Irish Castles – Part 2 (Finally!)

20170515_111403This is the second part of our 4 day trip to Ireland in May 2017.  The first 2 days we stayed in Dublin exploring it and on our 3rd day we got a bus tour for Northern Ireland as I did not want to drive in Ireland.

An early wake-up and rain greeted us the next morning as we walked to the meeting point for our bus tour.  We were off to Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway.  What a great decision to go on the tour!  Our bus driver told us interesting facts as we left the city and drove north, first about Dublin and then about Belfast.  Although Belfast is not the same hotbed it was 30 years ago (when the only hotel in the city was bombed or attacked almost daily), it still has an uneasy air to it.  Catholics still cannot go into a Protestant’s house or might find themselves injured the next day.  A wall exists between the 2 sides and the gate gets closed each evening.  It seemed a little unreal to me!

Here we are at the Wall of Peace

 

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On our arrival in Belfast we stopped at the dock where the Titanic was designed, built and launched – and the original H&W cranes are still there.  We were directed toward a Black Cab and got in it and spent the next 90 minutes driving around Belfast on a “Political Tour”, stopping at all the significant places from the “troubles”, seeing all the wall murals, and eventually ending up at the Wall of Peace.  Our cabbie told us many stories from the time of the “troubles”  – about the IRA and Bobby Sands (a 27-year-old member of the Irish Republican Army (catholic) who was voted a Member of Parliament while in jail.  In 1981, he staged a hunger strike and starved himself to death 66 days later.)  And, by the way, calling it the time of “troubles” seems a little understated!

After signing our names on the Peace wall, we returned to the docks, got back on the bus and headed for the Giants Causeway.  But before we got there we stopped to see the ruins of Cair Paravel – otherwise known as Dunluce Castle (#4) – spectacular beauty on the shore of Northern Ireland!  20170515_125930(2)

Giants Causeway, located on the very northern part of Ireland is a world Heritage site and a fascinating natural wonder.  It looks like lots of stepping stones placed on the shore, some rising high and others more like pavers – most of them are six-sided basalt columns of different heights.20170515_133042 (2)

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Legend has it that it is the remains of the causeway built by the Irish giant Fionn.  A Scottish giant Benandonner was threatening Ireland.  Furious about this threat, Fionn throws chunks of the coast into the sea which forms a path for him to go over to Scotland to oust his enemy Benandonner.  But when he saw Benandonner from a distance he realized his enemy was bigger than he had thought so he quickly retreated home.  Unfortunately, Benandonner saw the causeway and came after him.  But Fionn’s wife, thinking quickly, told him to strip and put on a nappy (diaper), making him appear to be a huge baby.  When Benandonner arrived she told him she didn’t know where Fionn was but to be quiet because the baby had just fallen asleep.  Benandonner took one look at the large baby and decided that if the baby was that big, the daddy must be huge so he returned to Scotland.  Fionn then dismantled the causeway, just leaving a few stones on the shore.  Another possibility for the stones is volcanic activity and lava a long time ago and when the lava cooled it formed these stones.  I don’t know – which one do you think sounds better???

What a picturesque place!  We loved climbing on the stones and walking the area – it really was fascinating!  But wait … there’s more!   We then went on to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, a small rope bridge going across a 66-foot-wide chasm, 98 feet above the rocks and sea, originally built for the salmon fishermen.  (And I just found out that just a week after we visited it the bridge was vandalized and closed for a period of time until it could be repaired!)

Having safely crossed both ways on the bridge, we returned to the bus and in due time to Dublin.  There we ate dinner at a lovely Greek restaurant before crashing at our little apartment!

Up early the next morning, we once again got on a bus – this time heading for Cork and the Blarney Castle!  Our guide wasn’t as talkative as the one the day before which was a bummer –  and ironic because of our destination –  but the stops were fabulous!  Stopping first at Cashel, sometimes known as the Rock of Cashel or even as St. Patrick’s Rock, we were able to see the site where supposedly Aenghus, the King of Munster converted because of St. Patrick in the 5th century AD.

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It was the seat for the Kings of Munster for years but then was given to the church.  So it is both a castle (#5) and a church but unfortunately the whole thing is in ruins but still amazing to look at and wander around.  The sheep like grazing there too!

Next stop was a couple of hours in the city of Cork.  There we wandered the main street, walked through the English Market, shopped, saw some churches, and eagerly anticipated our next stop – The Blarney Castle (#6).  From The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,

“The blarney stone is a triangular stone on the very top of an ancient castle of that name in the county of Cork in Ireland, extremely difficult to access; so that to have ascended to it, was considered as a proof of perseverance, courage, and agility, whereof many are supposed to claim the honour, who never achieved the adventure: and to tip the blarney, is figuratively used telling a marvelous story, or falsity’ and also sometimes to express flattery.”  And, from Monsignor Fulton Sheen, “There is a world of difference between ‘Blarney’ and ‘baloney’.  Baloney is flattery laid on with a trowel.  Blarney is flattery laid on with the lips; that is why you have to kiss a stone to get it.”

Actually, the castle and its grounds are beautiful!  And they have the most interesting garden – a poison garden containing all sorts of poisonous plants – Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Ricin, Opium and Cannabis to name just a few.  But, the reason for stopping at this particular castle is yes – to kiss the Blarney stone.

And, it is quite the climb up narrow, steep steps to the top where you wait in a line before lying down on your back over an opening in the wall, then lean back, way back, and kiss the stone.  It is quite the production for the men on the wall as they tell you to “lie down, grab the rails, lean back, lean back, kiss, kiss, kiss, come on up now, love.”

Some people expressed fear and weren’t sure they would be able to do it but once you start the process you don’t think much about it because your orders were just barked out to you and the whole process took maybe 10 seconds!  So Kate and I both kissed the Stone of Eloquence – and bought the pictures to prove it!!!!  With a little bit of time left before we needed to be back on the bus we did some souvenir shopping at the conveniently located shops by the castle, boarded the bus and returned to Dublin.  We still had a little time to wander the city, revisiting Trinity College and seeing St. Patrick’s Cathedral before grabbing some dinner at a fish and chips shop right next to our apartment.

Once again, early in the morning we left the apartment and caught a public transportation bus to the airport.  Our guide two days earlier had told us we needed to be at the airport 3 hours early – he didn’t say why but fortunately we listened!  Dublin has you go through American customs and immigration there – which takes extra time!  Once through that line we relaxed at our gate and then were thrilled to get to ride back to Virginia in First Class!  20170517_114451

What a fabulous trip!  Castles and tea, Battenberg cakes and wool hats!  And lots and lots of walking – about 90,000 steps in 4 days!  No, we didn’t get to the Cliffs of Moher – we went north and south and east but not west –  maybe another time?!?!     So, what’s on your bucket list – where would you want to go if time and money weren’t an issue???  I’d love to know – just leave a comment below!

 

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Fatal Trust

41SOn7T9eLL._SS300_This book had more twists and turns than a roller coaster!  Seriously, several times I had to go back and reread different parts because I wondered how I had missed certain things!

The novel begins with a scene from the end of the book so from the get go the reader is wondering how mild Ian Connor could end up in a scene like that!  And then the author unravels the story, with bits from the past, and dreams, and even from the view points of different characters.  What a suspenseful novel – with hit men, armed robberies, shootings, etc.

I liked how this book was a clean suspenseful novel – no profanity or sex.  But I will say I was expecting there to be some mention of God, since the publisher is Bethany House, but I did not find any.  I do highly recommend Fatal Trust as a clean, suspenseful legal thriller but wouldn’t say it is Christian Fiction.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

The Author: Todd M. Johnson

Todd M. Johnson has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years. Todd’s passion for writing blends well with his legal career and his novels are drawn closely from his personal experiences as a trial lawyer.

A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, Todd taught for two years as an adjunct professor of International Law and has served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong.

The Deposit Slip, Johnson’s first novel, debuted in 2012. His second novel, Critical Reaction, was released in October 2013.

A third novel, Fatal Trust, is set in Todd’s hometown of Minneapolis.

EXCITING NEWS!!

I’m sure you are all waiting for days 3 and 4 of my Irish Adventure but you are going to have to wait a little longer because first I have some exciting news!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m going on a mission trip!!!!!!!!!

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Couldn’t wait any longer to say that!  Now to give you some background!  A few years ago, my daughter Rachel went to Peru on a medical missions trip.

Medical Ministry International Canada has expressed the good news of the gospel for over 40 years by caring for those who have little or no access to medical care. Medicine is ministry!

She was only a nursing student but she really enjoyed working with the people.  Now she is a nurse and wants to go back to use some of her training to help the people.  So, she got approval from her job exactly 1 week ago today to take 2 weeks of unpaid leave to go.

Since they not only need medical personnel, they also need a person to help with general stuff –  “General Helpers are crucial to the success of the project team, and the variety of needs that will arise may be many. Some examples of General Helpers’ tasks: registration, crowd control, assist in the pharmacy, serve in visual acuity, or pray with patients and show God’s love to those we serve.”   I’ll be that person!  Although I have sent my kids on numerous missions over the years, I have not personally been on one since I was in college so I am just so excited!

And nervous!  Did I mention that this trip is to Cusco, Peru – where the altitude is 11,000 feet and people frequently get altitude sickness there?  Or that it is an extreme trip – which means we will be hiking from village to village (did you see those mountains in the picture???).  Or that we are going in October – the rainy season!  I’m also excited because Cusco is also the city you have to travel through to get to Machu Picchu so we’ll get the chance to visit it too!

Both Rachel and John have said that I am not prepared for this trip – so I’m going to need to do some serious hiking between now and then.  I need hiking sticks and hiking boots and sock liners and … says my husband who has hiked in New Mexico.  I also need some shots!   I think I need a lot of prayer!!!!  And some hiking buddies!

So – if you want to hike with me – let me know!  If you want to pray for me and Rachel – let me know!  Want to give us some medicines (we have a list) or some gifts for the patients – let us know!  And lastly, if you’d like to partner with us in raising the revenues to go on this trip – let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the info if you want to donate and we are very appreciative of any amount!:

If you desire a tax receipt, you must send your donation to our American partner “I Care San Antonio” (ICSA)
➢ Mail with check: 1 Haven for Hope Way, Suite 200 San Antonio, TX, 78207 [501(c)3 non-profit tax ID: 74-2690192] Please make a detailed note (Example: MMI Peru Cusco Extreme October 2017 project – Kris or Rachel Markovich) designating the funds for MMI Canada project participation donation.
➢ Online with Credit card: http://www.icare-sa.org/global/ Select “Donate” button part way down the page on the left. Please fill in the “Purpose” (at the top in the blue box) Example: MMI Peru Cusco Extreme October 2017 project – Kris or Rachel Markovich. Enter your Name, credit card information, address, phone and email address.

The Captain’s Daughter

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It takes place in 1879 in London, mostly in the theater world.

London, 1879

Forced to Leave All She Loves Behind, She Seeks a New Life in a City Bursting with Opportunity, But Fraught with Danger

When a series of circumstances beyond her control leaves Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater putting on the most popular show in the city. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage. That is, as long as the shadows from her past don’t catch up with her.

After a hand injury forces Nate Moran from his army regiment in India, he returns home to London, a place that holds bitter memories. He agrees to fill in temporarily as a stagehand while his brother recuperates from a broken leg, but Nate is counting down the days until he can rejoin his regiment. His future is decided–until he meets a beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate yearns to leave behind.

Although I’ve read history about the Globe theater in Shakespeare’s day, I’d never read about the theater in a more “modern” time (just about 140 years ago!). I found the details about the shows fascinating as the theater was producing HMS Pinafore – a musical still known today. There’s a scene with Gilbert and Sullivan working out the details of their next show and words from some of the songs are in the book both of which getting me thinking of those tunes! A lot of the action revolves around backstage – costumes and lighting and sets as Rosalyn is hired first as a cleaning lady and then as a dresser and Nate is working as a stagehand. I also enjoyed the referencing to George Mueller’s orphanage and his beliefs/actions. I’ve heard of him, so to have his orphanage play a pivotal part in the lives of the characters and seeing how it influenced them really intrigued me.

There were just so many details of London life woven around a great story of love and forgiveness and the grace of God that I found this book captivating and look forward to reading the next one by this author, about Rosalyn’s sister Julia! I highly recommend it! I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

The Author: Jennifer Delamere

Jennifer Delamere

Jennifer Delamere’s debut Victorian romance, An Heiress at Heart, was a 2013 RITA award finalist in the inspirational category. Her follow-up novel, A Lady Most Lovely, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and the Maggie Award for Excellence from Georgia Romance Writers. Jennifer earned a BA in English from McGill University in Montreal, where she became fluent in French and developed an abiding passion for winter sports. She’s been an editor of nonfiction and educational materials for nearly two decades, and lives in North Carolina with her husband.

More Travel Adventures – Irish Castles!

Goodness, it’s been a month since our last adventure and Kate and I are just itching to go on another one but I realized this morning I never posted about last month’s quick trip to see Irish Castles!

First – I must thank my daughter Kate.  As you know, she is a flight attendant.  Well, the flight we wanted to get on was almost completely full with just one seat left.  So, she sat on a jump seat all the way to Ireland so I could get on that plane!  What a wonderful daughter!

Yes, we barely made it on the plane but we did, arriving in Dublin early on a Saturday morning.  Visitors Information at the airport was AMAZING!  We got our bus passes and then our agent called our castle (Clontarf Castle) and found out that we could check in early as our room was ready.  Hot showers are wonderfully reviving so in short order we were ready to tackle Dublin.

Using our bus passes we made our way into the heart of the city and to Trinity College.  Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth, it is in the heart of the city, is still a functioning school and has the famous Book of Kells, a 9th century illuminated manuscript of the 4 Gospels, there.  We saw the Book and the incredible, beautiful “Long Room” which holds over 200,000 old books.

After a quick caffeine break we continued walking, first to Grafton Street and a statue to Molly Malone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9Deeh9n-VI), the National Museum of Ireland (Natural History) which is best described as a zoo of dead animals and the National Museum of Ireland (Archelogy).  That final museum was just incredible – the building itself was built in 1890 and had beautiful mosaic floors and tiled doorways.

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We got to see the “bog” people – the extremely well preserved bodies found in the peat bogs of Ireland, some as old as from 2000BC.  (We discovered there that one of the bodies had his hair in the man bun style of today – so it’s not a new style really!). They also had free do-your-own brass rubbings.

By this time in the day though we were getting pretty tired so we bought some groceries for the next day and a huge chicken and cheese crepe to eat for dinner and we returned to Clontarf Castle (castle #1) to sleep!

The next morning, we left our castle and went to our humbler home-away-from-home, an AirBnB, stored our bags and then hopped on a train to Dalkey.  Dalkey Castle (castle #2) is in a lovely seaside town and we got a tour from costumed guides – you should have seen Kate’s face when our host swished a bit of “you rine” in his mouth to determine the humors of the blacksmith and to see if he was sick.

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Returning to Dublin, we found Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh calling us to see their art work in the National Gallery of Art!

 

 

 

 

 

But castles we came to see so next was Dublin Castle (castle #3) – where we could see the original fortifications which are now underground as well as the beautiful chapel and ornate state apartments.

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With a little more time left in the viewing day, we made our way to Christ Church Cathedral which is a massive Gothic church.

For dinner that night we had decided to splurge and go to Celtic Nights – an Irish dancing show with dinner and music.  Our dinner was fabulous and the show wonderful!  It was quite the late night for us though – the show ended at 10:30 and then we still had to walk home.  Yes, we certainly were getting our steps in on this trip!  (I averaged almost 22,000 per day!).

We still had 2 more days left in Ireland – but that will be a post for another day!

Wow! Great finish for a fabulous series!

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Women of Unfailing Conviction

Virginia, 1864

Therese Jennings cannot abide the thought of owning slaves. When her widowed mother inherits a plantation, Therese flees to Civil War Richmond, where she works as a governess by day and tends to wounded soldiers at night. But when trouble befalls her family, can she reconcile her obligations with her beliefs? And will love—whether with an old beau or a handsome new suitor—ever fit in her broken world?

Virginia, present day

Nicole Talbot’s life is back on track after years of substance abuse. Home from college for the summer, she’s finally ready to share a shocking secret, one that raises new questions about a traumatic childhood experience. But when facts she uncovers cast doubt on her family’s legacy, she must risk all that she’s gained—her fresh start, her family’s trust, and her growing relationship with a new man—to unlock the secrets of the past.

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From the Christy Award-winning team of Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould comes a thrilling tale of two women longing to follow God’s leading, make the most of second chances, and find true love at last.

 

Wow!  Third book in the cousins of the Dove series and they just keep getting better!  This one stars Nicole in present day Richmond, Virginia (she is the youngest of the 4 Talbot cousins) and Therese Jennings in Civil War Richmond.  I thought it was neat that both young women often were at the same location but over a 100-year difference in time, which not only affected the topography of the location but also their attitudes.  Once again, the authors beautifully weave a story flowing back and forth from the past to the present, often using old photographs to connect them.

I truly love this series and am only bummed knowing that this is the conclusion.  I enjoy learning different aspects of American history but also reading about different contemporary issues – as well as the wonderful romances and mystery!  In this book, the authors bring in some notable Civil War leaders, showing their humanity.  Therese finds that although the rumors were that one highly positioned wife treated people harshly, she hadn’t seen that the night she reflected on.  She reminisced that everyone, herself “included, was capable of doing good or bad.  She’d like to think that it simply came down to one’s choices, but she feared, as with Mother, that perhaps it became more complicated than that as one aged.  She sincerely hoped she’d take the moral high road and she guessed that marrying a man of principle would help her do so.”

Great book, Mindy and Leslie!  I loved it and highly, highly recommend it!  I had my bookclub read the first in the series and now many are looking forward to reading this one!  I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher to help promote it. No review was required but I am freely writing one. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I also want to say I loved the previous 2 books – My Brother’s Crown and My Sister’s Prayer!  But I am highlighting this book because it technically comes out on July 1!

 

The Authors:

Mindy Starns Clark is the bestselling author of more than 20 books, both fiction and nonfiction, with over a million copies sold. Mindy and her husband, John, have two adult children and live in Pennsylvania. www.mindystarnsclark.com

Leslie Gould, a former magazine editor, is the author of numerous novels, including Beyond the Blue and Garden of Dreams. She received her master of fine arts degree from Portland State University and lives in Oregon with her husband, Peter, and their four children. http://www.lesliegould.com

With You Always

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Could Following the Opportunity of a Lifetime Cost Them the Love of Their Lives?

One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.

Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.

Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?

Over the years I’ve seen many stories about the orphan trains – but never one about the women who were sent from New York on those same trains to work and populate the Midwest towns. The author, Jodi Hedlund, does such a phenomenal job of bringing the past to life, with all its difficulties, in a way that just keeps me wanting to read more.

One of the many things I loved in this book was the portrayal of the young adults – they really are only teenagers having to make life changing decisions – and even though, on one hand they may seem mature, they don’t always make the wisest of decisions!  Elise Newman is a young German immigrant who came to the United States with her parents and siblings. Unfortunately, her parents died, their children became homeless, and, at the start of the book, have just found shelter in the new Seventh Street Mission. But with the economic collapse of 1857 they need to figure something else out – a way to make a living honorably, so Elise heads out west. Wealthy Thornton Quincy is building a town on the railway and needs workers and Elise is sent to his town. But what men were paid and what women were paid were very different. When Elise complains about the wages, calling it “slave labor”, and “A job that will kill me before I can pay off my debts” she is told by Quincy’s assistant that it is a job and “Any number of women out east would trade places with you in an instant if given the chance.” So how can Thornton Quincy build the town, pay fair wages and yet make the money his father expects him to?

I really loved the ending of this story – but I won’t tell it – and also the historical facts Jodi gives at the end in the author’s note – “In September of 1857, estimates of New York unemployment ran as high as forty percent. Female employment was cut by almost half. With prostitution already a main source of income for many women, the recession drove even more to taking desperate measures, and the number of women in prison rose as well.” What a difficult time to be a woman. The author’s hope is “to give readers a glimpse into the disadvantage of women during this era by showing Elise Neumann’s struggle in New York and the heartache and problems that arose after she left her family behind so that she might start a new life in the Midwest.” I think Jodi Hedlund does a remarkable job of giving that glimpse! I look forward to reading the next book as she also says she’ll “be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspectives of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it! I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher to help promote it. No review was required but I am freely writing one. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

The Author:  Jody HedlundJody

Winner of the 2016 Christian Book Award and finalist for the Christy Awards, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults. She is the author of over a dozen novels, including Love Unexpected, Captured by Love, Unending Devotion, The Preacher’s Bride, and A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award for historical romance. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog at http://www.jodyhedlund.com.