Travel

A Bit of Pampering

I have returned from my visit to Pittsburgh.

This time, my trip didn't include any sightseeing.  No trips to gardens.  No pilgrimages to special restaurants or brew pubs.  No shows.  Nothing fancy.

Just . . . a bit of pampering!

Erin, as you may recall from earlier posts, is in the Technical Writing graduate program at Carnegie Mellon University.  This program is intense, highly competitive, and quite grueling.  Erin, who works really hard and has Very High Standards for herself, really needed a good rest and some restorative time during her spring break.

Mom to the rescue!

My strategy was to just . . . keep things low-key.

We did some shopping.  (Baby needs a new interview suit. . . )  (And a new pair of shoes, too.)

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We enjoyed an indulgent spa day.  (Massages and facials, all around!)

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We ate out a few times -- and I also cooked a Mom-dinner in Erin's kitchen.

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We had a great time playing with Erin and Keith's silly kitty, Dash. 

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There was a whole lot of kicking back and just relaxing.  I even pampered myself -- with some wine and stitching (both knitting and Alabama Chanin) -- back in my hotel room every night.  (Gotta love my hotel wine glass!)

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And . . . a special bonus!  While Erin spent some much-deserved sleeping-in time, I met someone very special for a coffee date!

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Kat (yeah . . . THAT Kat) and I spent hours and hours chatting and catching up and even getting a bit riled up together at a Starbucks somewhat-near downtown Pittsburgh.  

Time flew!

I can attest that her incredible daily stitching project is even MORE awesome up-close-and-personal than it is on Instagram (and it's pretty dang awesome on Instagram).  I think Kat knit a few stitches while we were together, but my bag-of-sock just sat there on the table for the entirety of our visit.

As always, it's wonderful to meet a blog-friend in real life . . .

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My time in Pittsburgh was perfect.  Restful and relaxing -- with plenty of pampering.

 

 

 


Party Like It's . . . 1979!!!

We usually do . . . something . . . to celebrate New Year's Eve.  Sometimes parties.  Sometimes just staying home.  Usually going out for dinner.  (That's our recent MO:  a special dinner with friends at Food Dance - one of our favorite Kalamazoo restaurants.)  Whatever we do . . . we always watch the ball drop and count down to the new year together.  

Nice . . . in that kind of quiet and predictable way.

But.  It wasn't always like that!

Let's just send the clock back to . . . 1979 . . . shall we?  Back when this guy (looking a bit Luke Skywalker-ish) and this girl (with her Farrah-'do and oh-my-god-painter's pants) were A Thing.

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Yep.  Tom and I were reunited for Christmas break (he was a senior at Boise State University; I was a junior at the University of Wyoming) -- and we were headed off to San Francisco for the New Year.

Because . . .  why not?  

A friend of ours - Steve - was headed to San Franciso for a medical school interview.  And he needed driving help.  (Isn't this how many adventures happen???)  Tom and I and another friend - Dave - were only too happy to oblige.  It became our most memorable New Year's Eve ever.  

We drove through the night, made a stop in Reno (where the boys all had fun gambling and I got kicked out of every casino we visited -- because they were all 21 - but I was not), and ended up in San Francisco.

While Steve interviewed, Tom and Dave and I took in the city. 

We visited Golden Gate Park (in the fog).

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We climbed Coit Tower and enjoyed its exquisite views.

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And this land-locked Illinois-to-Wyoming girl saw the ocean for the first time in her life.  

This is Seal Rock -- (where we actually did see seals).

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And we spent some time on Baker Beach.*  (The waves kind of freaked me out -- because it was cold and I didn't want my shoes to get wet.)

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And then - best of all - we celebrated New Year's Eve with the crowds (throngs) on the streets of San Francisco.  

It was SO AWESOME -- and so adventurous -- to welcome 1980 this way.

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I'll never forget . . . me and the boys . . . on the streets of San Francisco.  No other New Year's Eve party or gathering will really compare.

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*How do I remember - after 37 years - exactly where we were in San Francisco on that trip?  Why . . . because I made sweet little notes on the back of each trip photo.

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This post is part of Think-Write-Thursday.  Be sure to read other New Year's Eve stories here, and sign up for the weekly prompts here.

 


One Last Look at Dublin

8/30

I don't know about you, but today . . . I need a distraction.  So, let's take one last look at Dublin, shall we?

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We only scratched the surface of Dublin on this trip -- and actually spent more time out in the Irish countryside than we did in they city.  We didn't visit Trinity College, for example (even though it was just down the road from our hotel), and we didn't see the Book of Kells (we'll have to return).  But we did enjoy a few sites in town.

St. Patrick's Cathedral.

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Georgian Dublin

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The Famine Memorial

(This is not my photo.  This haunting and beautiful memorial is spread out over a lot of ground alongside the River Liffey, just as if there were people - many people - walking to their ship to escape the famine.  My photos could not begin to do justice to this powerful memorial -- so enjoy this one instead.)

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The Bridges of Dublin -- and, particularly, the Samuel Beckett Bridge

(Again, not my photo.  This bridge is simply breathtaking -- and there was just no way I could take a photo that would begin to show it's beauty.  Really stunning.)

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Street artists

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Pubs

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Will ye be havin' a pint?

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Dublin is a wonderful city -- vibrant and bustling and full of history.  I'd love to go back!

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But, for now, it's time to end this travelogue (at last. . . ).

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Goodbye, Dublin!

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And please, Please, PLEASE . . . VOTE!

 


Forty Shades of Green

2/30

Feel like a soundtrack for today's post? Click here.

On our train tour of County Wicklow, my sister and I discovered that Ireland does, indeed, have forty shades of green!

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Seriously.  Green.

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After our tour of the Avoca Mill, we traveled on through County Wicklow, stopping at the Meeting of the Waters, where the Avenmore and Avenbeg Rivers meet before heading out to the sea as the Avoca River.

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It's a beautiful and peaceful spot, and a favorite for family gatherings and picnics.

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Next, we visited the Wicklow Mountains National Park.

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And then the Glendalough Monastic City.

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At the gates to the Monastic City, a woman was playing the Uilleann pipes -- and the music was haunting and lovely -- perfect for the site.

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This was truly the stuff travel brochures are made of!

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So beautiful.  A bit haunting.  And so very green!

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After such a magical, mystical day, it was rather jarring to take the train back to Dublin at the end of the afternoon -- where (of course) we promptly got lost straight out of the train station (but found our way quickly and without much turmoil).

Forty shades, indeed!

 


A Day Trip to County Wicklow, Part I: Avoca

On our last full day in Ireland, my sister and I wanted to visit County Wicklow, south of Dublin.  So we signed on for a RailTour.

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We had a wonderful day -- and we enjoyed the company of QUITE the cast of characters:  our taxi driver, John (who sang an old Irish tune along with an instrumental song on the radio, thought we were from Virginia - no matter that we explained where we were REALLY from, and warned us repeatedly about the dangers of traveling in crowds) (yeah) to our tour guide, Paddy (seriously) to Dave (just a guy on the train from County Wexford who was eager to talk about American politics with Real Americans).  All of the people we met in Dublin were wonderful.  Friendly, welcoming, helpful, and really interested in conversation.  It was so refreshing.

Our first stop was someplace I'd really looked forward to visiting . . . the Avoca Mill.

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The Avoca weaving mill has been around since 1723.  The sheep farmers around Avoca Village became known for their woven blankets -- and especially for the bright vegetable dyes they used on the wool.  

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These bright colors became Avoca's "signature."  

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We had a tour of the mill, and got to see all aspects of the weaving process in action.

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It was all quite fascinating -- and their weaving is just gorgeous.  

We did a bit of shopping after the tour (I got myself one of their throws -- this one -- and it is just lovely), and ate lunch in the cafe.

Everything about Avoca was Just. Charming.  (Apparently, a television program - Ballykissangel - was filmed in the village of Avoca.  Another set of sisters on our tour were Big Fans -- and headed into the village instead of the mill.  Neither my sister or I had ever heard of the show before.  Apparently, it is a Big Deal in the UK and Australia, though.)

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It was a perfect first-stop on our day-long trip to County Wicklow.

 


One Morning in Ireland

My sister and I booked a private tour with a driver one morning in Dublin.  His name was Kieran, and he was just delightful.  After giving us several options of possible drives we could do in or around Dublin, we chose to drive south . . . stopping in a few coastal towns and ending up at (you guessed it. . . ) a world-renowned garden at Powerscourt Estate.

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We stopped for a bit of a walk in Dalkey, a charming seaside resort town.  (And, according to Kieran, a very desirable - but very pricey - suburb of Dublin.)

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It was quite early in town that morning, and the weather was a bit gloom-ish.  Things were very quiet.

But absolutely charming!

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We would've loved to visit this shop, but it was closed.  (Best sign ever, non?)

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Bono lives in Dalkey; we saw his driveway. . . and his "local" (pictured below).  (Apparently, author Maeve Binchy lived and wrote just down the street from the pub.)

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Dalkey Island is just off the shore . . . 

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The island is close enough that people regularly row or kayak out and spend the day -- climbing the tower, exploring the shoreline, having a picnic, etc.  Kieran regaled us with tales of kayaking bachelor's parties!

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He also mentioned that there are dolphins in the waters here, but we didn't see any during our visit.

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We drove further down the coast . . . to Powerscourt.  As we drove, the clouds were getting heavier and heavier!

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I figured we'd be visiting another garden in the midst of rainstorm. . .  

(and, really . . . Ireland is THAT green!)

No worries, though.  We got through all of Powerscourt before the rain hit.

My first view. . . 

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and then . . . looking back up at the estate house from the pond.

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There was a marvelous Japanese garden. . . 

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with a gorgeous little moss-y grotto. . .

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(Seriously . . . The Green.)

I was kind of giddy . . . 

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There was a Pet Cemetery . . . 

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All of the family's beloved pets were buried here -- dogs, cats, ponies, even a cow!  The headstones were so sweet . . . 

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The gardens were spectacular.

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The grounds were over the top!  (Kieran told us not to miss the 3-D garden gate.)

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And, in the end, the sun even came out!  (But only briefly.)

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It was a wonderful morning in Ireland!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Will Ya Be Havin' a Pint? (Part I)

My sister and I spent the last 3 days of our trip in Dublin, off the cruise ship and on our own.  One of our first items of business?

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Why. . . a trip to St. James Gate, of course!

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You can't actually have a tour of the Guinness brewing facility at St. James Gate, but you can visit the Guinness Storehouse -- which is a pretty marvelous "museum" that tells the history of Guinness, and walks you through the steps of their brewing process.  With, of course, a couple of opportunities to sip a pint or two along the way.

Our first pour. . . 

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and my sister's first sip!

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Now, my sister is pretty much a wine-drinker . . . and she had never tried a Guinness before.  She loved it -- and so much more than the whisky!  

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You start the tour of the Guinness Storehouse on the main floor . . . and you work your way up and up and up . . . until you're on the very top floor -- which is a pub with a 360-degree panorama view of Dublin.

It is AWESOME.

(Here we are, with the Trinity College campus behind us.)

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We had a great time!  

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History.  Education.  Fun.  Plus . . . Guinness.

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Really.  What more could you be askin' for?

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(Stay tuned . . . for more Dublin.  And more Guinness!)

 

 

 

 


Travelogue Tuesday: Welcome to Dublin

Usually, when your cruise ship docks in a port city, it is not terribly exciting.  Because it generally looks very . . . industrial.  Kind of like this:

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Cranes.  Warehouses.  Shipping containers.  Freighters.  Sometimes even trains.

Interesting, I suppose.  But never very scenic.

So my sister and I usually just patiently wait while the ship docks, getting ready for our day and looking forward to going ashore to explore a new place.

Imagine my great surprise then . . .  as we were approaching Dublin . . .

I was sitting on our little couch (knitting, of course) and absently looking out the veranda window - when a great flash of RED flew by.

Was that a lighthouse????

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By, golly. . . it was! 

I grabbed my camera and yelled at my sister (who was just getting out of the shower).  We'd never seen a lighthouse in port before!

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Welcome to Dublin!

(Stop by next Tuesday for more about our time in Dublin and County Wicklow.) 


The Isle of Skye

About 6 weeks ago, I gave you the last installment of my travel tales -- leaving you hanging at the Highland Park distillery, chewing on some whisky.

But.  There is much more to tell about my trip to Scotland and Ireland.  Let's catch up, shall we?

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After our day in Kirkwall, we sailed through the night . . . and woke up to this magical view. . . 

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The Isle of Skye!

Now this . . . was just breathtaking!  I'm pretty sure we just stood out on our veranda and giggled!  Moody, broody Scotland . . . at its finest!

Our ship was actually anchored in the midst of a bay, surrounded by islands.  We took tender boats to shore -- to the city of Portree.

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(That's our cruise ship, there in the far background.)  (Tender boat not pictured.)

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The little town is charming . . . just like something out of a movie set or a storybook!

My sister and I had signed up for a group hike around the island.  We met up with our tour guide -- and set off!  The trail was pretty rustic -- muddy, boggy, and steep.  But just incredibly beautiful!   (Plus cows!  And sheep!)  (And no bathrooms.  At all.  I had to pee in the woods on the Isle of Skye. . . )

Here . . . I'll let my photos tell the story!

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After our hike, we enjoyed some time hanging around in Portree -- a quite picturesque little town with excellent fish and chips!

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(I kind of felt like I was in the middle of an episode of Doc Martin or something.)  (Although I know that show was not filmed/set in Scotland.  Just sayin.)

And this?  Here's my sister, in her handknit sweater from Kirkwall!  (In front of the pink building.  Because of course!  My sister love, Love, LOVED pink as a little girl.  And some things never change.)

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Join me next week when I tell you all about our rainy afternoon in . . . Belfast, Northern Ireland!