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Vacations

Ireland – It’s Intrigue is Irresistibly Interesting: Wrap-Up

My friends! You have traveled to Ireland and back with me. I am incredibly grateful for your companionship and conversation along the way!

There are 5 things which did not fit into my stories, and I wanted to share them with you in this wrap-up post. These are items of intrigue which stood out; some because they were irresistibly interesting, others because they struck a chord of importance. But I’m including this first one because it simply made me laugh.

1. Toilets

This trip to Ireland was my first journey outside of North America. I am used to signs that say “Restroom”. Most of the time, what we find inside is anything but restful. In Ireland, they call it what it is. The signs say “Toilets”.

A bathroom sign pointing to the left.
This sign made me laugh out loud!

I shared the above photo in my post about Doolin and Bunratty, but I did not expand further into the toilet situation. Has anyone ever left the seat up without your knowledge and you sat, unsuspectingly, on the cold, thin rim of the bowl?

Well, that is how I found the toilets in Ireland. Here is a photo from our incredibly well-appointed bathroom at the Fota Resort hotel.

Notice also that the toilet is hung on the wall, not anchored to the ground. The thin seat and unsure mooring made these Americans kind of squat and lean, more than sit, so as not to fall in or worry about it falling off. They were not comfortable, but the toilets did give us several good chuckles. If you’ve been to Ireland, please tell me you have similar stories!

2. Coffee

Coffee differs from country to country in Europe. My husband went to Paris, many years ago, and has raved about their stiff, dark coffee ever since. We’ve done our best to make coffee at home to rival what he tasted there.

Heading to Ireland, I thought I was going to get a similar experience. But that was an incorrect expectation. We never found a strong cup of coffee there. And believe me, we taste tested everywhere we went!

A cup of coffee with whipped cream
A latte we enjoyed in Cork City Center. Consisting mostly of milk and whipped cream, it was very different from the lattes I make at home.

Irish coffee, even their espresso, is weaker than what we are used to. They add a lot more milk. And if you consent to sweetness, you may want to prepare for a very indulgent treat!

3. Black Currants

My husband receives a daily email with interesting facts. Shortly before we left for Ireland, he read one aloud to me. It was about black currants.

Apparently, they grow profusely in Ireland. At one time, they were outlawed in the US because black currant plants encourage the growth of a fungus which kills pine trees. And pine was necessary for building.

It was determined, relatively recently, that black currant shrubs can safely coincide with pine trees, if there is 1000 feet of separation. They have been allowed back into our soil, but they are not a major factor in our agricultural scene.

A jar of jam.
Black currants taste like a cross between blackberries and blueberries. They pack a flavorful punch for such tiny berries.

Having read this, and being curious, we sought black currant things in Ireland. We tasted different items, but our favorite was the jam. We brought home a large jar for us, and several little ones as gifts. If you ever have the chance, do yourself a favor and try something flavored with black currants.

4. Business Hours

In a previous post, I wrote about the Sunday business hours in Cork City Centre. Most of the shops opened later than expected, and some didn’t open at all. But Sunday wasn’t the only day we noticed the business hours in Ireland.

We walked up to several interesting stores, only to find them closed. This happened at all hours on any given day. As we’re accustomed to doing in the US, we looked for posted business hours. We found none.

The Irish obviously have better habits for work/life balance than Americans. They were happy to serve us when they were open; if they weren’t, it seemed they had something better to do. And they were often doing whatever that was, in the middle of what we would consider ‘normal’ business hours. By not posting their hours, they promised nothing, and it was on us if we were disappointed.

5. Castles and Cathedrals

This last item in my wrap-up is the most important. It is a spiritual picture which God painted for me in awe-inspiring, incredibly grand detail. If you remember only one thing from this series, remember this!

The effort you put into your spiritual well-being is every bit as important as how well you protect yourself physically. Maybe more so.

God, to Mama Lava, to you

God showed me this truth using castles and cathedrals. Through the windows of the Paddywagon, taxi, or train, I couldn’t tell the difference between a castle and a cathedral in the distance. Both were amazing feats of effort and architecture.

Up close, if I noticed any difference, the cathedrals may have been more ornate and spectacular. Both castles and cathedrals in Ireland were astounding. And I heard God challenge me.

Do I, do we, put as much effort into our spiritual strongholds as we do our physical protection?

A castle in the rain
Bunratty castle.

Irish castles were built for physical protection, and they are impressive! I think we also go to great lengths to fortify our safety. We have alarm systems, security guards, laws with enforcement, and locks on our doors and windows.

A stone building with spires and windows.
St. Coleman’s Cathedral

Irish cathedrals were built to invite people into a spiritual haven. And it is mind-blowing what amazing effort was put into the endeavor. Do we have similar practices?

“Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.”

Psalm 25:20

Do we take the time to bolster and beautify our spiritual lives? How? Do we fortify and protect ourselves, spiritually, from the elements outside? Do we stand confident and strong, inviting others into the peace we have inside?

Wrap-up

And with that, I wrap up this series about Ireland. Thank you, my dear friend, for traveling with me to the end! I hope you enjoyed the irresistibly interesting island of intrigue as you’ve read along. I have been grateful for your company and touched by your grace!

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: Flight Home

They say all good things must come to an end. I suppose it is true. But what “they” don’t dare tell you, is how messy that end can be!

Anticipating the Flight Home

Ireland was irresistibly interesting and kept us incredibly intrigued for 7 days. We woke up early Saturday morning anticipating the flight home. We checked out of our hotel and were the first in line when the restaurant opened for breakfast.

The taxi came to take us to the airport. It’s hard to describe how I felt. I was excited to be heading home. I looked forward to my own bed and the familiarity of my things. I also lamented (is that too strong a word?) leaving the beauty and adventure of Ireland.

Aer Lingus apparatus at the airport.
I adore the Aer Lingus shamrock logos on all their apparatus. This was the plane that took us from Cork to London.

Airport websites say to arrive three hours ahead of an international flight. So, we did. But Cork’s airport is incredibly convenient and it was more time than we needed.

Rushing for the Flight Home

Too bad we couldn’t bank that time! Because when we landed at Heathrow, we barely had enough. We rushed through the huge, intimidating airport as fast as we could, and arrived at the gate just in time. Our plane was already boarding.

Michael and I did not sit together, as my company had purchased one ticket and we had purchased the other separately. So, I will speak for myself from here on out. I arrived at my seat, out of breath, and overwhelmed.

But this was the flight home. I had no more connections to worry about. Just 10 hours in the air to endure.

The plane doors closed, the engines revved, and the air grew stuffy. I’m not sure why that happens but it seems the fresh air doesn’t start flowing until the plane is in the air. Is that something you’ve experienced also?

Side and wing of a British Airways airplane.
I snapped this quick photo from the passenger loading bridge at Heathrow. This is the plane that took us from London to Phoenix.

Flight Home, Delay #1

We were set for take off. Except we didn’t. Finally, the captain came over the speaker and said we were delayed waiting for a passenger who was injured on the escalator. He would update us once a medical team could assess the situation.

We’d been sitting for almost an hour by the time the captain came on again and told us a medical team was arriving on scene. I had three thoughts:

  1. This airport is too big! Even emergency medical personnel can’t get where they need to be in a respectable amount of time.
  2. That could easily have been us, as we rushed to make our connection.
  3. The injury must not be too bad if tending to it could wait this long.

Eventually, the door opened, and a passenger boarded. There were no visible signs of injury. I guess all my thoughts were correct.

We taxied to the runway and took off. We’d already been sitting for over an hour. We had 10 more to go. I squirmed thinking about it!

Flying Home

Time went backward as I sat in that capsule flying home. It is disorienting enough to enter a plane on one continent and exit it on a whole different one, but going through so many time zones adds another surreal element to it all. After what seemed like forever, and also no time at all, we were approaching Phoenix.

Flight Home, Delay #2

The captain came on again. He said there were thunderstorms over the Phoenix airport, and we’d need to circle above them until they passed. He updated his message a short time later, saying there was no estimate on how long it would take the storms to pass, and we didn’t have enough fuel to circle. We would divert and refuel in Las Vegas..

It was then my legs began to revolt. My mind had obviously told them they were going to stretch and walk soon. When that was not to be the case, they argued hard in achy defiance.

Flight Home, Delay #3

The Las Vegas airport had very little time to prepare for our unplanned visit. It took them quite a while to coordinate and accommodate us. Our delay there took several hours.

Of course, there was no more food and no extra beverages to serve. The kids on board were growing especially restless. I felt for their parents.

All the while, we sat on the plane. We could awkwardly stand by our seats. From where I was, on the aisle, I had more space than many, so I tried to share it and focus on being grateful.

Several British Airways planes.
I took this photo in London. It was dark in Vegas, but this is how I imagined the scene outside as we were waiting to refuel. Minus the passenger boarding bridge as we were not let off the plane.

Flying Home, Again

Eventually we were told to fasten our seatbelts. We were finally cleared for takeoff. We were flying home, again.

The storms had abated in Phoenix, and we were able to land. By the time the airplane doors opened, and we walked off, we had spent more than 15 hours packed like sardines in that cylinder of recycled air.

It felt SO good to be off the plane. I know people travel further and endure longer flights. I think you mentally prepare for what is ahead of you. I had readied myself for 10 hours.

Lesson learned: over-estimate the flight-time expectation. It would be better to find it shorter than expected if all goes right!

Michael and I reunited at the gate where hundreds of poor people were waiting to board our plane and go wherever it was headed next. It was 5+ hours overdue. We went to baggage claim to gather our belongings.

Flight Home, Delay #4

We celebrated when our bags were the first to arrive onto the carousel. Two of our three were, literally, the first two off the conveyer belt. And then we waited for the third.

We waited and waited as one by one, hundreds of our fellow passengers collected their luggage and left. We were the last people left standing in baggage claim and our bag never came. Delayed again! We got in line at the help desk.

Luggage Missed the Flight Home

We enjoyed standing after sitting on the plane and before driving home. We focused on that while we waited. When our turn came, it was discovered that our third bag was still in England. We remembered back to the rush through Heathrow and thanked God because aside from His grace, we would have missed the flight home too.

We completed paperwork and were told the luggage would be delivered to our home in 48 hours. I’m glad I didn’t know then that it would actually take over a week because it would get lost 2 more times before finally arriving at our house.

Disoriented by the Flight Home

It was now well into tomorrow, Ireland time, and we were completely disoriented. Well, I was. My husband was doing better than me.

We exited the terminal into the parking garage in a completely different place than we’d entered 8 days earlier. So much had happened since our departure that we had no idea where to find our car. Thankfully, my husband had the foresight to suggest we take pictures of the floor number, zone letter, and stall sequence.

Driving After the Flight Home

We live 2 1/2 hours from the airport. It was approaching midnight, local time, when we found our car. We needed gas, desperately wanted food, and hoped to find coffee so we could stay awake driving home. We found all of this in “not the best” part of town, but it was a Godsend!

We tag teamed the driving so whoever was feeling awake could be behind the wheel. We praised God when we made it home. Our own bed never felt so nice!

The Blessing of the Flight Home

Thank you so much for enduring our long flight home. And for making yourself at home, here on the Back Porch for this Ireland series. You all have been the most gracious of travel buddies.

Believe it or not, our eventful flight home, and ensuing jet lag, was a blessing. The intrigue of Ireland was irresistibly interesting but traveling often is not possible for us. We ended this trip, all said and done, content with that reality. If the travel bug had bitten us in Ireland, the flight home healed us.

In the month that has followed, there have been a few standouts among the intriguing moments and lessons we learned in Ireland. Those will be the subject of my next post, which will be the series finale. Until then, blessings, my sweet friends!

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

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Celebrations

I Give Thanks to God when I Remember YOU!

Picture with Psalm 9:1 printed over it.
I count your friendship as a wonderful deed God has done for me.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Categories
Vacations

Ireland – It’s Intrigue is Irresistibly Interesting: Cobh

Goodness! My incredible experience in Ireland barely scratched the surface of its intrigue. But if you’ve found it interesting, you’re really going to enjoy Cobh!

After our Fota Wildlife Park adventure on Thursday morning, my colleagues and I met back at the hotel for our final meetings. We said our goodbyes that evening and everyone went their separate ways. My husband and I had one more full day in Ireland on Friday, and we planned to visit Cobh.

A Mission in Cobh

Back in my hotel room, as I started to put things away and plan how to pack for the trip home, I made a distressing discovery. My suitcase was broken! I had received grief about my bag from an airport agent on the way to Ireland, so the last thing I wanted to do was draw more attention to it on the way home.

My husband and I talked about it and decided to buy a new suitcase. It would be fun to have the souvenir to remember our time in Ireland every time we packed to go anywhere! And we thought Cobh would be a likely place for the mission because it is where cruise ships dock when they come to Ireland. Surely, I’m not the only tourist to break my luggage!

History in Cobh

On Friday morning, we took a taxi down to Cobh, a seaside town in the south of County Cork. Our driver told us Cork Harbour, of which Cobh is a part, is one of the largest natural harbors in the world! And he made sure we knew that Cobh is pronounced “Cove”.

A map of Cork, Ireland.
It was a short taxi ride from Fota Island to Cobh, in Cork Harbour.

“With a population of around 13,000 inhabitants, Cobh is on the south side of Great Island in Cork Harbour and home to Ireland’s only dedicated cruise terminal.”

Wikipedia

Something incredibly interesting about Cobh is that it was the Titanic’s last port of call before she sank. You can read about that here. There are nods to the Titanic all over town, proving the residents have no intention of forgetting those who were on board.

Architecture in Cobh

One of the most spectacular things I saw in Ireland was Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh. It was breathtaking! The architecture was truly amazing. I’d try to describe it, but I’d rather just show you!

My husband and I walked all around Cobh, admiring the architecture and looking for a shop which sold luggage. When we didn’t find one, we stopped at the visitor center to inquire. The lady who worked inside was lovely, and very helpful.

The Train in Cobh

Do you remember when we left Cork City on the way to Fota Island? I told you what I didn’t know then, that I’d be back at the end of the week. Well, that was because the dear lady in the Cobh visitor center told us the only real luggage shop was in Cork City Center. I’d read about the one she was suggesting and knew exactly where it was.

I expressed concern about the distance because of the taxi fare. She told us we should take the train. We didn’t even know there was a train! She gave us directions. We thanked her and we thanked God for her.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Philippians 4:19, 20

We found the Cobh train station and purchased our tickets. They cost a fraction of what we’d paid for the taxi to bring us half the distance. We wished we’d known about the rail route earlier! But hey, now we know. And now YOU know!

Map of Cork with Cobh and Cork City highlighted
The train took us from Cobh to Cork City for a fraction of the price of a taxi!

The train ride was scenic, as it took us along the water, across Fota Island, by the Wildlife Park and into Cork City. We disembarked and walked several blocks to the City Center. We had a few hours before the luggage shop closed, so we made the most of our unexpected visit to this city which had captured our hearts.

From Cobh to Cork

Our last day in Ireland had been irresistibly interesting. We explored the intriguing town of Cobh, experienced the scenic train, and unexpectedly visited Cork City Centre. Our hearts were full as we purchased our new suitcase and made our way back to Fota Island Resort.

We didn’t sleep well. We were processing all we’d seen, the things we’d learned, and the people we’d encountered. And we were anxious about the trip home.

Had we known what we’d endure on our upcoming journey, we’d have been even more reluctant to leave the intrigue of Cobh and whole irresistible island of Ireland. Our flight home was eventful, to say the least. That will be the story for next time. I hope you’ll join me!

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: 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.

Categories
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.