Monday, December 18, 2023

Merry Christmas 2023!

Our Christmas tree for 2023!

December in our part of Colorado began with cold and snow. 

Our windows were full of pretty views ...

...including views of many of our local wildlife.

It has been unusually warm the past week, but there may be some snow on Christmas Day, which is always festive to see.

 I have been busy shopping, gift wrapping, and baking for Christmas

The gingerbread cake house on the left in the photo collage above was made using one of my favorite Nordic Ware baking pans in that shape, and the large Gingerbread Men Cakes were also made using a Nordic Ware baking pan.

We celebrate on Christmas Eve with the Italian-American tradition of the "Feast of the Seven Fishes" although I usually tend to incorporate even more seafood in my recipes.
It is one of my favorite feasts of the year!

I know many are as busy or even busier than I am but 
 I also hope you are enjoying every moment, and I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Let us all remember the reason we celebrate!

My hope for 2024
Peace on Earth, 
Goodwill towards all!

I am going to take a blog break and return in the new year--see you then!

You can also find me on:

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Kenmare and The Ring of Kerry in Killarney. Ireland.

After visiting the town of Blarney in County Cork--see my last post-- our tour bus drove on to County Kerry, where we stopped for lunch in the colorful town of Kenmare.

Kenmare is located at the head of Kenmare Bay and lies on two noted Irish tourist routes, the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara, approximately 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Killarney. As a result, it is a popular tourist destination and many of the businesses in the area cater to tourists. The town is noted for its food and pubs. We enjoyed walking around the town and looking at the shops.

Our tour then drove towards The Ring of Kerry,  a 111-mile (179-kilometer-long) circular tourist route in County Kerry, that is rustic and beautiful.

We passed many fields of grazing sheep along the drive.

It was a lovely drive!

Our tour bus came to a stop at Ladies View where we all disembarked to take in the views and take photos.

We were visiting in late October and the autumn colors were beautiful!

The name "Ladies View" stems from the admiration of the view given by Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting during Victoria's 1861 visit to Ireland.

The view brought back memories to me as I visited the area in both 1972 and 2008. We were happy to see it this time with my husband's sister and our brother-in-law.

As we returned to the bus we saw a beautiful rainbow!

As we drove by the lakes its color intensified.

The rainbow followed us all the way to the town of Killarney

We stopped for the night in Killarney and we walked into town to have dinner in a local pub. 

Everything was delicious!

I had to take this photo of gasoline prices at a gas station in Killarney  At 1.82 Euros per liter of gas at that time in Ireland, it would convert to paying $7.43 for a gallon of gas in USA cash! It was a reminder that inflation certainly exists worldwide.

Currently, I have been busy decorating for Christmas and enjoying this beautiful time of the year, and I hope you are too! I hope to share some of my holiday preparations here next week before continuing on with memories for our Highlights of Ireland and Scotland tour. See you then!

Monday, December 4, 2023

East Dunmore, Tramore, and Blarney, Ireland

After leaving Waterford City, our tour bus traveled SE towards our hotel stay for the night in Tramore, Ireland, but first, we made a stop in Dunmore East.  Dunmore East is a coastal fishing village with many beautiful thatched-roof cottages and is situated on the west side of Waterford Harbor.

East Dunmore is a charming town that is a popular tourist stop, especially for cruise ships in the summer. I was mesmerized by its unique trees.

As we drove into town we had a good view of the harbor and lighthouse from our bus.

We stopped for a few moments at the poignant "Lost At Sea Memorial." The monument was commissioned by the people of Dunmore East in remembrance of loved ones, those lost in local waters, and those lost at sea. The wall behind the sculpture lists all the names of those lost.

Our bus parked and we were able to walk along the harbor pier. there we had a good view of the coastline and the lighthouse. In Ireland, it’s common for coastal villages to have a lighthouse, and this one was built in 1825 and is a 52-foot high (16-meter) sandstone tower. This Doric-style lighthouse is the only one of its kind in Ireland: there is no other lighthouse of this style on the Emerald Isle. It is always active, emitting white and red flashes at 8-second intervals, depending on direction.

Across the harbor, we had a view of the oldest lighthouse in Ireland The Hook Lighthouse also known as Hook Head Lighthouse, is a building situated on Hook Head at the tip of the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, Ireland. It is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world, and the second oldest operating lighthouse in the world, after the Tower of Hercules in Spain. This iconic and unique monument was constructed by the powerful medieval magnate William Marshall in the early thirteenth century, thought to be sometime between 1210 and 1230.

We traveled south to Tramore, another seaside town in County Waterford, where we were staying overnight. 

We had dinner at the hotel and then had an evening excursion in town...

We were driven to a charming little pub called Jack Meade Bar and Beer Garden. The pub dates back to 1705 and has been in the present family since 1857.

There we sat at a table by a wonderful peat-burning fire, had traditional Irish potato chips and a stout beer, and listened to an enchanting few hours of traditional Irish songs!

Would you like to listen to a few songs?  Go to this link on my Mille Fiori Facebook page to hear us join in on singing "The Wild Rover," and this link to hear " Forty Shades of Green," and this link to hear my favorite Irish song, "Danny Boy."  Just make sure to turn on the sound by clicking on the microphone icon on the top right of each video reel.

I am sharing some old photos from a blog post from 2008 when my husband and I visited Ireland. We kissed the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland. This was actually the second time I had kissed the stone, as I had visited in 1972 with my oldest brother and sister-in-law. At that time, we were visiting her family in a town near Blarney in County Cork, as she was born and raised there, and we also made a visit to the castle at that time. 

County Cork covers much of Ireland’s southwest. Its capital, Cork, is known for St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, a neo-Gothic structure with tall spires and stained-glass windows. Across the River Lee is the castle-like Cork City Gaol, built in the 19th century. Northwest of Cork is the 15th-century Blarney Castle.

During our visit, instead of going to the castle or kissing the stone again, we met my sister-in-law's sister at the Blarney Woolen Mills across the street and had a nice chat in the cafe there to catch up since our last visit.

Kissing the Blarney Stone in 1972

I'm not sure I could bounce up from kissing the Blarney Stone for the "Gift of Eloquence" any longer at my age!  Do you think you would do it?

Our tour guide told us that sadly a few places in County Cork were badly flooded by Storm Babet which had passed over Europe, Ireland, and the UK a few days before our arrival, but as we traveled the next day we didn't see any flooded areas. only beautiful dairy farms.

Next post, we are going to visit the southern Ireland town of Kenmore and then on to the stunning landscape of Killarney, Ireland

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Waterford, Ireland

 In my last blog post about our recent trip to Ireland and Scotland, which we began in Dublin --see that post here--after visiting Kilkenny we drove further south in Ireland to the city of  Waterford.  Waterford, located in the province of Munster,  is situated at the head of Waterford Harbor. It is the oldest and the fifth most populous city in the Republic of Ireland.   

My husband and I visited Waterford for the second time. Our first visit was about 15 years ago when we were on a tour. During that visit, I bought a few beautiful pieces of Waterford crystal, which we have enjoyed using over the years.

Waterford was founded by Vikings in 914 A.D. and parts of its ancient walled core remain.  Throughout the city, there were many interesting and fun displays profiling its Viking beginning 

Thomas Francis Meagher was born on 3 August 1823 in Waterford and a statue of him on horseback stands on the mall. He was one of Waterford’s and Ireland’s most famous nationalist leaders, and he also has an American connection. Meagher protested and fought vehemently for Irish Independence from British Rule and during the battle for independence he designed and introduced the green, white, and gold tricolor flag which later became the national flag of Ireland still used today. 
Meagher was arrested and convicted by the British authorities on charges of sedition and was subsequently sentenced to death. This sentence was later changed and Meagher was instead exiled to Tasmania in Australia, then known as Van Diemen’s Land. In 1852 Meagher escaped to America where he studied journalism and law and later joined the U.S. Army where he gained the rank of Brigadier General and led the Irish Brigade during the American Civil War. Before his death by drowning accident in 1897, Meagher had served as Governor of Montana. A similar statue of him stands in front of the Montana State Capital in Helena. 

 We had a few hours of free time to explore the city on foot.

I enjoyed seeing the architecture and walking along the riverfront.

There were many beautiful murals painted all around Waterford!

They are part of the Waterford Wall Project, where in 2022, over 30 national and international artists created large-scale mural artworks around Waterford City and the surrounding areas. The Festival consisted of 10 days of live art, music, workshops, guided tours, and much more. You can see some more photos of the murals on this link.

Waterford is known for its former glassmaking industry, including at the Waterford Crystal factory, with decorative glass being manufactured in the city from 1783 until early 2009 when the factory sadly closed following the receivership of Waterford Wedgwood. The Waterford Crystal visitor center was opened in the city's Viking Quarter in 2010 under new ownership by Fiskers. Visitors can take a tour to see the glassmaking and cutting 
process, although most of the crystal is now made outside of Ireland. The 12,000-square-foot retail store inside the center has the largest collection of Waterford in the world, and pieces are available for sale. I admired many pieces but did not purchase anything on this trip as I have entered a more minimalistic stage of life.

We walked by Christ Church Cathedral--a Church of Ireland/Anglican Episcopalian church that has been a place of Christian worship for over 1,000 years. The first church on the site was built in the 11th century. In 1170 it was the venue for the marriage of Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke also known as "Strongbow", and Aoife NĂ­ Diarmait. Strongbow was the first Norman conqueror of Waterford and Dublin. Aoife was an Irish Princess, the daughter of King Dermot MacMurrough. The marriage built a political bond between the Irish Gaelic and the Anglo-Normans. The chairs/sculptures by Eithne Ring and Liam Lavery were installed in Bishop’s Palace Garden in 2014 located next to the cathedral.

Please double-click on the photo above to enlarge it.

Information about Strongbow and Aoife is given in this informational display nearby.

I was surprised to see flowers still blooming in late October and a very unusual tree!

A close-up of the tree...

it had its eyes on us! 


As our tour bus drove away from Waterford we saw beautiful rolling green hills and fluffy white clouds in the sky. 

I'll be blogging about our next tour stops at the thatched-roof cottages of Dunmore East, Tramore, and Blarney, Ireland in the future. 

I can't believe that Christmas is only a month away--a busy time ahead!

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Kilkenny, Ireland

After leaving Dublin, Ireland --see my last post--our Ireland/Scotland tour headed southeast to Kilkenny, (Irish: Cill Chainnigh). It is a city in County Kilkenny, Ireland, and is located in the provenance of Leinster.   We stopped at Kilkenny Castle, built in 1260 to control a fording point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. The castle was a symbol of Norman occupation, and in its original 13th-century condition, with its four large circular towers, it would have formed an important element to the town's defenses.

The castle grounds entrance with the Ormonde Coat of Arms on the top

Kilkenny Castle was remodeled and restored and set in the 1830’s with a Victorian flair. In 1967, Arthur Butler, 6th Marquess of Ormonde, sold the castle for £50 to the Castle Restoration Committee for the people of Kilkenny. The castle and grounds are now managed by the Office of Public Works.  There is an admission fee to tour inside the castle but the gardens and parkland are open to the public.

My husband and I toured the castle on a prior visit to Ireland so we decided to stroll in the gardens and in town during our visit, while my sister and brother in-laws went inside.

The details in the castle statuary were interesting to see.

The castle is surrounded by beautiful fifty-one acres (21 hectares) of parkland and gardens.

I really enjoyed walking in the gardens and still seeing some flowers blooming in late October and some fall foliage.

A sweet little robin and a wise old crow greeted us in the gardens.

When I saw this lake filled with swans I thought about the Irish Folktale, "Children of Lir" in which a jealous stepmother used a spell to turn her four stepchildren into swans and doomed them to spend 900 years swimming in three different bodies of water in Ireland for 300 years each, until the spell would be broken.


Kilkenny is built on both banks of the River Nore.  
It reflected many colorful autumnal trees along its banks.

Kilkenny City Walls protected the medieval town of Kilkenny. The town was surrounded by walls with regular towers and gates. Remnants of the Town Walls survive such as Talbot Tower (1207), which is also known as Talbot's Bastion or Castle.

My husband and I strolled into town hoping to visit St Canice's Cathedral, which is also known as Kilkenny Cathedral. The present building dates from the 13th century and is the second-longest cathedral in Ireland. Unfortunately, we realized the walk was longer than the time we had to be back on our tour bus to leave for Waterford. We had glimpses of the cathedral in the distance as we walked around.

As you can see in the photo collage above, located beside the cathedral stands a 100 ft 9th-century round tower. St. Canice's tower is an excellent example of a well-preserved early Christian (9th century) Round Tower. Accessible only by a steep set of internal ladders, it may once have been both a watchtower and a refuge, and the summit gives a good view of Kilkenny and the countryside around. The hill on which the cathedral stands is believed to be the center of the first major settlement at Kilkenny.

There was a lot to see and do in town but we only had a limited time. The building on the middle right of the collage above had a Smithwick's Brewery Tour.  Smithwick’s Ale has been brewed in Ireland since 1710.

I smiled when I saw the cow and sheep vases in a shop window. They are two animals seen frequently all over Ireland!

Our next stop on the tour was the City of Waterford--it will be in my next blog post.