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!

Travel and Reading

When I travel, or am planning a trip, I like to read.  A lot.  I like to read in general, but when I plan a trip, I like to read about where I’m going.  Non-fiction, fiction, historical novels, biographies, and the general history of the place I’ll be visiting.  It gives me a sense of knowing where I’m going, and a familiarity once I’m there.  Knowing the history of a place is amazing – how and when it was founded, and by whom, the general politics and every day life, and interesting little quirks and tidbits.

For example, when I traveled to Italy for the first time in 2016, I read a bunch of books on Ancient Rome – Cicero, in particular.  It gave me a good feel of that Late Republican era, right before Caesar was murdered and Augustus became the first emperor.  I read Robert Harris’ books: Imperium, Conspirata, and Dictator.  They’re fabulously written, by the way, and give a good insight from a historical novel perspective of the great Roman orator himself, and the conspiracy behind Caesar’s murder in 44 BCE.  I also read his Pompeii (twice), which was a really interesting read on the events leading up to the famed eruption of 79 CE from the perspective of the overseer of the aqueduct.  It’s another historical novel, and in it the overseer of the aqueduct is the one who discovers that something big is about to happen thanks to a disruption in the flow of water in the aqueducts.  Once I got to Pompeii last year, I really was able to have a better picture of how water was actually brought to the city, and was able to re-create a lot of the story of Pompeii in my mind while there.

I also read Rome and Jerusalem by Martin Goodman, and SPQR, the quintessential read by Mary Beard for any ancient Roman history enthusiast, which gave some good historical perspective.  I moved on to some historical fiction on the Etruscan civilization thanks to some free Amazon Prime reads by Elisabeth Storrs – The Wedding Shroud, Call to Juno, and The Golden Dice.  These books led me to do a little digging on the Etruscan civilization, which in turn was really cool when I happened to chance upon an Etruscan tomb in the Val d’Orica and was able to grasp a lot of the significance behind it.

After returning, I went on to read a ton more on Italy (and decided to go back to school for a second master’s in Classical Mediterranean History, but that’s another story for another day).  Some of my favorites include: Dark Athena, which is primarily set in the US, but has origins in southern Italy; Beneath a Scarlet Sky, which is a novel based on true events during World War II; The Monster of Florence, which tells of the serial killings that took place in and around Florence during the 1980’s and was absolutely fascinating; The Mistress of the Vatican, which tells the story of Olimpia Miadalchini, the secret female pope; and most recently, Gomorrah, which is a personal look by author Roberto Saviano into the secret organized crime world of Naples and Campania — it was one I read in two days.

Preparing for my upcoming trip to Barcelona and the Baleric Islands in Spain this summer, I’ve been doing a little research on some books set in or about Barcelona and Catalonia.  I know some of the basics – they’re currently going through a fight for independence from Spain and recently had a vote, which resulted in the Catalonian leader being removed from government.  I want to know more.  I want to know the history behind this movement.  And so, I’ll read.  On my list, I’ve got The Man of my Life, which was reviewed to give a good insight into current Catalan politics and the independence movement.  I’ve also got The Color of a Dog Running Away, which is reviewed as being an “unforgettable historical thriller” set in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.  Of course, I’ve got my Rick Steves’ Pocket Guide to Barcelona to page through, and I’ll see which of the other books on this list by The Culture Trip pique my interest.

Reading in itself is a passport to the world.  It’s something I’ve always loved, and I’ve found a new appreciation for it as a travel aide.  Have you read to prep for a trip, or because of a trip?  If so, what?  I’d love to hear in the comments.

So I Started a Blog…

I finally did it. I started a blog. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, but couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. Who really wants to read about your travels? A question I asked myself a lot (and am asking myself currently). The answer turned out to be “who cares?” Who cares, indeed. If nothing else, I’ll have an online travel journal when I’m older. And since I’ve got a few big trips planned for 2018 – hello Florida, Ireland, Spain, and Italy – and my best friend J isn’t on Facebook, here is as good a place as any to share my adventures and photos. 🙃

My girl Cathy over at Panagea’s Box was the ultimate kick in the ass to get bloggin’ when she took her beyond epic trip to South Africa last fall. I anxiously awaited her posts so I could have a small glimpse into an amazingly vivacious culture and live vicariously through her. She’s in Costa Rica now and again, I adore that she shares her travels and life on the blog and Instagram so I can be exposed to more, and dream bigger.

Stay tuned… this won’t be a post-every-day blog, but I’ll be sharing my travel planning and trips as I take them.

First up: Tampa/Clearwater in March. This was supposed to be a girl’s trip to Key West last September, but Hurricane Irma laughed at those plans so we postponed.

On deck: Ireland (June 27-July 5), and my month-long solo adventure in August to Menorca & Barcelona in Spain, and Rome & Pompeii in Italy when I participate in a field school on an archaeological dig. Yes, you read that right – a dig. In Spain. At a 1st century BCE Roman settlement. 🙌🏼 So beyond excited for this trip!