A Few Moments in Ireland

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With St. Patrick’s Day filling my world with green, I can’t help but remember the  Ireland I visited a few years ago.  It’s a beautiful place filled with kind-hearted people who are very genuine and blunt. My trip was essentially a road trip that made a big circle around the coastline, starting and ending in Dublin.  I took a few pictures along the way that remain among my favorites of all my pictures from abroad.

Lady's View, Ireland, 2009, c.b.w.

I remember standing in this spot in total awe.  The view was so beautiful, it made me feel like I had landed in the middle of a fairy tale.  While everyone mulled around snapping pictures of who knows what, I sat on a large boulder and breathed in the magic of this place.

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Clonmacnoise, Ireland 2009, c.b.w.

I don’t know why, but I have a “thing” for old graveyards in Europe.  I find them fascinating and often spend hours roaming about reading headstones and wandering through the past.  Perhaps, it’s my love of history or my curiosity of the people who came before me, but I’m always able to connect to the humanity of a place with more depth after walking through time-worn cemeteries.

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland, 2009, c.b.w.

It’s a long climb up ramps and stairs to get this view, but it is totally worth the work.  I love places that make me feel like I’m the size of an ant.  There’s nothing more humbling than to stand on the edge of these cliffs and feel the majesty of the rock and wide open space of the ocean.  The wind that day made sure I got a good whiff of salty air and the “green” smell of grass.  The combination of the two made for an aroma I’ve never experienced before or since.  That sweet smell is among my favorite sensory memories.

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Waterford, Ireland, 2009, c.b.w.

Waterford may be famous for its crystal, but for me it will always be the place where I found some peace with a sunset kissed harbor.  I leaned against the ropes of the dock and listened to the seagulls fly overhead, while the water slapped lightly against the embankment.  The writer in me couldn’t help but wonder where all of these boats have been and where they would go next.

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Pub in Shannonbridge, Ireland, 2009, c.b.w.

I got a kick out of this pub the moment I walked through the door.  The place is cluttered from ceiling to floor with knick-knacks, memorabilia, and business cards from those who come to visit. The soup and sandwich I devoured remains on my list of best meals I’ve ever tasted, (over the course of 15 years of international travel).  If you’re ever in Shannonbridge, be sure to visit the only pub in town.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  May luck find you when you need it most!

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c.b. 2012

A Little Luck From Italy

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Sometimes an old travel journal is as good as any other book on the shelf.  Its inevitable that memories will get lost along the way and I’m very thankful to have my journals to remind me of all the wonderful experiences that have enriched my life.   While reorganizing my bookshelf this week, I came across a journal I kept during my first trip to Europe.  Waaaay back in 2003, I took a whirlwind tour of London, Paris, Florence, and Rome, which I documented in full detail.

One of my favorite stories comes from Rome, where I met a funny old man on the main road leading into the Vatican.   I had wandered away from the group to explore the trinkets for sale in various kiosks and to take in the surrounding architecture without an annoying tour guide babbling in my ear.  A cart selling “silver” charms caught my eye, so I walked over and marveled at all the beautiful baubles.

The old man running the cart jubilantly greeted me, “Buongiorno!”  with his arms in the air and a smile on his face.  I was instantly delighted and returned the greeting, though horribly pronounced. Lucky for me, he thought it was cute. He then asked me if it was my first time to Rome, to which I answered yes.  I went on to explain how much I loved Rome and how I hoped to one day return.  He smiled and asked if I had tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain.  As it happened, I engaged in that tradition the night before, which pretty much sealed my fate that I would see Rome at least one more time in my life.

It’s funny how old men flirt with young women.  My grandpa does it and so did this Italian charm salesman.  He took a hold of my hand and asked if I was married with a twinkle in his eye.  I wasn’t wearing my promise ring, so I guess it was a valid question!  When I answered I would be soon, he pulled me closer and said, “Tell him he’s a very lucky man.”  Ha!  So Italian and so adorable.

He then reached into one of the boxes on his cart and flipped my hand so I could hold his gift.  In my palm, he placed a small silver charm and said, “This is for you.  For luck that you return to Rome. I give it to you.  When you come back to Rome, you can give me a kiss or you can give me one now.” Laughter filled the air, both his and mine.  What a little player!  I promised him I’d repay the debt on my next trip.

Along these streets, I received a special gift.

So far, I haven’t been back and sometimes I wonder if he’s still alive and still flirting with all the tourist girls.  I’m sure I’ll find my way back to Rome one day and I’ll likely look for him down that same street.  I keep the charm he gave me on a bracelet, along with a few others I’ve collected over the years.

The old man wasn’t lying when he blessed it with luck.  A year later, my house was burglarized and all my jewelry was stolen, except this charm.  While the burglary was horrific, I am quite thankful there was enough luck for one thing to remain untouched.

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c.b. 2012

A Brilliant Stroke of Luck

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I have to give snaps to the employees and/or patrons of London’s Natural History Museum.  Not only is the museum an extraordinary experience (we’re talking giant redwood slabs, an unbelievable collection of animal and plant specimens, and about a million other things I didn’t have time to see), but it also managed to save me from a potential disaster.

After a long day of walking around every exhibit in the museum and a quick visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, I decided to head down to Hyde Park for a little break.  I thought I’d sit down under a tree and let the world go by while my feet healed up a bit.  While lying on the ground, I thought the view of the tree and the sky would make a nice picture (for this blog, actually!).  I dug into my purse and found there was no camera – it was missing!  A wave of panic hit me as several thoughts rolled through my mind: Oh, my God a pick pocket got to me!  It’s only the third day – What am I going to do for the rest of the month without a camera?  Did I leave it in one of the museums?  The only cute picture I have of one of my dogs is on the memory card inside the camera, (long story on this one, but in short, one of my dogs takes absolutely horrid pictures).

After dumping my purse three times, one must be sure after all, I pretty much decided it was gone and there was no getting it back.  But there is always that need to do something when bad luck strikes.  Instead of throwing in the towel, I got up and headed back to the Natural History Museum with the hope that someone turned it in to lost and found. It was a long shot at best, but worth a try.

The museum was 3 minutes away from closing when I arrived.  They weren’t letting anyone in the doors, but I explained my situation and the doorman kindly let me in and showed me to the guest services desk.  The man behind the desk asked me what my camera looked like and how many megapixels it had.  As it happens, I had all the right answers for the camera he had in his hand!  By some miracle, someone picked it up and turned it in, just as a I had hoped.  Seriously, what are the odds of that occurring??  Everything was certainly stacked against me, yet there I was happily reunited with my camera.  My sincere thanks to the anonymous individual who not only found it, but was thoughtful enough to turn it in.  So many others would have kept it for themselves.

In honor of the Natural History Museum, here’s a picture of the main lobby.  It’s an impressive building that is as much a sight as everything it holds, (Click on picture for a full size view).

Now, lets just hope I didn’t use up all my luck in one shot!  More pics and posts to come.  My muse is singing loudly and I’m writing as much as I can.