Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bling or No Bling

I don't buy much fine jewelry. Well, any actually. I like to look in the windows along with everyone else but I don't often see pieces I long to have. But it just so happens that after passing this shop everytime we went to the Underground in Vienna, Jay and I finally went in. The saleslady brought out this piece. I tried it on. She said the color matched my eyes! (I know they are paid to say this stuff, but it was working, it still is) But as I slipped the ring off and I glanced at the tag: 6800 euros or $8900. So, I along with you, will have to admire this from the website. Olive is my favorite but I really would like to have the whole collection.

But I did uncover a great find along the narrow streets of Salzburg in a very cute boutique filled with all kinds of clothing by Lana natural wear. I chose the Melrose cardigan sweater made from natural materials and ecologically friendly processes. I am not sure what all that means except it is SO soft. I didn't let myself venture over to the kids collection, as you can see online, it is adorable.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Hills are Alive!

We took an hour and half train to Salzburg. I love to travel and I love planning it. While this is a first, mistakes are made. I had trouble finding a place to stay in Salzburg. At the last minute, I found the Renaissance Salzburg available. But apparently I only booked it for one night, not the day we arrived in Salzburg. The gentleman at the desk was very kind to call around to try to find us a place to stay. It was difficult but we finally got rooms at the Salzburg Airport hotel. I don’t have any photos but in our desperate state we were definitely taken to the cleaners.

There are about 145,000 inhabitants. It is a small city. We wandered around the narrow streets through the shops and markets. You wonder how the kids can handle all the window shopping? It is called pretzels, crepes, cinnamon apples, hotdogs, ice cream (they have Redbull ice cream. We have not told Jay. Their headquarters are here) hot chocolate, strudels, and so much more. My other mistake was thinking that we were going to visit the Neuschwanstein castle from Salzburg. No that would have been Munich. So I have decided we will come back and drive part of the Fairytale road in the spring which centers around the Brothers Grimm stories.

Jay and the boys went on a Saltmine tour while the girls went on the Sound of Music tour. The Saltmine tour was great. The SoM tour was good but I thought it could have been presented more interestingly. We did get to see some beautiful areas of the Austrian Alps. One of the most breathtaking was the Mondsee. There were great shops with gorgeous sweaters and cardigans. And tempting traditional Austrian clothing for Victoria and Noah but so expensive.

We took another relaxing 3 hour train ride into Vienna. The kids travel so well on the train, much better than the car. Vienna is much larger than Salzburg. This city is also beautiful but not the quaint feeling of Salzburg. We are staying at the Pension Pertschy and I love it. The location couldn't be more central and the rooms are large and unique. The Christmas lights throughout the city are beautiful. We ate at the Augustinerkeller. It was good food and desert and affordable.

Breanna, Cameron, Grant and I took the Imperial tour of the Schonbrunn palace. It was very impressive but the whole European royal genealogy is confusing me. It is too bad we were not here in the spring as the gardens would have been beautiful.

We are now feeling the cold here in Vienna. We opted not to window shop around Stephansplatz (I was tired of seeing the $14,000 watches) so we headed over to an indoor mall at the U1 Kagran stop. This evening we went over to the Christmas markets at Rathausplatz. Here among the incredible government buildings are huge trees full of lighted candy canes, wreaths, hearts, and bulbs. Again not my favorite market but the atmosphere is light and fun. We ate at a chain restaurant called Wienerwald (meaning forest of Vienna. Wein is German for Vienna) It wasn’t that great. Mostly grilled chicken, potato cakes, fries, chicken strips and veggies. But the kids ate well. And again very affordable to eat in Vienna.

Our Bavaria trip comes to and end as we head home to Dublin tomorrow night. We are planning to see a “Life in America” display at a local museum, get Cameron’s ice skating practice in for the week (Jay can only be a spectator), the Museum of Military History and pick up some last minute gift items from Demel’s and Manner’s. This is a magical time of the year to visit Germany and Austria. I can't even begin to explain the amazing architecture, sights and tastes but wish you all a visit here.


I know it may be hard for some of you justify the postage involved for an unknown prize but let me give you some parameters. It will be somewhere between this and this.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"Guten Tag!"

The weather continues to be beautiful in Germany. We have been out to the Olympic village here in Munich (where we paid homage to Steve Prefontaine). It is a beautiful area with the old Olympic buildings and many parks and paths. We went up the Olympic tower and had a decent lunch at the cafeteria style restaurant next door. We went ice skating and everyone did pretty well. Jay had a minor mishap (we think he was attempting a quadruple klutz, I mean lutz) and he did a face plant sending his sunglasses flying across the ice and injuring his right hand. Very sore teeth, a fat lip and trouble holding even a toothbrush in his hand he is recuperating. I think his ice skating days might be over. But I think we said the same thing when he tried this about 6 years ago. Jay and the boys went to the BMW museum. Their headquarters are located next door and a very interesting building built to look like a four cylinder engine.
This hasn't been my favorite Christmas market except for the location on the Marienplatz surrounded by an amazing gothic City Hall. They have some great stores although we didn't do much shopping since we are travelling light taking the trains. We didn't make it to the Deutsches Museum and we will try to get over to the Nymphenburg Palace before we leave for Salzburg tomorrow. We didn't plan our time very efficiently here in Munich.
I had my first roasted chestnut but not on an open fire. And let's just say however festive it may be, it was my first and last. We had a delicious meal at Der Tannenbaum. Good Japanese soup at Shoya.
Blogger is still coming up in German. I just did spell check and it told me nearly all of my words are spelled wrong.
"Auf Wiederschauen!" except this one.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Our First and Only Desperate Giveaway

My friend Jenni recently sent me to a blog where there are daily give aways in December of very cute prizes. I thought, "I want to give away things" but I don't have any conncections in any industries or enough traffic to justify getting free product. I am not even sure more than two supportive and very kind people read my blog. But we have collected some great things on our travels and are ready to give them away to some (two) very lucky readers. Here are the rules: From now until January 15th the first ten people to send 1) a christmas card or 2) a post card or 3) one of the following:
a box of Lucky Charms or your favorite cereal
a package of marshmellows
a box of Dots or your favorite candy
or something you don't think you could live with out from the good ol' USA

will be winners of one of our great prizes. Here is the address and good luck to both of you:)

Huntington, Outfarm Lane
Dublin 15 IRE

It's starting to feel alot like Christmas

In Ireland, they are only now getting around to hanging a few Christmas lights and playing an occasional Christmas carol. To give you an idea of the weak Christmas spirit here, this is their favorite Christmas song for two years running. I prefer not to see the commercial part Christmas until after Thanksgiving but I also think by Dec 1 Christmas season should be in full force so that you can take advantage of the festive season for the whole month. The Irish will be lucky to get a good two weeks. I don't see any Christmas concerts or Angel trees out to buy less fortunate kids gifts for Christmas. I am not seeing much Christmas spirit.

Until I came to Germany. Here, they know how to celebrate Christmas. I mean, this is a place where Kris Kringle and St Nicholas are two different people that both deliver gifts on different days. The atmosphere is built around good, aromatic food, chocolate, festive music, chocolate, decorations, trees, music, I could go on and on.

We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany to cold weather with snow flurries. We stayed at the Couryard Frankfurt Messe. It was the right price but it was about 10 minutes from the city center and just not a good location if one was staying longer. We had lunch at the hotel and set off to the Zeilgalerie (mall) to pick up a few hats and some gloves since we will spending quite a bit of time outside. Just outside the mall we experienced our first Christmas market. Jay, feeling under the weather stayed at the hotel with the two younger ones. We walked along the stalls eating chocolate covered fruit kabobs. Strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, grapes, mandarin oranges, pineapple, bananas. Milk, dark and white chocolate. Roasted nuts of every kind. Gingerbread, cookies and cakes. Delicious chocolate covered creamy, marshmallows. Sweets everywhere. Sipped on hot chocolate and hot punch. Every kind of Christmas ornament and decoration you could imagine, or couldn't. We finally left after a couple of hours and called it a day.

This morning we slept in with our chocolate hangover. We headed over to the train station and caught a train to Munich at 11:00am. We made a two hour stop in Nurnberg, Germany the most famous Christkindlemarkt. We left our luggage in the train station and headed over where our first stop was lunch. Mini sausages on crusty bread. Tasty. And then desert. And more desert. The Frankfurt market was on a square but here it is on streets lined by shops. My purchase here will be a wooden nativity and lighted wooden Christmas scene. The weather is cold but not bitter. The only thing missing so far is snow. After taking the two hour train to Nurnberg, we trained one more hour into Munich. Train travel here is great. Quiet, smooth and fast. We are staying at the Acanthus hotel and will be here for three days. The kids are definitely enjoying this trip. I wonder why....

I still haven't posted my Spain photos due to technical difficulites. I am hoping to get them resovled soon so I can also post these amazing photos from Germany. Happy Holidays and Happy Birthday Brianna!

By the way, the strangest thing, I logged into Blogger in English but I am having to compose it with German tabs and buttons everywhere. This might get posted :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving from....Missouri!

At the last minute I decided to fly Grant and I home to Missouri to celebrate Thanksgiving. I did not tell anyone in Missouri that I was coming. My parents were in St Louis and I knew their hotel so I showed up knocking on their door Tuesday night at 8:30pm. To say they were surprised is an understatement. It was a great visit with beautiful weather and I love to be with family. Is there anything more important?

We had fun eating familiar foods, shopping at stores with way too much stuff and not having to watch football games in the middle of the night. We left clothes just so we could bring back important staples, like, Lucky Charms (shouldn't they have this in Ireland of all places?!?). That my friends will be Christmas breakfast. We are now spending our last 6 hours on American soil in the Atlanta airport with our layover before our 8 hour flight to Dublin. I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Costa del Sol

I first want to send out our most heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the families of Steve and Catheryn Roundy. They both worked with Jay for many years at Enhance and most recently Catheryn was working with us at the sunglass store. She gave us great tips for our trip to Paris. They were so kind and always willing to help. They will be missed~

We flew into Malaga, Spain on Saturday, November 11th. This is located on the southern coast along the Mediterranean Sea. We are staying just outside the seaside town of Marbella. During the summer this place is packed with tourist from all over Europe but as usual we are missing all the crowds. We are taking advantage of the 70 degree weather that we have had for the last 4 days. The next two are scheduled for rain.

On Sunday we attended a very small English speaking branch (congregation). A total of about 30 people. Apparently there are many people living and working here along the coast from the UK. Our kids gladly doubled the primary. The next two days were spent near the sea and the (indoor) swimming pool.

Wednesday was a day trip to one of the oldest cities in Spain, Ronda. It is one of the Pueblo Blancos (white villages) that refers to the many white buildings built upon the hillsides. I won't pretend that throughout all these travels that I am an expert on any of these areas we are visiting. Most places we have gone I have never even heard of. I have just spent alot of time researching and reading travel boards to decide where and what to do on our trips. I wish I were more fluent in foreign languages, I wish I knew more about history, religion and architecture on these trips. And while things are still interesting, I know with my ignorance, I am not able to fully appreciate all the significance. But I am hoping it sparks something within the kids that by exposing them to these places now, in the future when they learn about it in school it will have more meaning and they will want to learn more about it.

Anyway, back to Ronda, we spent the short time there wandering the narrow streets, looking off the "new bridge" (200 years old) and touring the oldest and largest bullring in Spain. We learned that most of us would not want to witness a bullfight (the season is usually April-Oct) and it is much more bloody than I had known. We had lunch at the Don Miguel hotel and I should note that the menu was a little too adventurous for the kids but as usual most places are willing to make a tuna sandwich, hamburger or spaghetti for the kids. I had their almond and garlic cold soup followed by the spinach and prawns in olive oil. I just couldn't bring myself to try the ox tail that is a very popular menu item.

Thursday under the threat of rain, but luckily none fell during our outing, Jay, Cameron, Grant and I took the two hour drive to the city of Granada to see the Alhambra (here I was especially feeling that ignorance). The detailed carving and the abundance of it in the architecture was amazing. We spent about two hours and had it not been for our craving for lunch we could have spent another hour. It is massive and well, palatial.

Our last full day we spent in the sun and then went to the Pablo Picasso museum in Malaga where he was born. We had fun guessing what the paintings were and then reading the descriptions. I wanted to link to my favorites in the collection but it won't allow me. Here is the website and my two favorites were Olga Seated and Man, Woman and Child both in The Collection. We walked around the town center of Malaga and I wish we had found it earlier. It has many pedestrian streets and shops. We had wanted to take a couple of other day trips to Cordoba and Sevilla (that one would have been a bit much for a day trip) but we didn't get them in.
I have really liked Spain. I love the mountains and they way they use every bit of the landscape to farm or build even if it is up the side of a steep hill. I love the Spanish tile roofs, the tiled courtyards, arched entryways, carved doors and my favorite, corbels. I have always loved this style and hopefully someday build this style of house. I love the mixture of history and am on a quest to learn more about it. I will post our pictures after we get home on Saturday.

Please post if you have ideas on places to go and things to see. Or post about anything. Our next trip is in December to the Bavaria region (Christmas markets!) of Germany (Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Munich) and Austria (Salzburg and Vienna).

Buenas Noches

Saturday, November 04, 2006

So What Did You Do This Weekend?

3 days, 6 countries, 3 Ferries, 1 car, 980 driving miles and we are back in Dublin with our new Volvo XC90. Jay and I left for Goteburg, Sweden on Wednesday afternoon. We had some time that evening and went over to the Mall next to the hotel. It was so nice to see so much COLOR! I have read about and I can attest to the Irish phobia of color, in their clothes, decorating and even their weather. But to be in Scandinavia where the bolder the better was exciting. It made me want to redecorate the house, except it isn’t mine. It was FREEZING in Sweden. The temp was in the low 30’s and the wind was bitter. We were not too adventuresome in the eating department and opted for a sushi place down the street for a snack and the hotel restaurant for dinner. It was just too cold to walk anywhere.
Thursday after picking up the car and touring the factory we headed to our first way point, Hamburg Germany. This was strictly a trip to pick up the car so we didn’t do any sight seeing but covered a lot of area. It took longer to get there than appears on the map which seems to be the case all over Europe. We drove down the coast of Sweden and since it gets dark, pitch black, at 4:30 we missed seeing any part of Denmark in the day light. We took a short ferry across to Germany and arrived into Hamburg at about 10pm. We awoke the next morning thinking we had an easy 4 hours to Amsterdam. It was slow going (which included a stop at IKEA) we arrived in the port at Rotterdam at 7pm. Here we boarded an overnight 12 hour ferry to Hull, England.
We disembarked at about 8am and headed across to the other side of England to take a ferry into Dublin. This we thought would be our longest day was infact our shortest. The total drive time without stops would be only about 4 hours but with our obligatory stops to Costco and a shopping mall near Manchester (with no Thanksgiving to appreciate, Christmas shopping is in full force) We arrived at 5pm to take the hour and a half crossing to Dublin and were home by 7:30pm.
Phew and here we go again on the 11th to Spain. And I thought life would be less busy here in Europe....

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Life is Hard

Warning: This is not a travel update just me making some observations about life in Ireland.

Upon finding out that we are living in Ireland for a year from the US, the most consistent question we are asked is "Is it much different here?" This question is being asked in a way that I sense they are hoping (or maybe not) that it isn't all that different from America. Which seems to contradict the "that's too American" theme they have adopted to try to avoid to becoming too much like us.
At first, I answered that it wasn't much different at all. The language is the same (that is not exactly true) and basically we are the same in that we go to work, school, have families, passionate about football (albeit two totally different sports), etc... you know the day to day living. Well that is still true, but the difference I have found, is somehow that day to day living seems a wee bit harder.
Let's start with one of my least favorite things to do in the States that has become absolute agony here in Ireland: grocery shopping. There are only two grocery stores that I can even consider going to. Now it doesn't even bother me that since they charge for bags that I have to remember to take my own. I actually like that idea and even more than that I love (except when I don't have any money with me except a credit card I am cursing the whole set up) is that you have to put a 1eruo coin in the trolley (grocery cart) to get it out and when you return it and attach the chain you get your money back. Which alleviates one of my pet peeves, lazy people who leave grocery carts haphazardly in the parking lots.
But neither of these things actually has to do with choosing the items. A simple recipe of chocolate chip cookies somehow becomes frustrating when I can only find chocolate chips in a bag the size of M&M's for about $5. And how about some warm cornbread on cool autumn night-no not if it calls for creamed corn. And some pretzel sticks for some spooky tarantula cookies. No. And when I do finally find a familiar item I have been looking for it is in a spot I would have never looked in a serving the size of Gerber baby food. Example: cottage cheese. And then of course, let's not forget it won't even taste the same. Based on many of the sizes of things they are still of the mind set to go to the grocery store every day.
I expected that there wouldn't be 5 different brands of the same item, I just didn't expect that there wouldn't be very many items. So I find myself purchasing the same things over and over, week after week. (Cilantro, forget it) Oh and ice cream? It isn't even totally frozen that by the time you reach the check out it is already melting out of the side. A simple plain potato chip? A treasure hunt through all the onion, vinegar and cheddar chips. Not easy. I can't even begin to tell you how expensive it is. And grapes: a luxury. I think we might splurge and have some with Christmas dinner. The advantage of being here is you can choose from all the breads (but only buy what you can eat in about three days as it molds quickly), cheeses and liquor you can imagine. And pushing a grocery cart through the mall and across the street to the library car park where they have trolley returns is an interesting experience.
Next, trying to find materials for the kids school projects. Painful. Finding a Thomas Hardy classic for bookclub? After a week of looking at the library and the only two small bookstores in the area, it must have been fate that Borders opened on Saturday offering the book for a mere 3euro. (Nevermind that I found out today we will be in Spain for the bookclub meeting)
I think that most of this discontent has to do with the awful road planning and traffic that we encounter to almost everywhere, but alas that is another blog.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hadrians Wall/English Lakes

I hope you all did your homework on the Roman ruins. We visited the Wall starting at Steel Rigg and were going to walk the 2.5 miles along it to Housestead's but the weather was not cooperating. We headed to Vindolanda which was a Roman settlement and I thought the most interesting place of the day. It has many artifacts of daily life that have been uncovered since the Romans lived there in and around 100AD . We ended at Corbridge which was a Roman fort. But by the time we got there the kids had seen enough stacked stone and were paying more attention to the sheep.
We then headed towards Grasmere, England where we are staying at the Best Western Red Lion Inn. It is a very small village of less than a thousand people. It is quiet, relaxing and serene. This is also where William Woodsworth lived and wrote most of his poetry. It is also the home of Beatrix Potter from the Peter Rabbit tales. The drive into this Lakes region was breathtaking with the green rolling hills divided by short stone walls and the mountains in the background. We had spent all day in the car so it was nice to be here in this quaint village and walk along the narrow streets, go to the park and relax. This area is very busy in the summer and very quiet right now. The hills and mountains cater to walkers/hikers and climbers of all abilites. We spent this morning at the park and the shops. We are headed out to one of the easier hikes this afternoon. Tomorrow we are going to stop in a slightly larger town of Windermere, take in some shopping and head down to Liverpool.
One of the highlights of our trip is there: Costco. 4 of us are flying home while Jay and two kids will take the ferry back with the van full of things we just can't get in Ireland.
As always the trip was great but we are ready to get back home and start planning the next. The countryside here and in Scotland were beautiful and I can't wait to get home and post some photos.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Haste ye back!

This is the sign you encounter as you leave the small towns along the coast of Scotland. We will definitey be back. We just got a small glimpse of this country. This morning at about 10:30 we walked to the Edinburgh castle. It took about 2o minutes and the weather today was great. We saw the sun. It was mostly sunny and just a wee bit chilly. The castle is enormous and the highlights for us were the Crown jewels (instead of explaining I will just add links if you are curious-http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/Scotland-History/ScottishCrownJewels.htm
The One o'clock gun which fires everyday at suprisingly one o'clock. The origin of this tradition lies in the days when sailing ships in the Firth of Forth were able to check and reset their chronometers in the days before accurate timepieces were available. Now it is just a way for tourist to set their watches. And finally the Prisoner of War cells and memorabilia. We ate lunch and the kids went to a couple of children activities so we were there for about 3 hours.
We left and walked along the Royal Mile which is full of shops. Along the Royal Mile is a fun and free Museum of Childhood just full of old toys from different eras. We then walked back to the apartment and the boys went to the cinema to see Barnyard. So we were able to see most of what I had planned but we will hasten back and see much more of the country.
Tomorrow we leave early and head to Northern England with a stop at the border to see Hadrian's wall. Refresh your memory so you know what we are talking about :) http://www.hadrians-wall.org/

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

First Day in Edinburgh

We woke up this morning with a view of the river and Edinburgh castle. It is cloudy and will stay overcast the entire day. No sun to be seen. Infact, I have noticed we all are getting a bit pale with the lack of sunlight. We may have to find the tanning beds:) and take a Vitamin D supplement. But even with the haziness, the buildings are so interesting to look at with the mixture of old and new architecture. We slept in and at 11:00am were on our way to a science museum called Dynamic Earth. This was a fast moving, very interesting museum for adults as well as kids. We also ate lunch in the cafe there which I had read got pretty good reviews. It was good with a wide selection for a museum cafe.
I had planned to take the kids to a puppet show but I didn't know if we would make it in time. It was in the same direction of the Flight museum so we headed towards the Brunton theater in East Lothian. We arrived about 10 minutes late and all decide to go in except for Jay and Cameron who pick us up an hour later. The puppet show was called " The Man Who Planted Trees" from Jean Giono's tale about a French shepherd who transforms a desolate region by planting hundreds of thousands of trees. It was probably too much dialogue for the kids but enough humor and fun from the talking dog that kept them awake, except for Breanna. I liked it and the story of how the tale came about is interesting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Planted_Trees
We then headed for our final adventure of the day the National Museum of Flight also in East Lothian. Here the main attraction is Scotland's Concorde supersonic jet. It has a very thorough tour of the jet along with a short movie. It also includes a couple of hangars with civil and military aircraft. It was a nice museum in the middle of farmland. We headed back to the apartment and will spend the rest of the evening relaxing. Tomorrow's itinerary includes the Edinburgh castle, the Royal Mile, shopping, possibly the Holyrood Palace and Butterfly world. Goodnight

Hello, from Scotland

We left Ireland on Sunday and headed up to a church in Dundalk (about an hour away) where Jay was looking forward to meeting some members from his mission. We drove to the address we had which was a home in a small subdivision but there clearly was no meeting being held there. So after asking a couple of people we realized we were not going to be able to find it on this trip. We had lunch and headed towards Belfast, another hour north. There is no border crossing between the Republic and Northern Ireland. However the scenery does change with a more mountainous feel (well large rolling hills) and seemed much prettier compared to the areas around Dublin. We spent the night at the Hilton in Fitzpatrick and awoke the next morning to take the car ferry to Scotland. We left Larne, N.I. and an hour and a half later arrived in Carinrayn, Scotland. The ferry ride was smooth and not crowded. As soon as we started driving I could tell this was a special place. I don't know if it is all my genealogy research making the names of places familiar to me or the beauty of the country. From the moment you leave the port, on the right side of the car are lush green hills and valleys with white, wooly sheep dotting the country side that seem to go on forever. Turning to look out the left side of the car is the calming waters of the Irish Sea. We follow this route all the way to Ayr which is where we decide to stop for lunch. We are all very hungry and decide to eat wherever we can find a parking space. We find a space next to Carlton's Cafe near a new public park. It doesn't look like much and inside is a quiet, unassuming older gentleman taking our orders. We had a couple of baguettes, pizza, fries, and ice cream which were pretty good. We would have taken the kids over to the park but it is FREEZING and we need to get going to make it to the Stirling Castle. We are already a little behind schedule. So while the driving distances aren't that far you just can't drive very fast.
We arrive to Stirling at about 4 pm giving us a couple of hours to tour the Castle. While it isn't the best castle that I have visited the grounds that surround it and the views are magical. I will put the pictures under the map section. These grounds are where the famous battles of William Wallce and Robert the Bruce took place. We leave Stirling for Edinburgh which took a little, well a lot longer to get to our apartment because I didn't have the address. We arrive at 9:30 and Jay, Grant and I leave to go get a few groceries. We are so starved for good shopping we couldn't wait to get here and find the ASDA superstore. This is Walmart in the UK. It was nice to have selections and it is a wee less expensive. So after getting home at about 11 pm we very tired and look forward to sleeping in.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Two months

Can it really be? Already? The time is flying by here and it has felt that way since we arrived. Well, we are settling in and still enjoying ourselves. That is not to say, we are not missing friends and family and other familiarities. We have settled into a routine. Breanna and I teach school from 8am-12pm with one, sometimes two breaks. We teach Cameron or Grant for a week and then switch. I usually teach Noah at the same time or occasionally he attends afternoon kindergarten :)
I know you are waiting to hear that the kids are hating it, are home sick and want to come home. But thankfully I haven't heard any of that. Well I do know they are looking forward to going home but I don't hear any nagging or complaints. I have been concerned because there just isn't many opportunities for the kids to make friends while they are here. They don't go to the public school, we don't have kids in the neighborhood, they aren't involved in any sporting events here, yet when I questioned them about it they weren't too concerned. They have been playing very well with each other. I am sure it also helps that we have so much time available that we cater to them and try to keep them entertained. We take many bike rides, walks, play tennis and only half the time is it in the rain. We try to spend as much time as possible outside away from the television, computer and the gameboys.
After being here for two months, I am starting to form some opinions about life in Ireland. First, the people, as you may have heard, are very friendly and cheerful. They are ready to strike up a conversation anywhere and often when you are in queue (in a line at the grocery store, food court at the mall, bank) anywhere. I often find it hard to give an intelligent response as some of the accents are very hard to understand.
Food: expensive Infact the overall cost of living is very high compared to life in Utah. But grocery shopping is very costly. And I have to do a lot of planning since nearly all the meals must be prepared. Not a lot of easy or tasty prepackaged meals. The kids already miss some staples: Kraft macaroni and cheese, Wendy's junior bacon cheeseburger, and hotdogs to name a few. So I wouldn't recommend Ireland for the food (grocery or restaurant ) or the shopping.
Jay does not need to worry about me spending money on clothes here. I have yet to find a decent store for children's clothing or a great shoe store. We have found the closest thing to a Walmart. It is called Argos. You look through a catalog and write down the corresponding number. You can even check the inventory on an item. You then take your list to a cashier, who after paying, sends you over to a counter to pick up your items where they have been brought up from the warehouse space behind the counter.
Our church building is close about 10 minutes away. There are about 50-70 people in attendance. Cameron will be ordained a deacon in two weeks and there is one other deacon. He attended mutual for the first time last week and loved it. Everyone was so welcoming and nice. The ward is requesting our records and I am sure Jay and I will be asked to speak soon. We have already heard the bishopric or members of the bishopric speak twice. Jay and I go out weekly with the missionaries on balanced splits. Many of the people the missionaries teach are non-nationals. Last week they had a baptism for a woman from Africa. Jay and I took a two day trip down to Waterford (located on the southern coast) last week. We left after church and arrived in our Ramada hotel at about 6:30pm. When we stepped off the elevator,and the hotel room directly in front of us said "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Visitors Welcome" I stood there shocked and couldn't believe that a meeting was held in a hotel room. Jay said when he served in Ireland they would hold church in their flat and would have loved to have a hotel to meet in. When I talked to the missionaries here in Dublin, they said the members in Waterford had been looking for a better place to meet as the hotel they were meeting in before wasn't so nice. One Sunday we will take the kids down and attend their branch. General Conference is on between 5-7pm and 9-11pm at the stake center but I have decided to just watch it at home on the internet. We couldn't get a decent connection for the Chiefs game a couple of weeks ago but Conference comes in flawlessly. Hmm...
Jay is gone this week back to Utah and good food. I don't have any problems driving now I just have no idea where I am going:) but that is improving. Well just thought I'd give a brief update. My next post will probably be from Scotland in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Field Trip to the K Club

Jay and I took Cameron and Grant to the opening practice round of the Ryder Cup here in Kildare, Ireland. For those of you that may not know, it is a golf tournament between a European and American team. We drove to a park and ride spot about 45 minutes away and from there took a bus (about 20 minutes) to the K Club golf course. The course and the weather were absolutely beautiful.
We arrived at 9am and set out immediately to find the American team. They had teed off early and the first group, which included Tiger Woods, were on the 9th hole. Cameron held his ticket and Grant's for Tiger Woods to sign. When Tiger walked by going to the 13th hole he grabbed both of them but only signed Grant's. Needless to say, Cameron was very disappointed. He spent the next few holes trying to get an autograph, to no avail. His final chance was when they were leaving the 18th hole to go into the club house. He got into great position and while he still wasn't able to get Tiger's autograph, he was able to get Phil Mickelson, Chris DiMarco, and Chad Campbell.
It was about 5 hours of walking, or stalking Tiger Woods, that it only allows you to watch a shot here and there. It also didn't allow us to get many photos of the other golfers. Infact we weren't even sure Phil Mickelson was there since he was only wearing a white shirt and the other US golfers had on brown sweater vest. But we had a good time and we all agreed we would rather go to a practice round than the regular tournament as the players are probably more relaxed and you can see much more of the game on television. They expect about 20,000 people at the practice rounds and twice as many on each day of the tournament.
So a good time was had by all and I have posted some pictures on the website. We really didn't get around much, most of them are of Tiger.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Home Again

It is nice to be back home after being so busy. School started this week. Our first day was Wednesday and it lasted a whole hour. Um, we were a bit unprepared. The curriculum we are using is online based and I didn't get access until Wednesday morning. But the last two days have been much smoother. We start at 8:00am and finish about 12:00 or 1:00pm with a couple of breaks. Cameron is in sixth grade, Grant in fourth and Noah in Kindergarten. It isn't too bad here where I don't have many obligations but for me, I would not attempt to homeschool under any other circumstances. I am so glad to have Breanna here helping me. But it is nice to see the kids learning and what they are learning. The absolute best part is being able to learn at their own pace. I can move them along faster or if they are struggling, spend more time on it.

We have changed our traveling plans a bit. My Italy trip wasn't falling into place so I have moved that to next Spring. We then thought about going over to London but after being in Paris, I need a break from a big city. So we are doing a road trip at the beginning of October. We will take a car ferry over to Holyhead and drive 3 hours to Windermere, a town in the English Lakes region in northern England. We will spend a few days there and drive another three hours to Edinburgh, Scotland. We will spend a few days there and then head for Belfast in Northern Ireland. Jay wants to attend church there to reunite with some members he knew from his mission. Then head back down to Dublin. A much more relaxed trip without all the demanding tourist and historical spots.

We finally got satellite television and the kids were thrilled to get a North American sports channel. So we have recorded about 17 hours of Major League baseball since most of the games are on in the middle of the night here. However Grant is very disappointed that he hasn't seen a Royals game. I think we get some of the NFL games but Jay has that covered just in case with Yahoo on the internet who now airs all the games.

Well, we are still waiting for our first visitors. We made sure we got a place with plenty of room for you. So send us your dates and we can pencil you in or meet you somewhere on this continent.

I might add that the vehicle we got is left hand drive (which is the opposite of everyone here) and it has made it so much easier for me to drive. It is a bit inconvenient for parking and toll booths so we just have to make sure we have someone in the passenger seat for that.

I started posting photos of France under my photo section but the map page is now up and I put additional photos there. I enjoy reading the posts on the guest book and feel free to comment on the blogs. I am going to start having the kids blog on Sundays. That should be interesting. You will get the real facts there. Take Care,

Monday, September 11, 2006

Au revoir Paris

After some very busy days and the loss of internet access I have to somehow condense our last few days in Paris into this post. We took the kids to Disneyland. It was an easy 35 minute train ride directly to the front gates. The kids enjoyed it but I thought we had just as much fun at the Jardin d' Acclimatation, a children's park with small rides and other attractions catering to mostly under 12's.
Jay picked up our van that we are leasing in Paris and we headed up to Normandy. We stopped in Giverny, which is home to Monet's house and gardens. It was great stop. The gardens, ponds and bridges were beautiful. We continued on to Bayeux, which was the small, quaint and quiet town we would be staying in while we drove to the World War II sites. It was a very nice change from the noise and busy-ness of Paris. We stayed at the Hotel d'Argouges which we would definitely recommend. We ate dinner and called it a night as we were finally going to wake up early. I struggled with deciding whether to hire a guide to take us around and finally decided against it. I think if it were only the older two boys with us we would have done a half day tour but with the two little ones it was good to be on our own schedule. I won't go into detail but I will say that the kids found all the sites interesting. They are just sponges and are so eager to learn and it doesn't hurt that they are boys immersed in war, guns, army vehicles, etc... although I won't go into detail here about each place you can read that in my book once it's published :) but we started out at the Arromanches, a museum dedicated to the artificial harbor. We then drove to Coleville Sur Mer, the American cemetery overlooking Omaha beach, amazing. We headed up to Pont du Hoc and the Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer museum. There were a few other places we had wanted to go, but I could see we could soon be pushing the limits for the little ones. So on a whim we decided to drive down to Mont St Michel a beautiful monastery which began construction in 1020. It was about an hour and half drive. I had wanted to go but didn't think we would have time. And even though it was too cold to walk around (as we didn't think to bring jackets) and the shops were closed, the sunset and the lights at night are breathtaking and we were there during the high tide. (If you don't know about this place you must go read about it. It is fascinating and the most popular tourist destination in France) Now I must say at this point in our trip, Jay's camera battery and mine had died so we were left with the kids cameras for the rest of the trip but I am sure they did it justice. ( I haven't actually downloaded them yet). This is definitely a place we would love to go back and tour.

We woke up the next morning and went to see the Bayeux tapestry. It is a 1000 year old tapestry depicting the story of William the conqueror defeating Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Grant and Victoria lost interest, but for the rest of us it was an excellent history lesson. On our way back to Paris, I had wanted to stop in Caen to see a peace museum that I had read was a must see but I had not done much research on. It was to be a quick stop and on to Paris. However as we entered and looked through the brochure, it read "What to see if you only have a half of a day..." Half of a day? We had only planned on a quick 30 minutes. So we did go for about an hour and a half but certainly did not do it justice.

We arrived back in Paris and the next day Jay drove back with Cameron and Victoria to Dublin. They drove 2 1/2 hours north and boarded a train through the Euro tunnel to England. They spent the night in Birmingham. The next morning they drove to Liverpool and got some much needed provisions from Costco. They took a ferry from Holyhead to Dublin which takes about an hour and a half. Meanwhile, the rest of us stayed a couple of more days in Paris. I had tried to change my Ryanair tickets to come home a little early but I will spare you those irritating details. Our trip was great but maybe a couple of days too long. Nine days would have been perfect.

So we are home again in Ireland getting ready to start school on Wednesday and by the end of the week I am sure I will be ready to plan our next adventure.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Still loving Paris

So to report on last night. We did head over to the Eiffel tower and since there was no line and the boys were convincing, I decided to buy tickets and just go up to the first level. Well suffice it to say I should have just stood under the Eiffel tower and threw my euros into the air and walked away. Grant really felt like since the stairs were wide and so open that he could make it. He made it about 25 stairs when he got that glazed over look and crouching on the handrail. I sent Cameron and Brianna on up only to see them coming down a minute later. Cameron was almost to the first level but was too nervous. So we have decided that even the elevator wouldn't be good for Grant and Cameron refuses to get on the elevator so I don't think those two will be posting any pictures from the top of the Eiffel tower.
Wow, the day just flies by. We woke up and headed out about 11am. Victoria wasn't feeling well so Jay stayed in with her. He wasn't too disappointed about staying behind since he had already seen Paris in a day.
We started out at the Army Museum which was full of old war relics from many countries. Lots of body armour and horse armour which were beautifully decorated. Many guns, swords, shields and other weaponry that had intricate art on them. The kids really enjoyed this museum and especially the gift store. We then headed to the Dome church where Napoleon's tomb lies. The casket itself is made of 5 layers using different materials. Since it was so close we stopped at the Rodin museum to check out the Thinker statue. We ate lunch at a small cafe across the street but were a little disappointed compared to the food we've eaten so far.
We took our first ride on the Metro (Paris subway system) and is the only way to get around. We were on our way to the Orangerie museum that houses many of Monet's art. I read the kids "Linnea in Monet's Garden" and that alone has peaked their interest in seeing his work and going to his house in Giverny. But when we arrived there was a line so we decided to spend time in the Jardin de Tuileries. A park with a carousel, playground, trampolines and ponies amongst other things. We had ice cream and crepes and spent about an hour.
At this point is was about 6pm so we headed back to the apartment to meet up with Jay. He and Victoria had been out on the double decker tour bus and has found the Champ de Elysees. A street full of shops and tourist traps and French is the second most spoken language on that street. It is busy and loud and Jay and the kids found Planet Hollywood. After the delicious French brasseries that we had been finding in the nooks and crannies it paled in comparison and was very expensive.
Tomorrow we are going to try the Orangerie again, take in a couple more parks and take it easy.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Bonjour! from Paris

We flew into the Beauvais airport on Ryanair, who like Southwest, flies into regional airports as oppose to the main airports. If Southwest thinks it is the no frills airline, they haven't flown Ryanair. While you have to pay for drinks, food, and checked luggage, I thought they were pushing it when they wanted to charge me for the inflight magazine. I am glad the safety information card was affixed to the seat back in front of me. But we arrived safely nonetheless, on an 99 cent eruo fare (plus taxes it was about 85 US dollars round trip) and a mere 45 minutes later we arrived in our apartment. From the pictures you can see we are about 5 minutes from the Eiffel tower. It is in a quiet (usually) residential area in the 7th arrondissement. Each night we can just look outside and see at the top of every hour the tower flashing for ten minutes.
After getting settled we were hungry but most restaurants do not open until about 8:30pm. So we did the better thing and stopped by a pastry shop and bought baguettes, salads, pastries, drinks and headed to the grass under the Eiffel tower and enjoyed a very yummy picnic. Later we walked across the street for pizza and then more pastries and called it a night.

This morning we didn't wake up very early and headed out to the Latin Quarter. We didn't get to all the things we planned as we left late and of course, walked A LOT. We browsed Pont Neuf. We then went to the Notre Dame cathedral where we waited in line about 15 minutes. We bought a 4 day museum pass for the adults as the children get in free to almost everything. It is very impressive, huge and beautiful. I couldn't wait to take the kids to the top of the towers. The spiral stairway up is steep, narrow, and fully enclosed. Grant was nervous from the beginning. We reached the bells and he had had enough. The view was great from there but the height, enclosed stairways and the ringing of the bells made him a nervous wreck. Poor thing. I took him back down with Brianna and Noah while Jay, Cameron and Victoria headed to the top.
We then went to the Saint Chapelle to see the amazing stained glass windows. Our next stop was to be the Conciergerie to see Marie Antoinette's cell but we needed a bit of a rest. So we jumped on the Bateaux Vedettes du Pont-Neuf for a one hour boat tour of Paris along the Seine river. It was relaxing but a bit hard to follow the guide speaking English with a thick French accent. But it renewed us enough to walk back to the apartment. The Conciergerie will have to wait. I had originally wanted to walk to the Latin Quarter and take the metro back. I will plan the mass transit better in the future.
So our first full day in Paris did not disappoint. The weather in the upper 70,s, very small crowds, a city full of beautiful architecture and greenery. Now, I have no idea what Jay is going to blog but he said today he could already write a book on how to see Paris in a day. I hope you enjoy the pictures. It is 9:10 pm and we are off to the Eiffel tower maybe will try walking that tonight, well, maybe not Grant.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday, August 25th

YEAH! We are settled. I will include some photos of our house on the website. Everyone has picked out their bedrooms and already put up posters. There aren't a lot of children around but the boys did meet the kid next door, he is eight.
An interesting story yesterday. The postman came by (keep in mind that this house has been here for 14 years) and was trying to figure out the name of our street. He asked if we were spelling the street name as one word or two. When I told him, I had only just moved in but was spelling it as one, he informed me that as soon as he could find two more people on the street to agree to that it would stand. Huh? I think the real problem was the 10 boxes Charlie sent me had a about 4 spelling variations of my address. :) However traveling around Dublin it doesn't take long to figure out they don't really like to put up street signs anywhere.
We take our first trip in about a week and the kids are taking crash courses in the French Revolution, art, architecture and World War II. If you have been to Paris and have some advice to share, email or post it on the guest book page. I will be uploading some photos this weekend.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In Ireland at last

Saturday, August 19, 2006 Wow, finally an update after almost three weeks! We flew from Salt Lake to JFK on August 1st and decided to spend the night to break the trip up a little. Of course, we couldn’t have known it would be 107 degrees in NYC and our hotel’s air conditioner was out. So we were so glad to be in Ireland’s mild 60 degree weather. The flights over were uneventful and the children did great. Our flight from SLC to NYC was about 4 hours and from NYC to Dublin about 6 hours.

It has taken us a little longer than anticipated to find housing. We were staying in a hotel about an hour from the city and it was taking it’s toll (literally and figuratively as it was about 4 euro each time we went in or out) So after a little over a week, and we could see that we wouldn’t be moving into our house anytime soon, we relocated to a hotel in the town we will be renting. Our plan is to move in Tuesday or Wednesday. It is a suburb of Dublin called Castleknock. So despite the cramped space and limited things to do the kids have been fantastic. Well how could they complain they have watched more television and played more on the computer than we would ever allowed at home.

There are enough familiar things (i.e. McDonald’s) that I think the kids are adjusting well. And just enough differences to make it an adventure. Including driving on the left hand side of the road. Which I have only attempted twice for about a mile each time. I am pretty sure at this point we will only need one vehicle as I will be relying heavily on mass transit. And it isn’t so much the left side that is the problem but the congested roundabouts and the VERY narrow roads.

The food hasn’t been a huge transition as Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Burger King and TGIFriday’s pretty much taste the same wherever you are. I cannot wait for a home cooked meal and it will be a long time before we eat out again. I will tell you they rely HEAVILY on mayonnaise. You will find it everywhere. And in the strangest places, such as, on their nachos. Some things I just stay clear of even though they are creatively named: black pudding. I’m sure it might be good, no I’m not sure. But it is part of the traditional Irish breakfast.

Well I am sure I am forgetting many things but here is a start. Our first trip is planned for Paris and Normandy the first part of September and we are looking forward to that as well as school starting. For us it is September 12 J I will write again as soon as we are settled in our house. I look forward to hearing from many of you!