The Cliffs of Moher, Irish music, and a man named Timmy

Today was definitely a highlight of the trip so far and a great first full day of our Rick Steve’s tour. That is saying something considering we spent about 4 hours on a bus and we both had motion sickness for most of that.

Our first stop was the Cliffs of Moher. Happily we went pretty early in the morning so we were able to appreciate the full majesty of it all without a crowd. It was one of those places where you feel the need to stop and take a photo after every step because the view just keeps getting more gorgeous.

During our stop for lunch in a small town we happened upon a wedding full of Irish travelers (the polite term for Irish gypsies). We all had to stop and stare at the fantastical nature of the dresses those women were wearing (and wonder how they were managing to defy gravity to such a degree). Unfortunately I didn’t get a great photo, but I will try to get one from someone else and share it tomorrow.

After that it was straight on to Dingle, the hometown of our tour guide. We have heard a lot about this place from Dara – including its rich musical life, its prominence of Irish/Gaelic speakers, and a few of its unique characters, all of whom seem to be related in one way or another to Dara. We got to meet a few of those characters today, including Dara’s father who regaled us with Irish sayings and accordion renditions of the Tennessee Waltz.

After another delicious dinner we went into town to spend some time at a Dingle institution: Currans Pub.

At the pub we heard some excellent Irish music from some famous Dingle musicians:

And also from the infamous Timmy. This gentlemen is over 90 and still coming to the pub every night to socialize – and sing by request!

As we returned home to our hotel, we had to remind ourselves once again that it can look like this outside and still be 10 p.m.:

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Does this mean I’m a vampire?

We started the day with a full Irish breakfast including bacon, sausage, fried egg, white pudding, and tomato. I also opted to give the black pudding a try, while Mom was a firm no after she heard what it was made of. I liked it, although I will admit that knowing what was in it did make me a bit more squeamish than I ever have been about finishing any other food while traveling.

Only a few short hours later we stuffed ourselves with a light lunch and then met up with our Rick Steve’s group. We stood out a bit from the group – me because I’m 30-40 years younger than most of the people and Mom because she said the thing she wanted to get out of the trip was to still be getting along with me by the end of it.
Our first activity as a group was to go on a walking tour of Ennis led by a local who I had heard about the day before. She was really good and offered us some interesting stories about the history of the town, from the exploits of famous healing woman Biddy Early to the origin of the word boycott to the way nagging wives were punished by the courts in the 18th century.

We then saw the ruins of a local friary that was originally built in the 1200s. The highlight of it for me was the carving on this tomb:


All you good people that now stand by / As you are now so once was I / As I am now so shall you be / Remember death and pray for me

We had a fantastic dinner both because of the food and the company – mix together a couple from Texas, a couple from Colorado Springs, and us and you have a pretty good time. We even learned an Irish toast, because one should never say cheers in Ireland for obvious reasons. Then the bill came and I realized that my little diet coke cost more than Mom’s beer. Ireland is trying even harder than some of my college friends to convince me to like beer!

Tomorrow we leave Ennis and head to the Dingle peninsula, home of our tour guide, who has promised to show us a very good time.

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It was a cow kind of day

Today we took the train from Dublin to a little town called Ennis. Along the way we got lots of views of the Irish countryside:

One of the funniest parts of the train ride was a lady sitting near us and facing our direction. Every time either one of us looked over at her, she was emphatically telling the people around her something that seemed quite urgent. This went on for quite some time. I was surprised she wasn’t working up a sweat with all of the arm swinging and finger pointing. Later we realized she didn’t even know the people sitting by her and when they left, she did the same to another unsuspecting couple. Luckily we escaped her notice.

Once we arrived in Ennis, we checked into a little bed and breakfast and walked to the historic downtown area, not expecting much. We were pleasantly surprised by all the cute shops, winding streets, and friendly people.

Mom and I both found prints by local artists to hang on our respective travel art walls at home. Mom’s probably wins the day though:

 For dinner Mom finally got the bangers and mash she has been waiting for and I proved once again that I am a carnivore by ordering a platter of four different kinds of meat.

We ended the night at a local pub with some traditional Irish music.​

​Tomorrow we will meet the rest of group and start the official tour. Until then!

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Two jet-lagged zombies hit Ireland

Mom and I have talked about going to Ireland for only about 15 years – now we are finally making it happen! My Chromebook says 3:26 a.m. as I write this, but it is actually 9:26 a.m. Dublin time. I had planned to write my first post last night before we finally went to bed, but I think if I would have made the attempt it would have been completely indecipherable gibberish.

I remember being tired when I flew into Madrid and London, but this was a whole new level of jet lag for me. I didn’t get nearly the sleep I wanted to on the plane, mostly because everyone and everything on the plane seemed determined to keep that from happening.

We arrived in Dublin with no real problems besides sleep deprivation and I was immediately determined to find a way to get to the hotel without taking a cab. Enter Gruff Tourist Information Man who managed to supply me with all the information and maps I needed while maintaining a snarky demeanor throughout.

The Dublin native sitting in front of us on the bus got us in the Irish spirit by telling stories interspersed with great sayings in the perfect Irish accent. He recalled being sent to his grandparents in the countryside every summer because his parents wanted to “send the devil to the farm where he’ll do no harm” and later he described his 15-year-old son as “fit as a butcher’s dog.” To any of my students still reading this blog, I expect you to be able to identify what figure of speech he used in that last one.

We dropped our bags at the hotel and then staggered around Phoenix Park for a while. I say staggered for one because we had absolutely no idea where we were going and two because we were so tired that we never quite managed to walk in a straight line.

Eventually we made it on to one of those hop on hop off bus tours of the city. We elected to hop on and stay on, hoping the wind from the top level of the bus would perk us up a bit. We were only marginally successful. I remember several 10-second bursts of history and then things go fuzzy for a bit until the next time Mom poked me out of my jet lag haze. One of those 10-second facts I was awake for was that on December 31, 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease at 45 pounds per year for the unused brewery in downtown Dublin that would later become world famous.

Here are some of the other highlights I was awake enough to photo:

This Spire of Dublin is 390 feet high and was part of a renovation of O’Connell Street in downtown Dublin:

When I saw this, I knew it was there specifically for jet-lagged Americans like myself:

We ended the day at a pub for pizza and the beer Mom had been looking forward to all day. She was very satisfied. I was less satisfied with the size of my Diet Coke, which, although you cannot tell from the angle of this photo, could have been accurately described as a thimble.

We crashed around 7:30 and slept somewhat successfully until 8 this morning. Mom had a bit of trouble with people making noise outside the room and I had a bit of trouble with Mom’s snoring. I have discovered that if I say “Mom” in my sternest inside voice, she will usually not wake up but will stop snoring for approximately 5.2 minutes. As long as I can fall back asleep in that amount of time, all is well.

This morning we had a nice breakfast at our hotel and Mom got to do some people-watching from the window, so that is the highlight of the trip for her so far. Today we take the train to Ennis to join our Rick Steve’s tour group. They have no idea what is about to hit them.

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That time when my students found my old blog

Nobody reads this blog.

That’s not too surprising considering I have not posted regularly to it since October 2012. Even when I first started the blog as a 24-year-old in October 2010, gaining an audience was never really the point. So I should have been surprised when my long-silent WordPress app suddenly sent me this notification today:

I should have been surprised, except I already knew the cause of all that booming traffic.

Yesterday I made an interesting discovery as I sat at my computer in the middle of class. For some, this discovery would be accompanied by the Jaws theme song. For others, it might equate to phrases like WINTER IS COMING or RELEASE THE KRAKEN! Still others would be inspired to run for the hills, dig a hole to China, find a dark corner to hide in, or some other such cliché.

In short, a student found my old blog.

Oddly enough, blind terror was not my first response. I couldn’t help but smile as I thought back on the life of my 20-something self who wrote that blog. That was back when I was just settling into my first long-term, real-world job. Back when the small town girl in me was still adjusting to city life in DC. Back when I was so new to being an adult I hadn’t quite realized yet that adults are just making it up as they go along. Those two years of frequent blog posts are like an online time capsule of a pretty great time in my life. A lot of things have changed: my career, the place I call home, my ability to spend time with my family, my social life. But that person is still a part of me.

This is the naïve young teacher in me shining through, but I want my students to know who I am beyond just their English teacher. Mostly that’s because I want to know who they are beyond just my students and to not reciprocate seems pretty hypocritical.

So hey guys! I know you thought I hatched at the teacher factory the day you first walked into my classroom, but surprise! I’m a real live human. I love science fiction, I sprain my ankles a lot, and I am really loud (okay that one you probably already knew). I love a good road trip and have driven across this country not once, but twice. I love climbing on stuff, getting muddy, and jumping over fire so I have run too many Warrior Dashes to count and dressed up in epic costumes EVERYSINGLETIME. I make an idiot of myself in the kitchen on a regular basis but my favorite is probably when I created The Leaning Parallelogram of Gingerbread. I hate paying for cabs and have stood in the rain for hours waiting for the bus. I think travel is more about the experiences you have than the things you see; I have experienced Shakespeare being performed in London and Real Madrid fútbol being played in Spain. That blog is the first draft of my life from age 24-26 so if you’re interested, read on.

I want to hear your stories next.


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Return to the six word story

Having my own classroom: utter joy.

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Brevity thrust upon me: be afraid.

Did I mention my professor is really good at getting me writing?  About a month ago she was telling us about this thing called six word stories. This was something I had heard about before but completely forgotten, which is quite a shame because it’s incredibly cool. Basically, is a collection of short stories consisting of just six words. As the creator of the website explains, it was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s famous challenge and first six word story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Some of these stories say so much with so little: “Born a twin; Graduated only child.” “You’re not a good artist, Adolf.” “The smallest coffins are the heaviest.” “Found true love. Married someone else.” These are powerful words. Also? Depressing. Obviously brevity can be a good outlet for sadness and tragedy and grief, and that’s a good thing. I suppose in dark times when it seems like there’s no words at all, you’ve got to cling to any that you can find.

But I’m an optimist. An optimist who’s lived a pretty happy life so far. An optimist who does not do brevity well. At all. Ever. Why use six words when you can use 600? So when challenged to write not just any story but my life story in six words, I was pretty stumped. There were just too many words. So many words! And when I finally did write one, to my utter dismay, it was horribly depressing. That’s just not me. I refuse to believe that at our core, when everything in our lives is stripped away to the six most important words that define our true self, we are destined to tell sad stories.

So I’ve decided to take baby steps. I’m not ready to tackle my whole life in six words, but maybe I can take a stab at a few pieces of it here and there. In theory it would be a good way to write a quick blog post when I don’t have a lot of time, but I know in reality that brevity usually takes more time than my normal babble.

With all that said (and isn’t it just like me to take nearly 400 words to introduce a six word story), here is today’s six word story: “Assembled tiny starships. Accumulated vast joy.”


And aren’t I a little cheater for adding in a picture?


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