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

 

20170515_113554

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)

20170515_134711 (2)

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.

20170516_092745.jpg

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!

 

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!!!!!!!!!

cusco1-1024x768

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.

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.

20170513_161847

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.

20170514_124226

20170514_134954

 

 

 

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.

20170514_155222

20170514_164832

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!

Was it a dream?

Was it all a dream?? Last week my daughter Kate and I flew from Washington Dulles to Frankfurt, Germany. She is a flight attendant so our flights don’t cost much and we were ready for an ADVENTURE! And adventure we had – albeit a whirlwind one which is why now I wonder if it was just a dream!

Since we fly standby and an earlier flight to Frankfurt had been cancelled that day, we wondered if we would even make it on the flight – but we did and we even got to sit next to each other which was nice as we tried to make ourselves comfortable enough on a long trip overnight. Landing in Germany around noon, our first stop (besides the WC – otherwise known as the ladies’ room) was Hertz – time to get a rental car. I had requested the cheapest available car – but alas, they didn’t have a standard shift and gave us an automatic after we waited ½ hour. So soon we were on our way to Stuttgart – just a 3-hour drive with lots of traffic on a rainy day in a foreign country with little sleep the night before (can you see how fast I’m driving?)! But with Kate navigating and me driving we made it without problems.

Kdrive (002)  IMG_5710

Dinner was waiting for us when we arrived at my friend Ali’s house so we were able to eat, go for a walk and finally go to sleep in a nice comfy bed! The next morning, we arose bright and early and set off for our adventure – going to POLAND! It was a long drive (in the rain – again) but fun because we chatted and chatted for hours about everything (and Ali’s daughter was happy because Kate’s IPad delivered show after show of Flea Market Flipit). IMG_5759

IMG_5752

At long last we arrived in Boleslawiec, Poland and the Polish Pottery shops. There was so much to see – and buy! Shop after shop! Pattern after Pattern! What did I need  – or more accurately – want! With the tiny car filling out, our bellies saying they were hungry and the stores closing, it was time to get some dinner.

20170428_145335            20170428_160501

 

 

Yes, Italian food was our choice in Poland! Restauracja Giovanna 20170428_190401.jpgserved great pizza, pasta, salad and dessert! We had all of that, and fries, for just $18 for the two of us! And it was a beautiful restaurant – although the service was a little (a lot) slow!!

 

But then. We went to our home away from home – our Polish Palace. Elim Christian Center ( http://elimcenter.pl/) was established in 1992 in Lwowek Slaski, Poland. There an Australian couple bought a ruined, 450-year-old palace (it was built in 1550 by the Von Talkennberg’s) to provide a base for their ministry to the needy, the poor and the handicapped in that region of Poland. One of the women, Judy, who serves there used to be in the US Army before she (long story) eventually married a Polish man and now they and a few others run the mission and live in the palace. Anyway, we were so blessed to be able to stay there in a beautiful room with the most comfortable beds!

20170429_081827

20170429_085614

20170429_083604

20170429_081640(That’s Kate in front of our little Citroen).

The next morning I had some tea in our little breakfast nook before the others joined me for a yummy cold pizza breakfast. We then had the pleasure of getting a quick tour around the mission – seeing the dining room, the clothing room and the nativity room (they have Polish women sew 6” nativity figures with each lady sewing only the one character and then they put them all together and sell them, bringing an income to the ladies. We were able to get 2 boxes/sets of them in the car to take back to be sold at the base in Germany).20170429_081002

And then we sadly departed from our Polish Palace, returning to the pottery shops for “just one more thing!” which, without saying, turned into several quickly purchased items before we were on our merry (long) way back to Germany. 20170429_090805There we spent the night, repacked our suitcases with all our Polish pottery, made the return trip back to Frankfurt and then flew home! Okay, we had our worst moments trying to find a gas station to fill the car up once we got back to the airport and then we discovered an earlier flight had been cancelled so now our flight was totally full and we just barely made it on the plane – did I mention that we fly standby so we never really know if we’ll make it on the plane?  But we made it on the plane and every single piece of the pottery made it home safely as well!

We had such a wonderful adventure – we left on Wednesday night and were back in our own beds Sunday night. We bought pottery, spent the night in a palace, drove the autobahn and just enjoyed the adventure! Can’t wait to travel again! But such a fast adventure leaves me wondering if it really was a dream!  Except the pottery sitting on my kitchen table reminds me that it happened!

20170501_173825