Friday, September 28, 2012

The Beat Goes On (to Ireland)

For your perusal, here is a quick summary of where we'll be and what we'll be doing, with links in case you want to poke around. I hope to give a day-by-day summary with photos when we return, but it'll likely take me a while. Perhaps a Wednesday evening activity while John is in his graduate classes.

Without further adieu...

We depart on Aer Lingus tomorrow evening to make the overnight 6.5 hour flight into Dublin International Airport. I'm still thinking about how best to handle the overnight thing and the time zone hopping. I'm sincerely hoping to catch as many Zzzs as possible on the plane since that is when I'd be sleeping regardless of what side of the pond I'm on. That way, when we land and it's about 9:00am in Dublin I'll be (sort of) ready to start a new day, even though my old one never really ended.

First up is checking into our hotel, The Burlington, in Dublin. We'll be taking the Ireland equivalent of the Magic Express from the airport to the hotel. Once there, I pray we can check in, shower, and maybe pass out for a while before meeting the tour group at 2 for introductions and a city tour including stops at St. Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity College to view the Book of Kells.

Day 2, Monday, October 1, will begin our journey west across the country. Itinerary items include Stroketown Park House, the Famine Museum (I know...sounds like a blast, eh?), and the Shrine at Knock in County Mayo. Tonight we'll lodge in the Downhill House Hotel.

Day 3, Tuesday, October 2, will take us to the coast and to Galway Bay. On the way, we'll be travelling through Westport onward to Connemara, where we'll see Kylemore Abbey, and enjoy the evening doing whatever we want to do before finally nodding off in our room at the Connemara Coast Hotel.

I'm probably most looking forward to day 4, Wednesday, October 3, because we'll be visiting a working farm (Rathbaum Farm)! We'll see how the family lives their daily lives tending to their farm, and when that's done, we'll be welcomed into their home for tea, scones, and friendly chat. First, however, we'll tour Galway Cathedral. Once we've been refreshed at the farm, it's onward to the Cliffs of Moher, of which we'll have a spectacular view since we'll be seated higher in our tour bus than pasenger cars. Last stop of the day is a ferry ride, which will take us across the Shannon Estuary to our next two-day destination of Killarney. Tonight and Thursday we'll be staying in the the Killarney Towers.

Day 5, Thursday, October 4. The entire day will be devoted to the Ring of Kerry on the Ivernaugh Peninsula. We'll see a waterfall and enjoy a hike unless the weather is completely inclement. We'll also have the opportunity to see Muckross Estate. I just bought a good, weatherproof pair of hikers from New Balance in anticipation not only of this excusrion, but of all the walking we'll be doing with th epotential for soggy, muddy ground. Yeh, planning packing's been a bit stressful!

Day 6, Friday, October 5. This is pretty much the ultimate for any trip to Ireland: Blarney Castle. I will not, however, be kissing that nasty stone. I know they shut down a few times during the day to scrub it, but unless I'm #1 post-scrub, not happening. Plus, there is so much more to explore on the grounds that while everyone else is waiting on line to smooch the stone, I plan to wander the various gardens on site and taking in the general majesty of it all. Once we've looked and walked our fill, it's back eastward to Waterford for a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal and flopping into bed at Dooley's.

Our last full day, Saturday, October 6, brings us back to Dublin. Much like Blarney Castle, the Guinness Storehouse is also so quintessentially Irish we might cry. We'll tour the facility and then head up to the tasting room at the tippy top to undertake the Perfect Pour Challenge. Following this, we can spend our remaining hours however we like before heading back to The Burlington for our final sleep in Ireland.

After years of dreaming, months of waiting, and weeks of planning, I can't believe it's finally here, and that we're leaving tomorrow. I get to start my favorite month (October) in the land of my people with my husband. Absolutely amazing, and I am not taking a single second of it for granted. We'll have the computer, and while I won't be blogging while over there, I hope to pop on Facebook and email when we have a chance to check in and keep our family and friends stateside in the loop.

Wishing you all a lovely end of September.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Falling for Fall

And we're into September. I feel like this month always creeps up on me. Once day it's summer and then it's back to school and I'm wishing for the chill air.

Key West was amazing, the wedding was beautiful, and the weather was cooperative. I have most of the pics posted on Facebook, but here are some highlights.

Ending our first day in the keys.

 Starting our second day. At the hotel waiting for the shuttle downtown.
 Trekking to meet the kitties on the Hemingway property.
 My first meeting with a six-toed kitty.
 Getting ready for my first snorkel adventure.
 John, more seasoned of course, headed out to do some more in-depth exploration.
Jenny and Shane exchanging seaside vows at the Key West Garden Club.

A nice shot one of the wedding guests took of me and John on the dance floor.

Next up: Ireland in 24 days! 24, you may be wondering? Yes. We were initially supposed to fly out at the end of October, but we found out last month that that itinerary had been cancelled because not enough people booked those dates. So after an afternoon of freaking out, a few days of thinking, and an afternoon on the phone with our AAA booking agent, we were back on track: an identical itinerary departs on September 29, and ships out regardless of seats sold. So we're all set, albeit about a month earlier!

I'm so extraordinarily excited. It's almost here. My dream is about to come true. I'm so ready to break out my cords, my sweaters, and bask in the 50-degree often cloudy-rainy weather. I'm ready to see sheep and meet an Irish farm family. I'm super ready to check out the swanky Irish hotels we'll be staying in. I'm ready to chase the sun across the Atlantic and watch the Emerald Isle pop into view after hours of black nothingness over the ocean. Maybe my expectations are too high, but I feel like going there will give me some irrefutable sense of self. I've been listening to it call to me for so long, and here I am...about to answer. Purely, absolutely amazing. I take none of it for granted, and plan to do my best to take it all in, and not get caught up in taking the perfect photo, but rather get swept up in every single moment. I'll probably have to break up the debrief post into a few smaller ones, which may be better--I can highlight each stop along the way with its own post.

On my to-do list before we leave is to shape up my garden in preparation for next spring. I have to get all my caladiums in the ground so the bulbs can root in and settle in for a long winter's nap. Then I'll start thinking about fall planting, since I currently have nothing that will bloom once the first frost comes along. I'm open to suggestions for shade-loving cold-weather plants! I've had failed mums because they haven't gotten enough sun. Which is sad because I love mums. So that's where I'm turning my thoughts next.