October 11, 12, 13, 14 2018 Our last days in Firenze

Thursday, October 11

After all we did in the last few days, it was good to stay home for a day and try to recuperate.  There were enough provisions in the apartment for dinner, breakfasts, and snacks, with half a bottle of wine as well.  It rained all day, so was a perfect time to simply hang out, do photos, and relax a bit with no agenda. 

We settled onto the terrace as the rain let up toward evening and enjoyed the last of our wine while we made phone calls home.  I talked to Mo and Deborah, and Deanna called her husband, Keith.  WiFi calling works well on my Galaxy S9 phone.  We haven’t turned the phones off of airplane mode even once on this trip, and yet still enjoy excellent quality “real” phone calls.  Such a treat. 

Friday, October 12

We enjoyed another good breakfast at home, with eggs with cream cheese and zucchini, our favorite potatoes sliced up and sautéed, and Nescafe, our daily home coffee fix. Worked diligently on photos for a time before embarking on a mid day walk.  We decided to go back toward the part of town we visited on our first day here to buy some groceries for the our couple of days, to exchange a few US dollars since we are out of euros, and get back home in time to prepare for an evening on the town.

We enjoyed the quick walk to the main street on this side of the river, toward the east where we went the first day here. Found the meat market/grocery combo just in time before it closed for afternoon siesta, had a gelato at the nice little place nearby, bought something that looked like pizza but was tastier than most, with tomatoes and zucchini, our standby foods while in Italy.

What was most fun about this particular walk was how lost I was.  Even with the GPS on the phone, I couldn’t get my bearings.  Somehow everything seemed to be in the wrong place and didn’t match up with my memories of our first day walking around in this area.  It was especially funny to both of us because I am the map maker with a great sense of direction and Deanna has no clue which way is north or south. Yet she knew exactly where we were and where to find the Carni! Made for some funny moments for the two of us.

Before coming to Italy, thanks again to Two to Travel friends Erin and Mui, I learned about The Three Tenors performing n the auditorium of Santo Stefano. In the heart of Florence, just steps from Ponte Vecchio, Santo Stefano al Ponte is a church built in 1100 that was deconsecrated and reopened to the public in 2015 as exhibition space. Deanna purchased tickets for us online several months ago.  At the time we decided that this might be a nice way to end our Italian visit and chose to see the show toward the end of our time in Italy.

The day was a bit chilly, and we planned to walk the mile or so along the river rather than taking a taxi.  After watching people walking around our neighborhood after dark for the last couple of weeks, we were no longer concerned about walking home when the show was over.

We were, however, a bit worried about the chill.  We both wore jammie bottoms under our skirts, and long sleeves under our dressy tops.  The night was absolutely perfect, with no rain to cause any problems, and a slight breeze to keep us comfortable in all those extra clothes.  It was a lovely walk, and we arrived a bit early, in time for an apertivo before the show at a little bar in the church piazza.

Deanna had purchased VIP seats, so we had a perfect view and great acoustics from our forward location in the church. We did know, of course, that the Three Tenors were not the original “Three Tenors”, but the music was wonderful.  Amazing music emerged from the the mouths of those three men, no microphones, all acoustic with the tall chamber of the church amplifying it perfectly. Just amazing.

Once again, the song “Time to Say Goodbye” brought tears to my eyes. I can’t believe that stupid song made me cry again. There is no reason whatsoever for it to affect me so, except the beautiful melody itself. I have no connection at all to the song, no memories generated from it or anything, but the melody is just so incredibly beautiful it always makes me teary. The three men sang in Italian, lots of songs we didn’t know, some opera, and some old favorite songs that were also famous in America made popular by Dean Martin. It was a delightful experience.

Friday night on the Ponte Vecchio.  I guess it is the same no matter where you go

Our walk home was wonderful, breezy and cool but not chilly.  We walked through the Ponte Vecchio with all the shops closed but still many people enjoying the river and the evening camaraderie.  There was a busker playing “Proud Mary” and then Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, and he was really really good! I guess the song choice indicates the audience of tourists. The walk home felt perfectly safe, with lots of people strolling and eating at the restaurants. We had no reason to worry at all about walking at night in this part of town at 1030 PM.

Saturday October 13

We were excited to visit the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens.  The guidebooks all lauded the beautiful gardens as a wonderful respite from the city, and the Pitti Palace as a place filled with the over the top examples of the kind of luxury afforded by one of the wealthiest families in the world, the Medici. 

We saved this excursion for Saturday, hoping the rain would lighten up enough that we could enjoy the gardens.  The day dawned beautifully, and we once again walked the mile toward the Ponte Vecchio, then turning south toward Piazza Pitti.

The piazza was crowded and the lines were long.  There are several things to see that are part of the complex, and once we looked at all the options, we decided that there was no need to see one more fancy palace with lots of rich stuff.  Instead we opted for focusing on the gardens.

Here is an example of the flowery words that led us to this decision.

“More than a garden, more than just a “green lung” in Florence, the Boboli gardens are one of the greatest open-air museums in Florence that embraces another site of culture in Florence, the Pitti Palace. The park hosts centuries-old oak trees, sculptures, fountains and offers peaceful shelter from the warm Florentine sun in summer, the beautiful colors of the changing foliage in the fall and smells of blooming flowers in the spring. The Boboli gardens are a spectacular example of “green architecture” decorated with sculptures and the prototype which inspired many European Royal gardens, in particular, Versailles.”

Sadly, the reality left a lot to be desired.  The first hint of what was to follow were the Medici Fountains at the entrance to the gardens.  The sculptures were filthy, covered in dust, and bleeding black mold .  Cherubs floated in the dirty water inside the dingy grotto.  Ok then.
Walking through the gates and up the stairs beyond the entrance led us to more sculptures lining the paths, again covered with black mold and looking very old and unkept.  It was terribly disappointing.
We withheld judgment for a time, following the maps and trails, searching for fountains and sculptures and views.  There were a few charming spots, but most of the gardens consist of huge very old shrubs that are meticulously manicured.  Too bad whomever is in charge of the place didn’t attempt to clean it up a bit rather than just cut back all those shrubs.
There was no color, with fall leaves already gone and not a flower in sight. The lawns are not watered, and were brown and scrubby. I have seen many winter gardens that are incredibly charming and colorful, that are designed well and a delight to visit no matter how drab the weather.  This was not one of those places.  It was very claustrophobic, and we wandered the paths looking for something to lift our spirits to no avail.
At the upper end of the gardens we found a viewpoint, and the other attraction included in our ticket, the Porcelain Museum.  The view from the rose garden was the nicest part of the Boboli, and yet even there, there were no flowers and everything looked tired and not very well cared for.

Deanna found a few faded roses in the upper rose garden

We were a bit sad that our last adventure in the great city of Florence should be such a disappointment.  Maybe we were just tired, or maybe overloaded, who knows. We did know that after days and days of so much input, our tiredness seemed to accumulate a little bit more each day. After leaving the gardens, we ambled a bit through Pitti Piazza, checking out the booths selling tourist wares, and then ambled back past the Ponte Vecchio toward home.  Once again, the busy, noisy, and full restaurants we passed didn’t tempt us much and we enjoyed cooking a great supper of fresh cut pork, fresh tomatoes, and a great bottle of inexpensive wine.

Written on Sunday, October 14 our last day in Firenze:
(I didn’t edit this original text from my journal so you could get a sense for how we were feeling)

It is our last day in Firenze, tomorrow morning we will leave “A Birdseye View” and take a taxi to Santa Novella for the train to Naples. Neither of us is looking forward to tomorrow, and yet both of us are basically DONE. At one time or another this afternoon, one or the other of us said, “I want to be hooooommmmmme”. Deanna was looking at photos of her beautiful property in Northern Washington, a photo Keith sent today of gorgeous sunshine and the beautiful view over the river. Unlike me, she is not retired, and when she returns she will only get a short 3 days at the property in Lincoln, and then will have to get back out on the road in the big truck, crossing the country hauling jet engines all over the place so people like us can travel all over the place.

We are tired. We keep making excuses to each other on this, our last day, for not getting out of our jammies and at least going downstairs to view the lovely Sunday sunshine and watch people walking along the river. We stayed inside, worked on packing up our stuff, and ate simple breakfast.  We thought about going out to dinner, and instead cooked up the last of our pasta, garnishing it with the last of Sara’s tomato sauce, the last of our olives, and made another side of sliced tomatoes in olive oil and balsamic. Traditional Italian fare that has served us well.

We thought about walking up to Michelangelo Square for one last look at the city or going for an evening walk along the river for one last view, but decided again that we have done enough, we don’t need that one last view at all, we need instead to lie here in the almost comfortable sofa bed, look at photos and Facebook, play stupid Candy Crush and wait impatiently for it to get late enough to go to sleep.

Late in the afternoon a thunderstorm rolled over the city and we were glad we weren’t out walking somewhere. Neither of us slept well again last night, and the last few days have recorded at most 3 or 4 hours sleep on our watches. Ugh. Tonight will be the rare sleeping pill for both of us. When can we take it? When can we go to sleep??? We do have a good reason, since the next two days will be long and grueling.

On a happy note, however, the middle photo in this collage is the ceramic piece I returned to purchase on the way home from Boboli Gardens.  Shipped direct from Italy home, it arrived safe and sound.  The photo on the left is where Deanna found her keepsake ceramics in Siena, and the one on the right is where I found a sweet small watercolor in Siena as well.

April Delight

Just a reminder, if you click on any of these photos, you will be taken to the SmugMug album where you can view many more scenes from Sunset House and all the gorgeous kayak views. 

As often happens, I can only seem to begin writing by paying attention to what is happening right now.  Get in the moment, so to speak.  I started this blog a week ago, going back over my calendar, reviewing my photos, thinking and remembering what early April felt like.  It seems like a VERY long time in the past.  The cliché is that time flies the older we get, but I am grateful that the month of April seemed very nice and long to me.

Pansies at the front porch like the cooler weather

At the moment we are having days in the low 80’s followed by days that never manage to get to 60 degrees F.  Nights are cool, but no longer frosty, and the flowers here at Sunset House are thriving.  I am watching the weather today, because we are planning some outdoor activities with famous fabulous guests in town, and the skies go from blue to gray and back to blue in a matter of moments.  Crater Lake awaits.  Today we will do the classic round trip tour over the mountains hoping for sunlight to highlight that fabulous blue.  That is another story, one that will evolve over the next week that we get to share with long time friends, Erin and Mui, from Two to Travel, who are on the road in the west for the first time in a long time.

We had time for a bit of travel ourselves this month, with a quick trip to the Oregon Coast to share a couple of days with other blogging friends, John and Carol, from Our Trip Around the Sun.  They are on their way north to Alaska, and passed so close to our home that we couldn’t miss the opportunity to spend some time with them.  The last time we visited, Carol and John were volunteering at Ding Darling NWR in Florida.  They showed us a fabulous time with tours of the refuge, time at the beach together, and a truly fabulous dinner that lasted well into the night.  Some people are just right, and laughter is often the key.  We shared a lot of laughter with them.  Their love of Jimmy Buffett, good margueritas, and a joyous approach to life is contagious.

We met at Harris Beach State Park, where they found a site big enough for their rig along the back row in the trees.  Harris Beach is in the process of some renovations, so we weren’t able to snag a spot there, and instead Mo and I camped down on the waterfront at a private campground.  I loved listening to the sound of the surf all night long, and the wind and rain on the roof lulled me to sleep.

The sun came out for our beach walk with the dogs, a rather funny time for Mattie and Jimmy who are not exactly similar in style.  Mattie is crazy about the beach, runs like a wild thing in the sand, and gets very excited.  Jimmy, a precious and very sweet dog, didn’t think much of Mattie’s exuberance, and learned to hide behind John’s leg when Mattie came tearing at him, trying to get him to play.


I was a bit embarrassed, because there is just no stopping Mattie when she gets like that.  Play with me, NOW!  I think Mo and I made a big mistake when we let her play with the huge bloodhound that used to wander over to our house for doggie visits.  Mattie learned to play rough to keep up with him, and he loved it.  Jimmy, not so much.  In fairness, Mattie does great at the dog park, and at doggie day care she was a hit, so she isn’t mean, just very high energy.

We had dinner at the Sporthaven Grill, on the patio in the threatening rain, where the waitstaff brought us warming blankets and turned on the big propane heater.  It was quite delightful. We also spent most of a rainy day in their home, with snacks and drinks and a new game called Skip-Bo.  I guess it isn’t a new game, but it was new to us and created more opportunities for lots of laughter.

We came back home to spend more time fiddling around on the property here at Sunset House.  Mo built a beautiful arbor for a treasured vine that I have babied and coddled along since I first bought it in 2002.  She is finally happy here in the wonderful Grants Pass climate, protected from the sun and the heat on the east side of the house where she now lives with our new rhododendrons.

I have loved rhodies ever since I saw my first huge bloom at a nursery in Southern California.  Yes, I even remember the moment, 1963, when my eldest was an infant and my husband and I were daydreaming about someday having a place to plant flowers.  It was exciting to find the colors we wanted and to dig the holes nice and big, mulch them deeply and give them the perfect site.

I finally transplanted all the hostas, some plants that I brought from my home at Hauser Lake in Idaho back in 2002 when I moved to Klamath Falls.  Others were brought over from Mo’s house in Rocky Point.  We babied them through the incredibly hot summer last year and I know they are also very happy to be on the shaded east side of the house at last.  Rhodies and hostas, another favorite thing of mine.

We started going through the RV shed, purging unneeded “stuff” with the help of the Facebook Marketplace.  That app works great, much better than the local Craiglist.  With facebook I can view the profile of anyone requesting to see our stuff and it is bit easier to be selective about giving out an address or phone number.  With Craiglist, I was immediately bombarded with several fake purchasers offering to send me a check and have it clear before their “shipper” would pick up the item.  A huge scam!!  So glad I didn’t fall for that one.

We moved the BBQ off the back porch, finally deciding that the big black covered thing was getting in the way of our peaceful view

One of my most favorite things about Sunset House is the light.  Morning sunshine streaming into the bedroom is the best part of an east facing bedroom window.

Mid month we took a few days of mini vacation time for a few days of kayaking over on the east side of the mountains, where spring is a bit later arriving, but nonetheless, we were blessed with gorgeous sunny days. We spent the nights in our little apartment, where we now have renters in all the others except the smallest, Apartment B, where I used to do all my quilting during our transition times living at the Apartments in Klamath Falls. 

We have yet to find any kayaking that appeals to us here on the west side of the mountains.  The Rogue River is a bit big and rowdy for us, and the few lakes are actually reservoirs with barren shorelines.  Not our style.  We love the refuges and birds that we find when kayaking in the Klamath Basin.

We launched our kayaks for the first time in all the years we lived in Klamath Falls on Lake Ewauna, the body of water between Upper Klamath Lake and the Link River and the Klamath River. The launch is right in town at Veteran’s Park, and is in a more populated area than we usually kayak, but nevertheless, we were treated to some fabulous birds and great views of Klamath Falls proper from a completely different perspective.

American Avocet

American White pelican, the mascot for Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls from a completely different perspective

The next day we returned to our favorite kayaking spot of all time, our very own Recreation Creek. The mountains in the distance are the ones around the rim caldera of Crater Lake, with Mt Scott on the right.

We launched at Malone Spring and traveled north to Crystal Spring, truly one of the most amazing places to enjoy in the entire Klamath Basin. 

It was still early in the season for the east side, and the wocus lilies were still underwater.  I have taken so many photos of blooming wocus, but this time it was completely different to see the gorgeous colors underwater.  And thank you, daughter Deanna, for the polarizer lens birthday present.  Without it these wonderful colors are just shadows below the water reflections.

Another beautiful view of Mt Scott where my family hiked to the top with me on one of my most memorable birthdays ever.

We began our month of course on April Fools Easter, with Daughter Deborah and Grandson Matthew joining us for all the traditional Easter goodies.  I do love decorating for Easter, with the bunnies and all the energy of emerging springtime.  We invited the neighbors as well, a couple who have been good friends with Deborah from the time she lived here in the cottage, and who spent a previous Easter with us back in Rocky Point a few years ago.

There is that east morning light again!

As soon as Easter was over I packed my bags for a quick solo trip to Nevada City, California where I spent a lovely afternoon and evening with Jimmy and Nickie, from the Intrepid Decrepit Traveler.  They opened their home and guest room to me, took me to dinner in their charming town, and regaled me with stories of their past travels and their excitement about their upcoming trip to Peru, Machu Picchu, and the Amazon.  Such excitement!

The next morning we hiked a gorgeous springtime trail along the South Yuba River where the warming sunshine had us rolling up our sleeves and pant legs.  California is magnificent clothed in that flourescent springtime green, and I loved being there. 

I then traveled back to Oroville for my annual girl-time visit with lifetime best friend, Maryruth.  We are going on 55 years of friendship now and it is something I treasure.  Maryruth loves to cook and she spent several days cooking up tons of goodies so we wouldn’t have to cook much during my visit.  What a treat!  We spent most of the time holed up in her craft room office making cards, a hobby we both have come to love.  We spent a long time anticipating this card making retreat, and actually didn’t leave that room very much during the 3 days I was there. SO much fun. 

Of course I don’t have a lot of photos of this time because I was quite busy, and every time I bring out the camera, Maryruth has a fit, but we did at least manage to get our traditional toe photo.  We have done these photos for a few decades, to prove we were together, back in the days when selfies and tripods weren’t the norm and we couldn’t ever get a photo of the two of us at the same time.

Other days of the month have been filled with making a slide show for Mo’s brother Roger’s Memorial happening in late June.  It was a new thing for me, and of course I had to call on my trusty friend Erin once again.  If you want to get lost in some of the most amazing wildlife and travel photography ever, click on that link.  Erin is always so amazing in her willingness to share and help me when I need to understand anything relating to photography and especially Lightroom.  Her expertise has been invaluable to me over and over again. 

I managed to get the slideshow finished, and ready for the family’s review.  A big job, but also a fun one because reviewing and editing 437 pictures of Mo’s brother Roger gave me a chance to know him in ways I never did in the 15 years or so I actually knew him in real time.

September 25 County Kildare, Kilkenny, and on to Waterford

Ireland Day 5 County Kildare, Kilkenny, and on to Waterford

Ireland landscapes (1 of 1)-2 Something tells me that this story will be a bit shorter than the last few I have written.  I know from experience that it is vital to put the notes down while they are fresh, but that requires that I am also fresh, at least a little bit.  Tonight, however, I am anything but fresh.  A pint and a half of Guinness, a glass of wine with an truly magnificent dinner in a magnificent hotel restaurant, and I am completely worn out.

It is that time during a tour when things start running together and I classically get too full of stuff to take the time to write.  Back in the days of my hand written journals, these are the days when the journaling suddenly stops and I have no idea what happened.  In the days of the blog, when I can blog fairly live, I do a bit better, but there comes a time as well that I have to finish the blog once we are home and recreate how I felt from reviewing the photos.

I refuse to do that this time. For one thing, the daughters have said they are waiting impatiently for each update.  Thanks, Deb and Melody, for pushing me because tonight I would probably just crash into these lovely white sheets and comforters watching the Pope do his thing on CNN as he visits the US.  Nice.  Here we actually have CNN, which we didn’t have back in Dublin.

Ireland landscapes (1 of 1) I had some amazing moments today.  Moments I can barely describe because they leave me a bit at a loss for words.  Is there such a thing as genetic memory?  Having never been to Ireland, I have no reason to feel familiar with it, but as we rode the countryside of County Kilkenny today it felt incredibly familiar, as if I were in a place of home somehow.  We settled into the bus late in the afternoon, after playing with the horses at the National Stud back in County Kildare and the deeper we went into the landscape the more beautiful it felt to me.  And I don’t think this is even supposed to be the especially beautiful part of Ireland.

Still, the rolling hills, the incredibly green fields bounded by shorn and unshorn hedge rows, the crisp little white houses, some trimmed with blue and some with lavender, and most surrounded by flowers in full color, were just so moving.  Cows are everywhere, but as I once said as a kid, they were cows, not cattle.  Cattle belong in the western rangelands, a landscape completely foreign to this island.  Here the cows are mostly Holsteins and Jerseys, important for the rich Irish butter and thick cream that is everywhere in Ireland.  The only tan colored fields were of recently harvested barley, the stubble still standing.  Barley is beer, and Ireland is nothing it not beer country.  Literally.  The Guinness folks are some of the richest in the world.

Potatoes were being dug as well, and huge fields of cabbage were thick and green in the shifting light.  Mo said she was surprised that I loved the landscape so much since it was cloudy.  Well, maybe cloudy, but definitely NOT gloomy.  The skies change every minute, and the darkness of shifting sunshine is offset by the wide open views from horizon to horizon.  It isn’t closed in, it is open and fresh and brilliant.  I simply loved it.

01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (2 of 52)I suppose my mood was colored a bit by the lilting voice of an Irish lass wafting through the bus music system.  Irish music of a completely different sort than the raucous drinking songs that we heard in Dublin. Kind of a cross between Enya and Loreena McKennit, musicians that I used to listen to all the time, who have fallen by the wayside in my listening habits over the last few years.  Does it sound completely silly that as I watched the landscape roll by riding on a tourist bus listening to music, that I felt tears of something or other stinging my eyes.  The whole thing made me cry.  Not sad, or melancholy, just emotional.  An amazing moment that I tried to convey to Mo in words, but I’m not sure she got it.  I am not sure that I even got it.  It was a great feeling though, one of those moments that stand out years later in memory for no reason whatsoever, one of those moments that you can get traveling and not so easily any other way. 01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (1 of 52) The day started early, with us putting our big suitcases outside at 7am and going down to breakfast.  This time I knew well enough to keep myself happy with a banana sliced up into Muesli with milk, a good cup of coffee, and a part of a croissant.  All tasty and quite satisfying.

Seat wars are sometimes a facet of group travel, and since I get notoriously car sick in the back of the bus, Mo and I were careful to be out at the bus before anyone else, standing in the very chilly air in order to pick a good seat with no post in the view and far enough forward that I wouldn’t get sick.  I brought my wrist bands, but they are carefully packed in the big suitcase which was carefully loaded into the cargo bay.  Tonight they are sitting here by the phone and my sunglasses, not to be forgotten again as we continue down the curving winding roads in the big soft wiggly bus.

After our walking tour of the city, I was surprised to see that Dublin is really a huge metropolis of 1.5 million people, sprawling over the valley along the south side of the river Liffey much like Seattle along the Sound.  It is huge.  We traveled on a fairly new highway, a freeway that our guide called a “flyover”, telling us how great it was to travel this new fast road from Dublin to Waterford.

01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (37 of 52) Within an hour, we arrived at the beautiful grounds of the Irish National Stud.  Established in 1900 by Colonel William Hall Walker, who had a passion for horses, what once was a private stud farm was later donated to the Irish people and is now one of Europe’s premier studs.

Not only was Walker a horse lover, he was an astrologer who believed he could pick race horses based on their birth positions, and was an avid gardener.  The stud is a beautiful horse farm, but it is also an incredible garden.  The Japanese garden rivaled any I have seen, and no, I haven’t been to Japan, but there are some amazing Japanese gardens on the west coast that are pretty darn spectacular.  01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (11 of 52)01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (12 of 52)This garden was whimsical, and wonderful, a treasure of plants that reminded me very much of Bloedel in Vancouver, of the arboretum at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and the Japanese gardens in Seattle.01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (15 of 52)

From what I could see, many of the plants were similar to what can be grown in our moist northwest climate, but just a bit warmer.  Maritime influence must be strong here, and we saw tender plants in bloom that reminded me of all the English gardening books that were my personal bibles back in the 80’s when I was learning to garden with flowers and plants and especially perennials.01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (18 of 52)

The stud houses some very famous horses, and our guide was incredibly knowledgeable, really cute, and full of all sorts of raunchy information that he delivered with a great sense of humor.  After all, breeding horses is all about these big guys “getting it on”, and they do so with great enthusiasm.

01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (30 of 52) 01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (31 of 52) Invincible Spirit was probably the most famous horse currently munching in the pastures, but the list of important stallions that came from this stud is long and impressive.  The foals from Invincible Spirit are worth in the hundreds of thousands of Euros with a stud fee of 100,000.00.

01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (24 of 52) We saw the covering barn, the stalls of the stallions that were much like rather nice apartment complexes, and the famous stallions in the fields.  We then walked through more gardens, and on to the mares and foals, and then to the retired geldings put out to pasture, including the guys that do the “teasing” to get the mares ready and the mares that will foster babies who have lost their mom.It was a wonderful morning, full of sunny blue skies and fresh air. 

01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (42 of 52) 01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (44 of 52) 01 Irish National Stud and Gardens (48 of 52) Once back in the bus, continuing toward the south and County Kilkenny, the ride through the countryside was wonderful, even as the skies darkened with afternoon clouds.

We arrived in the town of Kilkenny in time to wander for about 90 minutes before our scheduled tour of Kilkenny Castle, an old stone fortress on the banks of the River Nore.  02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (5 of 35)Kilkenny is a Medieval town, with abbeys, and castles, and narrow winding medieval streets.   Isabella pointed out a pub as we drove by saying it was among the best, giving us directions to return if we chose.  We did.  It was an interesting place, with many small rooms and some truly beautiful bars, but it didn’t have that immediate intimacy that we enjoyed so much yesterday at Merchants.

02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (6 of 35) 02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (7 of 35) Still, the pint of Guinness was perfectly poured as is the custom.  It is something about that foamy wonderfulness with the creamy head just sitting above the edge of the glass that is so much fun.  That toasty slightly burned flavor from the accident of burned hops that made the beer in the first place is really nice too.  The best part were the “chips”.  French Fries in the US.  One thing Ireland knows how to do really well besides make beer is cook potatoes.  I am not sure I have had fries this good anywhere except yesterday at the other pub.  Geez!  Fries and beer for lunch was a good holdover for us since we knew that tonight we were in for a free dinner with the group.

Thank goodness that is all we did, because the free dinner was incredible.  But more on that later.

02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (12 of 35)After our walk through the Main Street of Kilkenny, we asked our waiter how we could find the pub at Kyteler’s Inn.  Neither Mo nor I could remember the name, except it was the inn owned by the woman accused of being a witch with a black cat on the sign in front. 

02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (17 of 35)  Dame Alice Kyteler’s house was built in 1224.  She had four husbands, all of whom died under suspicious circumstances, and eventually she was charged with witchcraft in 1323.  She was one of the first witches of that time to be sentenced to burning, but she never actually burned.  Instead, thanks to the head cover that was used on sentenced people before burning, she actually sent her handmaiden in her place and avoided the stake.

02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (19 of 35)The pub includes the original building and stonework, with some other areas in the upstairs that have been redone to look original, and features live music from traditional Irish to blues.  We sat at the bar, where I drank only a half pint this time of the heady brew.  I think maybe this beer is a bit stronger than I am used to because I felt as giddy as if I had been drinking champagne.

02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (3 of 35)We made it back to Kilkenny Castle in time for the 3pm entry with Isabella and our group.  What can I say…it was a castle.  I hate to sound provincial, but sometimes a castle is a castle is a castle.  Not always, but this one was imposing and wonderful in many ways, but still a big, gray, cold thing made of stone that made me glad I didn’t ever have to live in one.

02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (22 of 35) It was donated by the Butler family (very wealthy) to the town of Kilkenny for just 50 pounds.  I took a few photos before I noticed the no photos signs, and then I discovered that kind of cool idea of turning off the sound of the clicking shutter, hiding the red light of the “on” button, and taking a few surreptitious photos from waist level with no one the wiser.  Just couldn’t resist.

02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (32 of 35) When the castle was donated by the family, they auctioned off the furnishings and paintings, but for the last few decades many of the original paintings from the castle have been found and repurchased, and are now hanging in the impressive “Long Room”.  Most of the furnishings have been recreated from documentation of what was once there and looks very authentic. One piece that was original was a huge marble table that was just too incredibly heavy to move.  No one said how much it weighed. I know these tours are full of fascinating information, but this one was simply “OK”.  According to the Lonely Planet, Kilkenny Castle is one of Ireland’s most visited heritage sites, possibly because it is so close to Dublin and the town of Kilkenny is definitely charming.  The castles Melody and I saw in Budapest and Prague were much more interesting to me however.  Sorry Ireland, you know I love you.02 Kilkenny and Kilkenny Castle (35 of 35)

What is wrong with this picture!

It was five pm when we all returned to the bus for the last hour of the day driving to Waterford.  I think everyone was pretty worn out, I know I was.  Waterford is a port city, and our hotel, the Granville, faces the riverfront.  I had seen it on the internet and hoped it was as lovely as it looked.  At first, it seemed a bit tired, but as we found our room and opened the door, I was thrilled to find a luxurious, spacious room, with lovely beds, period furniture, a huge desk, instant free wifi, a big deep bathtub, a room safe, tiny biscuits on the coffee tray, and even heated towel racks.  Ahhhh….we both have room to walk around even when the suitcases are open.

03-Waterford and the Granville Hotel (2 of 5)03-Waterford and the Granville Hotel (3 of 5) With just an hour to get ready for supper, our suitcases were delivered within minutes of our arrival so I managed to get off the tired clothes I had worn for a couple of days and put on something fresh.  It is quite chilly here in Ireland, but not all the time.  Periods of chill seem to be interspersed with too much warmth, and I am constantly putting things on and off to try to deal with it.  Tonight I expected a warm dining room, and a light blouse with a scarf and low shoes was the perfect choice.

Reception-2-granville-hotel-waterford-1600x990 We entered the lovely dining room, set with white linen, lots of cutlery and glassware and a wonderful menu.  I forgot to mention that when our bus arrived at the hotel, the hotel manager came out to the bus and greeted us before we disembarked with a welcome and a description of the locally sourced and prepared food we were about to enjoy.

There were several choices for dinner in the beautiful Bianconi dining room, and I am sad to say that I didn’t even bother to take my camera down for the meal.  We sat with Kathy and Mary Beth, the best friends I mentioned from our first day, and Debbie and Kay, two additional women who have somewhat bonded.  It was a lively meal with great conversation.  Turns out that Mary Beth and I were born in the same maternity hospital in Alta Dena, just three years apart, and that we had many things in common, silly things that we laughed about a lot.

Restaurant-granville-hotel-waterford-1280x754Ahhh dinner!   My starter course was a salmon and prawn salad with some fresh greens, the entree was pork roast from Bobby Flynn’s local farm, done to perfection and served with a fabulous, tasty, but very light gravy and a very simple apple sauce that was smooth and silky.  Fresh carrots and green beans from local farms made the plate lovely to look at and again the potatoes were Irish heaven.  Not only did they hand serve perfect little scoops of mashed potatoes, but we had small roasted potato orbs that were unbelievably good.  The service was impeccable, with the hot plates served to us first, and the entrees dished out on our plates individually.  Lovely.  The Cabernet was also complimentary, and quite tasty, and dessert for me was an apple berry crumble with warm custard.  We were asked to create a cavity in our crumble for the waiter to add the warm sauce, again individually.  I don’t think I have ever had a complimentary meal with a tour that was this perfect.

Whew.  I managed to get it all out, and will have to read this back to Mo to see what I missed.  At almost 10PM and with another early and long day awaiting for tomorrow, I am done!

Photos for this amazing day have been uploaded to SmugMug.  You can see the here.

Coming Next: Waterford, the famous Waterford Crystal Factory, and the Magnificent Rock of Cashel.

08-08-2014 A Day to Celebrate Old Homes and Old Friends

Current Location: home in Rocky Point Oregon

Things get a bit strange for me when I am back home in the Inland Northwest.  I lived there for more than 30 years.  When I moved to Northern Idaho in 1972 the first time I believed it was my spirit soul home and that I would never leave.  I was so incredibly happy to have found the place where I belonged.  It came as a surprise to me that when the time came to leave, in 2002, I was ready to go.  flowers 04

My Hauser Cottage in 2002 I hauled everyone of those rocks from the mountains

It is no longer “home”.  Klamath Falls is now home and I knew it was the moment I arrived 12 years ago.  No clue how that happens, but it does.  Funny though, I grew up in Southern California and it never felt like home, even when I lived there.  As a child I was always dreaming of moving north.  As an adult I started the journey of years, ended it as far north as Prince George BC before finally coming to rest here in Oregon.  North enough.

Homes revisited (8 of 21)The Hauser cottage in 2014 the gardens are gone and so are the rocks

But unlike returning to the San Gabriel Valley in SoCal, when I go back north to the Spokane/Coeur d Alene area I feel the old pull.  I am brought up short over and over with memories of who I was then and who I am now.  I barely recognize myself any more.  There have been too many twists and turns in my life and as I said once before, the sections don’t seem to be all that connected.

08-07-2014 revisiting my old homes

The Hauser cottage in 2014 a lock box on the door but no for sale sign

Collages2My Hauser cottage gardens in 2002

Two of my four children are in Oregon and none are back in Washington or Idaho.  My lifetime soul friend, Maryruth, is in California, and I have other close and wonderful friends all over the US.  Yet there is one friend who shared that life with me who still lives the life we lived back then, right there north of Coeur D Alene in Dalton Gardens.

Friends revisited (3 of 95)My friend Laura in her backyard in Dalton Gardens

She even has the same donkey she had then, who is now 32 years old.  Laura also has chickens, which makes me miss mine, and she has gardens that flourish the way mine used to when I had that great soil and those long days to make things grow.

Friends revisited (22 of 95) I was so happy for a day to spend with Laura on her lush and luscious acre of perfect soil, water, and sunshine and a gardener’s love.  Driving east from Spokane early in the morning, I took a side route through Newman Lake and Hauser Lake, just to see how things had changed, and to see my old homes.

the HauserMy Hauser Farmhouse in 1984 in the first year of gardening there

Especially endearing to see was the old farmhouse where I lived with Lance and my kids for many years.  Melody spent her teenage years here, on her horse most of the time.  My gardens were so magnificent that people would drive by every Sunday to see what was blooming.  It was a lovely life at that time.  The old weeping willow is now so big that I can no longer see the house from the road.  The house itself was the second one built on Hauser Lake, in 1886.  It was tiny, and had only wood heat.  Lots of memories in that place. 

Homes revisited (20 of 21)The old Hauser Farmhouse in 2014 Grandsons birth trees on the right and to the right of the willow

I took photos of my two grandsons’ birth trees which are planted at this old homestead, and they are both thriving.

I then drove by the tiny cottage that belonged to my grandmother, where she died, and where I ended up after becoming almost homeless after my divorce.  For nearly 7 years I worked hard to make this tiny place a home, and the gardens again flourished, although in a much smaller space.  The ceilings were only 6 feet 4 inches high.  Easy to paint, but my son in law used to have trouble walking around inside!

Scan004, October 20, 2001Hauser Cottage in 2002Homes revisited (5 of 21) Hauser Cottage in 2014

The last time I drove by this house I was devastated.  The gardens were gone, most of the huge firs were gone.  The house was abandoned and in shambles.  This time it was a bit different.  Still no gardens, but the house was being loved and repaired.  It was empty, so I walked around and looked inside the windows.  There were new cupboards, new floors, everything remodeled  nicely.  

Homes revisited (15 of 21) The old brick patio I laid was still there, and the wooden bench that Bel made, where I sat for many hours with my cat Caesar, who lived to be 16 years old, was still there.  Someday someone may garden there again, and the huge 100 year old maple and horse chestnut tree still thrive.

Friends revisited (10 of 95)Laura’s gardens

It was a nostalgic drive, and I was very happy to continue east to Laura’s to get some big loving hugs and be treated to my friend’s amazing space. Laura lived that old life with me.  We canned and cooked together, trained our horses together, talked about chickens and eggs and men together.  Raved about “stuff” together, even shared our journals with each other. We understood each other and still do. I am so glad that Laura finally retired from her life of nursing to be home with her gardens and her granddaughters and daughters, and that she had a whole day free to spend with me.

Friends revisited (56 of 95) Laura laughs and calls herself a hoarder, and says her contractor husband is a hoarder as well. 

Friends revisited (81 of 95) Well, she may be right, but Laura is the best kind of hoarder you can imagine.  She hoards “stuff” to make crazy art and it emerges from every nook and cranny in her gardens and her home. 

Friends revisited (74 of 95) Even in early August, her tomatoes were huge, her squashes ripe, beans, fruit, cucumbers, everything you could possibly imagine was huge and lush.  It sure made me miss my old gardens. 

Friends revisited (41 of 95) As hard as I try I can’t make things grow like this in my forest home in the mountains of Oregon.  Laura has flowers everywhere.  She also has a ton of ribbons from the county fair for her flowers from the last few years.  I think I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Friends revisited (15 of 95)Friends revisited (18 of 95)Friends revisited (11 of 95)Friends revisited (20 of 95) I wanted to see another old friend as well, Sandy, but her work schedule made it harder to fit an entire day in. 

Friends revisited (86 of 95)Instead, with Sandy also being a friend of Laura’s, we had a beautiful lunch of fresh picked veggies in Laura’s dining room while we reminisced about old times. 

Friends revisited (88 of 95)Friends revisited (89 of 95) The best kind of day with people I have loved for years from my old life.

Next post: Back to the reunion for fabulous family dinners and floating the Little Spokane River


Life and the Rest of May

Current Location Rocky Point Oregon Sunny and 45 F with a predicted high of 75.  Perfect

Quilt Show_071 If the month of April at Rocky Point is mostly about winter cleanup, the month of May is definitely about gardening.  Real gardening, not just all the cleanup, but the kind of gardening that rewards one with watching beloved perennials grow lush, shopping for the hundreds of annual plants required to keep some color in the yard over the summer, and planting all of them.

Quilt Show_043 The house at Rocky Point is on land that isn’t really that big, even less ground than the Grants Pass winter cottage, but there is a lot more to do here it seems.  Lots of nooks and crannies, lots of different planting beds, and of course, lots of pine needles to keep digging out of the rocks.

IMG_4100 A big job this time of year is getting those pine needles off the roof.  Mo does the climbing and I hold the ladder and manage the electric cord for the blower.  I laughed this time as she carefully crawled back down from the steep side of the eaves and I said, “How much longer do you suppose?”  We love it here, so much.  But it IS a lot of work at times, and the question lingers…how long will Mo be able to climb that roof to blow off the needles. 

In the mean time, after returning from the coast before Mother’s Day, we spent some extended time over at the cottage, doing some of the cleanup jobs that are on the list over there.  The nice thing about the cottage is that there is really no deadline.  Other than burning the debris in the springtime burning window, we have as many years as we need to get that .89 acre cleaned up and ready for us to live there.  The defining moment may never come, then again it could come all too soon, maybe when Mo no longer wants to plow snow or blow needles off the roof at Rocky Point.

As luck would have it, we decided to be in Grants Pass for Mother’s Day, with a plan to do the classic Mother’s Day activity of Sunday Brunch at a beautiful restaurant.  Daughter Melody and the kids drove over on Sunday morning to see the cottage and share the morning with me, Mo, and Deborah at the Taprock Grill next to the Rogue  River.

Mothers Day 2014_039I had so much fun watching all the moms and grandmas and seeing all the flowers and presents and everyone posing for family photos at the various lovely sights in the park adjacent to the restaurant.  I felt like I was right in the middle of a middle America tradition that somehow remains the same in spite of a changing world.

During our time in Grants Pass, Mo split the rest of the oak from the tree we took down last year, moved a flower bed that was right in the middle of the planned new drive entry to the MoHo shed, mowed the acre and did a ton of weed eating.  We cleaned up the outside corner and built a mound, bought a couple of crepe myrtle trees for color, planted the mound, and Mo burned a ton of debris. 05-24-2014 Grants Pass Memorial Day

We parked the MoHo along an old cement patio and it felt just like our own private campground.  Even though Deb was gone and we could have stayed in the cottage, we chose to enjoy our own space in the MoHo, sitting on the patio watching the sun set over the hill to the west is a special pleasure of the land in Grants Pass.  At home, our sunrises and sunsets are blocked by the high Cascades and the immense forest.

sue Deanna Deb on Mothers day

Our choice to be in Grants Pass that weekend was especially auspicious, since daughter Deanna and husband Keith once again were traveling south along I-5 and I got to see them twice in less than 30 days!  On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, they parked at a nearby rest area for the night and met Deb and I for breakfast at Elmer’s not far off the freeway. 

Grants Pass_016 Sad thing about the Grants Pass cottage, even though it has more land than Rocky Point, there is no place to park the big rig there, and the roads leading to the cottage are too narrow with weight restrictions so the kids can only park downtown at WalMart to spend some visiting time with us. 

With their LA arrival time scheduled for the next day, they had a few hours to do some sightseeing with us, and Deb and I drove them through the gorgeous Applegate Valley not too far south of the cottage.  Deanna and Keith are saving money while trucking with a plan to buy property somewhere eventually, and of course I am hoping that will be close to me here in Oregon.Grants Pass_005 

Lucky for me, the springtime beauty of the Applegate was fabulous, with blue skies dotted with puffy whites and new fresh green bursting out all over.  I love the Applegate area, with farms and wineries, and for Deanna and Keith, who love being a lot farther away from town than I do, it was perfect.  We spent quite a bit of time looking at some interesting properties that really caught their eye. 

Nothing was decided, but I am glad that there will be sweet visual memories of the lovely Applegate area in their minds over the next few years as they make decisions about where they might want to settle down.  No snow, kids! Although they also love Alaska, so I suppose snow isn’t yet much of a deterrent to them. Deanna and Theron

Deanna became a grandmother for the fifth time in May, and once again I am a great grandmother.  Theron was born in Wenatchee this month, brother to Orion and Tearany.  I am glad that Deanna has the opportunity to be close to these grandchildren in spite of family complexities.

Grants Pass_037 I have that crazy obsessive feeling that often happens this time of year: too much to do and not enough time: too many choices: too many things I want to be doing!  Obviously, writing has slipped to the back of the list and I am simply keeping track of what is going on with short notes on my Google calendar.  I do love that particular application.

Grants Pass_038 On another note, an application that I don’t love quite so much is HGTV’s House and Landscape program.  I actually paid for the stupid thing and spent quite a bit of time trying to at least get a rudimentary replica of the cottage and grounds set up so we could get some ideas about what me might like to eventually do there.

Not so much.  The learning curve is huge, and I am not completely stupid.  The software is cumbersome and after a day or two of fiddling with it, I decided that a piece of graph paper and a pencil was the better option.  Maybe some snowy winter day I will get back to it.

Grants Pass_056 In the midst of gardening and landscaping work at two homes, I am trying to have time to quilt.  Our quilt group gives away “huggie” quilts to anyone in the community who is hospitalized or has lost a loved one.  They have given away 141 quilts in the last six years since they started doing it.  As a fairly new member, I have yet to complete a huggie quilt, and am now working on one.  I am a new enough quilter that it is extremely hard for me to give away a quilt to someone I don’t know. But I decided it is time to step up to the plate and the quilt is in the works.

Grants Pass_019Tiny living room in the cottage all painted an pretty thanks to Deborah’s hard work

Late in the month, Deborah was sent to Dallas for a work related training, and her company allowed her to fly home to Grand Junction instead of Grants Pass.  When she moved home from Colorado last year, she had to leave most of her belongings in a storage facility and this was her chance to get everything back in one place.  With a bit of complexity due to missed flights, she finally got everything on the truck and headed west via I-70 and Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America, and pulled up to the Grants Pass cottage late on Sunday evening.

Grants Pass_012 Mo and I were waiting with supper and hugs.  The next day, with help from neighbors Glenn and Karen, we all unloaded the truck into Deb’s new storage place, just a couple of miles from home.  The cottage is tiny, but at least she can go down to her storage and get things like her blender and spices, and other small things that she has missed so much in the last year while adjusting to her new life.

Bessie Lane Oroville062John Jr, Deanna, Sue, and Deborah in 1966 in Oroville California

For me, getting Deb’s stuff out of storage had another benefit.  Deb was the caretaker of several boxes of very old family photos.  When I think of my “bucket list”, getting all the family photos scanned, organized, named, and catalogued is huge on the list.  I took back the boxes and started the scanning project.  I know it is morbid, but there are many people my age leaving the planet, and the one thing I want to have completed before I do so is the photos to the kids project. 

Sue004My mother who passed away in 1952, me at 3, and my grandmother who passed away in 1993.

I knit during the early news programs, quilt till it gets warm enough to get outside, garden as long as my back holds up, and then try to work on photos the rest of the time.  I barely scan blogs any more, and like last month, I rarely comment.  Thank goodness for Facebook, a bit quicker and I can at least let folks know I am still around and reading.

Friend Jeanne sent an email yesterday, complaining that there was no blog and wanting to know what in the world I was doing.  Friend Mary Ann from Albuquerque sent an email asking if I had done something with the Mother’s Day blog she thought was up there and couldn’t find.  Nope, no blog.  Just a quick facebook post with photos!  So, for my two most loyal friends and readers….here is the blog!