Saturday, September 29, 2012

For Grandma's Birthday

- Grandma -

Grandma, I was thinking about you today and a smile crossed my face
You played a special part in my life and I thought you should know. . .

Apple pie reminds me of my Grandma
She always made me on one on holidays

Cakes remind me of my Grandma
She always made me one for my birthday

An aroma of love always filled her kitchen

Grandma is the backbone of our family

Her words of wisdom and wit
A determination that spoke never quit

A beautiful lady that means so much to me
You may be far away, but with me a little of you will always be

Happy birthday, Grandma!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kenmare Ireland Walking Tour - next stop

Today's stop on the walking tour of Kenmare is Rose Cottage and Holy Cross Church.

In 1861, Rose Cottage was the temporary home for Abbess Mary O-Hagan and six nuns from the Poor County Clare Convent while the their new convent was being built.

Now, Rose Cottage is a lovely B&B.

Just around the corner from Rose Cottage is Holy Cross Church. Holy Cross church, consecrated in 1864, was built by Fr. John O’Sullivan who is buried in front of Our Lady’s altar.

It is believed that Fr. O’Sullivan topped the spire of the church with a cock to crow over the local landlord’s agent, whose office was in the Square and had refused him a site for the church.

Look at the beautiful detail of the church, the windows and the cross that greets you in the church parking lot.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Walking tour of Kenmare Ireland

I decided to do something different for my blog post on my Ireland trip. I'm going to give you a walking tour of Kenmare and wherever else I may stop on my visit.

Today, we're stopping at a Stone Circle. Just outside Kenmare town centre, a five minute walk from town is a spectacular example of a bronze age Stone Circle. Stone circles were built in the Bronze age (2200 - 500 BC) and were used for ceremonial purposes. Many studies indicate that the stone circles were orientated around certain solar and lunar events, such as the sun at the solstice.

The Kenmare Stone Circle is reputed to be the largest stone circle in south-west Ireland. The Kenmare Stone Circle is composed of fifteen heavy boulders: thirteen standing and two prostrate at the north. The Kenmare Stone Circle is special in that the circle itself is actually egg-shaped, measuring 56 ft by 49 ft.

In the center of the circle is a large stone known as a Boulder Dolmen and weighs about 7 ton. No, I did not try to lift it. I set my backpack next to it to give you an idea of how large the rock is.

Next stop...Rose Cottage.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11 - A Day to Remember

Eleven years ago today, tragedy struck our country like no other tragedy. Not because of war or famine, or disease. The tragedy that struck the United States and all its people was one of evil of the manmade kind. While this blow struck us hard and fast, we as a nation pulled together like no others.

People sacrificed their lives to save others. People they never met and never would have met if not for the mad machinations of a group of people who cared nothing for the lives of others only their misguided beliefs.

Police and Firemen rushed to the aide of the citizens they swore to protect and they did. Everyday citizens circled the wagons and helped total strangers out of the rubble of destruction.

Military personnel moved as they had been trained, to help in the aide of men, women, and children. And when given the command they struck back in our defense, hard and fast, and with one thing on their minds; protecting us, the citizens of the United States.

September 11, 2001 will live in our memories for the rest of our lives and in history. It will not go down as a day of misfortune and hatred. It will go down as a day of resurrection and joining. We, the people of the United States, joined together to resurrect our strength, power, and love for each other and our country. We fought back, we took care of our own, and we grew stronger, better.

I love this nation and the people in it, and especially those who protect it from the evils of this world.

God bless you and keep you safe!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Seeing Ireland's sea coast

is like kissing your true love for the first time. It takes your breath away.

This is the breathtaking view I saw while driving the Kerry Way yesterday. It's somewhere near Kells Bay. See how the clouds are practically kissing the hills?

I didn't intentionally set out to drive part of the Kerry Way yesterday. My intent was to go to Killarney, a forty-five minute drive from Kenmare. Thanks to my creative GPS, I ended up taking the long route. And I am forever grateful for said GPS. The forty-five minute drive took almost three hours, but why complain when I got to stop and see views like this.

There are no words to describe the beauty I saw, only the feelings that enveloped me every time I pulled over on a narrow road to stop, stand, and stare. It was as if a breath of life was breathed into me each time. The beauty that lay before me was inspiring and overwhelming.

It's sights like this that make me realize how much more there is to life and to myself. Then and now, I tear up thinking about what I had an opportunity to experience.

I'm not certain, but I think this was either Coad or Waterville.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 4 of Ireland Holiday - Dingle to Kenmare

On my last morning in Dingle i had breakfast at the Coastguard Restaurant. Worst breakfast with the best view. Then I had a post-race Swedish massage.

Holy crap! The minute the massage therapist dug in I wanted to bolt off the table. I swear I have bruises everywhere thanks to the woman's fingers and elbows. I managed to survive the massage and walk into Dingle town one more time before taking off to Kenmare.

I swear the GPS took me the scenic and long route from Dingle to Kenmare. It truly was a beautiful drive...except for the part driving past the Killarney National Park. That has to be the worst road ever to drive on. Even driving a midget car, I was deathly afraid of hitting rock or having some car coming the other way hit me. The narrowest road ever! There's even one small tunnel that can't possibly fit more than one car.

By the time I reached the Park Hotel Kenmare it was after two in the afternoon. Here, I met Rory O'Sullivan, the hotel manager, and the name for my next hero. Not joking. The first time I spoke with Rory and heard his voice and learned his name, I knew I had to make him a hero.

I checked in, the smoothest check-in and was escorted to my room. Most hotels just hand you a key and point you in the direction and you
get to find your own way. Not the Park Hotel Kenmare. Rory, the hotel manager, took my suitcase to the room and later he helped me get the Internet connection all set in my room.
Oh! And every evening a maid comes by to turn down the bed. The service could not be better.

After getting quickly settled in my room, the first thing I did was go in search of food. I walked past the colorful strorefronts and when I stopped in front of Davitt's I stopped. I recalled that they made the best burger.

I was not mistaken. It is the best burger! I don't know if it is the fresh beef or the blend of spices or both, but it is so delicious I want to eat the entire burger. Especially when paired with a pint of Murphy's.

Once my belly was full, I shrugged into my backpack and strolled down Henry Street, peeking into the shops on my way to the Kenmare Pier, a place I can sit at for hours and just watch, take in the view of trees, hills, and water, and relax.
My last stop in Kenmare for the day was Kenmare Ice Cream, a new shop that makes homemade ice cream. I had strawberry. It was excellent!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dingle Half Marathon - Race Day is here!

Race day has arrived! I woke up nervous as heck, jumping beans bouncing around in my stomach, but excited.

Things to note before doing a race overseas:

1. Try to know what the terrain of the race will be before the actual big day. In my defense, I did try, but theye didn't have one of those elevation maps.
2. Ireland does not wake up as early as we in the United States do. Most breakfast places don't open until 8 or 9 AM. On race day there was one place that openend at 7, but the reality is we need food three hours before the race, which was at 9 AM. Luckily, I realized this the night before so I stopped at a local bakery and picked up a muffin and some bottled water. Plus, I had my energy bars.

After taking my time getting ready for the race, I packed my backpack and hoofed it into town and to the marina. At 8 AM, that's 3 AM New England time, the place was a buzz with runners, family, friends, and spectators. There were signs displayed everywhere announcing the race. The marina parking lot was full of runners and vendors prepping for the race.

Imagine 3000 plus runners standing around talking, walking, stretching, and of course lined up to use the port-a-potties. It's amazing how when the announcer tells you that there are twenty minutes before race start a pack of runners herd to stand in line for a toilet break. In our defense, we'd have to go along the way and not make it to a rest area.

The weather was incredible for the race! I'm talking a nice breeze, some sun, but mostly overcast. The breeze would come straight at our faces and then we would turn a curve and it would be at our backs. It just could not have been better. Which is good considering the torture we had to endure.

When I say torture, that is not an exaggeration! Imagine a mountain and you have to run up it. I'm a firm believer that what goes up must come down. Wrong!

But the views were incredible. This was part of our winding coastal line. And here is a picture of the Blasket Islands.

In the case of the Dingle Half Marathon, Marathon, and Ultra Marathon, what goes up, goes up, and up, and up, and up. Not kidding! By mile 5 and a half all I did was keep my eyes glued on the pack of people ahead of me to see if they were going downhill. Nope. Never. Okay, there were two brief sections that we experienced the relief of a slight decline. It was like a starving man receiving bread and water. Unfortunately, too short-lived.

Along the route though, people spoke to each other, encouraged each other, and smiled even as their legs screamed in pain. Just when you thought your body could take no more and you relied on will power to keep you moving, the townspeople of Dingle were there to give you that added boost. Shop owners and local town folk stood on the streets cheering the runners on, handing out cups of water and orange slices. A few musicians even joined in on the fun playing traditional music and jazz.

At mile 9ish I stopped with a bunch of other runners for water and a potty break. See, I told you those port-a-potties are a savior. At mile 10, I mentally coax myself, "Hey! Only a 5K is left. You can do three miles in your sleep." I eat a pack of my sport jelly beans and keep hoofing it. Yes, my feet hurt, my toes hurt, my calves are screaming in pain, and my butt is wondering what the heck did it do to deserve this, but I keep going. Heck, even my back started to complain, but I crack my neck, stretch my arms over my head and across my chest and persevere.

Was it worth it? Was it worth the flight across the ocean and traveling to a part of Ireland I've neer visited before, to participate in a race I had never heard of until I did a search on the Internet eight months earlier?

Close your eyes and imagine crossing the finish line and realize that you just did something you never would have been able to do six months or a year ago. How does that feel?

The fact that I hurt from heel to hip and to shoulder only makes me feel the accomplishment that much more.

It was worth it!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 2 in Dingle Ireland

Second day in Dingle, Ireland started with a walk into town for breakfast at the Chowder Cafe. Truly fantastic scrambled eggs and Ireland does have the best bacon. One thing I can count on in Ireland is that the restaurants are not going to offer you margarine. They believe in the whole and natural kind of foods like butter for toast.

After a terrific breakfast, I walked around the marina and took in the view, the sea air, and took some pictures. Afterward, I strolled up and down the streets until I found the Dingle Brewing Company. How perfect is that for a girl who loves beer?!

The Dingle Brewing Company sits at a fork in the road in a small building that was once a creamery. It resembles more of a house than a brewery. Beneath and alongside the brewery runs a spring, the same spring water that is used in its beer called Crean's, named after Tom Crean, an explorer and a hero who died in 1938.

For six (6) Euros, you can take a self-guided tour of the quaint and very clean brewery and enjoy a pint of their beer afterwards. My beer was so fresh that I saw them roll out the keg and hook it up. Crean's is some kind of hefeweizen, which I am not usually fond of but this was fantastic!

By the time I finished my most excellent pint of beer, it was time for me to find my way to the pobal scoil (public school) to pick up the race day packet for the Dingle half-marathon.
Last part of my eventful day was a pre-race heated stone massage at the Peninsula Spa. Just what I needed to prep my calves for the long run ahead.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Day 1 of Ireland Holiday...Dingle

The flight across the ocean was uneventful and quiet. I managed to get two hours of sleep, but that's all until I crashed at the Dingle Skellig Hotel my first night.

The drive from Cork to Dingle - about two hours long, was winding and pretty. Green everywhere you looked. The closer I got to Dingle, the narrower and more curvey the roads became.

Beautiful shoreline on parts of the drive then you hit the center of town with its colorful buildings and a marina. Big rock walls edged the smooth as glass water. That's what I saw on my first visit into Dingle. That and lots of tourists. Lots of folks, about 5000 people for just the Dingle half, full, and ultra marathon. About 3500 of those were actual participants and the other 1500 were their families and friends. There were also a bunch of folks passing through on their way for the big Navy Notre Dame game in Dublin.

My first afternoon/evening in Dingle, I wandered the main streets and shops. Imagine colorful storefronts and inside are arts and crafts by and about Ireland. I walked into one jewelry store, yup, cuz I'm a girl I do things like that. I walked into John Weldon's jewelry store, a tiny little shop that can hold no more than a handful of people and what do I see? I see my Celtic knot!

Celtic knots are all over the place in Ireland, but this one is special and I have never seen the design except for the day I found it for my tattoo a year ago. Anyway, I see my knot in a necklace set in yellow gold and I have to have it, but not in yellow gold and not in a necklace. Guess who I got to meet? You bet! I met John Weldon himself who is going to make me a pair of earrings. John makes most of what is in his store. You have to love a handcraft artist. I'll be getting these earrings in about a month and it will be a sweet remembrance for a terrific trip.

Oh! The other store I located in town was the local bookshop. Well, duh, you knew I had to go there! Another shop the size of a snack box, but neat and tidy with a friendly owner who helped me locate a book that the receptionist at the Dingle Skellig Hotel recommended about running.

By the time I finished enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful town, I returned to the hotel and ate at the Blaskets Bar. I ordered the hot and spicy wings and of course...a Guinness. My first beer in Ireland in 2012! My friend Steve would have loved the wings. They were actually hot and spicy. I even ate almost all of them.

Then I crashed!

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