Thursday, January 10, 2019

Stories & Photos from Ireland

Anne on the west coast of Achill Island, Ireland's largest island.

One of many "castles in the middle of a field" in Ireland. No information about it available.

Killamery Cross and Church--we drove by, saw a sign on the wall of a pub, took a short walk, and this is what we found.

The road around the Ring of Kerry at Moll's Gap between Kenmare and Killarney.

Happy New Year, everyone! I’ll start this year with a couple of old stories. The Rambling Adventures of a Traveler and Golfer (2015) has sold out. I’ve pulled two stories out of that book from our trips to Ireland to share. Selecting stories from Ireland also forces me to search through old photo files of those trip—always a fun occupation—and even though the photos don’t directly relate to the stories, it’s fun to show a little bit of Ireland.

The Saturday congregation.

 Kells Celtic High Cross and Round Tower in Kilkenny County.  

Special Note about the Photos: Some of the photos are old and were probably converted from film or poor slides Often my early travel cameras were not the best. With post processing I’ve tried to make the photos at least presentable.
The colorful village of Sneem is on the south arm of the Ring of Kerry.

The Midleton Distillery (owned by Jameson) is now called the Jameson Midleton Experience and is a few miles east of Cork.

Anne was selected as one of the special tasters at the Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland. She earned her Master Taster's Award by liking the Bushmills Whiskey the best. In Ireland, like the US, whiskey is spelled with an "e"--in Scotland it's whisky, no "e."

Very typical Irish view of rock fences dividing fields. This is on the Dingle Peninsula.

Warning to Photographers: In the processes of trying to access old photos and slide shows saved on CDs, I’ve run into a couple of problems. First, some of my CDs with photos from the early 2000s have become corrupted and can’t be played—not all of them, but a few. Second, although my iMac has converted most of my slide show on discs to a usable format, some of the shows were saved on programs that my computer now can’t or won’t read, play, or convert. For the past few years I haven’t been using CDs to save photos, but since I’m not a fan of any cloud system, after backing up photos to an external hard drive I simply save all my original memory cards (they’ve become so cheap) in a fireproof safe. It was a wake-up call, though, to lose some of those old photo discs.
A local's pub in Ballyferriter, a very small village on the Dingle Peninsula.

Ua Flatbeartais (O'Flaherty's Pub) in Dingle--the IRA leaning is very evident in the decor.

Not far from Galway is the Quite Man Bridge, featured in the 1952 Academy Award winning (Best Director, John Ford) film which featured John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Victor McLaglin, among others. The film, although quite dated, is still worth a watch for the glimpse of old Ireland and the fantastic cinematography.  

On to the stories:
The road to the Cruit Island GC in the north of Co. Donegal.

A typically lovely major highway in Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher and the Stupid People

One of the prime natural tourist attractions in the Republic of Ireland is the Cliffs of Moher (Aillte an Mhorthair in Irish Gaelic). The cliffs are seven hundred foot sea cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head north of Lahinch in County Claire. The site draws more than a million visitors annually, and many of them are really, really stupid.
The only picture I have of the Cliffs of Moher; the rest are on an unopenable CD.

I’ll start with a couple of tourist notes about the cliffs before I get to the Stupid People. The best time of day to photograph the cliffs is in the late afternoon when the setting sun highlights both the rocks and the breathtaking crashing waves at their base. Late afternoon, after five PM, is also the best time for the budget minded to visit. Earlier in the day the tourist shop is open and there is a charge to visit the cliff’s lookout and to park. After five PM both are free. We were lucky enough to take advantage of both of these hints on our first visit to the cliffs. We drove out to the cliffs after a round of golf at Lahinch GC a few miles away. It had been squally all day, but the sun was out now and the wind was up significantly. We hiked up the trail to the cliff lookout for photos. It was then we saw the Stupid People.
The Poulnabrone Portal Tomb (a dolmen or megalithic tomb) in The Burren, an area of northwest Co. Claire southeast of Galway. The stark limestone area prompted Cromwell to say about The Burren, "There isn't a tree to hang a man, water to drown a man not soil to bury a man." 

"The Milestone" in front of one of our favorite Irish B&Bs (Milestone House in Dingle) is a path marker more than 4000 years old.

Peat (turf) drying--once dried it is used by many as fuel for heat and cooking.

Across from the observation area we could see a flat plateau on top of the nearest edge of the cliffs (which run in both directions for several miles). Although there were steel fences and massive signs warning of the dangers of the cliffs, a number of Stupid People (mostly teens and young adults of both sexes) were on top of the plateau. It was dumb enough that they were out on the rock with 30 to 40 mile per hour gusts and a drop of 700 feet a few feet away. But then the dumb showed they were dumber by crawling out to the edge and hanging a leg or arm or both over the edge. The really Stupid People would hang an arm and head over the edge and wave to their friends. One of the Stupid People’s hat flew off and the person made a jerking grab for it as it sailed down toward the sea. We thought for sure we were going to witness a tragic fall. No more! We headed back down the trail to our car and left the Stupid People to their madness. We figured that if anyone did fall that they probably weren’t meant to breed.
Don't let anyone tell you that Galway doesn't get crowded on weekends.

One of our favorite villages, Dingle, at night.

Sheep, dolmen, and croft--it's an Irish thing.

Statue of St Patrick with Croagh Patrick Mountain in the background.

A Mushy Bowl in Ireland

After a day out in Dublin we came back to the coastal village of Brae via DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) to find dinner. On the seafront we went into Jim Doyle and Sons Pub to check out the music scene. It was still early, about eight, and the music listed for nine  probably wouldn’t start until nine-thirty (the Irish would say half-nine) or ten. An item on the evening’s menu caught our attention—it was called a Mushy Bowl. After a few sips of our Guinnesses I went up to the bar and ordered two Mushy Bowls. In a few minutes (the Irish are faster with the food than they are with the music) our meals came. A Mushy Bowl is a large bowl of chips (thick fries) topped with onions, mushrooms, Irish bacon (more like Canadian bacon than our bacon which is known as streaky bacon), and covered with melted Irish cheddar cheese. Outrageously sinful and delicious and when the music started it was great as well. The group was very lively, except for one older gentleman (significantly older than us) sitting with his small drum and a glass of Guinness under a “Reserved for Musicians” sign. His glasses down on his nose, his baseball cap askew, he appeared to be soundly asleep when he wasn’t playing. One sign of life was that occasionally he’d sit up and sip his Guinness. After some session tunes we still had to take a walk on the promenade to work off some of the Mushy Bowl before returning to our B&B.
With intersections like this in Doolin how can people say they get lost in Ireland.

Anne can tell you that shopping is great in Ireland.

We have since found out that a Mushy Bowl is the Irish variant of the Canadian poutine (French fries, meat, cheese curds, covered with gravy). At home we’ve made our version of a Mushy Bowl several times—it’s wonderfully adaptable to whatever you have on hand.
A par 3 hole on Westport GC with Croagh Patrick as a backdrop.

Here I am taking a rest at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Pub Sessions are easy to find in most villages in Ireland.

Newgrange (Si an Bhru) is a Neolithic passage burial tomb build about 3200 BC. The one acre tomb is only about an hour out of Dublin in Co. Meath.

"Lizzie" was brought home on our first trip to Ireland in 2002. She now has a herd of 20 to 30 other darlings from our trips to hang out with.

NEXT: A surprise--it will be a surprise to me as well since I haven't figured out what's next..

Friday, December 28, 2018

Trailer Daze

Camping BT (Before Trailer)

We’d been over it all before: we spend months every year in Scotland, we’ve got significant investments in timeshare, why should we think about a travel trailer? To put the issue to rest we decided to at least look at a few examples of small travel trailers and since we were upgrading our two-year old Subaru Outback with a new one with a bigger engine, we might as well add a trailering package just in case.
We looked at two different trailers at different McMinnville dealers. Neither were very impressive—one was kind of cheaply made and the other would be too heavy for us to pull, but both would have been affordable. Our last look was at R Young RV in Milwaukie. There we took a hard look at teardrop trailers—rolling beds with outside kitchen units. They were well made, looked like fun, but we didn’t fancy crawling in and out and having no toilet. Finally, we looked at what is named a Mini Max—a larger teardrop with kitchen, full bed, and wet bath. Made by Liberty Outside, the Little Guy Mini Max is nicely made, well appointed, interestingly designed, and light enough for us to pull comfortably with the Outback. The cost, though, was quite a bit higher than we had wanted to pay—it was within what we could pay, but not what we wanted to pay. So, with a “we probably wouldn’t use it enough to make it worthwhile,” we ended our search satisfied we’d made a fair final decision.
Mini Max at the Showroom

Anne with the R Young Rep

That was early in August. Since our “final decision” we kept finding situations where we’d say to ourselves, “If we had a trailer…” Next, in September, came our trip to Scotland; a month in the highlands, islands, and lowlands of Scotland. We also realized that it is going to be harder to continue making two trips a year to Scotland—free golf is running out because I’m not writing any new books, driving on the other side is getting more stressful, it’s going to be more difficult and expensive to get rental insurance, etc. That means we’ll have more time to travel at home. Not that any of that changed our “final decision.”
Proud New Owners

When we got home, though, we got a call from the salesman at R Young RVs saying he had a small Winnabego trailer for a special price. We had a free afternoon and thought we’d take a look. The trailer was at a great price, but it seemed plasticy (if that’s a word) and bulky and it would be at the max towing capacity of our car. To make a final decision [I thought we’d already done that.] we asked to compare this trailer to the Mini Max. As we browsed around and through the new Little Guy, the salesman let us know the price had come down $5000. 
Hooked Up & Ready to Go (I Think)

It took us only a couple of hours to negotiate a little better deal and become RVers, as well as Timesharers.

Little Guy Mini Max by Liberty Outdoors: Specifications

*Dry Weight 1993 lbs.
*GVW 2900 lbs.
*Tongue Weight 280 lbs.
*Length 17’2”
*Interior Height 6’9”
*15” Tires (Rough Rider Pkg)
*Solar Power Charging


*100% Hardwood Cabinetry
*2 Burner Gas Stove
*19’ LED TV
*13,500 BTU AC
*16,000 BTU Furnace
*5 Cubic Foot Refrigerator & Freezer
*Hideaway Queen Bed
*Wet Bath & Toilet
*5 Large Dual Pane Windows
*Tons of Extra Bells and Whistles

For More Information
Walkthrough Video

Some of the Interior Features

Story One

After some work on the car’s trailer set up and final prep on the Mini Max, we brought the Little Guy (now named Melvin) home. We planned to back the trailer through our big double gate onto our back lawn. Once I found that even with a backup camera mounted on the trailer giving me a good view and Anne doing a good job of directing my turns, the back alley wasn’t wide enough for me to make the turn I needed (I’m sure a pro would have made an easy job of it). Plan two—we started pushing the trailer onto the lawn after attaching the tongue wheel. We had no trouble on the pavement or our gravel parking area, but the moment the small tongue wheel touched the lawn it was buried six inches deep with no hope of moving it the five feet further into the yard to be able to close the gate.
Maxine Outside Our Back Fence

Step Next — With help we got the trailer parked on our gravel back parking area outside our fence (too unprotected to be a permanent location) until we could move it to Anne’s sister’s in Salem. 
Nice Pad, Thanks to Our Yardman, Cruz

Then we arranged for a cement pad to be layed inside our fenced yard. With emergency help we’d overcome our first (of many, I’m sure) trailer challenges.

Story Two

With the Mini Max (now named Maxine, even though she’s a Little Guy) parked safely in Salem we planned to have our first sleep over in it. After an anniversary dinner out with Charleen and Dave, we climbed into the trailer, set up the bed with sleeping bags, and climbed in for our first of many Mini camping nights. An hour later I was still awake and getting more agitated. The bed’s too small! The trailer’s too small! I’m getting claustrophobic! I can’t breathe! I’m having a panic attack! I woke Anne up; actually my tossing and turning had already alerted her that something was wrong. We both started thinking, OMG, what have we done! What’s it going to cost to get rid of this folly? How much will we lose? And we haven’t even had it out once. Then, for some strange reason, I unzipped my sleeping bag all the way around which is quite wide anyway, and threw it over me as a quilt. Whew! Suddenly I felt 100% better. It wasn’t the small Mini Max that was bothering me; it was being confined in the sleeping bag.
Small, But Now Comfortable Bed

 I used to snuggle up in my down mummy bag when I was backpacking without a hint of a problem. We’re guessing it’s another one of those “age” things. We slept again in Maxine a week or so later with no problems. We had survived the second trailer camping challenge thrown at us.

More Stories to Come, I’m Sure

Friday, December 14, 2018

Victoria BC

Breakfast on the way to Victoria at Country Cousins in Centralia, WA.

The topic for this post is our recent trip to Victoria, BC, Canada, to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. This post also celebrates for me the 150th post on this travel blog since I started it in April of 2011—that’s quite a bit of travel and a large bunch of photos. Now on to Victoria.
Victoria is about four and a half hours north of Portland by car to Port Angeles, Washington, 
Major accident southbound on I-5 slowed us down.

then an hour and a half ferry ride to the city. Victoria is the provincial capital of British Columbia and is situated on the southern coast of Vancouver Island. 
Victoria has a lovely skyline from the harbour.

Major construction downtown while saving the character of the building.

Victoria at night

It’s one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest having been settled in 1843. The most iconic building in the city is the Parliament building which was completed in 1879. We really enjoy Victoria—it’s an easy city to get around in and has plenty of fine eating places and shopping. 

Anne shopping in the Irish shop.

Interesting shopping in the west coast's second oldest Chinatown; this is Fan Tan Alley.

Street artist.

She could barely make it to the chair.
It’s particularly beautiful when decked out for the Christmas season which gets its official start with the lighting of the Parliament building on the first Saturday in December
Parliament Building lighted for Christmas.

—the shops, obviously, are ready for Christmas shoppers much earlier. 
Besides Parliament, another iconic building in Victoria is the Fairmont Empress Hotel on the harbour. 
Empress Hotel from the edge of the harbour.

Opened in 1908, the Empress has been serving Afternoon Tea practically since it opened. Called “among the world’s best tea experiences,” Afternoon Tea at the Empress is a treat not to be missed. Often called “High Tea” (which was really a hot meal for industrial workers returning home after a long day of work, now called supper or dinner), the Empress Afternoon Tea consists of a choice of specialty teas from a list of 21 loose leaf blends and a three course lunch served on a tiered platter. 
Tea Steeping Timers: green for 3, white for 4, and gold for 5 minutes.

The Full Monty

Special Touches at the Empress

The typical meal includes: first, warm raisin scones with clotted cream and strawberry lavender preserves; second, finger sandwiches (smoked salmon on blini, shrimp tartlet, English cucumber on rye, and roast beef on whole wheat); and third, a layer of sweets (chocolate and passion fruit tart, berry and pistachio daisy, caramel banana cake, and queen bee shortbread). Even though the portions seem small, because of the tea and relaxed atmosphere in the beautiful tea room, we couldn’t finish the final course and took several of the sweets home with us. The teas were also special. Anne had Rose Congou Emporer tea—five times layered with rose petals and a favorite of Princess Diana. I had Bella Coola Organic tea—orange notes and highlights of velvety pineapple. From the excellent service by staff to the visit by the tea manager to explain our selections in more detail to the serving plates—1914 design King George V china first used in 1939 for the Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mum) and now exclusive to the Empress Hotel

—everything about the Afternoon Tea  at the Empress is beyond First Class, and be warned, that includes the price. But you can have a great Afternoon Tea experience at an affordable price in Victoria. Check out White Heather Tea Room in the Cook Village neighborhood. 
Afternoon Tea at White Heather Tea Room.

The “Wee” tea we had there was excellent even if not as fancy as the Empress and less than half the tariff. 
Another building in Victoria which should attract your attention is Canada’s Castle, Craigdarroch Castle. 

Craigdarroch (“rocky, oak place” in Gaelic) is the fine four story mansion built in 1890 by Scottish immigrant and coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. The mansion is a “bonanza house” built by the nouveau rich of the industrial revolution and was designed by Portland architect Warren Heywood Williams. 

The Formal Dining Room

The Family Dining Room

Craigdarroch has had several uses besides a family home including a military hospital and a School of Music. The house is now held by a private trust as a Victorian period museum. At Christmas time the Victorian decorations are particularly lovely.  
Our last stop of note in Victoria was the Royal Museum of British Columbia next to the Parliament building in the downtown area. We’ve toured the museum on almost every one of our visits to Victoria—we always find much to interest us. This trip we were eager to see the Egyptian Exhibition from London. 
Most of the artifacts were from between 6th C and 3rd C BC. though some were as old as 1550 BC.

The exhibit didn’t disappoint, even though we saw a special Egyptian exhibit last year in Edinburgh. The artifacts were displayed beautifully and all were labeled with sufficient information for understanding. 
A Chief's Costume.

We also toured the First Nation (native) area which is always fascinating. 
Outside town we made it to two attractions. First, we visited Fort Rodd Hill, a retired defensive artillery station and the Fisgard Lighthouse next to it. The Fort, in use since the 1840s, was turned into National Historic Site (museum) in 1958. 
Wandering among the batteries at the fort.

Interesting display in the Magazine Building; hope they weren't live.

The Fisgard Lighthouse, built in 1860, warns shipping entering Esquimalt harbour and was the first lighthouse built on the west coast of Canada. Until 1950 the lighthouse was situated on a small island, but the island has now been connected to the mainland by a short causeway. 
Add caption

Both sites offer great creative photo opportunities. Secondly, we took a drive to the north on the Saanich peninsula to Sidney 
View of Mt Baker on the way to Sidney.

and then to the Victoria Butterfly Gardens near the famous Butchart Gardens. The Butterfly Gardens highlight about 70 different species of tropical butterflies in an enclosure about as big as three basketball courts. 

A pair of Plain Tiger butterflies (Costa Rica).

White Tree Nymph (Philippines).

Besides the butterflies we saw poison dart frogs, tropical birds, 
Blue and Gold Macaw named "Shadow" from South America.

Parrots Preening

turtles, iguanas, among others. New to us this year was an Insectarium
Jungle Nymph from West Malaysia.

—displays of living jungle insects including leaf cutter ants. I took two walk-thoughs and still didn’t see everything on offer.
We seem to schedule a trip to Victoria every couple of years. It’s a lovely place to visit—good shopping, plenty to see and do, 
Fisherman's Wharf Houseboats

even in the winter we get decent weather, good restaurants, 
Fantastic breakfast at Jam Cafe downtown.

great photo opportunities, friendly people,
In a nice coffee shop we got the full history of her hat.

 and we have a great place to stay at the Worldmark Victoria (timeshare). 
Worldmark Victoria from the ferry on our way home.

This tug helped turn the ferry around so we could leave the harbour.

Near Hoodsport (WA) we got some good photos of a herd of Elk alongside the road.

NEXT: We join the Travel Trailer set with a new Little Guy Mini Max, a large teardrop trailer.