Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Head for the Hills

We like to visit the Freestone Inn
Monsieur Là-Bas and I are off on another of our mountain getaways. Monsieur especially loves the North Cascades area of Washington state. It takes about five hours of driving to reach our destination:
the Freestone Inn in Mazama.

We have stayed in the lodge but since we now have Tilde, our miniature dachshund, a cabin suits us better. I can walk out early with Tilde and Monsieur takes her out before bed. We can prepare some meals or eat in the dining room.
Our cabin is basic but....
Our small cabin has a fully equipped kitchen, air-conditioning and wifi. I put on my hoodie over my pyjamas this morning and took Tilde out. We met a chipmunk on the porch and Tilde smelled so many different scents.

Tilde is enjoying a new experience.

I am reading Americanah  by Chimananda Ngozi Adiche. I have reserved so many books from the library that I hope to finish this one and to start another Irish Linen by Andrew Greeley before I go home. It's only 2 weeks until I leave for Dublin so I really do have so many books, so little time.
scallops with arugula, zucchini and yellow potato mash

If you do visit the Methow Valley in Washington state, there are wonderful restaurants to visit.
I'm a seafood/fish vegetable kind of woman so I really enjoyed the Alaska scallops and vegetables at the Inn.  We really enjoy browsing in The Mazama Store where there are local and organic products, a bakery and deli and a selection of wines as well as books of local interest.

I really enjoy the quiet of our cabin. The neighbours are off somewhere, Monsieur and Tilde are having a siesta and I am gazing out from the porch...
looking into the forest

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Old Country

We are staying at Trinity College.

When I was a little girl, we lived next door to my grandparents. It's a funny thing but they often spoke of a place called "The Old Country".  As a young child, I thought that this was the name of a real place. Small children can be very literal! My great-grandmother was also from "The Old Country".
In her case, there were foods associated with the aforementioned country: scones and small tea pancakes served with real butter and jam. Sometimes, children were allowed tea with milk served in
pretty china cups.

My maternal grandparents, who lived next to us, were from Shetland and from Northern Ireland. My
grandmother came from Bushmills before Ireland was divided and my grandfather from Shetland after World War One. Only one of my grandmother's uncles stayed in Bushmills but most of my grandfather's siblings stayed in Shetland so I have many cousins to visit in the Islands.

Since early times, island people have gone to sea to trade for life's necessities.

The trip that I am planning will involve exploring, with two other women friends, our personal
"Old Country" Ireland.  We will be spending 2.5 weeks in Ireland together and then my friend Janet and I will fly to Shetland and then to London where we will meet my daughter.

We will be starting our travels in Dublin where we will be sharing a 3-bedroom apartment at Trinity
College. The location is central and economical. We will be able to prepare some light meals and to move independently according to our own clocks and interests.

Travelling with friends is very different from travelling with a partner or travelling solo. I am an early riser and enjoy quiet evening reading with a glass of wine and a light snack. I tend to research my destinations and enjoy savouring the streets of a city.  Each of my friends has her own rhythms and interests so we need to build in together time and alone time.

We have chosen to tour by Bus Eírean as none of us wish to drive. The distances between cities and towns is not great so none of our bus rides will be more than 5 hours. We have limited the number of stops so that we have time to enjoy our destinations.

After Dublin, we will be heading to the Wild Atlantic Way (the West Coast) of Ireland via Cork.We will travel to Ennis where we can visit The Burren and The Cliffs of Moher. My friend, Madeline, has visited Ireland before and says that these are must-sees. Rick Steves recommends Ennis as a good base from which to explore the middle section of the coast. We are booking two rooms (a twin and a
single/double) so we need to stay in mid-size towns. Proximity to bus and rail stations is also a consideration.

The West Coast

My friend, Madeline's family roots are in county Mayo. We will travel from Ennis north to Mayo to visit the towns of her parents' families. Mayo seems to be a land of seacoast and lakes.

Our next destination will involve our longest travel day as we will go from Mayo to Belfast, Northern Ireland. While the distance is not great, the journey involves either going back through Dublin or travelling Bus Eírean to Enniskillen and transferring to Bus Ulster.

We are lucky again to have an apartment (with a washing machine) in Belfast. I want to visit Cozies (an area of Bushmills) where my grandmother lived her early childhood years.  I actually found her in the 1911 Irish census.  I really like looking at census information but most countries don't release
their personal information until after 100 years.

Bushmills is near The Giant's Causeway so we will have a chance to experience the East Coast of Northern Ireland as well as the West Coast of Eire. At Belfast, we part ways with Madeline and Janet and I will travel to Shetland.

My friends and I each have the desire to visit those places of the family stories. As we get older, it seems that we are more interested in visiting "The Old Country"  wherever it may be.  If you have travelled in Ireland or live there, I would be happy to hear any suggestions of sites in Counties Clare and Mayo.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Time Flies!

Ireland calls.

July has passed so quickly! I have been attending classes a the Alliance Française in Vancouver. Twice a week, I take the bus and then the Canada Line to my destination.  I am learning to discuss European cultural and political topics "with ease". This month, we have been focusing on the history and the structure of the European Union.  The level standards are set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, a body which promotes the acquisition of languages in the European Union. I am at the beginning of Level C1 and I will have to work very hard and long to progress. As there are no classes in August and I shall be in Ireland and Britain in September, I won't enrol in any more classes until October.

Study is what seems to make sense for me in my retirement. I am never so happy as when I am learning, reading or thinking! Sometimes I wonder about education as it is often seen as a preparation
for something else, usually a profession. Now that I am retired, I am free to enjoy learning for its own sake.

This month, I rediscovered the public library. It is such a luxury to go online to reserve books. I have mine delivered to the small branch library near where I live. One of my goals in retirement is to cut down on car trips. I like to walk with purpose and I don't enjoy driving so I try to use nearby services.
Many older people fear the loss of the ability to drive but I am preparing now to live in my community and to use Canada Line to access activities in the city.

Lots of Books to Read

As I am planning for my trip to Ireland, novels by Colm Tóibin, Anne Enright, and Tana French have been popular with me this month. I really enjoyed Norah Webster (Tóibin) and Faithful Place (French) and The Gathering (Enright). I always enjoy other blogger's recommendations, so I read I'll See You in Paris at the recommendation of the Hostess. I have been reading the Maisie
Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear ever since I discovered them at the Oaxaca Lending Library.

An interesting discussion has arisen à propos de Hillary Clinton's remarks about enjoying the Maisie
Dobbs books. Like many of us, apparently, Hillary enjoys the restorative qualities of a "women's
cozy mystery".  Maureen Corrigan in The Washington Post recently took Hillary to task over a perceived patronizing attitude towards mysteries that are written by women authors and which
feature woman detectives. For my part, I do favour  strong female protagonists in novels and in movies.

I know very little about Irish history. My ancestors come from counties Antrim and Armagh which are currently in Northern Ireland. My mother's ancestors were Presbyterian and my father's Roman
Catholic and so I have been trying to learn a little about the history of the religious conflicts. Netflix
featured an interesting series called Rebellion which dealt the Easter Uprising of 1916. I also enjoyed
Stella Days which starred Martin Sheen as a priest in a small Irish community.

boats at Whalsay
I will be flying from Belfast to Lerwick to visit Shetland and the relatives. The Shetland television series which is based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves provides glimpses of island life for those who are interested.

Rugged cliffs  will mean sturdy shoes and warm clothes.

July has flown by and I will be planning my travel wardrobe in the next couple of weeks. I'm on a "shop your closet" jag right now so I will be looking at my existing wardrobe and rereading all Janice's packing posts at the Vivienne Files.

Today is a holiday in British Columbia (B.C. Day) so there will be a pool party and barbecue in our complex. Monsieur and a friend are playing 60's music on the pool deck so it should be fun. Happy August!