I recently retired from a 42-year career in public education and public union work. I have been with my husband for 28 years, and we have two adult children and two grandchildren. We are active in the GLBTQ+ community. Message
  • Day72

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 7

    Yesterday in Ireland ⋅ 🌧 10 °C

    The skies opened up a bit today, and Ireland showed us the cool and rainy weather that tends to match its reputation.

    We did some window shopping in the neighborhood, and when it rained harder, we saw that as a good excuse to consume crepes and cappuccinos.

    We took advantage of a reprieve in the storm, and we enjoyed a coastal walk along Kinsale's Scilly Trail. The flowers, pastel colored homes and water served as a necessary, but too brief a distraction from the SCOTUS news back home.

    I feel for every woman back home who has now taken the brunt of a decision made by an illegitimate court. While it would be easy to also feel sorry for myself about "previews of coming attractions", I know that we will soon return home to do our part to make the U.S. a safe place to be. But for today, I realize that the pleasure of a holiday stroll along Ireland's beautiful coast or a beer at a local pub is diminished by the palpable anger that I sense "across the pond" in a country that feels very lost.

    Eurooean acquaintances who we have met on our journey keep asking "What's happened to America?" They don't understand guns, election corruption, a cultish following of a deranged former President and the erosion of a woman's reproductive freedom.

    I don't have a good answer other than to say that it's very broken, and we will need to regroup and fight again."

    A print on a restaurant wall caught my eye this evening. It was filled with sheep in the streets. Sheep don't change anything. The power of angry people working together do. They have always prevailed. We will too.

    Despite the storms here, we had a beautiful day- a lovely walk, a drink among Irish folks, a spectacular dinner and time with each other.

    We will weather the storms back home as well, and come November, we will do everything we can to make it a brighter day for all.
    Read more

  • Day71

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 6

    June 23 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    We decided to take a drive along a small fraction of the 2500 km Wild Atlantic Way today. This is a tourism trail along the southern, western and northern coasts of Ireland. Kinsale is near the southern terminal point so we began there this morning. We made no commitment how far we were going to travel today. We have learned that travel on many of Ireland's winding, narrow rural roads force you to slow down. It's a good opportunity to enjoy the vistas.

    The first destination was to travel to Old Head, a lighthouse point in Cork County. We didn't realize that we weren't able to actually make it to the lighthouse as the land is now privately owned by a golf course. We did stop just outside the golf course entrance at a memory point for the Lusitania, an Irish passenger ship that was sunk by a German torpedo during WWI about 10 miles off the coast of our observation point.

    Ireland's tourism industry has detailed many points of interest along the way. We knew that we'd have several other opportunities so we picked a few tentative destination points.

    Along the way we stopped for a game of miniature golf that was located in an adventure park. It was hard to picture youth navigating the ropes course without injury as it looked rather daunting; however, that part wasn't open.

    We stopped in a roadside fish and chips stand in the village of Rosscarbery. The portions were massive and the fish was very fresh and delicious.

    We then made our way next to Baltimore Beacon a very unusual shaped structure dating from 1850 to alert sailors about the rocky shore. It's known locally as “Lot’s Wife”, a Biblical story reference about a woman getting turned into a pillar of salt.

    Before we arrived we took time to sit by a peaceful cove as we listened to the water slap against a small moored sailboat.

    On site at the Beacon, we noted that the nearby cliffs were really dramatic without any protective barrier beyond a line of barbed wire. We loved the view to sea although I was a bit nervous to get too close to the edge.

    We then made our way back to our flat, having been on the road for several hours. We both noted how unusual it is to see verdant pastures and hills along the coast. If you look in one direction, you'd think you were in farmland in Pennsylvania and across the road the rugged Maine coast. It's an interesting collage of geographical features.

    After we returned, we took naps, and when we woke up we decided to just stay in for our first "Netflix and Chill" night since we first departed for Europe. We joked that we were preparing for life back home in the States, but I think it was also a bit of recognition that we're a bit homesick for those times despite the really wonderful trip abroad.

    I think that we've done a great job deciding what we want and slowing down to just take the experience in when we need to do that. I'm grateful that we've been able to experience this together.

    Sweet dreams from Kinsale.
    Read more

  • Day70

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 5

    June 22 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    We had a very decent night's sleep in our apartment, but we did wake up to what I was assuming was trash collection day given the loud sounds of grinding metal and broken glass.

    We later discovered that this was the delivery of many kegs of beer to the neighborhood. We really are staying in "Pub Central". When I was researching the top 10 pubs in Kinsale, most on the list are meters away from our flat.

    Jim C graciously ran to the store and picked up some groceries and cappuccinos for breakfast in our space. I'm reminded that the thing I will cherish most upon our return are meals at home. As nice as it has been to have some incredible meals out, the thought of preparing are own meals again feels like a different sort of luxury.

    We decided to go to the Blarney Castle today which is located just outside of the city of Cork in the town of Blarney. The visit was to see the famous Blarney stone where purported if you kiss the stone, you are given the gift of eloquence and flattery.

    Growing up with all the Irish relatives on my mother's side of the family, I would always think of the term blarney as being a "bullshitter" or someone who jabbers unending nonsense. In a more positive light, I see the gift of blarney in someone who can strike up a conversation with anyone.

    Dating back to my elementary school days, my report cards were often riddled with derogatory teachers' comments like "socializes too often with others" or "spends too much time talking with others". Upon reflection, it's interesting to see that behaviors that were seen as deficits in my youth, served me well as an adult. Perhaps the refinement over time was learning to listen more than just talk, but the ability to strike up a conversation with strangers has been poweful for my career, and it helped me meet my husband. 💚 Ironically, I attribute my "gift of gab" to my French-Canadian father.

    Ok, enough of my blarney birdwalk...

    We arrived at the grounds of the castle. The grounds are absolutely spectacular. I should note that I knew that in order to kiss the Blarney Stone, that one has to maneuver in a prone position with your head upside down to kiss the specific stone. I was missing one very important detail: The stone is positioned 85 feet above the ground with a gap near the parapet where you can see below to the ground. I watched with horror from the ground as we approached the castle walls, and we could see people being "assisted" to kiss the stone. The line marker that announced that we had a 60-minute wait to arrive at the stone, and I felt the same nervous anticipation that I've experienced in lengthy amusement park rides with dizzying heights as a component of the experience.

    The procession to the castle was lined with many informational placards. I learned that the castle was owned by the MacCarthy family who loved to entertain. I recognized, with a sense of pride, the coat of arms from my own family; my maternal grandmother was a McCarthy and they have roots in Cork County.

    As we made our way through the castle ruins, we could see various placards naming the rooms and activities in the castle. We then began the very narrow, claustrophobic climb up the "Tower of Terror". I was determined to go up despite a marked fear of heights and a pretty strong dislike of cramped spaces. We navigated the hundred steps to the top.

    I have always loved the view and despised the process to achieve it. This was no exception. As we approached the stone, I confirmed that there was no way that I was dangling my head upside down with the ground visible below despite iron bars making it impossible to fall through. The last few informational panels described numerous legends surrounding the stone including business dealings, grateful witches and Faerie magic. I couldn't locate the Satan legend, but I'm sure it was there somewhere.

    You might think this is irrational, but I'm the guy who pauses stepping over the minute gap between the floor and an elevator convinced that my ample frame will somehow manage to fall through the crack. (Note: Before the safeguards were installed, the kiss was performed with real risk to life and limb, as participants were grasped by the ankles and dangled bodily from the height.)

    I was afforded the opportunity to witness the vicarious thrill (terror) of my husband being pulled to the vicinity of the stone for a photo op. His first words to me were "Yeah, you would have hated that."

    We made it back down the set of stairs to the ground and we walked to the next seemingly safer exhibit of the "Poisonous Plants Garden". Cannabis was one of the plants displayed. As the saying goes, "you pick your poison". I could have used a visit to the garden prior to the heart palpitation adventure.

    I loved our walk through the garden. The flowers and forest grounds were really beautiful and peaceful. Much of the time, we felt like we had the park to ourselves.

    We left the park, and stopped Cork for a beer. While I'm not a big beer fan, I have enjoyed the Irish Red ales.

    We returned to the apartment for a nap and we enjoyed a leisurely dinner at "The Black Pig" a local wine bar. Our server was delightful, and we hit it off after we complimented her on her skillful dispatch of obnoxiously entitled neighboring guests who were furious that they couldnt seat nine guests at a table barely designed for six. They left in a huff, and it made our dinner that much more enjoyable. I really do feel for staff in the hospitality business. I know most establishments are very understaffed, and we appreciate their hard work. Despite the absence of tipping culture in Europe, we've tried to show our appreciation.

    Signing off with gratitude for another wonderful day. ☘️ 💞
    Read more

    Joseph Kimsey

    I’ve visited That castle too. It’s really nice to see your pictures of places I went too

  • Day69

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 4

    June 21 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    After a restful night, we packed for the next leg of our trip and we said good-bye to our wonderful hosts Markie and Eamon.

    We decided to get breakfast in the nearby town of Carlow, and we found a really great espresso spot. It wasn't just that the lattes and breakfast food was delicious, we loved the positive community building environment. On the wall was an aspirational message which in part expressed:
    "...we want to help to build a positive space where people can come together, be convivial, and bring our town back to its happy place..."

    There was a slate with post-it notes where you could purchase drinks for others and they could use the post-it note as a voucher for a drink. We opted to do that when we paid our bill. We really appreciated what this small business in the midst of a little town was trying to do to build community.

    At breakfast we talked about our route possibilities to our final destination of Kinsale, a small fishing village south of Cork. We opted for the longer route with a stop at Hook Head Lighthouse in County Wexford.

    We enjoyed walking around Hook Lighthouse. It's amazing that this structure is 850 years old. It reminded us of our times on the Maine coast.

    When we departed, we noticed the ruins of a church several hundred kilometers down the road. After reading the inscription, we learned that Saint Dubhan, came to Hook Point from Wales in 452 A.D and established a monastery on this site. Saint Dubhan is believed to have lit the first warning beacon for ships on the point shortly after his arrival. This beacon had been maintained by the monks for 700 years until the current lighthouse was built. The English word for Dubhan is hook.

    As we explored the ruins and found gravesites, some hundreds of years old and others relatively new, I reflected on the theme that this was a site where someone looked out for others. His mission and those who followed him was to keep others seafaring travelers safe, and his legacy remains.

    We left this area and headed west past the city of Waterford where Waterford Crystal is made. We enjoyed the three-hour drive and we arrived in Kinsale late afternoon.

    Kinsale reminded us both of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. It's a colorful, bustling fishing village of about 4,000 people. We've rented a flat above an art gallery. It's cheerful and open, and close to several pubs and restaurants.

    After a short nap, we took a walk along the marina and then looked for a place to get dinner. We settled on a pub that was filling up quickly. Jim had fish and chips, and I opted for beef stew with Guinness. I decided that my stew seemed to be missing something: flavor. I told Jim that his stew was significantly better. What was missing in the food was made up in the drink as we enjoyed beers, and I had an Irish coffee.

    We decided to wait to hear the performers, and I'm glad that we did. Two older Irish men played guitar and and English and American songs with several opportunities for audience sing-a-longs.
    We made room for a couple who were standing near our table. They were very grateful that we made room for them. As it turns out they were educators from California. We told them that we were from Portland. They laughed because they assumed that we were locals because of our white beards.

    We had a fun evening talking with them, making song requests and listening to the banter of the performers. It was fun to share the table with them.

    It was totally on my romanticized bucket list to sit in a pub and sing Irish songs. I was envious of the performers, and I thought back to a time when I organized a Pete Seeger tribute concert in Maine. I loved the opportunity to be a song leader and to gather community to create something together. It makes me want to try that again. Who knows, maybe there will be space on this trip.

    As I reflect on the experience of the day, my take away is summarized by another piece on that coffee house wall in Carlow:

    "One of the basic cravings of humanity is to connect with each other. " Yes.
    Read more

  • Day68

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 3

    June 20 in Ireland ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    We woke up to a beautiful sunny day, and we understand that it has been different than the weather has been for some time.

    We launched the day with breakfast in Portlaoise. I decided to try the traditional Irish breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding and soda bread. I was curious about black pudding which reminded me of a spicy, grained sausage patty. It was interesting, but not something I need a second time.

    We headed toward the town of Camross to find the church where my great-grandmother was baptized and those before her were buried nearby. We wandered through a nearby graveyard and talked with a very helpful caretaker. He told us that the older gravesites were in the front of the church ruins, and that the remaining headstones were mostly worn. It turns out that the civil records were lost in a fire. I do think that we were in the right area, and we were very grateful for the caretaker's assistance.

    We took a ride to neighboring County Offaly, and we traveled over the Slieve Bloom mountain range to get there. The view of the lower valley was spectacular. We made time for an ice cream break, and then we returned to the village of Ballinakill armed with more information about ancestors. As we revisited a cemetery, an older gentleman offered assistance, and he told us that there was an older abandoned church cemetery nearby. He led us over to the area and he guided us through the very overgrown and uneven terrain.

    On one level, it was disappointing not to find visual confirmation of the actual gravesites, but it was powerful to know that we were in the land where my maternal grandmother's ancestors lived- some for their whole lives, and others before they emigrated to the States.

    I was touched by Jim C's observation: "When your great-grandmother (Molly Keenan) dreamed of Ireland, he dreamed of right here."

    Today was a "kindness of strangers" day. Every experience we have had to date has been met with hospitality and selfless kindness.

    May we always remember to pay it forward.
    Read more

  • Day67

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 2

    June 19 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    I think that I had the best night's sleep since we've been on the road. The night was cool and comfortable, and we were ready to try exploring County Laois.

    Once again, I am grateful for Jim's skilled driving as he navigated driving on the "wrong" side of the road on country roads that were often only about one and a half car lanes in width.

    It's amazing to be in the country of my mother's lineage and to see what it is like, to think about life there and to experience a new sense of identity. I love the blend of the old with the new, and I don't think I've seen so many shades of green in one place.

    Our first stop was the Rock of Dunamase, the ruins of Celtic Castle where you can still see the majesty of the fortification overlooking the beautiful countryside.

    We then went to check out the Slieve Bloom mountain range which are more like the hills of New England. The evergreen trees were dense and beautiful. We considered taking a trail to a high point, but upon further examination it didn't seem practical to try and walk over the soggy peat.

    We traveled to the parish of Coolrain, and I thought that we had found the church where one of my great grandmothers was baptized, but it was an Anglican Church. I think we know the actual place to go after consulting with my second cousin Kate and we're going to give it another go tomorrow.

    We drove in and by towns that were names in my family tree without much of a context. The opportunity to see these places in person is magical for me. I'm really finding it to be very grounding.

    We ended the night with a great dinner hosted by Eamon and Markie. They made a traditional of bacon (think pork roast), cabbage and potatoes. It was really wonderful, and we enjoyed our conversation.

    It's been a great launch, and we're excited about our next adventure.
    Read more

    Joseph Kimsey

    Ireland is beautiful, I. Any wait to go back. Enjoy your travels.

    Jim Fotter

    Thank you, Joe!

  • Day66

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 1

    June 18 in Ireland ⋅ 🌙 9 °C

    Today was a travel day as we prepared for our flight to Ireland. We heard many horror stories through local acquaintances and new reports that there were numerous flight cancellations and significant staffing shortages at Schipol.

    As we approached the first terminals of the airport, we noticed huge lines outside the airport, and we learned that was just to get in. Our Uber driver remarked, you're in Terminal 3. You're relatively likely. They will be in lines over six hours.

    Schipol is a massive international hub. When we arrived at our terminal there wasn't one sign directing us to our ticket counter. We finally asked a security person who told us where to go, and we learned that we'd have a 90-minute wait before the Air Lingus ticket agents would arrive.

    We finally dropped off our baggage and then we had another two hours of lines to get through security.

    We never worried a great deal about missing our flight as we were in the front of the queue, and we figured that the flight would have no passengers if they didn't wait.

    We did finally take off about an hour late for the hour and twenty minutes flight to Dublin. The flight was relatively smooth and we made it through passport checks without a problem.

    We picked up our rental car and prepared for the drive to our B&B in Ballintubbert. I have been very excited about this leg of the trip as we are first heading to County Laois (leesh), the region where my maternal grandmother's family are from.

    We were welcomed by Markie and Eamon who showed us around their home, a restored old store. They were very welcoming and they invited us to join them for a BBQ. I do believe that Markie grilled enough meat for 16 guests. It was quite the welcome, and they were helpful about suggestions in the county.

    It really was a wonderful first night, and we are excited about our Ireland adventure.

    Oíche mhaith (good night)
    Read more

    Anthony Fox

    Ireland, the land of my people!!!!

    Jim Fotter

    where about, Anthony?

    Anthony Fox

    My mom's maiden name was Quigley. I don't know exactly except to my understanding that the Quigley name comes from the northeast.

  • Day65

    VIJF FOTOS-Amsterdam Day 10

    June 17 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    I woke up this morning with cold symptoms that doubled down a bit from yesterday. We already planned a low-key day. After going out for coffee, we returned to the boat and I slept for several hours.

    Yesterday, I talked briefly about the recently graduated student. He is very enamored with the Oregon Trail. He noticed Pete the Cat, and I explained to him about this storybook character and the photos we send to our granddaughter. Ben is a graphic artist, and he felt inspired to send me an image with Pete at the reins of a Conestoga Wagon as a gift to Olive. 💞

    I woke up feeling significantly better. We enjoyed our immersion into canal life with no agenda. We heard the excited shouts of children in a nearby schoolyard. We watched young folks gather at a dock along the canal. We watched young boys jump off the foot drawbridge, and we waved to those riding by in their boats.

    The experience causes me to recall a myriad of summer adventures near the water with friends and family when I was young.

    I remember sunburns on top of sunburns and my mother slathering me with Noxema.

    I think about staying in cottages in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Cape Cod. I remember picking blueberries in Truro when I was 6. I remember the merry-go-round at Watch Hill. I remember being the only one in the family to go in the ocean at Sand Beach in Bar Harbor, and being covered with blankets when my lips turned blue. I loved bodysurfing and playing with pinball machines at the beach arcade in Misquamicut.

    I remember responding to the dare of friends to join then in jumping off a small cliff into Lake Erie. I think of times with high school friends at the Flaming Gorge in Wyoming.

    What I saw today were people enjoying the promise and gift of summer. I know that being next to some body of water in the summer provides solace.

    Another day of just being present was the perfect prescription for the day.

    Thank you, Amsterdam. Next stop: Ireland.
    Read more

  • Day64

    VIJF FOTOS-Amsterdam Day 9

    June 16 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Today was a kick-back and watch the world go by day. We enjoyed time on the houseboat deck, and we had a great take-out Mediterranean meal on the deck.

    We have used our return to Amsterdam as some grounding time before our next chapter in Ireland.

    It was a beautiful sunny day. We met Ben, a young man who has just finished film school. He was very excited to learn that we were from Oregon. He has been enamored with the Oregon Trail since he was young. So we shared the stories that we knew with him.

    It's nice to be relieved of the pressure of "doing all the things", and that down time as part of vacation is about balance.
    Read more

  • Day63

    Cinq Fotos-Paris Day 4

    June 15 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    I see dead people.

    More accurately, today we visited the resting places of a number of famous people in the largest greenspace in the city.

    Before we left the flat, we enjoyed an apricot cake that Stephan made for breakfast. Last night they recommended some options for our last day in Paris. We decided to explore the Cimitèrie du Père-Lachaise.

    When we arrived at the cemetery the multitude of above-ground vaults reminded me of the cemeteries outside of New Orleans with the exception of all the trees and hills here. Famous artists, authors, composers, politicians and others are found here. There are memorials to those lost in the Holocaust. There are tributes to resistance fighters. And there are whimsical and unusual sculptures throughout.

    The chapels and monuments are quite elaborate. I'm reminded of the ways that some societies play tribute to the dead. I have always found a walk in the cemetery to be calming, and I admire the inscriptions and tributes.

    There were some gravesites that I wanted to visit. The first site was the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. While I have not read any of his works in depth, I have appreciated his quick-witted tongue and I'm drawn to his tortured story for being a man who loved other men. Wilde was imprisoned for two years in England for homosexual acts, and when he was released, he moved to France and never returned. The time in prison left him in poor health, and he died at the age of 46. The inscription on his memorial is from one his last poems:

    "And alien tears will fill for him
    Pity's long-broken urn,
    For his mourners will be outcast men,
    And outcasts always mourn"

    We also visited the gravesite of Jim Morrison. Like too many musicians of his era (Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix), he died very young. I was 9 years old when his song "Light My Fire" was released. I remember thinking the song was dumb at the time. I rediscovered Jim Morrison when I was in grad school. I liked his haunting baritone voice and I was intrigued by many of the lyrics and mood changes.

    A celebrity buried here that I knew less about was Colette, who was an actor and writer. I was reminded when we went to Moulin Rouge that she almost caused the venue to be shut down when she gave a long kiss onstage to another woman in 1907. She is known for her books, most notably a novella that was adapted for the movie Gigi.

    We also witnessed Anerican novelist Gertrude Stein's grave who is buried next to her long-time partner Alice B Toklas. I admire them as those who came before us who demonstrated living authentic lives. "A rose is a rose is a rose "

    Rather than continuing with a name-dropping list of famous dead people I have walked by, I want to offer this reflection:

    I think most of us want to be remembered.
    Did we love?
    Were we loved?
    Did we make any contribution that mattered without needing to be famous?
    Will people still talk about us when we're gone?

    I cited a few of the individuals surrounded by a cast of deceases celebrities more to illustrate that everyone has a story. If we pay attention, we can learn their stories while they are living. We can let them know that they matter and not wait to build a moss-gathering monument after they're gone.

    One of the best parts of this trip is taking time to learn the stories of others we have met in our lodging or other chance meetings. It's a great lesson to bring home, and it was a gift that this cemetery walk brought to me today.

    Au revoir and merci, Paris. It was fun. And we're back up to Amsterdam for a few days. We're wishing everyone a good night from our floating home.
    Read more

    Alex Leme

    Père-Lachaise is an interesting place to visit. I used to live a few blocks away from it and went there fairly often.

    Jim Fotter

    It was so beautiful.

    Becky Rounds

    Sweet dreams, nightie night 💖 🧡 💛 💚 💙 💜 🤎 🖤 ✨

    Richard Isaac

    Put Skogskyrkogården on your list when you go to Stockholm: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/558/, also a big, lovely cemetery, with Greta Garbo, although it probably doesn't compare to Pere-Lachaise, which hopefully I can see someday.


Join us:

FindPenguins for iOSFindPenguins for Android