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Vacations

Ireland – It’s Intrigue is Irresistibly Interesting: Wildlife

Well, I hope you were convinced by my last post that Fota Island, in Ireland’s County Cork, is irresistibly interesting. But if you are still unsure, I have another intriguing surprise! Fota Island has a wild side!

Wildlife and Whisky

I have read this slogan more than once, in correlation with Fota Island. I can’t say that I experienced the whisky part. But I did enjoy the wildlife. And on a workday! Does it get any better than that?

Fota Wildlife Park

“Fota Wildlife Park is a 100-acre wildlife park located on Fota Island, near Carrigtwohill, County Cork, Ireland. Opened in 1983, it is an independently funded, not-for-profit charity that is one of the leading tourism, wildlife and conservation attractions in Ireland.”

Wikipedia

Our colleagues, who live and work in Cork, arranged a team-building event for us at Fota Wildlife Park. We were divided into 3 groups and given a list of tasks to complete for points. I had the best group, just sayin’.

We did not win. In fact, halfway through, we realized we were so far behind there was no possible path to victory. Not in the challenge anyway. So, we decided to enjoy the wildlife. And in my book, that was a winning decision.

Instead of scanning information boards for trivia answers, we took the time to read and learn. While other teams were running past animals which weren’t on the task map, we stopped to see them. We had real conversations and got to know one another.

Giraffes
The giraffes were so curious! They came so close to us that I had to step back to get them in the frame.

We had the best strategy. It was proven to me afterwards when people from the other two teams asked me to send my photos of the animals to them, because they hadn’t had time to take any.

A red panda.
Isn’t this red panda adorable? Don’t you just want one?

Even with three hours spent mostly not competing, I didn’t see everything. This could be an-all day adventure! The park is unexpectedly large.

A lion in a large enclosure
This lion was behind a glass partition, thankfully, because he was only a couple feet away!

“And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:25 (emphasis mine)

Fota Wildlife Park is the kind of place scientists, like myself and my colleagues, love. The animals are given space, and very natural habitats. But the pens aren’t so big that you can’t find or watch the wildlife inside.

If I ever get back to Fota Island, I will plan a whole day at the Wildlife Park. And I will take my husband. I know he would enjoy it.

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”

Isaiah 11:6

I think, maybe, I’m reading into God’s Word and making it say what I want to hear, but… Is it too much of a stretch to think we might be able to cuddle a red panda in the presence of Jesus some day? Just some food for thought.

Do you find the red panda as irresistible as I do? Is the Fota Wildlife Park a place you’d visit if you planned a vacation to Ireland? Have you already been there? Or to any other wildlife park? Which animals intrigue you when you go to the zoo?

Curious how this Ireland trip came about?
Click here for the introduction post.

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Vacations

Ireland – It’s Intrigue is Irresistibly Interesting: Fota Island

Ok! Are you ready for Fota Island? That is where our taxi was headed at the end of the last post.

It took about twenty minutes to drive to Fota Island. Like everything else I’d experienced in Ireland, I found it to be incredibly interesting. Its intrigue was entirely different than that of Cork City Centre.

(Click any photo to see it larger)

Map of Southern Ireland
It took us about 20 minutes by taxi to reach Fota Island from Cork City Centre.

The Island

Fota Island was green and lush. There were feathery tree tunnels, melodic bird songs, red squirrels, and very few buildings. It was tranquil and peaceful, and the pace felt very relaxed.

Green on both sides of a waterway.
Fota Island across the water. The greenery of Ireland often reminded me of a living patchwork quilt.
Leaves and branches
The branches and leaves of many trees intertwined high overhead, creating a canopy.

I was excited and a bit uneasy about meeting up with my co-workers since I’ve been working remotely for several months. But Fota Island was an amazing antidote for my nerves. Surrounded by its live, growing, oxygen-producing, botanical beauty, I felt calm – even reassured.

The Fota Island Resort

The Hotel

When we arrived at the Fota Island Resort Hotel, it appeared they’d rolled out the red carpet for us! It was just our impeccable timing; we got the welcome prepared for the guests of a high-profile wedding. We walked in hurriedly, reveling in the moment and feeling celebratory for the bride and groom.

An entry decorated with a red carpet.
A red carpet welcome! We got to enjoy it, even if it wasn’t rolled out for us.

Our room at the hotel was nice. The bathroom was especially grand. Our view, though, was my favorite. I pretty much always hear the call of the outdoors, and Ireland is just irresistible.

A view of a hillside out a window.
Something about that patchwork of green just begged me to relax and breathe!

I spent the next two days in meetings. My mornings were spent at our Cork office, and the afternoons in one of the hotel’s board rooms. It was nice to see the colleagues I worked alongside daily in California. It was a blessing to meet the faces behind the voices from our east coast and European sites.

The Fairy Trail

While I was occupied with business, my husband studied (always the student!) and got well acquainted with the hotel gym. He also explored the resort grounds so he could treat me to highlights in the evenings. My favorite of his shared discoveries was the Fairy Trail.

The Fairy Trail is a walking path with tiny doors and huts placed in the trees. It is a scavenger hunt, of sorts. I imagine it would be a wonderful spark for a child’s imagination.

Little doors on a tree.
Such adorable detail!
Door and hut decorations on a fallen log.
Look up, look down, and then keep searching all around!
A fairy door on a log with mushrooms.
This Fairy dwelling is complete with toad stools on top! My grandma used to tell me that fairies danced under mushrooms, which she called toad stools. Ah, childhood!
Tiny homes on a sideways tree trunk.
These Fairies have tiny homes on the tree instead of in it. If you look closely, you can see a butterfly on the far-right arch, giving perspective as to just how tiny fairy homes are!

The Golf Course

The resort’s golf course was beautiful too. We don’t play much golf, but we did enjoy walking the trail alongside it. We had dinner one night in the club house restaurant.

A green golf course with trees.
The gorgeous Fota Island Resort golf course.
A statue with flowers.
The Fota Island Golf Club. The restaurant is in the building on the right.
Small bottle of coke.
The sodas were tiny in Ireland. Much more appropriately portioned, I’m sure, than a US big gulp!

The Intrigue

I will leave you with a couple more photos, which I took on the resort grounds. I’m sure you will agree that the intrigue of Fota Island is vastly different than Cork City Center, and yet just as incredibly interesting.

Trees with fall colors
Fall in Ireland
Fountain of elephants blowing water from their trunks.
Playful fountain near the hotel’s front entrance.

Fota Island also holds a wild and unexpected surprise, which I will show you next time! I hope you’ll come back for that. Until then, know that you are precious, and loved by your Creator, and deemed more extravagant to Him than all the intrigue of Ireland and even the universe!

“What is man that You remember him,
or the son of man that You care for him?
You crowned him with glory and honor
and subjected everything under his feet.”

Hebrews 2:6, 8

Curious how this Ireland trip came about?
Click here for the introduction post.

Categories
Vacations

Ireland – It’s Intrigue is Irresistibly Interesting: Doolin and Bunratty

Welcome back, my friends! And if you’re just joining in this Ireland series, we’re currently on a Paddywagon bus tour. You can catch up, beginning here, if you like.

We left the exquisite Cliffs of Moher and drove into the quaint little coastal town of Doolin for lunch. Our driver, Aidan, was born and raised on this irresistibly interesting island of intrigue, so we wholeheartedly trusted his pub choice. We instantly adored the seaside village of Doolin and looked forward to stopping at Bunratty castle after our meal!

Gus O’Connor’s Pub was warm and inviting, a contrast to the stormy weather outside. It had a dim, cozy, old-timey feel. It was bursting with patrons, even before our bus arrived. It is always a good sign when the locals line up to eat somewhere, right?

A man standing in front of a pub
Gus O’Connor’s pub looks intriguing from the front, but inside, it was even more interesting! The original, antiquated space still existed, but there were several nooks that appeared to have been added through the years.

I had been craving fish and chips and this seaside pub seemed like a good place to order it. My husband had the salmon and we enjoyed both of our choices very much! A beautiful latte finished our meal. Oh, my goodness, yum! If you’re ever in Doolin, Ireland, please treat yourself at Gus O’Connor’s Pub.

Two plates of food
Amazing food at Gus O’Connor’s Pub. We noticed the Irish like to mash many of their veggies. My fish and chips came with a pea mash, which was very tasty, reminiscent of split pea soup. Michael’s salmon plate included a carrot mash and a potato mash.
A latte with an Irish biscuit.
A latte with a decorative cocoa finish that reminded me of “hot cross buns”.
A bathroom sign pointing to the left.
This sign was on the wall next to our table, directing patrons to a hallway behind us. It made me laugh out loud!

After lunch we ran through the rain and got back on the Paddywagon bus. On the way to Bunratty castle, Aidan took us by the Burren. Some people went out to explore, but it was dangerously blustery out there, on the slippery rocks, so my husband and I decided to stay on the bus. Here is what Google has to say about the area.

“The Burren is a region of County Clare in the southwest of Ireland. It’s a karst landscape of bedrock incorporating a vast cracked pavement of glacial-era limestone, with cliffs and caves, fossils, rock formations and archaeological sites. On the Atlantic coast, the precipitous Cliffs of Moher are home to thousands of seabirds, including puffins. Nearby Doolin village is a renowned centre for traditional Irish music.”

Google

I must admit something. Maybe I fell prey to Disney’s magic as a small child, but I thought a castle was the home of a king and queen. I assumed they were so numerous on the small and intriguing island of Ireland, because, at one time, it was settled by many Celtic clans, each with its own head, or kingly figure.

So, I was astounded to learn that the castles in Ireland were erected as fortresses of war, not spaces for regal living. They were placed strategically for defense and built for protection. Did you know that? Am I the only one who had castles and palaces intermingled?

Once I learned that, I was even more interested in seeing Bunratty castle. We did not have time to tour inside. If I ever go back, I’d love to do that.

But we did walk all the way around. It was massive! It was raining hard, so we didn’t linger too long. Have you ever been inside? If so, please tell me about it!

A selfie of a couple with Bunratty Castle in the background.
One side of Bunratty Castle. It is amazing to me that, unless the raindrops are on the camera lens, they don’t show up in photos. Peep the Cliffs of Moher beanie on my handsome husband! Also, forgive me – I don’t know if I’ve ever taken a flattering selfie. I need to learn from many of you!
A castle behind a rock wall.
The front of Bunratty Castle, as close as we could get without an entry ticket.
A castle and cloudy sky.
What a visual!
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Psalm 18:2

There was a marketplace across the street from the castle. We quickly browsed a few shops, wondering what to bring home to our kids. We would wonder that all week. The only thing we couldn’t resist was the aroma of coffee from the chocolate shop.

Hands holding a coffee cup and two chocolates.
My husband and I couldn’t be more different in our choice of chocolates, but we share coffee perfectly. He likes his extra hot and I like mine warm. He drinks the first half and then hands it over to me! God knew what He was doing when He put us together, didn’t He?

We boarded our Paddywagon bus for the last time and chatted with Aidan for most of the rainy drive back to Cork. Aidan owned a tour bus company, which he sold when he retired. Paddywagon was short drivers, and he loves showing people around his country, so he went back to work.

We enjoyed his company and learned so much from him. Writing about him has prompted me to pray for him. Will you join me?

It was still pouring when the Paddywagon pulled back into Cork city centre around 6pm. Aidan suggested a dinner spot across the street from where he dropped us off, called Son of a Bun. We decided not to try it, but if I ever return, it is on my list. I mention it so it can be on yours too!

We walked several blocks back to our hotel and got drenched all over again. As I heard many times, you don’t visit Ireland for the great weather! We dried off and cleaned up before heading down to the restaurant in the lobby for a beautiful meal. If you’re thinking we ate a lot, you’re not wrong.

What a day! Ireland was irresistibly interesting in its intrigue. We thoroughly enjoyed Doolin and Bunratty Castle. Thank you so much for revisiting them with me in this post!

Curious how this Ireland trip came about?
Click here for the introduction post.

Categories
Vacations

Ireland – It’s an Irresistibly Interesting Island of Intrigue: Arrival!

We arrived at the airport in Cork, Ireland just after 3pm. My watch, which is not smart, indicated it was 7am Arizona time. We’d been awake, with only a catnap or two on the plane, for over 25 hours.

Was Ireland irresistibly interesting enough to keep us alert? We hoped to stay intrigued until evening, get a full night’s sleep and wake up on Irish time. The best laid plans, right?

Click to enlarge any photo.

A map of Ireland with an arrow pointed at Cork
Cork is in the southern part of Ireland. Can you see the gold arrow?

It started well. The Cork airport was conveniently sized, and baggage collection was simple. The taxi we hailed gave us our first ride in a Tesla! I loved the clear roof, which allowed us to see more of the beauty around us.

Cows grazing in a grassy field
View of the Irish countryside near the Cork airport. See the cows? We learned that agriculture is the #1 industry in Ireland.

And I had to focus on that view, because the driver was (in this American’s experience) on the wrong side of the car and driving on the wrong side of the road. He (rightly) went left at the many round-a-bouts, and I was unnerved. I was extremely thankful for him, though, because if I’d had to rent a car and drive, I would have been an absolute wreck!

The rolling green hills, with the grazing cows and fluffy sheep, reminded me of a verse. It stuck the phrase “cattle on a thousand hills” in my mind. I had to look it up.

“for every animal of the forest is mine,
    and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine.”

~God, Psalm 50:10, 11

We arrived at our hotel, a beautiful building by the water. We entered the lobby which was different than hotel lobbies I’ve seen. There was no desk, only a series of podiums. There was no line, just a throng of people.

Are you ok?

Eventually, one of the employees behind a podium made eye contact with us and said, “Are you OK?” We were to be asked this question many times during our stay in Ireland, and we came to understand it to be equivalent to our typical question, “May I help you?”

We told her we would like to check in. She asked for our name and handed us a key. That was it! No checking of ID, collection of credit card number, asking about vehicles, children, or pets, or reading of rights.

We weren’t sure if we were fully checked in, but our agent was done with us. She made eye contact with someone else and inquired, “Are you OK?” in their direction. We took our key and headed to the elevator, which they call the “lift”.

A sign inside an elevator
“Lift” is quicker to say than “Elevator”, but “Bedroom” seems less convenient than “Room”!

We left our bags in our “bedroom” (not just “room”, as I’m accustomed to saying) and went to find food. There was a cheerful spot, with energetic music, on the waterway just outside. We decided to try it.

After a tasty meal, we went to explore. We were in, what I would call, “Downtown Cork”. They called it “Cork City Centre”. We walked for about an hour.

Irish street sign
The street signs were on corner buildings, not on poles. I was lost and confused until I figured that out.

We found the main street through the city centre, called “St. Patrick’s Quay”. (‘Quay’ is pronounced ‘KEY’.) We admired the buildings and the sky. We listened to the intriguing accents of the people hurrying by.

We walked along the River Lee. Don’t you just love that? Many things in Ireland are called by their designation and then their name.

I imagined trumpeters when I read the signs. “Do-do-do-do!” (Read trumpet sounds) “Announcing the River Lee! And County Clare, and the River Shannon!” So Regal!

A river and sky
River Lee runs through Cork city center.

We got back to our room about 7pm and that was it. We couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. But Cork was calling, and its intrigue got the better of us by 3am. We’d slept 8 hours and we were wide awake!

We figured the town would start to stir at 5ish, so we headed out then. We were about to have an unexpected adventure. If you’ve ever been to Ireland, your thoughts might have already arrived on our folly. God had me primed to learn an irresistibly interesting lesson. I hope you’ll join me next time so I can tell you all about it!

Curious how this Ireland trip came about?
Click here for the introduction post.

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Questions

A Relatable Predicament

A fish with a hook in its mouth
Can anyone relate?
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Reflections

Flee Or Fail: One Lesson To Be Learned From This Beautiful Buck

This is Buck. It’s not an overly creative name, I realize, but that is what I call him. Isn’t he beautiful? God taught me a relevant lesson when Buck failed to flee. It happened like this…

My husband and I were out on a trail. We came around a tree and saw Buck standing only a few feet away. He froze. We froze.

This has happened many times. I don’t think I’ve seen Buck before, but there have been other deer. Typically, they freeze, we freeze, and then I move for my camera. As soon as they see my motion, they flee.

A buck posing perfectly still.
Buck froze and stared. So did we. But even when we moved, he did not, except to follow us with his eyes.

I’ve never had a deer stand for a portrait until we happened upon Buck. When I moved toward my camera, he wasn’t fazed. To use my husband’s term, he just kept mad-doggin’ us. I took photos to my heart’s content.

Finally, we tired of the staring game and slowly started to walk away. Buck didn’t move, except to follow us with his eyes. When we resumed talking, even our voices didn’t scare him away.

Once home, my husband posted my photos and there were many responses. These are not exact quotes, but the sentiments were akin to the following.

  1. Oh the wonder of God’s Creation!
  2. What a beautiful buck!
  3. Look at that velveteen rack!
  4. He looks to be in his prime!
  5. Wow, where was your shotgun?
  6. Look at the meat on that boy!
  7. That head would look great on the wall!

Some people valued him as a beautiful living creation. Some saw a sporting challenge. Others desired what they could take from him.

And God began to speak to my heart.

Buck didn’t know us. He had no idea what our intentions were. He should have fled.

Lucky for him, we were in awe of His beauty. We appreciated the opportunity to study him. We marveled in the splendor of His creator.

We did not intend to harm him. But Buck couldn’t have known that. Why did he fail to flee?

A buck in a clearing.
This photo looks just like the others, you say? Yep – that is because Buck did not move! Even as we walked away and resumed our conversation.

What was he thinking? Was he feeling strong, in the prime of his life? Had he placed his confidence in his impressive antlers? Had he simply grown accustomed to danger?

I don’t know. But I have to admit that sometimes I am over confident like Buck. God has told me to flee from certain situations and, at times, I am prone to linger and stare instead.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, [wo]man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness”

1 Corinthians 6:10, 11 [Brackets mine]

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”

1 Corinthians 6:18

“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”

1 Corinthians 10:14

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

2 Timothy 2:22

God has told me to flee. The devil desires to destroy me. And sometimes I feel strong enough to stand and stare him down. In my arrogance, I expose myself to danger.

I shot Buck several times. Thankfully, I was only carrying a camera. If I’d been hunting, he would have been easy prey. God used him as a warning in my life.

My takeaways, beyond the beauty of the impressive creature were these.

  1. Don’t be like Buck. Don’t mad-dog a predator.
  2. The defensive tools God has given for my defense may not support my defiance.
  3. As strong I think I am, I can’t even conceive of the weapons my adversary might use against me.
  4. No reason for staying put is worth the risk. When God says flee, I need to do so immediately.

Even if I withstand Satan’s most tempting suggestions, I still sin if I fail to flee.

As Christians, don’t we sometimes get caught up in wanting to prove our spirituality? Doesn’t it feel more “studly” to stare down the enemy and make it out unscathed? To say we battled the devil sounds much more admirable than saying we ran away from him.

But it isn’t about us. It isn’t about the stories we live to tell. It is about God. It is about our obedience. He told us to flee. When we don’t, we fail. Simple as that.

You may be thinking, “but God gave us preeminence” and “there is power in the mighty name of Jesus”. I had those same rationalizations running through my head. But isn’t that what Satan does – gives us scripture out of context? It worked on Eve, but it did not tempt Jesus.

Yes, the Spirit of God in us has authority. But we aren’t walking in the Spirit when we’re being disobedient. God told us to flee.

If the enemy gives chase, we may have to engage, with every piece of spiritual armor we’ve been given. But that is another topic entirely.

What an amazing God! He taught a relevant lesson through this beautiful buck. Have you been standing a little too still, my deer friends? (Pun intended.) What have you been mad-doggin’ that you should have run from long ago? Don’t fail to obey any longer. It is time to turn and flee!