Ireland, New York City, and Rhode Island

Ireland, New York City, and Rhode Island

While Sherri and I had never been to Ireland, it was a place I've always wanted to visit and Harrison really wanted to go, especially since he is of Irish descent.8Z8A6361a

We flew from Prague to Dublin and that early evening rented a car to drive the 3 1/2 hours to the Doolin View Bed & Breakfast in County Clare Ireland (far west).IMG_0449b

I've driven in England several times before. I've also driven a stick shift (manual) on the left side of the road before, it just had been a LONG time since that was the case. It takes time to get your bearings on what is actually ON the left ride (passenger side) of the road and using the stick doesn't help after driving an automatic for 35 years.

After we drove for two hours, we pulled off the "freeway" to find a pub. I was tired, still a bit disoriented and got into my first car wreck ever as I pulled into a parking lot and not being cognizant of the left side of the new car hit a parked car going about 5 mph. Fortunately, it did no damage to the parked car and I was thankful I had declined coverage from Hertz and used a credit card that will cover the $2500 in damage.  But I was shook up for days. So much for my unblemished driving record.

But in some ways it got crazier: Not only are the off-freeway roads very narrow in Ireland, there tends to be a green wall (stone and then brush/trees) that goes about 20 feet high just a few feet off the left side and edge of the road. Driving in the dark makes it all the more ominous.

Fortunately we finally found the B&B in the dark at 1130pm and we woke to this view:

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Harrison was in charge of all the plans for Ireland. Much like Oregon, it's very green. I told him the only two things I wanted to do is to see a photographer friend near Tipperary and go to the Blarney Castle.

The first thing we did was to take a boat trip to the nearby Cliffs of Moher, over 700 feet in height. IMG_3946

We saw the Harry Potter caves, a huge bird sanctuary and sparkling jellyfish in the waters below. On the second day we drove to Galway, then ventured to the Burren which is unique limestone area in western Ireland that houses 75% of the flora found in Ireland, many of them quite unusual. We also went to the Poulnabrone Tomb, the oldest burial site known to man (3800 b.c.) and older than Stonehenge itself, it is believed that earth covered the area above the tomb and after the burial ceremony, the bones were removed to be buried.

Later that night, we went back to a castle near Galway that we had passed driving from Dublin to Doolin.  Fantastic sunset and even a swan joined us.

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That night, we frequented the local pub,O'Conner's, with its Irish music, fish and chips, and Ireland's own tasty Guinness beer of course.

The following day we drove south going to King John's Castle (the brother to Richard the Lionhearted of England, both of Robin Hood fame.) in Limerick along the River Shannon.  Like the story, King John was not well liked. The British were very brutal to Ireland in trying to subdue them, especially Oliver Cromwell, who would kill an entire family and post their heads by the castle gates. Besides England, Ireland also had to deal with the Viking terror-who would lay waste to an entire community.  The Clans chieftains would built small four story castles that were easier to defend than typical castles. These towers/castles are found everywhere throughout Ireland. It was really the clans that kept Ireland intact through 500 years of severe oppression.

After Limerick, we went to see Tom, a fellow full time wedding and portrait photographer who lives in Tipperary. (It wasn't a long way to Tipperary.) We ate at a local pub, met his family and saw his photography studio that was in his home.

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Tom lives near the Rock of Cashel, a stunning castle on a hill (below):

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On most travel sites they list the top 50 or 100 things to do.  Invariably Kissing the Blarney Stone is one of them. I figured, despite the germs and pulling yourself upside down several feet,  if Winston Churchill and Oliver Hardy could do it-among all the other tens of thousands of tourists-then what the heck I can too. After all who doesn't want the gift of eloquence?

Harrison kissing the stone:

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Our last full day was spent going to the most westward place in Europe, an hour ferry ride from Doolin harbour: The Isle of Aran. You are greeted by native Irishmen and their small buggies.  While one can rent a bike or take a tour bus, I thought the novelty of riding in an 1880 carriage and talking to a local for a few hours was worth it.

Dennis with his horse Rose was our driver below (The other photo is Harrison looking out on the Atlantic).

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On June 1st, we left the calm serene land of Ireland and landed smack dab into the whirl of New York City.

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We took the Staten Island Ferry, with its views of NYC and the Statue of Liberty:

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And then toured the Twin Towers Memorial, which was very emotional seeing all the water collapsing and falling into a hole (see video).

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That night, we took in The Lion King on Broadway (Fantastic BTW) and went to the top of the Empire State building. This is a view from our hotel, the Hyatt Times Square:

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After NYC, we drove down to Delaware for one night (gotta fulfill my bucket list of sleeping in every state!) and then back up to Rhode Island where I gave an all day program to the Professional Photographers of Rhode Island.

The morning we left, we toured one of the many mansions in Newport RI, "The Breakers", Vanderbilt's small summer home of 138,000 square feet.  The Breakers made the estate of Downton Abby look plain, having gilded gold, paintings on the ceiling, it's opulent furnishings and housing 50 servants at it's peak.  Most of the super rich lost their extravagant summer homes once both income taxes and the depression was in play.  Over 15 are now owned by the Preservation Society of Newport County and open for tours.

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The highlight here? Harrison discovered a wood boat building school he wants to attend in Newport RI.  Savings are commencing. :-)

Europe does contrast with America mostly because the Europeans we spent time with are seemingly more committed to their families, not shopping, entertainment, media devices, working or status. Most stores are still closed on Sundays and during the week shut down at 5 or 6 (except restaurants and pubs of course).

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There is a peace there that is harder to find in America. It would be nice for us to reflect on what is truly important to our souls. It's not stuff.  It's those we love.

Probably the main thing I've learned in losing Sherri? That not too many things ultimately matter. Really, if you step back and reflect, it's God, family, friends, honestly, integrity, seeking truth, and showing love in practical and empathetic ways toward your fellow human beings.    <3

I hope you've enjoyed these four blogs of our 38 days of travel. We truly learned a lot. About Sherri, about different cultures, about history and ultimately, about ourselves.

It has been said that travel is one investment that keeps paying you back years into the future. It is so true. (I would also add "having beautiful professional photographs" to that statement).

My wish for you is that you and your family can experience some travels together as well, be it 40 miles away or overseas somewhere.

Here is a video of my other favorite images from Ireland, New York City, and Rhode Island .  :

Ireland, New York City, and Rhode Island