We’re in Amsterdam…A world apart…Wow!…

We’re hoping to go on a canal cruise sometime tomorrow.

This morning, returning the rental car was somewhat of a hassle. We’d chosen a company, Easirent, based on reasonable pricing for a new car which we did enjoy during the three months in Ireland.  

However, there were two drawbacks: it wasn’t conveniently close to the airport, located in an obscure office park, and two, they required a considerable sum to be charged to our credit card for damage possibilities.  

In, our case for three months in Ireland, they took Euro 2677.80, US $3000. I guess they like having free use of our money, especially since we won’t get it back until 20 days from today. We’ll be checking with the online credit card app frequently to ensure it was returned.

It was well worth paying a little more for this view.  Also, we used two free nights we’d accumulated from Hotels.com here on our site.
After considerable effort, we finally were able to get the SIM card working on my phone, making it possible to find the place. Once we checked the car in, a damage review was done (none). We were on our way to the Dublin Airport in a large shuttle bus provided by the car rental company.
Nonetheless, we arrived at the airport three hours before our flight (Tom, the worried early bird). Still, we found a comfy spot in a restaurant to park ourselves for the wait, which is when I began writing this portion of today’s post to be completed once we arrive at our hotel.  

Oh my, oh my, oh my! We’ve arrived in Amsterdam, and we’re in heaven! What a beautiful city with so much wonder and excitement at every turn. Our hotel, Eden, is located on the bustling Amstel canal, and we have a canal frontage view. 

The photos posted here today are those I took moments ago through the glass of our hotel room window. I could spend hours looking out at the canal. But the reality remains, we will only be here 36 hours until we board the cruise, leaving little time for much sightseeing.

If you look closely, you can see a person in the left window of this permanent houseboat on the Amstel Canal, as seen from our room. Check out the owner’s means of transportation.

We’re trying to decide what we’d like to do that will be most fulfilling while we’re here…a canal cruise…a ride on the Hop-On, Hop-Off  Bus, or grab a taxi to drive us around the city.

As much as we enjoyed the cruise on the Seine in Paris, perhaps after a day of wandering about the stunning city, a dinner cruise may be in order. Tonight and tomorrow, we’ll pack everything in that we can since, on Sunday, we’ll be up bright and early to pack and get checked in for the Baltic cruise by noon.

Today was a day including lots of walking, although we’d arranged a wheelchair for me. There was no way I could manage the long walks on the tarmac and in the terminal.

The hour-long flight ended up taking our entire day. We arrived at Dublin Airport at 10:30 am and arrived at our hotel in Amsterdam at 1750 hours, 5:30 pm, thinking about freshening up to head for happy hour and a nice meal. 

Since I’m too pooped to walk to another restaurant, we’ve decided to dine in the hotel’s highly rated French Bistro. This upscale restaurant is pricey, as is most venues in Amsterdam, but the menu looks enticing with many options for each of us.

Last night’s dinner at the Crown Plaza in Dublin was good, along with the ambiance. We’re hoping for as good, if not better, experience tonight as we had last night.

Dear Readers, hang onto your chairs…a lot of excitement is on the horizon.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 9, 2018:

Little Wart Face, whose name we later changed to “Little,” often napped in our garden. He was so at home with us. I’ll always miss him. For more photos, please click here.

On the road again…Dublin, then Amsterdam, here we come!…

Goodbye, Ireland.  Thanks for welcoming us and for being so beautiful!

We’d decided to prepare the post after we arrived in Dublin for the night. This was an excellent way to keep the morning free to finish last-minute packing, organizing, and putting things back in their place in the house.

When we move into a new property, we often move some of the furniture to suit our needs. We make every effort to move everything back to its original location before leaving, which we did this morning.

Eileen, our thoughtful owner, stopped by to say goodbye. It was a pleasure working with her for the past three months. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to have been hosted by excellent property owners and managers, and, of course, we’ve made every effort to be good guests.

Currently, we’re in Dublin. On our way, we stopped in Oughterard for Tom’s teeth cleaning appointment.  Previously, we’d made an appointment for me to do the same but decided to wait a little longer before having any dental work.

The total 3½ hour drive was seamless using “Maps” using the SIM card on my phone, which got us here without a hitch.  Once we arrived in Dublin, there were many turns and roundabouts, but somehow we never made an error. I often wonder why “she’ll” suddenly say, “Make a U-turn” when we’re on the freeway, and there’s no need for a U-turn. Go figure.

We’d decided to stay overnight in a lower-cost hotel close to the Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport. The rates were reasonable compared to many other nearby options, and after seeing our room, we were satisfied with the amenities and cleanliness, including free Wi-Fi and breakfast.

This hotel doesn’t serve meals other than the included breakfast. Next door is a Crown Plaza with a decent restaurant, according to reviews online. The main dining room is being renovated. We’ll dine in the bar.  Tom walked next door and brought back a menu to ensure there would be suitable options for me. There were a few.  

I’ll have plenty of food options once we board the ship on Sunday. Their chefs always accommodate my dietary needs with enthusiast and precise care, often making beautiful meals the other guests at our shared table drool over.  

It will be nice to have someone else doing the cooking for a while. After 15 months of Tom or I cooking and the three months in Ireland, I’m looking forward to the usual good food and service.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll use the hotel’s shuttle to get to the airport. At the moment, Tom is dropping off the rental car, hoping to get a ride back to the hotel. Tonight, we’ll walk to the restaurant next door, and although my walking is still sketchy, it’s a relatively short distance.

How am I feeling? Tapering off the heart medications is taking its toll on me. It could be several more weeks until I begin to feel the benefit of being off the dangerous drugs with many side effects, including being on the drugs and getting off of them.  

But at least for now, I can keep my head up and eyes open during the day. I’ve gone several days without a nap and have slept through the past three nights, a significant improvement.

Like many of us seniors, a good night’s sleep is an elusive thing. Six good hours without awakening seems to do wonders. Tom sleeps even less, getting up at the crack of dawn and going to bed late. I don’t know how he does it.

Well, folks, that’s it for our last post from Ireland. Tomorrow, late afternoon, we’ll write a short post from Amsterdam.  Our hotel room is situated overlooking the canal. Photos should be good.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, August 8, 2018:

Dad and his offspring posing for a photo we’d taken on a drive in Marloth Park. For more photos, please click here.

Final expenses for 89 nights in Ireland…Highlights of our stay in Connemara…One day until departure……Last favorite photos…

It was fantastic to have friends Lisa and Barry and friend Chuck visit us in Connemara for a few days!  We met Lisa and Barry on a cruise in November 2017.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“There are around 82,600 speakers of Irish who use the language at home daily. Contrast this with Polish, where 119,526 speak the language at home, making it the second most spoken language on the island!”

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do everything we’d planned while in Connemara, Ireland. Perhaps someday we’ll return and stay in another area with a better opportunity to explore and see the sites.

What an adorable sheep with his budding horns.

But overall, we felt our time here was enjoyable and worthwhile as we came to understand the culture, the terrain, and the unique personality of this particular location.  

The views across the bay were stunning, even on cloudy days.

Also, we experienced visits to a few museums, a history center, a castle, a famous fish shop, a world-renowned food truck, an exciting visit to the quaint town of Oughterard, a renowned craft shop, and a tour of the popular Roundstone area.

We spent endless hours driving through the countryside reveling in the stunning views, including seeing a vast number of adorable barnyard animals, including sheep, goats, donkeys, cattle, horses.  

Various ruins of homes, barns, and castles pepper the landscape.

Each evening we took time to relax while gazing out the big picture window to scan the sea for boats, people, birds, and wildlife. A few days ago, we spotted two otters close to the shore.  

We visited a museum in Clifden, the Station House Museum.

On many evenings we giggled over the cattle in our side yard. For those growing up in this area, none of this would be exciting. But for us, we loved every moment.

We dined in only a few restaurants but thoroughly enjoyed cooking our meals at “home” with the vast array of foodstuffs we hadn’t had access to in a long time. Even a trip to the supermarket was a delightful experience.

The museum has a wide array of well-preserved antiques indigenous to the area.

This stay provided the best access we ever had to delicious fish and seafood, most of which we purchased at our front door from dear friend and fish guy, John. Tom had a chance to have the finest fish and chips he’d ever had by a short drive to John and wife Theresa’s takeaway seafood shop in Carna, Flaherty’s Seafood.

A Connemara pony, unique to the area.

We ate authentic scallops sauteed with butter, olive oil, and garlic for a taste-tempting treat like non-other.  I sauteed the finest calamari rings I’ve ever had in the same manner as the scallops.

We met beautiful people everywhere we went, including Eileen, our property owner, Ann, our house cleaner, and the fine people at every shop, restaurant, and stop along the way.

We couldn’t help but love this pretty cow’s horns.
We lived in a comfortable house which may be found here that provided every amenity we required and then some.  When I asked about a blender for my daily protein smoothies, it was waiting for us when we arrived. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Yes, I’ve struggled with the steep spiral staircase to the bedroom level, which ultimately proved to be a good exercise for me. Although I still push myself to get upstairs, once there, my heart rate recovers quickly.

Cute little rabbit stopping by on a sunny morning.

Tomorrow morning, at 10:00 am, we’re leaving the house to drive to Dublin, where we’ll spend the night. Once we arrive and get settled into our hotel, I’ll prepare a short post, the last from Ireland.  

The following post will be prepared in Amsterdam, where we’ll stay for two nights awaiting the 12-night Baltic cruise. From there, we’re off to England to fulfill a dream of living in the English countryside, in this case in four different locations over two months. 
At the bar in the restaurant Tigh Mheach.  (I dare you to pronounce this!)

From there, we’re off to the US for a two-plus-month stay in several locations in three states; Minnesota, Nevada, and Arizona.

Watch for a post tomorrow, a few hours later than usual, allowing us ample time to drive to Dublin.

Below is the total expenses for the three months we spent in Connemara with one night in Dublin:

Final Expenses – 89 nights*
Ireland 5/11/19 to 8/8/19 
                                       US Dollar             Euro   
Rent + Hotel                   $ 7500.36           6700.70
Air, Train, Ferry                  3853.17           3442.56
Taxi, Car Rental, Fuel         2967.03            2650.37
Entertainment                     275.00              245.68
Dining Out                          378.35              338.01
Groceries                          3434.90            3068.68
Misc., Tips, Cleaning           1046.81             935.20

TOTAL                             $19955.62         17381.00
Monthly Average                  6651.87           5967.95
Daily Average                        224.22             200.27

*In this case, the expenses were higher than initially budgeted due to the cost of the business class airfare for me for the long flight from South Africa to Ireland.  In the majority of cases, we both fly coach.

Enjoy the day and evening!
Photo from one year ago today, August 7, 2018:
Four hornbills loving our birdfeeder.  For more photos, please click here.

How am I going to do it?…Two days and counting…Favorite Ireland photos…

Tom was standing at the doorway to a house at the Connemara Heritage and History Centre and the Dan O’Hara Homestead.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“The submarine was invented in Ireland.  John Philip Holland (29 February 1840 – 12 August 1914) was a Christian Brother from County Clare who invented the first submarine used by the US Navy and the first Royal Navy submarine– Holland 1”,

Over the past several weeks, while feeling awful due to side effects from several medications, I knew it was time to wean myself off of them. I’ve wondered how I would manage all the walking and being up and about all day and evening while on the upcoming Baltic cruise.

There’s no way I’d want to spend the days and nights in the cabin. Thus, over the past two weeks, I stopped two drugs, and today, I started reducing the dose on the third, a beta-blocker that is causing me to feel sleepy all afternoon and evening.  

A friendly little lamb at the center.

I’m already on two medications to lower my blood pressure which I’ll continue to take, but this third medication, bisoprolol, has a profound effect on how I feel all day. Also, my blood pressure and pulse are too low, further exacerbating weakness and exhaustion.

While in South Africa at my last appointment, the surgeon stated I could stop these two previous drugs, amiodarone, and bisoprolol by the six-month anniversary of the surgery coming up in six days. He didn’t suggest I stop the statin but based on extreme muscle pain caused by this drug. I decided to stop it.

At first, when I stopped the statin, I noticed an improvement in the pain in my arms and legs. About a week later, it returned, and it made me look hard at these other two drugs could also be contributing to the pain.
Thatched roof structures.

After reading the drug literature from the manufacturers and non-biased drugs, and prescription informational sites, I knew I’d better get off the two other drugs to begin feeling better.  

The side effects of all three drugs were similar in some ways, contributing to pain, muscle wasting, and weakness. This morning, I cut the heart-shaped pills into tiny pieces with a plan to taper over the next nine days taking  of a pill the first three days, ½ the second three days, and ¼ on the final three days, stopping entirely on the 10th day.
A footbridge was leading to a hut.
Cardicor (South Africa trade name), aka bisoprolol, is particularly dangerous to reduce the dose. Why didn’t the doctors warn me about this and getting off amiodarone, both of which may cause problems when stopping?

I am prepared for any possible side effects, and if necessary, I’ll slow the process even further. I am anxious to see how I’ll feel around noon today with today’s reduced dose. Usually, I can’t even keep my head up at noon, so tired from the drug I’d have taken at 8:00 am.  

However, I am also prepared that I won’t notice a significant improvement until it is entirely off. Why did I choose to do this four days before the upcoming cruise?  If I didn’t, I would be spending the better part of each day, sleepy and exhausted, in the cabin. I had to take the chance.

Dan O’Hara’s home in which he lived with his family.
In the interim, I’ll be checking my pulse and blood pressure every few hours during these next several days, ensuring I am not experiencing any difficulties. If I do, I can slow the weaning process over several weeks.

If I experience significant problems while weaning, I’ll immediately go back to the original dose and wait until we get to the UK at the end of the month when I plan to see a cardiologist for a checkup.  

Of course, I’m hoping that one day soon, I’ll feel better, but I’m not expecting too much. This has been a long, painful and challenging process over which I’ve had little control. I continue to walk but can’t seem to build much endurance in my current state of weakness.

Tom had to bend over to enter the stone house.
My packing is almost entirely done. Tom packed his clothing this morning.  Tomorrow, after the final load of laundry is done, and once the clothes we’re wearing are dry, we’ll finish packing our bags and weighing them.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with the final expenses for Ireland and the wrap-up of our favorite photos. Please check back. 

Photo from one year ago today, August 6, 2018:
This may have been a huge matriarch we spotted from across the Crocodile River from the fence in Marloth Park. Be well. For more photos, please click here.


Wrapping it up…Three days and counting…Favorite Ireland photos…

A pretty rainbow is starting behind the Twelve Bens mountains.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“Despite what many
tourists believe about the Irish and our drinking habits, drinking in public is
illegal across Ireland. The only day of the year when this law is
slightly bent is on St. Patrick’s Day when there aren’t enough police
officers to monitor the one million-plus tourists on the streets of Dublin. The
law is a fairly new one, only coming into place in September 2009. It is also
illegal to be drunk in a pub…but that’s a law that’s rarely enforced!”

Late yesterday, during a downpour, we drove to John and Theresa’s Flaherty’s Seafood takeaway restaurant in Carna, at the edge of town. Tom wanted their outstanding fish and chips one more time before we leave Connemara in three days. 
Mom and calf were resting on a sunny morning.
I was longing for more calamari rings which I’d sautee with my salmon filets, last night and tonight. Once again, it was delicious. Of course, Tom loved his fish and chips, huge portions he can finish today for a snack. See the photos below.
Tom’s giant fish and chips dinner from Flaherty’s Seafood in Carna.  Great leftovers!
This morning I packed 90% of the items into the supplies suitcase. The balance can be finished in minutes when we add the toiletries we need until we depart.  My clothing bag is also 90% packed, with only a few items left to wash and dry, including clothes we’re wearing now.
Big brown cow.
Then we’ll have to pack the few carry-on bags; the yellow Costco bag, the duffle bag, and Tom’s computer backpack. He has yet to fill but will do so tomorrow to appropriately distribute the weight based on weight restrictions imposed by the airline.  
Cow on a hill.
The bags on the upcoming KLM flight are Euro 40.35 US $45 for the first bag and Euro 62.76 US $70 for the second. Since we each check one bag plus our one supplies bag, our total cost for baggage will be Euro 143.45, US $160. This is comparable to the fare for another person for the short flight from Dublin to Amsterdam.  The allowable weight for each bag is 23 kg, 50 pounds.
“Estimates vary of the percentage of natural beef cattle births that produce twins. One estimate (Gilmore) puts the percentage at about 0.5 percent or 1 in every 200 births. Approximately one-half of the sets of twins should contain both a bull and a heifer calf.”
We’ve often wondered if we could further lighten our load, but after handling every item as I packed, I didn’t see anything I’m willing to part with. Many of our readers have asked why we don’t bite the bullet and get rid of more.
Cattle are curious creatures and often look at us when driving past.
But the reality remains…we don’t have a storage unit, a home, or an apartment where we could go to repack. The cost of making such a situation available is prohibitive.  
Cattle in the pasture along our driveway.
Also, we’d feel confined having to return to a certain location to repack. The nature of our peculiar lives is…everything we own travels with us, not necessarily the usual situation for most on-the-move world travelers.
“Donkeys are a traditional part of Irish rural life. Something is appealing about donkeys. Their long ears, the dark rings around their eyes, and their shaggy coats create an image that endears them to us. They fit into the category of “amiable animal,” along with hedgehogs, red squirrels, and pandas.”  For information on adoption from the Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland, please click here.
We no longer carry any foodstuffs of any kind, even those low-carb products that may not be available in every country. During those periods, we’ve quickly learned to “live without.”
Almost one million cattle are slaughtered for consumption in Ireland each year.
As we prepare to leave on Thursday, we’ve done an excellent job of planning meals and using the food products we have on hand. We’d even gone as far as planning breakfasts and the number of eggs to prepare each morning.
Cattle are rather photogenic.
The tiny freezer will be emptied, including the removal of our own ice cube trays.  Many countries don’t use ice as readily as Americans, and the trays have come in handy. In many countries, the only ice cube trays available for sale are those that make tiny cubes that melt quickly, diluting our beverages.
Sure, when we see how much space the ice cube trays take, even stacked inside one another, we could think twice about packing them. But, as I often say, some items are simply worth the trouble.
We spotted this pheasant on a stone wall in Carna.
We don’t hesitate to fit items into our bags and not exceed the maximum allowable weight, resulting in more expense. The bigger problem is when the bags are so full, they’re challenging to close. We do our best.

I am still hoping to feel better by Thursday. The side effects of stopping the two medications are taking their toll on me. Hopefully, soon, that will improve. For now, I’m ok, well enough to fly and board a cruise. From there, we’ll see how it goes.

May your Monday be grand!
Photo from one year ago today, August 5, 2018:
Where in the world would one drive down a road to encounter this site outside their car window? For more photos, please click here.

Food in Ireland…Favorite food photos…Four days an counting…

I made myself a dinner of sauteed garlic butter calamari and hake.  My vegetables were on a separate plate.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest more than any other country
– a record seven times (1970, 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996). It was
also the first country to win the contest three times in a row.”

When we envisioned spending three months in Ireland, we imagined we’d be dining out at least once a week, spending time at the bar meeting new people.
But, the reality of this area is that driving on these narrow winding roads is foolhardy and dangerous.

Whenever John, the fish guy, had fresh scallops available, we’d purchase two 12-packs.

Many local drivers whip through the bends and curves of the local roads at high speeds, making driving particularly risky after having a few drinks at the pub.  Early on, we decided it didn’t make sense for us to take risks.  

Scallops we cooked, sauteed in butter, garlic, and olive oil.  Delicious!

No, there aren’t many, if any, police cars on the road patrolling for drivers after they’ve had a few drinks, but equally, animals are wandering in the streets, particularly sheep. Avoiding them and the fast-moving cars and trucks on the narrow roads didn’t leave us feeling enthused to venture out for dinner very often.

Chicken dinner at Tigh Mheaic, a great pub, and restaurant in Carna, dined out with friends Lisa and Barry.

Add the fact that the cost for dining out at no less than Euro 89.35, US $100, for the two of us with a few drinks, taxes, and tips, made dining out nonsensical for us.  Subsequently, we only dined out an average of once a month during our three months in Connemara.

Scallops, potatoes, blood pudding, and salad at Tigh Mheaic.

After having lost vast sums of money due to non-refundable cancellations on prepaid bookings after my recent heart surgery, we’ve had to be extra careful on purchases of all types.  

Instead, we chose to focus on the best possible ingredients for cooking our meals, including a regular influx of fresh fish and seafood which has been more readily available in Ireland than anywhere we’ve lived in the past almost seven years.

Smoked salmon salad at Glinsce House, located five minutes from our house.

Our meals have been easy to prepare and spectacular. I can’t imagine eating scallops again when I now know what “real” scallops look and taste like. Also, the grilled calamari has been such a treat and will be hard to duplicate.

As I prepared today’s post discussing it with Tom, we decided to head out this afternoon to O’Flaherty’s for one last order of fish and chips for him and some uncooked calamari rings for me to sautee and add to tonight’s plate of salmon, cooked spinach, cabbage, and broccoli.

My breakfast included scrambled eggs with onion and cheese, smoked salmon, and tuna pate from the Connemara Smokehouse.

Often readers write to us requesting recipes and meal suggestions. The ease of my low carb, starch-free, grain-free and sugar-free way of eating only requires a well seasoned and prepared source of protein along with a few low carb vegetables, cooked/and or raw.  

Tom’s fish and chips from John’s takeaway restaurant at the far end of Carna, O’ Flaherty’s Seafood.

In most cases, I can cook my meals and Tom’s in less than 15 minutes. Often, lately, he’s taken over preparing his meals, especially since he was cooking for me for so many months. 

Tom’s massive portion of deep-fried hake from O’Flaherty’s Takeaway.

The majority of the time spent in the kitchen is the cleaning and prepping of the vegetables and an occasional salad. We’ve recently taken a break from side salads after discovering fewer preservatives are used on lettuce in Ireland, including organic lettuce that doesn’t keep very long. Surely, sometime in the future, we’ll reintroduce them to our meals.

Today, a little more packing is on the agenda. Yesterday, we bleached and washed all of our white clothing, which we often do before packing. We’ll be in good shape when we’re ready to leave at 10:00 am on Thursday.

Have a pleasant Sunday!

Photo from one year ago today, August 4, 2018:

Impalas (male is shown here) and warthogs seem to get along well. For more photos, please click here.

Thinking back to many months ago…Five days and counting…More favorite photos…

Downtown Clifden.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“Connemara Chaos is a region of chaotic terrain on Jupiter’s moon Europa.”

After a much-needed good night’s sleep, I awoke this morning determined to get started packing, beginning with all my clothes in the master bedroom’s walk-in closet. 
Twenty minutes later, all of my clothing was neatly folded in my suitcase. I’d even begun packing the “supplies” suitcase which I’ll complete later today or tomorrow leaving out toiletries we’ll use over the next several days.  
An island in the lake.
I’ll place those items in a large ziplock bag for easy access for our overnight in Dublin and following two nights in Amsterdam. TDuringthose three days and nights, the clothing I’ll wear will be left on top of the other clothes in the suitcase, again for easy access.
While packing this morning, I couldn’t help but recall packing in Marloth Park as we prepared to leave almost three months ago. Where has the time gone? This morning as I packed in blissfully cool weather, I asked myself how I managed in the heat in South Africa during those last three months as I edged closer to be well enough to fly the long distance to Ireland.
Ruins in the area.
Sure those last three months were February, March, April, and part of May which are cooler during the summer months in Africa. But, it had been unseasonably hot during that period with humid temperatures well into 32Cs, 90Fs.
Without aircon in the house except for the master bedroom and numerous power outages, it was a difficult time. Looking back to how awful I was feeling then, I don’t know how I got through it.  
A Belted Galloway grazing among the rocks.
On the other hand, Tom was continuously busy cooking and caring for me. He, too, was feeling the heat along with the brunt of the seemingly endless power outages, and occasional water outages. It wasn’t easy.
And yet, when I was finally able to go out on the veranda during the last two to three weeks before we left, seeing the wildlife a few more times, made all of it worthwhile and bearable.
Ruins of a former home, partially restored.  It appears the house is occupied.
Oddly, many of our favorites came by, as if to say goodbye which brought tears to my eyes, how we loved our time in South Africa with only the final three months being difficult after my four surgeries. Also, sit was challenging to say goodbye to all of our friends, not knowing when we’d see them again.
We may be banned from South Africa for five years based on the fact we overstayed our visas by those three months. Although we’ve produced medical documents to request a waiver, we may never be approved.
This beautiful horse appears to be pregnant.
All of that is behind us now and although my recovery still continues, especially as I wean myself off several toxic drugs, those last three months in Africa have become somewhat of a distant memory.
This afternoon, I may go back upstairs to pack a little more.  In the interim, we’ll go about our day. Not unusual, it’s another dark and rainy day. We’ve already chopped and diced everything we’ll need for dinner and can sit back and relax knowing our time to leave is coming near.
One of the many small fishing boats we see daily.
May you have a peaceful weekend.
Photo from one year ago today, August 3, 2018:
The closest living relatives of hippos are porpoises and whales. For more Kruger National Park photos please click here.

Cruise upcoming…Six days and counting until we leave Connemara…Favorite photos continue…

Sunset across the bay.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland Halloween originated in Ireland. Halloween as we know it today actually originates from the ancient Celtic
festival of Samhain, when the people would light bonfires and wear scary
costumes to ward off unwelcome spirits. Samhain is an old Gaelic word which
translates to ‘darker half,’ thus marking the beginning of winter.”

It’s been easy living in Connemara, Ireland. We didn’t go out more than necessary for shopping and minimal sightseeing. We had Ann as our weekly house cleaner each week, except three weeks when she was ill. Tom did the bulk of the cleaning in her absence.

We cooked easy but delicious meals, healthful and suitable for my way of eating.  The kitchen is well stocked with almost everything we’d use during a three-month stay. (We’ve since replaced the French Press coffee plunger, which Tom accidentally broke last week).

The only drawbacks to the house were the spiral staircase and its difficult-to-use oven, which prevented us from using it more often than necessary. It’s part of the complicated stove used for heating the house and water system and requires 30 minutes to preheat the oven with inconsistent temperatures.

Kylemore Abbey castle…quite stunning.
Everything else has been ideal. There are two beds in the master bedroom which allowed me to avoid the risk of Tom bumping into my still-healing incisions.  In the future, we’ll be sharing a bed once again, as we always had and ultimately prefer…in a mere six days.

The living room has been comfortable for us after we moved the furniture around to suit our needs with comfy chairs with views of the sea and other comfy chairs facing more ocean views and the flatscreen TV.  

Kylemore Abbeys Victorian Garden.
Unusual for us, we’ve spent a lot of time with the TV on, not necessarily watching anything during the day but enjoying our streamed shows in the evenings, which we download from various sites, some free, others paid.

At 1630 hours, 4:30 pm, each evening, we’ve settled into “happy hour” seated in the two comfy chairs looking out to the ocean from the big picture. Tom had a cocktail while I had a glass of red wine.   

World-famous food truck, Misunderstood Heron, draws tourists from all over the country.
An hour later, we’d be drinking iced tea (for Tom) and Pellegrino sparkling water (for me) as we’d get busy putting dinner together with a plan to sit down to eat by 1800 hours, 6:00 pm.

After dinner, Tom cleaned the kitchen while I figured out the evening’s viewing, setting up my laptop with the HDMI cord hooked to the TV. Since it stays light so late, I’ve stayed up later than in the past, and we often “knocked off” three favorite episodes.

View of Killary Fiord from the Misunderstood Heron.
Endless chatter and laughter between us ensued during the day and well into our viewing time in the evenings. Often, we’ve had to replay a portion of a show when we were talking over it. It has been a favorite time of the day for both of us.

Was I going forward?  Everything will change. Two days in Amsterdam and then onto the cruise won’t necessarily allow time for lounging. I’m so used to lying on the sofa when I run out of steam. I’m going to have to push through these periods.  

Formerly an actual food truck, the Misunderstood Heron changed to a renovated shipping container, providing more space for food prep. However, it’s still referred to as a “food truck.”
We’ve never enjoyed spending time in our cabin during the day. Mornings will be busy with breakfast in the dining room at a shared table to meet new people. No doubt, we’re ready for some socialization.  

After breakfast, we’ll get our laptops and head to a comfy location to prepare the day’s post taking the better part of the day when friendly folks stop by to chat. We never say we’re too busy for socializing!

What a spectacular spot for boating!
This particular cruise only has a few sea days. We are booked on one two-day tour in St. Petersburg but no others. For the other ports-of-call, we’ll grab a taxi at the port to give us a time of the city for a few hours, allowing us to take photos and experience the local charm.

Evenings, we’ll head to the Crown & Anchor Society complimentary happy hour(s) for priority club members such as us, usually hanging out with other passengers.  Appetizers are typically served at this time; often, I can have: raw veggies, prawns, and a variety of imported cheeses.

After the happy hour, we’ll head to dinner for a shared table in the main dining room. We prefer not to have assigned seating which requires sitting with the same passengers each night.  

The Misunderstood Heron’s view from their backyard.  
We seldom make dinner reservations and show up at the dining room, usually by 1930 hours, 7:30 pm, whenever we’re ready to eat. Generally, the queue is short, and the wait is insignificant. We’ve found that choosing when we want to dine and the freedom to be seated at a shared table with new passengers each evening creates a more well-rounded experience for us.

I can only hope and pray I can do all of this. At this point, I have no idea. Thank goodness Tom is supportive of what I will and won’t be able to do. This takes a lot of pressure off of me. So, we’ll see how it goes.

Have a fantastic weekend!
Photo from one year ago today, August 2, 2018:
What an animal!  We feel fortunate to have been able to get today’s photos of lions. For more lion photos, please click here.

Starting to wind down…Seven days and counting…Trying to get well…

Family of four walking along the road.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“The shamrock is not the national symbol of Ireland. The shamrock is recognized worldwide as a symbol of Ireland and the Irish, but the harp is the official National Symbol of Ireland. You can see the real harp on which the symbol is based at the Trinity College library, which dates back to the fifteenth century.”

As I struggle to wean myself off yet another dangerous drug, Amiodarone, that had recently caused me to bump into walls, feel dizzy, and be very unsteady on my feet, I feel exhausted and out-of-sorts.  
The drug has a long half-life and may take a year to get entirely out of the patient’s system. Here is a document on its awful side effects. Here’s additional information from the US FDA, which considers the drug with a “Black Box” warning.
We often see abandoned boats along the shore overgrown with vegetation.
After reading tons of information on this drug and having been told by the surgeon I could get off these and other drugs “in a few more months,” at my last visit, and when I began experiencing side effects, last Saturday I took the last pill, going cold turkey. It will take a long time for the side effects of the drug and the weaning process to subside. I couldn’t wait another day.
Why get off such a dangerous drug so close to the time we’re leaving? The side effects were worsening daily, and I felt I had no choice. Side effects may easily result in permanent damage to many parts of the body.
Cloudy reflections on the lake.
If you are currently taking this heart medication (or others), please talk to your doctor before changing or stopping the dose. For some, this could be life-threatening. I am not offering any form of medical advice. I am only sharing what has happened to me.
I’d hoped once I stopped the statins, I would feel better—foolish me. I have two more drugs to wean myself off of but won’t do so for some time until Amiodorane is more out of my system.  
Wildflowers are blooming throughout Ireland this time of year.
This drug is used for an irregular heartbeat, known as AFib, which I only had in the hospital while in ICU. Once at “home,” I had no more incidences.
Due to the nature of this drug, my resting heart rate has been too low, often in the high 40’s. It’s no wonder I have been so exhausted and lacking in energy.  Why I was given such high-risk medications baffles me.  
Yellow irises at the water’s edge.
I wish I’d been told the risks and could have made my own decisions. But at the time of the surgery, I was frightened, confused, and relying on medical professionals to decide for me. I wish I’d been more curious about the medications instead of taking them blindly.
Now, I am on my own, trying to figure it out. I contacted the doctor for advice but he made it clear I am no longer under his care based on the fact we have left South Africa.  
Even the craggy rocks appeal to the sheep during times of rest.
I do not want to go to a cardiologist at this point. I was told to see one on the first anniversary of the surgery providing I wasn’t having heart issues which I am not. The only problem I’m having at this point is the side effects of various dangerous heart medications.
No, I won’t get out my soapbox about Big Pharma and how its influence has become worldwide. That’s for another day. Right now, I’m looking forward to not walking into walls and doorknobs and feeling steady on my feet. Hopefully, soon that will come but I have to be realistic that I may need to get off more drugs to feel totally well which could take many more months.
Sheep family on a hill.
I deliberated over whether I should mention this here. But, after being so candid all along, and if any of my experiences helps only one reader in some small way, it is worth it. Again, please consult with your doctor for any medication changes.

Today, I will begin packing in bite-sized pieces over the next several days instead of rushing at the last minute. I always dread packing, but once I get started, I realize how easy it is.

Thanks for listening. Have a fantastic day!
Photo from one year ago today, August 1, 2018:
Our bird feeder is often surrounded by hornbills. For more photos, please click here.

Year ago photo…Adults only please… More favorite photos…8 days and counting…

Breathtaking view over the bay.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 

“Wet summers are no myth. They say, “it’s always raining in Ireland,” and the sad reality is that they’re not wrong. While we Irish love to think that we bask in the sun for hours on end during the summer, but the reality is pretty grim. We have one of the wettest climates in Europe: in the summer of 2007, for example, it rained in Ireland for 40 days straight!”
Today was one of those rare days when I didn’t feel I had it in me to do a post.
As I begin here now, it’s 1400 hours, 2:00 pm, leaving me little time to prepare a comprehensive post with stories and links.
John, our friend and the fish guy with Tom in the driveway.

So please bear with me as I race through it, feeling compelled and yet pleased to finally be typing on the keyboard of my laptop. A nap is beaconing me, and although I usually only doze for 15 minutes, it’s everything I need to spur me on for the rest of the day. We’ll see how likely that will be.

This morning, knowing Ann was coming at 9:00 am to clean the house, we both bolted out of bed in a hurry knowing we’d like to get breakfast out of the way, tidy some of our “stuff” throughout the house, and be ready for her to take over for several hours.

Mom and Baby.

As always, Tom made bacon and the perfect fried eggs on the planet. This morning there was a special treat to savor with my two eggs:  fresh crabmeat John had dropped off last night. Adding chopped celery and a bit of mayonnaise, I made a quick crab salad, along with a few ounces of smoked salmon and a tiny avocado on the side.

Tom enjoyed the bacon and eggs as usual while I savored my low carb, moderate fat, high protein breakfast. Portions were small, but together, it was a perfect combo of flavors.
Rescued donkeys are commonly found in Ireland, where love and respect for these animals are evident.

Once we cleaned the kitchen and hung a load of laundry on the rack in the entry room, we planned the menu for our remaining seven breakfasts and seven dinners in Ireland. It was effortless planning this together as we always do.

After chatting with Ann before we left, knowing we had many stops ahead of us, we took off ready to tackle the day. Tom needed a haircut, and I needed to visit the pharmacy for a few toiletries and to speak to the pharmacist about some of the meds I am trying to wean off in the next few months.

Messy, dirty sheep with red identifying paint.

I’ve discovered that one of the drugs makes me feel exhausted and results in too low of a pulse, often as low as the high 40’s when at rest. The surgeon suggested I get off several of the drugs at this point, which hopefully won’t cause any issues. I’m down two drugs with two more to go.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin the slow weaning process he suggested, which may take a month. But, the process is slow since this particular heart medication requires a prolonged weaning process to avoid a sudden increase in heart rate. I can’t wait until the toxic substances are out of my system.

Ruins in the neighborhood.

So many of these medications have severe, life-threatening and debilitating side effects. Since I tend to be sensitive to drugs anyway, this surely is the right path for me at this point. I am looking forward to feeling like my “old self” once again, if that’s at all possible.

Ann and Eileen suggest we try Sullivan’s hardware store. Tom had accidentally broken the glass French Press coffee “plunger,” and we hoped to find a replacement in Clifden. Luckily, he found a replacement, and we were on our way to the supermarket.
Belted Galloway cow all possess this unique pattern of a white belt around their midsection.

He’d stopped at the barbershop while I started the grocery shopping at SuperValu to discover so many customers waiting. He joined me with a plan to return to the after grocery shopping. He had no choice. He needed a haircut, plain and simple.

Once we loaded the car with the groceries, we drove the few blocks to the tiny barbershop, put money in the parking meter, and prepared ourselves for a long wait.  Although three other men were waiting, within 25 minutes, Tom was in the barber chair.  

Piles of cut peat are often found at the side of the road.

After a good haircut, priced at Euro 12, US $13.37 plus a generous tip of Euro 5, US $5.57, we were on our way back to our holiday home. Ann was still here finishing the cleaning, but we worked our way around her and put everything away.  It was sweet saying goodbye to Ann once again. Such a lovely woman with whom we became very attached over the past three months.

Tonight, we’ll lay low enjoying a roasted chicken dinner with rice for Tom, cooked cabbage, a side of spinach, and broccoli for me. Later, we’ll hunker down to watch a few favorite shows.
Scenic lake.

As we wind down our time in Ireland, we can hardly believe three months have passed. We’re ready to move along, hoping a change of scenery and activities will be good for both of us.

Have a pleasant evening!
Photo from one year ago today, July 31, 2018:
Little attempting to mate with this young female. For more photos, please click here.