Ireland’s Haunted Hostel

January 30, 2009
Foulksrath Castle

Foulksrath Castle

I’m writing this from my bed in a “haunted castle” in Kilkenny, Ireland.
Foulksrath Castle – a magical place like nowhere else we’ve ever stayed. Cold, damp, medieval and just a bit creepy, this is a true 16th century Norman Tower. Complete with a winding staircase and a secret passageway to the roof. A BBC television team of British Ghost hunters visited the hostel and sent back a report to say that ‘their machines recorded the best ghostly sounds of any place they visited in Ireland’.

Jack Macken, the caretaker, met us in his studio – where we were welcomed and then climbed the incredibly steep and tiny spiral staircase to our room. Dimly lit with candles, it was as if we had stepped back centuries in time. Ahh…we have the entire room to ourselves! It’s part of the castle tower and the views across the surrounding pastures are breathtaking. Petra the dog and a pretty, white kitty live here, too.

View from our Tower Room

View from our Tower Room

It was a little over a two hour bus ride to Kilkenny from Dublin – the public bus system is nice here. But when we arrived in Kilkenny (still 8Km from the hostel), it was pouring! In seconds we were soaked and had no idea where we were going. Splashing around with a 30 pound backpack, a 19 pound daypack and yesterday’s lunch leftovers for tonight’s dinner wasn’t much fun. Okay, it was a nightmare.

Then we realized (after asking around in the rain), that the “Orange Buggy” bus we were supposed to take to the hostel doesn’t run on Sundays (that was nowhere in the fine print on Hostel World!). Taxi fare was about 20 euro, so we decided to stow our bags – now wet and even heavier – in the tourism office so we could get some lunch and look around the town a little. No space there, but they directed us to the train station (at least 10 miles away – all uphill!). Well, maybe it was only about 1 mile, but it WAS all uphill. Once there, yep – closed on Sundays!

By this time we were pretty crabby, wet, and in dire need of a Guinness we kept seeing advertised everywhere. We turned around, walked back to the town (downhill this time) and found a great pub to spend the rest of the afternoon. We watched Gaelic football and Hurling, shouting with the home team as though we knew exactly what was going on. Hey, it was warm, dry, the food excellent, and they kept bringing the pints of Guinness!

Kilkenny's Own!

Kilkenny's Own!

About four hours later, we asked the bartender if she would call us a taxi. “No problem,” she said and went over to one of her customers (who she’d just brought out 2 more pints to add to the already full table of empties in front of him) and said “These girls need to get to Foulksrath, take them there.” He emptied his pints in seconds and did just that. That’s how we ended up at the castle tonight.

Relaxing in the dining room with Jack and a few other travelers, we learned a bit about the history of the castle and the surrounding areas. Sitting in the medieval dining room, it would not have been out of place to see a knight in chain-mail come clomping in to grab a slab of bread and stew to warm himself from the damp cold of the Irish countryside.

Medieval Dining Room

Medieval Dining Room


Castle Outbuilding

Castle Outbuilding


Our Watchtower!

Our Watchtower!

Thanks to Deliciousbaby.com for hosting the FUN Photo Fridays!


Dublin Day Two

January 28, 2009
Molly Malone

Molly Malone

July 2nd 2007

We spent the first night at the Dublin International Hostel getting introduced to many different languages while playing Texas Hold’em…here’s the scoop from an e-mail Cheryl sent out earlier that might not have reached everyone…”I have to admit, the hostels are not bad at all. The Dublin Hostel was actually pretty cool. That was our first night abroad and what did we do but play Texas Hold ’em in a chapel that was set up for dining purposes! Imagine this, 6 people around a table, 2 speak English, 3 Spanish, and 1 French. The only thing we had in common was a sort of “hydrating” beverage.. okay, I admit, it was wine…anyway, I digress – Somehow, we managed to teach everyone how to play and work our way through a very successful game of Texas hold ’em. The young girl from France (Auld Marie) played guitar so one of the guys from Spain (Sergio) went to his room and brought it down for her to play. I would give you as many guesses as you want and I am sure you would not guess the songs that somehow our 3 languages all knew!.. We sat around singing, Yellow Submarine, Twist and Shout, La Bamba. Then someone from each country sang a song from their own country – needless to say, I was NOT one of the singers, and any of you that might have heard me sing before are all pleased to hear that I am sure!”

Hostel Music

Hostel Music

I have to say this was an interesting first evening (first time abroard, first hostel, first bunk bed…) and there was even some table dancing involved! The next day (once we got caught up on our jet lag) we headed out for sight-seeing, typical tourists! Dublin was a neat city. Lots of beautiful architecture and so old that sometimes its hard to get your mind around it. We found a topless bus and rode through the city to see the sights. O’Connell Square, River Liffey, Book of Kells (a little disappointing as only two pages were on display), Trinity College, Temple Bar, St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Jonathan Swift’s tomb, and my personal favorite – the statue of Molly Malone, the beautiful fishmonger on Grafton Street, affectionately called “The Trollop With The Scallops”, “The Dish With The Fish”, and “The Tart With The Cart”.

It was a whirlwind of two days, learning new languages, braving the blustery cold, and trying different currencies. Onward to the smaller town on Kilkenney where we’re staying at the “haunted” Foulksrath Castle. Because of the latest news from the London area, we’ve decided to do a quick change of plans and avoid that area for a while. Not exactly sure where we’ll go instead, but will keep everyone posted.

St. Patricks Cathedral

St. Patricks Cathedral


First stop – DUBLIN!

January 23, 2009
Fond memories of Dublin

Fond memories of Dublin

(Dublin, Ireland. Thursday, June 28, 2007)

Lisa: (still yawning) I finally figured out that Ireland is 5 hours ahead of Florida. That meant while we were flying across the ocean, 5 hours were slipping away. We arrived this morning at 6:45am Dublin time – 1:45am Florida time! Of course with all of the excitement of being in Europe (finally!) and trying to find the right bus to take us “near” the hostel, trekking down rainy streets with my giant red backpack on, and checking in to a hostel for the first time (it’s really a fun place, really! But this is the first night, so I’ll reserve judgment for further down the road!). So when we finally slowed down for a few minutes, I was exhausted. Long nap is done now and I’m alive again. Ready to see what Dublin has to offer. BTW we’re sitting in a beautiful old chapel – the converted eating area of the hostel – drinking a bottle of wine our flight attendant gave us (they jammed the cork in too far? Whatever the reason, it is a wonderful bottle) and learning lots of new words from other travelers. Can’t wait to use them! 🙂

Hostel Newbie

Hostel Newbie

Cheryl: The trip was very tiring. When we landed in Dublin it was bright out because of the time difference. Even though my body said it should be sleeping, the light of day makes it feel like it is time to get up and go. The Hostel is really not too bad. If LISA says it is okay, it must be. I have already met some cool people here in the dining area. It is only open for breakfast so it becomes a gathering place almost in the evening. There is a card game about to start that I will need to get in on for 2 reasons. First, I LOVE cards. Who knows what game they are going to be playing or how we will even begin to try to describe the rules. Secondly, I want to learn more of the languages they are all speaking.. We will see how it goes!

Poker at the hostel

Poker at the hostel

Thanks to Deliciousbaby.com for hosting the Fun Photo Fridays!


Time to try out the backpacks!

January 19, 2009

Looks like me after all I ate in Seattle!

Looks like me after all I ate in Seattle!


Visiting Seattle and the San Juan Islands! (June 15-22, 2007)

This was to be our “break-in-the-backpacks” trip. It would be the first time I’d ever been traveling with something on my back instead of a nice, neat suitcase rolling along behind. Our friend Deidre decided to join us, so she willingly let herself in for a trip down memory lane as we hadn’t been back since living there from 1996-2001.

Priscilla the Purple Octopus and the backpacks!

Priscilla the Purple Octopus and the backpacks!

“All Things Are Connected” – Chief Seattle.
And nowhere does this seem truer than in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, North Bend, Redmond, Woodinville, Bellevue, the San Juan Islands and Friday Harbor… powerful mountains that touch the sky, the immensely deep emerald green bodies of water, and the trees – evergreens and firs with smells so fresh and pungent they are every allergy sufferers worst nightmare (so sorry Deidre!).
Visiting Seattle from Florida is a little like graduating — the road is long to get there, but once you’re there it is SO worth the trip! We came to celebrate Deidre’s birthday and celebrate we did. It was a non-stop eating and sightseeing adventure.
The typical “not-to-miss” tourist spots were Pike Place Market – flowers and fresh fish beyond any imagination; the Space Needle – incredible views and a great place to get your bearings before heading out to explore; Chateau St. Michelle Winery – that should be self-explanatory with this crowd :-); Seattle Harbor Cruise, Lake Union and Lake Washington Cruise, Washington Ferry to San Juan Island, and an Orca Whale Watch Cruise from Friday Harbor – we liked being on the water a LOT!
And of course there was the food! The Brooklyn, The Metropolitan Grill (for the real birthday celebration), 67 at the Edgewater Hotel, Icons Grill…and that was just in Seattle.

Pike Place Cherries

Pike Place Cherries


By the time we got to Friday Harbor, all we wanted was a burger or a salad! But the attraction in Friday Harbor wasn’t the food, it was the wildlife. Known for being one of the best spots to see Orca whales in their natural habitat, this visit showed us more than we hoped. On the first evening drive around the island we saw foxes, several families of deer, and a bald eagle – all before dinner! The next day’s trip on the whale watch boat we came upon pod L12. Their breaching and fish-hunting kept us entertained with ooo’s and ahhh’s most of the afternoon. Getting close to creatures that large and beautiful in their natural environment is an amazing experience!
orca
And Seattle’s infamous rain? Yes, we got a little of it. But thanks to Cheryl’s awesome excursion planning, we were able to see Mt. Rainier in all of its glory several days in a row. On the trip to Anacortes to catch the ferry, Mt. Baker showed off against the backdrop of the Cascades. Temperatures were in the upper 50’s to 70 the entire trip – a welcome relief from the Florida heat! A visit to the Pacific Northwest – Seattle and the San Juan Islands in particular – reminds us just how incredibly beautiful this part of the world is to enjoy! Back to Tampa today. Laundry awaits and it’s time to start re-packing the backpack for Ireland. We leave for Europe on Wednesday morning!! Woo Hoo!!


Words to travel by…

January 9, 2009
Beware of Sheep!

Beware of Sheep!

Mentally preparing for our RTW trip was one of the hardest parts. Trading the safety and comfort of what we knew and loved for unknown adventures waiting – well, that was tough. Thankfully, there were lots of others who had traveled this road before us and were kind enough to leave their words of wisdom as a roadmap for us to follow.

These words lifted us up so many times. Repeating them as a mantra when we were precariously perched on top of a wobbly elephant in Asia or getting ready to fall backwards into a deep, blue abyss kept us from the disappointment of not giving everything a try.

From the first words we adopted for our trip from Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” to the great advice on packing from Susan Heller, “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” these travel adages say it all.

Here are a few favorites and along the way, we even added our own snippets of experience to the renowned voices.

“Sometimes there is poetry written right on the bathroom wall” — Ani Difranco
And sometimes there is a sign on the bathroom door “Beware of Sheep Eating The Toilet Roll!” – Cheryl and Lisa

“The Answer My Friend is Blowing in the Wind” — Peter, Paul & Mary
At 130 KM/HR on the Italian Autostrada, it was our wet underwear blowing in the wind – Cheryl and Lisa

“A Journey of a Thousand Miles Must Begin with a Single Step” — Lao Tzu
Our journey began with a single step, two hundred nightmares, three journals, four guidebooks, and five pairs of underwear… Cheryl and Lisa

“Patience is a Virtue” — Chinese proverb
Especially if you’re the German tour group behind Lisa as all of her baggage falls and clogs the moving walkway in the airport – Cheryl and Lisa

What is YOUR favorite travel quote? What inspires you to keep going when the mosquitoes are biting or your luggage is lost (again)? What adage makes you want to pack your bags and head out again, even before the laundry is done from the trip you just completed?

Today What Boundaries? is participating in DeliciousBaby’s fun Photo Fridays, where everyone is invited to link to a travel photo.

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Mark Twain

January 6, 2009

whynot-2007_1180468200_marktwain
Wanted to share an inspirational quote! The man knew what he was talking about, huh?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.” Mark Twain (1835-1910)

With that thought in mind, here are our tenative travel plans for the first leg of our around-the-world adventure!

Well, it is almost time to start the fabulous journey! We will be heading to Seattle and the San Juan Islands for Deidre’s birthday celebration for one week, then the world travel will start. Here is a general itinerary of where we plan to go – although recall that planning is not the priority!

Europe – June 28 – Oct 3
Ireland June 28, Paris July 13- Bastille day, French wines and cheeses, what more can we say??. During August we plan to head to Croatia, Italy and Greece. The end of August will bring us to Spain for the La Tomatina event – we will be having a food fight in the steets of Bunol for a full hour of tomato tossing. I am sure the pictures will tell a VERY interesting story there!!

We will head to Munich, Germany for the Oktoberfest at the end of September. The blanks in between ALL those dates will be filled in as we go and as we find people to meet and places to see…

Mexico – Oct 9 – Dec 19
The first volunteer expedition on the coral reefs near Tulum., Mexico with GVI (Global Vision International) More to come on those experiences for sure!

South Africa Jan 11 – March 21
The second volunteer expedition for 10 weeks on the big game reserves of Venetia and Karongwe. GVI South Africa.
More to come but nothing planned yet. Anyone who knows me (Cheryl), knows that is very strange.. But, time and experiences changes us all right?

Safe travels to you all – in everything you do everyday!

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Packing the cats…

January 6, 2009

Beauregard House New Orleans

New Orleans! Ahhhh! Sitting out by the pool at the Beauregard House on Bourbon Street, we are in the first stages of unwinding. It’s been a whirlwind of excitement — the house selling with just 7 days on the market, the closing on April 30th, selling stuff and then packing everything we still own (not much!) into a small storage unit. Whew!

We made the trip from Tampa to New Orleans to drop off the cats with my Mom and Thom — they are adjusting to their new abode nicely, keeping us awake all night running up and down the stairs — and of course we had to stay long enough to celebrate Tom’s birthday at Galatoire’s for Friday Lunch. Yesterday was lunch at Port of Call on Esplanade…the BEST burgers and drinks. Try the Monsoon! Sitting at the bar, we were treated to two rounds of shots with our bartenders – the chocolate cake (vodka and Frangelica) served with sugared lemon wedges to taste like cake frosting is my new favorite shot!

Last night was dinner at Adolpho’s in the Marigny — wonderful Italian as always. Jazzfest is going on, so the town has lots of visitors. The lunch plan for today is Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville on the outside porch for shrimp po’ boy’s and boat drinks to people-watch. New Orleans is a great city for doing that!
Tomorrow we’ll be standing in line for Galatoire’s — will share pictures from the celebration!