Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Y’all

Sorry to be late with my blog. I hope y’all didn’t wait at the Back Fence too long. Some days I’m the windshield, some days I’m the bug…yesterday was one of the bug days. Blech!

But I’m back now, and since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d sprinkle a bit o’ Irish happiness and tell you about a dream that became a reality. I call it Irish luck. There may have been Leprechauns involved, too. Some of you have already heard about the trip, but I’m tellin’ it again for those who haven’t.

It’s always been a dream of mine to visit Ireland. With Dugans and Shinns on my family tree, I was curious about the land of my paternal ancestors. I wanted to actually see it and feel it. That dream had been at the top of my “Want to Do Someday” list for more years than Ireland has shamrocks. Well, maybe not that long, but. . .

Then four years ago, my good friend and awesome paranormal author, Laurie Kuna, and I had the opportunity to join a tour through her alma mater, Michigan State University. I was excited beyond belief as we began a long-anticipated visit to the Celtic Land with a flight to historic Edinburgh, Scotland. A very long flight, by the way.


We were greeted at the hotel in downtown Edinburgh by a welcoming staff of handsome Scots in kilts. (and no, we didn’t ask.) After a day of exploring the sites, including Edinburgh Castle - which I found to be too strenuous a climb - we boarded the M.S. Andrea for a cruise to the Orkney Islands, Wales and eventually, Ireland, then across the English Channel to Fowey, England, on the craggy coast of Cornwall, ending our trip in France. Did I mention it was raining so hard in Edinburgh that a very sweet soul saw me standing on the sidewalk and offered me her shopping bag for my head? I was the only one of our group without a rain hat and my umbrella was in my suitcase at the hotel.





Everything about the eleven-day adventure was just that – an adventure. So much to see, so much to do, so much to learn. The Orkneys were filled with history. Seeing The Ring of Brodgar, stone monoliths raised more than 3,500 years ago, and walking through the 5,000 year-old-settlement of Skara Brae in Kirkwall was amazing. Did I mention it was raining? I considered buying a rain hat.

Every port was filled with new experiences. The Isle of Mull and Tobermory , visiting Iona, the birthplace of Scottish Christianity and later the burial place of Duncan and Macbeth – it seemed surreal to be standing there, so many centuries later. Unfortunately, we had to miss the Isle of Skye because of high winds and rain. Yep, still raining.


A ride through the lush, green Welsh countryside gave me a new appreciation for the beauty of Wales. I hadn’t expected it to be so picturesque, and I’ve now added it as a place I’d like to revisit. Especially, the castles, my friend Laurie says. All the castles were magnificently rich in history. We needed much more time to see them all.


Rough seas the night before we docked in Dublin was its own kind of experience not recommended. But I was so excited to finally reach Ireland, I didn’t care that our bunks rocked-and-rolled all night as items from the dresser flew across the cabin. When I got off the tour bus and finally touched Irish soil, I burst into tears and got a hug from the Irish guide. The emotion overwhelmed me. It was a feeling I’ve never experienced before. I felt connected somehow.


We visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, saw the wondrous Book of Kells at Trinity College, visited the library, lunched at an Irish bar and shopped on Dawson Street. Our time there was too short and soon we were on to Cork and Blarney Castle, where Laurie climbed to the top to kiss the Blarney Stone. I waited below, since I’d been having a bit of trouble with stairs and decided not to push my luck. I was having a bit of breathing problem and my ankles were swollen. Nothing serious, I told myself. I was determined to enjoy this dream trip, no matter what.
 

From Cork, we crossed the English channel to Fowey, England, on the craggy coastline of Cornwall, where we explored with one of the couples from the tours, (after I purchased a rain hat.) I mentioned the rain, didn’t I? We had a wonderful lunch with locals at the Ship’s Inn, built in 1570. The original owner was a member of the English group that plotted to defeat the Spanish Armada. Being surrounded by so much history was amazing.

We docked in St-Malo, France, the next day, despite more high winds. The spectacular medieval abbey of Mont-St-Michel was our destination for the day. Narrow lanes of the village lead up to the abbey where the Archangel Michael appeared in a vision in the eighth century. With free time to explore St-Malo, we lunched with four other women on the tour, rambled around the shops and totally enjoyed the day.


Our final, and most emotional stop, was our visit to Honfleur, France and the Normandy Beaches where Allied Forced landed on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and began the liberation of Western Europe. Walking along Omaha Beach, remembering the sacrifices made that day, was a sobering and humbling experience. Later , walking through the American Military Cemetery in St-Lauren, France, among the sea of white crosses honoring all who gave their lives for freedom, some of us were finally able to say a silent “thank-you.

 

From Honfleur to Paris the next morning was the last leg of our adventure. I’d walked on Irish soil as I’d always dreamed of doing, saw more history than I could comprehend in such a short time, trod the same centuries old paths of those before me and knew I wanted to return again. The trip was too short, but isn’t every journey of our dreams? But next time, I’m staying longer and packing more rain gear.

Oh, yes, that bit o’ Irish luck I mentioned turned into a blessing when I had my swollen ankles checked out. Seems I needed heart surgery that I might not have been aware of until it was too late, if not for the trip to Ireland and all that walking. My Irish guardian angels had been watching over me. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Be sure to visit the back fence next Thursday when exciting, contemporary romance author, Christine Warner, will be here to tell you a little bit about her debut novel, SOME LIKE IT IN HANDCUFFS. Don’t you love the title?

Until then, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Slainté!
 Loralee

8 comments:

  1. What a wonderful trip, and while I'm sorry about your heart surgery, I'm so thankful that your problem was diagnosed in time! Happy St Patty's Day to you!

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    1. Thanks, Patricia, the entire trip was hampered by my lack of stamina - and I would never have noticed it, since I didn't do that much walking back home. Now I walk every day, treadmill or outside, thanks to my Irish blessing.

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  2. What a great story about a great trip. So glad the rain didn't dampen (pun intended) your spirit. Now, we know why Ireland is so green! Thank goodness for your Irish guardian angels. We want you around for a long time to come.

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    1. Diane, the trip was filled with so many magical moments, I didn't care about the rain. (Well, maybe a little) I guess my guardian angels couldn't control the weather.

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  3. Happy St. Patrick's Day, Loralee! The pic's are beautiful! Ireland is on my bucket list :) What a magical place to visit. I'm so happy you got to go and experience such a lovely place.

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer. Ireland truly is a magical place. I hope you get a chance to visit there someday. You'll love it.

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  4. May the Irish hills caress you, may her lakes and rivers bless you, may the luck of the Irish enfold you, may the blessing of Saint Patrick behold you!
    Great blog, Tex! I want to go with you next time!

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    1. Patrish, I'd love to make the trip with you. Thanks for the blessing. Made me teary-eyed. Anything Irish does that to me. Bless you right back.

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