Seventeenth Ireland Post: Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet

On Monday night of our last week in Ireland, we drove over to Bunratty Castle for a banquet. The castle sits in a folk park that can be toured during the day, and the castle has been restored with furniture and tapestries. We wanted to wander through a castle as it would have looked when it was in use, to supplement all our imaginings from touring ruins.

The evening delivered many delights.

Our crew were the only children there, the rest of the places taken up by two tour buses of people. We sat next to the two guides touring with the groups, and that was interesting.

It was really wonderful to be in a castle that had full walls and a ceiling, and the beauty of the gowns and outfits worn by the performers was intriguing to us, too. We all enjoyed the food, and everyone in the family tried every course. That becomes an even bigger deal when I mention that Parsnip soup was the first course.

Bunratty

Bunratty

Photo by Yessa.

Photo by Yessa.

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Bunratty Info.

Bunratty Info.

Very steep, skinny stairs!

Very steep, skinny stairs!

Gathered in the great hall, listening to music.

Gathered in the great hall, listening to music.

Enjoying our mead and fanta.

Enjoying our mead and fanta.

A cutie

A cutie

Tapestry

Tapestry

Another cutie

Another cutie

A true sword

A true sword

Silhouette shot

Silhouette shot

Another stairwell shot

Another stairwell shot

Ginger The Bear also enjoyed the performance.

Ginger The Bear also enjoyed the performance.

Waiting for our meal.

Waiting for our meal.

An announcement from overhead.

An announcement from overhead.

My table mates.

My table mates.

The filled dining room.

The filled dining room.

Parsnip soup

Parsnip soup

Some songs.

Some songs.

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The children and I enjoyed the banquet so much, we decided to come back to Bunratty to tour the grounds later in the week. More on that in a later post.

Sixteenth Ireland Post: Dingle Peninsula

We left early on Saturday morning to head to Dingle, and the 2 1/2 hour drive went smoothly. We didn’t really know what to expect of Dingle Bay, other than many people we talked to spoke of their love for the space. We had the good fortune to workout on Friday with a woman who was from that area, and she and our trainer had restaurant suggestions for us.

We had reservations at Tower View, which boasted of a mini-farm with goats and sheep. When we drove up, Yessa’s first comment was, “I don’t like the color of the house.”

The color grows on you.

The color grows on you.

Then we saw the dog running to greet us, then we saw the goats, and then she fell in love.

Happy girl, happy sheep

Happy girl, happy sheep

A pregnant goat

A pregnant goat

Chocolate brown sheep

Chocolate brown sheep

Happy to eat a cream biscuit

Happy to eat a cream biscuit

Mary, our hostess, had been very receptive and helpful via email, and since she was participating in a mini-marathon that day, she was glad for us to check in early. At that point, we were the only people staying in the B&B for the night, so she gave us our keys, suggested we go for a drive around the Peninsula since it was such a gorgeous day with forecasts of rain on Sunday, suggested good places to eat that were kid-friendly, showed us our room, and sent us on our way.

We popped down for a bite to eat at Harrington’s:

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Brownie Cake

Brownie Cake

Chips

Chips

Dad had a Guinness at lunch, but we managed to revive him for the drive.

Dad had a Guinness at lunch, but we managed to revive him for the drive.

After lunch we loaded everyone into the car. We knew we’d pass by beaches, and planned to stop and play, then stop at any other areas of interest.

Shortly after we began the drive, we passed a beautiful beach. It was sunny, the water not too cold, and everyone was excited to play.

So excited, that Buster and Yessa ended up covered in sand and sea water…at the beginning of our drive. We hadn’t brought extra clothes, and we couldn’t head back to town because the mini-marathon had started.

Some pictures of the fun we had in the water:

Let's touch the water.

Let’s touch the water.

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He loves to build in the sand.

He loves to build in the sand.

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Of course she found a doggy friend.

Of course she found a doggy friend.

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He loved playing fetch into the water.

He loved playing fetch into the water.

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Time to get out of the water.

Time to get out of the water.

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Yessa had been wearing two pair of pants, so we were able to improvise for her. Both kids had to go commando, and Buster had to wear his sweatshirt as pants. He and Yessa had several interesting conversations about which of them had the most sand lodged in various crevices. Luckily everyone took it in good spirits.

New outfit.

New outfit.

We saw several more lovely spots.

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Buds and I quickly toured the Beehive Huts:

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Just surviving was so hard in the past.

We then had a hilarious moment when we came upon a roadside shrine and Yessa hollered out, in total seriousness:

“My God, are you okay?!”

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It was such a spontaneous gesture of sincere concern, but so strangely adult and blasphemic, we laughed for a long time.

It was an extremely blustery day, as evidenced by the birds seeming to float in one place.

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We came upon a scenic overlook that had an ice cream truck, and ice cream seemed like the perfect addition to this day. I had a lovely visit with the gal inside it. She offered insight on Americans (Southerners are friendliest.), and talked about how the Irish love their ice cream.

I told Buds I could see retiring to Dingle to be an ice cream truck vendor someday. It would be the perfect job: meeting new people all the time, being toasty warm inside your little portable space, fantastic view, and ice cream!

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I loved the stone picnic table. They have plenty of stone...use it.

I loved the stone picnic table. They have plenty of stone…use it.

While the youngsters and I enjoyed our ice cream, Buds took the chance to hike down closer to the shore to take some lovely shots.

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We stopped at a book store/cafe/Irish craft store clear out on the peninsula, and finally found a chalice for our family. We’ve looked for a very long time, and apparently it had been waiting on the Dingle Peninsula for us all this time.

We light this chalice...

We light this chalice…

After a multi-hour drive, we ended up back at our hotel for showers, fresh clothes, and then down to dinner at “The Diner.”

Another hilarious moment at dinner.

Buster had pizza, and it looked like he might be slowing down a little as he was eating.

Buds said to him, “I hope you don’t run out of gas before you finish that pizza, Buster.”

The Buster got that impish gleam in his eye and said, “I’m eating all this gluten, and you are afraid I’ll run out gas?!”

Gotta love that boy, and his awareness of his intestinal reactions.

Dingle Day 2:

We woke to a rainy day, but it cleared quickly.

The view from our front window.

The view from our front window.

Ready to start the day.

Ready to start the day.

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The lambs needed fed, and there were willing helpers.

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Then we had one of those moments that defines us as a family. We had talked about going to The Aquarium, but that was when it looked like the day would be dreary. As we started to walk to the village, we realized it was going to be sunny, and possibly plans should be changed. Maybe a ferry over to the Blasket Islands would be a better option.

We realized we were divided into multiple camps, and we’d need to find a compromise that was respectful of everyone. One of the many things we love about our tribe is that we are all willing to adjust and be flexible as long as we feel heard and respected.

And we had a lovely/direct/insightful moment of clarity brought by Yessa when we were talking about going to The Aquarium and she said, “Mama, you hate zoos, and an aquarium is just like a zoo, so why are you willing to go there?”

Sweet, glorious, honest child.

“Because The Buster wants to go,” was my simple reply.

So, The Buster and I headed to the aquarium, while Yessa, Monkey, and Buds toured the gift shops in town.

If ever two parents were giving up their personal preferences to respect their children’s wishes, it was this day.

Murphy's Ice Cream is made right in Dingle with sea salt they harvest and from milk of the very rare "Kerry" cow.

Murphy’s Ice Cream is made right in Dingle with sea salt they harvest and from milk of the very rare “Kerry” cow.

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The afternoon was for the adults.

Dingle has its very own dolphin, Fungie (fun-ghee). (We were disappointed to learn the name came from an American woman who saw him for the first time and said, “He seems like a fun guy (fun-ghee.)”

Stupid American.

Anyway, we booked spots on a boat to take a tour out into the bay, and hopefully get glimpses of Fungie.

Fungie's statue

Fungie’s statue

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While we waited, Yessa found Lady the puppy to spend time with.

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We boarded the boat, and headed out into the bay.

Our ship

Our ship

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Buster needed a snooze.

Buster needed a snooze.

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Oh, yes, we saw Fungie!

Oh, yes, we saw Fungie!

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We learned many interesting tidbits from our tour guide on the boat.

They suspect Fungie made his way to the Dingle Bay because he is infertile, and would have been driven out from the pod that he had been with. He’s been in Dingle for over a decade now, and they think he is around 30 years old. He seems to love having his name called, and came shooting over when there were 4 boats, all calling his names.

Dingle Bay was a thriving sea port back when going cross-ocean was the way to deliver goods. It was also an active bay during both World Wars.

He also shared some fascinating history facts about how changing laws, and attempts to steer people to or from the Catholic Church had a part in the famine that devastated Ireland. Much to think about.

Our turn on Fungie's statue

Our turn on Fungie’s statue

Photos by Yessa.

Photos by Yessa.

Bursts of laughter

Bursts of laughter

After our boat tour, we had time to wander around town, more gift shops, more ice cream, and then dinner. We went to a pub that had live music, and we gave it a valiant effort to last until the music began, but dragging out a meal for 1 1/2 hours is about our max. We did do some family singing of favorites at our table, just in case we were called on to fill in for any performers.

Dingle Day 3:

After a delicious breakfast, we had one last chance to feed the babies, then we set off on the long drive home.

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We entered a worm hole for the drive home. It is a 2 1/2 hour drive, but all of us felt it was so short. Toward the end, The Buster asked, “How long until we get home?”

“Fifteen minutes.”

He burst out laughing. “A two and a half hour drive felt like it only took 15 minutes!”

Good times always fly by.

Fifteenth Ireland Post: Play

With the beautiful outdoor space around De’s house, and the fantastically sunny weather we’ve been enjoying, playing outside has been a hit with the crew. Nothing elaborate, just those games kids have played since forever.

They love for Dad to play tag with them, and they have a particular tree that has a perfect tent shape, and today since it started lightning as soon as we went outside to play tag, we moved indoors for a rousing game of hide-and-seek. I haven’t played hide-and-seek since Monkey was an only child, so it was a treat for me. We had much laughter and a few heart attacks.

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Secret lair under this tree.

Secret lair under this tree.

Catching Up: K,P,K,B Come For A Visit!

We’d been talking and planning and dreaming of this visit for so long. And it was even better than I had hoped for.

Not only did we just drop back into our easy connections and friendship, but we also got to process through more of our grief at not being together on a regular basis, plus we planned for our next time together, which always makes me feel better.

I don’t think Kel and Paula got any decent sleep while they were here, but Yessa and I did have a sleepover, we heard fantastic music in several different venues, had a crazy birthday outing for Buster, and we had a fantastic party!

In pictures:

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Kel and I sat and laughed and snuggled whichever small one crawled into our laps. It was fantastic!

Kel and I sat and laughed and snuggled whichever small one crawled into our laps. It was fantastic!

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Deannie and Ivy

Deannie and Ivy

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Just realized I didn’t take a lot of pictures, so here are pics I trolled from Paula and Kelly’s FB posts during that week. Thanks, Ladies!

Buster's B-day party: First time on old-fashioned roller skates for all the kids.

Buster’s B-day party: First time on old-fashioned roller skates for all the kids.

Breakfast at Loveless.

Breakfast at Loveless.

Lunch at Wildhorse Saloon

Lunch at Wildhorse Saloon

Concert at Loveless

Concert at Loveless

The lack of pictures is an indicator of how busy we were. The week flew by so quickly, and Paula will forever get the award for “Let’s Have a Crazy Idea…Then Make It Happen.” The Deannie/Ivy Concert will always be one of my favorite memories. Sitting and laughing with Kel while we listened, then making new connections and strengthening old ones while we sat around the fire and laughed at the end of the night…what a joy.

Love, love, love.

Catching Up: Massadoah 30th Anniversary Visioning Weekend

Thanks to my marvelous mother spending the weekend with our crew, and our marvelous crew helping each other to make that easy for grandma, Buds and I had a splendid, relaxing, exhausting, connecting weekend with the other partners. (Mia, you were very much missed, but I would have wanted to just talk to you all weekend, so it all worked out. 😉

There was much laughter, as well as soul-searching.

There was much laughter, as well as soul-searching.

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Our first camping in a long time.

Our first camping in a long time.

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The "mostly" whole gang.

The “mostly” whole gang.

It’s hard to put into words how much we love and respect this group of “chosen” family. Massadoah is the unexpected gift that never ceases to fill me with gratitude.

With the move to Nash, I wondered how our Massadoah connections would change. This trip reminded me that great friendships are not entirely dependent on proximity.

Mom, thanks for making this trip happen for us. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of you with the kids from this trip, but without you, we wouldn’t have any of the pictures…or the memories.

Catching Up: Nonni and Poppi Visit

In April we had Nonni and Poppi for a visit, then Buds and I went to Massadoah for a weekend while Grandma stayed with our crew, then Kel and Paula and the girls spent their spring break with us. Oh, yes, and we also squeezed in a work trip to Atlanta with the whole family, then we left for Ireland.

Shockingly, I am behind on the necessary posts about our pre-Ireland joy-filled visits, so I’m going to catch up right now.

Nonni and Poppi, or L.M. and L.P., as I call them (I have this thing for nicknames.), had been missing their TN grands, so they planned a visit. They spent the week days with us while cousins were in school, they moved over to cousins’ house for the weekend, which seems to work out well for everyone.

As always happens, my memory quickly erases the specifics of events if the blog post has to wait, so here’s their visit in pictures:

Knitting with Nonni

Knitting with Nonni

Preparing a birthday cake for Poppi.

Preparing a birthday cake for Poppi.

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Monkey and Nonni make cheese.

Monkey and Nonni make cheese.

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Happy Birthday, Poppi.

Happy Birthday, Poppi.

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Puzzle time

Puzzle time

The young and young-at-heart.

The young and young-at-heart.

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Photo By Poppi

Photo By Poppi

Photo by Poppi

Photo by Poppi

Photo by Poppi

Photo by Poppi

Photo by Poppi

Photo by Poppi

Photo by Poppi

Photo by Poppi

Photo by Poppi- The Final Cheese Product

Photo by Poppi- The Final Cheese Product

Photo by Poppi-The Hamlet Furball

Photo by Poppi-The Hamlet Furball

Everyone loved having time together. Another wonderful visit.

Iceland and Nummers

Beloved friends were in Iceland while we enjoyed Ireland. These are friends who have also been to Turkey, so I’m hopeful they’ll continue to help us research potential countries for the Trip Around the World. (Subtle hint back ‘atcha, Louisa!)

Louisa sent us this pick from their trip:

Noa and Nammis

Noa and Nammis

Here’s the note Louisa sent with the picture:

“This is pronounced like Noa’s name (the accent makes the o long), and nummi means (and rhymes with) yummy.”

“Nummers” or “nummies” is what we called nursing when the children were nurslings, so we love this picture for many reasons.

Thanks, Louisa! Glad you all had a fantastic trip, too.

Thirteenth Ireland Post: The Tenor Of A Day

Our most beautiful weather day in Ireland happened on a “stay-at-home” day. There was very little wind, NO RAIN all day long, and golden sun. The children and I spent some time playing outside, and I wanted to share photos of that, plus some random memories of our trip.

Every morning I wake up in Ireland, and if Buds has been up for awhile before me, there’s a cup of coffee waiting for me.

My coffee

My coffee

I know he’s making himself coffee anyway, and this takes little effort, but it means a great deal to me: the little connections that remind me that Buds knows what I like, or remind me that he’s thinking of me. That means a vast amount to me.

I cleared the chairs out from the dining room table as part of cleaning, and it reminded me of my childhood Saturdays when Mom would clean house. She would move all the chairs out into the piano nook, and I’d pretend I was driving a train, climbing from chair to chair.

All Aboard The Chair Train

All Aboard The Chair Train

Our crew wasn’t interested in them as a train, but the Buster felt they made a comfortable couch for reading. He laid on his back, feet in the air, reading a Beast Quest.

De has a beautiful tiered garden out back, and the children had a great time making up stories, picking flowers, and pounding rocks in the perfect afternoon.

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The final product

The final product

Nothing that doesn’t happen in whatever country we are in, but a lovely reminder that these things can happen in whatever country we are in.

Fourteenth Ireland Post: The Rock of Cashel

In exciting news, Monkey was up and out of bed within 30 minutes of us waking her up. New family record!

This is the long way of saying we were up and out of the house by 8:30 a.m. As we drove out of the gate, I looked at Buds and said, “I’m sure we forgot something because that was the easiest house exit we’ve had this whole trip.” If we did leave something, we never missed it.

The drive to Cashel was the most mentally intense of any of our day-trips in Ireland. We were never on large roads, and we drove behind or by more semi-trucks than we’ve seen anywhere on this trip. We were all so glad to finally arrive.

Cashel’s history is fascinating to me, not least because of the connections to St. Patrick, a very familiar Saint to even the non-Catholic among us.

Here’s what the Cashel website says:

Rock of Cashel

It’s huge, it’s complex, it’s iconic, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world and it’s right here in Cashel at the heart of Tipperary. The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig), more formally St. Patrick’s Rock, it is also known as Cashel of the Kings. Reputedly the site of the conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD. Long before the Norman invasion The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster, although there is little structural evidence of their time here. Most of the buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries when the rock was gifted to the Church. The buildings represent both Hiberno-Romanseque and Germanic influences in their architecture.

In the Rick Steves’ Ireland Guide, we laughed at this story on page 163:

St. Patrick baptized King Aengus at the Rock of Cashel in about A.D. 450. Legend has it that St. Patrick, intensely preoccupied with the holy ceremony, accidentally speared the foot of the king with his crosier staff while administering the baptismal sacrament. But the pagan king stoically held his tongue until the end of the ceremony, thinking this was part of the painful process of becoming a Christian. Probably not that many other converts stepped forward that day.

The humor and humanity of that story make it resonate for me. St. Patrick, either from nerves, or excitement, or religious fervor, didn’t notice the king’s discomfort. The king, out of respect, and incredible self-control, held his yelp back. I like to imagine them sharing a laugh and repeated apologies from St. Patrick when they discussed the ceremony afterward.

This is one of the reasons we’ve so enjoyed the ruins we’ve visited: imagining the lives of the people who dreamed and worked and studied in the massive stone edifices.

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People can still be buried in the cemetery, as long as they were put on a list in 1930.

People can still be buried in the cemetery, as long as they were put on a list in 1930.

Pictures with Buds in them were taken by Yessa.

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Massive, multi-decade restoration is going on at The Rock.

Massive, multi-decade restoration is going on at The Rock.

A replica of St. Patrick's Cross

A replica of St. Patrick’s Cross

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Ongoing mural restoration. The picture in the foreground shows what is hidden behind decades of weathering and plaster in the background.

Ongoing mural restoration. The picture in the foreground shows what is hidden behind decades of weathering and plaster in the background.

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The castle ruins in the distance.

The castle ruins in the distance.

Climbing the rocks

Climbing the rocks

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Took us forever to figure these signs out. They are a warning to stay away from the weed-whacker man working around the ruins.

Took us forever to figure these signs out. They are a warning to stay away from the weed-whacker man working around the ruins.

After leaving The Rock, we wandered in the town for a bit, looking for a lunch spot. We were too early, though, so after a quick stop at a little shop for a treat, and time for Monkey to laugh at a series of “Letter From an Irish Mother/Son/Daughter, etc.” jokes, we headed out.

Buds guided us to Tipperary (love that name!). We parked and set off in search of a nice pub for lunch. The first one we wandered into was warm, clean, beautiful, and quite full. About 12 men were sitting at the bar and tables around the long space, and they all turned from their pints to look at us as we wandered in. It wasn’t uncomfortable at all, they were just looking to see if they should call out, “NORM!” or just smile at an unknown face. The lovely red-head behind the bar looked at me, and I asked, “Do you serve food?”

“Ach, no, but let’s see…O’Neill’s down the way. They do a lovely lunch. Cross the road, and walk down past the two banks, and you’ll see it on the right.”

“Thanks so much, ” I told her.

“Ay, and don’t worry about bringing us back a sandwich,” she said. “We’ll be fine.”

Several of the men smiled and wished us well as we left.

It was a lovely interlude, and then Buds and I realized…they were all there for “liquid lunch.”

Dang, I love this place.

On we went to O’Neill’s.

We did have a lovely lunch, although Buster had to get over his shock at realizing “beer-batter” coating on his chicken strips was not something to be grossed out by.

Buds found wider roads for the drive home, which I greatly appreciated, and then we came around a corner and found these waiting for us in the road.

Cows headed to a new field, on a road, in the middle of the day. Welcome to Ireland.

Cows headed to a new field, on a road, in the middle of the day. Welcome to Ireland.

The mountain was still missing when we got home, having been shrouded in mist all day. But it waited to rain until we were through our outing, for which I was thankful.

Home again, home again, then, one last trip of the day to CF Limerick and Tesco (grocery story), and we were in for the night.

Up next: Some non-Ireland stories.

Eleventh Ireland Post: We All Hike The Moutain!

Yessa had been asking all day when it would be time to hike the mountain as a family. Buds was putting in a busy work day, as well as planning to take sunset pictures from the summit, which impacted when he wanted to be up on the exposed mountaintop. (I make it sound like we were summiting Everest.)

It had been a very rainy day, and we all quickly had soaking feet and pants. We’ve tried a different route up the mountain each time, and for this trek we walked on a path for part of the way. Still, the journey requires climbing over rock walls, barbed wire fencing, electric fencing, cow pies, and mud.

Yessa got a couple long scratches right after we began. Monkey grabbed hold of a stinging nettle, and all of us were wet and dirty by the time we returned home, but, more importantly, four of the five of us saw our first Irish rainbow!

Our first rainbow!

Our first rainbow!

Buds stayed up at the ruins to take sunset pictures while the rest of us hiked back down. We saw the rainbow near the end our journey.

Monkey and Buster spotted the rainbow first, but Yessa was easily the most excited about it. She was distressed at first that “Dada” would be missing it, and then she decided she was going to walk to the end of the rainbow. She trekked off across the field in the direction of the rainbow, but by the time she reached the next crest, it was gone. Her determination was still impressive.

Some shots of the trek.

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Our first rainbow!

Our first rainbow!

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Next adventure: The Rock of Cashel.