The engrossing work in planning for the future…Do we use a travel agent?…

Oughterard Shrubbery is a lovely spot to stop and enjoy nature.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“A law was enacted in 2009 that makes it illegal to be drunk in public in Ireland.”
As we research visiting our following country, we’re amazed over how much more work it is now compared to almost seven years ago when we first began traveling.

This is a stream in Oughterard Shrubbery.

Why is this the case? It appears there is 10 times the number of websites advertising the same information for the same venue. Sorting through them to ensure we’re in the correct place with the best pricing requires diligent efforts by both of us.

Once we get on a specific site simultaneously from each of our laptops and carefully peruse it, we’re more able to determine if we should seek out another site.  

Steps to the stone footbridge over the stream.

It’s a time-consuming process, often taking several hours a day for a week or more, to decide on what we’d like to do, which site we’ll use, reviews from other users, and the details of the booking, it’s only then, we’ll go ahead and book the venue.

It’s not as if we have a travel agent. With the complication of the nature of our lives, it wouldn’t be prudent to leave the many facets of our travel in the hands of a stranger.  

As in most areas of Ireland, there is a tremendous number of stones.

Yes, we use Vacations-to-Go for most of our cruise bookings after working with them since mid-2012 when we booked our first cruise. We’ve been shifted from one rep to another over the years, as they’ve come and gone or been promoted in the company.

In a few cases, we felt the rep assigned to us couldn’t handle our needs leaving us to contact a manager to suggest another more experienced representative diplomatically. Right now, we’re very happy with Heather at Vacations-to-Go, our knowledgeable rep with years of experience.
Pretty flowers in the park.

As we research plans for early 2020, we’re finding the best route to use a travel agency when we know so little about the country and the places within that country that appeal to our tastes. Even so, this still is a complicated process.

At times, particularly on cruises, other passengers have described how much work they put into booking a single cruise, considering transportation to and from the airport or pier, public or private transportation while in the country, tipping policies, hotel bookings, and the many nuances of the cruise itself.

It’s interesting how most of us are drawn to water scenes.

When booking a cruise, the cabin number and its location within the ship can require hours of research and contemplation, let alone the choice for dining times; excursions either through the ship or privately; WiFi availability and costs; drink packages and the different pricing;  pre-booked spa services, if desired; and specialty restaurant packages often offered before sailing.

For an inexperienced traveler, this task can be daunting, if not overwhelming. For us, it was a trial and error process since we were traveling non-stop. For many travelers, this is a once-in-a-lifetime or once-a-year trip, for which they expect relative perfection.

An onlooker on the bridge over the stream.

Nothing is more frustrating than discovering a cabin above or below the disco (this happened to us once, and they moved us after three days of requesting a change). I could hear and feel the vibration of the music in my pillow at 1:00 am. (The disco often stays open until 3:00 am). Early on, we certainly learned a lesson after this experience.

But, these particulars are often unknown to the average traveler, and we often see long lines at the ship’s customer service desk with disgruntled passengers who wanted to change to a different cabin. Additionally, more experienced cruisers will wait in this queue for hours to request a free upgrade.

Sheep were running away when we stopped for photos.

There’s no way we’re interested in standing in line for two hours to upgrade our cabin. We strive to book the best possible cabin for our budget, thus far always with a balcony (this could change down the road), and if everything is working, clean and safe, we’re happy to stay put.

So now, as we work to book the next country we’ll visit, we do so with the utmost care and consideration. Soon, we have some details to share.

May your day be filled with wonders.

Photo from one year ago today, June 26, 2018:

Yesterday, we spotted this ostrich family near this vehicle. It was over four years ago we saw our first ostrich in the wild in Marloth Park. It was on December 7, 2013, that we’d spotted an ostrich standing next to this exact vehicle at this same property, looking at himself in the window of the vehicle. Click here for that post. Please click here for the one year ago post.

A visit to the quaint town of Oughterard…More planning for the future…

A popular pub in Oughterard.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“James Hoban, an Irishman, was the designer of the U.S. White House.”

It was an enjoyable day in the charming town of Oughterard. When we arrived in Ireland 44 days ago, we drove through the village on our way to Glinsce and decided at some point we’d return, long before we were to drive back to Dublin to depart on August 8, 2019.

During the summer months, Oughterard is a popular tourist town.

As it turns out when I checked how many days had passed until we arrived and when we departed at this site, today is the exact midway point of our 88-night stay, ending in 44 days from today.

This is considered a busy intersection in the small town with a population of 1318 (as of 2016).

We didn’t have a plan or specific shopping in mind when we commenced our walk through the downtown area.  We found ourselves browsing one shop after another, never making any purchases but enjoying the equivalent of window shopping.

There are many restaurants and bars in Oughterard.

Even Tom, who dislikes shopping, suggested we investigate several shops that, in our old lives, he’d never enter.  With cultural differences reasonably apparent in the historical Connemara area, it’s always interesting to see the products offered to tourists.  

The work of local artists is on display.

We can’t imagine many locals purchasing clothing and household goods in these small-town shops with the high prices. Perhaps they wait until a visit to Dublin (544,000 population) or Galway (80,000 population) which as larger cities offer more choices for household goods and clothing.

Gift and craft shop on the main street.

There are no doubt prices are higher here than in many areas of the world we’ve visited, especially recently coming from South Africa, one of the most affordable countries we’ve seen to date.

We learn so much about local culture in these small towns and villages. The people are friendly, the architecture is interesting, and the restaurants and shops are many.

Pansies in a pot on the sidewalk.

The only item we purchased was sausage for Tom’s pizza from the butcher in a tiny grocery store.  It was as good as any sausage we’d purchased anywhere. Of course, we didn’t get out of the store without Tom buying a box of fresh-baked chocolate-covered doughnuts.

It’s not easy finding unique food items or snacks for me. Now that I kinked my diet to reduce the fat I consume while still having plenty of healthy fats, baking anything low carb is out of the question when most recipes require vast amounts of fat. Who knows if I’m doing the right thing for my heart?  

There are a few organic markets in the village.

Even science and my doctors didn’t have a clue as to how I should eat after this major surgery. Studies are skewed by big business, and doctors have little experience with nutrition, if at all. So, on my own, I’ve continued with a low-carb way of eating but reduced my daily fat intake by about 30%.

Recently, noticing how sparse our future itinerary is looking, we concluded we need to start planning more for the future. Currently, we are amid the process of pinning down a new country to visit with exciting venues along the way.

Church of the Immaculate Conception, located at the end of the business district.  “In the 2016 Irish census, 78.3% of the population identified as Catholic in Ireland, numbering approximately 3.7 million people. Unlike Catholics in some other countries, Ireland has seen a significant decline from the 84.2% who identified as Catholic in the 2011 census.”

Once we have things wrapped up, we’ll be sharing photos and the information here. We’ve always made a point of waiting until we’ve paid deposits before listing the locations here.  

What we dream of is one thing. What we do is another. When we can combine these two, life is blissful.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, June 25, 2018:

It’s always enjoyable watching the young calves playing in the water, discovering the wonders of their trunks. For more photos, please click here.

A visit to a popular craft shop in Ireland…Story about the Connemara Giant…

The Connemara Giant.  Please see the story below.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”

“The Royal Cork Yacht Club is the oldest in the world and originally began in.
On our recent drive to Oughterard (try pronouncing this name…ow-ter-ard), we had an opportunity to do a fair amount of sightseeing with photos we’ll post over the next several days.
A sign at the entrance to Joyce’s Craft Shop and Art Gallery.
It was a worthwhile outing on a rare, relatively clear day with blue skies and fluffy white clouds. The temperature was cool at 14C, 57F, with a strong breeze. This temperature is cool for us after 15 months in Africa, but slowly we’re adapting to the differences.
Paintings of the stunning local scenery.
We were thrilled to get out and see more of Connemara, a vast area known for its quaint charm, ocean views, history, and kindly citizens. The drive to Oughterard was long, but the scenery never failed to amaze us.
Artwork made by local artists lines the walls and shelves in the store.

We encountered many sites along the way.  Today, we’re sharing the following three points of interest. More will follow in days to come.

Although these look like bath towels, they are actually soft wool blankets. “Wool is natural. It is carbon-friendly. It is renewable. There are no animals killed or slaughtered. It’s a beautiful product!”

Connemara Giant (as shown in the main photo with information from this site):

“The Connemara Giant statue highlights the Irish humor perfectly. The statue was created by Joyce’s Craft Shop, located across the road, “for no apparent reason.” 
However, local legend has it that the Connemara Giant may have a bit of Irish magic about him. It is believed that if you touch the hand of the giant, you will be blessed with the knowledge of his ancient tribe.”
As we entered Joyce’s Craft Shop and Art Gallery.
(Mr.) Joyce’s Craft Shop and Art Gallery (from this site):
“Located in Recess village, 13 miles from Clifden on the main N59 road to Galway City, Joyce’s Craft Shop and Art Gallery is one of the best craft shops in Ireland, as well as being the home of the famous Connemara green marble. Wide range of knitwear, rare books, antiques, hand-made jewelry, and original gifts. Touch the hand of the ‘Connemara Giant’ across the street.”
A massive polished Connemara stone.  See more below on marble in Ireland.

Connemara Marble (from this site):

“Connemara is bounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean and encompasses a wide variety of natural and semi-natural habitats, reflecting its great geomorphologic and geological complexity. It also has diverse economic resources. Among the more unusual are extensive deposits of soapstone and veins of green marble and vivid white quartz. In Neolithic times, the green marble was traded as far away as Lough Gur, County Limerick, and possibly to the Boyne Valley.

Connemara Marble is a serpentine-rich rock, popular since ancient times as a decorative facing stone. With its ‘forty shades of green’ and its wild patterns, it represents perfectly the landscapes of the Emerald Isle. Connemara Marble inspired artists, architects, and artisans throughout the world. Jewelry and other small objects such as key rings, coasters, and crosses are also made with this unique stone.”

A lone sheep reminds us of the valuable wool business in Connemara.
It’s always exciting for us to take new and unfamiliar routes for the outstanding scenery on the way to and from a destination. The countryside in Ireland never disappoints with an abundance of lake and ocean scenes, barnyard animals, and lush greenery.

We continue to be in awe of all the sheep everywhere, as we drive carefully on the winding roads to avoid the possibility of an unexpected encounter with a sheep, cattle, or donkey grazing on the side of the road.  
Many animals have their young in tow during the spring and summer seasons, and they’ve yet to learn to stay clear of vehicles on the roadway.  Eventually, they all know to move off the road as cars and trucks approach.
Have a great Monday, everyone! May your day be filled with beautiful surprises!

Photo from one year ago today, June 24, 2018:

For the first time, the prior night at Jabula Restaurant, we saw a Thick-Tailed Bushbaby. These are huge compared to the tiny bushbabies, the “Lesser Bushbaby,” which we see each night on the little stand where we place the little cup of fruity yogurt.  For more photos, please click here.