Part 3…Kylemore Abbey…A romantic gift lives on…A tragic love story…

A wedding gown of the era.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland” 

“Leprechauns originate in Irish folklore as
a fairy in the form of a tiny old man often with a cocked
hat and leather apron. The word derives from the Old Irish word luchorpanmeaning ‘little body’.”
As we wandered through the rooms of Kylemore Castle, we were reminded of many historical castles, museums, and homes we’ve toured during our travels.  In a considerably lesser manner, Kylemore’s furnishings reminded us of some of the furnishings in Versailles, although definitely not as elaborate. To see those photos, please click here.

After all, a king, Louis XIII, built the magnificent French palace, not a simple businessman like Henry Mitchell a few centuries later.  But, Margaret and Henry, as world travelers, surely have visited Versaille and other great castles while their castle was being built in Ireland.
The interior of Kylemore Abbey’s castle was renovated in recent years honoring the design and style of the era.
Sadly, Margaret’s life was cut short while traveling as explained in the following from this site:

“A Tragic Love Story

As you enter the front door of Kylemore Abbey you cannot help but notice the beautiful carved angel which guards over it. In the hands of that angel is the coat of arms of Margaret Henry’s birth family, the Vaughan’s of County Down. 

Margaret’s Coat of Arms over the front door proudly proclaim this as her castle. Look more closely and you will also see charming carvings of birds which were a favorite motif of the Henry’s. The birds represented the Henry’s hope that Kylemore would become the ‘nesting’ place of their family. Indeed Kylemore did provide an idyllic retreat from the hustle and bustle of life in London where, even for the very wealthy, life was made difficult by the polluted atmosphere caused by the Industrial Age.

This chaise certainly appeared to be comfortable.

At Kylemore Margaret, Mitchell and their large family reveled in the outdoor life of the ‘Connemara Highlands’. Margaret took on the role of the country lady and became much loved by the local tenants. Her passion for travel and eye for beauty were reflected in the sumptuous interiors where Italian and Irish craftsmen worked side by side to create the ‘family nest’. Sadly the idyllic life did not last long for the Henrys.

In 1874 just a few years after the castle was completed, the Henry family departed Kylemore for a luxurious holiday in Egypt. Margaret was struck ill while traveling and despite all efforts, nothing could be done and after two weeks of suffering she died.  She was 45 years old and her youngest daughter, Violet, was just two years old. Mitchell was heartbroken. 

An authentic horse tricycle, hand pedaled,  used by the Mitchell children.

Margaret’s body was beautifully embalmed in Cairo before being returned to Kylemore. According to local lore, Margaret lay in a glass coffin which was placed beneath the grand staircase in the front hall, where family and tenants alike could come to pay their respects. In an age when all funerals were held in the home, this is not as unusual as it may first seem. In time Margaret’s remains were placed in a modest red-brick mausoleum in the woodlands of her beloved Kylemore.

Although Henry remained on at Kylemore life for him there was never the same again. His older children helped him to manage the estate and care for the younger ones, as he attempted to continue his vision for improvements and hold on to his political career. By now he had become a prominent figure in Irish politics and was a founding member of Isaac Butt’s Home Rule movement. 
“The rocking horse as we know it dates back to the 17th Century when wooden rocking horses first appeared in Europe. A very few of these early rocking horses still survive in museums and private collections. These include one of the earliest ridden by King Charles I of England when he was a boy.”

In 1878 work began on the neo-Gothic Church which was built as a beautiful and lasting testament to Henry’s love for his wife. Margaret’s remains were, for some reason, never moved to the vaults beneath the church and to this day she lays along with Mitchell in the little Mausoleum nestled in the woods.”

In that era, medicines were yet to be discovered that could possibly have saved her life.  One can only imagine how sorrowful her death was to Henry and their young children which occurred only a short time after the completion of the castle.
Another wedding dress from the era, the 1700s.  This may be comparable to the gown worn by Margaret Vaughn Mitchell.
As much as we all whine about the incompetencies and stresses as a result of medicine, Big Pharma, politics, traffic and much more, we are lucky to live in these times.  

As hard as the walk was for me at Kylemore Abbey, I am grateful to be alive and still continue to try to make each day memorable.  Today, I started walking upstairs, trying for 10 flights a day, to build my stamina.  
Ornate fireplace.
Stairs are the hardest part for me at this point and although I struggle with each step on the spiral staircase, doing so regularly can only help build my strength.

Again, no cleaner today due to her recent illness.  Tom and I will take care of it ourselves, him doing the floors and me cleaning the kitchen and two baths all of which is a good exercise for me. 
In the era, it was commonplace for “gentlemen” to use a walking stick when out and about, as well as those who may have needed to use one of these ornate canes.
That’s it for our Kylemore Abbey story and photos.  Today, it is exactly three weeks until we head for the airport in Dublin where we’ll spend one night and fly to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the next day.

Enjoy every moment of your day and evening!

Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2018:

When capturing this hippo and cattle egret in the bright sun from quite a distance, we didn’t realize there was a croc in the photo until we uploaded the photo.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Kylemore Abbey…A romantic gift lives on…A tough walk required to explore…

The view across Lough Pollaacapull is seen from the castle’s veranda.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland” 

“One of the most curious facts about Ireland takes place in the town of
Killorglin in the 
Reeks District
. Here, a festival known as the Puck Fair sees a goat crowned as King Puck for three days. The Queen of Puck, traditionally a local young schoolgirl, crowns the goat.”

The story continues today with photos and the history of the Benedictine Nuns of Kylemore Abbey. Here is the link to the property’s website with a wealth of information if you’d like to read further.

Unfortunately, due to the walk up a long and steep hill to the actual abbey, we could only enjoy the views from afar, which didn’t produce good photos due to the distance.
As we approached the enchanting Kylemore Abbey Castle. 

Below is a photo that we borrowed from their site of the exterior of the Neo-Gothic Catholic Church.

“For more than a century, Kylemore has been the romantic nineteenth-century Irish castle overlooking a lake in the West of Ireland. Just a five-minute (steep) walk along the shores of Lough Pollacapull lies Kylemore’s enchanting neo-Gothic Church. 

Kylemore Abbey’s Neo-Gothic Church was built in the style of a fourteenth-century. Described as a ‘Cathedral in Miniature,’ this elegant building is a lasting testament to the love of Mitchell Henry for his wife, Margaret. On your visit, you may be lucky enough to enjoy one of the many musical performances that take place here throughout the year.”
Please excuse the blurry photo (not our photo) of the neo-Gothic Catholic Church located on the ground of Kylemore Abbey.

“Benedictine nuns of Kylemore Abbey

The present Benedictine nuns of Kylemore Abbey have a long history, beginning at Brussels in 1598. Following the suppression of religious houses in the British Isles, British Catholics left England and opened religious places abroad. Several monasteries originated from one Benedictine house in Brussels, founded by Lady Mary Percy in 1598.

Houses founded from Lady Mary’s house in Brussels were at Cambray in France (now Stanbrook in England) and Ghent (now Oulton Abbey) in Staffordshire. Ghent, in turn, founded several Benedictine Houses, one of which was at Ypres. Kylemore Abbey is the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys.

There are numerous religious statues and displays throughout the castle.

The community of nuns, who have resided here since 1920, has a long history stretching back almost three hundred and forty years. Founded in Ypres, Belgium, in 1665, the house was formally made over to the Irish nation in 1682. The purpose of the abbey at Ypres was to provide education and a religious community for Irish women during times of persecution here in Ireland.

Down through the centuries, Ypres Abbey attracted the daughters of the Irish nobility, both as students and postulants, and enjoyed the patronage of many influential Irish families living in exile.

Mitchell Henry, digitized portrait who built the castle for his beloved wife, Magaret Vaughn Mitchell, in 1867.

At the request of King James II, the nuns moved to Dublin in 1688. However, they returned to Ypres following James’s defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The community finally left Ypres after the Abbey was destroyed in the early days of World War One. 

The community first took refuge in England and later in Co Wexford before eventually settling in Kylemore in December 1920. At Kylemore, the nuns reopened their international boarding school and established a day school for local girls. 

Margaret Vaughn Mitchell’s digitized portrait.

They also ran a farm and guesthouse; the guesthouse was closed after a devastating fire in 1959. In 2010, the Girl’s Boarding School was closed, and the nuns have since been developing new education and retreat activities.”

The property’s peaceful environment, including the Victorian Walled Garden, left us smiling, grateful we’d taken the time and effort to see what we were able to see.

Riding boots.  Horseback riding was prevalent in this period.
I suppose this is how it will be with tours at ports of call during our upcoming Baltic cruise. I can’t imagine I’ll have a lot more improvement in the next three weeks when we head to Amsterdam. But, I’ll continue to do the best I can to increase my stamina. 
Visitors aren’t allowed to view the second floor occupied by the nuns.
Have a fantastic “hump day” for those still working. And a great “all-of-the-days-of-the-week-are-the-same” for us retirees!                            

Photo from one year ago today, July 17, 2018:

That morning’s 17 kudus in the garden. See the video at this link for details.

Part 1…Kylemore Abbey…A romantic gift lives on…A tough walk required to explore…

This is the over-the-top Kylemore Abbey, a former home, castle, and grounds of a wealthy family in the 1800s.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland” 

The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks are Ireland’s highest mountain range, home
Carrauntoohil, which at 1,038m (3,406 ft) is Ireland’s highest mountain.
Visiting Kylemore Abbey was a test for me. With the 1000 acre property, the Victorian Walled Garden (to which we could access the entrance to the gardens by shuttle bus), there was no doubt in our minds that a lot of walking up and downs hills would be necessary to fully enjoy our self-tour.
Sadly, I was sorely disappointed, not in the exquisite property but in my own lack of ability to easily walk through the stunning historical property. We made it to the ticketing entrance, the shuttle bus station for a ride to the gardens but not through the garden on many hilly trails.  
A lake, Lough Pollaacapull, highlights the property upon entering the grounds.

In the massive castle, only the first floor is available for viewing. The Benedictine nuns occupy the second floor and, overall, see to the management of the outstanding property. 

For the average person, there would be no issue touring this property but for me, still, a long way from full recovery, struggled every step of the way. However, I was never disappointed for venturing out to see this special property and did the best I could.  

The grounds and the gardens are meticulously groomed.
We didn’t miss too much other than parts of the garden and the abbey.  Today and over the next few days, we’ll share our photos here. The castle itself reminded me of the day in August 2014 when we visited Highclere Castle (see Part 1 of Highclere Castle may be found here. See photo below):
We held our breath as we approached Highclare Castle, home of the famed BBC Downton Abbey TV series. No interior photos were allowed.  Please click here for interior photos of the house and here for Part 1 of our post in August 2104.
Before we walked to the castle, we took the shuttle bus to the gardens a five-minute ride through lush tall trees and abundant greenery.  If only we could have toured the entire garden by shuttle, that would have been ideal.

Once we arrived in the garden to begin the walk, I knew I wouldn’t make it very far. There were benches for resting but on the busy Sunday, there were all occupied with other weary visitors. Even for the most well-conditioned seniors, the walk may have been challenging.

We walked to this location to catch the shuttle to the walled garden.

In a short while, we walked back to the shuttle bus pickup station and I was relieved to get a seat on the bus. Then, we had to tackle the steep uphill walk on a smooth paved road to access the castle. Once we arrived, I was OK and able to tour the castle with relative ease.

Once inside the castle, the love and care given to this fine property were evident. Here is the beautiful and also sorrowful story at this link about the building of the castle by Mitchell Henry for his beloved wife, Margaret Vaughn Henry:
The exquisite Victorian Walled Garden in the 1000 acre property requires the use of a shuttle which is included in the ticket price, Euro 10.50, US $11.80 per senior.

“Kylemore’s foundation stone was laid on September 4, 1867, for Margaret Vaughan Henry, the wife of Mitchell Henry. The estate had been bought and planned as an elaborate love token for Margaret and as a ‘nesting place’ for the growing Henry family. 

During our world travels, we’ve visited many botanical gardens open to the public, private gardens and gardens adjoining a variety of sightseeing venues. Of course, nothing compares to Versailles in France as shown in the photo below.

Although Mitchell Henry was born in Manchester he proudly proclaimed that every drop of blood that ran in his veins was Irish. It was to Ireland that he brought Margaret on honeymoon in the mid-1840s and where they first saw the hunting lodge in the valley of Kylemore that would eventually become their magnificent home. 

This was my favorite scene and photos from the Gardens of Versailles which we visited in August 2014. See here for photos, details and, Part 1 of our Versailles tour.

Although they visited Connemara in a time of hunger, disease, and desperation, Mitchell could see the potential to bring change and economic growth to the area. The son of a wealthy Manchester cotton merchant of Irish origin, Mitchell was a skilled pathologist and eye surgeon. In fact, before he was thirty years of age, he had a successful Harley Street practice and is known to have been one of the youngest ever speakers at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. 

On his father’s death, Mitchell inherited a hugely successful family business and became one of the wealthiest young men in Britain at the time. Mitchell lost no time in quitting his medical career and turning instead to liberal politics where he felt he could change the world for the better. His newfound wealth also allowed him to buy Kylemore Lodge and construct the magnificent castle.

This is the head gardener’s house and bothy.  A bothy is described as follows: bothy is a basic shelter, usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use free of charge. It was also a term for basic accommodation, usually for gardeners or other workers on an estate. Bothies are to be found in remote mountainous areas of Scotland, Northern England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. 

Designed by Irish architect James Franklin Fuller and the engineer Ussher Roberts Kylemore boasted all the innovations of the Victorian Age. There were 33 bedrooms, four bathrooms, four sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room, and various offices and domestic staff residences, as well as gardens, walks, and woodlands which eventually covered 13,000 acres of land at the cost of little over £18,000 (Euro 19932, US $23,270. 

The building on the upper right is referred to as the “glass house” which, to most of us is a greenhouse.

During construction, the sound of dynamite blasts were heard in Connemara for the first time as the castle was carefully set into the face of the mountain. This achieved the exact positioning required which to this day gives the castle its iconic appearance perfectly reflected in Lough Pollaacapull.”

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more photos including the interior of the castle and the continuing story of its owners. Please check back.  

Be well. Be healthy. Be happy.
Photo from one year ago today, July 16, 2018:
Once Tom spotted this female lion through his binoculars he grabbed the camera to zoom in as shown. For more photos, please click here.

Part 4…Irish history…Connemara Heritage and History Centre…Remaining photos from Dan O’Hara’s home

This is the tiny house Dan O’Hara, his wife, and seven children lived in until they were forced to vacate when they couldn’t pay the rent during the potato famine.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“Any person who is born on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is considered to be very lucky.”

The story of Dan O’Hara and his family is heartbreaking and yet so typical of other farms families in Ireland during the time of the potato famine. As we learned of him and his family living in a simple cottage with seven children, we’re reminded of how grateful people of his day were for what that had, not what they could have had.

Tom had to duck his head to enter the house.

But, the sorrow of the times due to famine and subsequent loss of life in the mid-1800s brought most people living in Connemara and other parts of Ireland to their knees. More than one million people died between 1846 and 1851 as a result of the Potato Famine. Many of these died from starvation. Many more died from diseases that preyed on people weakened by the loss of food.

There was a fire in the fireplace, which the staff must start each day, but it didn’t smell well ventilated.

They tried to escape Ireland by embarking on long and dangerous Atlantic Ocean crossings with little to no food, no money, often leaving most of their belongings behind to what they assumed was the land of plenty, the US.  

This twin-size daybed is located in the main living area, although a bedroom is shown in the photo below.

As was the case for some of Tom’s ancestors, many escaped to other countries such as England, Canada, and Australia. Irish descendants may be found all over the world, often in surprising locations.

The one-bedroom in the house was most likely where Dan and his wife slept.

Here is the story of Dan O’Hara and his wife and seven children from this site:

“‘Dan O’Hara’s homestead is built on the original site of the home of Dan from Connemara renowned in the popular ballad all over the world. Dan O Hara lived with his wife and seven children in a cottage shadowed by the Twelve Bens. The family was self-sufficient on 8 acres of land and lived a simple but happy lifestyle. The central part of the farm was given over to the potato crop, and they kept a variety of animals on the farm.

Spinning wheel in the corner of the bedroom.

The turf for the fire was cut in the local bog and kept the family warm and cozy through the winter months. Dan O’ Hara’s was a visiting house, and many a romance began in the flickering firelight of the hearth. Social gatherings such as storytelling and céilis kept the Irish language and traditions alive.

The Dutch door to the barn next to the house.

Most of Dan O’Hara’s land was given over to the potato crop. Its advantage was that it grew in the poorest conditions, and an acre and a half would sustain five or six people for six months. Some of the crops were used to feed a pig. Potatoes and buttermilk ensured that the population of Connemara was robust and healthy, although poor.

Note the small size of the barn.

Like most people in Connemara at the time, Dan O’Hara did not own the house he lived in or the land. He paid rent to the local landlord. His happy but straightforward lifestyle came abruptly when he was evicted for non-payment of his rent. He had decided to increase the size of the windows in his house, which led to increased rent payments. 

He was evicted from his home and forced to emigrate. He arrived in New York, a broken man. His wife and three of his children died on the harsh sea journey, and penniless and destitute, he had to put the remaining children into care. He ended his days selling matches on the street far from his beloved Connemara.”

Many wealthy individuals, companies, and organizations have donated trees for the grounds.

We were both in contemplative thought upon leaving Dan O’Hara’s homestead located on the Connemara Heritage and History Centre grounds and didn’t say a word until we made the steep walk back to the car and began our 40-minute drive back to our holiday home.

We were both touched and saddened by what we’d learned. No doubt, for Tom, this was particularly heartwrenching when he knew many of his ancestors suffered this same fate.

This breed of white horses is indigenous to Connemara.

But, most of us, were we become aware of the strife experienced by our ancestors, we’d often find that they too suffered greatly. It reminds us how grateful we should be for the times in which we live our lives in this modern-day and age.  

View of the landscape from Dan O’Hara homestead, located up a steep hill from the car park.

For most of us, we have a roof over our heads, food in the refrigerator and cupboards, and the benefit of using machines and technology that has been a part of our lives since the day we were born.

However, like all things, everything is relative. We experience our daily struggles and challenges and rarely dismiss them to realize just how lucky we are to live in these times.

A shed is used to store peat moss which may often be used for heating, as well as: “Gardeners use peat moss mainly as a soil amendment or ingredient in potting soil. It has an acid pH, ideal for acid-loving plants, such as blueberries and camellias. For plants that with more alkaline soil, compost may be a better choice.”

From time to time and now, as we explore Ireland and other countries, we’ve become entrenched in the facts of the hardships our ancestors suffered in times past and hope we continue to learn from their experiences.

View of the creek running through the history center’s grounds.

Today, we’ll stay in on yet another rainy and cool day. We’ve begun to research where we’d like to go after we’re done in the US at the end of this year. We have some cruises booked in the next few years, but we have plenty of times in between to search for future adventures.

Have a fulfilling and meaningful day.

                          Photo from one year ago today, May 29, 2018:

Each night I practice taking photos in the dark once the bushbabies arrive. For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…Irish history…Connemara Heritage and History Centre…Finally, photos of us…

Tom has been wearing the flannel shirt he purchased in Penguin, Tasmania, in 2016/2017.  It comes in handy in cooler weather in Ireland.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
Poet Carl Sandburg‘s home of 22 years in Flat Rock, North Carolina, which is now a national monument, is named after the Connemara region.”

Today, we continue with photos from the Connemara Heritage and History Centre. Although this area is rich in history, customs, and culture, there are a few museums and historic facilities in the general area.

Far from the big cities of Dublin (1,173,179), Cork (208,669), Limerick (94,192), and Galway (79,934) are the four most populated cities in the country, the Republic of Ireland, all of which have numerous tourist venues. For more information on population numbers in the towns throughout Ireland, please click this link.

Tom stands in the doorway of an old building located on the grounds of the centre.

The tourist business in Connemara appears to result from travelers visiting Galway and driving to see the gorgeous scenery, including the ocean, lakes, rivers, streams, and variety of bogs, typical in the area. Based on our drive from Galway when we arrived on May 12th, it’s approximately a one-hour drive, not too far a drive for most tourists.

It’s easy to see how tiny this lamb is standing next to Tom.

There are roughly 30 hotels and bed and breakfasts in Connemara and several holiday homes such as this lovely house we’ve rented for 90 days. There certainly are sufficient accommodations to attract tourists to spend their holiday in this historic and charming area.  

Me, in the doorway of the old fieldstone building on the ground of the centre.

However, when we’re out and about, we don’t get a feeling of there being as many tourists as we’ve seen in many other areas throughout the world. While in Clifden to grocery shop, I stopped at a clothing store to buy a few white tee shirts. The prices on most items were outrageous.  

Pretty flowers were blooming on the shore of the lake in the garden.  Thanks to reader Laurie for identifying these flowers as rhododendron!

When I didn’t find what I was looking for, a kindly salesperson disappeared to a back room and returned with two white tee shirts that were perfect to wear under other shirts to add warmth.  

Since these two very stretchy tee shirts were large in children’s sizes, she assured me there would be no sales tax charged for the items. There’s no sales tax on children’s clothing in Ireland. Fortunately, they both fit, and the total was Euro 27.98, US $31.28. These two very basic tees would have been half this price in a GAP or Old Navy store in the US.  

There was one little lamb in the facility’s garden who seemed very interested in us.  Wish we’d had some pellets!

It’s expensive here, especially in South Africa, where everything is half as much as many other countries. I suppose we were spoiled in our 15 months in Marloth Park. We must continue to brace ourselves as we visit other countries soon.
Our next stop is Amsterdam for two days. No doubt prices could be even higher than they are here in Ireland. Prices may be a deterrent to many travelers when the costs of food, dining out, hotels, and rental cars are at the top end.

Note the little horns growing on this lamb. Too cute!

While dining out last Saturday, we didn’t see what appeared to be tourists, with only a few appearing to be residents. When we shopped in Clifden each week, the next closest town, there’s a presence of some gift and trinket shops that mainly appeal to tourists.  

Today’s visit to a clothing store reminded us of tourist pricing we’ve seen in bigger cities throughout the world – a captive audience. The store was packed with what most likely were tourists looking to purchase an Irish sweater, fleece jacket, an Irish-made woolen scarf, or some Irish trinkets, all of which appeared to be of high quality.

Pansies at the Connemara Heritage and History Centre appear to have little faces.

Perhaps, I’m a bit more of a “tightwad” than usual when we’re still having to pay incoming hospital and doctor’s bills as we struggle with our insurance company who’s refusing to pay, claiming I have a pre-existing condition which I did not.  

This has been an enormous emotional and financial frustration source, especially while focusing on a full recovery. Subsequently, we’re watching our budget more than ever with this upsetting imbalance and inequity. We’ll report back what transpires as we continue to fight this battle.

These two buildings were homes at one time.

Otherwise, we’re good, generally cheerful. I’m now at a point where I don’t have to ask Tom to help me so much. I am working hard at doing things for myself. The more I do, the stronger I get. 

I’ve even taken over the process of making my own protein smoothie each day which he’d done for months with no complaint. I cook most of each meal, make the bed, do most of the laundry, and tidy up around the house.  

Bridge across the lake to an old home.

He continues to do all the dishes, put everything away, help prepare dinner, does some laundry, and do all of the heavy lifting. When we grocery shopped this morning, I packed the bags we’d brought along while he loaded them into the car and later in the house, emptying all the bags. I put everything away since storage space is limited, and don’t get frustrated figuring it out.

The bottom line… We’re tourists. As much as we’d like to believe we’re unique and fit right in, the fact remains “we are visitors in a strange land.” If we don’t like the prices, don’t buy the quality of the products we enjoy and go the budget route instead. Don’t purchase a few bottles of red wine at twice the cost as in South Africa. Don’t go out to dinner. Don’t shop for items of clothing.
Anyone know the name of these flowers?   We’ve seen them often here in Ireland.

But, the fact remains, we choose this life we love, and we’ll take the good and bad with it. Many have asked us over these years the following question: “What will you do if the worst thing happens, short of passing away or being kidnapped?”

It happened. We had a major medical crisis, one of the worst we could imagine, and we made it through to the other side. We can whine all we want about tourist traffic, prices on products, budgetary concerns, and inconveniences. But the reality remains. We’re alive, recovering, and the journey continues on.

Be well. Be happy.
                        Photo from one year ago today, May 28, 2018:

We moved the bird feeder further from the veranda, which has attracted birds at last without our looming presence. Our prize of the day was this hornbill who stopped by for some seeds who later became familiar with us to come very close on the veranda. For more photos, please click here.

Yesterday’s road trip…Mount Taranaki, a rain forest and a botanical garden…More garden photos tomorrow…

Our favorite photo of the day.  Zoom in to see this bee’s facial features.  Amazing!

After writing yesterday’s post which we uploaded by 10 am after a very early start, we looked at one another and said, “Let’s head out!” We’d written about how little we’ve been traveling while living here in New Zealand enjoying our surroundings to the degree that we haven’t been motivated to leave for even a day.

We crossed numerous streams and rivers on our way up the mountain, including driving over this one-lane bridge.

When we do travel, we prefer sunny days for better photos and viewing scenery, but after being in for many days after Tom’s over-week-long illness, except for a night out for dinner and another outing for grocery shopping, we were excited to get on the road. 

We read this sign to get a lay of the land.  Inside this building, we were able to grab a map of the gardens to assist us on our walk.

Without a big plan in mind, we headed on to the long drive through winding country roads to steep winding mountain roads, not unlike those we experienced long ago when we spent three months in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy in 2013. 

We got a kick out of this display for free coffee.  With no receptionist in attendance, one could help themselves.

By far, those mountains in Italy had some of the steepest winding roads we’d driven in our travels, except for the Atlas Mountains we traveled in Morocco in April 2014. 

Not a huge fan of driving through mountainous roads, yesterday I was at ease with the automatic transmission of our rental car and the lack of the necessity to pass slow-moving vehicles in front of us. We didn’t encounter more than a half dozen vehicles through the mountains making the drive relatively easy and comfortable.

As we commenced our walk, we spotted this gardener at work.

We hoped to get to the Visitors Centre partway up Mount Taranaki but when it began to rain during our walk through the Pukeiti Gardens and rainforest we decided it might be wise to head back down the mountain, realizing that scenic views would be impossible on the cloudy rainy day.

The Pukeiti Gardens is known for its world-class rhododendron collection exquisitely set within a rainforest with the flowering season from July through March. We were grateful to have arrived during the season to be able to see and take photos of the beautiful flowers and gardens. Every so often, the sun peeked out, allowing us a few better quality photos as shown here.

The rhododendrons are in full bloom at this time of the year, summer in New Zealand.

Here’s a little info from the Taranaki Regional Council’s website about the origination of the beautiful gardens:

“A vision fulfilled:
One man’s dream has literally flowered at Pukeiti on the slopes of Mount Taranaki — a garden renowned worldwide for its stunning collection of rhododendrons and other plants, and an institution that is much a part of the region as the mountain itself.

Founder William Douglas Cook’s vision was a vast natural garden of rhododendrons. Today that vision is a reality, thanks to the efforts of Cook and countless volunteers and members of the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust through the decades since the garden opened in 1951.
(To read some stories from the early days, click on “History and culture” in the navigation panel at left.)

Pukeiti has the largest collection of rhododendrons in New Zealand, its sub-tropical vireyas known as the world’s finest. It also boasts major displays of cardiocrinum, hostas, hydrangeas, magnolias, primulas, liliums, bulbs, and alpine and herbaceous plants, all against a backdrop of luscious native bush and dramatic Mount Taranaki.

The Taranaki Regional Council assumed ownership of and responsibility for Pukeiti on 1 July 2010, as a result of an approach from the Trust. The move secures the future for Pukeiti and its unique collection of plants.

The Council also owns and operates Tupare, and Hollard Gardens, Kaponga, on behalf of the people of the region.”

The walkways were easy at the beginning of our walk.

Had it not rained, we’d certainly have stayed longer walking further along the many kilometers of trails. But soon, as we began trekking through mud and slippery rocks, we knew it was time to get back on the road.

We continue to be in awe of the maintenance and care in this lovely country. There appear to be few, if any, rundown properties, bad roads, or trash on the sides of the road. We’ve yet to encounter a “bad” or unsafe-feeling area in the Taranaki Region. At public venues, such as Pukeiti Gardens, clean restrooms are readily available. No fees are required to enter the gardens and rainforest.

The rainforest is beautiful. Well coated with repellent I never received a bite. Tom, without the use of any repellent, was never bitten. Surprisingly, we didn’t sense any biting flies, mosquitos, or sandflies in the rainforest.

We only encountered two other parties and one gardener in the gardens on the less-than-ideal day but never felt ill at ease in the secluded rainforest. Back home in the later afternoon we were pleased for the experiences and look forward to more similar outings.

Today is by far, the rainiest day since our arrival, much-needed rain to provide a greener pasture for the grazing alpacas and other grazing animals throughout the country. 

Unable to find the name of this structure online (metered wifi), we assume it may be a Maori (indigenous people to NZ) tribute. Please correct us if we are wrong.

As I listened to the pelting rain pounding on the metal roof during the night, I thought about the alpacas. This morning, as I stepped outdoors to see how they’re doing in the heavy rain, they were all busy munching on the grass picking up their heads to look at me, with the adorable funny little smirk on their faces, none the worse for the wear.

Feeling relieved, I wiped my bare feet and returned back indoors for what will surely be a quiet day at home.  We don’t mind a bit. Each day is a treasure.

We hope today will be a treasured day for YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, February 17, 2015:

The Nene Bird is the Hawaiian Island state bird, evolved from the Canadian Goose with which we’re very familiar after living in Minnesota. These geese are commonly seen in Kauai, where we lived for four months a year ago. Please click here for more details.

Yesterday’s extraordinary visit to Cairns …A full afternoon…A great day…

The colors in this bloom were unlike any we’ve seen.

We apologize for today’s late posting. It was time for me to workout and the fitness center is only open from 8:00 am to 11:00 am on Saturdays and we needed to get on the road. Plus, I was behind managing the many photos from yesterday’s outing. 

Bright yellow and brown blooming flower. We’ve seldom seen so much brown in flowers.

With the sun shining when we returned it was also time to soak up 30 minutes of Vitamin D. I had started the post as soon as I was up and dressed, but left it unfinished with so many photos to download from yesterday’s outing.

We can’t quite reads the name of this on the included sign.

After completing yesterday’s post, we decided to head out on a sunny day to check out the Cairns Botanic Garden. In most countries such garden are named “botanical” gardens. In Australia, like many other countries/continents we find that many words and expressions are different than our familiar US words and expressions. 

These red berries accompany a dark, almost blackberry.

Not surprisingly, I’ve found myself using some of the Australian words and expressions. How quickly one could change their manner of the use of their native language. In many ways, the easy to understand words and expressions are rather logical here in Australia, even the shortened words such as “veg” for veggies or vegetables.

These were common in Hawaii.

In a future post, we’ll share some of these words and manners of speech. At the moment, I’m accumulating a list that we’ll share most of which are charming and humorous. 

Part of the grounds were blocked off for the construction of a new conservatory.

Whether its named botanic or botanical, we decided to visit the venue in Cairns we’d read so much about these past seven weeks. Easy to find with well marked signs on Highway 1 in the city of Cairns, past the airport, we were a little confused as to which “car park” we’d take. 

The Silk Floss tree we’d seen in Kauai.

As we drove along the huge expanse of the grounds which includes: Flecker Garden, Visitor Centre, Centenary Lakes, Rainforest Boardwalk, Australia’s Gondwanan Heritage Garden and Mount Whitfield Conservation Park, we managed to snag a free street parking spot close to the entrance of Flecker Garden.

The purpose of these spikes is to protect the tree from destruction by possible intruders. These has gorgeous blooms during the summer months.  Its winter here now.

For most tourists and local visitors, Flecker Garden holds the majority of the interest. Many other areas are designated for serious hikers with steep trails and mountains not intended for those less than experienced and fit hikers. 

However, Flecker Garden provided us with a perfect perspective of Australian vegetation and even a bit of wildlife we’ll share here over the next few days as we post some of our best photos.

Although many of these plants and trees grow in Hawaii as well as Australia, most of them originated on other islands throughout the world.

When we visit an attraction such as this, we’re always torn over whether it’s necessary to identify each of the items in each photo we post. Often, we’re able to name most of the subjects of our photos. However, yesterday’s tour of Flecker Garden made it difficult.

The bright orange of these vines stood out among the greenery.

With the growth of many of the wide variety of plants and trees, the originally placed signs with were often ambiguous as to which plant or tree the sign was intended to identify.

Heliconia. Wow!

As a result, only some of our photos will be identified. Otherwise, we’d be spending days searching online for the names of each plant.  With the high cost of wifi at this time, it makes little sense. If any of our readers would like to provide input, feel free to do so via email or a comment at the end of the post and we’ll happily update the photo with the proper name.

Snake Cactus.

We often wonder if the technical names of plants and scrubs really matter to our readers when in essence, we’re not a botanical website. We are world travelers sharing our wide array of experiences of many aspects in a certain area and by no mean profess to be an expert in any of these areas.

Close up, Snake Cactus.

As we wandered about the vast grounds of Flecker Garden, we found ourselves reveling in the many new and unusual plants and also smiling over others we’d seen in other tropical areas of the world, primarily in Hawaii on the four islands in which we lived over a period of eight months.

Once we entered the main entrance to Flecker Garden we were reminded that there was no entrance fee (we’d seen this fact online). This was a first. Of the many botanical gardens we’ve visited throughout the world, there was always an entrance fee which we’d gladly have paid. 

Unusual red bloom without a sign identifying it.

In some areas of the world, our visit to gardens has been “hosted” based on the fact that we’d be providing additional marketing exposure via our online photos and promotion. Not having the responsibility of creating stories as a more professional piece, we were more at ease as we wandered through the gardens, thinking only of what would appeal to our garden enthusiast readers and our own personal tastes.

Cascading pale yellow flowers.

Tom doesn’t love visiting gardens. As a matter of fact, he’d just as soon not visit them at all. However, as shown a week or so ago of us visiting a military museum, we compromise, attempting to show tolerance along with a degree of enthusiasm when we’re dragged along on a less than interesting sightseeing expedition.

Extra-long stamen of a lily.

Considering that 80% of our sightseeing appeals to both of our tastes and interests, these compromises are merely an exercise in attempting to offer ourselves and our readers a wide array of what each country has to offer. 

This flower was blooming on the Flame Tree.

We realize that we tend to stay away from many of the most popular tourist attractions when crowds, traffic, parking issues, and expense are factors for us. Plus, out intent in traveling the world was never about hitting all of the “hot spots” but, instead about immersing ourselves in “living” in an area and experiencing life as close as possible to that of the locals.

The Australian Brushturkey, also called the Scrub Turkey or Bush Turkey freely roamed around the gardens. These turkeys are not closely related to American turkeys. Click here for more details.

It is this type of experience that brings us the most joy and fulfillment in our travels as explained in the post a few days ago when we discussed living life as the “accidental tourist” as shown in this post, in case you missed it.

Over the next few days, we’ll continue sharing many of the exquisite discoveries we made at the Cairns Botanic Garden and hope that you too will find them interesting and worthy of a peek.

May your weekend be filled with that which brings you much joy!

                                              Photo from one year ago today, July 25, 2014:
One year ago, it was only five days until departure from the island of Madeira after a highly enjoyable two and a half months in the lovely home in Canmpanario overlooking the sea in an ideal contemporary house. Although little English was spoken in our area we found a way to communicate with the locals. For details as we wound down the last few days in Madeira, please click here.