Author Archives: Emily Comfort

Ireland roundup! The final post

We’ve been back for a month and a half now and I am slowly settling back into life stateside.  Bret was thrown back to the wolves a couple weeks ago and is forging the path for the next year of his postdoc back here while still finishing up the work he started in Ireland.

We wanted to close the blog with a suggested itinerary.  Since we could not agree on an itinerary less than 10 days… you are stuck with that length.  However, if you wish to go for longer, I’ll add a few of the other highlights you could tack on.  I will also add the caveat that we are not city people.  While we don’t mind a day or two in a big city, we vacation in the country.  We want incredible views, nice walks or hikes, and some quiet when we go on vacation.

The general aim of this itinerary is to maximize the time you get to spend in a couple of places that we really loved, the Beara Penninsula and Connemara.  We loved so many places, but ultimately the combination of incredible views and low tourist density made these two places really stand out for us.  For this itinerary, we recommend that you fly in to Cork and out of Shannon (or a round trip to one or the other, but it will add a couple hours of driving time on one end or the other).  There are a few notable exceptions, but a lot of the standout scenic destinations in Ireland are located on the west side of the country, so unless you want to spend a day in Dublin and a few extra hours driving, we recommend flying straight to the source!  Also driving in Ireland can be an adventure…  we highly recommend minimizing the amount of car travel and alternating longer days in the car with days that you stay in one place and explore locally.  There are also plenty of trains and buses, but it is difficult to access the out of way places if you use mass transport and you are going to add a ton of travel time as there are not a lot of direct routes,

Alright, on to the route

Day 1: Cork City/ Kinsale

Fly into Cork city and spend a few hours walking around the city and along the River Lee.  There are huge churches everywhere and a few museums and galleries.  Most of the stores in the downtown area are big chain stores, so save your shopping for later.  Then jump in the car and head to Kinsale.  It is about a 40 minute drive to this small and incredibly scenic seaside town.

Things to do in/ near Cork City and Kinsale

  • English Market!  If all you do is walk around and take in the smells and the people watching it is worth it.  If you are planning on doing some picnicking on your trip (which I highly recommend), pick up some supplies here (the smoked salmon from Frank Hederman is super yummy).

  • Charles Fort.  Even if you are not into 17th Century military architecture, this fort is pretty amazing.  It is a fairly long walk from Kinsale, but the views of Kinsale harbor along the way are really lovely and there is a pub along the route where you can stop and refresh if you need.
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  • Harbor Tour by boat.  The tour is relatively inexpensive and especially after you have seen the fort from the inside, it is cool to see the fort from the water.DSC_0473
  • Accomodations.  We only spent one night in Kinsale (after we took the long bike road there), as it was pretty close to our home.  We stayed at Tierney’s Guesthouse and it was an affordable and comfortable spot.  The breakfast is pretty good.  In fact, I would recommend the Lemon Leaf Cafe for lunch if you are looking for a spot.  For dinner, the Fishy Fishy cafe was a standout for us.  The fish was fresh and delicious!  You’ll definitely want to make a reservation, but here are a ton of good restaurants in Kinsale if you don’t get in.DSC_0463

If you have an extra day…

  • Ballymaloe.  This is actually about a 40 minute drive from Cork City, but if you have an extra night (and some $$$. It is spendy), it is worth the drive.  The farm is a pretty renown foodie destination.  An early adopter of the locavore movement, the food is delicious and it is worth an extra hour or two to explore the manor.  Also, drop by the nearby town of Ballycotton.  It is a lovely seaside town and if you don’t want to stay at Ballymaloe overnight, there are several hotels and b&bs in Ballycotton.DSC_0449

Day 2: Drive to Glengariff

The drive along the south coast of Cork is very scenic.  There are several small towns that dot the way and a few places you’ll want to stop and take in rural Ireland.

  • Definitely stop at Drombeg Circle.  It is a neolithic stone circle that is pretty amazing.DSC_0437
  • Glengariff is nice little town at the base of the Beara peninsula with a few hotels and several Irish sweater shops.  If you are thinking about taking an Irish Knit sweater home, this is a good place to look—  but be sure to read the tags, many things are made in Ireland, but they also slip in some items that are not made in Ireland.  We never stayed in Glengariff, so I can’t recommend a spot, but it would be a convenient jumping off place for exploring the Beara.  We did stay at this hostel that is a little further out.  It was inexpensive and the hosts are so nice! Also, Airbnb probably has some nice options if you take our recommendation and stay a few days here.

Day 3 and 4: Take in the Beara Penninsula!

We highly recommend spending a couple days.  Take one day to circumnavigate the peninsula.

  • Be sure to give yourself time to take the tram over to Dursey Island at the tip on the peninsula.  You’ll want to check the timetable and make sure it is open when  you arrive.  If you are adventurous, do the loop hike around the island (3-4 hours hike with a little elevation gain/loss) and have a picnic.
  • Go for a day hike on the Beara Way.  DO IT!  It is worth a little planning, the views are so amazing.  There are several places that you can access it.  We were able to shuttle cars, to we did a stretch from just outside of Glengariff to Adrigole.
  • Have a walk or a picnic at the Glengariff Nature Reserve. Take the walk up to Lady Bantry’s Lookout, the view is really amazing.
  • Bike around the peninsula.  I wish that we had been able to do this, but we just ran out of time…  next trip 🙂  You can rent a bike (and grab lunch) here.DSC_0421
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Day 5: Drive through Killarney National Park to Adare.

The drive from the Beara to Killarney along the N71 is a little harrowing.  Very large tourist buses and very skinny , curvy roads.  However, the views of the Macgillycuddy Reeks are amazing.  Killarney National Park is the oldest national park in Ireland and it has been largely untouched.  There are old forest, mountains, lakes.  It is really pretty.  You’ll want to take your time with the drive and get out of the car and take in the views at least a few times.  Muckross House is a nice place to take a walk and/or have a picnic.  Adare is a nice town that is about halfway from the Beara to Galway.  We only actually stopped there once, for a nice lunch, but if you are going to check the Cliff of Moher and the Burren on day 6, you’ll need a break from driving along the way.   I have also heard good things about Adare from friends that spent more time passing through.  You could also stop in Limerick or have a long day in the car and try to get closer the Cliffs of Moher.  There is also a ferry that cuts a chunk of the drive out if you want to skip Adare.DSC_0203DSC_0217 DSC_0224

Day 6:  The Cliff of Moher and the Burren

It is pretty hard not to include the Cliffs or Moher as a must-see.  It is VERY touristy so expect some crowds, but the reason for its popularity is apparent as soon as you take your first peak over the edge of the cliffs.  Perhaps better known as the Cliffs of Insanity, from the Princess Bride, they are a pretty amazing sight.

The Burren is a really unique landscape in Ireland.  It is a rocky limestone landscape that is teeming with endemic species (75% of Ireland flora are found in the Burren).  It is worth at least driving through (maybe stop at this Chocolate Factory en route).  If you are interested in hiking, there is a great 2-3 hour hike,  Mullaghmore-Blue-Loop-Walk, that takes you through the heart of the Burren.  It was a little difficult to find the trail and appropriate parking, but it is definitely worth the effort.  I think as long as you are not blocking access to the road, you’ll be good to go even if you don’t get a spot in the designated parking area.


Stay the night in the Kinvarra or Galway.  Kinvarra is a small town about 30 minutes south of Galway.  There is good food and several decent spots to stay the night.  Including this crazy hostel you can find through Airbnb and this B&B.  Both are walking distance to town.  There is great pizza at the Tide Full Inn if you are starting to crave something other than fish and chips or beef and Guinness stew.   If you are ready for some city time, stay in Galway.  It is compact, but the downtown area is nice to wonder around and people watch.  There are also plenty of restaurants and places to stay.

Day 7, 8, and 9  Connemara, Westport, and Achill Island

Drive west from Galway along Galway Bay through the town of Spiddal into Connemara and get yourself a little lost.  This area is so quiet and scenic.  I can’t even express how much I loved the landscape and the general vibe in this area.  We stopped in Clifton to stretch our legs and wonder around, but it would have been really nice to stay the night there and linger longer in this area.  The Twelve Bens offer some impressive vistas and would be great to hike around.  We did not get a chance to do so, but if I could go back that would top the list.  Wesport is the largest town you’ll pass through between Connemara and Mayo and it is definitely worth a stop.  While Mayo is not quite as scenically impressive as Connemara in general, Achill Island is worth the trip a little further north.

  •  Westport is a really nice small town.  There are a bunch of nice pubs and we had a couple of notably delicious dinners there (here and here).  We also found some really unique handmade gifts at the Craft House.  There are several pubs in town that sell locally made beers that are definitely worth trying.
  • We had a really lovely stay at the Elephant Guest house in Westport.
  • The Bervie Guest house in Keel on Achill Island was SOOOOOO LOVELY.  I only got to stay a night there, but it was definitely on my list of places to get back to.  It is a quaint inn with very sweet and kind owners and an incredible restaurant.  You won’t regret a night or two at this place.



Day 10:  Drive back to Shannon or Cork. 


Other notable destinations

If you have more than 10 days to go visit Ireland.  Here are some other places we really loved!

  • Schull-  If you want to spend an extra day on the south coast of Cork, go to Schull and stay at the Grove house.  It is a very quaint little town that is a bit out of the way.  We went there on several recommendations from local Corkers.  Grove House is a beautiful B&B, the owner is so nice, and the food was delicious.
  • Cahersiveen/ Valencia Island.   Rent bikes and ride around Valencia Island (visit this crazy candle maker he is super nice, but don’t try to take his picture).  There are two pretty amazing old dwellings in different states of disarray, Ballycarbery Castle and Cahergall circle fort.
  • Dingle-  We visited Dingle three times.  It was fairly convenient to get to from Cork and had a good variety of fun things to do.  We hiked the tallest peak outside of the Macgillycuddy Reeks, we biked, we took a boat tour to the Blasket Islands, we listened to wonderful traditional music at a local music shop (and at a lot of the pubs if you can stay up past 10pm).  It is a little more on the beaten track, so expect things to book out. If you go, get dinner at the Goat Street Bistro and/or An Canteen.
  • Giant’s Causeway-  And the North coast of Antrim (Northern Ireland).  The Giant’s Causeway is a pretty cool geologic formation-  definitely worth and afternoon of exploration and hiking about.  We stayed in Bushmills both visits, once at a hostel, which was a little dirty, but otherwise ok and once at a Pub which was great.  Save some time to do the Bushmills tour and have dinner at Tartine, it was very nice.  The drive north from Belfast to Bushmills is pretty great, the views get more scenic around each corner.
  • Donegal-  I LOVED Donegal, the Slieve League mountains and Glenveagh National park are excellent places to hike, and there is plenty more to do.  The ONLY reason Donegal didn’t make the list is because it is a little further out and should be a destination on its own (maybe combined with Northern Ireland flying in/ out of Dublin).
  • The Wicklow mountains.  if you are going to fly in/out of Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains are nearby and really accessible for hiking, waterfalls, etc.  Definitely worth checking out.
  • Dublin-  Speaking of which, if you are going to go there, make a reservation and have dinner at the Winding Stair… super yummy.  We loved it and everyone we sent there had excellent meals.


So, this is it.  The final post.  We’ll be archiving this site to in a couple weeks if you ever want to relive all this excitement.  Don’t worry, we’ll keep you up to date on our adventures.  After all, Oregon isn’t too shabby either and now there is Oval to entertain us 🙂

our 52 pub challenge… the best and the worst.

I am pretty amazed at how much Bret and my best and worst lists aligned. It probably isn’t that surprising… we went to all the pubs together, so if we had a great time or a bad time, it was generally a mutual experience.

The Best!


I already wrote a post about Mok’s way back when I thought I would write more about all the pubs we visited.  Feelings have not changed much over the course of the year.  We still love Mok’s.  We had our last pint of Beamish there last night and true to form, it was full of adorably tipsy old men.  Bret and I were probably two of four people in the packed house that were under 60 and I was the only lady there until right before we left.  We had a nice chat with another Tottenham Hotspurs supporter and we were repeatedly offered handfuls of peanuts by another man.  It was real sad to walk away from such a cozy and inviting spot.

The Oval

The Oval was pretty much our first stop in Cork and it remained a favorite throughout the year.  Clearly… we named our puppy dog after this place.  Most of you who visited had a pint at the Oval while in Cork.  We never had a bad pint there.  The bartenders and other patrons were always friendly.  There are enough nooks of various sizes to accommodate any size group we had, and create such a cozy ambiance.  We learned at some point, that the Oval is one of seven or eight pubs known as the “Heritage” pubs. While a couple of them are actually in historic, old building, what they really have in common is the same owner.  The owner also owns the towns largest independent microbrewery, so in generally we like the beers at the Heritage pubs more than at Cork pubs in general.

El Fenix

We celebrated the completion of our 52 pub challenge here!  Or so we thought until we looked over the list one last time the next day and realized that we had forgot to log three pubs…  Still, the intention was there.  It was a great spot to finish.  It is one of the Heritage pubs, so the beer is good.  The company was very friendly.  The ambiance was warm and inviting.  El Fenix had been on my list for a long time, but Bret was more hesitant.  I think it won him over in the end.  We had a long chat with another fellow at the pub about pubs in Cork.  He claimed to be a regular of El Fenix and thought it was a shame that we had not made it to the pub next door, The Charles for a 7am beer (apparently that is a thing to do).


Tom Barry’s

Tom Barry’s is probably the closest pub to our home that made it to the Tops list.  It was a really nice spot to go for a pint on a sunny, summer day.  The back garden is large and packed with  wooden picnic tables.  They also have a few outbuildings that always have fires going in case things cool off or there is an unexpected rain shower.  It is a very popular spot for the college crowd and fills up quickly, rain or shine.  Bret was real keen to try this place out early on, but I was skeptical.  It doesn’t look super special from the outside.  It ended up being one of my faves, though!

Sin E (pronounced Shin-eh)

This was my favorite place to go to listed to music.  The was traditional Irish music on tap a few nights a week here-  and early enough that Bret and I could actually get there before our bedtime (we’re so lame).  Another one of the Heritage pubs, the beer was always yummy and the ambiance is warm and dark.

 Mutton Lane

We discovered Mutton Lane down an alley that emanates out of the English Market.  Again… a Heritage pub (you can see there is a trend of us liking the Heritage pubs).  It is centrally located, good beer, great ambiance.  We had many a good time popping in for a pint when the rain surprised us while we were doing errands.

Crane Lane

I actually only went to this pub once, but it was memorable enough to make the Tops list.  Yet another Heritage Pub, this one is also a moderately large music venue.  We went there the day the Kim and Rocky got into town.  They had a local music showcase in the afternoon and we saw a great local band called the Shaker Hymn.  It was a really fun day!


This place is another one with a great outdoor garden space.  They also serve decent food (and large portions) and good beer.  It was sort of one the way to the soccer stadium, so we went there a number of times before cheering on the Cork City FC.

The Corner House

This one we also only made it to once, very close to the end.  We probably never would have made it there if we had not challenged ourselves to try so many.  We loved it and wished we had discovered it earlier…  They had less common microbrews on tap, which we really liked, and friendly folks and ambiance.

 Top rated- Honorable mentions


This one probably only makes the list because we had such a funny night there.  Typical Irish pub-  The have three kinds of stout (Guiness, Beamish, and Murphy’s) on tap and an array of crappy macrobrews (Coors and Heineken products).  The night we went there though, there was a group of geeky college students singing show tunes for the amusement of some older ladies.  It made quite an impression on me…  This one did not make Bret’s list though.

Arthur Mayne’s

This one was on Bret’s list, but not mine.  Don’t get me wrong… It is an awesome spot.  If this place existed in Corvallis, I would probably live there.  It is another of the Heritage pubs and the food was pretty good at this one.  The nice things about the Heritage pubs is that they all have a similar and solidly good selection of beer and wine, but they all have very unique things about them too.  Some serve food, some are just pubs, some have music.  They have good art and some local flair.  This one is located in an old pharmacy and they have all these old relics from mysterious elixir bottles to 50s era perfume.  It is a great spot for a pint.

The Bottom of the Barrel 🙁

Bret and I had far less overlap on our bottom tens…  I think that is because we would still take many of these places over a typical american pub.  Irish Pubs really are that great for some good and some nebulous reasons.

The Woolshed

We only went to this place once.  We wanted to watch a big game and this is as close to an American- style sports bar as you can get in Cork.  A bunch of TVs, crap food, crap beer and wine selection.  We decided after the first attempt that we would rather not watch games than go here.

Tom Lynch’s

I am not at all sure that this one really makes Bret’s bottom list or if he is just appeasing me.  We had a really odd experience here.  We went there for an after-dinner pint one night, so I had some leftovers in a clear container that the bartender kept referring to as salad in a derogatory manner.  There were also flies all over the place.  Bret chatted the bartender up about the local Cork Rings game that was hanging on the wall.  We later saw some folks playing it at another pub.  Apparently there is a city wide pub team league and they have tournaments now and then.  It looks a lot safer than darts considering the level of drink that some patrons manage at the old man bars.

The Old Oak

This place probably isn’t that bad.  It is located on one of the main shopping drags, so there is a lot of tourist traffic and it seems pretty busy.  Bret and I had a rare squabble as a lead in to grabbing a pint here, so neither of us loved it and it never got a second chance.

The Castle Inn

Some one referred to this as a college guy’s pub.  That about sums it up.  The only seating is a wooden bench that spans the length of the pub and it is pretty hard to miss the trough in the in Men’s bathroom.

The Evergreen

We popped in this pub on our way home from a Cork City FC game.  It was just alright.  It is a large pub with a crap selection of beer and not a lot of that special ambiance that makes Irish Pubs so great.

The Hawthorne

Again, this place is just alright.  The shame about that, it that it has a prime location right on the Lough (pronounced Lock).  The Lough is a fairly large lake with a park around it.  It was a 10 minute walk from our house, so we went there for walks now and then when we wanted to see folks fishing or playing in the grass with dogs and hurleys or if we wanted to be harassed by water fowl.  It would have been a great place to have a pint on a nice summer day, if it had any character at all…

Bret and I don’t really agree on any of the other bottom-tier pubs, so I won’t bore you.  Cork was a fantastic place to take our 52 Pub challenge!  We had a great time testing the beers and exploring the city.  We’ll post once more, so keep your eyes out for our suggested 10-day itinerary if you are thinking about heading to the Emerald Isle sometime.  It is hard to pick and choose, but we’ll get that post out soon, then shut this thing down.  Until then,  here is a picture of our adorable new family member taken by my friend, Brianna!!!  Her name is Oval!

Some pictures from December adventures

Mike Parkes came to town and we had a nice time in the mountains and by the sea. DSC_1244 DSC_1239 DSC_1217 DSC_1186

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Bret and I finished up our 52 pubs the night before our first wedding anniversary!!  We complete the challenge after a bit of a pub crawl at El Fenix.  We thought it was hilarious that the logo from one of our top beers, an IPA made locally called Handsome (logo on phone), was strikingly similar to that of our favorite mexican restaurant in Cork, Cafe Mexicana (postcard that I happen to be carrying around in my purse).


We took one last road trip up to Connemara and Mayo.  In general, we find that our favorite place is the one we just visited and this was no exception.  Connemara was really stunning with snow capped mountains and we had lovely views of the Achill Islands from our drive around Mayo.  We could definitely spend another few weeks exploring this area.

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We stopped in Galway for lunch on our way home…

This parking garage was clearly designed to mess with tourists not from Ireland or the UK.




Bret went to Canada for the week for a conference, so rather than sit at home moping, I decided I would head to Barcelona and visit Jim and Deb.

Good decision on my part!

This was my home for the week, Marina Port Vell and the good ship Morpheus (not pictured).

Trip Highlights…

Frederic Mare museum.  This guy collected everything from roman arches and tombs to old bicycles to weird hand bone jewelry and everything in between.

We also ran into a sculpture he made himself later in Plaza Catalunya.  It also has a bit of everything in it.

A Flamenco show

The Sagrada Familia.  This is a truly impressive Cathedral designed by Gaudi.  Construction started in 1892 and continues today.  If they finish prior to 2082, they will considered it ahead of time.  The interior is breathtaking.

My favorite sculptures were the more modern ones on the Passion facade.

This is how Gaudi designed the cathedral:

if you flip it upsidedown, the arches of the cathedral:

Street Art

Of course, the food and wine were excellent too.  Jim’s strategy was to eat at places with ham hanging from the ceiling and/ or wine barrel tables.  It worked quite well for us.

Some more pics and highlights from our latest adventures

I thought I would add some pictures to Bret’s excellent summary of our last few weeks of adventures.  It really amazes how quickly this month fall year is passing by.


I really loved the vibe of Amsterdam.  So many people, but because everyone is on foot or bike it seems a little less city like…  well maybe all the canals have something to do with that also.  Crossing the street was a little hectic with all the different forms of transportation going in every direction.

We stayed a nice apartment near the Jordaan District… getting up the three flights of stairs was an adventure.

Diana, James, and I took a train to the Hague to see the Girl with the Pearl Earring.  We also visited the Peace Palace and the beach!

The next day we walked past Rembrandt’s house


on our way to the Botantic Gardens.

Bret filled you in on the rest of the trip, but it was a super good time!

( in the gutter).


We had a wild weekend of food, fun, and exploring Geneva with Cinda and Danny and company!  It was hard for me to leave without stealing this guy.

but Lausanne was nice. We drove along Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) through the small town of Rolle, where I went to summer camp for a few years when I was in middle school.  Can’t believe I forgot to take pictures 🙁  These are from Lausanne.  It is a beautiful city, with lots of skulls and crossbows in the cathedral.

nice views of the alps across the lake.


We had a nice trip through the country side from Lausanne to Lyon.  Lyon is really pretty at night.

The food was delicious and the sights were nice too…

This is a “secret” passage between streets.  Apparently they are really common in the old town of Lyon, but to access them you are supposed to ring buzzers of the people who live in the them and we did not feel comfortable doing this.  We did manage our way into a couple of them that had open doorways.

We also went to the big cathedral.  There were tons of beautiful mosaics.


After a few days in the big cities, we needed a break in the countryside, so we were off to Chablis!  It was a bit rainy, but we were still able to take a walk in the vineyards before testing the goods.

After of few days of r and r, we were back to city life in PARIS!  We stayed at sweet apartment near the St. Germain district.  It was centrally located near the river and Notre Dame.

We saw the sights!

River boat tour (it wasn’t that scary)

the Louvre

Highlight of the trip was a lovely dinner with a friend we had not seen in 20 years!!! It was lovely to spent time with Jo Ann and Massey and to meet their talented and funny daughter, Eliane.  Of course, in all the fun, we forgot to take a picture 🙁  I guess we’ll just have to head back to Paris soon and recreate the event!

Summer wraps up with big adventures!

For those of you who have not been keeping score, in the past 4 months we’ve had 19 visitors pass through and visited three other countries (Italy, Spain, Scotland), in addition to traveling all around Ireland with great friends and family.  It has been busy, but really such a blast.  I am ready for our six weeks of down time before round 2 starts off in mid-October.

We capped off the summer of fun with a trip to Donegal with our wonderful friends, Tracy and Ramona.  Here is a picture from the the Shannon airport.


We rushed them into the car and drove three hours to a pub 30 mins outside of Sligo, called the Beach Bar.  It was dark by the time we got there, but the beer was cold.  We woke up to a beautiful beach view and a full Irish breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, grilled tomato, sauteed mushrooms, and all you can eat toast).  We got a walk in on the beach, then spent the day exploring Fermanagh (the land of Ramona’s grandfather). We found some good Irish weather (rainy and sunny all at once), and an Irish traffic jam.


We visited Castle Caldwell then went out to Boa Island and explored a cemetery and had a picnic near the ferry to Lusty Beg Island.  I took a selfie with a cool stone man at the cemetery.


After a visit to a stone circle, we were off to our destination in Donegal, Glencolumbkille.  We stayed two nights at Roarty’s Bar.  We filled the time with beautiful beach walks, a hike at the Slieve League cliffs, and perhaps a few pints and games of Quirkle.  There is an Irish folk music school in town, so there was wonderful traditional music both nights at Roarty’s.  Ramona might have even gotten her dance on.

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Next, we drove up the coast and east across the heart of Donegal to Rathmullen.  Bret and my favorite Irish craft Brewery, Kinnegar, is in Rathmullen.  We were hoping to visit the brewery and sample some of their goods, but we missed the visiting days and hours.  We stayed a really lovely B and B, the Glenalla Lodge.  It was in the middle of nowhere scenic Irish farmland, but the hosts were lovely and the full Irish breakfast was enormous and delicious.

The next day, we took the scenic route back toward Glenveagh National Park and had a hike out to the Astaleen waterfall in the Derryveagh mountains and visited the lovely Glenveagh Castle.

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That night, we stayed at the Lagoon outside of Kilmacrenan.  It was an interesting place…  a loud, swearing drunk caused a bit of a scene and we chatted up with a family of Americans who were celebrating Dad’s birthday.  Not our favorite spot, but it was a place to stay with good food, cheap red wine, and eventually a warm shower.

At the suggestion of our new American friends, we ventured north to Dunfanaghy before we started the long haul south.  It was a cute town with a lovely harbor and a spectacular beach.

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We stopped at a really neat megolithic cemetery outside of Sligo called Carrowmore.  There are close to 50 tombs at the site that are almost 5000 years old, with a large central passage tomb that all the others are directed towards.  Luckily, the site was saved from becoming a dump in the late 1980s by some concerned citizens and it is now a historic site with a visitor’s center and everything.

Our stop for the evening was Fallon’s b&b in Kinvarra.  This was my second trip to Kinvarra, no room at the strange Rowen’s this time though.  Fallon’s was a nice substitute though and the breakfast was yummy.  Kinvarra is a cute town with a well kept castle.  We explored the castle the following morning, then headed on towards the Burren.

After we visited the only bean to bar chocolate factory in the Burren area, we had a nice hike in the windy, cloudy weather and managed to avoid more than a sprinkle.  The Burren is a small area (250 sq km) of Karst landscape (made up mostly of carbonate rocks, limestone and dolomite).  The area was a tropical reef 350 million years ago and now supports a grassland with an incredible diversity of plants and animals.  Over 70% of Ireland 900 native plant species can be found in this small area!  In addition, the area has a long history of human settlement and there are still many megolithic structures, celtic high crosses, stone forts, and an early 13th century monastery.  Wow, it was pretty incredible.

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The day was just getting started, however!  Next stop was the Cliffs of Moher (the Cliffs of Insanity from the Princess Bride).  I forgot to bring my camera, but I am sure Bret will add some great photos!  We had a nice time walking the cliffs, but we couldn’t avoid the rain this go around and the wind was very strong.  The cliff are pretty awe-inspiring.  From there, we hit the road back to Cork City for a few days in the home town.

Bret had to head back to work the next morning, but the rest of us took it easy for the next two days.  We did a little exploring and forest walking and perhaps some shopping.  Friday night we watched a hurling match in the rain at the local St. Finbarr’s Gaelic Sports Club.

By the weekend, we were ready to hit the road again.  We drove out to the Beara peninsula.  First stop, a little shopping at the woolen mills in Glengariff.  Then we checked in at the hostel, The Hungry Hill Lodge, and found a delicious lunch in Castletownbere at the Copper Kettle.  In the afternoon, we took a cable car over to Dursey island off the tip of the peninsula. Dursey island is currently inhabited by only 6 full-time residents, although the summer population is a bit larger.  It was once home to a much larger population. 300 people were massacred there in 1603 after the English defeat of the Irish in Kinsale, along with many more from the Beara penisula as they fled to Leitrim. The cable car that connects the island to the mainland over the Dursey sound can apparently hold six people, 2 heifers, or 4 sheep.  We had a beautiful sun-shiney day hike up to the Signal tower.  The dwarf gorse was in full bloom and the sheep were pretty friendly.

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We also had beautiful views of the Iveragh peninsula in the distance.


We loved the Hungry Hill Lodge.  The host, Owen, was an incredibly friendly Brit and the hostel had great facilities.

The next day, we were not quite as lucky with the weather, but we found another lovely hike on the Beara.  We had spotted the Mare’s Tail waterfall from the main road and hoped to get to it, but the road was cut off by private land that we were unsure about crossing on one side and very cliffy landscape on the other.  The Mare’s Tail, may or may not be Ireland’s tallest waterfall according to local sources.  It’s other claim to fame was being dyed red for a scene in the vampire movie Byzantium.  Although we did not make it to the Mare’s Tail, we did find another pretty spectacular waterfall and got drench in the rain in the process.

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The rest of the day found us slowly making our way back to Cork City, with only a few delays for views and sheep traffic.


and yes, that is a two-way road.

It was very sad to part ways with Ramona and Tracy the next day, but we had another excellent adventure to add to the list (we visited them when they lived in Ethiopia and worked as Peace Corp volunteers)!

And, my sweet husband cheered me up a surprise bouquet of flowers.





Bret and I started our adventure in Santander, Spain.  We had a great hotel near the beach, but we spent much of the first day navigating the public transportation system to pick up our rental car.  Beware of renting cars in Spain…  it turned out to be a little more expensive than we were expecting,  but in the end it was worth it. Bret had a rough night the evening before we were reunited at the his conference’s last hurrah gala, so we took it easy that night. We had a  nice evening walk followed by a delicious seafood dinner overlooking the ocean.

The next morning we made our way through Bilbao to Gaztelugatxe.  It is a little islet that is just barely connected to the mainland at low tide.  The church up at the top dates back to the 10th century, but its current form was rebuilt in the early 1980s after a fire.  All along the bridge to the mainland there are plaques dedicated to people who have survive ship wrecks.  It was a bit a of hike to get down there and the stairs to the church were closed for renovations, but it was really lovely.

Next we stopped in a small town call Mutriku.  We had planned to stay the night there, but it turned out the hotel I booked us into was actually located about 20 miles further down the coast.  oops.  The town looked really lovely from high above and we saw the craziest water surfing device…  the guy is on a platform (attached to boots on his feet) that shoots water out the bottom.  He got up in the air about 15 feet and could dive down into the water and come shooting back up.  It looked pretty fun.

We had wanted to get down to the waterfront, but we were thwarted at every turn by dead ends and one way streets, so we finally decided to abandon our mission and head on to Getaria, where we stayed the night in a beautiful little hotel and got to eat breakfast overlooking the ocean.  After breakfast, we were off to San Sebastian.  We splurged for a beachfront hotel in San Sebastian and it was worth it.  We had a long walk along the lovely beach and we hiked up a hill to get a spectacular vista of the whole town.

We also spent some time eating pintxos in the main square.  I made friends with a poor, little, crippled albino pigeon, but Bret wasn’t as taken with him.

We also had some rain while we were there.  Bret already posted his great pictures.

Next up was Haro. Haro is a city in the northern part of the Rioja country and there many wineries there.  My sister and I went to Haro in 2007 when we did a trip across northern Spain.  Kim and I had no luck finding any winery tours or tasting rooms, however.  Back then you really needed to have appointments if you wanted to visit wineries.  I was not going to make that mistake twice. We got up early the following morning, so we could get to Haro for a 10am winery tour appointment at Roda.  The ride up had only a couple of wrong turns and some pretty incredible vistas.  We had planned to catch a bite for breakfast on the road and had no luck, so we toured Roda on an empty stomach and were already a little giddy by the end of our wine tasting.

We went straight to lunch after the tour and found the same restaurant that Kim and I had eaten lunch at seven years ago.   The specialty of the house is slow cooked lamb, but if you want a special treat, you can order a sheep skull…  brain and tongue included!

We finished out the day with a few more wine tastings.  Haro has definitely embraced wine tourism since I was last here.  Tasting rooms rivaled some of our favorites in Oregon wine country.  The wine was pretty delicious too!

The next day we were off once again. We drove through the high plains back to the coast mountains in Basque country.  The scenery was AMAZING!! We stopped for a quick walk in the woods.

We spent our last night at a really lovely hotel in the middle of nowhere, Aire de Ruesga.  It had quite a view and plenty of nice country roads to wander.

For our last day in Spain, we drove up through the Parque Natural Collados del Asón to the Mirador del Gándara, which is a platform that is suspended high above the source of the Gandara River.  The park is well maintained by a flock of sheep.

The drive back down to Santander had some dramatic views too!

We got one more walk in at the beach after lunch, then hitched a plane back home to Cork.  What an incredible place to visit… hope to get back there someday.

Italy with my Sister!!!

Embarrassingly, this trip was over two months ago now…  too many guests and fun times to catch up, but I will plug away.

We said goodbye to Rocky after a fun week in Ireland with Kim and Rocky, then Kim and I jumped a plane for Bologna.   It was a quick flight and a slow train ride to Ravenna, where we got to stay at Kim’s friend, Jackie’s lovely villa for a few days.  Kim’s friends, Kate and Diane had already arrived and we stayed up late chatting and eating Jackie’s delicious cotoletta.  It was a late start the next morning, but Jackie dropped her kids off with their grandmother, so we could have a full Ladies’ day of wining, dining, and shopping.  We drove up to Tuscany for the day.

This is the little town where we stopped for lunch, San Piero in Bagno:



An old village in the middle of the beautiful Tuscany countryside:


A road side winery:

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The damage at the end of the day:


The next day, we toured the incredible town of Ravenna.  Ravenna is in the Emilia-Romana region of Italy on the Adriatic coast of Italy, south of Venice. The town was has been the capital of the western Roman Empire, the capital of the Ostrogothic kingdom, and the seat of the Byzantine government in Italy.  It has also been occupied by the Lombards and sacked by the French… so their is a lot of history and relics of multiple cultures.  The town is pretty much paved with incredible mosaics.  From the sound of it, every time they go to build a foundation for some new structure they find thousand-year-old mosaics buried in the ground. Hence it is the sight of eight UNESCO World Heritage sights!  I think in the US, they would just close off the whole town.  Here, the past is a part of the everyday life and Jackie’s daughter was even able to bring her scooter into San Vitale, a 1500 year old church!


She moves too fast for me to get a good picture.  Here are some pictures of the mosaics:

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Here are some pictures of the outside:

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These mosaics are in an out building:

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We also visited the National Museum next door.  Here are some highlights:

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We had one more lovely day in Ravenna, touring the historical sights (and shopping), then Kim and I were off again for an afternoon in Bologna.  The leaning tower of Bologna (yup, Pisa is not alone)IMG_3045 IMG_3047

A chastity belt for wine (I think we need one of these)?


The next morning we took a high speed train to Milan and slow speed train to Lake Como. Our first views of the lake and the Alps in the background.

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The view from our hotel room in Argegno!

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We spend the next couple days hiking around from village to village in the incredible countryside (and of course eating delicious food and drinking fabulous wine).  Here are some highlights:

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Donkeys everywhere

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We made it up to Pigra, a mountain top village, that seemed largely abandoned and took a tram back down to Argegno.

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We had an adventure the last day, as we tried to navigate the Italian bus system with our limited Italian and zero idea of where we going.  We somehow made it to Bellagio for the afternoon before turning around and ferry, bus, ferry, train into Milan for our last night.

It was a bit windy.

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But, don’t worry, we found some wine.

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Kim was off early the next morning, back to reality after a lovely break.  The fun was not over for me though!  I jumped on a plane later that afternoon for Santander, Spain for a few days of exploring with my husband!


catching up…

May was definitely been a big month.  I probably will never get caught up with writing about all the adventures. Lots of fun, friends, and traveling. Kim and Rocky’s arrival started the great adventure. They arrived the day before my 40th birthday on a rare beautiful day in Cork. We started off in style by visiting a couple of our favorite restaurants and pubs, and getting a new pub to add to the list, Crane Lane.  We got to see a couple of live, local bands in an awesome venue.

Of course, that left us a bit tuckered for the actual big day.  We got a leisurely start and made our way to Killarney, stopping for a lovely walk in Macroom.


We made it to Killarney just in time for cocktail hour.  Here is Kim with her favorite kind of Irish beer, the half-pint of stout.


We spent the day taking in the town.  We were not that impressed with the actual town of Killarney.  It seems we came the same weekend as a bunch of race car enthusiasts, so neither the crowd nor the other tourists were all that interesting.  We did find a sweet Italian restaurant at which to celebrate my bday.  If you are really lucky, Bret might even some day show you a video of my post-dinner reenactment of my afternoon happy dance at finding a nice-looking Italian restaurant for dins.


The next day, we got to an early start for a hike through the gap of Dunloe.  As Bret mentioned, the gap of Dunloe is a narrow pass between the Macgillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain-  not that we were actually able to see either as it was a windy, pouring rain, low ceiling kind of day.  The Gap of Dunloe is the Anglicization of the Irish name Dun Loich which means, “Loich’s stronghold.”  Loich was the leader of the Fir Bolg who were some of the first permanent residents in ancient Ireland. The Fir Bolg, or ‘men of bags,’ are apparently descendents of another group which abandoned Ireland for the mainland and were enslaved by the Greeks and forced to carry bags of clay.   After 200+ years of enslavement, they later escaped Greece and went back to Ireland via Iberia.

Anyhoo… it was a wet hike through the gap and perhaps and even wetter boat ride back to Killarney.

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We dried out on the car ride to Schull.  Schull is a small town on the southern most peninsula in Ireland.  That night we stayed at a really lovely B&B, the Grove house.  It turns out there is a film festival in Schull later in the summer, and the Grove house was expecting to have Dame Judi Dench as a guest!

After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we toured the peninsula and made it down to the southern-most point in Ireland, Mizen Head and found our own private beach to explore.


We then drove back to Cork city along a scenic route, which may have included a wrong turn that nearly led us to kill the rental car transmission.  We did eventually find the Drombeg Stone Circle that we were looking for.  The stone circle dates back 3000 years!  It is a recumbent stone circle, which means it has a big rock laid horizontally flanked by two upright rocks.


There is also an ancient home site next to it.


We hit the road again the next day.  Kim, Rocky, and I bussed up to Dublin for a quick visit with our cousin, PD, who just finished his freshman year at Trinity College Dublin.  Then Kim and I had to bid farewell to Rocky and head off to ITALY for our sisters trip!!!!!!

The worst pub in Cork

Yesterday was a tough day.  My 20 year old cat, Clawdia, has been on steep downward slide for the last week.  We went to the vet yesterday afternoon and decided it was time to let her go.  Here is a picture of her owning the couch back in Corvallis.


Clawdia was named by parents because of her ninja-like ability to claw through even tough materials, like leather, with a single swat…  although that same ability also led to her transformation to de-clawdia.  She has been with me for the past 17 years.  She moved with me eight times! So we criss-crossed the US a few times and she recently made it all the way to Ireland at 19.5 years old.  She has been a wonderful companion (to me, she didn’t really like many other people until she was too old to care).  Here are some pictures from the life and times of the Queen Bee:

Old school…  back in the days before wayne.


Just after her giant mass, affectionately named Patricia, was removed.


hanging with Bret.


Practicing yoga.


Her ritual, window-mediated chat with our chicken, Steve Holt.


Helping me finish the edits to my dissertation.


Pretending she doesn’t like chubchub.


I’ve been going through all my pictures looking for this one picture that I know I have of her.  It was taken early in the morning in my dining room in Corvallis.  The light coming through the window was rosy and perfect and she is totally relaxed taking in the sunshine on the white carpet.  I can almost hear her broken purr motor going just thinking about the picture.  It is just the way I like to think of her… but I can’t find the picture anywhere.  The same thing happened to me shortly after Wayno died.  I took this stupid online quiz about what kind of animal my soul mate was.  I got ” a dog wearing sunglasses.”  I remembered I had a picture of Wayne looking ridiculous with sunglasses on. I searched high and low for this picture,  but I only just found it today.


I am sure the picture of Clawdia will come back to me just when I need it.  Maybe people who read this can send a good thought her way today.  She probably doesn’t deserve it from many of you, but do it for me anyway.  Thanks.

So….   Long story short, I was in a tough place last night when we left the vet at 6:30.  We were walking home and we decided to stop at a pub for a pint.  As it so happens (actually all the time), there was a pub right in front of us, the Harp.  Bret had previously spotted the Harp because it is right on his daily commute.  At some point we googled it and found a review that described it as “the worst pub in Cork,” so that is actually how we have referred to it every time it has come up on the radar as a possible destination for the last five months.  On a night like last night, the worst pub in Cork sounded like a fine destination.


At first The Harp seemed a little lack-luster.  Two big rooms, a lounge and a bar with a pool table.  Lots of TVs, nothing special.  Bret got us a round of Beamish and we sat at a table.  Then, we made a new friend, Terry.  He must have pegged us as newcomers, so he introduced himself.  He asked us our name several times and got a serious hoot out of the fact we were trying to visit 52 pubs while in Cork.  He tried to entice Bret into a game of pool, but realized he had to leave.  It took him several attempts to actually leave.  He came back once to deliver us a round of fruity, rum drinks in beer mugs that he had purchased for us.  Yeah, I know… totally random.  Maybe he thought we needed drinks that matched the pink of my bloodshot eyes.


Then he came back to let us know that it was a beautiful night and we should go to the back of the pub where we could smoke fags (first time we’d heard that expression here) and enjoy the outdoors.  I thought maybe there was an outdoor “garden” which lots of pubs have.  They are generally just outdoor smoking areas with tables and sometimes some shelter from the rain.  Although, I came to the conclusion that Terry was really just talking about a parking lot. He gave up on the idea though when we told him we didn’t smoke.  Then he came back and shook our hands one more time and asked us our names.  Then he really left.  It actually isn’t the worst pub in Cork.  Every pub has its place.