always what I seem to come back to in my thoughts, my reading and my writing.

We are now on a train…for the next 3 hours…on our way from Inverness to Glasglow. So I have 3 more hours to reflect on the magnitude of what I saw today, what thoughts it ignighted in me and how this entire trip has so greatly impacted my heart.

Day 15: I’ve been here before…

Glasgow – Well we arrives super late after being on the train for several hours last night and checked into our Hostel. The night manager gave us our room, but because they don’t count the day as starting at 0:00 / 12 am we had to pay to sleep this morning, as well as sleep tonight. SIGH The night manager here looks like a sour, bitter lady and she barked and grouches at you when you disagree or question her. She did put us in the room we were supposed to be in for both &nights& so there was that, but I think she did it to keep me from complaining. The girls and I were just glad when we got up to our 9th floor room that we got a view of the river and a clean bed to sleep in.

We got up this morning and started to make our way around town. My first impression of Glasgow was that it feels really familiar. It is like downtown LA without as much traffic or even like Columbus when you venture downtown on a cold, wet early winter day. We decided that we would make our way to get something to eat first, then we headed to the Necropolis.

It sound macabre, I know, but I find cemeteries peaceful. Moriah and I both find this to be true, so we tend to walk in nearly complete silence in the same area as each other, just taking photos or reading the markers we pass.

Next to Glasgow Cathedral (which we couldn’t go into because it was closed…Moriah and I were very sad) there are wrought iron gates, painted a glossy black with golden details all over them which opens to a long walkway that passes over a cool old bridge that spans over the road below. At the end of the bridge is the Necropolis, a cemetery that winds its way up a large hill. The hill offers stunning views of the city below, as well as the cathedral as the sun begins to set and it is bathed in light.

Katie went right down the path while Moriah and I made our way left and up a huge hill to the top of the cemetery where we found huge monuments and old mausoleums. We walked around for a little over an hour before we found Katie again and took or usual &selfie& of the three of us and headed back towards to cathedral to take more photos of it in twilight.

We made our way back to town ,stopping at a few stores and at St. George’s square before heading to our hostel. On or way back we discussed changing our train tickets so that we could leave Glasgow a little earlier than we had planned so that we could get some better rest in Edinburgh before our BIG travel day. After we had dinner in the restaurant on the ground floor of our hostel, we changed our 9pm train tickets to 1pm tickets and changed the hostel we had booked in Edinburgh to one that is across the street from the train station, allowing us an easier treck to the hostel.

Tomorrow will be a busy day, but now it won’t be crazy. We will have time to get any last second souvenirs, a good meal and a good night’s sleep before leaving for the airport at 6am for our 8am flight to Dublin, followed by a train ride to Belfast.

I enjoyed Glasgow. It is a college town with a lot of theaters and galleries. It is someplace I would love to visit again and spend more time here. Until next time Glasgow…

DAY 16: The right train or the wrong train?

So we woke and packed our things up and Moriah and I headed down to our breakfast buffet while Katie caught up on some more sleep. The breakfast was hot and plentiful. Sausage, eggs, bacon, toast, yogurt, fruit, cheese, lunch meat, cereal, tea, coffee and juices. WAY better than the coffee and toast we have been having each morning so far unless we venture out to a coffee shop and pay 4 or 5 pounds for a breakfast sandwhich.

So after we ate, we joined Katie in our room and finished gathering our stuff and made our way to the station for our train back to Edinburgh. Last night I had called and changed our tickets from an 8 pm train to a 1 pm train. We arrived early to the station, mailed our postcards, grabbed some coffee and sat down for the hour and a half wait. We kept watching the train board and finally saw the listing for the 13:03 train to Edinburgh but never saw the 13:00 one to Edinburgh. We assumed that there had been a change or delay so we found the platform and boarded the train. This time ensuring that we were on the right number of coaches because once again they were splitting the train! We asked two different people and were told that YES the first two cars are going to Edinburgh. So we get on and look for our reserved seats, but can’t find them so we just sit down.

As the ticket guy starts coming down the aisle, one of the gentlemen who told us that we were getting on the right train is told by the ticket guy that he is on the wrong train. Of course my ears perk up at this and I hear that he was supposed to get on the 1:00 train and this is the 1:03 train. When the guy comes to us he tells us the same thing. It turns out that we were supposed to get on the 1:00 train to Plymouth. However, when I talked to Scotrail on the phone last night, they didn’t tell me this, nor did we see any indication that we needed to do this when we got to the station and watched for the platform to come up.

After talking with the ticket guy on the train though, he said that our best bet is to just stay on this train and get off in Edinburgh but to be more careful when we travel by train next time so that we don’t get on the wrong service again. The train we are on isn’t a crosscountry service and we paid for a crosscountry service. Interestingly though, this train is 5 pounds more than the one we paid for.

Well we will arrive in Edinburgh at 2pm and check into our new hostel. We changed from the one we booked to a different one that is across the street from the station so that tomorrow morning it won’t be ridiculous to get to the airport at 6:30am. It will be nice to have one last evening in Edinburgh and see those streets and shops that have become familiar to us.

Come along Nana….we’ve lots to see! 

Day 17: Edinburgh calling…

We arrived in Edinburgh from our earlier train and decided to do a little walking around and last minute shopping. Have I said before that I just LOVE this city? It just feels like a home away from home for me. There are still so many things that I want to see. The way the city sounds and smells, the soft burr of the Scottish accents fill my ears and echo through my mind…familiar, comforting….I’m coming back. We walked up and then back down a huge hill towards the Royal Mile twice before heading back up to find something to eat. We chose the same pizza place we had eaten at  our very first night in Edinburgh. The food was delicious and Moriah and I each had a beer too. We ventured around the Royal Mile a little bit more and then headed towards the Hostel for some more stops in a couple shops along the way. We walked across the river and then down the block and up another street back towards the hostel for a change of clothes and then to meet our friend Rob for drinks in the bar/bistro below our hostel.

Rob met up with us and we had a good deal of fun. Katie didn’t plan on joining us but decided to come down for a bit. She then went back up to go to bed and Moriah and I headed to the bar next door to listen to the band with Rob. We closed that one down and then I went to bed but Moriah and Rob went for a walk, returning in less than an hour.

We all headed to bed. We have an early flight tomorrow. Come along Nana….Belfast is next!

Day 18: A Whole New World….

After an early morning cab ride to the airport, an hour flight to Dublin, a pass through security and customs, we made our way by train for just over 2 hours to Belfast. The train was crowded and there was another lady sitting in the open seat at the table we were assigned. She was nice, but it made the already crampted quarters of our train a bit tighter.

As the beautiful countryside whizzed by outside the windows, we read, played games on our devices and wrote in journals the whole way. As we pulled into Belfact Central station I looked at the booking information on our email and they suggested taking the train on the other platform back one station to Botanic because the Hostel was just a 10 minute walk away from the station.

After getting to the hostel and getting checked in we decided that we needed to get something to eat and once we had done that, we realized just how exhausted we were from traveling all day. So, we settled in and went to bed relatively early with plans for a late morning heading out to the Titanic museum the next day.

Day 19: They said she was nearly unsinkable…

I was up at 8 am…but the girls were so incredibly tired that I just let them sleep. They woke up around 10 and we got ready for our day. After lunch we headed to the Titanic Museum.

Overwhelming, that is best way that I can describe this place. It was huge. Lots of artifacts and models. They had a ride, yes a ride.It was set up a bit like Peter Pan at Disneyland and they tell you how the ship was built through the eyes of those who built her. Different voices telling about which job they did and what it was like. They had replicas of first, second and third class staterooms too.

Then we went into an area where they talk about the sinking and how it happened. They play first hand accounts from survivors in another room. It was heartbreaking to hear.

Moriah and I then headed to the theater room they had set up with a film about the discovery of the wreck and an interactive touchscreen exhibit where you could explore the debri field.

Moriah and I then headed down to the gift shop where Katie was already checking out and made our way around all the goodies before making our purchases, mailing some postcards and heading outside to the diagram that was lit up of both the Titanic and the Odyssy (her sister ship) were built. We walked the length of what would have been her decks and I pointed out a few things to Moriah about the Titanic that she didn’t know. After taking a ton of photos, of course, we headed back to the train station to make our way home.

We had a good dinner and then tucked ourselved into bed for our very early pick up time of 9am for our Black Cab tour.

Come along Nana, we’re seeing the Antrim coast tomorrow!

Day 20: In the Footsteps of Finn McCool

At 9am we were picked up by Peter, our tourgide/driver from Paddy Campbell’s Black Cab Tours. We were greeted warmly and he had our names down in mere minutes. We sat in the back of the cab, the 4 of us, as we went over the plans for the day. He brought along a thurmos of hot tea, snacks and chocolate for us as well.

We started with a tour of Belfast. He took us to the Crown Bar and told us the story of the husband and wife who opened it. She wanted to put the crown above the door and he wanted to put it on the ground &so people could tip their had on the way in& then told his friends &wipe your feet on the crown on the way in& because he wasn’t for the British Crown.

Peter told us about how Belfast is peaceful now but that the city is segregated by Catholic and Protestant. There is literally a wall between the two sides that is closed by huge gates on the weekends and only open during business hours for those that have to cross sides for a job. He told us that the wall was supposed to be temporary and it technically is. You will not find it on any maps and visitors to the city are often seen looking at google maps trying to find their way around the wall. It went up, and then they added to it a couple decades later to try to keep the molotov cocktails and stones from being thrown over onto houses. In 2004 they added a third section on top of that one. The molotov cocktails aren’t thrown anymore, but you can see the scorch marks from them. On the Protestant side, under the scorch marcks and dents from stones, the entire length of the wall is decorated in grafiti. Quotes from the Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton and others adorn the wall, now on metal plaques. People are encouraged to add their names to the wall and so Peter gave us each a pen and we added our names. Katie added a celtic symbol she likes, Moriah wrote her name and some hearts and a peace sign. I picked a spot by Moriah that was open and added mine: &Above all…love one another& and then signed my name and put the date 11/13/16.

Peter took us to the old IRA headquarters and showed us several murals around Belfast before we headed to the highway to make our way to the next part of our day. It was certainly interesting to see first hand some of the things I remember from when I was growing up. The IRA was still a major threat and traveling to Belfast was not safe for a good part of my childhood.

We then made our way to the Dark Hedges…a length of road with gorgeous Beech trees that bend and twist to create a tunnel. It was lovely and eery at the same time. There is a hollowed out tree that we all wanted to try to get into. Katie had a tricky time getting in, but she managed to get in there. Moriah slid in easily, being the bean pole out of the three of us, but being the tallest as well, she had to bend her knees a bit to not rack her head on the inside. Then I tried to get in….it didn’t work. My right boob got smooshed and banged up a little and after having surgery on them already, I chose not to bruise myself to get into a tree.  

Then it was on to the Carrick-A-Rede Bridge, a rope bridge that spans a divide from the main land to a small island. It costs just over 5 pounds to cross but is a 1km walk up and down hills to get to it. We set out with excitement to make our way across the bridge. When we finally arrived we had to climb down very steep, metal steps that were more of a ladder than stairs to the rope bridge below. We quickly made our way across without looking at much but what was ahead and got to the other side. We walked the tiny bit of trail that was open and then turned around to go back across. We then had to walk the 1km back to the car park where Peter was waiting. The bridge was cool, and I would say I would do it again, but I don’t think it is a must see. It isn’t something that you will be sad if you missed it I don’t think. It isn’t as long as I thought it was going to be. It is high, which is a fear of mine, but it wasn’t as high as the other stuff we have done on this trip. Moriah and I both felt that it was cool, but not as impressive as we had thought it would be.

Then we made our way to the Giant’s Causeway. On the way, Peter told us the story of how the Causeway was formed. Science will tell you, he said, that the causeway was formed millions of years ago by a volcano. BUT, the locals will tell you, the Irish will tell you the truth…he said with that typical twinkle in his eye you see in the good storytellers at a celi. He told us about the giant, Finn McCool (Fionn MacCumhain) and the Scottish giant, Benadonner. They would shout and argue back and forth about who was tougher and the other things that guys often do. However neither one could swim so they couldn’t cross to fight each other. So Finn decided to build a causeway. He put the pillars in the water, creating a road over to Scotland. He crossed and in seeing Benadonner he realized that the Scottish Giant was 3 times his own size! He went back to Ireland and told his wife they had to leave or they would both surely die. She told him to calm down and started to take wood and built a cradle. She put Finn in the cradle and put a bonnet on his head, tucking him in with a blanket and a bottle of beer. Finn fell asleep and Benadonner came storming into their house calling him out. Finn’s wife shooshed him and told him that if he woke her baby she would kill him. He asked again for Finn and she told him that he was out working, but would be back. She gave him tea and he set himself down to wait for Finn. He saw the baby in the cradle with a beard and asked who that was. Finn’s wife said that it was Finn Junior. Benadonner stood up and said that if that was the baby, he didn’t want to meet Finn. Benadonner stormed out of the house and across the causeway, breaking it up as he went so that Finn could never cross and fight him.

We arrived at the Causeway and went into a pub for some lunch and our first Guinness in Ireland. It is so much better here….and I like my Guinness. Moriah and I each had one, Katie had a Coffee with Brandy. We each ordered some food to fill our tummies and then headed down to the causeway stones. Once we arrived we each kind of went our own ways. The stones were seriously slippery in areas but at one point Moriah and I found each other again and took a couple selfies on the stones. We found a good spot for Nana and I got some of her ashes out before tossing her over the stones and the water below. Moriah went to explore some more and I sat on a mostly dry stone to take some photos and just sit and think about Nana for a bit.

When I climbed back to the turnaround for the bus, I found Moriah and we agreed that it was time to head back up and use the toilets. We waited for two or three buses, hoping to find Katie but then decided that it might be best to head up because she might already be up at the top. So, we boarded the bus headed for the visitor center, thinking Katie was already up there since she often walks around on her own and ends up back at the starting point/gift shop before we do. We found the toilets and then made our way to the gift shop but not Katie. We watched the sunset and I mailed some postcards before we headed back to the cab to find Peter but not Katie as we had hoped. After a few minutes, Katie returned to the car. She had waited at the bottom for 20 minutes trying to find us. Oops, we thought she was already back at the top and she thought we were still at the bottom.

We made the long journey back to the hostel and grabbed some dinner before heading to bed.

It has been an adventure and a wonderful trip. Tomorrow it is an easy day, a walk to the city center, shopping and a train to Dublin. 

Day 21: Girls on foot

As the sun rose over Belfast, we loaded up our packs and checked out of our hostel. We had a train to catch at 4 pm so we were able to leave our bags in the luggage room at the hostel and head towards the city center of Belfast for some last minute sightseeing and some last second souvenirs from this lovely city. We decided to go mapless as our maps were packed in our larger backpacks as keepsakes. This wasn’t all that difficult to be honest. Just like in Dublin, Belfast has directional signs which guide you around the city to popular or important places like train stations and shopping centers.

We had a few hours but it took about 10-15 minutes to walk to the center and then after shopping and eating, we headed back, grabbed our bags and then headed one station back to Belfast Central station to catch our train bound for Dublin.

Again, we arrived about an hour early for that train. In Scotland, they consistantly waited until 5 or less minutes before the train was set to depart to give the platform information. In Ireland, and Northern Ireland, they have the platform information posted way before. We arrived and already knew what platform we were going to need to be on for our departure. We had time to grab some snacks, charge our devices and relax before our train.

The train was PACKED as usual and there was a young woman sitting in the open seat at our table. When she saw all our gear, she cose to move to another seat instead being squeezed in with us. We didn’t need her to move, but it certainly made it more comfortable for us and her. It was another long train ride with the gorgeous countryside whizzing by.

The countryside is just as you would imagine. Photos do not do it justice and I’m afraid that even in my penchant for adjectives, I would fail miserably at painting such a stunning scene. Imagine the greenest of greens, in 15 varying shades and tones, competing textures and rolling hills with ribbons of silver waterways, dotted with creamy white houses and clouds of cottony sheep.  The air is different, indescribeably wet, fresh and grassy…like the freshest goat cheese you can imagine.

We had just over 2 hours of this before we pulled into the station at Dublin Connolly Station. A taxi driver directed us the two blocks to our hostel and we settled in before heading out to meet up with my pen pal of 10 years, Brendan, at a pub called The Cobblestone for some pints.

Brendan was awesome and told us how to get there by the Tram and so we headed over to the station a couple blocks away (we could have caught it a block away, but we didn’t know that). The wind was whipping and the moisture was pretty bad, so my hair was acurly, frizzy mess.

We got to The Cobblestone at 8 and it was packed, on a Monday. We quickly realized that with the exception of the staff and the musicians, everyone was was not Irish. Brendan arrived and we immediately started chatting and drinking pints of Guinness. He introduced us to his favorite crisps (chips to us Americans) and then we headed to another pub where his dad used to take him when he was younger. They serve toasties at all hours, while most pubs stop serving food much earlier. We hadn’t eaten dinner, so the ham and cheese toasties were absolutely perfect.

The pub had a dog as their little mascot of sorts and he was the cutest thing ever. Greeting all the patrons and patiently waiting to see if scraps were dropped by anyone. We ended up closing down the pub and said our goodbyes with Brendan with plans to meet up the next day before his classes in the evening.

We ave 2 more full days in Dublin…we have some minor things planned and then it is back to the real world for us. Back to the daily grind.

Come along Nana, we have one more adventure left…then we can rest. 

Day 22: Kilmainham Goal & The Easter Uprising 1916

Today, Moriah and I got up a bit early and headed to the pizza place down the street for a 4 Euro lunch which consists of a fresh slice pizza and a can of soda pop. We then headed out into the city to do some shopping for souvenirs before meeting up with Katie back at the hostel to catch the tram to Kilmainham Goal (a jail that is no longer in use as a detainment facility but is now a museum).

The jail is most famous for housing those who were executed for the Easter Uprising in 1916. We were taken to the chapel where Joseph Plunkett was allowed to marry his fiancee before being returned to his cell. They were permitted to spend just 10 minutes together, in his cell, prior to his execution by firing squad. We stood on the same floor they stood in 1916, and were able to see inside his cell through a small hole in the door.

The prison was also a place where many people chose to live during the potato famine. It was a place where people knew they would be guaranteed something to eat, even if very meager, a cold and damp place to sleep that was at least out of the streets and the most severe of the elements. The jail housed far beyond capacity in this time, and women and children often lived in the corridors instead of in cells. The jail housed petty thieves to murderers. The youngest inmate was a 5 year old boy who had stolen something, I don’t remember what it was…I’ll have to look that up.

After spending time in these older sections of the prison they took us to the panopticon which was build in the Victorian era. There, we saw more cells that housed the well known inmates over her years of operation. This included the very last inmate to leave the prison in 1923, who later became the president of Ireland and opened her doors as a museum following her renovation and restoration. In this area, on the ground floor, we also saw Mrs. Joseph Plunkett’s cell where she was housed in the 1920s. We were not able to go into her cell, however we were able to view the cell through the hole in the door. When doing this we could see on the back wall of the cell, a mural that she painted that has been restored/recreated.

The Panopticon is a large, long room with a rounded end on one side and three levels of cells. Down the center, there is a large staircase which connects to walkways that span from one side of the panopticon to the other. There is a single walkway for each level of cells, as well as a narrow walkway outside of the cells. This allows for easy viewing of every cell by the guards. If you haven’t read the book Panopticon then do it, you will understand entirely how this set up works. It is the same in the film In the Name of the Father. At the other end there is a spiral staircase where guards can walk up to any level as well as a staircase that extends down into the basement where women and children who were sentanced to hard labor worked in the laundries and kitchens. Throughout the panopticon are large manhole covers in the floors. Our guide told us that these were covered by bars or grates which would allow the steem to rise into the room and heat the entire wing.

We were then guided outside into one of the exercise yards and then followed her into another area where there was a plaque with all the names of the men who were executed in that yard in 1916. The names were listed in the order in which their executions took place. The final name on the list, James Connolly, was born in Scotland to Irish parents. All the men were executed by firing squad on one end of the yard. They were blindfolded with their hands bound behind their backs and a white sash placed over their heart. A wooden cross marks the place where their executions took place. Visitors often leave flowers here. James Connolly, however was executed on the other side of the courtyard. His execution was quite controversial. He was already sick, weak and dying from wounds that he sustained and it was considered unneccessary to execute him by many people. However, he was brought in through a door on one side of the yard and seated nearby, tied to the chair, blind folded and then executed by firing squad. Two of the men involved were not executed at the prison, their sentences were carried out elsewhere.

The prison was overwhelming and extremely interesting. After a long day, we headed back towards the hostel and got some dinner at Supermac’s. Tomorrow is our final day in Dublin. We just plan to do some shopping and a tiny bit of sight-seeing before catching dinner at the same place we got our first meal of our trip. 

Day 23: Who said you could rain on my parade?!?

We got up early today and headed to the Art Cafe on the corner by our hostel. We are staying at Isaac’s Hostel this time round in Dublin. Interestingly, our hostel is on the same block at the one we stayed in the first time we were in Dublin at the start of our trip. That time, we stayed in Paddy’s Palace. Now, that hostel was miserable. Everything was constantly wet, smelled of mould, the showers were gross and growing with mould as well. Our bedding always smelled musty and felt slightly damp. The floors were dirty and our room smelled of dirty gym socks, body oder and bad breath to mix with the ever present bouquet of various moulds. There were no outlets in or near the bathrooms other than for shavers, only 2 in the entire room that slept 14 people.

Isaac’s, however, provided clean and dry rooms with non-mouldy bedding or walls. We had separate shower and bathroom facilities for men and women as well, something we didn’t have at Paddy’s Palace. Our room was a little stuffy, but we could correct that by opening our window, which we did. Our roommates at first were a woman from Ireland, who has been living in New Zeland for the last 7 years and was home to visit family and friends and the other was a young man named Johnathan from Australia who started his trip in London and had made his way to Ireland. He checked in the same day we did. Also in our room was a mirror with an outlet under it as well as an outlet between the beds. This room slept 6 of us. In the hallway, there were long mirrors with counter space and multiple outlets so that those of us who shower in the morning, and then need to use styling devices for our hair don’t wake everyone up. By far I would say that I would tell people to stay at Isaac’s over Paddy’s. The staff was helpful and friendly at both places, but the conditions at Isaac’s is much better.

But I digress…..

We stopped at Art Cafe to have an Irish breakfast and some hot tea before we got on our way to do our last gallavanting around Dublin. Katie wanted to see Dublinia, a Viking museum about their influence on Dublin and Ireland (I believe. You will have to read her post to know exactly what it was about.) and Moriah and I, though interested in the museum, chose not to spend the 7 Euro  to go in and headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to buy a few last souvenirs. When we were done there, we headed towards our meeting place with Katie, Chester Beatty Library. We had an hour to spare before our meeting time of 2 pm, so Moriah and I popped into a couple shops and stopped into a cafe for some hot tea and free wifi. With 20 minutes left until meeting, we headed over to the library, which is more of a museum of books and art. We didn’t see Katie so we headed into the gift shop and after about 10-15 minutes in there we messaged Katie to tell her we were in the gift shop so we could meet up when she got there. She must have walked in just after we made our way into the gift shop because she replied that she was upstairs in the exhibit already.

Moriah and I made our way up and joined Katie in the exhibit. We saw papyri that dated back to 100 AD! Illuminated texts from various religious sects, the history of book making, the methods used by different regions of the world as well as different eras were all present. There was a section where they demonstrated Asian calligraphy as well and it made me miss those lessons. It might be something I pick back up I think. My calligraphy has gotten really rusty, to a point where I can’t say I would call it calligraphy anymore. HAHAHA.

After the library, Katie was not feeling too well so she decided to head back to the hostel and rest while Moriah and I went tea and snack shopping with Brendan. We were meeting up at 4pm at the Spire in the city center and the weather decided to turn.

The day had been really windy, but the humidity was down and though it was very cold, it was otherwise sunny, clear and beautiful. Until now…

It began raining, large cold raindrops…

As we were waiting for Brendan we ducked into the GPO (General Post Office) where the bulk of the fighting  in 1916 began. It was neat to see some of the display they had while we waited out of the wet and cold for Brendan.

When he arrived we made out way through the city to some shops where he said we could find his favorite crisps, which he had sent to him when he lived in Canada and Los Angeles because you can’t get them there. He also introduced us to some of his favorite chocolates so that we could share them with our families, and directed us to the best tea.

Brendan took us to a pub that used to be a church. The pub is called The Church and still has the pipes from the organ on the inside. Very pretty inside for sure. We then walked over to a courtyard area where there have been a number of suicides and used to be a place where a graveyard was.

It was then time to say goodbye to Brendan, so he rode with us on the tram to our stop, which was also by his college. After we all prolonged the saying goodbye as long as we could it was time for the real farewell with hugs and Moriah and I made our way to our hostel around the corner.

I had thought it would be nice if we had our final meal in Dublin at the same place we had our first meal, so we headed over to J.W. Sweetman’s for dinner. It had stopped raining by the time we headed to dinner, but it was still incredibly windy and cold. We made our way over and found a table on the second level as it was quite busy. Katie wasn’t very hungry, so she ordered a Calypso Coffee and the Cheese Platter for two, which had a large assortment of cheese, fruit, sweet relish and crackers. Moriah and I decided to share the pie of the day which was a turkey and bacon pie with mash (which is mashed potatoes), mixed veg (which is mixed steamed vegetables), onion rings and then each got a side salad. Moriah decided to have one more Guinness and I had water.

We ROLLED ourselves out of the restaurant and made our way back to the hostel for a good night’s sleep. Moriah’s eye had been hurting all day because she had forgotten the tablet that you have to add to the contact solution here and ended up putting her contact in her eye basically drenched in hydrogen peroxcide. By the end of the day, it was bothering her so much and she was in pretty excruciating pain. She had been flushing it with saline all day, but even without a contact in for more than a few seconds, and lots of flushing it out, her night was pretty miserable but she was a trooper and barely complained all day.

Tomorrow is our flight back to the USA…I’m ready to see my husband and kids, my four legged boogerbutts and to sleep in my own bed…but I’m not sure I want the adventure to end.

Come along with us… is time to reflect and head home.

Day 24: May the good Lord bless and keep you, whether near or far away…

Today, Moriah woke after an exceptionally rough night. I’ll let her tell  you all about it, but neither of us got much sleep. We all got up early and grabbed a cab to the airport. We decided to check our large backpacks for the return flight so that we could ensure that they would fit on the plane. With all the extra souvenirs and stuff, our bags were heavier and bulkier than they were on the way out, and it was tough to get the overhead bins to close on the way out.  Poor Moriah’s eye was still bothering her, so I had her flush it again but with just cold clean water, then I taped her eye shut and put gauze over it to make a sort of eye patch for her. She was still so miserable and they put us through security twice as well as through customs on this end.

By the time we got to our gate, Katie and I had Moriah stay with our stuff so that we could get her some water and something to eat before getting some medicine in her. Katie and I waited in what felt like a half hour line for a couple bottles of water, diet cokes and then I got a muffin for Moriah and I and Katie got herself a brownie. It was just enough to hold us over until they will be feeding us on the plane. We got boarded and situated in our seats, only to have the plane not leave. We ended up delayed because someone….chose not to fly with us today and their companion chose to remain off with them, so their luggage has to be removed from the cargo for security reasons. It took a good 20 minutes for them to locate all of these people’s luggage and to get us on our way. Now, we are cruising along with only 3:26 left of our 7 hr flight.We have been fed lunch, and now we are just waiting it all out in the near darkness of the cabin.


This trip has been a real adventure. I always wanted to backpack Europe when I graduated college. However, at the end of my Sophomore year, at the age of 18, I chose a different path. The path still took me overseas…but to Japan, and I got two of the most wonderful, talented and amazing kids out of that path. I didn’t think that my path would mean divorce at 24 let alone being remarried at 30 to the one my heart was meant for, the one that God had intended for me all along. It was an amazing surprise to find out that that dream that I had had to backpack Europe after graduation wasn’t completely gone. It was 20 years later than I had intended, but I still got to do it.

The things that we have seen, these lovely young ladies I am so incredibly blessed to call my best friends, have grown us as individuals and allowed us to draw closer to each other. I feel completely blessed to share this experience with them. They are the best of me and the worst of me, as your best friends should be. We have gotten on each other’s  last frayed and dying nerve, cried tears together, healed hurt feelings and gotten to know more about ourselves than we knew before.

Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland will forever be places that I treasure and crave to experience again and again, I will carry with me memories and pieces of this journey until the last of my breath has left my lungs. The sights, the smells and tastes, the way each city and people sound…the sensation of standing in places older than the country I call my home will forever resound in my core. It is strange how places that are part of your ancestry can feel like home and be so familiar when you have never seen them firsthand. This sensation is so much stronger once you actually touch them. There are so many more places in these wonderful countries that I want to see and experience, so I know that I will be back. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

I have had a fire lit in me to dive deeper into my family’s history and to eventually find the places where we started and visit those too. But I find that this experience has also made me consider the options that I have for Graduate programs. I always thought that I would stay in the Writing field or maybe consider Journalism, but the truth is, I don’t have to have a Master’s Degree in writing to be a writer…I’m a writer now and I was a writer before I completed my Bachelor’s Degree. I have a few ideas on where I might focus my studies, but I’m not settled on that yet. Do I ever seem to actually settle in my life? Have I ever setled on anything ever? Why start now right?

A vagabond spirit runs through my veins and laces with the gypsy soul, dancing along with my hippie heart towards the next adventure.

On this trip I got to stand in places that my wonderful grandmother, my Nana, visited several times, places her family emigrated from to start over in the USA. To take her ashes with me on this journey was both comforting and heartbreaking. I think that logically, we know that our grandparents age and eventually will pass on, but I don’t think our hearts are ready to let go of them and acept that their legacy lies in those who loved them, learned from them and who continue on to share the lessons with the next generation. My nana was 90 years old. She raised 2 amazing and challenging boys by  herself. An Irish New Yorker mother and grandmother to her core, she loved her family with a furvor that will surely continue through the generations like the rippled rings of a drop of water on the glass surface of a Loch or stream. I spent her birthday on the Cliffs of Moher, and watched her sail on the wind over the cliffs and into the wild water below, to forever breathe in the sweet salty air of Ireland’s western coast. I thought that somehow I might find some closure for her passing by taking her to these places she loved and to have one last adventure with my firey Nana. In a way, there has been a small bit of finality. It feels more real, but I don’t know if I will ever feel real closure. I don’t think anyone ever does when someone they are very close to passes. I don’t think I will ever get used to it, but I know that we will all continue on at least.

Go on ahead Nana…the adventure is done and there are so many things for you to see that I cannot yet see.