Friday, 30 October 2015

They're Ba-ack!

It is the day before Halloween and I was just at our local Tesco store (sort of like a scaled back version of Super Target but not really Target because nothing can ever BE Target :) doing some end of the week grocery shopping when what do I spy but this…

They’re ba-ack!

This my friends is a Christmas jumper as they are called here in the UK (aka ugly Christmas sweater) and this may be the ugliest of them all.  If you’ll recall I did a blog post about these lovelies back in December called The Christmas Jumper.   The British love their Christmas jumpers and in case you are thinking this thing will only, and I repeat ONLY, be worn to an ugly Christmas sweater party because no one would ever knowingly be seen in public wearing this green knit covered in puff balls piece of holiday cheer, you are sadly mistaken for I guarantee, come December, I will see someone donning this, this – I don’t even know how to describe it – this festive wear in the grocery store, or at the library, or roaming the streets of the local town, or eating at a restaurant.

But here is the thing - the British LOVE Christmas and they are not afraid to show it and I think that is awesome!  They really know how to do Christmas here and everywhere in Europe for that matter.  The Christmas markets we visited last year were one of the most magical Christmas things I have ever seen.  And much like the U.S. putting out holiday items months in advance, the British do the same with Christmas – but only with Christmas mind you.   

Leah turned 8 years old on October 2.   We decided to have a Halloween themed birthday party for her the day after her birthday (partly because she wanted to share the Charlie Brown Halloween special with her British friends because they have no idea who the Great Pumpkin is and that is just sad).  In the couple of weeks leading up to the big day, every time I visited Tesco I searched for anything Halloween related to use at the party, but I couldn't find anything.  There was no sign of Halloween in the entire store.  The week of the party I kept my fingers crossed thinking surely they will at least start putting some Halloween candy and decorations out on October 1, a mere two days before the party.  So on the morning of October 1 I headed to the store looking for anything Halloween like and guess what I found – nothing!  Thirty-one days before Halloween and there was not one single Halloween related item available in the entire store, not even a pumpkin.  In fact, I had to stop at a farm shop to ask if they had any pumpkins available and the girl behind the counter picked up the phone and called down to the actual farm and had someone go out into the field to personally pick eight pumpkins for me which Eric picked up the next day, still covered in wet mud from the field. 

But do you know what they did have half an aisle dedicated to back on October 1?  Christmas goodies!  Christmas crackers and Christmas candy and Christmas cookies and Christmas cards.  We could have thrown a Christmas themed birthday party for Leah back on October 3 with no problem.  Now, the Christmas jumpers are back and I for one am excited to see them.   I haven’t been here long enough to actually want to spend money on one and be seen in public in it, but I am looking forward to the warm, giggly holiday cheer that fills me up when I see someone else wearing one.  

On another note, while at the store I stopped by the Kleenex aisle to pick up a box when I see a whole selection of Kleenex boxes labeled as "Mansized Tissues."  I kid you not.  The boxes are twice the size of a regular Kleenex box, and I don't mean twice as tall, but twice as long and wide.  Those are some biiiiig tissues.  Is a man's nose really that much bigger than a woman's???

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

A Trip to Warwick Castle

We are going to jump back a bit in time today to this past May when my sister Sheryl and her husband Bob were here visiting us in merry old England.  Sheryl said she wanted to see a castle.  I took her and Bob to the ruins of Ashby castle which are just down the road from here (and which I shared with you way way back in the Reflections of January in England post).  Ashby Castle is very interesting to see and it’s history is great to hear, but since they had come all the way from Wisconsin to visit I wanted to share a more complete castle with them, one you can go inside of and really get the feel for what life may have been like hundreds of years ago during medieval times.  So one sunny spring morning we set off for Warwick Castle.

We had a great day visiting the castle.  The girls and I really enjoyed having some family to sight see with in this country that is our home for a couple of years.  Warwick Castle was originally built in the 12th century but lots of work has been done to it over the hundreds of years since and additions have been added which has maintained it’s integrity and it is still largely intact.   

The setting is beautiful, the grounds are beautiful, the castle is beautiful, the weather was beautiful...

 and except for getting a bit lost trying to find it, the entire day at Warwick Castle was beautiful.

What did Ellie and Leah like best about visiting Warwick Castle?  I think their answer would be the peacocks that were strutting around the gardens.  

But if you asked Bob what he liked best, I think he would have a different answer.  At the very end of the afternoon, right before the castle was to close for the day, we got to see a spectacle that will make every one of my brothers, brother-in-laws and nephews jealous – the real live firing of the Warwick Trebuchet!  

For those of you who may not know, a trebuchet is a type of catapult and the one at Warwick Castle is one of the largest in the world.  We watched as it took four people several minutes to lift the counterweight by running inside the huge wooden wheels that are on either side like hamsters in a cage.  And once everything was in place, a boulder was launched high through the air by the Trebuchet, right before our eyes.  It was all over quickly, but it was quite something to hear the story of how these heavy, bulky machines that were very modern in their time were dragged hundreds of miles to battles, and how there were dire consequences for the crews if they weren’t able to load and fire these beasts in a timely fashion.  

 And that was our beautiful day at Warwick Castle.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Ireland Part Five - Passage Tombs and a Colorful Night in Dublin

One last post on Ireland and I promise I will be done.  It’s just so much easier to spread these posts out and do a little at a time.  But I can’t be done without sharing our last two days in Ireland with you so here we go.

After spending two nights in Northern Ireland, we headed south again driving across the picturesque Irish countryside.  We would be spending the night in Dublin before catching the ferry back across the Irish Sea the next day, but first, there was one more place we needed to visit.  

This is a passage tomb dating back to c.3,200 BC.  It’s called Newgrange and it located among the rolling hills of the Boyne Valley.  Newgrange is the best known of the three passage tombs found here and covers approximately 1.2 acres.  It’s quite large and quite extraordinary.  

The outside of Newgrange is very impressive with the stacked white stones speckled with black.  But is this the way the passage tomb was originally built?  You see, all those white and black stones were actually found on the ground around the base of the tomb and have been placed back on the walls in recent times.  The thought is that the tomb was originally decorated in this stately fashion to be clearly seen and appear quite impressive to anyone traveling on the river down in the valley below.  Over the course of 5000 years, these rocks have simply collapsed and ended up at the base of the tomb.  But some don’t agree with this and think the rocks were actually laid on the ground around the tomb in patterns more like modern day landscaping.  Who is correct?  We will never know.  

As the name tomb implies, inside this massive structure are basins where the cremated remains of people who lived long, long, long ago were found during excavations.  But why is it called a 'passage' tomb?  Well, because there is a 62-foot passage that leads to a small chamber deep inside the tomb.  This is where the basins containing the remains are located.  We got to go inside the chamber but we had to wait for the group before us to exit the tomb before we could enter.  This gave the girls a chance to run off some steam and chase each other like puppies around the standing stones surrounding the tomb. 

If you are at all claustrophobic, I would advise against entering the tomb.  People 5000 years ago where a lot smaller than us and could pass through the narrow stone lined 62-foot passage with ease.  It is not so accommodating to the more robust bodies of today (no photos were allowed inside so you'll just have to rely on my written description and your imagination to get the picture).  At times you needed to duck your head and turn sideways to fit through the openings.  It felt like walking through a narrow cave until you finally reached the cross shaped inner chamber where the room opens up, but as person after person spilled out of the narrow passageway, the inner chamber soon felt small as well.  They only allow a group of about twenty to enter at a time.  You all go in together and you all go out together.  There is no room for passing people in that dark little passage way.

Entering this stone structure may be a bit daunting, but the marvels you discover once inside are so worth it.  First of all, there is the corbelled roof which consists of overlapping layers of humongous rocks and gets narrower and narrower as it climbs.  On the very top sits a large capstone.  How this was constructed thousands of years ago is a wonder in and of itself, but even more amazing is the fact that not one drop of water has ever gotten through this rock roof – in 5000 years!  Is there a building constructed today that will ever be able to make that claim? 

And if the 5000 year old waterproof roof isn’t enough to ponder, there is one more very special and unique feature of this passage tomb.  The passage into the chamber faces the southeast and over the outside entrance is a small opening known as a ‘roof box.’  Every year on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice (and for a few days before and after), the rising sun sends a shaft of sunlight through this opening, down the narrow passageway and into the chamber deep inside the tomb.  Why the passage tomb was designed with this feature is not known for sure.  Maybe because the shining sun on what the Neolithic culture considered the new year was a sign of rebirth, foreshadowing a prosperous year to come.  Maybe it was to symbolize life over death, a new life for those buried inside.  And what about those years when the sun didn’t shine early on the morning of the winter solstice?  What did that signify?  Again, we will never know for sure, but what is certain is that to design and build a structure using tons of heavy stones that would allow this phenomenon to happen year after year some 5000 years ago is truly an amazing architectural feat. 

There are two other passage tomb sites all clustered around this same area in Ireland.  We were able to visit another called Knowth which consists of a large tomb with two passages inside that is surrounded by 18 smaller tombs.  You cannot enter the passages into the tomb at Knowth, although we were allowed to peak inside and get a photo... 

but with the smaller tombs outside, this site is quite impressive as well.  This site has been used on and off for hundreds and hundreds of years.  After it’s initial use as a tomb, there was no sign of activity at this site for nearly 2000 years.   

Then, at the early centuries AD, this site was again used to bury the dead.  During the early Christian era, this site, being one of the highest places in the area, was used as a defending site, with people living around and even on top of the great mound.  

I could tell you a lot more about these amazing ancient monuments that are regarded as some of the most remarkable prehistoric sites in the world but really, you just need to visit them in person and see for yourself.  They are so worth seeing and Ireland in general is an amazing and easy place to visit.  Now I completely understand why so many people I know have traveled here.  There is just so much to see and do and learn about.  As we headed south back towards Dublin, I asked Eric if we could stay for another week and just keep driving right past the city to the southern end of the isle.  We didn't have a chance to explore that half and I wasn't ready to go home.  But alas, real life beckoned to us so we headed into Dublin.  At least we had one more night here and that would be spent in the city.  

Oh Dublin - you are a colorful and vibrant place, full of beauty, history and people - lots and lots of interesting people.   We only had a few hours to spend there, but I wish we had had more.  Before I get into what we did see, I have to share one thing about this entire trip.  As you have probably noticed from the photos of our trip to Ireland, we had an extra girl with us.  No, Eric and I did not adopt a 19 year old.  That is Taylor, my niece from Minnesota who spent over a month living with us in England and got to come along on our Irish adventure.  She was great to have around, and the girls were especially fond of the fact that she sat between them in the back seat of the car wherever we went and her shoulders were the perfect height for headrests.  This was usually the picture I saw when turning around to check on them back there.  

(Leah's going to love me when I show this photo to her boyfriend someday.)

I am so very, very happy Taylor got to stay and travel with us, but there was one complication with traveling with five people - finding places to stay that would accommodate all of us in one room.  Usually, with four of us, we can find hotels that have family suites or rooms, but for five, that is another matter.  But we did fine while in Ireland, finding an apartment for our time on the Dingle peninsula, getting two rooms in Northern Ireland, but when we arrived in Dublin, we got the creme dela creme of family rooms - one huge room with two queen beds and a single!  

It was perfect!  It had the character of an attic room in a big old house and was plenty large enough to accommodate our loads of luggage with room to spare.  Thank you Best Western - thank you!

Back to Dublin.  As I mentioned above, our time in Dublin was short, basically a few hours that last evening and a quick morning dash around the city the next day before we had to board the ferry heading for home.  We mainly just wander the streets taking in the beautiful architecture and bridges over the River Liffey...

stopping in a few shops here and there, and people watched because, let me tell you - Dublin is a great place for people watching.  It was Saturday night and it didn't take long for us to discover that Dublin is clearly the place to be for any and all outings that involve drinking - like bachelor and bachelorette parties (stag and hen parties as they are calling in Ireland and the UK).  We passed group after boisterous group of dressed up people heading in and out of different establishments.  We spotted a very lively area down a side street, a narrow street filled with restaurants and people.  As we wandered towards it Ellie asks, "Why is there a man wearing a sign with a nearly naked lady on it?"  Maybe we won't go down that street after all.   After a few more questions about interesting people and things we saw while walking around, we decided to just find a nice place to have dinner and then we would head back to the hotel.  Dublin on a Saturday night maybe isn't the best place for a seven and ten year old.  

But even at dinner we couldn't seem to escape the party happen in this city because we had no sooner sat down at a table on the back wall when a bachelor party entered and parked themselves at the bar directly in front of us.  It was early in the evening.  They hadn't drank much yet.  I wasn't too worried until...until one of the girls asked why there was a man dressed like an oompa loompa (you know - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - green hair, orange face, brown overalls, short stature) and why was he chained to one of the men in the party!  Yikes!  This was a new one for all of us, obviously some crazy Irish tradition we weren't previously aware of.  And to make it even more interesting, the oompa loompa man waves at the girls when he sees them staring.  Who needs a dinner theater when you have a bachelor party with an oompa loompa in front of you.  

I apologize because I do not have a picture of this spectacle to share with you, but somethings you just don't feel right photographing.  Was this funny?  Was this strange?  Was this a little disturbing?  All of the above, and in those circumstances, you just can't bring yourself to take a picture.  If I was Irish, I probably would have understood, but I'm not.  And that is that. 

To be honest, the group was quite entertaining and well behaved, and after they had lingered for awhile, one of them asked Eric if he would take a picture of the group and then said they were leaving because they didn't want the be a bad influence on the girls.  That was sweet, but the image of the oompa loompa chained to the husband-to-be will be etched in my head for a long, long, long time.  

And that was our time in Dublin.  I leave you with the photos we took during our mad dash around the city before heading back to England.  I am so very glad we took this trip to Ireland, the one I didn't really want to go on if you remember back to my first post.  How glad I am now that we did go because Ireland will always hold a special place in my heart.  Beautiful land and beautiful people.  Enough said...

Monday, 12 October 2015

Northern Ireland - The Giant's Causeway and a Rope Bridge

Today we are going to start with a bit of a history lesson on Northern Ireland, the small area that shares the Emerald Isle with Ireland but is actually part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  It may be much smaller than it's Irish neighbor to the south and west, but it's just as beautiful and amazing a place to visit.  Does it have beautiful beaches just like Ireland?

Yes it does!

Does it have dramatic coastline, just like Ireland?

Yes it does! 

Does it have whiskey just like Ireland?

Yes it does!

Does it have amazing hikes along precipitous trails that make a mother's heart beat rapidly just like Ireland?  

Yes it does!

But it also has a stormy and turbulent past and as we travelled north towards the border of Northern Ireland, the thought that not all that long ago we would not have been visited this area was not far from my or Eric's mind.  As we drove, we shared this fact with Ellie, Leah and Taylor.  I don't know that they truly comprehended what we were talking about, but I can clearly remember seeing the news footage on TV of bombings and other acts of violence occurring here in Northern Ireland on a frequent basis when I was growing up and thinking, "Wow, I would never want to go there."  During my teens, I often listened to the haunting sound and lyrics of a song by one of my favorite musical groups U2, who are Irish, called "Sunday Bloody Sunday", it's words portraying the horror felt by an observer of an event that occurred in Derry, the very city we were staying in on this trip.  Back on Sunday, January 30, 1972, 26 unarmed civilians were shot by soldiers during a protest, but this is only one example of the 30 years of violence now referred to as the Troubles that took place in Northern Ireland and which stemmed from the decision by the British parliament to divide Ireland up into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland back in 1921.  The majority of the population in Northern Ireland were unionists, most of whom were Protestant descendants of colonial Great Britain and  were in favor of keeping a political union with Great Britain when the split occurred.  The minority were mostly Catholics who did not want to be under British rule and were in favor of being part of an independent united Ireland.  What happened?  Well, the same thing that has happened countless times over the course of human history and continues to happen to this day when people with opposing sets of beliefs are sharing the same lands - violence.  And that is all I knew about Northern Ireland for many years as I grew up, until 1998 when a peace agreement occurred between the two sides that largely put a stop to the violence.  So now, all these years later, to be travelling to this very place that once brought sadness and fear to me when I heard it's name was a bit surreal.  

Even though the violence subsided years ago, there are still signs of hard feelings bubbling under the surface.  There was the comment from the Irish pub owner who asked us where we were heading on our journey next.  When we said we were on our way to Derry in Northern Ireland (the second largest city in Northern Ireland), he said he loves visiting friends he has in Derry and what a beautiful area it is, even if there are still people around that harbor bad feelings and would never visit there.  And then there are the road signs pointing the way to the city of Derry, officially called Londonderry, but what it is really called depends on which side of the border you are on.  In Ireland, the mileage signs pointing the way simply list the city name as "Derry."  But as soon as we crossed the border into Northern Ireland, the signs changed and the name was now listed as "Londonderry."  On our second day in Northern Ireland, as we drove back to our hotel we repeated passed signs pointing the way to the city where someone had sprayed painted over the "London" part of the name, simply leaving "Derry."  Are there still hard feelings?  I'll let you be the judge.

Now, on with the show.  What did we do while in Northern Ireland?  Well, our first stop was a unique area along the coast called the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where a strange collection of columnar basalt rises up from the sea creating a series of bizarre but stunning six sided stepping stones that you can climb on and explore while you marvel at what may have created this odd yet geometrically perfect place.   

There are two schools of thought on this and I will let you choose which you want to believe. 

Legend has it that this crazy conglomerate of hexagonal columns that seems to emerge right out of the sea was created by a giant named Finn McCool.  Finn is believed to have built the causeway as stepping-stones to Scotland where a rival giant named Benandonner was waiting to fight him – hence the name Giant’s Causeway.  When Finn realized that his rival was much larger that he, he retreated back to Ireland via the Causeway.  In an attempt to hide him from the Scottish giant, Finn’s wife disguises him as a baby in a cradle.  When Benandonner saw the huge ‘baby’, he feared that its father would be absolutely gigantic, a giant among giants, so Benandonner himself fled back to Scotland, destroying the Causeway as he went so that Finn could not follow.  Personally, I like this version of events.

On the other hand, if you would rather believe the more science based explanation that these unusual clusters of columns are actually some of Mother Nature’s artwork, the result of volcanic activity some 50 to 60 million years ago when molten lava cooled very quickly, contracting and fracturing much as drying mud does today, that is entirely up to you.  Unless you are a geologist, this version of events isn’t nearly as fun at the dueling giants. 

After visiting the Giant’s Causeway, we continued along the coast to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which is just as it’s name implies, a rope bridge connecting the mainland to the tiny little island of  Carrickarede, a place that has long been used by fisherman during salmon season.  

Sadly, the salmon population in this area has dwindled and the island is no longer used by the fisherman although there are still signs of their former activity out on the island...

but the rope bridge remains for visitors to use if they have the courage to cross it.   

Now this is not for the faint of heart.  

It has happened many times that visitors have crossed this bridge out to the island only to be frozen by fear at the thought of returning to the mainland via the same route and as a result needed to be rescued by boat.  There was a time when this bridge only had one handrail and large gaps between the slats, but now (thank goodness) it has two handrails and slats sitting side by side, but as you cross it you still have a clear view of the 100 foot drop to the rocky sea below.   

The water below is beautiful and crystal clear, making it very easy to see the sharp rocks you would hit if the unthinkable happened.  Oh, it was an adventure.   

And the views from the little island were worth the rapid heartbeat the bridge crossing caused.  There was only one problem – it started raining while we were out on the island and that made for a slippery journey back over the precarious bridge.   

But we all made it safely.  

Our time in Northern Ireland was brief, but what we did have time to discover while we were there is that it is every bit as dramatic, beautiful and full of wonder as the rest of the island.  

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Ireland Part Four – Cliffs of Moher and a Stop in Galway

After a few days out on the Dingle peninsula, we moved on to explore some more of the Emerald Isle.  We were heading towards Northern Ireland and along the way we wanted to see some more of the dramatic natural wonders and beauty this great island has to share.  The landscape in Ireland was ever changing as we drove.  Our first stop was the Cliffs of Moher where you could see majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean from on top of dizzyingly high cliffs (dizzyingly - it really is a word, I promise - I looked it up).   

These cliffs stretch for five miles and at their highest point they reach 702 feet.  This would be the second time on this trip to Ireland that my nerves would be tested.   

Now please understand, I am not afraid of heights, but if you saw your child standing on top of these cliffs with their back to the insanely long drop off, you would panic too.   

One wrong move, just one tiny little trip in the wrong direction… oh it made me shutter.  After all, there is a reason these cliffs were used as the Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride. 

They wanted to look over the edge.  I made them get down on their bellies and crawl out to the edge to have a peek.  

This still gave me heart palpitations but not quite as bad as when we walked along the top of the cliffs, or posed near the edge for a picture.  

I wasn’t alone in feeling this way either.  I heard Eric keep telling the girls over and over to be careful or to move a few steps back from the edge.  He felt it too.  And there were a lot, and I mean a lot of other visitors on the cliffs that day, but only a few ventured to the edge to take a look straight down into the churning waters hundreds of feet below.   

These cliffs are insane – beautiful but insane.  That is the only way to describe them.

As we walked along the top of the cliffs, we passed several signs listing a phone number to call for the good Samaritans.  I can’t recall now exactly what they said, but basically their message was that if you are visiting these cliffs because you are feeling troubled, please give us a call.  As we were heading back towards the parking lot we passed by a pretty little wooden building sitting near the entrance to the cliffs.  We stopped to check it out.  Inside was a long cushioned bench looking out over the beautiful Irish landscape with a gurgling fountain in the corner.  The sign on the door said “Meditation Room.”  And there on the wall once again was the phone number for the Good Samaritans.  Sobering - that is what this meditation room felt like.  That such an amazingly beautiful and majestic natural wonder has to be posted with precautions like this - necessary, yes they are.  But they are also very sobering.  In all our travels never have we seen that before. 
From the Cliffs of Moher we carried on heading north, passing old stone structures here and there, some in ruins...

others that are still intact.

 We passed through the barren rocky landscape known as The Burrens.

This is a bizarre landscape made up of exposed limestone that is criss-crossed with cracks known as "grikes."  They look like little valleys between the rocks as you climb on them and oh are they fun to climb on!  These "grikes" leave islands of exposed limestone on the surface that are called "clints" which if you are a kids are very fun to jump across.  

As we passed through this outer space looking area, we stopped to visit Poulnabrone dolmen, a portal tomb dating back to the Neolithic period.  Excavations around the monument have found that between 16 and 22 adults and six children were buried under it, probably sometime between 3800 and 3600 BC, but the tomb was likely used well into the Celtic period as a site for ceremonies and rituals. 

Given it's historical significance and peculiar topography, it's no wonder this area is designated as one of six National Parks in Ireland.  

Late in the afternoon we pulled into the town of Galway where we would be staying for the night.   

We chose a good night to visit because an Irish festival was in full swing on the streets of this quaint town that sits right on the water.  We walked the streets listening to music and watching street performers.  We made our way down by the water where the party continued.   

What this huge balloon is exactly I don’t know, but it was quite a sight.  The streets were very busy, as were the pubs and restaurants but we followed the advise of the hotel clerk and made our way to one of the local hangouts where we found a cozy booth and sat down to enjoyed some Irish beer and a good meal... 

including some Irish Stew.

The next morning, Eric got up early to walk the streets and he stumbled upon this scene.

Must have been quite the party going on in this pub the night before.  But this is Ireland after all.   

Those kegs may not have all been full of Guinness at one time, but Guinness definitely wins the award for some of the coolest beer signs, like this...

and this...

and this. 

As we continued driving towards Northern Ireland, we passed through areas surrounds by huge rocky hills with crystal clear lakes down in their valleys.   

We found vast stretches of beach with huge black cliffs looming in the background.   

Out on a small peninsula we spied a lonely mansion, an eerie looking house rising up from the ground towards the dark angry sky overhead.  

It looked like a scene from a scary movie, the kind of house you would be afraid to knock at if your car broke down for fear of who or what was lurking inside.  Oh Ireland, you are a drama queen, and I loved it!

After driving well passed the time that our bellies told us we needed something to eat, we finally found a small town with some options.  We chose a place called Campbell’s...

and we chose well because the meal that was prepared by the owner’s wife was delicious.  The Irish brown bread she served was so good in fact that we took some with us for the road.  I love it when we just happen upon a great place to eat.  It makes me happy!

As soon as we passed into Northern Ireland we knew it.  It is hard to mistake what territory you are in when Union Jacks are flying from every post.   

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and for the next couple of days we would be reverting back to using pounds instead of the Euros we used in Ireland, and miles again instead of kilometers.  We may have entered a different country late that afternoon, but this was still all part of the great Emerald Isle and we were excited to see what Northern Ireland had in store for us.  If it was anything like her neighbor, we had a lot to look forward to.  And that is where our story will pick up tomorrow.  To be continued...