The Ways we celebrate fall

Its November first and the season we have been waiting for has finally arrived.  Fall is here, and the leaves are now starting to change color.  We have had much rain in south central Pennsylvania in the recent months of late summer and early fall.  The change of seasons has been slow coming, but as I look back over the past two months I realize we have been celebrating fall in several ways.

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In September the sisters met at the cabin and made crafty fall creations.

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“Hello Fall” is now decorating our houses even though the grass still needed to be mowed the days were warm and rainy and the leaves were green and remained on the trees.

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In October we made apple butter in the huge copper kettle with family members and friends of all ages participating.  It was a warm, sunny, lovely day, enjoyed by about 80 people who shared the 88 quarts of the warm fresh sauce that will be eaten on toast, biscuits or warm baked bread all winter long.

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But today it looks like fall!  The maple tree has shed some of its leaves and the others are turning the colors of fall.

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The ones on the ground show even more color.  I really like the shades of purple in this display of nature’s art.

With November upon us we are planning for and waiting for the day we celebrate Thanksgiving.  And in my recent travels I happened to spy this guy, which set my plans in motion.

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Happy Fall everyone, it may be short, the winter celebrations are nudging us.

 

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High School Reunion Day

Celebrating a high school reunion provided a day filled with memories, friends and education. Even though this was a 55th class reunion, we are still learning.  Our day began at the Gettysburg visitor center, meeting and greeting and then to watch a Civil War film.  This day spent recalling Gettysburg history was very fitting since our class of 1963 was the centenial celebration of the 1863 war on the first three days of July of that year.

Later we viewed the Cyclorama painting of Pickets Charge.  I remembered seeing this painting in high school, but with a couple of million dollar refirbish job it looked brand new.  The thing that stuck in my head when viewing the painting years ago was that the artist did a self portrait of himself in the painting, instead of a signature. After the presentation that did not mention this, I asked one of the guides. He showed me where it was.  Dressed as a union soldier the Frenchman was standing against a tree holding an open sword across his knee.  Everyone around him was engaged in battle, he however, was just standing there as though he was an observer, which, I guess he was.

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Our next stop was the Dwight D Eisenhower farm.  It was a beautiful day and the first one we had in a couple of weeks, so it was a treat to be out and about.

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But first a peek inside at the home where the Eisenhowers lived in the 1960’s. The formal living room showcased gifts the Eisenhowers received from friends and heads of state all over the world.  I liked this unusal couch like piece of furniture that, we were told, Mamie liked as well.  Ike, as he was called considered the room to stuffy and preferred to spend time on the porch where he enjoyed painting.

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It was lovely outside and we walked the path where Ike liked to walk with his friends and every one that he invited to the farm.

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In the showbarn we saw pictures of Winston Churchhill and Charles DeGaul in the same place where we were standing.

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He was quite a golfer and had a putting green in his back yard.  The flag is that of a Four Star General.  We learned that one of our class mates was a caddie for the President on occassion when he golfed at the Gettysburg Country Club.

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We walked past the stables and googled eyed the old classic cars in the garage.  Among the golf carts and other classics was his presidential limosine Imperial.

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That evening we had dinner at the Dobbin House and a brunch on Sunday when our foriegn exchange student from Guatamala attended.

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She brought along a scrap book from her year in Gettysburg.  This picture of prom attendants was reinacted as both of them were at the brunch.

It was a great weekend.  I love our class reunions, I think the only one I missed was the 5th reunion as I was still out of town.  Now 55 has come and gone.  “How are you?”  Was a frequently asked question. The answer I liked the best was “I’m upright and thankful to be so.”  Yes! Yes I am.

 

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24 hours in Northern Pennsylvania

At the tail end of our short trip to New York, we drove into Pennsylvania and stopped to see our friends in the small town of Canton.   We spent exactly 24 hours there and what a day it was.  We visited on the back porch of their beautiful stone home, ate three delicious meals, and played the concentration game of Sequence.

The rain started soon after our arrival, but our hosts were undaunted.  What to do in the rain?? Take a 3 hour tour in the new truck and see the sites these mountains had to offer.

We enjoyed seeing the deer that were out in large numbers. We saw doe, lots of twin fawns and buck. This bunch didn’t mind as we stopped and watched them graze and the young ones were darting from place to place and practicing their high jumps.  Quite entertaining, actually.  The one in the middle of this picture is just beginning a take off. We also saw a flock of wild turkey and had our eyes pealed for the elusive bear.

The clouds, the mountains, the grasslands and the farms presented a picturesque sight as we traveled over hill and dale. Note the old church on the left side of the picture.

I had to have a close up of it. I love the windows and wonder at the two door entrance.  As I ponder this picture I think of the music that might have been sung here, the sermons preached, the friendships made and lunches held,  bringing a community together in fellowship with God.

We saw a lot of farm land given up for the placement of these wind turbines.  After all was said and done the additions did not spoil the beauty of the land even if the farming was put on the back shelf.

This view from a mountain top made us wish for a sunny day, but I think you can get the picture.

At this lookout we met a very tall and imposing Indian Chief of days gone by.

And the next day it rained, we took another 3 hour tour that showed us recent tornado damage, and took us to an ice cream shop that sold many kinds of popcorn as well.  At this place you could taste all the different kinds of pop corn before buying the one or two of your choice.  The flavors were wide and varied, I tasted a few but settled on my favorite caramel corn. Provided good munchies for the trip home.

Did I mention there were goats??  Lots of grazing goats.

We said our goodbyes right after lunch, just 24 hours since we had arrived, and began our three hour drive home. We drove home in the rain, and came home to days and days of heavy rain.

It was too long since our last trip to Canton and this one was too short, but we made the best of the time we had and packed a lot of fun times into that day long get away.

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Dreaming of New York, New York

A four day get-away to New York with my husband was one of the three short vacations our summer had to offer this year. After a long trip to Ireland without him, it was good to do this short trip together and to do something he really was looking forward to.  Our New York trip did not include the city of New York, we were headed to the salmon fishing capital of the east, Pulaski, New York.  From our home in Pennsylvania it is listed as a 5 hour drive.  We made it happen in 8, driving leisurely with a couple of food and rest stops. My husband and son are planning a fishing trip here in September, but in July we were just enjoying the beauty and checking out the places he remembered when he fished year about 5 years ago.  Pulaski has a couple of fish and tackle shops, but Fat Nancy’s has the best location as it is right off the highway as you come into the town. Dick was anxious to introduce me the shops name sake, a fish called, not Wanda but ——- Fat Nancy.   And there she is in all her glory.

That evening we stayed close to town and walked around some of the local fishing spots, had dinner at a near by restaurant and found a place to relax.

The next day we made a wide circle and stopped at numerous places he remembered.  One where he had his first bite and another where he caught his first salmon. In July the water is high, the sun is out and the scenery is lush and green.

We walked along paths beside rivers and he showed me where 5 years ago a parking lot was flooded during the fishing season and they were actually catching salmon in the lot.

We cut through a path in the woods to get to the river.

Erosion taking its toll, so visible I walked past some of the trees a little faster than usual.

I do not think that this tree is going to last another five years.

Later we walked to a water fall and enjoyed the beauty there.

There were steps involved in this walk.

This is my kind of hiking, a nice flat path with shady spots along the way, so appreciated on a warm summer day.

 

The beauty seemed to never end.

By the end of that couple of days, he was dreaming of September with a fishing rod in his hand.

Come September, he will be ready to show his son all the good spots. I even got excited for them. Here’s wishing them  a  successful fishing trip when the salmon are running.

 

 

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The Giant’s Causeway

My first trip to Ireland included a short trip across the northern border to the Belleek pottery factory where I purchased a small vase that looks similar to the one on the left, that I took a picture of in Dublin on this trip.  In 2006 we entered Northern Ireland just north of Sligo and did not see much more than the factory had to offer.

I wanted to change that on this trip, so we left Doolin and headed for a different country, well almost.  We were looking for the border which we knew to be open, but still had our eyes peeled for any changes that might occur.  We only saw one large sign that said, “Money changes here.”  Our first stop across the border was in Armagh, the place where my Irish family came from, and our first activity was to find an ATM where in fact we could change some money. Since it was raining and way past lunch, I snapped a picture or two as we hurried into a coffee shop for a much needed break from a long drive. We enjoyed the play on words. The word craic in Ireland means to have a good time. It is pronounced like the English word crack. A display of pictures featured Bono and the U2 group.

Eventually we found our cute little Irish cottage and settled in for the night.

Our destination in the morning was “The Giant’s Causeway.”  I had heard and read about it and was looking forward to this one full day we got to spend in Northern Ireland.

The story goes that in centuries past, a race of feuding giants inhabited this northern land and built a causeway between two islands. During one of the fights a giant, being afraid of his opponent ran back to his island destroying the bridge  on the way.  In the large visitors center there is a ‘giant’ screen video that tells the fabled story and also gives a scientific explanation of the phenomenal columns of stone that still stand today, which actually doesn’t seem real feasible to me either.

It truly is an amazing sight and fun to climb on as well. There are several walking paths along the coast line to enjoy.

Some were higher than others.

I took a low path on the way back and saw the ‘camel’ the winning giant supposedly rode home. I hope you can spot him. There are several fun things about the giant on the trails, how tall, the shoe size etc.

The one other thing I wanted to do that day was to walk across the Carrick-A-Rede swinging rope bridge. It sounded like a lot fun and the pictures were breathtaking.

I really wanted to do this!  Or did I?  I admit I was a bit nervous going over where you got to view another island,

but coming back I was on my game and even wishing the bridge were a bit longer.

For over 350 years, fishermen have strung a rope bridge 30 meters above the sea to allow them access to the best places to catch the migrating salmon.  This day it was my turn to take the challenge and enjoy the same views and high thrills of those fishermen long ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Toolin ’round Doolin

The little town of Doolin was one of my favorite spots in Ireland.  I’m not sure what took it to that level of favorites, but it might have been because I spent a day there on down time.  I wrote in my journal, took a long walk, got some pictures and sat in a little bake shop eating a brownie and visiting with some locals. That morning it was raining in Doolin, and it was windy. The original plan for the day was to take a boat ride to one of the Aran Islands, and get a view of the Cliffs of Moher from the bottom looking up on the way back.  It sounded fun during the planning, but today I just could not manage an open boat ride on a rainy, windy day. The others wanted to go and I sent them on their way with my blessing.  I found myself a warm comfy chair and caught up with my journal at about 11:30.  After a big stretch I was ready to explore the town to see what it had to offer in the way of pictures. The rain had stopped.

This is what greeted me as I stepped out from our bed and breakfast complex.

Next came stone walls and my donkey friend.

By the time I got into town, my phone had lost it’s charge from all the texting I did to family back home.  This, of course happened without my notice. So I went into a little bakery and spied some brownies. I began talking to the gal behind the counter and mentioned that I had been out walking and my phone was dead. She said “sit down and enjoy your brownie, I will charge it in the office, we have a cord.”  While sitting she gave me an Irish newspaper and a glass of water. That is how I spent the next half hour, phone charged to a decent level, caught up on the news of the day and I was back on the beat looking for photo opts.

They were on every corner.

I loved this little pink house with a thatched roof from a distance, and was excited to find out that it was a shop and I could actually go inside and have a look around.  It kind of looked like a doll house to me, very cute inside as well.

That evening, we enjoyed dinner and music at O’Conners famous pub.  The food was fabulous and the music, hand clapping fun.

The next day we had to leave Doolin, but not before I got a picture of this artists interpretation of a famous ancient burial ground that was hanging in the hallway of our b&b. We had seen it in our travel brochures and now wanted to see the real thing.

The Poulnabrone dolmen is a precarious set up of large stones, and offers many different photo options. It is located in the Burren National park.

For someone with a photographer’s eye, it is a work of art, standing thus for thousands of years. This was my best shot.

These are the stones that surround the site, making the eerie looking patterns on the painting.

We met a young man in town who told us he had never been out of Doolin, even though it was a favorite, I had no problem moving on.  I hope some day he will get to move on as well.

Leaving Doolin was saying goodbye to a fast made friend, only to find new places and things to see in a whole different country, Northern Ireland! Join me there next time.  I was told the boat ride was wet and rocky.  Glad I stayed behind and made a friend.

 

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Cliffs and Caves in Ireland

The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular tourist sites on the coast of Ireland. We started out early on an April Sunday morning to have our go at it.  Traffic was almost nil, we had the road to ourselves much of the time. We enjoyed stops where the sheep were grazing on hillsides with a river below, and the very popular “Ladies view.” (see featured image at top of post) However our big goal for the day was to go to Portage to view Skellig Michael Island.  In centuries past this was a place where Monks went to meditate and get away from the world. We had no idea what that goal would entail as we followed our GPS through narrow roads that morphed into what looked like bike paths and cars had to pull to one side to let the other one pass, and there were, by this time, some traffic and a lot of bikes.  The draw to see Skellig Michael Island these days is that it is where the last “Star Wars” movie was filmed. It’s a 5 hour boat ride from the coast, so viewing it from the cliff was our only option.  Who knew there was a cliff walk involved?

 

The path is paved and very steep in some places, but all in all not a bad hike.

On the way up one of the three paths we climbed to view the islands, we were treated to these stone bee hive huts, with fake birds on the top.

In case you don’t really believe we were climbing cliffs, I will include this picture.

And the views down were also a treat.

It was a chilly and windy day, the picnic table did not beckon us although the view was nice.

We viewed the Island from three different places, each one from a different cliff, from the third one we also saw Puffin Island, but no puffins.

The day was also hazy and some rain. Did I mention chilly and windy?  On the way down the third cliff we were caught in a wind draft that actually pushed us down the hill, just as we thought we might lose control it was over.  It was a very exhilarating hike and the highlight of our day.

Speaking of going down, one of our other unplanned adventures was cave walking.  We found it one day by making a wrong turn. We were on our way to the cliffs of Moher on another rainy cool day.  It was before lunch and who could be bothered by the rain in a cave?  We began this hike by descending 125 metal stairs.  After that it was getting a helmet, walking through a low hanging tunnel, which was the reason for the helmets. I know for I bumped my head a couple of times.

After the tunnel, it was down 90 more steps to see this magnificent stalactite, discovered in the 1950’s by two college students who crawled through the tunnel 250 feet below the surface and finally came into the opening. Today it is made much safer by the stairs.

Did I mention what goes down must come up??

From there we head over to the cliffs of Moher. In my wildest dreams I thought surely you would drive to the top, park the car and get the view from the top. WRONG! So very wrong, you park at the bottom and walk to the top of all six cliffs if you so desire. My desire ended after two.

The view was great, but nearly the same from each cliff.

Finishing off this day in the town of Doolin was just what I needed, join me for the next blog “Toolin round Doolin” much easier than cliff and cave walking.  Hope you enjoyed the hikes.

 

 

 

 

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Sheep and Green Pastures

What comes to your mind when you think of Ireland?  For me it is not Guinness Beer, or the crowded “most famous” shopping area of Grafton Street.  It is sheep and green pastures. Sheep in green pastures is what makes Ireland awesome to drive through. Sheep show up everywhere and they are not impressed with your advances or your camera.  I learned that there are a million and a half more sheep than people in Ireland. Is there a sheep census taker?  There is also the mystery of the pink and blue markings on the seemingly free roaming sheep. It is a mark of identification, something like a brand, to tell which sheep belongs to what farmer. The mystery is that all the sheep have the same pink and blue markings.  We asked a local farmer about this and his answer was vague, something like well each farmer knows his sheep and the sheep knows his farmer.  Actually I think that is Biblical.  The sheep know the voice of the shepherd and follow him.

Sometimes you can see that the blue paint is a number, but it is often washed to just a blue or pink swash.

Often sheep are seen grazing on rocky hillsides instead of green pastures.

Here they found a green spot in the middle of weeds and rocks.

These were also fairly close to the road, so we stop and tried to get a closer shot, but as soon as we got within good shooting distance, they took off bleating and baa baa “ing” as they went, in a full run heading toward the barn on the other side of the road.  We apologized and got back into the car.

There is something peaceful and tranquil about sheep grazing in a green pasture.

Which is why, perhaps, they put out their “do not disturb” sign by hanging out near fences not easily reached by camera toting passers by.

Not so with donkeys who will eat anything in site, including a bite this one tried to take out of my jacket. I was as quick as the camera flick and got out the way before any damage was done to the jacket or my elbow.  I had asked a passer by to get a picture and she took several, urging me to get closer and closer. Tentatively I moved in, Can we say “too Close!”

Driving by offers many tranquil scenes of just green pastures and stone fences. I think of the hard labor it took to erect those fences, first digging them out of the rock infested ground and stacking them in such a way that, with repair, they stay for long periods of time.

Sometimes we all have to hang up our “do not disturb” signs to get away from the things, wanted and unwanted, that crowd into our busy lives.  We need to soak in the quiet green pastures that life has to offer.   That’s what my trip to Ireland did for me.

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A tale of three castles

There are no shortages of castles in Ireland. Sprinkled throughout the country they stand tall or as fallen remnants of the past.  We visited three and found them to be both enchanting and daunting. Constructed by the hand of man as fortresses for protection, they are built on foundations of huge rocks, perched on the highest of hills, or dangle from the edge of a cliff.

The Rock of Cashel was the first on our agenda.  We knew it was just off the road we were traveling and as soon as it came into sight we couldn’t get out of the car fast enough to let the exploration begin.

It was a lovely sunny day and even more than the majestic castle, the scenery around it drew us in as we viewed endless acres of green pastures with stone fences, grazing sheep and yellow daffodils.

Once inside the mighty fortress, we began to live and breathe the ancientness of our surroundings which dated back to the 4th or 5th century. This is where King Aengus ruled and in AD 432 was baptized by Saint Patrick to become the first Christian ruler of Ireland.  Additions came in the 12th, 13th and 15th century in the form of a Gothic style church, with a hall of vicars and a huge room for the choir.  Further exploration took us to the site of the original Saint Patrick’s cross and pictures of Queen Elizabeth and Philip visiting the castle in 2011. We did a self guided tour and watched an interesting film on castle life and history to conclude our visit.

Surrounding the castle was a very old cemetery, however we came across graves with dates as late as the 1950’s, one from 1997 and 2006.  The stunning countryside was always beckoning our cameras.

Ross castle in Killarney was the next castle stop that we are so glad we did not miss.  This tower like structure is next to a picturesque lake where people come to feed the geese, picnic and just enjoy the day.  The guided tour here is not to be missed. Our well informed hostess, pointed out many features of “how to protect yourself in a castle,” including the square hole where you could dump hot water or grease onto an unwanted intruder, and the spike laden door designed to discourage trying to break through with your shoulder. Each room was another flight of steep, narrow spiral steps that had to be carefully navigated.  We could only imagine fighting your way down them wielding a sword and holding on to the rope banister.  She told us of life and times in the 12 to 1600’s with little light and less heat, candles burning at both ends and toilets that seated four people in a row.

There are no pictures to be taken inside, because of the very old and delicate pieces of furniture obtained during restorations.  She said they actually had more furniture than what was ever in the castle while people were actually living there.  I truly enjoyed the top floor or the “great hall,” as it reminded me of several books I have read about that time period and of course the classic “Camelot.”

 

Castle number three, located in Northern Ireland along the coast of the Giant’s Causeway, has been a defended site from as early as 500 AD. This was the one dangling from a cliff over the ocean and it is said that part of it actually fell off centuries ago. Dunluce Castle is an archaeological site as well as having much historical significance dating back to the 15th century and lived in as late as the 17th century. Also shown in the featured picture at the top of the blog, you can see the walk across bridge, formerly a drawbridge, that would close to the approaching enemy. The stone walls speak of kitchens, towers, fireplaces and great rooms.

A climb to the top of the tower reveals immense rock formations,  and the impressive heights give fantastic views below.

 

Thankfully we did not have to use those steps to reach the castle. It was a chilly windy day, but an hour well spent, reaching in our minds to a distant time and place.

Three castles telling tales of days gone by, when life itself was extremely difficult with death and danger around every corner. It’s always fascinating to learn how people lived long ago, but appreciating the life we now have is something we must certainly cherish everyday.

 

 

 

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Phil-la-del-phia Here we come, Right back where we started from.

On a recent trip to the green, green isle of Ireland, we left Philadelphia and certainly expected to return, but not in the middle of the same night that we left. But that is exactly what happened. At the time it was concerning, then frustrating and very, very tiring. In a backward glance, we are thankful that we were never in danger and now it makes a good story, one everyone who travels needs to realize that these things can happen and we have to count it as all part of the adventure.

Two and a half hours into our flight to Dublin, this is the turn of events of our flight pattern. We left Philly at 9pm and had just finished our hot meal at about 10:45. Settling down for the long trip, I played a little trivia before being booted out of the game for not getting enough right answers, then it was nap time.  At 11:30 the announcement came over the PA system that we would be returning to Philly because the plane’s computer system was not giving the right signal to allow crossing the open ocean.  At the time I thought, “well it beats landing in the middle of the ocean.”  We arrived back in Philly at 2:45 AM, to stand in line until 6 AM.  We were able to get another flight into Shannon at the same time the next night.  That meant spending our first planned day in Dublin in a hotel in Philly, trying to get some rest and making arrangements for the change in plans.

I was traveling with my long time friend and coworker, Gale, and her two grown sons.  It was a trip we had been planning for over a year, and it was difficult to decide what had to be scrapped.  We tried to make arrangements from Shannon, but the price to rent a car the next day more than doubled and we decided to enjoy the train ride across the island and pick up our plans and previously rented car there.  While we were getting some rest and changing plans the boys slept for a time then called an uber driver to downtown Philly, got an authentic Philly Cheese steak sandwich and walked around Independence Hall giving the younger boy his first view of the Liberty bell. Since we spent more time in the airport than we had ever imagined I got this shot of the famous bell on one of many “airport walks.”  However, I was in no mood for a selfie.

We arrived in Shannon, found a bus to Limerick, which put us on a train to Dublin. In Dublin we needed to find a metro to station Connolly that would take us to Dun Laoghaire, and just before that metro bus stopped we realized we needed to get off that one and catch a local metro to the station at Sandy Cove which was near our bed and breakfast. In haste to depart, one of the guys left his backpack on the metro, which was well on its way as we just made it out the door when realized his pack was still on the train.  The one with his passport in it.  While he reported it right away, there was nothing more to do but go to our B&B and take in some of the local sites.

After meeting Mary, our friendly and very helpful hostess, we walked the short distance to the local “Fish Shack” recommended by Rick Steves whose travel guide made our trip planning much easier.

A walk along the local water front eventually brought us to a place where the locals hung out enjoying their first warm April day.

We too were enjoying the warm weather as we had left rather wintry conditions in Pennsylvania.

A few brave souls were running in and out of the water in this small beach area. I am sure that water was anything but warm. We were told that it had been cold and rainy until two days ago, but today the sun was out and the temperature hanging around the mid 60’s.

Interesting shell sculpture.  Later we saw small replicas of these for sale in the gift shops.

In Mary’s home I recognized this painting as the place where we had just walked the evening before.  The round tower is known as the James Joyce Tower and now a museum that holds many of his writings.  The tower was originally constructed to repel an invasion from Napoleon forces, but years later became famous when Joyce used the tower to set the opening scene in his popular novel “Ulysses.” The museum, that is free and open to the public gives a panoramic view of the Sandy Cove area if you are willing to climb the narrow, spiral staircase to the top.

With no word on the finding of the back pack with the passport, our only option for the next morning was to make a visit to the US embassy in Dublin. While we waited outside, Corbin found it a unique and interesting experience to have a first hand look at the operation of a US embassy in a foreign country.

Because he had a copy of his passport in a different location, he was able to leave the embassy passport in hand about 3 hours later. He had an interesting story to tell about a lady who had no identification with her, lost her passport when she laid her backpack down at the Cliffs of Moher. She said it was very “rolley polley” because she had it stuffed with sweaters, and it rolled right off the cliff into the ocean below.

Later we saw where that might have happened. Looking at this part of the Cliffs of Moher where there are no guard rails, I guess there is no way you would want to chase a rolling backpack. Staying on the pathway is highly encouraged. The ocean is indeed at the bottom.  More on these gigantic cliffs later.

After several phone calls with promises of return phone calls that never came, we continued our trip without the backpack.  On Sunday, however, we were surprised by a phone call to the B&B we rented on the Ring of Kerry.  The message was that the pack had been turned in to lost and found by a cleaning man.  Upon inspection they found the phone # to the B&B on an itinerary I had given to Corbin when we landed in Shannon.  The bag was intact, containing his passport and a computer.  We were to pick it up on our return trip to Dublin on Friday.  Frustration dissipating, our trip continues with thankfulness settling in. Always look on the bright side.  God is Good.

Look for castles, cliffs and caves in coming posts.

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