Monthly Archives: July 2014


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!


Mullinhassig Falls

Emily and I went for a 38 mile bike ride today to see a local waterfall and forest park.





The forest park was pretty nice.  Lots of picnic tables, a nice view of the river and a fenced off area with some pretty cool deer.



There were also some spectacular views along the way.




I’m not quite sure how I feel about this place.  Seems like bad things could happen with a name like that.


Quite the distinction for this little town.

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Cork Harbour Pub Crawl

On Saturday, several people from work got together for a tour of Cork Harbour and some of its finer establishments.  Cork harbour is one of several that lay claim to the worlds second largest natural harbour by navigational area.


Here is a look at the boat we chartered, the C-Breeze.


We had 4 stops in total and had some great views of the harbor.


We stopped at “The Oar” Crosshaven, which obviously has connection with “The Oar” on Block Island, Rhode Island which I have also been to.  Unfortunately, I didn’t try the mudslide, their specialty.

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In between stops we played around in the wake of the ferry and massive cruise ship.

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Fun was had by all.  Thanks to Michael for organizing!


Here is a time lapse I made at one of our stops



Emily is off hanging out with guests in western Ireland and I took the opportunity to go for an after work hike in the Knockmealdown Mountains.

On the way, we went through a town that is the home of Lismore Castle. The castle was the birthplace of Robert Boyle in 1627 who is known as “The Father of Modern Chemistry” and popular Boyle’s law.  We did not tour the grounds, but the view from the road was pretty great.

The hike was very scenic with quite a bit of elevation.

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As is usual the top of the mountain was fogged in but that doesn’t stop the sheep from hanging out.


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Lauren and Ed came to visit and we had a great time.  We went to a Cork City Football (soccer) match, visited the old Cork City jail and hung out at some local watering holes.  It also meant that I got to go mountain biking with Lauren in the Ballyhoura Mountains.ballyhoura1

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They had very well marked and well groomed trails.


We rented some pretty sweet bikes as well, my first time on full suspension!


Lots and lots of single track.


On another note, before Lauren and Ed got here, we went to our first hurling match… what a bizarre game.