Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye to family is always so hard – especially when you only get to see them every few years. Today was no different. After a fun few days, it was definitely tough to say goodbye to Máire Ann, Tomas, Áine, Sean, John, Aunt Noreen, Pol, Patricia, and everyone else.

After a 4.5 hour drive, we finally made it to Bunratty. We splurged for our last night and are staying at the Bunratty Castle Hotel, which happens to be pretty close to the airport. After settling in, we walked down the street for dessert (yum!). At my parents’ recommendation, we decided to treat the kiddos to the medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle for Will’s birthday. It didn’t disappoint. Bunratty Castle was built in 1420, and we enjoyed a four-course meal and lots of mead and wine, singing and music. They even sang Will “happy birthday!” It was the perfect way to end the trip. Flying home tomorrow afternoon!



It was a good day to relax. Adam decided he would climb Errigal Mountain (elevation: 2,464 feet) since it was another clear day. I was pretty disappointed about not climbing up, but the kids were not in any shape to do so, so Máire Ann and I drove into Dungloe with the kids to take care of some business and show the kids the spot where my Nana’s house used to be (the original house has since been knocked down and replaced). Afterward, we took them to the Dunlewey Centre, where they were able to burn off some energy and take a little boat ride.

This evening, we headed off for a family gathering and an early birthday celebration for Will. My cousin Patricia cooked an amazing dinner for everyone, and the kids all had a blast playing around outside. Will was so happy to have everyone singing him happy birthday and have a cake. It was the perfect ending to our time in Donegal, and there’s no place we’d rather be than here with family. Ella wants to stay all summer and is already asking when we can come back again! ☺️

The Northernmost Point in Ireland

We stayed at Trean House, which is a quaint little B&B in Co. Donegal on the Inishowen Peninsula. It’s a working sheep farm, which was awesome. So. Many. Sheep. 😍After breakfast, we walked the five minutes down the street from the B&B to the beach – Tremone Bay (& were joined by the owners’ dog, Finn). Before we knew it, Will was in the water clothes and all (with Finn not far behind). Ella took the opportunity to jump in as well, though she was smart enough to take her shoes off. The look of pure joy on their faces is what life is all about. So, we’ve all managed to make it into the (freezing) North Atlantic and the (even colder) Irish Sea on this trip!

After walking back to the B&B, the owner asked if we’d like to see the sheep. He was very sweet and gave the kids some food to feed the sheep with. Again… the looks on their faces was pure joy! The sheep were so much softer than I expected… literally little cotton balls!

After we left we took a drive up to the northernmost point in Ireland – Malin Head. If you’re a huge Star Wars fan, this is where “Star Wars Episode VIII” was filmed in part. It was very windy and cold, and we did the walk along the cliffs -2+ miles in all. The views were stunning not only at Malin Head, but on the drive there and back as well. Ireland is probably the prettiest place I’ve ever seen in my life.

Giant’s Causeway & a Northern Ireland Hospital

Started out innocently enough! We headed over to Derry (N. Ireland) to visit my cousin Noreen and her family. Such a fun little visit and so nice to see her and little Shannon! Then we were off to spend the afternoon at Giant’s Causeway. It was a fun visit walking on the hexagonal rocks.

I honestly expected an injury there, not in the visitor’s center on the way out. Turns out Ella couldn’t resist trying to swing under the handrail for the handicapped ramp. She overshot her landing and her face made contact with the edge of the (stone) ramp. Ramp- 1, Ella -0. It was pretty terrible looking, split wide open and deep, and the two medics at the visitor’s center were awesome with her. I knew instantly it was going to need stitches (I’m pretty proud of myself – I didn’t even freak out in the slightest at the gaping hole and exposed muscle & even calmly held her chin together til we got it bandaged!), and off to the hospital we went. After a little wait, the doctor came out and stitched her up. So, she comes home from Ireland with six stitches and a story to tell. Plus, we are very thankful to the amazing doctor and staff at Causeway Hospital in Colerain.

Off for a car ferry ride across Lough Foyle and a late dinner before arriving at Trean House B&B up in Malin Head for the evening.

Tomorrow: hopefully a bit less exciting than today. 🙃

Family-filled and Gorgeous Views

We spent the morning relaxing and feeding the donkeys at Aunt Noreen’s next door. Because it has been unusually warm and sunny here the last few weeks, everyone wanted to take advantage to go down to the beach. My cousin, Pol, and his kiddos came in from their home to spend the day with us. The kids had a blast playing with their cousins, and none seemed to care that the water was freezing! It was such a pleasant afternoon with a view to match. On the way back, we visited Nana’s grave, and I have to say – she has quite the view. The sea in front of her and Errigal Mountain behind her. Not bad, Nana. Not bad.

After, we headed up to Bloody Foreland, an area about 20 minutes north of where my family lives. It’s gorgeous, and it’s also my parents’ most favorite spot on Earth. I can see why. It’s rugged and windy and just amazing. It’s the very northwest tip of Ireland. Ever feel like you just belong somewhere? That’s how I feel about where my family lives in County Donegal… like I just belong here. Which makes sense, because this is where my roots are.

After a dinner out with some of the family, we brought some flowers back up to Nana’s grave and cleaned it up a bit. The kids were really missing Nana lately, and enjoyed being able to put down some flowers. They wanted to give her stone a hug and kiss and tell her they loved and missed her, and I was able to capture a beautiful picture of it. I miss her terribly, and this was the thing I was most looking forward to while over here. She and I were as close as could be, and it’s been so hard for the past two years not having her around to just call or visit anymore. I spent a nice visit this morning with Nana’s sister, Noreen, and it helps fill that void a bit. 💚

Tomorrow: visiting the Giant’s Causeway and Northern most point in Ireland on an overnight before coming back to Knockastollar.

Driving the Wild Atlantic Way and Family

After a late breakfast, we took the kids out on the rowboat for a tour around the lake. It was fun (mainly because Adam did the rowing and I just got to sit back and enjoy the picturesque view). After that, we headed off on the Wild Atlantic Way route North to Donegal. The WAW route is a stretch of gorgeous road that begins in Southern Ireland and goes all the way over to Giant’s Causeway, along the rugged and, well, wild coast. So much gorgeous countryside! Oh, and lots of sheep ☺️🐑

Once in Donegal Town, we made the split-second decision to tour Donegal Castle, which was a fun segue for all. The castle was built in 1474 by the O’Donnell clan. It was so neat to see the relatively in-tact remains of a castle that old and see how people used to live (especially people with a family last name!). O’Donnell is the last name of my Nana’s sister, who married into the O’Donnell family.

After that, we were on our way up “home.” My lovely cousin, Máire Ann, had a delicious dinner waiting for us, and it was a fun evening catching up with family. We headed right up to visit Nana’s sister, Noreen, who lives right next door. To say that I was happy to see her is an understatement.

Tomorrow: family, the beach, and who knows

The Motherland, Castles, and Sheep

We landed at 0740 in Shannon and immediately searched out breakfast for the kids (and me… who am I kidding? I was way hangry). It’s been a very, very long 24+ hours with minimal sleep. After a bit of a mini-debacle with the rental car, we were on our way! Adam only almost killed us once while adjusting to driving on the left side of the road.

We decided to head to Galway for a little stretch of the legs (and of course Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl” was stuck in my head the entire time). We came upon a really neat 13th century church – and one that Christopher Columbus actually prayed at. We then decided on an impromptu visit to the Knock Shrine in… Knock. It was my Nana’s favorite shrine, and I always remember her Knock Holy Water Font in her house by the front door (made of Connemara marble, of course). It was something else for sure.

We finally arrived at our hotel for the evening in Ballymote, Sligo. What a fun, neat find. It’s a 16th century property, a 19th century re-designed Georgian Manor House on a lake, and features not one but TWO castle ruins – one of which happens to be a Knights Templar Castle. The kids enjoyed exploring and going on a walk, we saw some sheep (out of the 1500+ that call this 1,000 acre property home), and decided we are going to attempt to go for a row on the lake in the morning before we leave.

We finished up with an amazing four course dinner with some other couples while our kids fell asleep in the parlour on the couch after their (considerate) dinner of pasta and ice cream (every kid’s dream). As I am not a fan of seafood, the chef was kind enough to make me a starter of roasted duck leg confit, a pickled watermelon and mint salad, short ribs done two ways (braised and croquette with fried potatoes, and a delicious dessert of raspberry sorbet with dark chocolate. 🤤🤤🤤 Adam said the seafood was pretty good. We highly recommend this place and can’t wait to come back!

My family has a long history in Ireland. That’s why I refer to it as the Motherland. Both of my grandparents on my mom’s side were born in Ireland – Nana in Co. Donegal (Craugheyboyle) and PopPop in Co. Tyrone (Strabane). Most of their family still lives there and this visit is mostly going to be time spent in Gaoth Dobhair (Geeedore) and Knockastollar in Donegal with my amazing family.

Tomorrow: family!

Heading off to Ireland

The second vacation of the year is finally here. We are headed off to Ireland, and I can’t wait to get there. We are leaving out of Stewart International in New York State. Norwegian flies out of there and we had a good deal on tickets back in the fall, so here we are. Tiny airport but we were through security in less than ten minutes so win-win!

Should be a six hour flight and I’m excited to get away from this chilly and rainy weather for warm weather. Who would have thought I’d have to go to Ireland to find summer?

… so it’s been a while & I ‘m off to Ireland!

It’s been a while since my last post. There hasn’t been much going on except work, baseball, softball, and life…. but little travel.

Last week, my sister-in-law got married up in Keuka Lake (Penn Yan) in New York. For those unfamiliar, it’s in the Finger Lakes region… which means lots of wine 🤗😋🍷 it was a great weekend, and I really enjoyed the area up there – it was beautiful!

And so now we’re off to Ireland for 8 days to visit family and generally just relax. There are no crazy itineraries planned, no 8-10 miles of walking to do, and no museums to see. We’re headed to Donegal where my nana was born, and where her side of the family still lives. It’s beautiful, and the people are wonderful. Makes sense, because nana was both.

We’ve got a few segues planned. We’ll be stopping in Galway and Sligo on the way up, staying at Temple House for an evening. The property has the remains of a Knights Templar castle on it, and tons of sheep roaming around, so it should make for fun for the kids. Who am I kidding… sheep and history? I’m pretty pumped, too. 🐑🐑🐑🏰

While we’re up in Donegal, we’ll be taking a trip to Giant’s Causeway, which is in N. Ireland, and a 3-ish hour drive from my family. On the way back, we’re stopping at Dunluce Castle and Londonderry-Derry on the border, and then onward to Malin Head a for an overnight at a B&B (that also happens to be a working sheep farm!!! 🐑🐑🐑). We’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights as Malin Head is the northernmost point in Ireland and notorious for them. Then, back for a few more days of enjoying family before we head back down to Shannon.

Since we are flying out on Will’s birthday (his 6th!), we figured we’d spend the night before we leave at the Bunratty Castle Hotel and do a medieval banquet dinner for him. The kid is pumped to actually be encouraged to eat with his hands and to watch “real knights!” Oh, to be a kiddo again. ☺️

So, keep your eyes open for more posts and pictures. It’s sure to be a fun-filled 8 daysfor us!

Adventure: 40 Winks with the Sphinx at the Penn Museum

Those who know me know that I’m a major history lover. Last August, I stumbled upon the Penn Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology in Philly. I was there for work and checked it out after my meetings wrapped up. It. Was. Awesome. I couldn’t wait to come back. A few weeks later, after signing up for the email list and following on Facebook, I saw the post about their children’s program “40 Winks with the Sphinx.” For those who don’t know, the Penn Museum contains the 3rd largest Sphinx in the world, built c. 1938 BCE. Think about that a second…I’ll wait. Crazy, right? So, knowing my now 7-year old, Ella, likes adventures and art, I signed her up as a present for her 7th birthday, which was earlier this month. She was psyched (So was I ). Sleeping over in a museum, in the Egypt Gallery, next to an almost 4,000-year old Sphinx? My inner history geek was squealing.

Fast forward to last night. After the sometimes-hair-raising drive in to Philly, we unpacked our sleeping bags and flashlights, and as we still had 2.5 hours to kill, we decided to walk around the University of Pennsylvania campus. It’s pretty neat – lots of old buildings.

We made our way back to the museum and received our briefing on what to expect, and our scavenger hunt list. The next stop found us winding our way through the Egypt Gallery looking at mummies, statuary, and various artifacts spanning the 3,000 or so years of this awesome civilization. We moved on to the China and Japan Gallery and saw some of the most beautiful Buddha statuary that I’ve seen anywhere.

We then made our way to a short term exhibit, “Cultures in the Crossfire: Iraq and Syria.” This exhibit was utterly heartbreaking, showing the immense destruction by Isis in Syria and Iraq at sites like Nimrud, Ur, Aleppo, and Palmyra. There were video stations showing before and after shots of the sites, interviews with locals whose lives have forever been changed, and various recovered artifacts, like an 18th-century deerskin Torah, clay cuneiform tablets telling the epic of Gilgamesh, jewelry, and even 19th-century children’s dolls. The historian in me cringed at the history that was destroyed and lost forever. My heart broke seeing the men, women, and children who lost everything and fear for their lives on a daily basis.

Afterwards, we walked into the Israel & Canaanite Gallery, where we learned about the way ancient Israelites dwelled and how they worshipped. It was pretty cool to put together knowledge I had learned from reading the Bible, and seeing that culture represented. There were also some pretty neat artifacts from the ancient seafarers – the Phoenicians.

We moved onto Ancient Rome, which of course, is my forte and my passion. I was so excited to tell Ella about the different artifacts, mosaics, coinage, and history from Ancient Rome. The Penn Museum is fortunate to have a great example of damnatio memoriae, or condemnation of memory. Specifically, they’ve got a damnatio memoriae stela of the Emperor Domitian (81-96 CE). Very little of Domitian’s claims to fame remain on the stela, with only four words being partially legible. We saw some coinage from Augustus, which was particularly exciting for me because I’ve been working on a paper for my second master’s degree on Augustus and how he built his public image and ideology through coinage, poetry, statuary, etc. You bet I snapped up some pictures to incorporate into my paper. 😉 We learned about the Etruscans, which was the society, along with the Latins, that predated the Romans in Italy before they in the were ultimately absorbed by the Romans following their defeat in the Etruscan-Roman wars in 264 BCE. 🏺⚱️📿

We hit up the Greece Gallery, but Ella wasn’t really feeling it, so we quickly moved on to the Africa Gallery. Here we had the opportunity to make a version of a Mbira, or African finger piano. These instruments were used by various tribes across the continent of Africa to speak and communicate with ancestors. Ella said the Africa Gallery was her favorite, because she enjoyed how the different tribes communicated with their ancestors through dance and music. She also enjoyed the different masks and was excited to be able to identify different animals represented on the masks.

Later on we played a version of “What in the World,” and Ella was picked as one of the contestants, where she correctly identified a fan from Central America used to help build cooking fires.

We did a scavenger hunt by flashlight afterwards. Walking through the museum in the dark was admittedly creepy – particularly walking through Ancient Egypt with the mummies! No, I wasn’t scared – YOU were scared. 😱⚰️

Finally we made our way back to our sleeping bags (on a very hard floor…) around midnight, in full view of the Sphinx. Needless to say, we crashed hard. Once we woke up, we had a quick breakfast, hit up the gift shop, and headed out.

It was so much fun, and I’m excited to bring my little one, Will, when he turns 7 (minimum age for the sleepover is 6, maximum is 12, chaperone required; however, I think 6 is a bit young to really have the attention span needed for this particular museum). As a bonus, Ella gets free admission through the end of the summer! We’ll definitely be back for another visit. Interested? You can find out more on the program here, but they sell out quickly, and are only held in the winter/spring months due to a lack of a/c in all of the galleries. The museum is undergoing a massive reno, so that may change in the future. We highly recommend!