Friday, July 31, 2009

First Evening in Edinburgh, Scotland (Day 4)

Journal in italics. My notes in red.
Today, our sleep schedule got a little more normal. I got up at 8:50 and Alex got up about 10:30. (Usually, I get up about 6:30 and Alex gets up at 8:00.) We had to have our bags packed by noon to head to the airport to go to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

All photos on this page are from Edinburgh. This is one of the MANY statues that are around the city.
At the airport it was neat to see photos of famous people who'd flown there. Some of our recent presidents were included - George Bush, George W. Bush, Clinton and Reagan.

This is the Edinburgh Castle. This is also a very large castle while others we saw were quite small in comparison. We toured this castle on another day.
We had to walk out on the tarmac to get to the airplane - a first for both Alex and me. The ride was quick - only about an hour.

We rode on Ryan Air. When the plane lands, they have this trumpet sound and then they say that they have made yet another flight on time. Actually, both flights were around 20 minutes early!

Ryan Air is NO FRILLS. We paid 30 euros each which is about $43.... round trip! But, you can only have one small carry on - even your purse and camera must fit in this bag. We carried backpacks here and I did take 2 cameras and an extra lens. I figured I'd skimp on clothes, but not on cameras! You can buy drinks and snacks on board... nothing is free. Also, I believe it cost something like another 30 euros to check a bag, so you'd about double the cost of your flight... though it'd still be cheap!

On another day we walked through a kiltmakers shop.
We got to Edinburgh and picked up our rental car. We got a little lost but eventually found our Bed & Breakfast. (This was our first time to stay at a B&B.) Unfortunately, the lady who runs the B&B wasn't there and we had to wait a little over an hour for her.

This is a sidestreet in downtown Edinburgh. This street was for walking only.

By the time she showed up, it was about 6:45 so we headed downtown for dinner. What an amazing and beautiful city!!! We saw the Edinburgh Castle and lots of statues. We enjoyed walking around after dinner. We even heard live bagpipe music coming from either the castle or the botanic gardens.

The botanic gardens are in this area, though I'm not really sure what this building is. We heard bagpipe music this night while walking near here.

Our room is very nice and clean and we're getting ready for bed. It's barely 10 pm, but breakfast is at 8:15 and I need to take my shower in the morning. Plus, we plan on having a busy day! We're still undecided about what we'll do, but plan on talking to Wendy (the owner) at breakfast.

Alex and I in the pub we ate in. Kids are welcome in the pubs, though we sit in the back in a "family room." There are menus on the table, but you go to the bar to order your food. This place was nice and cheery and one other family was in the room with us. Later, we went to another pub and the family room was very dark and not very friendly looking so we ended up leaving.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Exploring Limerick (Day 3)

(Italics are from my journal) (red is other notes)

Today was our first full day in Ireland. After a hard night of trying to sleep, I didn't wake up until 11:40 am! (I really thought my watch must have broken, but it was the true time!) Alex & most of the others woke up at 1:30 pm.

This afternoon, Alex, Nana, Papa, my nephew & I went to downtown Limerick. We had "lunch" (at 3 pm) at McDonald's. (This was the only fast food we ate the entire trip.) We went walking around Limerick & I bought a fresh strawberry jam crepe from an outdoor vendor.

streets of downtown Limerick - you can drive down the main streets, but there are side streets for pedistrians only

a taste of HOME! (We never ate here, though)

a sign in a meat market window

We went to see the swans on the River Shannon. I couldn't believe how filthy it was! The swans were beautiful, though.

wild swans

shopping cart among the swans

Nana, Papa & nephew by River Shannon -notice the small cars & flowers which were everywhere
Alex by the River Shannon
We also visited the grounds of St. Mary's Cathedral. There were lots of tombstones around the cathedral that looked very old, but were from the 1960's & 1970's and even the 2000's! I guess it is the stones they use. The oldest we saw was from the mid 1800's.

St. Mary's Cathedral, a Church of Ireland cathedral
some tombstones & a Celtic Cross which were very common
We also took photos of King John's Cathedral, but it was closed. We'll have to go back. (We never did.)

King John's Castle with kayakers in the River Shannon- this is a very large castle compared with most of the castles we saw

I love this bridge and the view of Ireland's green fields in the background

The signs in Ireland are also written in Irish. One of our taxi cab drivers explained that when he was in school (he might have been in his 50's) they were required to take exit exams from school and would fail if they couldn't pass the Irish part of the test. The signs, he said, are written in Irish to encourage the people to not forget their language. However, most people cannot speak Irish.
These were found along the rivers both in Ireland and Scotland at regular intervals for safety.
We ate dinner at a pub. I thought the food was OK, but it wasn't great. I ordered a burger. It was thick and very meaty tasting. (I didn't have another burger the entire trip.) I also tried some roast which was just OK, too.

Alex enjoyed these vending machines. We didn't have the 2 euro coin to buy anything out of it. I meant to buy her something from one at some point, but we never did. Often, there were Pringles cans in these machines.
It is about 11:30 pm (so 5:30 pm at home) and we will try to go to bed soon. We'll be heading to Scotland tomorrow!

First Day & Night in Limerick (Day 2)

For the rest of our first day in Ireland, we took a long nap, a short walk (it was colder than we expected and we were still dressed for Texas - this is Alex & Nana), and shopped. My in-laws went and got Chinese take-out for dinner while my sil & bil went to meet her students.

Since we were staying at a house, we needed to buy some linens and groceries. We ended up having one fewer bed than we expected, so Alex and I shared a twin bed. It kind of felt like a dorm room. We had a twin bed which we bought sheets, pillows and blankets (actually throws) for. We also had 2 long shelves and a wardrobe. Our room was downstairs and was pretty big.

I kept a journal for the trip and I am so glad I did! I was just rereading about "Night 2" (Night 1 was on the plane) and I'd forgotten this part:
My nephew woke up and cried for a long time. I finally got up at 1:30 am & had a snack and started reading. Alex woke up at 2 am & did the same. It's now almost 3 am. The time change is hard! We've only slept about 3-3.5 hours!

We've been discussing our favorite things about Ireland so far. Me: the accents, the friendly people, the cultural differences like the grocery stores & driving, the chocolate, the different birds, the green-ness, and the castles. Alex: the chocolate, cars (funny looking - very small), the food, the differences & the castles.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

First Glimpse of Ireland (Day 1)

We're home!!! We got home Friday evening and are now trying to get our bodies adjusted back to Texas time, but we've been up around 5:30 am both mornings. We won't be home for long, though... Alex leaves for a 3 day camp today in Galveston and we'll be staying in a hotel there. While she's at camp each day (it isn't an overnight camp), I plan on doing a lot of blogging!

So, here are the first few photos. My family (my dh's mom "Nana", dh's dad "Papa", dh's sister and her husband and their little boy) flew into Houston where we all met up. Then we flew to Newark for a 4 hour layover and then on to Ireland. (Above is a photo of Alex & her cousin playing in the Newark airport. He absolutely adores her!)

Our first view over Ireland was clouds and more clouds. But, it was beautiful! Over the highlands, the clouds almost looked like waterfalls. My camera was packed away but I finally knew I HAD to get some photos from the plane so I dug it out. Here is the River Shannon along with some houses and some of the beautiful Emerald Isle.

Most of our view (when there were breaks in the clouds) were of scenes like this.... lots of different patches of different colors of green. We had left Houston at about 9 am and it was now about 7 am in Ireland, though we felt like it was 1 am. Alex & I had only slept about 2.5 hours on the plane rides, but we knew we needed to try to adjust our bodies. (We took about 4 hour naps later on in the morning.)

We had about a 30 minute ride from Shannon to Limerick, which was our home base. Alex, Nana & I took a cab while the others took the rental car. Our cab driver was very friendly (as are most people in Ireland!) and informative. We even drove past our first 2 castles!!! And, what a strange feeling to be riding down the "wrong" side of the road.
We were also surprised at how different grocery shopping was. We didn't know you needed to bring your own bag. There might have been a place in that first store to buy reusable bags, but we didn't see any. Later, we did buy some of those bags. Anyway, we had a bunch of groceries and we had to just put them back in the cart and carry them in the house without sacks.
Later that day, we went out to explore Limerick. I need to finish some laundry and pack now, but I plan on blogging a lot in the next few days!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Greetings from Ireland!!!

We're having so much fun in Ireland & Scotland. We've only got a few days left and it'll be hard to leave, but good to be home. I've taken TONS of photos and I think it'll take weeks to post it all, but I hope you'll enjoy our trip through my eyes.  :-)

Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer. I haven't been online to check email or blog for about a week and a half so I'll have a lot of catching up to do when I get home.

We spent several days in Edinburgh Scotland and it was so old and beautiful! We also enjoyed several days in Dublin, Ireland where the visits to the jail (gaol) and to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells were incredible. We just got back from a few days near the coast looking at the incredible landscape and seeing lots of sheep.

Today, we hope to go to a medieval castle for a dinner & show and we'll head to the Cliffs of Moher tomorrow. We've visited several old castles and churches... the number of old buildings is incredible. It's just an amazing vacation!

Talk to you all soon! And, I look forward to catching up with your blogs, too!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Off to Ireland & Scotland!!!

Alex and I are off on our trip to Ireland & Scotland in the morning! I meant to take a photo of our Passports and luggage, but I'm just too tired and my cameras are packed in my bag.

So, instead I posted some photos of castles we made 4 years ago when we studied about Ireland. We can't wait to see all of the lush green landscape, the castles, and so much more! My dh keeps teasing Alex that she will find a leprechaun while we're there, so we'll be looking!

I don't think I'll be able to blog while we're gone, so I'll be back in a few weeks with LOTS of photos and stories!!! I hope everyone continues to have a great summer!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Happy 4th Birthday to...

I started this blog 4 years ago as Alex was starting kindergarten. I thought for my blog's birthday, I'd post some photos from that first semester of kindergarten. (Many of these have to do with the Galloping the Globe curriculum - still one of my FAVORITE all time curriculum!)
a play dough model of the earth
the Eiffel tower

3 states of matter
FIAR snowman
leaning tower of Pisa
the Wright brother's Flyer
painting like Monet
building a pyramid
an "insect" dessert
learning about bee pollination... with Cheetos & a 'bee' finger!
So, where did the years go? Alex looks so young to me in these photos. I am so grateful that I not only took lots of pictures, but have been blogging about our experiences! I made her kindergarten years into a book and some day I need to do the rest of her school years. Maybe that can be my "August project."
I'd love it if you'd leave me a comment on this post so I can get an idea of how many people are reading my blog. Thanks to you all!!! I don't think I would still be blogging after 4 years if I didn't feel like people were reading it, enjoying it, and hopefully learning from it occasionally or getting an idea to try. Thanks for reading!!!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Nature Walk with 2 Surprises (at bottom of post)

I invited our nature group out to one of our local parks to do a nature walk focusing on dragonflies since we'd seen so many of them last week when we let Marvin go. Even with the heat (we've been in the triple digits for quite awhile, though today was only in the upper 90's) and a few days notice, we had about 15 people show up. And, we were in for some surprises!

First we fed the critters including...

pigeons (& ducks)...

nutria, including 4 babies...

and a cute squirrel.

Then, we watched the turtles. I've only noticed the red eared sliders before. I saw 2 of these very large turtles (quite a bit larger than dinner plates) with these crazy long noses. I was guessing they were hog nosed turtles, but now I think they are called soft-shell turtles (which one of the moms mentioned). Besides the funny nose, they also had long necks. In this photo, the turtle's shell doesn't start until almost the edge of the photo. I didn't notice that while I was at the pond, so I'll have to go back and observe these turtles some more.

Here's a photo of his "cute" nose!

Next, as we walked around the pond, I found this tiny caterpillar. It acted very strangely. Whenever I got near him, he would "jump" into a circl shape and "hop" out of the way! He could "hop" about a foot or so and he was really hard to catch. He had light blue and brown stripes.

We did see lots of dragonflies and damselflies. I think this might be a type of darner.

And, a male common white tail skimmer.

Here is one of our first 2 big surprises. This is one of those suprises where I don't realize what I've photographed until I get home. Do you notice that little brown "bug" above the dragonfly? When I got home, I thought it was a little bug I happened to catch in the photo. Then, I realized what it was... this dragonfly has JUST MOLTED for the LAST TIME and has emerged as a "grown up" dragonfly!!! Isn't that neat??? (And, did you know adult dragonflies can live for 5 to 6 years? And, that larval dragonflies eat larval mosquitos and adult dragonflies eat adult mosquitos? Pretty handy to have around!)

And, our other big surprise... the kids found this turtle. This red eared slider had dug a hole and the kids were wondering if it might be laying eggs. I honestly didn't know! I've read quite a bit about sea turtles going on shore to lay eggs, but hadn't thought much about pond turtles.

Well, unfortunately this little momma got scared by all of the people around and high tailed it out of here... and she was FAST!!! (Well, fast for a turtle!) And, there were no eggs in her nest. But, yes, it was her nest! She was going to LAY EGGS! I wish I would have realized it and we could have snuck off and kept quiet and perhaps seen this amazing event.

We had a lot of fun today and you never know what you'll see if you just go outside and take a look around!
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