Tag Archives: photography

Exploring Normandy Part 2: Cheese, Cider, and Postcard Villages

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Church in Victot-Pontfol–exploring the cider route.

The cool, but sunny weather of last week has given way to rain this morning.  I don’t mind too much, because rainy days are perfect for snuggling up with my laptop and Bon Iver and catching up on my blogging.  Also, we had boeuf bourguignon with braised spice cabbage for lunch, which is the perfect rainy fall day meal!  Oh my tastebuds are happy.

So, backing up to last Saturday. The best thing about having a rental car was the freedom of exploring rural Normandy (or Normandie) at my leisure (well, more or less, as much leisure as I could pack into 48 hours).

Saturday, Sophie decided she wanted to have a down day, so I was on my own.  I was a bit nervous about doing both the navigating and driving, but the great thing about country roads is you can pull off to the side and look at maps and directions when you need to.  Also, cars can turn around, which is oh so handy!

Saturday dawned cold clear morning, so a mist was just rising off the fields as I set off, making for some gorgeous, eerie type photos.  By afternoon, it warmed to the point of being comfortable in long sleeves and sans jacket, with skies that were as clear and blue as a mountain lake.

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The fog just lifting on a clear and chilly autumn morning.

After a couple detours down some tiny country roads, I first stopped in the small cheese making village of Livarot, about a 30 minute drive from where I’m staying.  It was a sleepy little village on a Saturday morning–pretty far off the main tourist drag, and not many shops were open, but  I wasn’t interested in shopping; I was there to visit the E. Graindorge cheese factory, La Village Fromargerie.

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Mmm…Normandy is yummy.

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Thanks for the cheese, cows!

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Aging camembert in the cellars of La Village Fromargerie.

A self guided tour through the factory and the museum was delightful with displays and short video clips explaining the history of the company and the cheese production process the region.  As visitors progress through the factory, they pass through the aging cellars and packaging rooms from where the cheese is then sent for distribution.  The free tour was well worth the time, and concluded with the sampling of various cheese (can’t go wrong with free samples) and local products in the gift shop.  I picked up some camembert and apple cider (juice) for my picnic lunch.

From Livarot, it was about 30 minutes north to the village of Cambremer, a pretty little town right on the cider route–a 25 mile marked tour through the Pays d’Auge region of Normandy.  The cider route is a perfect way to experience the culture and culinary arts of Normandy.  While the D-Day sights give an important insight into history, this is rural life in Normandy today.  Stopping at various estates and in the local villages, you can sample cider, calvados, and other apple products, and tour the distilleries and orchards that make this part of France so distinctive.

I had delightful time at the Dupont estate, getting a private tour of the distillery and the Calvados and cider aging cellars.  Calvados is aged apple brandy, and if I understood correctly, many of the barrels are aged for as many as 30 or more years!  You have to have a lot of patience and apples to run an operation like that!  My tour concluded with a sample of their delicious fresh apple cider (non-alcoholic for me, thank you) and I purchased a bottle of sparkling cider to take with me.  I just broke into it a couple nights ago.  It is THE BEST sparkling cider I have ever had.  Sorry, Martinelli’s.

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Calvados aging barrels at the Dupont estate.  If I understood correctly, these particular barrels will age for about 30 years.

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Touring the Dupont estate.

My final stop for the day was the popular village of Beuron en Auge, widely considered one of the most beautiful villages in all of Normandy.  It’s tiny–you can walk from one end to the other in less than 10 minutes– and full of half timbered buildings, antique shops, cider purveyors, and small boutiques to delight tourists.

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Delightful half timbered home in the postcard town of Beuvron-en-Auge.

While it can be crowded during the summer, this weekend at the end of September was pleasantly tranquil, giving me plenty of time to enjoy my picnic of all local foods: cider, camembert, and a fresh baguette–and then go exploring.

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Dining as the locals do. The perfect picnic.

That, in a word, was my day.  Exploring at its purest.  Driving through France, in my adorable rental car, looking at a map but just turning down whatever road intrigued me.  Meeting local people, trying the local food that they were so proud of, and enjoying the autumn sunshine.  Perfect days are so rare, and this one was definitely one to treasure.


A Walk Through Prague’s Jewish Quarter

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It’s no secret that Prague is considered one of the most beautiful and well preserved cities in Europe, largely due to it escaping relatively unscathed during the Second World War.  With it’s charming old town, romantic art nouveau architecture, and imposing castle atop a hill, Prague is a delight for tourists from all over the world.  And being there in August it literally felt like half the world had descended upon this central european capital!

Escaping the crush of summer crowds, I spent a morning away from the old town and explored Prague’s beautiful Jewish Quarter.  This area of the city is one of Europe’s oldest and best preserved Jewish neighborhoods.  Ironically, during World War II, Hitler decided that this would be the site of his “museum” to the very race his was seeking to exterminate.  Consequently, Jewish artifacts from destroyed synagogues and communities throughout Europe were sent here to be catalogued and kept.  While most Jewish neighborhoods were destroyed during Nazi occupations, this one was saved, though most of it’s inhabitants were not.

Today, walking through Prague’s Jewish quarter is a poignant reminder that this place has been home to the Jewish community for over 1000 years.  Prague’s Jewish museum is made up of several beautiful synagogues scattered throughout the area (spanning about 3 or 4 blocks).  A single ticket allows access to all the sights, including a powerful Holocaust memorial, a cemetery, and exhibits on Jewish culture and customs.

Entrance to the Pinkas Synagogue and Prague's memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

Entrance to the Pinkas Synagogue and Prague’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

In order to avoid long lines and tour groups, I was at the gates a little before 9:00 in the morning.  Starting early I was able to explore most of the sights without fighting crowds, and really take the time to appreciate the importance of this museum and the exhibits and artifacts that were displayed.  For anyone going to Prague, I highly recommend spending half a day in the Jewish Quarter.  Not only do you get a wonderful insight into this part of Czech history, but also into the culture of the Jewish people who have lived here.

One of the most popular and visited sites in the quarter is the Pinkas Synagogue, which dates back to the 16th century.  Today it houses the Holocaust memorial, honoring the thousands of residents who never returned.  Walking through the synagogue you see the walls inscribed with the names of 77,297 Czech Jews who were sent to the death camps.  The names are organized by communities, with family names in red, individual first names in black, and the individual’s birthdate and death date (if known).

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A few of the names inscribed on the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue.

An audio recording reads each of the names, and there is an unmistakeable reverence as you pass through these halls.

Upstairs, is the Children’s Art Exhibit featuring art work done by children held at the nearby Terezin Camp, where Prague’s Jews were kept prior to being transported to the death camps.  For me, this was the most emotional part of the museum.  These art works look like those you would find displayed in any elementary school, until you read the wall plaques and realize the unthinkable circumstances it was created in.

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A child’s drawing depicts life in the Nazi controlled Terezin Camp.

The art is catgorized by topics–everyday life in Terezin, hopes for the future, even fairytales like children today might draw.  Each art piece has a small plaque accompanying it, giving the name of the young artist, and their birthdate and death date.  According to the guide, of the 8,000 children that were sent to Terezin, only 240 lived to see liberation.

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Child’s painting of the Terezin camp courtyard.

 

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A child’s drawing of a fairytale story: a dragon and a princess. The dates beneath the drawing show that the artist was just 11 years old at the time of her death.

 

Leaving the Pinkas Synagogue brought me into the Old Jewish Cemetery, home to over 10,000 aged and eroded tombstones, their faded Hebrew inscriptions sometimes hard to make out.

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Morning sun in the quiet of the Old Jewish Cemetery.

 

From the 15th to 18th century this was the only burial ground for the the Jews in Prague.  Because of this, the graves had to be piled on top of one another, meaning there are actually about 80,000 people buried here.  It’s a quiet and contemplative place, seemingly tucked away from the commotion of modern day Prague.

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The ceremonial hall of the cemetery houses an exhibit on Jewish burial traditions.

Exiting the cemetery, my next visit was to Klausen Synagogue.  This part of the museum contains exhibits regarding Jewish holidays and religious customs.  Displayed artifacts included elaborate Torah scrolls and menorahs from Prague’s Jewish community.  The upstairs depicts everyday life in the Jewish culture including the birth of children and marriage customs.  A beautiful canopy was displayed as well some typical home furnishings.

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Gorgeous interior of Prague’s Spanish Synagogue.

From here I walked through the neighborhood to the Spanish Synagogue a couple of blocks away (with the help of one kind person who saw me studying my map and offered directions).  This ornate synagogue was absolutely breathtaking, having been built in the late 19th century during a time when European Jews prospered.  This synagogue covers the history of the Jewish people from the 18th century to the 20th century, focussing especially on Czech Jews in the 1900s.  A display case shows exhibits on many influential members of the community, including those men who were made the “curators” of Hitler’s Jewish museum prior to being sent to the camps themselves.

I concluded my museum tour here and spent some time strolling through the neighborhood.  Today this part of Prague is thriving: full of shops, restaurants, tourists, and local people living their lives.  This was my first visit to a major Holocaust memorial in Europe, and what I loved about it is that it covered so much more than just the events of 80 years ago.  I was able to travel through hundreds of years of history of this community and see how it reflects in the Prague of today.  This kind of an education is one of the things I love best about traveling!

 

For more information about visiting the Jewish Museum in Prague, visit their official site here.

 


Girl Explores London

Last week, after being in England for a full 6 days, I FINALLY made it to London!  Another dream come true on this trip!  The farm I’m staying at is only 40 miles or so from the city and close to transit lines, so I tried pacing myself, knowing I could return frequently.  I still covered a lot of ground though, and by the end of the day my feet and I agreed we’d done ourselves proud!

First stop: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliment!

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View of Big Ben and Westminster Bridge from the South Bank.

Technically, I saw a bit of Westminster (including the abbey) before arriving at this top destination.  It took me a bit  to find my way from Victoria station.

I was lucky enough to arrive a little before 8:00 in the morning, which meant I still had some beautiful morning light, and the streets were relatively tourist free.  Mostly I was surrounded by people in power suits bustling off to work.  My favorite time in a new city is in the early morning before the crowds take over.  It gives me an entirely different perspective of a place.

I followed the Rick Steves’ audio walking tour of Westminster, which is was a delightful introduction to London and full of interesting facts.  It was easy to follow, beginning at Westminster Bridge and ending at Trafalgar Square.  The only problem was that my day started so early that when I reached Trafalgar Square at the end of the tour, it was still over an hour before the National Gallery opened.  It was for the best though.  I was starving so I killed time by scouting down breakfast at a nearby restaurant.

When the gallery opened at 10, I was able to walk right on in.  One of the benefits of free museums is no queues!  Sadly that was the high point, as none of the 4 paintings I especially wanted to see were on display.  Due to a staff shortage many of the rooms were closed.  I was able to peer through a door and see my Degas from a distance, but that was as close as I got.  Rather than staying in the Gallery of Disappointments, as it’s now been dubbed, I left to take a stroll down the Mall to stake out a good vantage point for…The changing of the guard! 

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I had been on the fence for awhile about this particular British tradition.  Watching a bunch of men in fancy uniforms essentially punching in and out for the day in front of the palace didn’t seem like it was worth all the hype.  However, I had the time and was in the right area, so I figured why not?  I’d also read up enough to know that I could stand along the Mall between St. James Palace and Buckingham Palace to see the fanfare in street and not fight the ginormous crowds in front of the palace gates, so that’s what I did.

There were enough guided tours beginning to camp out along the street that I knew when I was in the right area.  I joined up with one of them that had a prime spot and waited for about 10-15 minutes next to a group of tourists from Mississippi.  Hearing that strong southern accent at such a British event tickled my sense of irony no end.

The parade itself was short and sweet.  We watched the horse guards retire and then the procession of the band heading toward the palace.  I got my pictures to satisfy my travel portfolio and I was done.  While seeing these men in their, admittedly impressive, uniforms was definitely a spectacle, I think I enjoyed the crowd watching even more.

With item two checked off my list, I strolled through St. James Park to catch the tube to…Borough Market. 

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Borough Market is London’s oldest and best food market, dating back to the 13th century.  Today it is a gastronome’s paradise, filled with food stalls selling anything and everything your pallate desires: seafood, nuts, pastries, meats, produce, cheeses, breads, ethnic foods, olives, wines, and more. The smells and colors and textures, not to mention the tastes (hurray for free samples!) are an assault on the senses in the best of ways.  Between sampling, photographing, and stopping for lunch, it was a perfect way to kill a couple of hours before moving on to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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This is one of my favorite shots thus far, taken while sitting on the lawn behind St. Paul’s.

It turned out I misread the start time of my London Blitz walking tour, so I had an extra 30 minutes to kill, which I did quite happily lounging in the shade on the back lawn of St. Paul’s. Yes, there were lots of pigeons.  Yes, I was singing “Feed the Birds” in my head the entire time.

I met up with my walking group easily enough at the appointed time.  The tour was through London Walks, and they have a variety of walks focused on numerous topics and/or areas of interest throughout the city.  Their guides are all highly qualified, and I had heard wonderful things, so I was very excited about this walk. I’m pleased to say that it lived up to the hype!  We spent a couple of hours walking around the City of London.  Most of the remnants of the Blitz are gone now with new buildings taking the place of the destroyed ones decades ago, but you can still see shrapnel scars on the exterior of St. Paul’s and there’s a lovely garden nearby in what once was a church that was destroyed during the air raids.  Now only 3 skeletal walls remain.

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Remains of Christchurch Greyfriars in The City of London. Now a garden, this church was destroyed by bombs during the London Blitz and never rebuilt.

London is full of war memorials and monuments to important people in it’s history, but there was one memorial we saw on our tour that touched me more than any of them.  It was the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park.  This little memorial was set up to commerate the selfless deeds of ordinary citizens.  Reading through the various plaques was quite touching, and many of them dated back to the late 19th century.  Especially moving were the plaques dedicated to children, some no more than 10 or 11 years old who died saving a younger friend or sibling from catastrophe.  I never would have found that park or memorial on my own, which is one of the reasons I find these walking tours such a great value.

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Touching tribute on the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice

Following the walk I was able to go into St. Paul’s for their Evensong service.  While there is a fee for touring the Cathedral, it’s free of charge to go in for worship services, and I enjoyed sitting in that marvelous space (sorry, no photos allowed) and listening to the service. One thing I wasn’t aware of, not being Catholic, is how much standing and sitting is done during the service!  My aching feet, which had been literally pounding the pavement all day, were a bit dismayed that they had to continue to stand during a good portion of the evensong.  Still, it was a nice way to close my first day in London.

Coming up next on Rachie Discovers London: exploring the boroughs of Kensington and/or Hampstead, and possibly a visit to Westminster Abbey!


Island of the Grey Dolphin

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Sunny skies at last!  Yesterday, after weeks of rain, wind, and choppy seas, the weather finally broke, and I had a gorgeous, calm afternoon to go out to the islands.

Because of my work schedule in the morning, it made the most sense to just do Inisheer, the closest of the three Aran Islands.  Mary Jo drove me down to the pier, and, at the last minute, I decided to splurge and add on a sightseeing excursion to the cliffs for the return journey.  Ticket in hand, I boarded The Happy Hooker for an afternoon jaunt to the island. It was such a glorious trip out there with the sunlight on my face and wind in my hair (though still cold enough to need my jacket and ear warmers)!

When we arrived at the port in Inisheer, we were greeted by Sandy, the resident dolphin. She was living in Doolin until they began construction on the new pier, and since then has taken up residence off Inisheer.  She was having a magnificent time playing in the waves created by the incoming and outgoing passenger ferries, and I loved watching her.

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Sandy, the friendly dolphin of Inisheer.

I had several hours to explore the island before the return to Doolin.  Upon disembarking we were presented with a couple of options for sightseeing: horse and cart tours, bicycle rentals, or your own two feet.  Now, I, being adventurous spirit that I am, and wanting to see as much as possible, opted for the bicycle rental.  I forked over the cash and was given a map, a bike, and proceeded down the road on what was probably the most miserable and painful bicycle seat ever designed by man.  I kid you not, the old wooden teeter totters at my elementary school were a luxury compared to that stupid seat.

It had also been about 8 years since I was on a bike, so I made a pretty comical image teetering down the road, trying to get used to riding with my camera equipment strapped to my back and my backside already protesting at the underserved abuse it was receiving.  I was half tempted to turn around and return the bike and ask for my money back, but my stubbornness (foolishness?) wouldn’t let me.

One of the problems with cycling as a photographer, I discovered, is that every time you want to take a picture, you have to stop, lay the bike down, take the backpack off, take out the camera, take the pictures, put the camera back in the backpack, put the backpack back on, and continue on your way.  My camera was too large and the lens way too expensive for me to just ride around with it on my neck.  In the end, with all the stopping I had to do, not to mention the hills where I had to walk the bike up, I’m not sure I gained any time by using the bike.  But there were occasional stretches of narrow, secluded roads that I could ride freely without worrying about pedestrians, horses, or vehicles, and it was a blast!

The island itself was breathtaking.  The sea was an intense blue green, and it literally sparkled in the afternoon sun; small fields were separated by miles and miles of stone walls and fences, and occasionally a horse or cow would peer over, looking for a handout.

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Making friends…

The island has several points of interest, including a medieval sunken church in the hilltop cemetery, a rusted out shipwreck on the beach, a lighthouse, and the ancient castle ruins.  All that, combined with stunning views of the island landscape, the Ciffs of Moher across the way, and the distant Connemara mountains, made for delightful summer afternoon.  By the time I turned my bike in I had just enough time to get fish and chips (sooo delicious) at the chipper near the pier before catching my return boat back to Doolin.

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Ancient castle ruins, Inisheer.

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Thatched white-washed cottage on Inisheer.

I was thinking that the return trip would detour to the islands, but I was wrong.  We went back to Doolin, let off passengers, took on other passengers, and then made the short trip up the coastline to the cliffs.  Now, the boat ride to and from the island was relatively smooth and easy, a couple of larger swells, but nothing compared to the choppiness of the last few weeks.  Boy, is it a game changer as you approach the cliffs!  I quickly learned why the cliff tours only operate in optimum conditions, because even on the nicest of days, it gets rough as you approach the rocky outcroppings.  It makes taking pictures difficult when you can’t stand without holding on to something, and even then keeping your feet can be tricky!

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I managed to get a few decent shots (and several more lopsided ones), but as we began approaching the large sea stack that houses thousands of nesting seagulls, I was hit with sudden seasickness, and had to go back inside the cabin.  I sprawled out dramatically across a row of seats in hopes of keeping my amazingly wonderful lunch where it was supposed to stay.  I succeeded, but sadly, no more pictures! I was able to crane my head a bit to see the sea stack through the window.  EW!!! It’s much nicer from a distance.  Thousands of birds make it pretty disgusting, and as the boat left and other people started to come back inside, I overheard a guy talking about being hit with raining seagull poop, so I figured it was probably just as well that I went inside.

Much to my relief, and to the relief of my fellow passengers I’m sure, I maintained my dignity until we got back to shore.  Alas, as incredible as it was to see the cliffs from that angle, I’m not anxious to give it another go.  Apparently even dramamine couldn’t hold it’s own against the powerful forces of nature!

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Cliff Walks

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The Cliffs of Moher: Distant view of O’Brien’s Tower and the Branaunnmore sea stack.

 

You can’t come to western Ireland without spending time at the Cliffs of Moher.  This was THE place I wanted to see on my first trip to Ireland, and it still remains one of my favorite places in the world.  So, when I’d been here 10 days, and still hadn’t made it up to the cliffs I was feeling a bit distressed.  Luckily, on Tuesday afternoon, the fates aligned and I had a clear and sunny afternoon off.  Mary Jo was kind enough to drop me off at the cliffs, and I spent several hours walking the trails and enjoying the majestic views.  Along with the Amalfi Coast, this is my favorite coastline in the world.  It’s staggering.

Spring flowers blooming along the cliffs with Branaunnmore in the background.

Spring flowers blooming along the cliffs with Branaunnmore in the background.

One of the amazing things about the cliffs is that you can literally walk right up to the edge.  There are various trails to use–some set back further from ledge and others that go right along it, so even those that are scared of heights can still enjoy the views but feel comfortable.  I used the safe trails until I got to the more interesting ones!

Fellow travelers watching one of nature's great free shows just north of O'Brien's Tower.

Fellow travelers watching one of nature’s great free shows just north of O’Brien’s Tower.

After a an hour or so of going crazy with my camera, I took a break and found a nice little grassy area on the edge of the cliff to sit and enjoy the scenery, 390 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.  Laying on my stomach, and leaning over the edge (sorry, no pictures of this as I didn’t want to take any risks with my camera) I watched the seagulls play on the wind currents and watched the waves pounding the rocks below, feeling the spray from the sea and the wind in my face.  It’s one of those moments you wish could last forever.

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Adventuresome travelers enjoying the cliff walks.

You can actually hike all along the cliffs either independently or part of a tour.  From Doolin it’s about an 10 km walk, that can be done independently or as part of a tour.  And if you aren’t to keen on heights, there is a 1 hour sightseeing cruise that leaves from Doolin several times a day during the summer (weather permitting).  I actually went to do this yesterday but the water was too choppy so they weren’t running.  However, one of the benefits of being here for several weeks is that I can wait it out for a good day!  Stay tuned for pictures and a report on that adventure.

World Traveler Extraordinaire

World Traveler Extraordinaire

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Early Evening, Cliffs of Moher

 

 


Ireland, Day 3

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Doolin, Ireland

You should all be impressed that I have captured photos that make it look bright and sunny, because 70% of the time it’s been raining and COLD.  You know that scene in Sense and Sensibility where Marianne sprains her ankle running down the hill in the rainstorm and is rescued by Willoughby?  Yeah, that was me about 10 minutes before I took the above picture-drenched by rain and nearly blown off the road by gale force winds. Sadly, no handsome stranger on horseback though.  Darn it. There’s always tomorrow I suppose.

Despite the weather, I’m settling in nicely.  The jet lag prevented me from doing anything too ambitious on Saturday.  I must be getting old, as I don’t recall ever having a problem with jet lag before.  However, after a solid nights sleep, my internal clock seems to have reset itself, and I was good to go yesterday, which was fortunate because my first full day and I was put straight to work!

I’m staying with Michael and Mary Jo O’Connell at Seascape B&B in Doolin, County Clare. The O’Connell’s have been delightfully warm and welcoming, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the past two mornings serving guests breakfast at the B&B.  I love meeting other travelers and visiting with them.  It’s a wonderful way to connect with people on the road.

Killilagh church and graveyard, just up the hill from Seascape. The church dates from the 15th century, and the grounds were used as a cemetery until as recently as the 1980s.

Killilagh church and graveyard, just up the hill from Seascape. The church dates from the 15th century, and the grounds were used as a cemetery until as recently as the 1980s.

Doolin is small village on the west coast of Ireland situated just north of the Cliffs of Moher, with convenient access to the Burren and the Aran Islands, making it a popular tourist spot.  In fact, most of the village is made up of dozens of family run B&B’s, a handful of pubs featuring live music each night, and a few gift shops selling Aran sweaters and leprechaun figurines.  Despite its tiny size, its fairly spread out, with lots of farm and grazing land in-between, so it takes me some time walking through the main part of the village.  At least I know I won’t grow fat and lazy!

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View of the cliffs from Doolin. Ambitious hikers can walk the 7 km or so to the highest point (which can’t be seen from here). Others can opt to take a bus or drive to the top and hike back, or drive both ways!

The big tour busses come through town about noon each day, bringing lots of business to the restaurants before continuing on to the cliffs or Burren Nation Park.  According to my hosts, there are mixed feelings about this amongst the locals.  The restaurants do very well, but it brings nothing to all of the B&Bs, and tends to congest traffic, which is a problem for a village with only one main road that’s barely wide enough for two small cars to pass one another.

There are no grocery stores or banks in town.  The nearest market town is Ennistimon, about a 15-20 minute drive away.  I’ll be going with Mary Jo tomorrow to do a little shopping, and hopefully find an ATM!


The Adventure Begins…

Have any of you ever seen The Chipmunk Adventure?  If you haven’t, you should.  It’s an amazing cinematic masterpiece and an icon of my childhood.  It’s also full of wonderful, catchy songs, my favorite being “Off to See the World” which has been running incessantly in my head all day.  For those of you heathens unfamiliar with this iconic song of American cinema, I present it to you here (it’s actually better with the video, but YouTube has failed me).

This is my long way of saying, I have my tickets booked, and I am off to Europe for 5 months on a grand photographic and blogging expedition!

Through a website called HelpX, I have connected with various hosts in Europe who provide travelers with room and board in exchange for part-time work.  After a series e-mails I have confirmed my first arrangement, which begins in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland.  I fly from Seattle to Shannon in mid-May, a week after being both the maid of honor and photographer and my best friend’s wedding.

I’m planning to write about my experiences and post pictures here on this blog–the places, people, and communities that I encounter and the ups and downs, trials and triumphs of the journey.

Interestingly enough, the decision to actually go has been the hardest part.  It was several weeks of pro-con lists, heartfelt prayers, pro-con lists, and long conversations with friends and family before reaching this decision.  This has been one of my biggest dreams for so long, it’s a little unbelievable that it’s actually becoming a reality.

My next hurdle is the logistics of this move: What do I do with my stuff?  What do I sell, store, give away? What size storage unit do I need?  How much will it cost? Oh! I need to go to Costco to get my contact lens exam and get new contacts ordered.  I need to find someone to keep my car while I’m gone. Must remember to cancel/suspend insurance. What do I do about cell phone coverage…

See?  These are the things going a mile a minute in my brain–especially when I’m trying to fall asleep.  And oh yes, there’s the matter of my best friend’s wedding in there too!  Pictures to be taken and edited, dress fittings to attend, and a shower to throw!

It will be a busy month, but I’m excited to have you all along with me for the ride!

The Journey Begins: Washington State. Tulip Fields, Skagit Valley, WA, about 60 miles north of Seattle.

The Journey Begins: Washington State.
Tulip Fields, Skagit Valley, WA, about 60 miles north of Seattle.


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