Little Citizens of the World


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Somewhere in the Atlantic…

We’re taking the Queen Mary II back to the US.  I’ve been on this ship once before, and I swore I wouldn’t take it again because of our terrible experience.  The staff members were rude to me, like rolling their eyes and mumbling under their breath rude, the Lido restaurant was terrible, the options were non existent.  The girls lived on rolls for a week and I’m not exaggerating. As a parent, that was really upsetting.  However, we have no choice in the matter this time, as we are limited on time and needed to make a move before our visas ran out.  So I decided to give it another shot.  Maybe it was just a bad run before.

The weather’s been less than favourable, but it is October.  Today is the first calm day in 2 days, and there are still white caps out there.  Sky wouldn’t even try going to Kids Zone, it’s been so bad.  You know things are going to only get worse, when you see sick bag stands beside all the lifts!

Yesterday, while having breakfast, the captain came over the intercom to tell us the conditions.  He said overnight, we had sustained winds of 95mph with gusts of 110mph!!  There were also some broken windows, so all weather decks are closed off.  I’m so glad we all slept through that!

For the rest of Sunday, winds were between 50-60mph and both kids called out sick after only 45 minutes in Kids Zone.  We spent the rest of the day in our room with room service (which was WAY better than the Lido), Sky napped for 4 hours, and I turned out the lights at 8:30pm.  Of course, we’ve had 3 time changes already, so it felt like 11:30pm.

Today things have calmed down quite a bit.  Winds are only about 5mph, it’s foggy and drizzling but the kids are back at Kids Zone and feeling good!


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Cobh

Cobh (pronounced cove) is a short train ride from Cork City.  We went for the day to visit the Titanic museum, go to Lord Goulsley’s Manor (a Halloween special event) and to walk around the town where some of my ancestors left Ireland for Prince Edward Island, Canada way back in the 1800’s.

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Lovely waterfront area

There was a very cold, and consistent wind coming off the ocean and I hadn’t brought Sky’s fleece, (always wear a fleece under your raincoat in Ireland) so I gave her my raincoat to keep out the wind and I tried not to shiver too much in front of her.

The Titanic museum looks like a very small building, but it’s huge inside (like the Tardis).  Cobh was the last stop the Titanic made before heading off to America on it’s first and final voyage.  The museum has lots of neat things in it, photos, luggage, short videos, a Morse code machine where kids can type out the last message sent by Titanic.  The kids really liked that the entry ticket has the name of a passenger that they can find details on as they walk through the museum.  There is also information on Lusitania that is very interesting.

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The Morse code machine

We had a great time at Ghoulsley’s Manor, the kids had a blast, it was very well done.  I don’t have pictures because, I notice a lot that Irish people don’t take pictures of everything like American’s do.  They are almost never seen on a smart phone, they are just in the moment.  So I felt like taking pictures would have ruined the vibe, especially as I would have needed to use my flash.  It was fantastically done though, and if we’re here for Halloween again, I would definitely go back.  Lord Ghoulsley’s Manor

Afterwards, we took a taxi back into town and stopped for fish and chips before getting back on the train and heading home.  It was a wonderful day out and I’d definitely recommend visiting this little seaside village.

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Beautiful colours

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St Coleman’s Cathedral

You can’t go to Ireland without making a stop at Blarney Castle, it’s just not on.  It’s so incredibly easy to get there from Cork City too, there’s a city bus that takes you right to it in about 25 minutes.  The castle itself is a ruin, there are no artifacts or recreated rooms, it’s basically a shell.  But if you can brave the claustrophobia inducing narrow spiral staircase, that seems to go on for days, the views from the top are outstanding.  This is where the famous Blarney Stone is located.  No, I did not kiss it, germs aren’t my thing.  It’s all in good fun, you say.  Well, it’s the same as kissing all 200+ people wandering around the grounds.  I’m all set.  If you do decide you want to give it a smooch, it’s not for the faint of heart.  I saw grown men looking pretty terrified as they leaned backwards and pulled themselves out into mid air, with nothing but a few bars between them and a straight drop to the ground below.

The entrance fee is very inexpensive and, although there’s a children’s rate, mine were not charged that day, nor was my friends child.   There are 2 small playgrounds, a poison garden, giant trees to climb, acres and acres of running space, waterfalls, trails, and so much more.  It’s a truly magnificent place that I will be visiting again and again.

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Blarney House from the top of the castle

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From the top looking down

The grounds are something out of a fairy tale.  They go on for miles and they are superb!  My Irish friends say, you can go there a hundred times and still find new places.  It’s truly magical.  I can’t possibly post enough photos to do it justice, but if you ever get the chance, go to Blarney Castle, You won’t be disappointed.  http://www.blarneycastle.ie/

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I’m telling you, it’s incredible.

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Willow tunnel

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Careful now!

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This is one tree!

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Fitzgerald Park, Cork City


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….It’s easy going back again but it’s hard to say goodbye.

Back across the ocean to my home away from home
Glad to be returning but sad to have to go.
I’d like to find a way to be two places at one time
It’s easy going back again but it’s hard to say goodbye.  -Robbie O’Connell

 

Our time here is almost over but I feel like we’ve only just arrived.  Three months is really no time at all; as soon as you start to settle in, it’s time to start packing up again.  Reconnecting with our wonderful community of friends here has been worth it.  I love these ladies so much, I can’t express it in words.

Because our trip over was so expensive, I really didn’t have the funds to go crazy and travel back through to Italy, like last time, to catch the Holland America ships out of Rome or Barcelona.  Also, the timing of those ships this year would have us miss either Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and that just wasn’t an option for us.  So I very reluctantly booked a return on Queen Mary II, but not after searching every other cruise line out there.

We took Queen Mary II over on our last trip to Ireland and it was an awful experience.  Awful.  I didn’t write about it here because it made me angry inside just remembering it.  Also, I don’t want to blog about negativity, there’s enough of that out there.  So I am hoping that this trip will see Queen Mary II redeemed and a lovely experience had by all.  (I’m not going to hold my breath)

We won’t be going back to our island home this time.  We have rented a small house on the mainland, and it will be ours until spring.  Because of the nature of seaside towns, most rentals are available at one rate in winter, and another rate in the summer, when the influx of tourists can bring in more money.

Like the verse above, I am looking forward to the familiarity of being back, but I will miss Ireland terribly, and as soon as I’m home, I know I will start longing to be here again.  If only we could be in two places at one time.

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Fitzgerald Park, Cork City

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Fitzgerald Park, Cork City

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A beautiful walk, Cork City

 


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I love Cork City

With the exception of my own beautiful island, no place else on earth feels as much like home as Cork City does.  If it weren’t for the politics of visas and residency restrictions, I would live there forever.

We love the south side, we’re true south-siders, but on this trip, our first few weeks were spend on the north side, by the Shandon tower.  You can go up inside the tower and ring the bells and they can be heard all over town.  They even have playlists, so sometimes it’s Over The Rainbow and other times it’s Abba’s Fernando.  No kidding, I’ve heard it a few times.  So I’d get up in the morning, open my window and listen to these bells every morning while I have my tea.  It was like living in some kind of fairy land.  After about 3 weeks, however, I was instead waking up to these beautiful bells thinking, “don’t those people know what time it is!!!”  Ha ha!  Well, what can I say.

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Shandon clock tower

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It’s a steep, but delightful, downhill to get to the city centre

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A Saturday farmers market

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Amsterdam

So close to Ireland right now, I can almost smell it.  …Or maybe that’s the weed:/

So Amsterdam.  Not a fan.

I don’t know, maybe it was the stress of the impending journey, but I didn’t really like Amsterdam.  It was packed, I mean PACKED with people.  You could barely walk down the street it was so jammed with pedestrians.  The architecture is extraordinary, and we took the canal boats all around so we could see the gorgeous construction.  The kids enjoyed the canal boats, but they didn’t like the busyness.

If you plan on going to the Van Gogh museum or Anne Frank house, book your tickets online in advance.  We couldn’t get into either, the lines were insane.  The Anne Frank house had a 5.5 hour wait when we walked by.  Yikes!

This is an over night stop that ends this crossing, so we get off tomorrow and make our way to Ireland

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The architecture is amazing

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Train station

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Canal boat water taxi

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Bergen, Norway

I keep forgetting that my version of a big city is very different from the European version.  I think LA or New York, but European cities are much older, much more artistic in their architecture and, for the most part, don’t have massively tall skyscrapers blotting out the landscape.

I have heard of Bergen before, I knew it was a big city, but it’s sort of not.  I mean it’s a major metropolitan European city, but it’s got a small town local charm that I adore.

It was a little windy and 57F when we got off the ship, There’s a bit of a walk from the cruise terminal to the waterfront, but it’s enjoyable.  The shops along the water are very old and no more than 3 stories high.  There are lots of shops and restaurants too.  We walked around a bit, stopping at almost every souvenir shop we passed by, and were back onboard for a late lunch in the lido.  It’s a very pleasant waterfront with lots to see and do.  We didn’t have any shore excursions, so we enjoyed the stroll and headed back.

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Waterfront shopping and resaurants

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This was taken from behind the waterfront shops