Category Archives: Travelogues

Mayo, day fourteen

Sometimes the universe offers a perfect day just to see what you do with it. I think we did pretty well.

For myself, those blue skies call me out. Kat intends to take Griffin for a stroller walk, but the boy goes down for a long, hard nap. I think being a social, active, cheerful baby, he needed recovery time from all the socializing, activity and happy.

Napping is hard. Photo by Kat

While his batteries recharge, I head out to the walled garden. It’s a favorite spot among many favorites for me here. It’s a lovely walk even before I get there with a kicky little breeze, happy skies.

Magic tunnel. Photo by Nora

I go through the stone tunnel that open up to magic. Another tunnel, this of vines, and lovely, lush gardens spreading, climbing, dancing a bit in the breeze. It’s quiet as a church but for birdsong with all those colors, textures, thick blooms. White benches sit here and there, an invitation I accept so I can just bask in company of the flowers and butterflies with the clouds above sailing along the blue, silent as ghosts.

In full bloom. Photo by Nora

For most of my visit, it’s mine alone. Others wander in now and again, to stroll along and snap pictures as I do. But for most of the interlude, it’s just me, birdsong, butterflies and busy bees.

Herb and veg garden with a rabbit guard. Photo by Nora

There are vegetables and herbs, too. I see dill taller than BW. Cabbage and kale and leek along with the  Black-Eyed Susan (a reminder of my own garden at home), astilbe, coneflowers, the fuzzy spread of lamb’s ear.

I know the work that goes on here to make this enchantment—I dig in the dirt, sweat and weed plenty. But it looks as if it just grows wild and wonderfully on its own.

There’s nothing like a garden for brightening the heart, body and spirit.

I want to take Griffin next time.

More strolling until a light drizzle falls (light and brief). Back out, as the boy (and now his dad) sleeps still. I walk over to Mrs. Tea’s gift shop to scout. I’m after two more gifts, and think I see them. But I want Kat’s opinion.

So back I walk in this gift of a day to find BW. After some discussion, we decide to have lunch back at Cullen’s and eat outside to take full advantage of this special day.

A man in search of lunch. Photo by Nora

It’s warm, actually warm and sunny and blue. Kat joins us—so do some bees, and one gets a little too intimate with Kat, stings her hand.

Contemplative Griffin. Photo by Kat

Some vinegar for that.

She helps me decide on my gifts—a very satisfying purchase—and our boys finally surface to have some lunch with us on Cullen’s pretty patio.

We take our time with it all before going back to suit up for our much-anticipated Hawk Walk.

For this I want a jacket as we’ll walk through shady woods, and it’ll chill no doubt as the sun lowers.

Kat straps Griffin in the backpack—though I guess it’s a front pack. The birds, we’ve been warned, are terrified of strollers. We wouldn’t try maneuvering one through the woods, but just in case.

Griffin’s well rested, well fed and ready for an adventure.

Cullen at the Falconry School prepares to give us one. 

I always love this part of our Ashford’s visit. Everyone at the school is so knowledgeable about the raptors, and their deep (and mutual) affection shows. BW generally stands as photographer on the walks, but this time Kat and Jason take that job so BW can have a chance to experience. He has Wilde, and I Mia.

Heading out with Cullen

Griffin is delighted with the birds, but behaves himself very well, studying them, watching them as we walk. I fall for Mia very quickly, and thrill to have a hawk on my arm again. Off they soar, just magnificent, to perch on branches and wait until our gloves are baited and raised.

And the sensation, the sight of having that gorgeous creature fly back to you, land so perfectly on your arm is indescribable.

We learn quickly that Wilde is clever. If BW inadvertently raises his glove arm a bit between flights, back he comes—and Cullen has to feed him as that’s how it works. Cullen explains Wilde is training BW.

He’s also not one to let a bit of dropped chicken go to waste. He’ll jump down to get it, gobble it right up.

Coming in…
for a smooth landing

Into the magical woods we go, and those amazing birds wing through the trees, find their perch, wait to be called. Sometimes we leave them behind a bit, so Cullen’s whistle and the raised arms call them to longer, lovely, acrobatic flights.

Along the path, through the woods toward the lake as Cullen’s tells us of the birds’ personalities—ours and the others. He know them well, and they obviously know him, too. A few times Wilde chooses my arm, beating Mia, and once they nearly land together before she hops to BW’s glove.

At one point it seems they spot some sort of prey in the bushes and brambles, so in Cullen goes with a big stick to try to flush it for them. No luck, but the birds seemed entertained.

Then we cross to the pier by the beautiful lake, with the birds on the opposite shore. We’re to keep our arms down, the bait hidden in our fists, then call them so we can watch their flight over the water.

It’s breathtaking.

They fly back, perch, soar across the water again. That wingspan! The grace, and agility as they skim over the water.

It’s truly a soul-stirring sight.

A boat comes by, someone Cullen knows. We wave, then move on.

Through the woods again, enjoying every moment and back to the main path where Wilde and Mia are rewarded with bigger pieces of chicken for a job well done.

The birds decide Cullen’s taking too long to produce their reward and make impatient noises, almost growls. Hurry up, man!

But oh-oh! As we approach the school a family—with a baby in a stroller round the corner.

Both birds freak—they weren’t kidding about the fear. Luckily, Cullen had tied the jesseys before the sighting, so the birds flap, flap, try to fly away, but have to stay put.

I can actual see the alarm in their eyes.

To complicate things, the family is French, with little to no English. They’re understandably baffled about why Cullen seems to want them to go back. I can’t pull out the French for stroller (could maybe have used pram) or bird, but Kat uses pantomime very effectively flapping her arms like wings, making a scared face, pointing to the stroller.

Crisis averted.

BW, Wilde, Cullen, Nora and Mia

Cullen tells us if the birds had been able to fly off, they probably wouldn’t have gotten them back until the next day. The fear’s real.

We’re given an extra treat when we get back to the school. A chance to fly Dingle—the gorgeous owl we met on our first trip here—maybe a dozen years ago.

Nora and Dingle

He is so beautiful, so regal. About 20 now, he strikes me as the king of his castle.

Here Griffin is stunned into love. He really likes owls and to see one, a real one, so close brings out happy noises. Dingle gives a wary eye to this creature—who would appear to have two heads and four arms as the boy’s strapped to Kat.

Dingle has an indoor flight area, so we try it.

I can hardly believe I have this amazing creature on my arm, that I’m looking right into those stunning amber eyes.

He takes his flight—oh what a beauty—but decides: Hey, this beam looks good, and perches there. He’s not hungry, Cullen explains, so isn’t much interested in flying back to me for a snack. Still we try once more, same result, but it’s a thrill to have that spectacular bird on my arm, to watch his flight.

And Griffin gets a chance for closer look as Kat dons the glove—and Dingle consents to pose on her arm for a photo. (Laura’s note: This says owl, but I have no photographic evidence of such.)

Hmmm, Mom likes this, I’m not so sure.

Ashford sends us ice cream! Still one more treat we enjoy as we talk about the birds. There’s a kestrel, just a little guy—who the school took in after a farmer saved it from crows trying to have some lunch.

Hello

So sweet, and what a good home it has before it’s released into the wild again.

It’s been perfect, start to finish. Thank you, Cullen, again and again. 

Wee head into Cong for dinner. Before it comes, Griffin, passes out, so naps on the bench between Nana and Mama.

He wakes to eat a bit, and we take the rest of his meal with us.

Revived, he finishes it at home, has some play time.

Then it’s time for bed after a wonderful day at and around the castle.

Soft and gray this morning, mists over the water, lacy and thin, quiet light, and some drips of rain while I work out.

Griffin came to visit while I did cardio, and I promised him a Shaun T session later. Off to breakfast, and now napping. Kat’s driving somewhere in Galway for the wool she covets. 

I’m going to clean up, then hope the weather allows me to steal the boy from his daddy—or share him for a walk down to the walled garden.

Nora

Mayo, Day Thirteen

A full day with beautiful weather.

Castle view. Photo by Kat

A phoner with Australia starts things off, then it’s off to the lobby to meet with the team from Little Brown. And Ashford’s huge and gorgeous Irish Wolfhounds. They’re just magnificent, sweet, friendly, perfectly behaved. (The dogs, though the team qualifies, too!) I wish Griffin had been with me as he’d have been thrilled.

Clara, Laura and Gina are here from England to run the show today, and I think it bodes most excellently for the day when they have a Diet Coke waiting for me!

A couple quick photos, then an interview on site for The Guardian to run next February—at the launch of In Death’s 50th book.

Allison (the reporter) and I have a mutual love and admiration for Mary Stewart’s works. More boding well as we both, obviously, have great taste in books.

It’s an easy half hour or so before we shoot some videos for my UK publisher.

Filming spots for LB UK. Photo by j a-b

Jason and Kat have put the scripts on Jason’s laptop, and this works really well. The vid guy has everything set up, and we get it done in good time.

Griffin joins us now and steals the show in his tartan outfit from Edinburgh. Honestly, that level of cute might be illegal in some jurisdictions.

Nana and her boy. Photo by Kat

We have a break now, so Jason, Kat and I take His Cuteness for a walk to admire the fabulous trees, take in those blue skies, and down to the stables.

This photo is next to the word Cute in the dictionary. Photo by Kat

The horses bring on the squeals and delight—and they’re also sweet and well-behaved as we give them some strokes.

We watch a stable girl try to lure a horse in the pasture, holding the rope behind her back. He’s like: Excuse me, do I look like a git? I know what you’ve got there. He runs, dodges, pauses, trots away again—I think he laughs a few times. And defeats her.

Hello.
I’m not sure what my humans are doing, I’ll reserve judgment, thought Griffin. Photo by Kat

We walk back to get some food into the boy before the event.

Down to The Lodge we go where the publishing and Ashford teams have everything set. I meet the delightful Kate Kerrigan, who’ll hold the conversation with me. My Laura’s already told me about the small world aspect. Laura’s Mayo cousin and Kate are pals. 

We have time to sit outside in the gorgeous and chat before it’s time to begin.

Griffin meets young Leo, and the two boys hit it off. I’m told they play in the gravel with Griffin set on moving said gravel to the path, and Leo patiently putting it back again.

Full house. Photo by BW.

Inside, readers have refreshments before taking their seats. We have a full house, and that’s just lovely. Lovelier yet, everyone’s so happy and cheerful. I hope we give them a good experience, because it’s certainly one for me to be here, to have this chance to meet so many readers who’ve come from far and near.

Kate makes it a genuine conversation—I like that it’s not just a question, an answer, next question. We talk, and that’s nice, nicer we have considerable in common.

There’s good energy to the day, the room, which makes it all fun for me.

We open it up for questions from the readers, and maybe it’s the Irish vibe, but that’s conversation, too. Easy, enjoyable—and I hope informative when it was meant to be.

I’m delighted and astonished to learn a young woman moved to Ireland after reading Born In Ice. She met her husband here, and found her place. Another woman moved here from Arizona.

Another woman, originally from Poland now lives in Edinburgh, and in the next small world department, works in the Starbucks where Jason and Kat got coffee several times.

I love the way paths cross.

With the manager of Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway. Photo by Kat

We end with a signing, and everyone is so patient. (Note from Laura: books provided by Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop) This gives me time to have bits of conversation one-on-one. Or two-or-so-to-one as we have a lot of Mums and Daughters, lots of sisters, lots of friends who’ve come together.

Nora, Clara and Laura (aka Team Nora – UK division). Photo by BW

It’s wonderful, beyond satisfying for me to feel like part of their relationships through my books.

My Laura has given the UK team the basic set up, as we use at Turn The Page for signings. So they’ve got post-it notes with names on the books, and Jason’s beside me to keep the flow going while Clara takes photos.

Gina (Team Nora/UK), a reader, Nora and Jason doing exactly what I told them to do. Commentary by Laura (Team Nora/US)/Photo by BW

It’s not only smooth from my standpoint, but fascinating to hear where everyone’s come in from. Dublin and France, the UK, The Netherlands, County Kerry (very near where we stayed) Clare, not far from our land there, Limerick and Cork and on and on. 

I meet some ladies who’ve stayed at Inn BoonsBoro in this lovely small world.

At some point during the signing, the skies open to rain, then it clears again so the green shimmers and the boats in the Corrib ride on blue.

An altogether wonderful day, and so many thanks for it to Clara, Gina, Laura (my Laura, too!) to Kate,  to Ashford, The Lodge staff, and most especially to the readers who traveled to join the day and made it so warm and welcoming to me and my family.

I loved every minute.

We have to say our goodbyes—hope everyone traveled well and safe. A break before we have dinner at Cullen’s. Good food, good wine, good service. A glass front rotisserie oven where chicken turns and fascinates Griffin. A walk outside where a boy and his dad ride bikes and cause more happy for our boy. 

He’s been a jewel all day.

A walk back through the pretty air, and it’s not long before bed.

Workout done, and I had blue skies once more. A man shaping the pretty shrubs in the sunlight, a fire simmering and the window open to let in the fresh.

Kat tells me Griffin slept till seven—uncharted territory as she put it. A lot of socializing and being adorable wore him out. He’s as cheerful as ever this morning—though displeased I’m writing this blog instead of putting Shaun T on for his entertainment.

He’s going for a walk, and I may clean up and join him to grab more of the blue and the green. Kat and I plan to shop here at the castle later.

And later this afternoon, our Hawk Walk! 

Nora


In today’s #randomkatness — the ladies’ warming spot of old restored to it’s historic look.


A note from Laura: If you were at the event yesterday and have photos, make sure you tag them on social media:
for Instagram: @norarobertsauthor @jdrobbauthor
#thelodgeatashfordcastle
for Facebook: @noraroberts @jdrobbauthor @norarobertsjdrobb

Or email them to me at LMReeth@gmail.com and I’ll disperse accordingly.

Mayo, Day Twelve

Gorgeous, gorgeous day. Breezy, brisk and blue. BW and I take a nice long walk around, through the forest, down the paths, around the gardens. The trees here are beyond magnificent, huge and fantastically shaped, some with branches I couldn’t span with both arms.

We head back to see the horses, and one’s by his lonesome in the stall. He watches us come as if to say: Come keep me company for a bit.

Keeping company. Photo by Nora

So we do.

Across from the stables spreads an island of rusty red hydrangea. I’ve never seen them this color—not pink, not rose, but red. I think they came out pinkish in my photo, but they’re red. 

I want some for my own!

A mare and a gelding—a white, a bay—munch, munch, munch grass in the pasture. Very focused on it. The bay stops only to scratch his back against a pole.

Photo by BW

We circle around back and spot a hawk walk group. The two falcons soar right over us, one low enough to just brush BW’s hat. They’re magnificent. We’ll be having our time with them Monday.

Jason’s got a night cough that’s kept him awake, and Griffin finally hit the I’m-really-tired wall. So while they take a serious morning nap, BW and I have a drink in the tea room. I order a mimosa.

It’s, hands down, the most amazing mimosa in the history of mimosas. Orange juice so fresh it deserves a good slap.

I enjoy every leisurely drop and wonder how I’ll ever drink another now that I know what I know.

Since the boys are still down and out, BW and I head to Cong. It’s such a pretty village, so proud of its The Quiet Man heritage. Steep, steep, narrow sidewalks take us up and up, and around to where a shop I loved sat. But it’s there no more. I’m so sorry about this as they had lovely things, interesting art, wonderful crafts.

But around we go again, and Kat texts they’re on their way. So it’s lunch, and we let them know where—at a very fine bar on the main road.

By the time they join us we’re ready to dig in. A high chair for the baby—Jason had said he didn’t think they’d have one because bar. I said, Ireland—and a colorful high chair is provided for the hungry boy.

A fine lunch, then a little shopping—and I spot ice cream. The boy and I will have some.

Up the steep, narrow sidewalk we go with Griffin sharing my ice cream and his mama wiping his mouth.

Then it’s back up the pretty, road, by the water—where we stop for Griffin to have his water fix. Happy! And on and up with those wonderful trees lining the road, past the curve and the stone church, and up and the land opens for the castle view.

Along the river. Photo by Kat

What a sight it makes.

On by the gates and in. The boy wants another nap. He’s had a busy couple of weeks.

So a lazy hour or so until he wakes ready to play.

We have a fire in the parlor which interests him—so I have him sit with me for safety. He can watch it from my lap, and since I solved the Beach Body issue, enjoy some mash ups.

We’ve decided on room service—give the boy an at home dinner.

We have it in K&J’s room as they have a bigger table. The waitstaff proves wonderful, cheerful as they manage to set up a dinner for five, entertaining Griffin.

A nice easy—delicious meal—quickly and efficiently cleared.

Griffin and I must have our nightly game of tickle and chase.

I decide to turn in early as today’s a big day. Slept like a rock for nearly eight hours. That’s seriously sleeping for me.

Hope my bigger boy got a solid night, too.

Up and about ready for the Little Brown team, and the tea. So looking forward to meeting the readers who’ll be there.

Looks bright and breezy out again. So happy with the weather.

Nora


#Randomkatness goes to the dogs

Kerry to Mayo, Day 11

We start out right on time and in wet weather. Wet or not, it’s a pretty drive. Griffin takes a ten minute bat nap, then enjoys the ride. Into Cork and in and out of rain and brightening skies. 

Lovely green hills dotted with sheep and cows and horses, divided by lines of clumpy green shrubs. Windy roads. Ooh, a big hay lorry, but Kat’s doing just fine.

We stop for diesel, and find a friendly orange tabby sleeping on the roof of a car for let. She wakes to greet us—thrill the boy, and ribbon through my legs for a pet and stroke.

Is it #randomkatness if Kat takes the photo of a cat?

Fueled up, and off we go. Now Griffin sings himself into a solid 50 minute nap while we weave our way into Clare. We’re heading for Tulla—Jason with navigation on his phone, BW with a map. Rising, rising, rolling hills, lovely farms and wide stretches of pasture.

I adore Clare. It’s the first place I visited in Ireland so long ago, and it woke that sense memory instantly. Ah yes, of course, this is one of my places. I know the light, the air. 

BW and I have been in this area often, but not on this particular route. We recognize the names of towns, remember time spent in them. It’s brighter now, that sweet luminous light. 

The boy wakes as we come into Tulla, and with Jason Googling find a stop for lunch at a place called Flapper’s.

Lunch spot. Photo by BW

It’s just right.

Irish veg soup and chips for me with a glass of house white that’s very nice indeed. We eat very well, stretch our legs a bit, and grab a few provisions from the market next door.

We made this detour to go by the land we bought years back—and Jason’s nav takes us right down the skinny road between the high hedgerows and bright orange flowers to the gate.

Hedgerows and skinny road. Photo by Kat

We have about five acres of green here on a lovely lake we lease to a farmer for pasture. It’s great to see it again, to show Griffin, and remember closing the deal with a handshake on the side of the road.

Family portrait by the land in Tulla. Photo by BW

Then we’re back in the car—another nap for Griffin, and into Galway.

Softer here, I always think, pastoral and peaceful, with those fields divided by gorgeous stone walls. It’s definitely brighter with blue pushing into the sky here and there, and actual sunlight burning through.

And now Mayo, and signs for Cong at last. 

Griffin wakes in time for the stop at the gate at Ashford and the drive through the deep forest. The castle stretches and rises up ahead, facing the water with its little green humps of islands.

And we’re home.

If I have any stress in me, it always fades off at Ashford.

Iron Dog/Delighted Boy faceoff. Photo by Kat

It’s beautiful, the staff wonderful and warm.

We’re taken straight to our rooms, and though we don’t have that family cottage here, we have a pair of suites that basically adjoin, so our own little enclave. 

There’s champagne on ice—and thank you more than words for that!—gorgeous flowers from the Little Brown team.

Unpacking to do. I’ve bunged up my wrist—likely lifting a certain young man—so that’s mostly on BW. Better today with some pampering, and that’s a relief.

I find a gift from the Little Brown team, and am simply thrilled. I have a beautiful bespoke scarf made just for me. I adore scarves, and this one’s stunning and soft, and will be worn often, treasured always.

Scarf designed by Lou Brennan. Photo by BW

We settle in, orient ourselves and change for dinner in The Dungeon. 

I have to say I’m amazed with Griffin. I’ve never traveled like this with such a young one, and he’s so easy, so cheerful. I have to think he must wonder now and then: Where the hell are we now? But he rolls with it.

And finds, naturally, another pretty waitress to flirt with, other diners to charm. He still manages to eat hearty. As do we all.

There’s live music tonight, and BW’s up for it. I’m simply not, so I turn in as he goes off to listen.

He’s full of the band this morning, so it was time well spent for him. As the eight hours sleep was for me.

Ready to go, Nana! Photo by Kat

Workout done, though I had to dig into my vid library and my Beach Body app won’t let me in today. We’ll deal with that later.

It’s a blue sky, sunny day. The water’s blue in response, and I watched landscapers planting more flowers early.

Going to clean up, walk around, hopefully down to Cong.

It’s a gorgeous day in a gorgeous place. 

Don’t want to miss a minute of it.

Nora


In today’s #randomkatness — more Dog/Boy!

Such a cheery list of services!

Kerry, Day 10

Pretty day, and a quiet one for most of it.

After some energetic play, JK&G head into town. We plan to go in for dinner later, and I want to get that laundry and packing started.

Kat calls in the midst of it to let us know there’s a huge fair in town—mostly Travelers from the looks of it. The town’s packed with people, and there’s no parking as stalls now spread through the car parks.

Bustling town. Photo by j a-b
Choice of wares. Photo by j a-b

Change of plans. The gang will now pick up what we need to expand our leftovers into dinner at home.

So I get a good start on packing and gathering and organizing, and enjoy the view.

When they get back, Griffin’s already out for the count, so it’s nap time. I see what I can do about making meatballs for the left-over spaghetti. 

I do not like this stove! It’s a complicated PITA, and I need Jason to get the oven on for me. Kat got a lot of meat! So we’ll have a whole bunch of meatballs. 

Griffin’s up, and while Kat makes a cheese and broccoli soup, I take him out for a walk in the stroller.

He sings to himself as we walk down our quiet road. No jacket required on this balmy evening. There are three cottages on this stretch, and the one at the far end isn’t occupied.

So we explore, go around the path—spot an orange tabby that streaks away—and around to the patio.

Play ball, Nana? Photo by Nora

We stroll back, but since we’re both having a good time, do the circuit again.

There’s a fountain formed by a huge ball, and he very much enjoys. There are bits of a river view, but mostly it’s gorgeous stretches of land, green and green, and the rise of hills.

The air’s so sweet, the light so soft, and the baby’s singing quietly to himself.

A view down the river. Photo by Nora

Back in for about a half hour of chaos putting the meal together. Stupid stove!

But it all turns out just fine. We have meatballs and some spaghetti with marinara. Some pasta with olive oil and herbs, the soup, salad, garlic bread.

Nobody goes hungry, and we’ve made a heroic mess of the kitchen.

Jason bought pastries in town, but I have something Griffin and I will like more. An ice cream bar. He sucks that down.

He plays with Daddy while Mama attacks the massive kitchen clean up. But wait—he spies my tablet, and lets it be known he hasn’t had his daily dose of Shaun T.

The minute it comes on he grins. We watch every one, with him mesmerized and often keeping time with one hand. He’s not done, so I switch to Brazilian Butt Lift. Hey, pretty girls.

He’s satisfied with this, but wants daddy to hold him and watch, too. The boy’s tired. He’ll flop his head on Jason’s chest or shoulder, then jerk back, waving his hand as if to say: No, I’m still partying! Flop, jerk, wave.

Until a flop involves eyes closing.

That seems to be it, so up I go finish packing.

It’s not long before I hear Jason, and those little running feet. Revived, Griffin’s ready for the nightly game of run into Nana’s room, get a tickle attack, squeal outrageously, run, run back, repeat.

Our boy ends his day as happily as he started it.

Happy Griffin

Packing’s about done. 

Gray clouds are streaming across the sky, and the wind’s stirring up. Likely rain coming in.

We’ll miss our views out our cottage windows, and the long hallways up and down for Griffin to run. But it’s onto Mayo in the morning, and lots to see on the drive through Clare and Galway.

Jason’s finishing up laundry as they’ve about got Griffin down for the night. It’s all quiet now, inside and out.

I’m writing the blog now so I’m not rushed tomorrow. We’ll take our time on the drive, enjoy the journey.

Nora

Kerry, Day Nine

Time to venture out, and to one of my favorite spots. Since the road to Torc Waterfall is especially windy, BW and I switch positions—so I avoid car sickness.

Both Kat and I suffer from it, so she’s behind the wheel, and I’m front seat passenger.

It’s a gorgeous drive. Some rain, some sun as we wind along with Magillicuddy Reeks rising and spreading, the land below vivid green, dotted with sheep—and goats. 

The hills go rockier and rougher for a wonderfully wild view, and at a view—Ladies View—we pull off for a look.

The view. Photo by BW

What a look, there’s miles and miles of green and rises, the spread of steel blue water below clumped with green knuckles of tiny islands. It’s all windswept, managing to be dramatic and pastoral at once.

What catches me is a huge old tree with big, curved branches spreading low, dipping over the ground and the rocks it grows out of. Or the rocks grow out of it, that’s the beauty.

I know immediately this will find its way into the next trilogy I’m mulling. We take pictures as the boy sleeps in the car with Jason and Kat taking turns sitting with him.

And now we wait for the book. Comment by Laura/Photo by j a-b
The sweep of land. Photo by j a-b
Yes, BW is really that tall. Comment by Laura/ Photo by j a-b

Back on the road and we pass another spot that grabbed me years back and became The Valley Of Silence in my Circle Trilogy. That wide, deep dive of land, the spears and tables of rock inside it, the majesty and grumbling desolation of it still grabs.

And on we go. The road narrows, narrows until it’s as skinny and sinuous as a snake. In and out of tunnels carved into the rocky cliffs—and the drop on my side is pretty forbidding.

I’m amazed how Kat manages it, skimming the low rock walls on the right, slipping by with a breath between the cars, coaches, lorries coming on the left.

We agree it’s like Mario Cart.

There’s heather and gorse pushing out of rocky hillsides, and tall, tall, thin pines thickening into forests.

When we get to Torc inside Killarney State Park, the lot’s packed.

The stalwart Kat weaves through, circles around, creeps and maneuvers, and we find a spot where someone handily just left.

Time for rain gear as it’s drizzling a bit.

Inside the magic of the forest where the faeries live, the light’s a quiet, luminous green. Those tall, wind-sculpted trees are coated with moss, and the whiskey-colored river runs fast.

Flow. Photo by BW

Here, Griffin decides Nana should carry him, so I haul the boy while he laughs, babbles, points. We discuss the faeries on the way through and to the falls until my arm gives out, and I do a pass off.

See Nana? See? Photo by Kat

The waterfall rushes down the rock cliff, full of sound and hurry as it spills white into the river. Little falls leap along and create small pools where I’m sure the faeries swim.

The boy is thrilled, can’t say enough about the water, the sound, the river. He must share his thoughts with Nana whose arm’s recovered enough to hold him again. 

Note: I do no upper body lifting other than Griffin these couple weeks!

It’s a beautiful spot, well worth the snaking drive.

Bending to the river. Photo by j a-b

Back through the forest where a tree reclines over the river. Griffin walks, delighted to do so, holding Mama’s hands.

We go through a tunnel, watch a few jaunty carts with their pretty horses, say hello to a big friendly dog.

Happy, happy travelers. Photo by Kat

Into the car to drive back to Kenmare for a late lunch. We’re behind a little white car packed with people for a bit—a car that started out driving on the wrong side, made its shaky way back to the left. We’re concerned about them as the driver’s obviously new at this, and likely terrified.

When we turn off, I hope they get where they’re going without incident.

There’s a street fair in Kenmare—and apparently it’s also Donut Truck Day. We wander by the white canopied stalls. I buy two very nice wooden spoons. I can’t resist a good wooden spoon.

Lunch time where the boy goes starry-eyed over our waitress. She’s sweet with him as he flirts—and he offers her his prize squid or octopus—we’re not altogether sure. When he offers her the second squid, I tell her I think they’re engaged now.

He eats heartily, as do we all, and pauses once when he spots his current love way down the other side of the restaurant.

He wants to walk off the meal, so I’m happy to walk him around the place, outside, back, and to a table of teenage girls having a lively time of it. They give a communal AWWW! 

He talks and flirts and charms, but his heart is taken by our waitress.

After lunch we walk the short distance to a stone dance. It’s every kind of wonderful, with two faerie trees for hanging wishes.

The stone dance and faerie trees. Photo by j a-b

The place makes my skin hum—and Griffin is an instant fan.

The stones are humming, Mom. Photo by Kat

Home again. A nap for the boy. I catch up on emails, do a little work.

I think to take a walk as the evening’s pretty gorgeous. A light drizzle, but that’s no problem, not when the air’s so fresh, the flowers so pretty.

I don’t get a quarter mile before the drizzle turns to actual rain.

So back I go.

Now that I have your attention Grandda, let me show you what to do. Photo by Kat

More play time with a happy boy who’s so easily amused and entertained. Mama feeds him, Nana walks him.

I show his parents how you can hold one of his hands, reach your other out in front of him. He’ll take several steps forward.

Bedtime.

Another pretty morning. BW joins me for the last thirty minutes of cardio, and a ten minute core session. Good for him!

Some packing up to do today, maybe some laundry. And maybe I’ll get that walk in before we head to Mayo tomorrow.

Nora


In today’s #randomkatness: Be Ware


Bonus Griffin photo:

I’m still a cowboy, Dad! Photo by Kat

Kerry, Day Eight

With the weather undecided, I take an at-home day. Some play time for Griffin where he shows his brainy skills stacking cups. His mom and I are duly impressed—with applause—when he discovers he can also insert them into each other.

Smart boy!

Of course earlier he manages to find a tiny piece of gravel just inside the door and gets a good taste of it before he’s caught.

He goes into town with Mom and Dad to get some supplies, check on my goddess (all good!) and have a car nap.

Though some tempting blue sky peeks through, I set up my little office and write. Housekeeping’s here, BW’s settles down with a book. I get in a good three hours, just as I hoped, hit the point I want to hit.

As I reward myself with a glass of champagne, housekeeping finishes up, BW emerges and the little family returns.

Perfect timing.

We plan a spaghetti dinner.

Griffin spies my tablet and insists on a mash-up session. 

Then he plays with Daddy while Kat does some laundry, and I get the red sauce on.

The red sauce. Photo by Nora.

The stove requires a group effort to fully figure. I show BW a bush of rosemary out the kitchen window, send him out to get some.

Red sauce simmering. Kat goes off to finish a painting she’s working on.

Griffin must walk, walk up and down, in and out, check on the laundry. Busy, busy boy.

I plan to make some garlic/butter paste for the lovely round of bread Kat and Jason brought back. Jason takes on that duty, and we toss a salad together.

Prep. Photo by j a-b

Smells good in here!

A break from walking for some under-table time (and spaghetti). Photo by j a-b

Kat’s back, painting finished. It’s wonderful—of course!

Baby’s hungry, and lets us know it.

So we eat—and yum. The perfect cozy, comforting meal for an at-home day. There’s dessert for those who want it—I just can’t—but the pastries K&J picked up in Kenmare are well appreciated.

My toy matches my food! Photo by Griffin’s Nana

Kat handles the dishes, Griffin works off the meal with his running walks and Daddy swings. He seems tired so we try a bottle. But no, he clearly lets us know we’re very mistaken, he’s not a bit tired. He catches his second (or it might be twelfth) wind, has a laugh fest, lots of running.

It’s suddenly the best game to run down the second floor hallway gripping Daddy’s fingers, into Nana’s room so she can jump out and tickle his belly. Squeals echo as he drags Jason back and forth, in and out.

Daddy definitely runs out of steam first.

I’m hoping the evening activity tires him out so his parents get some sleep.

During my morning workout I watch the sky and water change again and again. Everything flat and gray so the water’s as still and flat as a plate under a thin mist.

The mist rises, spreads up like smoke, and the sun sneaks in adding glinting light. The water goes blue as bits of sky clear, and it ripples in the wind.

Back to gray again, quiet and pale as the wind dies.

It’s a show that keeps me entertained as I work out.

I top that off with some yoga. And ahhhh.

Haven’t yet heard a peep from JK&G, so I think all that running, laughing, squealing knocked them out.

We’ll venture out later if everyone’s up for that. If not, I’ll take myself a long walk. Left-overs for lunch or dinner depending. 

I have the bedroom door—the outside one—open as I write this. It’s currently dry, with a light, fresh breeze. BW’s must be making some breakfast because I smell bacon!

Nora


In today’s Not-so #randomkatness, the finished painting.


Production notes: All videos in the post courtesy of Kat. I didn’t like the way the captions looked. ~L

Kerry, Day Seven

The morning’s beautiful and bright, and off we go. With Kat at the wheel, Jason running GPS through his phone, and BW making sure Kat doesn’t get too close to walls or hedgerows on the right, Griffin and I get to sit back and enjoy the ride.

All those narrow, windy roads with the hills rolling up, the fields spreading out. Mountains of hydrangeas in gardens of tidy houses. Horses, cows, sheep enjoying the sunshine. 

We climb up and up into those hills with their outcroppings of gray rock and steep folds of land, and all in dozens of shades of green. And into Cork.

Carriganass Castle. Photo by BW

We’re heading toward Corriganess Castle—an old stronghold set above the river. We wind and climb our way there, hitting a couple little pockets of rain, then sun again.

It’s a glowering old keep with spreads of green fields and lovely flowers. 

We walk to the river first, with its energetic little falls that has Griffin squealing in delight. The boy loves water.

Around the road and over the bridge to the keep where a trio of workers sit at a table having their lunch while we explore. Apparently during some attack a few hundreds years ago, the invader killed the castle holder’s wife. He retaliated by tossing the guy off the parapet and into the river.

It does glower, doesn’t it? Photo by j a-b.

Can’t blame him.

We walk about, take pictures, Griffin enjoys the grass and likes feeling the old stone walls. 

Stones! Photo by Kat

Me, too!

Family shot. Photo by Kat

Around and out again, and BW asks one of the workers what this large crab appley looking thing is. Rose hips. I’ve never seen such enormous rose hips. 

Rose hips. Photo by Nora

And it’s off to Killarney—and the weather begins to change. Clouds roll in, the rain falls. None of us brought rain gear—except Griffin! Clouds blur the hills, turning everything soft.

Now and again the sun peeps through giving everything that luminous pearly light.

Kat navigates the very big and busy town of Killarney, finds a car park. And as the rain’s heavy now, we out to sit in the car a bit. 

Jason checks his weather app which claims there’s no chance of rain. Well, that’s what we thought, too.

When it slows enough we head out. We want some lunch, had thought to take in another site.

We hit a couple stores, more for shelter as the rain’s come back than shopping.

And find the Wild West (American style) for lunch. It’s a fun place, decorated cowboy style, wanted posters, a big cowboy, a big Native American, a saddle. And an expansive menu that’s going to hit the spot for all.

Nachos for the table—guacamole for Griffin. And enough food after that to satisfy.

Griffin wants to walk, and since it’s there, Nana puts him on the saddle. He must’ve been a rodeo rider in another life because he knows just what to do.

I’m a cowboy, Nana. Photo by Kat

There’s another little boy, so we have to go say hello. They have quite a conversation, and the mama says she’d love to know what they’re saying to each other.

Another break in the rain when we leave—and hit the shop with Irish gelato and enormous donuts. Griffin and I go for the gelato, and leave the donuts to the rest.

Since I’ve had experience with Griffin and ice cream, I get two scoops. 

Cowboys need their sustenance, Nana. Photo by Kat

More rain, so it’s back to the car. We’ll see more sights another day.

We drive right out of the rain into the sun. The afternoon towards home’s as gorgeous as the morning had been. We have the time and weather to play outside a bit, take one of our traditional panoramic shots.

Home Pano. Photo by j a-b

Griffin and I walk around after he plays in the grass. He’s very interested in the gravel, plops down to play in it, decides to taste it. 

That’s a no, says Nana.

Walk a few steps, plop, play, attempt to taste. No. Repeat but instead of tasting, hand Nana some gravel to distract her while you try to taste the next.

Nana’s not so easily fooled.

After a full day we opt to stay in, cook some pizza, warm up leftovers, and just chill out.

Rainy this morning, but that’s already passed. Workout’s done, and Griffin has his morning dose of mash-ups.

Kat’s heading into Kenmare later. I may hole up and work a couple hours. No set plans yet. 

If the weather looks promising, we may drive out. Or it may be a day for Griffin to try out the indoor pool.

Plenty of time to decide.

Nora



In today’s #randomkatness

Was the mason lazy and wanted to fill a gap quickly?? Photo by Kat

The saga of Griffin and the grass, in photos by his mother and Grandda.

This looks delicious, I’m off!
OK, maybe not the best idea. Photo by BW

Kerry, Day Six

A little treasure of a day as it decides to brighten up and warm up. Kay, Jason, Griffin and I take advantage by heading into Kenmare to knock more shopping out. BW opts to stay back, walk about, take some pictures.

Kat’s got driving in Ireland down—and Jason serves as navigator.

In town. Photo by j a-b

I have a mission for specific people and the sort of gifts I’m after. I have much success as we walk around, browse through shops, check out pub menus for dinner later.

Shopping with Nana. Photo by Kat

Kat’s mission also goes well, and we’re loaded up enough Jason hauls bags back to the car. Arms free!

I bag myself a wonderfully soft cashmere sweater I’m sure I’ll wear before we leave.

Then it’s off to the art store to check out the pregnant Bird Goddess. Yes, I want her!

I ask the clerk if they ship, and the question seems to throw her off. She’s flustered—and I admit I’m surprised. Unless you’re local there are many, many things in the shop too large, too fragile to haul away yourself.

She has to check with the owners, who say they’ll ship—but she warns it’ll cost me. Okay, still better than risking breaking her. Though she really tries to convince me just to haul this weighty girl away myself.

No.

Well then, she’ll need all my information. No problem.

I’m a little surprised she writes this down on a piece of paper, not a form like every other shop I’ve shipped from does, but okay.

Then she can’t find her card machine.

Griffin needs a nap—he’s been so patient—so I tell her just hold it, and I’ll come back tomorrow to do the sale. Fine, she says, but she’ll need a deposit.

I remind her she can’t find the card machine.

Right.

We head out, and she runs out. Found the machine! So I go back, do the business.

Off we go down to the next corner where a bearded man and a beautiful boy have set up strange (creepy) animatronic musician dolls. The boy’s playing the drum, and there’s a sweet dog leashed up to greet people.

Hmmmm. Comment by Laura, photo by Jason.

As we watch, the clerk rushes down. She forgot to get my email. I remind her I gave her my email, but apparently she needs it again. So there’s that.

We’re off to the car and the drive home where BW is just back from his photo walk—he found one of our neighbors, took a portrait. I didn’t see the little horses in the field, but will walk over and get acquainted later.

Out and about. Photo by BW
Out and about. Photo by BW
Out and about. Photo by BW

I take a walk about myself as Griffin gets his nap. It’s just gorgeous out.

Out and about, Nora edition. Photo by Nora

The nap’s short so Jason brings Griffin out for some sit in the grass time—a favorite activity.

Perfect posture. Photo by j a-b

We’re soon off again to hit a pub for dinner. We find one with the bonus of live music—a mandolin, harmonica and Irish accordion. We’re all pleased, especially the boy who needs to walk over a number of times to watch up close.

Aw. Photo by Kat

The food’s great and plentiful, the music lively, the pub filled with people and lots of families. Griffin makes several friends on his cheery walks.

The sky’s still bright and gorgeous as we leave, though it’s cooled off enough I’m glad I wore a warmer jacket. 

Sunset. Photo by j a-b

Just a pretty, pretty day, start to finish.

Another bright one today, and we’ll do some touring about, show Griffin a castle.

Workout done—and Griffin joined in toward the end. Then strongly requested Shaun T’s mash-ups. 

Following along. Photo by Nora

Time to pull ourselves together and get going. The day’s too lovely to miss.

Nora

Kerry, Day five

On a cool, misty day, we head out with Kat at the wheel.

Brave, brave Sir Kat!

She handles it while BW navigates and Jason and I share the back seat with Griffin. And handles is so well I can relax and enjoy the view on the short trip into Kenmare.

Narrow, shop-lined streets, streams of cars and people, vivid flowers hanging in lush baskets. Minutes after we park the car, I spot what I want for the first stop. Kat’s on a mission for wool yarn, and I’m on the hunt for Christmas gifts. We hit a bonanza of both!

In town. Photo by BW

Gorgeous yarn, saturated colors, soft colors, vivid, neutral, whatever you could want if you’re the crafty sort. And I find another chunk of gifts to cross off my list. The shop will ship free if you spend a hundred Euro. This turns out to be no problem at all. 

Kat and I both find everything we wanted, and more. And can walk out without passing a load of bags onto the men.

Lunch!

We find our place, and another pretty waitress for Griffin to flirt with. Fish and chips, Cajun chicken, big salad, and we don’t forget the chips. 

A little post-lunch wandering—I’m still hunting gifts, and Kat’s hunting something (can’t remember the name) for spinning wool. Yes, Kat has an actual spinning wheel.

But our men are bored—all three—and Kat and I will come back at some point. I do spot a sculpture I fall for, but the shop’s closed at the moment. We need a few supplies for the cottage, so head to the super market.

There are three to choose from, all basically within steps of each other.

I love that the carts offer infant seats, and other carts have double toddler seats. The Irish love their children, and find ways to make things easier on parents. [See note.]

No need for a cart – I have Dad. Photo by Kat

People smile and talk to Griffin everywhere.

We buy gorgeous bread, some Irish cheese, some crisps and so on for those snacking urges. 

Fish still life. Photo by BW

There’s a craft shop inside the market—and they have what Kat wants. She wants to come back, take a better look before buying it.

Griffin spies another baby in a cart—and said baby spies him. They launch into an excited conversation. 

Back home for some to nap. I take a walk around with my tablet to visit the flowers, take some pictures. The air’s damp and cool, but the rain’s holding off. The river’s steel gray, the mountains muted behind the gauzy curtain of gray. When the wind blows, it surges through the trees like a high surf. I walk over thick, spongy with wet green grass.

Pops of color. Photo by Nora
Fascinating river. Photo by Nora
Home. Photo by Nora

We have a reservation in the main restaurant for dinner. Griffin seriously suits up, and breaks the cute meter.

It decides to pour, but we have an umbrella, rain gear—and the car.

The pretty restaurant sets up a high chair. Griffin’s stance is, until there’s food on the tray, don’t even think about putting me in there.

Hard to blame him.

But there’s a pianist, and since the boy loves music, Kat takes him over to watch. Everyone takes turns walking him around when he needs it.

Doing a lap with Nana. Photo by Kat
Selfie with son. Photo by Kat.

I go for the bass and new potatoes—and it’s perfect. 

After his meal, Griffin wants to do some crawling, introduce himself to some of the other diners. They’re lovely about it, even encourage him to come say hello.

We head back in the rain so Mama and Daddy can put Griffin to bed.

It doesn’t take long before I decide that sounds like a fine idea.

Spots of rain, bits of blue sky and sun go back and forth this morning.

Workout’s done—some laundry comes next. 

And Griffin will help. Photo by his Nana

Kat and I may head back to Kenmare, or the whole gang may want to go somewhere else.

No set plans today, and that’s nice. We’ll just see when we see.

Nora


In today’s #randomkatness

Goddess? Nora’s sculpture? I can’t decide. Photo by Kat.

Editor note from the Cranky Publicist: Before you comment, Nora doesn’t do the grocery shopping when home in the US so this is a definite revelation. I know there are stores here that offer similar carts. And I envy the upper body strength of the parents who push food and kids through the store. ~Laura