Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reflections on the Emerald Isle, part 3 Kilkenny

This is it.  This was the first one.  It was goooood.

For our first three nights in Ireland, we had made no reservations for rooms to sleep.  That was part of the adventure we looked forward to.  We found a spot to park and walked in the rain along the streets of Kilkenny, a lovely and typical Irish village.  We stopped inside a hotel or two along the way, but nothing seemed quite right.  We didn't want fancy hotels.  We wanted the flavor of Ireland and we wanted the "full Irish breakfast" we'd heard so much about.  Soon enough, we went into a pub to ask and met a man named Luke.  Luke sent us on to a pub called Lanigan's Pub & Hostel.  It is here we had our first Guinness and licked the foam off our lips.  Ah, but, I digress. 
Our first night, Jim had breakfast for dinner.  It was goooood.

Inside, we met P.J., the bartender.  He was so helpful, but assured us that we probably didn't want to sleep in the hostel.  It was St. Stephen's night and things were about to gear up fast and furious with rambunctious and raucous crowds.  He directed us to a pub next door where we might find rooms, but says our best bet is Rafter Dempsey's up the road.  We quickly stopped next door, but soon left because breakfast was not included.  I'm telling you, we wanted that Irish breakfast and we were determined. The proprietor told us to come back if we don't have luck at Rafter Dempsey's and he'll "ring up a few B&B's".  Sweet.  Oh, and P.J. told us to come back once we had a room and he would let us park in his car park.  For free.  Luck was with us and we found a room and that Irish breakfast at Rafter Dempsey's.  Food and service did not disappoint.  Tami and Jeff were without heat in their room.  Jeff wore a hat to bed that night and about 14 layers of clothes.

My first meal in Ireland.  I was tired, cold and wet.  This was gooooood.

Scenes from Kilkenny

This would be Patrick Joseph, who proffered a wedding proposal to me, hinting that he would have to kill Jim first.  He was like a waif from a Dickens novel,   including hat, long wool coat, a limp and a cane.    

Beggars on St. Stephen's Night

I obviously felt the same as Jeff.

Street Scenes

Kilkenny Castle

Where we parked our car, thanks to P.J.

Kilkenny Castle

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reflections on the Emerald Isle, part 2

Ireland is, too, green.

As the plane prepared for a landing in Dublin, I looked out the window and all I saw was white.  I'm not talking about clouds, I'm talking about snow.  SNOW!  Five to six inches of snow.  Here we'd been talking for two months about seeing green in the midst of our winter and I look out the window to see five to six inches of snow covering as far as the eye could see.  Well.  Dismay quickly turned to joy anyway because I thought, "People and pubs.  We are really here for the people and pubs." I wasn't going to let the snow diminish our trip in anyway.  Turns out, I didn't have to.  On our first afternoon, the rain came and washed the snow away.  We never saw snow again.  While it wasn't as green as it would have been at a different time of year, it was still green and it was still lovely.

At Glendalough (glen-dah-lock)

At the Rock of Cashel

Looking upon the town of Cashel

 They aren't kidding when they say the roads in Ireland are narrow.

The pick-up.

We picked up our rental car with relative ease and headed to Kilkenny for our first night.  Jim drove.  Yikes, Jim drove.  Jim drove on the wrong side of the road while sitting on the wrong side of the car.  And drove a stick shift.  Jim drove a stick shift with his left hand.  Oy, what an adventure.  Jeff was fine.  Jim was fine.

Don't let the picture fool you, he's just as nervous as the rest of us.

Tami and I were not fine and emitted many "eeks" and "ooooo-eeeeeee-aaaaayyyyyeeee!!!!!" along the way.  I may have also, um, calmly told Jim to slow down.  There are stone walls and fences that line the roads and I think we smoothed the edges of many of them.  I don't know how there weren't scratch marks all along the side of our car.  Reach out and touch someone?  Heck, I could have reached out and touched a sheep.

Don't let the smiles fool you.  They She's a wreck.

For the next three days, Jim ignored my nagging about his driving.  Yup, he just blew me off.  I thought we were going to slide off the road many a time.  He didn't care and just said, "We're fine, we're fine."  If we weren't traveling with people we didn't know (initially) very well, he would NOT have been fine.  I probably would have hit him with something a time or two.
They say they were exhausted from no sleep for 24+ hours.  I say this was a great way to deal with Jim driving on the wrong side of the road.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reflections on the Emerald Isle, part 1

It is always so hard to sum up a really good experience so that someone who wasn't there can truly understand and enjoy it the way you did.  It's not really possible, you know.  There is no way they can feel it or experience it the same way when they weren't there.  As I sit here wanting to write about our time in Ireland, I am stumped with how to begin.  Maybe I'll just have to do it in several posts.  Whatever.  I'll just begin and see where it goes from there.

At O'Hare waiting to leave.

Tami and Jeff

Jim takes his own picture.

The Irish people are lovely.
We  did not meet one grouchy, cranky, or rude Irish person.  Not one.  Oh, there may have been two, but one was drunk and young and stupid and he was the brother of the bride at a stag party (bachelor party) which we stumbled upon our second night there.  The other was a young woman ringing up our purchases at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.  Besides them, we met not a one. In the U.S., it is a rare find anymore to find a clerk in a store saying "please" and "thank you" let alone have a smile on their face and an obvious delight in serving you.  Huh-uh.  But in Ireland, oh, in Ireland, I felt like a queen.  The bartenders, the store clerks, the people we sat next to on a bus, the people we sat next to in the pubs, ALL of them to a person made me feel like I was doing a great service by allowing them to assist me.  And they did it all with their lovely Irish lilt and grinning ear to ear, which just made it all the better.  I tell you, I felt lifted up just by asking for a cup of coffee.  You would have thought they had just been waiting all day for the moment I came in just to serve me.

The Irish are generous.

Jim and I are generous people.  We are generous with our time and our money and our love.  But during that week in Ireland, I had several experiences that have encouraged me to be even more so.  Those stories will come, and more.

Suffice it to say that we went to Ireland looking for adventure through the land, the pubs and the people.  We found it.  The worst part of our trip was the flight to and from and that was only because KLM seats are too narrow and have too little legroom for a transatlantic flight.

A few pics to entice you:

Friday, January 7, 2011


About fifteen years ago, I learned that I have hypothyroidism and have been on medication for it since then.  The medication reduced the size of the nodule that had grown on my thyroid.  This fall at my annual check-up, my doctor (I love my doctor) noticed that the nodule had grown larger again.  Could mean thyroid cancer.  Hmm.  The specialist I was referred to told me that if one could choose the cancer they got, thyroid cancer would be the one to choose because it is so slow growing.  Uh, okay. 

So, the first step for determining what was what was to have a needle aspiration biospsy.  This wasn't a horrible experience, but it was a bit uncomfortable.  The results came back inconclusive.  Sigh.  So my next choice was another needle aspiration in conjunction with an ultrasound or surgery to remove half of the thyroid.  I chose the surgery.  It seemed to me that another needle aspiration would just produce the same results and I'd still need a more conclusive measure.  I chose to bypass the needle aspiration and just have the surgery.  I wasn't really gung-ho about surgery, but I thought it would be better to just bite the bullet and find out.  I will tell you, though, that I chose not to have it until I got back from our Christmas trip to Ireland (more on the trip later.  It was a blast.)

Soooo, I had surgery yesterday morning to remove half my thyroid. It was scheduled as day surgery with the possibility of having to stay overnight.  An overnight stay would mean they had to take out the whole thyroid because they found it to be cancerous.  I wouldn't know until I woke up.

No cancer.  No cancer.  I was trying to be all cool as a cucumber prior to the surgery, but I will tell you that I felt a tremendous release of tension when I learned no cancer was found.  Praise God.

I got to go home.  Jim was my little haus frau and waited on me very lovingly.  Today, I'm home trying to recuperate.  Watching movies set in Ireland.  Swayze the Dog has barely left my side.  Vicodin makes me woozy.  It also makes me sleepy and I've found myself dozing in the middle of emails and blogposts..............

Gratitude and relief.