Saturday, July 28, 2012

Before the tour started... Ireland touring near Shannon, Ireland

I'm loving the PicMonkey replacement for Picnik for making collages... took me less time than using Picnik and I could create free-form collages to suit my own requirements instead of being locked into fixed templates. That said, I wanted to create collages to cram more images into a short space for my vacation blog and have a few for you today from the first two days of my Ireland visit. As always, click any image to view them larger.

Arriving at 7 AM local time at Shannon Airport meant getting to my hotel (Oakwood Arms) while they were still serving breakfast and before my room was ready. Had some marvelous coffee and a light snack and got into my room before 9 AM. I had made arrangements to meet with Evie, another participant in the Ireland tour who was also arriving on the 28th, for lunch at which point we would figure out what to do for the afternoon. Neither of us wanted to sleep even though we were both jet-lagged.

We decided on visiting the nearby Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, a 10 minute cab ride away from our hotel. The castle was built in 1425 and was "restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendour and now contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art which capture the mood of those times." Taking pictures inside without a tripod was problematic but the following collage contains a few pictures of the animals on the grounds, a lovely flower in the garden and a view of a portion of the castle, complete with a tourist walking toward me.

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The male goat had a unique style of grazing... I never once saw him stand up. Guess he wanted to be as close to his meal as possible without too much wasted motion.

For our adventure on the second day in Ireland, we had contracted with the same cab driver we'd hired the day before to take us to Dromoland Castle Hotel and Country Estate and both the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort and the nearby town of Adare which has some lovely old thatch-roofed cottages and dates back to the 11th century.

A word of advice about hiring a cab for a day-long 'guided tour' (really 5-1/2 hours)... bargain and don't take the first rate you are offered. Both Evie and myself had been offered cabs for a day hire by the drivers who took us from the airport to the hotel... mine offered 200 euros for 5 hours, hers offered 100 euros for 5 hours. BUT, we could only understand every third or fourth word uttered by those drivers! The cab driver who took us to Bunratty offered us the same 5 hours for 150 euros but we could understand him! And eventually, we worked out to have him for that price for 5-1/2 hours so we could see Dromoland, Adare Manor and the thatched cottages in the town of Adare. Four collages from Dromoland and two from Adare follow. Enjoy...

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Dromoland Castle with tourist for sense of scale (a HUGE place, hard to believe it was someone's home hundreds of years ago), a water lily and some roses, both in the walled garden on the grounds.

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A huge old tree in a clearing in the "forest" on the grounds at Dromoland Castle Hotel, a vine covered building and a charming brick bridge over a water feature. The latter two images are from the beautiful walled garden on the grounds.

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The ducks near the lake at Dromoland Castle Hotel and Country Estate were quite tame and only wandered away from us when we got within 10-15 feet of them.

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From the lake again... one last duck image (not sleeping, just caught blinking), four of the gorgeous Mute swans (Cygnus Olor)and one more water lily (from the walled garden) complete with tiny bugs. The swans hung around long enough for me to switch lenses and get some 300mm telephoto shots. Our cab driver said that this one is a male which is determined in part by the pinkish/orange tinge on the beak which females don't have. (I think he was having fun at our expense because so far, I've found no reference to this "fact" but have found that males are larger than the females.)

We met up with Evie's friend Felice at the Adare Castle Hotel and Golf Resort just before we left there. She was with us for the stop in the town of Adare where we had about 30 minutes to grab a few images and do a tiny bit of tourist shopping. But first, a collage of images from the hotel and golf resort... an amazing place!

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The ruins in the top left are from a Franciscan Abbey, the middle, left image is the Adare Castle Hotel, the bottom left and top right images are of the gardens. (I loved the intricately pruned boxwood hedges.) The middle, right image is of a bridge over a tributary of the River Shannon and is for access to the golf course (not open to casual day visitors). And the bottom right image is a close-up of the window seen on the middle, left image. I loved how the sky reflections were visible and the way the colorful leaves set off the scene.

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Several of the old, thatched roof buildings in the town of Adare house restaurants, some are craft shops and others are private residences. All are charming. The fourth image is of a newer building (as compared to the thatched roof buildings) that is also a restaurant. I rather liked all the roof lines, the curving sidewalk and the textures in this last image.

A slide show of the images from which the collages were made, including a map of the complete journey we made once the tour started, is available. Subsequent posts will cover the 10 days of the photo tour. Who knows when! (am about to travel again)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ireland with John Barclay, Dan Sniffin and Peter Cox

Off on another photo tour... I've heard we will have no time for processing once the tour starts. I'm simply posting the schedule for the tour to whet your appetite and tempt you to check back at a later date for posts from this trip. (have already been in Ireland since the morning of June 28th to allow for recovery from jet lag)
Our schedule of travel for the tour includes the following and is listed in more detail on Peter Cox's web site.
  • G = Shannon (start and finish of trip)
  • B = Dingle (3 nights)
  • C = Killarney (2 nights)
  • D = Portmagee (1 night)
  • E = Kenmare (2 nights)
  • F = Gougane Barra (1 night)
If you want to get a taste of some of the sights we will be visiting, visit John Barclay's blog images from the first of two tours he, Dan and Peter are leading here in southwestern Ireland. (we will not see all the places he posted, because John and Dan traveled to some spots we won't be visiting while they were on break between the two tours)
For a visual... here's a map! Shannon is G on the map and is the starting and ending point. We leave the Oakwood Arms Hotel at 11 AM this morning for our first stop in Dingle where we will be based for the next few days. (Click the map for a larger view.)

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Long Overdue Post... Adventures in Sweden continued...

It seems I'm WAY overdue for completing the saga of my trip this past summer with brother Lukas, his partner Tom and my sister Valerie... so before Picnik dies completely, I'm going to try to finish up the last of that trip as well as the three days spent in Iceland with Lukas and Tom on the way home from Sweden. Today's post is the journey from Tärnaby to Östersund. For those of you who might be interested to see earlier posts about this trip, start here.

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Stensele kyrka (kyrka = church) is the largest wooden church in Sweden. We made a slight detour en route from Tärnaby to Östersund so that we could take a few pictures and see the inside of the church. The scenic view in this collage was somewhere along the Ume river before we got to Stensele kyrka. The interior shot shows the main alter, the close view of the door to the church tells us that the church was built in 1885.

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Another view of the exterior of Stensele kyrka and a few more interior shots. One could get a talk about the church by choosing the language and lifting the phone. The distant view of the alter shows the gorgeous windows behind the main alter and the close-up of a small portion of some of the painted wood shows a feature common to many of the wooden churches of Sweden... painting the wood to make it appear to be marble.

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More interior views of Stensele kyrka, from left to right, a close-up of one of the lovely chandeliers, a long view of the main alter, the high pulpit, and the original organ from when the church was first used. This organ has since been replaced with a newer, more modern organ.

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Another church, this one in Vilhelmina. Perhaps you can see similarities in style. From left to right, an exterior view, the main alter at the front of the church, the high pulpit (a feature seen in almost every church we visited) and a close-up of a chandelier. This chandelier has both candles (which is what would have been used in the "old days") and modern lightbulbs.

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Scenes from downtown Östersund after our arrival. In the square near our hotel, one can go from the sublime in dining, Winston Restaurant, to the ridiculous, McDonald's! We had a fabulous meal at Winston Restaurant, recommended by our hotel desk clerk who made us a reservation for dinner. The color coded street signs caught my eye as did the three tourists (sister, brother and brother-in-law who may not thank me for posting this).

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After our marvelous meal, we decided to go for a walk around Östersund before heading to our rooms and bed. It was almost 10 PM when we were wandering and the light was wonderful. We finished off our day at a sidewalk refreshment stand where one could purchase beer and wine as well as non-alcoholic drinks. My beer was delicious but I don't think you can buy it in the US.