Air Travelers: Volcano Warning (Again)

My husband used to be just a visitor here in Middle Tennessee, which was the case in April 2010, when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in Iceland’s East Volcanic Zone—just one day before he was due to return to home and work in Ireland. Air traffic was suspended (from 15 to 23 April) and millions of air travelers were stranded across the world, including Gerry (although he wasn’t forced to sleep on a couch in the airport). It was actually two weeks before he was able to get a flight back across the Atlantic.

We weren’t paying attention to volcanoes back then—and I suspect a lot of folks weren’t. But I’ve just read this blurb in Time: “A volcano in Icelend nicknamed the Gateway to Hell [Icelandic name: Hekla] is poised to erupt ‘at any moment,’ according to a University of Iceland vulcanologist.”

Hekla volcano in 2006 (photo from Wikipedia, used under a Creative Commons license).

Hekla volcano in 2006 (photo from Wikipedia, used under a Creative Commons license).

So you are warned. The Telegraph reports:

News that Hekla in south Iceland is “ready to go” will trouble British holidaymakers who recall the widespread travel disruption caused across Europe in 2010 by clouds of ash spewed into the air by another Icelandic monster, Eyjafjallajökull. More than 100,000 flights were cancelled over six days, stranding 10 million people and costing £1.15 billion in lost revenue.

“Hekla is a dangerous volcano,” said Professor Páll Einarsson at the University of Iceland. “We could be looking at a major disaster when the next eruption begins if we are not careful. … There are also 20–30 planes full of passengers flying right over the top of Hekla every day. This is a risky moment which we need to take seriously.”

There’s been no official warning from Iceland (or the airline industry), but Einarsson notes that Hekla generally erupts every ten years or so, but has been silent for sixteen years now. The Telegraph reports that he “also says that readings show the volcano is accumulating magma and the pressure inside is higher than it has been before previous eruptions.”

I’m not a worrywort, particularly, as you know, but keep it in mind if you’re planning a date-specific trip to Europe.


Traveling Solo (An Introduction to a Wonderful Blog)

I seriously love this piece. It’s called “Why I Travel Alone.” The writing is lovely.

Venice. It’s early on a gray December morning. I’m standing alone on a long pier that stretches out into the lagoon. It’s pouring rain and under my umbrella, I’ve rolled my suitcase as close to me as possible on the narrow floating walkway.

Yesterday I booked the St. Marco waterbus to the airport with a departure early enough to catch my morning flight back to New York with time to spare. It’s now 7:30 a.m. What I didn’t know is that Venice is a town where unless you are in produce or fish, you’re not out before 9. The ticket booths are shuttered, no other travelers are in sight and the only signs I can read point me… here. I’m standing in the middle of the whitecapped sea, in the rain, rocking on the end of a long, lonely pier, not really certain if my precarious spot is the right precarious spot to get to the airport.

Why did I take this trip alone? Why didn’t I spend for the private water taxi? Why did I wear these shoes?

It goes on, and I urge you to spend some time at this blog, called Solo-Travel. It’s fantastic.

I have several single girlfriends. Some of them organize trips with friends or family. Some don’t. One of them said to me just last week, “If I wait for someone to go with, I’ll never go.” This was in the context of her having just returned from a trip to Phoenix, a place she’d never been and wanted to see. And so she did. Alone.

When I was single myself (a single mom), I didn’t have the funds to travel much. But I have had the luxury, during various trips to Ireland in the last decade, of finding myself alone in the car with an afternoon to spend on my own while Gerry hunkered down somewhere with a soccer game on the television.* I hadn’t thought much about it until I discovered Solo-Travel, but it is different. Empowering. Fulfilling. Mind and heart expanding.

I met the author of Solo-Travel through my work … but we bonded over our mutual love of exploring countries not our own. And we are absolutely on the same wavelength about travel, which she says is “soul-shifting, and sometimes mystical.” It’s a similar description to what I call “finding the magic.” We all need a little magic in our lives, IMHO.

I think you’ll find this blog special, so here’s your introduction. Enjoy!

* (Of course, the getting there and back was always done solo.)


Irish Whiskey

On our recent honeymoon trip I sat in a cozy hotel bar in Co. Donegal, trying to decide what I’d like to drink. Whiskey (duh), and there was a dazzling amount of choice. But they were featuring in their drinks menu Greenore Single Grain, a small-batch artisanal whiskey to which Gerry had exposed me a couple years earlier, so I ordered that.

This is the waitress coming to tell me they are out of Greenore. (sigh)

This is the waitress coming to tell me they are out of Greenore. (sigh)

Well, I didn’t have Greenore, but if you get the opportunity (and yes, you can get it in the States), you should. My point, though, is there are many choices. I’ve enjoyed Kilbeggan (blended), Conemarra (peated, single malt), Tyrconnell (single malt), and my old standby, Jameson (blended), in addition to Greenore, my current fave.

So when Gerry sent me this article—The great Irish whiskey bubble—this morning, I was intrigued. “There are 28 new Irish whiskey distilleries either proposed are already underway,” it says.


It’s an interesting article, primarily (for me) for the background:

Ireland’s trademark is pot still whiskey, made from a mixed mash containing both malted and unmalted barley, because historically the government levied higher taxes on malted whiskeys than on unmalted. It is traditionally distilled three times, whereas Scotch whisky is only distilled twice. … At each stage of distillation, the output from the first and last hour are discarded because the best tasting product happens midway through the process.

I ended up drinking Jameson that afternoon as the sun went down beyond the rose garden. Cheers!

• • •

And yes, we’re back, and I’m digging out from the pile of mail and work and laundry that always follows a vacation. I’ll start writing up the posts very soon, so stick around—we had a great time. I’ll be back!


The Best Vacation Ever?

By now you know that getting out of your normal routine, taking a break from work, sleeping in—going on a vacation, in other words—is good for you. It’s good for you emotionally and physically. So when a friend of mine drew my attention to this article (“The Scientifically Proven Way to have the Best Vacation Ever”), I was all over it.

Now, I don’t know about the scientifically proven part. But there are nine really good suggestions here. Some may surprise you:


Some people believe happiness comes from doing no work on vacation. I am not one of those people. The key is how much control you have of the situation. If you’re taking calls because your boss is making you, that’s going to be a source of resentment. But if you work for yourself or otherwise have autonomy in your schedule, and you want to do half an hour of work each morning before the rest of your family wakes up, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Just get it done, and then stay out of your inbox again until the next morning. I also find that vacations are great for thinking about big-picture career questions. I think about what projects would be good for me to tackle in the future, and return home with ideas to implement.

As you know, I always take work with me on vacation. Most of my publishers and authors don’t even know I’m gone, because I answer email every day. But I also have a manuscript to read and make notes on, for those in-between moments. When it’s time to go sightsee, I go without a backward glance.

There’s lots of good advice and information here. And you know I particularly like the last one: construct your story. That’s why I write the travelogues—I get to live the vacation all over again!

Poppies—taken on my most recent vacation, in front of the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Ireland.

Poppies—taken on my most recent vacation, in front of the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Ireland.

A Proper Vacation!

Saturday, 20 June 2015
I work a lot. I’m an early riser. I don’t take naps, as a general rule, because I have so much to get done. And even when I’m on vacation, I don’t slow down much. I’m a doer, it seems. (My father was the same way.)

We’d been “doing” quite a bit already, since my arrival on Thursday morning. But it finally caught up with me: after I lay down last night, I didn’t move (in spite of the rock-hard mattress) until 6am. Got up, visited, the loo, and drifted right back to sleep.

In other words, we had a proper lie-in! (Although we did go down to breakfast a little earlier than yesterday: eight o’clock rather than nine.) Gerry hadn’t slept at all during the night, so when we came back, he lay back down and tried to sleep while I worked. (Yes, I had a manuscript with me.) But it was just stuffy enough in the room that I got sleepy, unbearably so, and couldn’t keep my eyes open. So I lay down and we both slept.

Now that’s a vacation! Sleep!

One of my goals for this visit was to do the sort of things I do at home—meet up with friends for lunch, for example. So I’d planned some things like that. Today we were meeting Gerry’s niece, Orla, and her gentleman friend, Conor, for late lunch, 3pm, at Farm, about five minutes’ walk from the hotel.

So we set off up Leeson Street.

These city townhouses don’t have much in the way of a “front yard”—but they certainly make a lot of what space they do have.

These city townhouses don’t have much in the way of a “front yard”—but they certainly make a lot of what space they do have.

One way to do that is to make an inviting front door—and you know that’s a thing with me. I was going nuts photographing lovely front doors.

How often do you see a pink door, really? And yet here are two of them!

How often do you see a pink door, really? And yet here are two of them!

The doors of Dublin are hard for me to resist. I love this yellow.

The doors of Dublin are hard for me to resist. I love this yellow.

People in Dublin aren’t afraid of a little color!

People in Dublin aren’t afraid of a little color!

Another irresistible Dublin door.

Another irresistible Dublin door.

For two days, now, we’d been looking at the spire of a church one street over from ours. And finally we were going to walk by it.

At last the church and its spire came into view.

At last the church and its spire came into view.

As I was researching this particular church building—the sign out front proclaims CHRIST CHURCH • LEESON PARK—I learned several interesting things. I’d never heard the phrase Anglo-Catholic, for example. It refers to certain congregations of the [Anglican] Church of Ireland (which arose, of course, when Henry VIII of England broke with the pope in Rome in the 1500s). Wikipedia says:

The Church of Ireland is a Christian church in Ireland and an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. The church is organised on an all-Ireland basis and is the second-largest Christian denomination on the island after Roman Catholicism. Like other Anglican churches, it has retained elements of pre-Reformation practice, notably its episcopal polity, while rejecting the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Nevertheless, in theological and liturgical matters, it incorporates many principles of the Reformation, in particular the English Reformation. The church identifies as both Catholic and Reformed. Within the church, differences exist between those members who are more Catholic-leaning (high church) and those who are more Protestant-leaning (low church or evangelical). For historical and cultural reasons, the Church of Ireland is generally identified as a Protestant church.

Thus the high church–leaning congregations are often called Anglo-Catholic. Wikipedia further clarifies that:

When the Church of England broke communion with the Holy See, all but two of the bishops of the church in Ireland followed the Church of England, although almost no other clergy did so. The church then became the established church of Ireland, assuming possession of most church property. … [But] In Ireland, the substantial majority of the population continued to adhere to Roman Catholicism, despite the political and economic advantages of membership in the state church.

This was like discovering a missing link for me—and all because I wanted to get a little information about this church on Leeson Street. But there’s actually more—explained again by Wikipedia:

The Church of Ireland experienced major decline during the 20th century, both in Northern Ireland, where around 65% of its members live, and in the Republic of Ireland which contains upwards of 35%. However, the Church of Ireland in the Republic has shown substantial growth in the last two national censuses; its membership is now back to the levels of sixty years ago (albeit with fewer churches as many have been closed).

In fact, the Anglican congregation here at Leeson Park has merged into St. Batholomew’s (on Wellington Road in Ballsbridge), and in 2013 was only offering a Wednesday service. According to the sign out front (I photographed it), the main church offers Sunday services for both the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Methodist Centenary Church.

The trouble with photographing large buildings, of course, is you have to hike away from it in order to take it all in (not always easy in a city). Then you lose details—and those are the very things that interest me. For example, I loved the play of afternoon light on this lime-green tree, and the way it popped against the gray stone, both color and texture.

Tree and stone.

Tree and stone.

The church building is right across the street from the restaurant, and while I was busy zooming in and out, here came Orla and Conor. Gerry had met Conor already, but it was a first for me, and I was delighted to discover he is warm, welcoming, and friendly—I like that in a man—as well as smart, aware of current events and their meaning in the broader scope of the world, and a good conversationalist.

Gerry took this one of Conor, me, and Orla.

Gerry took this one of Conor, me, and Orla.

After our leisurely lunch, Gerry and I walked back to the hotel so I could work a little.

It had also become apparent that I was having a foot problem—swelling ankles and feet, with lots of pain. I’d had a similar reaction when I was here in May 2013; it lasted for most of the trip. Frankly, it was beginning to worry me: foot pain can suck the joy right out of a vacation. So … research. And as it turns out, it’s the flying that’s bringing it on, though age, with its attendant problems of lack of muscle tone and slowly falling arches, doesn’t help. (I know all this now, though not soon enough. I’ve got some exercises I’m working on.) My in-the-moment solution was to look for a massage therapist in the Portmarnock area, where we’d be headed on Monday. But first, we had a very easy Sunday in store. 🙂


I’m Tripping!

That’s it, I’m off … so it’ll be hit or miss here for the next three weeks or so. Here’s what’s on the agenda:

Dublin City
We’ll be here the first five nights, sans car. Getting together for brunches and lunches and dinners with friends and family. In between, I have a few things I’d like to do and see (too much to mention here, but you’ll get a full report later), a few books I’d like to buy (and some more of my Moulton Brown hair product, oh yeah). I like Dublin, and I plan to enjoy this.

Portmarnock/Malahide, Co. Dublin
We’ll be three nights here, and we’ll have a car. We plan to finalize things with the hotel for our party later this year, including sampling and finalizing the menu. I want to check out their afternoon tea service (see how it stacks up to afternoon tea at the Shelbourne) and their spa services. I want to drive around the area and see if there’s anything to add to the sample itineraries I’ve created for our guests who will come from America for the party; for many of them, it will be a first trip to Ireland. Also I want to walk on the beach.

A Wedding!
The real reason I’m here is the first of the nieces is getting married (here).

Save the Date

We’ll move into the wedding hotel in Dublin for one night, then to an airport hotel for the next night, and I’ll fly away home. Possibly the last time I will fly home from Dublin alone. Fingers crossed. 🙂

Your Trip Is, Well, Your Trip

My vendors at the farmers market know me and know I’m about to travel. One of them pointed out the vendor next to him: “She’s going to Ireland too!” Her eyes lit up and we talked some. It was a nice chat.

I always ask, first, “Which airport are you flying into?” Shannon. Ah.

She’s on a golfing vacation, eight courses over a couple weeks. She mentioned Lahinch (one of my favorite places), so I suspect they’ll be golfing at the Lahinch Golf Club. She mentioned Killarney too. I suspect all the courses and thus their sightseeing will be in the west, which is as it should be.

I tried to talk her out of Blarney Castle and Bunratty Castle because they are so, so touristy. “But what other castles are there?” she said. So I gave her the address to this blog. 🙂

When she started talking about the Giant’s Causeway, I blinked. “That’s a long way,” I said. “Not that far,” she said. “And I have four extra days before my golfing friends arrive.”

I gave her the everything-will-take-longer-than-you-think speech, but I’m not sure she believed me. You look at a map and think, Oh, it’s only 300 miles … but I’m tellin’ ya, if you’re an American, they are not the kind of miles you are used to.

Well, it’s five hours in a car from Shannon to the Giant’s Causeway. And you know my position on this: do you want to spend your precious vacation time driving or doing? There’s so much spectacular scenery and things to see and do just in a one-hour radius from Shannon, I can’t imagine going all that way just to see one thing, then coming back.

But that’s just me. In retrospect, I feel bad about the conversation. I should have just said, “Have fun!” The touristy places are just fine for some folks. Not everyone wants my kind of vacation, and that’s as it should be too.

I should have said, “What do you want to do that your traveling companions aren’t interested in? Go do that with your four days!” But, you know, maybe the Giant’s Causeway is that one special thing that the traveling companions aren’t interested in.

I should have said, “Yes, you’re right to wander. Do it, friend.” Who am I to make a pronouncement on her vacation?

It was crowded at the farmers market, and her regulars were coming and buying while we were talking. I am getting ready to depart in just a few days, fewer than a week, so I’m stressing about a variety of things. (Work; it’s always work.) So I should have said much better things than what I did say, but at least I have had some time to reflect and repent. 🙂 Again:

1  Different vacation strokes for different folks.
2  I’m only an expert on my kind of vacation, not hers.
3  It’s your vacation! I hope you have a great time!

Lesson learned!