Kenmare, Parknasilla and the Ring of Kerry

We left Kilkenny early to beat the traffic on the Ring road and found it harrowing just the same. Apparently, the roads to come are even narrower and so we rested up, and lunched on local ingredients in Kenmare — a cozy little tourist town en route — and visited our first Stone Circle.

No one knows exactly why the 15 stones sit in a circle just outside town, or why the centre stone is larger than the rest. No one could tell us who arranged the stones or when they were set down. Archaeologists say evidence suggests that 4,500 years ago the stone circle served some ritual purpose for the pagan religion of the day — something tied to the worship of the sun since the shadows from the stones fall into alignment on the summer and winter solstice. Today, they bring in a little tourist revenue, which would come as a surprise to the ancients who once lived here, I’m sure.

We arrived at Parknasilla mid-afternoon and enjoyed walking the grounds along the sea shore. I came upon a fairy trail and found some darling little houses, just the size of the folk that inhabit these parts. Tomorrow on to Dingle!








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Fairy Folks

Fairy Folks




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To Kilkenny

We’ve heard it rains a lot in Ireland and that’s why I felt disappointed in myself for leaving my rain jacket on Pender Island last weekend. As it turns out, I haven’t needed it. The weather has been warm and balmy with wood smoke in the air and no rain to speak of. At dinner last night we chatted with our waiter who is from Dingle, on the wet west coast, and he assured us that rain it would. “You can count on it.” Every. Other. Day.

So we stopped in at a department store called Dunnes when we arrived in Kilkenny and found an inexpensive waterproof slicker, just in case. The Irish tell me that just because I did, it will rain. But they also believe in fairies.

The ride from Dublin to the Rock of Cashel was lovely — lush and green. The toll highway was an easy go. If you’re in Ireland, I recommend stopping at the Rock. What a setting! And the history is pretty fascinating too. Located on the highest point of the Plain of Tipperary (we were reminded that it’s a long way here) the Rock was the seat of ancient royalty from 300-1100 CE and then served the church. The architecture is early Christian, Romanesque, and Gothic so the place feels a little like a giant’s home renovation. The graveyard is still in use today and the Celtic crosses are some of the best preserved we’ve seen to date.

Next we took to the side roads on our way to Kilkenny to see its famous castle. My man put on his Mario Andretti hat, driving on the opposite side of the road, swerving tight around the corners, hugging the hedgerows so-to-speak, and brought us safely to our accommodation. But not without some nail biting from his navigator. Even the hotelier remarked on the crazy drivers in this part of her island.

We ate Italian, walked the castle grounds, took in the cute touristy shopping district, and headed back to our room to attend to some housekeeping duties. A great day and we’re ready for the sack!

The Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel

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Family Day

Family Day

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Sites around Fair Dublin

Ireland is the known for its storytelling and so we headed to the Brazen Head Pub last evening for dinner theatre entitled Food, Folk and Fairies! The food was from the farm and hearty, Irish stew, thick bread and pie for dessert, and the entertainment quintessentially Irish! This morning when I opened my email, I had a note from the storyteller, who included 3 of his favourite fairy tales. I’m excited to bring them home for my grandkids.

Today we took in Trinity College and the Book of Kells (containing the four gospels in high monastic art), visited the Chester Beatty Library where my eyes feasted on the earliest surviving manuscripts of the gospel writers and the Apostle Paul. For those who care, they were P44 & P45 Codex. The very resources I used in my exegesis paper last fall.

We shopped a bit, walked a lot, dined at a lovely Parisienne restaurant for lunch, strolled around Kilmainham gaol imaging what Ireland must have been like in its revolutionary days.

It will be an early start tomorrow to Kilkenny by car so we are off to bed.


Dublin Castle Herb Garden

Dublin Castle Herb Garden

Lunch stop

Lunch stop


Trinity College

Trinity College


Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol

Chester Beatty Library

Chester Beatty Library

Georgian Architecture and Window Boxes

Georgian Architecture and Window Boxes

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Here we are in Ireland’s fair Dublin — strolling the cafe lined streets, taking in the Georgian architecture and appreciating subtleties and varieties of the colour green. Our accommodation, The Schoolhouse Hotel, sits on the edge of a small river known as the Grande Canal, lined with willows and maples. Stone bridges and locks offer pedestrians opportunity to meander from bank to bank and cyclists in Fleet Street suits weave in and out on their to who knows where. People stroll through the garden space — St. Stephen’s Green — a pastoral sanctuary away from the hubbub of traffic and construction. We are in Dublin, the seat of English control for 750 years in Ireland. Independence was hard won and evidence is everywhere.

Tomorrow we’ll take in the major sites: Trinity College, Chester Beatty Library, Kilmainham Gaol, and eat dinner at the Brazen Head Pub then finish with some Irish theatre.

First impressions? The people are friendly, the city has young vibe with its university crowd, and there is a lot to learn from one of the oldest settlements in Europe. And now for bed.

Schoolhouse Hotel

Schoolhouse Hotel


Schoolhouse Hotel Entrance

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Good to be Home

“‘Come on, John,’ he said, ‘the longer we look at it, the less we shall like it.'” CS Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

Every time I walk the long corridor toward the open door to the long tube I will spend a day sitting in, taken high up into the clouds in, waiting and waiting in, I like it less. But considering the miracle of flight — and the distance I can cover in an extraordinarily short time — not to mention that my generation possesses the opportunity to light into the air like the birds, I can’t justifiably complain. It was a 10 hour flight from Charles de Gaulle to YVR and the time flew with me.

We are home on our little Island in the sun. My garden delivered up a large bowl full of ripe strawberries this morning. The potatoes compete with the garlic and the weeds have adopted an attitude of permanence, thinking they can hide from me. All is lush and lively in my tiny subdivision-sized plot.

Oh, it’s good to be home!


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Spires and Turrets

“Then I dreamed that they came in sight of the city, very old, and full of spires and turrets, all covered with ivy…” CS Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

Park Guell isn’t old, but it is full of spires and turrets, all covered with lush gardens — a vision and architectural wonder — another of Gaudi’s creations. A Humanist, the father of Modernista and a devout Catholic, Gaudi drew on the Catalan culture, Creation and Christianity for inspiration. His friendship with Eusebi Guell was the catalyst for the project, which was built initially as an estate for wealthy families. Due to lack of interest and the difficult terrain, it failed as a residential building and was opened to the public as a park in 1926. In 1984 it was named a UNESCO Heritage site and welcomes visitors from all over the world.

The metro is on strike today so we hailed a cab and arrived a little early to take in the gardens. As we climbed the staircase up the mountainside, vendors laid their wares — mosaic geckos and elephants, necklaces, scarves — on white blankets (a quick and easy way to “scoop and hide” for when the police make their rounds). Buskers played jazz and Spanish guitar, hordes of tourists couldn’t decide where to point their cameras, and the sky threatened rain. My impressions of Park Guell? I felt as if I were inside a live exhibit, not viewing it objectively, but a part of the creation itself. I wonder if that’s what Gaudi intended — that through imaginative participation we continue to be drawn to God.

It’s our last day of touring in Spain and we have loved being here, learning about the culture, tasting the foreign dishes of octopus, sea bream, pintxos, and experiencing a culture that lives out loud. We will miss the spontaneous singing in the streets, the double kisses of greeting, and the siestas but we’re ready to board the train for a 6 hour ride to Paris tomorrow. Adios, Barcelona!

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He Kept On

“He kept on singing his song…” CS Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

I read an article in Time magazine once that said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become accomplished at whatever is practiced. We visited Picasso’s museum today where the prolific work of the artist is on display, except his most famous work, Guernica, which we saw in Madrid at the Prado. The man lived to a ripe old age and produced over 50,000 works, comprising 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.

In his later years he said, “When I was a child, I painted like a man. When I am old, I paint like a child.”

Sadly, photos were not allowed.

The Catalan people who occupy this part of what we know as Spain, have a proud and distinct culture — closer to French in language — with their own sense of national pride. And their music reflects that. Understanding another culture often means experiencing its music and arts, so we took in a choir/symphonic concert this evening at the Palace of Catalan Music. It’s known for its Modernista interior and it didn’t disappoint.

We also happened upon the Catalan dancers, who, after Sunday service, fill the Cathedral square, join hands to form a circle and dance their proud history in slow-stepping tradition. These folks get their aerobic work-out each and every Sunday before heading home to share a family meal. It was no different today, on Corpus Christi Sunday.

All that culture gave us an appetite so we headed back to our favourite pintxos bar — late night tapas in the Catalan tradition is something we can embrace!

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A Little More Tea?

“Will you not have a little more tea?”

“Thank you,” said John, ” but if you can give me some directions, I think I would like to continue my journey.”

CS Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

It’s awfully tempting at times to just sit and people watch or hole up in our apartment with our feet up or indulge in just one more cup of tea, before remembering that we are on a journey and we really must be on our way. After all, there is a great deal to experience in a city like Barcelona.

Yesterday we walked the Rambla, an relatively new pedestrian zone that sits on top of what once was the city’s sewer drainage canal. Today it’s a bustling connector between the waterfront — its malls, marinas and monuments — and the main plaza with its fountains, major departments stores and expansive marble plaza.

Next we took the metro to Antonio Gaudi’s architectural wonder, still in use today, La Pedrera apartments (Casa Mila). We learned a little bit of history and gained an appreciation for Gaudi’s inspiration and unique style before our tour of the Sagrada Familia church today. About mid-way along La Ramblas sits an extensive shopping spot called La Boqueria Market. At its entryway is Pintxos Bar where a tourist can pay exorbitant prices for crayfish and prawns with a million other tourists. And so we did. Also, I’ve been looking for saffron to bring home and apparently, this is the place to find it. But at 80 euros for 25 grams, I think I’ll look for it at the World Spice Market in Seattle instead.

We returned to Sagardi for our typical 8:00pm Spanish pintxos, strolled down to the beach and back before calling it a day.

Today, we took in Sagrada Familia church and climbed to the towers for a full view of the city and Gaudi’s remarkable sculptures. The artist’s vision for creating a space for worship that reflects our natural world rivals any we have seen. The inner columns reach heavenward in soft curves. Green and blue hues imbue a sense of serenity — a canopy of cool lushness, leading the worshiper toward peace and tranquility. Even amidst tens of thousands of tourists, the atmosphere is conducive to prayer with several small chapels inviting the faithful to stop and consider God.

All that wonder gave us an appetite and so, to our guide book.  We were looking for a lunch experience — not too expensive, lovely setting, excellent food — and found it at La Crema Canela. Rick Steves was correct on all accounts! Another gluten-free find in Barcelona!

We felt we had earned a nap and so are resting before a brief outing this evening to find that artisan yarn shop we passed the day of our arrival.

But not before another cup of tea.

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Some Other Place

“Thus we know we are near to some other place on the map which is not yet visible on the countryside.” CS Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

About noon we hopped aboard the 30 minute train to Madrid where we waited an hour before boarding the 2.5 hour train to Barcelona. The countryside, with its rolling hills and farms did indeed hide the city until we were upon it. First impressions of Barcelona? It’s a cosmopolitan community on a grande scale with treed parks, charming architecture that reaches to the sky creating labyrinthian lanes laced with boutique artisan studios and eateries. We’re staying in an apartment near the Bohemian neighbourhood so there’s a young vibe and a lot of late night noise. But nothing like little Toledo that rocked into the wee hours of the morning and awoke us at 8:00 am sharp with echoing cannons booming from river bank to river bank. Ladysmith will seem like a monastery after Spain!

After a second attempt we found a tapas bar, happy to serve gluten free for me. Delicious! We meandered through Santa Maria Cathedral — simply structured with granite in the Romanesque style. Barcelona is our last stop in Spain and we plan to be here for 5 nights before boarding our train to Paris on Tuesday for our Wednesday flight home. And now for bed.

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A Great Company of Other Pilgrims

“Then I saw that they were received into a great company of other pilgrims…” CS Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

On our way out of Toledo, Corpus Christi celebrations were in full swing. What a send-off!

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