Festive in Death teasers

Ok, gang, First, you should all be grateful that I kept at the unpacking and organizing and got my hands on my copy of Festive in Death. (I know I am.) Second, I’ll be posting some teasers and bits of info about Festive here over the next few days.  No real spoilers because I think the plot is more fun when you discover things for yourself.

Teaser 1:

Everyone’s favorite young street vendor is back and helps Eve out — a lot.  He’s had a good year, made some changes to his business and shows Eve the results of the favor she did for him the previous December.  And since someone will ask, his grandmother is well but doesn’t appear on page.

Oh, and Eve makes a deal with her personal devil on gift wrapping.

More tomorrow.

Teaser 2 (added on 9/4/14)

Today some one liners:

Homicide detectives like holidays too.

We learn a little more about the future of the building in Concealed.

Eve learns a little more about her home and the rooms inside.

And we learn a different approach to Dickie Berenski courtesy of the new forensic anthropologist.

Teaser 3 (added on 9/5/14)

As someone reminded me, yesterday was only four points, not five.  Math and I are not friends.

– Feeney finds time to see Eve the day before the party to give her his gift.  It’s a fine, loving, Eve/Feeney uncomfortable moment. And the moment extends a bit when Eve brings the gift home.

– Roarke re-affirms his love with brand new descriptions of how he’d deal with Eve should she ever stray.

– Eve tries to wiggle out of her deal with the devil, but ultimately can’t.  But not before we see an area of the home that’s nearly mythical and yet fully equipped for work.

– It appears running a homicide squad prepares a person to deal with warring florists and designers.

– Finally a bit of a follow up on characters from Thankless — and more gifts — is all part of the party run up.

– And it’s a pretty damn good party.

 

 

 

 

Ireland Day 14 — Drawing to a close

A brilliantly bright day, and the warmest yet for the gang’s bike ride. I do pilates for about an hour, then decide it’s much too pretty to stay inside.

While I do see people in shirtsleeves, I’m happy in my sweater, and walk in the sun for awhile before choosing a different path through the woods.

Just as beautiful–how can you go wrong?–and I hear the doves again, and other birds I can’t identify. The light’s quieter here, as it should be, but beams through to shine against moss and big, lacy ferns.

I hear something, and head toward it, reminding myself the way back is now behind me rather than to my left. I see I’ve walked in the direction of the stables, and there’s a horse and rider. Through the trees, down the slope, I can just see them cantering by.

Walk closer and while I’m hidden by the trees, see a girl on a bay going around a ring. I think at first she’s having a lesson, but decide no, the bay is. She’s taking him through his paces, walk, trot, canter, trot, using tongue clicks. I’m sure there’s knees and heels in there, too, but he responds to her clicks, changes his gait pretty and smooth each time.

Walk back and on, hear the bells jingling and look for the hawk. I don’t see one, but hear the voices of the falconer and the guest on the walk–and the guest’s delight when the hawk comes to glove.

When I finally come out I think how I’ll miss these woods. But that just means I have to come back one day.

Text Kat and learn they’re still riding, so I walk a little more, then go in and settle down to work. I get a nice chunk in before the gang’s back. Kat and Jason and I go to the tea room–scones!–and BW heads to his massage.

It’s nice to sit at the window table with the sun shining.

Then it’s back to work for a bit more.

And our last watching of Tumble!

The nasty cold that’s cycled through Kat and Bruce decides it’s my turn. It’s not horrible–yet–so I take some meds, walk down to the village for dinner. I get tea and soup. We’d hoped for music, but they have a DJ tonight, and that’s not what we had in mind.

So it’s an early night. Probably best as the cold’s hanging on.

Patchy sleep that turned into a coma this morning so I was still in bed when BW left for breakfast. Kat–sweet girl–brought me tea, and BW brought me my morning bacon. More meds on a cloudy morning, and I’ll face the organizing and packing. But I’ll face it with my views of the lake, so that’s a pretty good deal.

Nora

BW’s photos from the bike trip.

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Fresh salmon.

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Kat and Jason at the doorway to Guinness Tower.

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Cong Abbey

 

Ireland Day 13 — A trip out and a walk in the woods

More sun as we head out to drive around our big lake. Lough Corrib isn’t just the biggest lake in Ireland, it has to be one of the prettiest. Today it’s like a mirror, shining and still, and as we round it, all those marvelous islands come into view–more, I’m told than there are days in the year. There’s one, sloping up to a flat rise. Jason comments it would be a hell of a spot for a house. Imagine it, Living on the lake, surrounded by those views–the garden you could have! Isolated, sure, but wow.

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Lough Corrib. Photo by BW.

There are a couple inhabited, but for land conservation, no more houses can be built. It’s wise, as there’s a purity here that could be too easily spoiled.

Hills and fields–sheep who’ve escaped the fence and have their colorful butts right out in the road. And the mountains rise up, green and rocky, worn smooth by time and weather. Horses on hillsides, cows cropping.

Lots of coaches out today, and it’s a little wild having those big buses coming at us on the winding roads, with hedgerows hard on the other side.

We’re bound for Oughterand and Aughnamure Castle just outside it. The ride takes us around the north side of Corrib, through the mountains, in and out of villages where we skirt Joyce Country.

I admire some of his work, but has anyone every read Ulysses all the way through?

Oughterand is big and bustling, and there we stop for diesel before driving on.

The car park for the castle is beside a field bordered by a stone fence. A Connemara pony crops there, busily. He–and it IS a he as he’s considerably well hung–never raises his head as we park, gather what we want and set out on the path. There’s a big black cow doing the same in an adjoining field, and the river on the other side. It’s lovely, streaming over rocks, snaking around, dotted here and there with lily pads with trees climbing up the far bank.

The path climbs, too, gives us views of the big keep, winds around to show off the single ancient yew remaining. They’d harvested all the rest, it seems, for wagon wheels, bows.

The castle dates back to about 1490, and they’ve preserved and restored much of the walls, the keep, a central watch tower.

Two dogs lay in the sun at the entrance, as disinterested as the cow and pony.

Here is a good spot for fortification, with the river on three sides. It’s a large green space, bordered by the stone walls. What had been a banquet hall is a field now as the structure was taken by the river. At one time it held a trap door where unwelcome guests were dropped down.

I like the watch tower, and think it reminds me of a dovecote, and indeed when I go in, read the history, it was used as one after the corner towers were built. I like the squat shape and domed roof.

Into the keep, read up on the history–long and colorful. Up the tight winding stairs to study the murder hole and imagine archers standing there, picking off invaders below who’d gotten that far inside. Look through arrow slits, and clearly see how they’d held off invaders for so long.

Up again, decide I wouldn’t have enjoyed using the garderobe–or being anywhere on watch below. Up, tight, skinny stairs with a rope for a banister.

There’s a secret prison, a claustrophobic space behind a wall where it’s believed prisoners were tossed to slowly starve to death. Maybe the quick death out the trap door would’ve been preferred.

You can see how they lived, always preparing for war, raising cattle, making weapons, spinning wool, holding banquets. Even in such a lovely spot, it had to be a very hard life.

We’re WAY up, it’s been deceptive stopping on every floor–and the height gives me that flutter in the belly. So down I go again.

We start back, and I want to see these plants across the road. A flowering vine that leaves something like mutant rose hips. Huge, they look like cherry tomatoes from a distance.And I notice one of the cottages has a sprinkler going. Seriously? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sprinkler running in Ireland, and though it’s been wonderfully clear, we’ve had a bit of rain every day.

In any case, the gardens are pretty.

We travel back, detour into a pretty little community to follow the signs for a candlemaker. Kat and I go in the little cottage–and honestly, I wanted to get my hands on the shopkeeper’s dooryard. It’s the first I’ve seen so overgrown, more weeds than flowers and flowers needing deadheading and tending. Still I find a couple things in the little shop–and if my mother were still here, I’d have bought more as there were many she’d have loved, painted with flowers or butterflies.

On back to Oughterand, and when I spy a shop selling footballer jerseys BW pulls over to let me and Jason out while he and Kat find a place to park.

The shop has everything. A fun, cluttered place. More grandkid gifts, a little this, a little that–a new hat for BW, some bits and bobs. Some wandering to other shops while BW scouts out a place for lunch.

It’s a nice big pub, and a good time for a glass of wine, some soup for me. A lovely little hour while Kat looks up our birth trees in a little book she bought. I’m an ivy tree, which I like quite a bit.

Then it’s the pretty ride back, the mountains going to hills, the hills to fields, and the lake shining.

We’re going to rest up, and I should organize things, but I want a walk. It’s too blue and clear to sit inside.

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Where Nora went in. Photo by NR.

Out I go, choose a direction at random, and go by the Carpet Garden, up the steps, down the wide path. And into the woods. The path is too pretty to resist, and I think I won’t go far as my sense of direction is decent but not stellar. But it’s go gorgeous and green and full of quiet and soft, soft light.

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Toll barrier. Photo by NR

I have to be careful to keep myself oriented, but follow a path, come to a big tree with a long branch across the road like a toll barrier. I think about it, and as I’ve brought a glass of wine, pour a few drops for the toll, then duck under.

It’s wonderful here, a lovely place to wander. I hear doves cooing madly and the wind surfing through the trees, and nothing else. I consider going back, but go on instead. There may not be such a perfect day left for a walk like this.

There’s magic here. For those who don’t believe, that’s a shame, but for me it’s clear and strong, as true as the scent of the pines and earth. Carpets of moss, tangled brambles, glorious trees and that silken-soft light.

Carpets of moss.  Photo by NR.

Carpets of moss. Photo by NR.

The moss and time has put faces on some of the trees. You almost expect them to speak as you pass by. The pictures I take along the way won’t be wonderful, but they’ll remind me of my walk.

I’ve seen no one, heard no one the whole time I’ve wandered through. Just the doves and the wind.

Tree with a face. Photo by NR

Tree with a face. Photo by NR

When I come out I spook a man walking his little girl on the wide path outside the woods. I hear him tell her, laughing, his accent American, that it freaked him out. I can imagine it, hearing something coming out of the deep woods on a quiet evening.

Back in, and onto dinner. A light one at what’s become our table in The Dungeon. We go out the back door after the meal, walk around.

The lake is a silver platter, smooth and shining. The castle a magnificent silhouette against the sky, lights glowing in the windows.

Magic.  Photo by NR

Magic. Photo by NR

Another blue day this morning. The gang may hire bikes and take a ride. I may work, may take another walk. It’s nice to have these last couple of days to do whatever strikes.

Nora

 

Ireland Day 12 — Saddle up

A damp start with a cool, thin rain, but we decide we want a walk before our ride, so out we go. We’re rewarded by the sight of a flower-decked carriage pulled by two Clydesdales–or they looked like it to me. The liveried driver and footman hold the horses as a couple of eager photographers take picture of the lovely bride and her handsome groom.

We head off, across the bridge, take the path that leads to what became for me Sorcha’s cabin. The woods are gorgeous here, and the gloomy light adds to it all. Though the big downed tree is gone, the cabin stands at it did, vine-covered beside the path. It’s easy for me to see Sorcha making magic here, teaching her children, waiting for her man, sacrificing herself in her attempt to defeat Cabhan.

There are fuchsias growing wild with their bold red drops just outside. I can see where she’s buried, imagine the bluebells.

We walk on, down to the water with its view of the castle, and a little rowboat pulled to shore.

And up the path again, into the woods. A new path for me, huge trees and slim ones, downed ones in a tangle all blanketed with moss, and an old stone wall, moss-covered.

Then a massive, stunning, magic tree. It looks as if several trees have joined at the trunk, grown up and up and up, spreading dozens of branches. It reminds me of a Tree of Life, and needs its place in a story. I doubt any pictures we took can capture it.

Imagine what it’s seen, what it knows.

It’s a wonderful walk, an enchantment of woods and moss and brambles. We do see a couple people–one pair with two dogs, a black Lab and his little companion who remind me of the pair of dogs BW and I saw before who joyfully splashed in the river. Later a mother with her little girl, the girl heroically trying to peddle her little bike on the rough path. It seems she’s only just had the training wheels off. They join their family, the father with a baby in a backpack, and two more girls.

It’s light and shadow, greens, so many greens and rich browns, and so quiet you barely hear the birds calling.

We come out again, and there’s the carriage. The bride and groom are out for pictures. Her dress is gorgeous. A princess of a dress, with a long, long, long tulle veil. She works to settle the full white skirt over the crinoline cage beneath, and I get a glimpse of her shoes. Fabulous! She wears a sparkling tiara over short, dark hair. The perfect bride for a castle.

We leave them to continue our walk over to the stables.

Apollo, the horse BW rode last time, has his head out the stall door–but isn’t interested in being greeted. The one next to him–I think she was Millie–is more than interested, especially in BW and Jason–actually bumps her head against BW’s back when he’s talking to me as if to say: Hey, how about me?photo 4sm

She wants to be petted, wants attention, nibbles on their shoulders, cranes her head out. She allows me to pet her, but is much more interested in Jason, all but laying her head on his shoulder.

Inside is the little stable dog Tingle, a small dynamo with a small stick he drops at our feet. I throw it into the dirt ring, and with a quick bark he flies after, kicking up dust. Runs back, drops the stick. It’s a game we all know.

Jason throws it for him again and again as we fill out forms, change into our boots.

After a short wait, our horses are brought out. Apollo for BW again–and when BW checked my travelogue from last visit, it seems I had Spruce then as well. Jason’s on Willow, Kat on Aladdin. Fiona, our guide is up on Puffin, who she says can be a problem, but is being trained as a lead horse.

It’s good to be in the saddle again, and after a couple of testing turns around the ring, we’re out the side door.

Spruce is a sturdy, sweet-natured Connemara, a gray who’s nearly white. He tailgates Puffin, and Fiona tells me that’s fine as Puffin likes to know he’s there. Willow, however, demands personal space and walks well behind. It seems Aladdin  was a carriage horse in his youth, so he’s a slow, plodding one. And Apollo is content bringing up the rear.

It’s a lovely, relaxed ride–for me anyway. Willow, it seems, is an opportunist and will try to eat at every step. Apollo enjoys snacking, but will walk as he does. Willow prefers to stop, so Jason’s pulling his head up regularly while Kat’s urging Aladdin on.

Then it’s into the woods, and it’s a fresh experience to travel through them on a horse. The sun’s come out, and the light’s dappling through the trees, shining here and there. We pause now and then to let the others catch up while Fiona tells me how she grew up on a farm, riding her little pony bareback. She’ll call out to the other horses now and then: Come on, boys! Walk on, boys! Or calling each by name if they’re lagging.

By another moss-covered stone wall, through wood where the trees are slim so the light showers in, and through thicker ones with deep shadows.

Someone’s on a hawk walk and we ride under the bird while it looks down from his high perch.

Out into more open, by another hawk–what a sight to see while riding. Along the river, through the tall trees, by fields where Fiona tells me her Puffin and the cow at the fence are not friends. And a lovely house with a beautiful garden. There are chickens behind, and once when they were let out to roam a bit, Puffin was struck with fear. WHAT are THEY????

Fiona shows me the field where Spruce and I think it’s Willow spend their nights, and tells me Spruce loves the brambles and berries, and is often purple around the mouth every morning.

He’s sweet, and being 19 knows his job, so I’m able to look everywhere as we ride, relax.

Around the path, by the Quiet Man house, and aiming back for the stables. Spruce has backed off Puffin somewhat at this point–after Puffin farted directly in his face. There’s some grass, and Willow sees a golden opportunity, slyly veers off the path to snack–the others behind see this as an invitation.

Once that’s sorted out we walk on.

It’s back to the ring to dismount, to give Spruce some strokes and praise. The other horses greeted us loudly on our return, calling out from their stalls. And Tingle is right there with a new stick.

We walk back for a little snack in the tea room, then everyone has a rest for a bit. I put my feet up and check mail, fiddle, read a bit.

And it’s time to go down to the village for dinner. BW points out the little boat flying pink balloons coming toward our shore. We all look out our bedroom window to watch. I think it must be another bride.

And when we leave to drive down, there’s a woman in a pretty white dress.

We head to Ryan’s for a meal, and it’s just right. Warm and dry, easy service, good food.

The sky’s still glowing some, with a few stars out when we get back.

Slept like a rock until nine!

Must get myself dressed as BW’s already back from breakfast and the plans include driving to the other side of the lake and an old fortress with a secret prison.

Fun!

Nora

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Ireland Day 11 — Out and about and what should Nora spy in a store?

A little morning shower, then sun so the view out my parlor window is all green and blue with puffs and streaks of white clouds. Pretty as it gets.

Jason and Kat want a walk to the village, and I’m with them. It’s warm enough I can go with a vest rather than a jacket. I realize, damn it, I forgot my Fitbit. Kat points out now it’s like I’m not walking at all.

Feels good anyway, and we’re heading down the steep street for some shopping. We never get quite enough! Kat’s after wool, and I’m after whatever catches my eye–still in gift mode. We do well, all around, start back up for some of the other shops–might as well hit them all again. The newish one-Lily’s, I think it’s called–has a little pottery dish in blue. It’s small, and has appealed to me every time I’ve gone in. That’s for me, and will sit somewhere in my living room and remind me of Cong and the shop and the pretty shopkeeper.

Up the street, around the corner, into another. I buy a wool cap my oldest granddaughter will either think lame or adorable. And there Kat spots the shopkeeper has Shadow Spell on her little counter. I’m ridiculously thrilled by this. Someone right in Cong is reading a book I set in Cong and around it.

When we comment, she asks if we’re reading it, too. I tell her I wrote it, and we have a nice, happy chat. She’s enjoying it, likes reading about her own home, and says the woods are indeed magic there, and I found it. I’m wonderfully pleased.

If that’s not happy enough, we backtrack a bit as I want more sodas for the room. Into a deli/butcher shop where the woman behind the counter is bright and cheerful, all but singing as we talk. She spies the ring I’m wearing, and oohs over it, wants a closer look. She loves sparkly things, she tells us. She’s a magpie. I have to laugh as I often say the same about myself. So I tell her I know: Oh, it’s shiny! I must have it for my nest.

We talk awhile–where we’re from, where we’re staying and so on. It comes out we’ve been before, and I say when J&K were with us last time we were younger then.

The butcher comes out, just as bright and cheerful. Ah, we were all younger just yesterday. It’s a happy shop, one I’d frequent regularly if I lived in the village.

We go on up, veer into the abbey where men are working on the stone.

It’s a good walk, down and back, productive, fun. When Ashford comes into view, we see two men, high, high up, an extension ladder braced against a high tower. One’s already up on it, and the other starts the climb.

You couldn’t pay me enough!

Jason tells me how he once caught on fire up a ladder in a theater replacing a light. It’s a story a mother doesn’t want to hear until well after the fact. Up the ladder, and the lamp he’s screwing in starts getting warm. He uses his shirt to protect his hand, and as he does, the shirt starts smoking. Then there’s some flame with it. Says he thinks: Huh, I’m on fire. So he’s thumping at his shirt up there, heading down. Just a smallish burn hole in the shirt, he tells me, and he kept it a long while to remind himself not to do the stupid.

The gang is going on the boat trip around Corrib, and I’m giving that a pass. Odds are I’d be sick, so why chance it. And it gives me time to work. It’s so pretty out! A good day to be on the water. At one point, I thought I’d rather be sitting on the chaise in the bedroom with someone else’s book, but I stick with it.

It’s nice to be away in my head to frigid January in NYC, dealing with murder, then look out at the sun and the blue.

When I’m done, I take my tablet over to a chair, sit to check my mail. Seconds later BW walks in. Perfect timing.

They had a brilliant time. He swears the ride was smooth as silk and I’d’ve handled it. That’s a big maybe, and in any case I got solid work in. They have entertainment on the boat, a man playing the Irish accordian–who did the same in the film The Quiet Man. He plays, he sings, he tells jokes. BW loved it.

When we meet up for dinner in The Dungeon, Kat has a brochure on the island where they stopped and walked about. There’s an ogham stone I would have liked to see, a graveyard, and ruins.

She tells me the ride was mostly smooth, though there was a rocky patch in there.

I go for the bellini again–lovely–and we have a fine dinner. Still, there’s dessert. This time we split only two between us, as we’re pretty full up. The berries are so fresh I’m surprised they don’t pop.

An early night as now BW isn’t feeling quite the thing.

But he’s off to breakfast now, much better after a good night’s sleep. And the sun’s bright and pretty over the water. It’s the horses we’re after today, and we’ll have a ride this afternoon. A workout for me first, as other than the walk to the village and back, I mostly sat on my arse all day.

Nora

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BW with the hound guarding the gates of Ashford.

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12th century altar at Inchaqoill Monastery. Photo by BW.

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Kat and the onboard entertainment. Photo by BW.

 

Ireland Day 10 — the hawk walk

Sun, rain, pearly light are the order of the day.

I get in a long, hard workout, and feel righteous. By the time I shower off the sweat and dress, it’s time for our hawk walk. My first experience with a hawk on my glove two years ago is one of my best memories. This new one will go down in the books, too.

BW opts to take photos, so it’s Jason, Kat and me for the hawks. You can hear the hawks talking as you walk down the path to the gate, and inside, they’re on their perches in their enclosures, watching, occasionally letting out a call. As our falconer Keelin tells us, the Harris Hawks we’ll take out are social birds, and relaxed enough a couple of them have a little stretch while we walk around.

She’s passionate about the hawks, and full of interesting information and funny anecdotes. It seems Ruan, the alpha female despises Dingle the big owl, and it’s her mission in life–for the past fourteen years–to murder him. He’s terrified of her. When she’s taken out, Keelin tells us, they put a board over Dingle’s enclosure to spare him the trauma.

We’re given our gloves, and they bring our hawks. I have Samhradh–his name means summer in Irish. He’s gorgeous, and sits on my glove studying me as if to say let’s see how this all goes.

Jason and Kat have Joyce, a good-sized female, and Stoker, another male. Sibs, two of four named for Irish writers. It’ll be a challenge we’re told to do three at once.

Out we go, and Samhradh immediately tries to fly, so I stop, wait for him to settle again as he’s tethered by the jessies. He’s raring to go. And once we’re on the clear path, Keelin unties the jessies, and they’re off.

Gorgeous, that golden brown spread of wings, the way they just glide without any visible effort. A bit of chicken on the glove, and my hawk glides back again–what a sight, what a feeling, to have that handsome bird fly straight at you, and land perfectly on the glove.

Joyce, I think it was, wasn’t so keen to come right back and had to be coaxed and called. But back she came. And when the three of them take off again, it’s amazing. Up into branches, down again. Joyce is definitely the queen, and decides at one point she wants my glove as it got baited first.

Keelin’s pleased with them as they’re flying together without squabbling, coming back well, or buzzing us–wings just passed my ear–when we’re not baited. At one point, both males–I think–landed on Kat. On the glove and just above–growling at each other over the bait.

I’ve never heard a bird growl–it’s deep and guttural and sounds like it means business. And hearing it, you believe the dinosaurs came from birds.

It drizzles a bit as we walk into the woods. And there you really see how graceful, how agile and quick they are, sweeping and dancing through the trees, swooping and gliding back to the glove. I like to think the hawks enjoyed this as much as we did. At one point Samhradh is so close we nearly nuzzle heads.

Keelin sneaks us bait a few time so we can all three lift gloves together. That’s a wonderful thing to see, three birds swooping together to each find their glove and take their reward. And you can clearly see how they hunt together.

When we go back, I know this is something I’ll have to do again.

It’s a drink and a bite for all of us in the tea room where it’s warm and dry. The sun comes out again to shine the lough.

Bruce and Jason are going to have a rest, but Kat and I decide to explore. It’s bright and cool out, and we choose the path toward the walled gardens, walk by the amazing trees, one so big she put me in the picture for scale and it looks like it must be CGI. Over the carpet garden, so tidy with its tender green and bold red begonias, big red dahlias, and through the stone tunnel into the walled garden. It’s like a little faerie land. Squat buildings of old stone, arbors where they’ve trained pear trees to spread, flowers blooming bright, veggies growing huge. Inside one of the buildings is a huge table topped with old, rough stone, and a kind of stone sink. I love to think they actually use this as I would.

Lamb’s ears and Black-eyed Susans, roses and hydrangeas and begonias, salvia, lobelia. The pretty pear trees and what I think may be crab apple or something like it. Enormous cabbage–red and green–cauliflower with the brain-like heads, tall onion greens, and lovely herbs. Corn! Almost dainty stalks of corn with full-sized cobs.

We walk on, down another path, near the water and to some sort of jetty where you can see the islands in the lake, much closer here. On where we spot swans feeding. Big white ones, smaller brown ones, sticking their heads into the water all the way to the end of those graceful necks.

We come to a yellow gate, consider, then try the path through the woods.

It’s a storybook. All those tall trees, some so slim and graceful, with a thick canopy that blocks the little shower of rain. Soft ground, tiny pine cones littering it, and green and gray shadows. Some trees and big limbs fallen and now blanketed with soft, green moss. Ivy crawling up trunks so thick they’re green-leafed all the way up.

We come out again not far from where we went in, a magical little stroll. Walk up a wide path bordered by giant pines, and round back toward the castle to climb in one of the stone towers that must have been part of the gate to look out the arrow slits at the water. Along the battlements and down again.

We end up at the far side of the castle, where they have the spa–and I remember sitting in that relaxation room having tea and reading.

We go in those doors, head up the stairs, climb up as Kat hopes to explore the tower here. A woman–head of housekeeping I think–asks if we need help. She shows us a tiny door, says it leads up, but she’d never go in herself. Spiders and bats. She’s surprised we’d like to, says it’s fine if we’re quick.

And in we go. Skinny tight-winding stone steps, lots of dust–no bats I saw–bits of rubble, then a tight little set of metal circular stairs. We head up there, Kat in the lead. She finds a door wide open to the roof, but that’s far enough. It’s like a tiny secret passage to the top.

And down again–carefully–where the helpful woman terms us very brave and offers to show us a couple of the rooms here newly refurbished. One is the haunted room, where many unexplained things happen regularly. It seems a lady hanged herself from the tiny balcony above the bed/sitting room long, long ago. Haunted or not, it’s just lovely. Beautifully done with the fabric on the walls, the views, the big bed, a pretty sofa by the windows.

The second room is just as pretty, and boasts a huge free-standing stone tub in the bath. You’d want to stay in there just for that.

Back to our rooms to freshen up a bit as it’s nearly eight and time to head down to Cong for dinner. BW’s got a little tickle in his throat now, and decides to drive in case it’s cold or rainy on the trip back. Kat keeps him company while Jason and I walk. It’s a beautiful evening, soft light, sun edging those layered clouds, and down to the village. I know the spot we’re after as BW and I ate there a time or two last visit.

It’s warm and cozy, and time for a nice glass of wine. The soup sounds good for a starter, and the fish and chips are never wrong. Not only does the soup sound good, it’s wonderful. A table in the corner fills up gradually as we eat. A big family, I think, or relations/friends meeting up for the evening. In the bar they have The Rose Of Tralee competition on for a bit, then switch to football.

The food’s lovely. Kat and BW both get some sort of crispy mushroom starter they’re both deem delicious. The waitress turns the RofT on in the restaurant part–I think as the big table (mostly women) want it.

By the time we’re done, I’m not sorry BW has the car. I’ll ride back with him, while Kat and Jason walk back in the cool night.

Into pjs, check mail and such while BW has the RofT on the bed TV. And the winner is Marie Walsh–we passed through her village here–it’s right on the border of Mayo and Galway–saw signs for her. Though she’s representing Philadelphia, she was raised here, and her proud parents live in the village still. Nice work, Marie!

Today we’ll see. It’s wonderfully sunny out right now, so Kat and BW will decide over breakfast what we’ll do. I think the three of them will take the boat trip this afternoon, and I’ll stay back, do some work.

But I think yoga’s next on my particular plate.

Nora

Note from Laura:  as Nora, Jason and Kat’s hands were full, all photos are by BW.

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Ireland Day 9 — Revisiting

A pretty day for rambling, with a first stop in Cong and the pharmacy for some cough medicine for Kat. It’s well-timed as we’re just coming out when the Brit team drives by on their way to the airport. We get a last goodbye. Though we all hoped they’d miss their plane and be able to stay longer, we hope it was a smooth flight.

We’re onto Ballintubber Abbey, and stop in the Tourist Office for directions there and onto Ross Errily Friary. Even with them with make a wrong turn quickly, and just as quickly figure it out again.

We pass miles of fields, sun shining most of the way down on the green and the cropping sheep–and the long stone walls. Endless lines of those lovely dry-laid walls that had to take years to build. The result of all that labor is a peaceful, pastoral patchwork I can enjoy as we drive.

I’m having Hunky Dorey crisps and Diet Coke for my on-the-road breakfast. Terrible but delicious!

I love the look of Ballintubber, the land and gardens and art surrounding it especially. I can’t imagine the pilgrimage from here all the way to the distant peak of Croagh Patrick. It would take amazing dedication and endurance.

The place has such a strong sense of time and peace and strength with its roll of fields, slopes, lovely trees. The stones of the graveyard seem settled and content enough here, and the flowers are so lovely.

The art along the pathways is fascinating and a bit odd. Mostly depicting the Stations of the Cross, done in stone. It always pulls my eye and imagination. So abstract and contemporary for such an old place, but I suppose it shows that faith and ritual is a living, breathing thing.

The site representing the Crucifixion is both stark and beautiful, set up on a hill with its three crosses, a shining waterfall flowing beneath, all decked with flowers. Begonias, marigolds, alyssum blooming and tumbling.

The wind’s very brisk, even under the sun, so it’s a refreshing walk around to say the least. There’s a wall, and behind it a little path and glorious garden. Kat comments they seem to have every variety of rose there.

Inside the little church–built two centuries before Columbus sailed–the roof is barreled and the stained glass gleaming.

I light a candle for Laura’s safe journey from North Carolina to Maryland. The quick note I got from her–very late her time last night–tells me she and her husband made it. Welcome home, Laura!

It rains a bit, then stops, and we head out for Ross Errily.

Into villages and out, around the skinny roads and onto wider ones, and not a single missed turn this time. We find the very narrow track I remember from our last visit, and it’s just as pretty with fields on one side, houses on the other–and the one with the stunning garden. Whoever lives there has magic.

The somber gray stones of the friary loom over the green. It’s a large place, and had once been larger yet. Naturally the Cromwellians have done what they always do, and evicted the monks at one point in time. But it still stands, broody, to me, and full of what used to be.

You could get lost in here, with the many low arches, short steps that wind up to the open now. I feel the same heaviness in the air in certain parts I felt before. I have a scene in Dark Witch set here, and wonder: Did I write it as I did because of this feeling, or do I get the feeling because I wrote the scene? I think the former as the feeling’s so familiar.

There’s dark here as well as the light.

I wind my way back to the kitchen with its well and its huge fireplace. Look out the narrow openings to the fields, try to imagine living here, find I don’t much want to! This isn’t one of my happy places, for all its strength and pull. A fascinating one, but without the quiet peace of Ballintubber.

And still, shame on those who’ve littered here, in this old power. I hope the monks scared them off for their disrespect to what walked here, and I think often still does.

You could spend half a day here just wandering, even with the chill just under your skin.

I like it out on the hill where the views are forever, and the sheep seem happy enough.

It’s time for a little lunch–past time, really–so we go into Headford, find a restaurant that proves an excellent choice. Beside us are four ladies obviously great friend having their day out. They talk and laugh and exclaim over gossip the whole time we’re there. They add a happy note to good, comforting food.

Then we’re off to Cong, and the way back is as pretty as the way in. We stop off at Galway Woolen Mills for gifts–I think I’ve just about done it there, and must take an hour to organize it all with my list. It rains a bit, stops again.

Up the steep street, poking in other shops along the way. Around again, up again–a nice stretch for the legs, and more gifts. Though I’m definitely keeping at least one of the fragrant local made soaps for myself.

And back to the castle where we book a table in the Dungeon for dinner, ask about booking our hawk walk for today. A little feet up time and wine for me before I change to a warmer sweater.

Dinner’s just delightful. The menu is full of good things that make all of us happy enough to suggest just eating here from now on! But we must go down to Cong at least one night, hoping for music. I get myself a belini that tastes of summer peaches, a lovely contrast to the room decorated with suits of armor and banners.

We go for dessert–too tempting–order four to share. I can only manage one bite of each, but it’s so worth it.

Waddle off to bed.

Hawk walks today! And the sun’s out strong–may it stay. I’m going to do a solid workout to make up for dessert.

Nora

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Ross Errily. Photo by BW

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Jason and Kat in Friary fireplace. Photo by Nora.

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Flower box in Headford. Photo by Nora.

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Kat at the Friary. Photo by Nora.

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Ross Errily. Photo by Nora.

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Ross Errily. Photo by BW.

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Ashford Castle. Photo by BW

Ireland Day 8 — Tea with Nora

I wake to my view of Lough Corrib, and that’s a fine start to any day. Apparently in poured rain sometime in the morning, but I missed it–at the keyboard or in the shower.

I borrow BW’s shower as my lady’s has a tub. It’s rather marvelous, all marble with a generous rain head. My favorite is the little window. Every shower should have one! There’s a frosted glass panel to close if you’re shy, and a mirror so the gentleman can multi-task and shave.

Today is for tea at the Lodge here at Ashford, something we’re all looking forward to. First up is some video to shoot, and in the room where I met the magnificent Maureen O’Hara two years ago. I feel I’m in very special company.

My lovely Team Brit is already there, with the videographer, setting it all up. They have gifts for me! Who doesn’t love presents? I have a gorgeous new brown leather bag–a bit like a doctor’s bag in shape–just love it, and the lovely, lovely scarf. I’m such a scarf hog.

It’s so thoughtful of them to bring gifts, especially for doing something I’m so happy to do.

The video is easy, a quick Q&A, a few bumpers for readers far and wide,and we’re done till near two.

My Kat’s still feeling poorly, but up for a walk, so we take our first tour of the grounds. The trees here are amazing, huge, many-branched pines with trunks so wide three men couldn’t join hands around them. Some of them beg for climbing, but we’re not dressed for it.

We walk around to the stables where we’ll book rides later this week, and circle around. We see a group out for a hawk walk, hear the hawker whistling. One of the group has a hawk on his glove, but the other it seems is up in the trees, and not inclined to come back. The hawker whistles, the hawk ignores, the group chats.

We wait awhile in case the hawk should decide to come swooping down, but as Kat said, he’s decided to have an adventure of his own. We walk on, and by the falconry school where we’ll book our adventure, and make the loop toward the castle. There’s some clouds that look like they might enjoy dropping some rain, but plenty of blue–and the blue wins the day.

As we walk the path back, the adventuring hawk gives a cry and flies right overhead, lands on a branch and gives us a superior, regal stare. His flight was gorgeous, those golden brown wings spread on his glide, but he’s not inclined to show off again, and just sits on his high perch to watch us pass.

We head to the castle’s bar, and as Jason and I haven’t had breakfast, we do our particular versions of Breakfast Of Champions. Hot chocolate and fries for him, champagne and fries for me.

Before long, our car is here to take us the short drive to The Lodge.

It’s a gorgeous day, sunny and blue now, and the staff at The Lodge has everything beautifully handled. The guests are already inside, with a generous and beautiful display of sandwiches and cakes and other pretty desserts. I have time to go around the tables before we start, say hello, meet a few readers. We have one all the way from Melbourne, others over from England, a pair from Lithuania, and many from all across Ireland. Mothers and daughters, sisters and friends, a few men sprinkled in–and points for you, gentlemen, for bringing your ladies to tea.

Lots of happy faces–who wouldn’t be happy having a lovely tea in such a beautiful spot? I’m just delighted so many came, and we’ll have this time together.

There’s a raised stage with comfy chairs for me and Antonia. She starts off with a couple of questions to give everyone a chance to warm up–then we open it up to the guests. And I realize I’ll need my glasses if I want to see faces in the back of the room.

It’s a fun, friendly hour, just right I think–and hope everyone who came had as good a time as I did. We have questions about the books, about Eve and Roarke–and no, I won’t tell you who’s the Candy Thief!–about writing. We have some writers in the audience I hope to see again at RWA in New York next summer. Some booksellers from Clifden. The hour passes very quickly for me.

Our booksellers from Galway have everything set up for the signing, and Kat wraps my wrist as we’re still babying it. We miss our Laura, but it all runs smooth. I so enjoy chatting one-on-one this way as I sign and take pictures. And at the end have a chance to pet a sweet little Yorkie.

It’s all over so quickly. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more, every bit of it, and send thanks again to everyone who came out for the day, and all the staff at Ashford, my wonderful Team Brit, the booksellers for all they did to make it such a good, happy event.

We all come back for a well-earned drink, snuggled into a corner of the bar. Kat has her tea, then goes up for a lie-down before dinner. We say goodbye to Team Brit, take some time to do nothing before we walk over to Cullins at the Cottage for our dinner.

It’s always so warm and cozy in there. Three of the four of us go for the spaghetti–as Jason points out, it’s been awhile since our last pizza. It’s just the thing after a long day, good and comforting. Noisy enough for energy, cozy enough for relaxing.

The short walk back is cold! The sun’s gone down, and the wind’s come up. I’m very happy to get back inside, into my pjs, check my mail, poke about, and settle down with a little TV.

Slept like a rock, and up to sun and the lough. BW’s down at breakfast, and we’re hoping Kat feels up to joining him. I told him the two of them can decide what’s on for today. Like the hawk, we’ll have an adventure–here, or on the road.

Nora

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View from her window. Photo by NR.

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The crowd at Tea with Nora. Photo by BW

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Antonia and Nora fielding questions. Photo by BW

 

Ireland Day 7 – On the move

Laura’s note:  sorry to be a little late today, gang.  My husband and I are moving to Maryland tomorrow so it’s been chaotic to say the least.  I think I have everything set to post tomorrow and Tuesday’s travelogues from my tablet.  Fingers crossed!   

All packed up, and once again Kat performs her logistical miracle so all the bags fit in the car. They’re prepping for another wedding as we check out and head on our way. It’s goodbye to the wild Atlantic coast and the mountains, and onto Cong.

It’s a shortish drive under skies that can’t decide whether to beam or brood on mostly skinny, windy roads that cut through land going softer. Long, wide fields and gentle rolls, many sheep–some recently shorn.

Either a huge farm or several together, with wonderful miles of stone fences climbing up the hills. We’re rattling right along–and yes, for those who’ve asked we–or I should say BW–drives here. He’s got a knack for driving on the left. I don’t, therefore save lives by sitting in as navigator.

We’ve gone wrong somehow, missed a sign and gone east rather than west. Pull over near a pub. A man’s having lunch in his lorry with his family. He’s probably working on the construction there, and we expect his wife and kids brought his lunch. He’s happy to give BW the right way, though it takes some thinking, some conversation, and some suggestions from the wife and kids as well.

And we’re back on the right road again.

Before long there’s the signs for Cong, then the wonderful gates of Ashford. The gatekeeper opens for us so we can drive through the gorgeous old trees, all shadowy and green, toward the shining lake, and there the majestic gray spread, the towers, turrets of the castle against the pale blue sky.

There are places that speak to you, and this is one for me–it was so the first time I saw it, and it’s no different now. We’re greeted by the doorman, with warm welcome backs, and go inside for more greetings by the manager and lovely staff.

I’ll be doing a tea with readers here on Sunday, and the staff has been so helpful setting it all up. We’re early so we’ll have a bite until our rooms are ready.

They’ve done some redecorating since we were here two years ago. The tea room is done is regal blues now, and a vase of huge white calla lilies stand on a piano. But the best are the views out the wall of windows to gardens and green and the shining lake with its knuckles of islands.

Once we order I have to walk outside. Cool damp air, sunshine, all the flowers white in orderly lines around a fountain, the woods and their green shadows to one side, and the lake ahead. I can hardly wait to start exploring it all again.

Back in. Our poor Kat is still under the weather, and we hope the chicken soup she’s ordered helps a bit. I’m after the farmhouse cheeses, and they’re all wonderful.

Antonia–my British editor–and her team arrive. We’re all looking forward to the tea, and will meet up in the morning. I hope they enjoy their night at the castle as much as I know we will.

We’re shown to our rooms. Ours, the same one we stayed the last time, has some new elements. A second bathroom so there’s two now off the bedroom above the parlor, and a little TV right up in the posters of the bed!

But it’s still the views.

We go up–and up–to Jason’s and Kat’s room in the tower. Oh, it’s marvelous! A parlor down, then up more stairs to the lofty bedroom with it’s high views of the lake and the woods.

Down to unpack, then off for a walk. I’m going to the village, and BW walks about halfway with me.

I love the sloping streets of Cong, the massive ruins of the abbey, the little shops and pubs. There’s a statute of Wayne and O’Hara in honor of The Quiet Man, and flowers galore.

I poke into a shop I remember from last trip, bag more Christmas gifts, then another–doing well here–and yet one more on my circuit around the village. But this time I buy myself a sweet little pair of earrings in addition to gifts.

I circle around, start the climb back. It’s tempting to take one of those little paths into the woods. There’s magic in there, but it has to wait a bit. We’ll all explore, do the hawk walk, take a trail ride, and just walk and breathe.

We’re decided on room service, to give Kat one more night to rest. And to watch Tumble. We’re hooked!

An early night–fun work tomorrow. And I watch a little Ironman (love me some Ironman) on the four-poster TV.

Sun and clouds this morning, and a view of the gardens, Lough Corrib and the mountains beyond, dreamy with distance. If you can’t relax here, where?

Very happy to be back.

Time to get myself ready for a busy day that promises to be fun.

Nora