Food and shopping in the USA…

Photo from the Big Island in Hawaii in December 2014 as the sun came up.

We don’t have food photos to share. When we’ve been dining out, the last thought on our minds is to take photos since most of which we’ve ordered is not considered “fine dining” as we’ve opted for standard American fare, not necessarily photo-inspiring meals.

I must admit that being here in the US sets my mind away from the search for good photos and no doubt has had an impact on my creativity when posting each day. Right now, I don’t feel like a world traveler. I feel like a mom, a grandmother, a mother-in-law, a sister-in-law, a stepmom, and a friend.

With no interest in cooking, although we have a fully equipped kitchen in our resident-type hotel room, we’ve eaten most meals sitting in a restaurant, eating takeaway in our room, or on a few occasions, in the homes of family members. I am confident this will continue for the remainder of our time in Minnesota, now only over the next five days when we head to Wisconsin.

From there, we’ll be dining out for all meals or perhaps ordering a few carry-out meals. In Milwaukee and Nevada, we won’t have a kitchen as we do here, which ultimately proved to be less important to us other than for chilling our iced tea, making ice, and keeping cheese for snacks.

Later that morning from the lanai.

While in the US, I’ve lightened up a little on my eating less protein and consuming lots of salads. It doesn’t seem to have impacted me one way or another. But, once we return to South Africa, we’ll both resume our usual way of eating.

Tom has been enjoying many of his old favorites, and I’ve kept my mouth shut. He eats doughnuts, candy, fried foods, and bread. He’s gone through bags of jelly candies (not gummy) and many plastic containers of old-fashioned cake donuts, his favorites which are never available in Africa or in many locations we’ve traveled.

Yes, he’ll gain a few pounds (kg) but will undoubtedly lose it once we return to Marloth Park. I have gained a few pounds just from eating out every day, not certain about the ingredients in the meals I’m consuming. I’m none the worse for the wear and will also lose it once we get back to our lives in the bush.

We’re certainly not as active as we’d been in the bush, jumping up and down every few minutes to feed the wildlife and doing a variety of tasks around the house each day. Here, we sit on the bed or small sofa in our hotel room, our only task being laundry every few days and walking here and there.

We are located in a bustling area with lots of traffic. Walking is not appealing to us in this location. With the post to do each day, planning and scheduling get-togethers with family and friends, neither of us feel motivated to do much else. I can’t believe how lazy I feel here.

The much-anticipated whale fluke, as seen from the lanai.

We’ve done quite a bit of shopping, more online than in stores. Although, it’s been fun to go to Target, Walgreens, and the Eden Prairie Mall across the street from our hotel. We even went to Best Buy to purchase a much-needed new cord for Tom’s laptop. It’s been just like old times, going out shopping and dining.

Today, at 5:15, I will meet up with Camille, Maisie, and Madighan at the pier on Lake Minnetonka. We are going out on Al & Alma’s dinner cruise, which I haven’t done since the 1970s. That will certainly bring back many memories of a life long ago when my two boys were young and I was in my 20s.

Tom is meeting up with daughter Tammy for dinner, which I would have attended. But, tickets were purchased and set for the dinner cruise on the lake at the same time. We had no choice but to split up and spend the evening with our respective family members. I hope to finally see Tammy at some point over the next week before we depart for Wisconsin on Friday.

Tonight, President Cyril Ramphosa will conduct another “family meeting” about Covid-19 and its impact on South Africa. We are concerned about our ability to re-enter South Africa on our flights as planned, departing two weeks from yesterday on July 24th.

May your Sunday be restful and fulfilling.

Photo from one year ago today, July 11, 2020:

The natural bond between mom koala bears and their offspring is always precious to observe, as we did in Australia in 2015. We were allowed inside the pen for an up-close and personal experience. For more photos posted one year ago, please click here.

This exceptional home where we’re staying with friends is for sale…See details below…

Nothing was spared in the design and decor of this enticing property.

There’s no doubt our friend’s home in Eden Prarie Minnesota has been an ideal location for us during our three weeks in Minnesota. As a long-time dear friend, with whom I’ve stayed in close touch over the years, Karen didn’t hesitate to invite us to stay with her and Rich.

The property is located in a tree-lined paradise allowing stunning views of the lake.

I knew this house years ago when we lived in Minnesota but hadn’t stayed here in the past. Instead, we stayed in another of Karen’s homes during our last several weeks in Minnesota in October 2012, when we had to clear out of our house for the estate sale.

The two-bedroom apartment, ideal for in-laws, nanny or rental is located above the four-car garage.

There are few people in the world with whom we’ll stay in their homes. We have certain requirements and a routine which may interfere with theirs and our daily activities. 

Many exceptional parties have been held in this expansive home.

Also, we don’t want any potential hosts trying to figure out what I eat and to go through the effort to make meals for us. It’s just too much work for friends and family to muddle their way through this process. 

The dining room isn’t a typical closed-off formal area. Instead, in this home, it flows into open spaces creating a perfect environment for entertaining or casual everyday dining.

Karen’s diet is quite similar to mine and thus when we’ve been around to share meals we have no trouble making it work. Of course, we’ve been so busy, we’ve hardly been here at dinnertime.

The abundance of cupboard space, pantries, and unique storage spaces make this an ideal workspace and pleasing area for prepping meals and gathering for conversation.

Tonight, as a small token of thank you, we’re all going out to dinner at Gianni’s Steakhouse in downtown Wayzata, an upscale area on the famous Lake Minnetonka. Karen’s birthday is on the 30th and we’ll celebrate tonight.

The family room or lounge is located conveniently next to the kitchen and veranda.

Tom and I spent many special romantic dinners at this dining establishment and we’re especially excited to share the experience with Karen and Rich, who’ve never dined at Gianni’s.

A fireplace adorns this entertaining and lounging area with easy access to the outdoors.

Their gorgeous home on Duck Lake where we’ve been honored to stay is currently on the market for sale. We decided we’d like to share the information on this exceptional property with our readers who may be interested in this fine property or…know someone who is. 

One may be required to work at home but this space makes it seamless and inviting.

To reach the listing company and agent for additional information on this outstanding home please click here.

The top of the stairs at the second level is architecturally interesting in itself.

Having visited this home many times in our old lives (before traveling the world for seven years) its stunning ambiance and inviting appeal was familiar to both of us. Having the opportunity to stay here among such definitive beauty and elegance both in the house and on the grounds was an easy decision for us.

The master bedroom has many enticing amenities.

As you’d expect, we aren’t being charged a fee to be here and are doing everything we can to say “thank you.” That’s our way. That’s the way of our friends. 

What spectacular views from the soaking tub in the ensuite master bath.

But the magic of it all is the great fun the four of us celebrate almost every night when they return from work and we return from our day and evening activities with family when we settle into the warm and enticing lounge and relax with this delightful, intelligent and highly conversational couple. 

Few homes possess a walk-in closet of this caliber. The ease of organization is evident in every space.

It couldn’t be more wonderful. The surroundings both inside the house and outside the property create a sense of calm and restoration each time we enter; a quiet and peaceful respite from our busy action-packed days. Our ability to unwind with the two of them has been one of many highlights of our time here.

This is currently our temporary living room in the walk-out area. Note all the light that enters this huge and convenient space.

Minnesota has countless beautiful lakes and owning a house directly located on the lakeshore is highly desired by most homeowners and potential homeowners. No, it’s not always affordable and let’s face it, this price range isn’t for everyone.

We are sleeping in this bright bedroom with a fireplace and intriguing design.

However, for those searching in this price range, they won’t be disappointed when they wander through this one-acre, 6149 square foot lakeshore home with six bedrooms, five bathrooms, three floors of living space plus a complete two-bedroom apartment with a rental income potential of approximately $1500 month, which can offset a portion of the costs.

Not only is this laundry area an easy and spacious workspace but next door to it is another “freezer/additional refrigerator/mudroom suitable for any size family. 

With only eight days remaining until we depart Minnesota, we will continue to embrace the ease and comfort we’re experiencing in this gorgeous home with our equally gorgeous friends. 

The living room of the separate apartment is welcoming and bright.
The kitchen in the two-bedroom apartment.

Again, here’s the link to the listing for pricing and further information.

A dock on the lake’s edge for spring and summer boating. Wildlife abounds in this area.

Thank you for stopping by one more time. We’ll be back with more tomorrow including photos from our celebratory dinner tonight.

With only a portion of the 127 feet of lakeshore visible in this summertime photo, the grounds include a hand-crafted gazebo, many gardens, and pleasing landscaping.

Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, November 20, 2018:

In the early evening, Wildebeest Willie and a young Big Daddy kudu seemed to get along well while eating pellets. For more photos, please click here.

“It’s always somethin’ Jane!”…

Six years ago today, on November 19, 2013, we posted this photo when we visited the Swahili Beach Resort for dinner at Diani Beach, Kenya.

We can live anywhere in the world and wherever we may be at any given time, life isn’t free from worries and concerns for ourselves and for our loved ones. As we spend more time with family while in Minnesota, we have a first-hand opportunity to witness the trials and tribulations of those we love, often centered around health problems commonly found as a result of aging and other causes.


With our dear DIL dealing with cancer and similarly one of Tom’s sisters and with Tom’s sister, Sister Beth, in the hospital with some unknown illness, we find ourselves worried. Tom spent the better part of the day at a local hospital with DIL Tracy, who is having tests for a worrisome condition, yet unknown, we feel like health issues are everywhere. We hope and pray Tracy will be OK.


No one is exempt from the risks of acquiring health conditions. When Tom met for lunch with several railroad retirees last week, more than half of the group was suffering from one serious illness or another. Railroad workers are often exposed to toxic chemicals in their line of work which may result in serious health conditions later in life.


When we’ve met with his family over these past several days, it’s evident that many are in the throes of recovery from surgery or illness or in the manifestation of a new condition in itself.


What’s happened in this world? Why are so many people getting cancer, heart disease, and a wide array of other life-threatening illnesses? When I think of my own situation, I can hardly blame it on lifestyle or pesticides. I’ve spent a lifetime eating healthy, fresh foods, avoiding sugars, starches and now in the past 8 years, grains.


Of course, there’s no easy answer. For many, illnesses may be age-related, lifestyle-related, environmental, and as in my case, genetic, the most difficult causal factor to change. 


As research, unbiased of course, not funded by Big Pharma, continues in many of these areas, “they” are discovering more on more on the role genetics play in our health throughout of lives. Perhaps, not in our lifetime, but down the road, more discoveries will be made to attempt to avert some of these seemingly inevitable scenarios.


On this topic…as each day passes, I begin to feel a little better. My cough is about 20% better than it was yesterday, now day 4 of antibiotics and Prednisone. I can’t wait to be able to breathe more easily and sleep better at night.


Still, I remain grateful for the quality of care I had at the local Medexpress Clinic and of course, the reasonable fees of $189, plus the cost of the various medications that weren’t too bad. They provided us with discount coupons for the meds! Amazing!


Next week on Wednesday when I see the cardiologist for my early one-year heart check, it will be much more expensive and we’re bracing ourselves for that. Since my heart feels good, I see no reason for a plethora of tests.


As one of the worst patients on the planet, I tend to pick and choose what I feel is appropriate for me, not necessarily what the doctor may order. Many may disagree with this type of thinking but we each have to be our own advocates and do what we feel is right for us.


Taking drugs that cause me to be exhausted, in pain and feeling ill is not on the horizon for me. Quality of life is of the utmost importance and I continually strive to build and maintain such a lifestyle to enhance that possibility.


That’s it for today, folks. Please stay tuned for more mundane updates on family matters. In nine days we’ll be in Las Vegas certainly, there will be a few more photos ops and forms of entertainment to share with our readers.


May you be well, healthy and content.

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Photo from one year ago today, November 19, 2018:
Kudus in the garden. It was always important to feed the animals during the dry summer months in South Africa, during a drought. Vegetation was at a minimum and they often depend on offerings from the visitors living in the bush. For more, please click here.

Associations can tarnish a otherwise good memory…

Busy preparations surrounded the church in Campanario as workers rushed to get the decorations in place for Saturday’s religious festivities.  For the post from this date, five years ago, please click here.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
The ashes of St. Valentine, believe it or not, have found their final
resting place in a shrine inside Whitefriar Street Church, in Dublin city
center. Brought here from Rome by
an Irish Carmelite is known for his work with the poor, the ashes were a token
gift from Pope Gregory XVI. Many couples visit the shrine inside this small
Irish church, to ask St. Valentine to watch over them and pray for a long life
together.”

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Unfortunately, at times experiences during world travel may not be ideal, emblazoning the hoped stunning memories in our hearts and minds with painful and sorrowful recollections.  


Overall, I’d say we have nothing but fantastic memories of which we’re easily reminded when we see photos and read past posts.  For example, today’s five year ago photos and stories remind us of days long past where pain, discomfort, and fear were definitely not in the picture.


Now five years later and after almost seven years of traveling, it has become necessary to emotionally and financially regroup after the shocking state of affairs over my recent open-heart surgery.  
These roads leading to the site were decorated with lights and garland.

Also, a cardiac bypass is a temporary treatment, not a cure.  The genetic fact of arteriosclerosis continues regardless of diet, exercise, medication, and lifestyle. In other words, there’s nothing one can do to prevent a recurrence.


Many patients discover that the new grafts have occluded as soon as one year later requiring more surgery.  What does one do then?  Go through the same thing all over again?  I don’t think if I’d be willing to do that all over again.


It was disheartening to spend those last three months in Marloth Park recovering from the outrageously invasive surgery.  Prior to those three months, we had nothing but happy memories of our year in South Africa.


Only a few months prior to the surgery, I recall telling Tom and our friends that the year in Marloth was the happiest year of my life.  And then, everything changed.


And for almost three full months, I was unable to walk out onto the veranda to see any of the main reasons for my prior exquisite joy and happiness…the constant visits by a wide array of wildlife and time spent with our fantastic friends, all of which came to a sudden halt.

Local citizens mulling around the area chatting and smoking amid the workers preparing for the big event.

Oh, our loving friends came to visit over and over again.  Toward the end of the extra three months, they even hosted a dinner party at our house bringing all the food, cooking, serving and cleaning it all up.  I didn’t have to do a thing.


The fact that they’ve all stayed in close touch since we left in May, only reminds us of the strength and commitment of their loving friendship.  We miss them all. 


We don’t know when we’ll be able to return. We were banned from South Africa for five years due to overstaying our visas by the three months due to my necessary recovery period.  


As mentioned in prior posts, we applied for a waiver but now, almost three months later, we haven’t had any news although we’ve called and sent messages many times.

Here while in Ireland the recovery barely progressed, based on side effects of the statins and other drugs and I am associating our time here with similar trepidation.  How disappointing it has been not to be able to get out for more sightseeing to fully enjoy this lovely country.

As we drove away from the church we spotted these flowers.


The future?  It will continue to be a “work in progress” especially now that the debilitating side effects of the statins have lifted, although not entirely quite yet. There are several other heart-related drugs I am taking, that according to the doctors,  I can stop by the six-month mark, coming up mid-August.


Many of these drugs cause exhaustion on one hand and insomnia on the other.  I can’t wait to feel energetic again. I remind myself every day, regardless of how hard or disappointing the slow recovery has been, I am grateful to be alive and having survived these first difficult months. I am grateful to Tom for his loving and diligent caregiving, for making me laugh and for family and friends who’ve stayed in touch.


And, of course, I am grateful for all of you, our readers, who frequently write kind and thoughtful messages, all generous of spirit and heart.  How can I ever thank you?  Perhaps by getting well and writing about new adventures shared here with many photos.  


Your continued support is an association I’ll always fondly remember.  You inspired me to keep pushing, keep a clear mind and maintain a routine we’ve treasured for years.


Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, July 27, 2018:
This is our friend Tusker.  He is the sweetest guy who comes to visit several times each day, particularly after 1600 hours (4:00 pm).  He’s so comfortable here he often lies down for a short nap.  Eventually, we didn’t see him anymore when “Basket, an enormous warthog scared him off and claimed the territory.  We missed him.  For more details, please click here.

Five years ago today…Tunnels…Thanks for positive response!!…

In a busy beach area in Madeira, Portugal,, cars were parked inside this frequently used tunnel.  See this link for more.
Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 

“The ancestral language of Irish people is Irish Gaelic. However, the
2011 census found that 82,600 people in Ireland speak Irish outside of school
(where it is an obligatory subject). The census also reported that 119,526
speak Polish meaning Irish is now the third most spoken language in Ireland
after English and Polish.”

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We have a long way to go before we start packing to leave Ireland and this time, I don’t plan to start until two days prior to leaving, giving us ample time to weigh our bags and pay for them online. The baggage fees for this upcoming flight are as much as the airfare. That’s how “they” get you!

This time it appears it will be easier to pack than it was three months ago when we left Marloth Park.  We had accumulated so much peripheral “stuff” during our 15 months in South Africa whereby, here, we’ve managed to keep it to a minimum.

A “massage salon” at the beach.
Yesterday, I literally forced myself to work on three months of accumulated receipts.  What a relief I felt when this looming task was completed.  Now, I’ll only need to log the few upcoming trips to the market, any fish we purchase from John and one trip to the pharmacy for products we’ll use on the cruise.

Tom suggested we wait and purchase toiletries once we arrive in Amsterdam but we’ve heard prices are outrageous in the city.  Also, based on allowed baggage, we’re within the weight ranges and won’t pay extra for hair products, saline solution, and toothpaste which we’ll place in our large suitcases. 
Exiting yet another tunnel.
Purchasing such items on a cruise is three times the cost for the small sizes so running out of any items is a waste of money.  

We’d hoped our cleaning person, Ann was coming to clean the house today but it appears she’s still under the weather.  Of course, we wish her well but don’t look forward to cleaning the house, changing the sheets, vacuuming, dusting and cleaning the kitchen and baths.  

If I was feeling stronger this wouldn’t be an issue.  I try not to complain to Tom and do everything I can to help.  But, he’ll do the bulk of the cleaning while I do the easy stuff.
There’s been little rain and yet the hillside is lush and green.
Yesterday and today, many of our readers wrote to encourage me not to be so concerned over not having new photos to post right now.  This means a lot to us and takes off the pressure of getting out when I don’t feel up to it.  Thanks to each and every one of you!

Today’s photos are from the enjoyable 2½ months we spent on the exquisite and unique Portuguese island of Madeira.  We stayed in the small village of Campanario, where literally no English was spoken.  Somehow, we managed and even learned a few words of the Portuguese language.
On a few hour outing in Madeira, Portugal, we’d go through as many as a 20 tunnels.
We loved the contemporary house in the hills overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  There, too, like John in Connemara, there was plenty of fresh-caught fish sold by in a truck.  The Madeira fish guy had a truck with loud music blaring from a speaker on the rooftop, specifically known as the “fish guy’s song.”

When we were around and we heard that song, we ran outside hiking up the steep hill to buy one of his fresh-caught yellowfin tuna.  Nice memories were created there, as they’ve been here in Ireland as well.

Speaking of fresh fish, tonight I’ll have hake, one of my favorite fresh fish while Tom has the remainder of his bone-in pork roast.  Luckily, John comes to the door and knocks when he arrives and we don’t have to climb steep hills to get to him.

That’s it for today, folks.  I continue to walk and work hard to get more mobility and stability but sadly, it’s taking more time than I’d expected

Be healthy!
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Photo from one year ago today, July 25, 2018:
Classic scene of three vultures on a limb.  We were thrilled to get this shot from quite a distance.  From this site:  Vultures are, however, great ecologists, having a high sense of personal hygiene and are a manifestation of the adage of patience as a virtue. They clean the veld of carrion, thereby minimizing the impact of animal disease, and they bathe regularly in rivers after gorging themselves at a kill.”  For more photos, please click here.

Photo shortage…Photos from five years ago today…The island of Madeira Portugal…

These old stone tunnels are common throughout Madeira.  To see this five-year-old post, please click here.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“The population of
Ireland currently sits at around 4.5 million people, which is still almost 4
million less the population before the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1852.
However, it has been reported that almost 80 million people around the world
have Irish passports. Up to half the entire population of Australia claim Irish
ancestry, while just over 39 million Americans believe they are part Irish.”

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With all the wind and rain this week we haven’t been out to take photos.  This creates a certain amount of concern as I struggle to share photos for each day’s post.  

This fact has been a constant dilemma when at times, especially lately, I haven’t felt up to going out.  Now as we wind down our time here, leaving in 15 days,  I doubt we’ll go sightseeing before we leave.
There’s a substantial Catholic population on the island.  It’s not unusual to spot a shrine of the Virgin Mary in public areas such as this.
I’ve kept track of the interest by our worldwide readers when we post sightseeing photos and oddly, there are no fewer readers when we haven’t been sightseeing, taking lots of photos.  I can’t quite figure out this dilemma.

At this time, with the ongoing realities of my continuing recovery, I don’t feel like riding in the car for hours at a time.  Instead, we’ve decided to only go out when we have to shop in these remaining days in Connemara.
There are a few sandy beaches on the island.  Most are rocky such as this.
In the interim, I continue to walk, climb stairs indoors and walk the big hill from the driveway (which I haven’t done in a few days due to bad weather, fearing the slippery rocks could result in a fall).  

Perhaps I am babying myself.  Its what I feel like doing right now.  We’ll be plenty busy when we get to Amsterdam and two days later board the cruise with many ports of call we’d like to see.  
As we drove through a village, this bell tower warranted a stop.
We apologize for this “change” over the next 15 days but once we’re on the move, many photos will follow.  In the past over seven years since we began posting, (March 2012), there have been few occasions when we didn’t post photos, except perhaps for the first year before we became excited about taking photos.

Sadly, we didn’t do what we’d hoped to do while in Ireland, mainly further explore Tom’s ancestry and sightsee.  For now, the timing wasn’t quite right and the distances required to do so would have resulted in six or more hours of driving each day.
This village was decorated for the upcoming banana festival which occurred over the prior weekend.
Had I not had the dreadful surgery in February, everything would have been entirely different.  But, this is our current reality.  And, as hard as its been, we’ve made every effort to stay upbeat and positive.

Without getting out much, writing here has been challenging.  Much to our delight, our readership hasn’t faltered during this less exciting period.  Thanks to each and every one of you for sticking with us.  
Soon, it will become more exciting as we work our way toward our upcoming travels, cameras in hand and enthusiasm in our hearts and minds.  No doubt, we too, have missed the excitement.
Ironically while in Madeira, Portugal, Tom got a kick out of this sign for an Irish Sports Bar with a photo of a camel on the sign.  We couldn’t quite grasp the significance of the camel and Irish.  There aren’t any camels in Ireland, are there?  Not that we’ve seen thus far.
Over the next few weeks, we will add photos from past adventures often going back as many as seven years.  During the last week, we’ll begin posting our favorite photos of Ireland and then, a few days later we’ll be in Amsterdam.

Yesterday, we wrapped up our travel health insurance.  From August 11th, when we board the ship to November 8th when we arrive in the US, we’ll be covered including my preexisting conditions.  

The total cost was for the short term policy for both of us was Euro 1113,  US $1240, half as much as our old policy which no longer covers my preexisting condition.  This gave both of us peace of mind.  (The policy doesn’t cover time spent in the US).


Thank you for your patience and understanding.  See you soon!
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Photo from one year ago today, July 24, 2018:

We took this photo on Volstruis Street.  The word volstruis means ostrich in Afrikaans.  For more photos, please click here.

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’.”
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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 as 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 which 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.  This was the time following the suppression of religious houses in the British Isles when British Catholics left England and opened religious houses abroad. A number of 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 at 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, have 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 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 for seeing 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 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
to 
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, 4 bathrooms, 4 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 a 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.

Missunderstood Heron? What’s that?…

 
The scenery of the Killary Fjord directly behind the Missunderstood Heron couldn’t have been more breathtaking!

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland” 

“The Guinness World Records, a reference
book published annually listing world records, came about in 1954 when the
managing director of Guinness attended a shooting party and argued with other
competitors about the fastest game bird in Europe, and failed to find an answer
in any available reference book.”
__________________________________________
A sunny day coupled with our lack of new photos prompted us to get out for some sightseeing especially when we’d have an opportunity to travel on unfamiliar roads.


The roads to our two chosen locations, the Missunderstood Heron and the historic Kylemore Abbey were as scenic, narrow and winding as we’ve experienced closer to our home base.
Visitors can walk hike in the scenic area and then head to the food truck for food and refreshment.

The two venues are no more than 15 minutes apart, 10.5 km, 6.5 miles, so it made sense to see both sites in one day.  With the day’s post uploaded and dinner in the refrigerator to be cooked in the event we didn’t eat at the food truck, we were free to spend as much time out as we’d like.  It proved to be a full day.

Today, we’re sharing photos and the story of the Missunderstood  Heron (correct spelling), a highly unique dining establishment, originally an actual food truck but now a converted shipping container, offering more space for their food prep.

The sign outside the remodeled container, representing a food truck.  Note the spelling of the name.

Also, we’d planned this outing to see how I’d do with the tremendous amount of walking required at the Kylemore Abbey.  More on that tomorrow.


In the event, we chose to buy dinner-to-go from the food truck we brought along an insulated bag but after years of travel seems to have lost some of its ability to keep things cold for long.  

Most of the items on the menu appealed to me but weren’t suitable for my way of eating without considerable modifications.  As busy as it was, there was no way I’d ask.  Tom didn’t care for any of the items on the menu.

Subsequently, we visited Kylemore Abbey first.  If we purchased dinner first we’d have been rushing at the abbey, concerned the food would spoil.  We love low-stress days.

We hadn’t been sightseeing on a Sunday, preferring to go out on weekdays to avoid crowds and traffic.  Were we in for a big surprise when the long queues of slow driving vehicles occupied the narrow roads.  With no shoulders on the winding roads, passing is dangerous.


As mentioned here in the past, Tom is an impatient driver with little tolerance for traffic.  Fortunately, he kept his cool knowing we were in no rush and the long drive to both locations was fine.  Had we not needed photos so desperately, we would have waited until midweek when both locations were open simultaneously.   

Many tourists head to this remote location which is well advertised in tourist information materials.

The Missunderstood Herons simple reality hit home with us and many other tourists.  Not only are online reviews excellent but the enthusiasm on the faces of visitors certainly indicated their pleasure at visiting this unique eating establishment with one of the finest views in the land.

From their website here we are sharing the following  They wrote:


“How does one come to set up a food truck in the middle of nowhere? Love of food, Connemara and each other.

We have both always wanted to run our own business and when our time in Dublin was coming to an end, the brainstorming began on what we could do to make a living in Connemara. We both love food but didn’t have enough money to buy or rent a kitchen to operate from. We had seen the food truck movement in the states and thought that we could do something similar here while focusing on good coffee and simple, fresh and tasty food.

We searched done deal for second-hand food trucks within our budget, found one that hit the mark and just went for it. With a lot of help from friends and family, we managed to open up in time for Easter 2017. Starting small with very few food and drink options we wanted to focus on doing what we did well and growing from there.

A wooden spool converted to a chair!

Now going into our third season, the time has come when we have outgrown the original truck and need a bigger space to prepare and cook in. Our answer is a 20ft, second-hand container which we are converting into a kitchen on wheels. The design is funky, unique and still has the same feel as the original truck with hatch service and outdoor seating. 

With the addition of a looped coastal path at Killary Adventure Center, we decided to move location to this car park which is 50m down from our original location. From Easter 2019 onwards, people can go for a walk along the shore and finish off with a bite to eat and a cup of coffee.

With great reviews on TripAdvisor, it’s no wonder so many visitors stop by the unique eatery with its stunning scenery.

We will keep making our food with the same ethos of tasty, simple, fresh and local.”

We were both impressed by their ingenuity and fortitude in making such a success of their unique business. They’ve received many awards and write-ups in publications worldwide.

This is the stupendous view behind the Missunderstood Heron food truck, overlooking the majestic Killary Fjord in Connemara County Galway. 

Although there wasn’t anything suitable for my way of eating nor were the menu options appealing to Tom’s taste buds, we were thrilled to have visited the enchanting Missunderstood Heron (great name!) while relishing in the exquisite surroundings.


Enjoy the day!
                         _____________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, July 15, 2018:

We stopped along the Crocodile River for a few exciting photos.  For more, please click here.