Back Home

Our last days in Ireland were spent in the north, in the areas where my Dad grew up and where many of our relatives live. The majority of our time was spent catching up with our relatives and sipping on the many, many cups of tea we were offered.

A church in Northern Ireland.

A church in Northern Ireland.

 Most people we had not seen in over two years. It was really good to see them and catch up with them. After all, there was a lot to catch up on. The children had grown a lot, a few babies were born and of course there were a lot of questions and stories about our last year. All our answers and entertaining tales were rewarded with top notch Irish hospitality.

A family portrait.

In the spare moments we had between house hopping we visited my Dad’s childhood home. Although the house had been worn by time and weather it was still very familiar to my Dad.

Seamus and his cousin by his childhood home.

Behind the house he showed us where a garden had once been. In another area he recalled how, at age nine,  he had once delivered a litter of pigs when his parents went to town , leaving him looking after a pregnant sow. Inside we saw the area (600 sq ft) that, at times, was shared between thirteen people.

The pump of the house.

The pump of the house.

Parts of the roof had fallen in but a remaining part of the ceiling still held the hook that his family used to hold the only light source, the faithful Tilly (kerosene lamp).

Our relative's sheep.

Our relative’s sheep.

During a different intermission from visiting family, we relaxed on the beaches of Port Steward. The beach is among the nicest of the world. Packed white sand stretches on for miles and the surrounding city is lined with cafes and ice cream shops. Sadly, the Irish weather does not compliment this area. It was far too chilly to swim in but we did briefly dip our toes into the Atlantic.

The city of Port Steward.

The city of Port Steward.

On a different part of the coast, in Belfast, we saw where the Titanic was built and had once ventured into the same waters. Belfast features an excellent museum covering everything concerning the Titanic. The museum also provides some history into the industry of Ireland before the construction of the Titanic.

Outside the Titanic museum.

Outside the Titanic museum.

We were amazed at how thorough the museum was. We read the letters sent from the Titanic and the interviews of the survivors like, Father Browne. There were many photographs displayed as well.

A ticket for the launch of the Titanic.

One of which was a photo done by Father Browne. When he took the photograph after he disembarked the vessel he did not know he had snapped the last shot of the Titanic afloat. However, Browne’s photograph was not the last of the ship entirely. We also saw the underwater photographs of the sunken Titanic.

A mural of the last photograph of the Titanic in the museum.

After touring through the museum we walked to the pump house and dock where the Titanic had once been. From that dock the ship would have set out towards it’s final destination in Canada. After saying our goodbyes to our family in Ireland we embarked on our own transatlantic.

The dock of the Titanic.

The dock of the Titanic.

The journey was a lot shorter than the Titanic’s would have been, if successful. Not to mention, returning to Canada by plane, we did not have to worry about icebergs. Upon arriving back in Edmonton, we had completed our circuit of 56,000 miles in 320 days.

– Siobhan

The Aran Islands

Ros a’ Mhil from Galway is an extensive drive and is no way shortened by the plethora of tractors slogging along the main road. With ticket pre-booked for the boat to the Aran Islands, Seamus was not a happy camper when, already behind schedule, such a tractor found it’s way in front of our rental car. The roads were far too narrow to pass safely and thus we were forced to inch behind the mechanical slug all the way to Ros a’ Mhil.

The homes of the Aran islands.

Once the tractor finally pulled in, Seamus rushed (at the boarders of the speed limit) the remainder of the way. Desperately, we ran from the car hoping that we had not missed the boat. The departure time had long passed but fortunately for us, the boat was as late as we were. Happily, we were able to board the vessel named, the Happy Hooker.

Meadhbh on board.

Meadhbh on board.

The usually motion sickness that ails my mother and I was not an issue this time. The sail was smooth and the ships momentum created a refreshing wind for those on board.

The boat that took us to the Aran Island.

The boat that took us to the Aran Island.

Leaning over the rails of the boat, we were carefully not to bend too far. The water below would not only be chilling but was swarming with jelly fish of all kinds. Apparently, not every mammal is bothered by the jellyfish. A midst the squishy terrors we caught a glimpse of a dolphin. From the looks of it, the dolphin was not the famous Fungie dolphin that had captured the heart of Ireland. However, the playfully, blue fellow was very endearing to all aboard.

The dolphin we spotted.

The dolphin we spotted.

Before long we had reached the Inisheer, the smallest of the islands. The island had been founded by Saint Caomhan whose younger brother Saint Kevin founded the area of Glendalough which we had previously visited. Almost immediately after our arrival we were approached by a man named Tony Costello who offered us a carriage tour around the island.

Tony and Maggie.

His horse Maggie pulled us over the gravelly roads covering the island while his dog, Sailor followed, tail-wagging. Tony chatted merrily to us about life of the island.

Tony on the carriage on the Aran Island.

He told us that most people on the island are fluent in Irish Gaelic. We heard the language for ourselves when Tony would shout out a few Gaelic words to locals that passed.

Sailor trotting along behind us.

Sailor trotting along behind us.

At the coast of the island we stopped in order to get a closer look at ship wrecked boat called, Plassey that the ocean had brought to shore in the sixties.We inspected the boat for some time before continuing our tour with Tony.

The shipwreck.

The shipwreck.

Seamus outside the Plassey.

Seamus outside the Plassey.

The path to the fort.

The path to the fort.

At the end of the tour we dined at a pub that Tony had recommended before furthering our exploration of the island by foot.

Tony letting us lead the carriage.

Tony letting us lead the carriage.

 Over a grassy hill, we climbed up to the ruins of the medieval O’Brien castle.

Meadhbh exploring the inside of the fort.

Meadhbh exploring the inside of the fort.

The stone fort was offered a magnificent vantage point of the island and despite the Irish trend, the weather was fantastic.

The ruins of the fort.

The ruins of the fort.

Under a beaming sun we were able to view the entire island. Quite content from the great pub grub and our relaxing location, Meadhbh and I took small cat nap in the grass at the base of the fort.

The view of the island from the hill.

We awoke to slight sunburns and departing parents. Hurriedly, we followed after our parents who were making their way to the dock to catch the boat returning to mainland.

Seamus in the Atlantic.

Seamus in the Atlantic.

During the short wait for the boat to arrive, Seamus waded knee-deep in the icy waters of the Atlantic.

The dock as seen from the hill.

The dock as seen from the hill.

Back on the mainland we boarded a smaller boat that went out to view the Cliffs of Moher. Unfortunately the size of the boat encouraged our motion sickness more than the last had.

In the boat on the way to the Cliffs of Moher.

In the boat on the way to the Cliffs of Moher.

Still, ignoring the nausea we took in the stunning cliffs. The cliffs were spectacular and the amount of puffins nestled into every cranny of the stone and popping in and out of the water was unbelievable.

Moher from the ocean.

Moher from the ocean.

Afterwards we got a more comfortable view of the spectacle by driving up to the top.

Moher from above.

There were fewer puffins to be seen but the sights were just as wonderful.

– Siobhan

By Galway Bay

In the province of Connacht, across the street from a pub featuring traditional music and   dance was our hotel for our time in Galway. The location was walking distance from the oldest and most historic parts of town. The first night there, we took advantage of this by indulging in an evening stroll around the city.

An old advertisement in Galway for Guinness.

An old advertisement in Galway for Guinness.

The ocean breeze was salty as we walked around the edges of the famous Galway Bay. Under his breath, Seamus muttered the less profound version of the melody, Galway Bay, by the Clancy Brothers. After a lengthy trot, just as the lyrics of the original tune depicts, we watched the moon rise over Claddagh before returning to our hotel.

Meadhbh taking in Galway.

Meadhbh taking in Galway.

 The next day did not provide as nice walking weather. Instead, we chose to tour the city in daylight by way of a hooded jaunting car. The ride was pleasant and the driver, friendly. He threw out the odd fact or snippet of history as we passed the highlights of the Galway.

Seamus and Meadhbh in the carriage with the hood down.

Seamus and Meadhbh in the carriage with the hood down.

When the horse pulled us by a gloomy, stone structure the driver slowed to recount the tale of Mayor Lynch. Legend has it that in the late 15th century, the mayor of the city had his son go to Spain. The son was instructed to collect an amount of wine.

The sign for the Hole in the Wall Bar.

The sign for the Hole in the Wall Bar.

Young and unexperienced, the son lost a large sum of the money meant to purchase the wine. Perhaps with the gift of the gab, the son managed to take the wine without full payment with the promise he would return with the remaining cash. To ensure that this promise was fulfilled, the Spanish merchant employed his nephew to accompany the Mayor’s son back to Galway.

The Mayor’s window where his son was hung.

The Mayor’s son did not intend to pay the full amount and reveal that he had lost the initial money. For all to go smoothly, he murdered the merchant’s nephew and lied to his father. However, his success was spoiled by a sailor who, on his death bed, revealed what the son had done. Mayor Lynch as the magistrate of the city and a strict devotee to justice ordered his own son to death. The stone structure we passed was the window from where the son was hanged, despite the public’s protest. The site is preserved as a memorial of the incident and underneath the window a small message in inscribed.

This ancient memorial of the stern and unbending justice of the chief magistrate of this city, James Lynch Fitzsphen, elected Mayor AD 1493. Who condemned and executed his own guilty son Walter on this spot has been restored to this its ancient site AD 1854 with the approval of the town commissioners by their chairman V reverend Peter Daly. P.P and Vicar of St. Nicholas.

He also made note of when we passed Nora Barnacle’s former house. It reminded us of our time in Trieste, where we saw the apartment she shared with her husband, James Joyce.

Seamus and the Irish writer and poet, Oscar Wilde.

Seamus and the Irish writer and poet, Oscar Wilde.

Passing through Claddagh, near the city center, the driver filled us in on the story of the Claddagh ring. According to him, the ring dates back to the 1700s. Due to the rings popularity as a friendship or wedding band there is some dispute in the original maker of the rings.

A sign about Claddagh rings.

 That said, all versions of the story agree that the ring was indeed born in Claddagh. The Claddagh ring is typically a gold or silver band in which two hands clasp a heart with a crown on it. The hands represent friendship and the heart and crown represent love and loyalty, respectively.

Siobhan's Claddagh Ring.

Siobhan’s Claddagh Ring.

In the heart of Claddagh, Seamus bought us each a lovely Claddagh ring.

– Siobhan

Tiny Towns

On the Ring of Kerry we were able to catch some lovely views of the countryside and the various lochs of the country. That is, when it wasn’t raining. The nearby towns were a little bit easier to take in whether it was raining or not. For example, the light smir of rain in Dingle did not deter us from enjoying the coastal town.

Beautiful Irish countryside.

Beautiful Irish countryside.

Dingle sits on the Dingle Peninsula, which reaches out into the Atlantic. Dingle is famous for Gaelic football, fishing, pubs, linen and a happy bottlenose dolphin named Fungi.

Tom Crean, Irish explorer of the Antarctic from Kerry posted by the South Pole Inn.

Tom Crean, Irish explorer of the Antarctic from Kerry posted by the South Pole Inn.

We did not meet Fungi, nor did we see fishing or football. However the weather was perfect to browse the many linen shops and to enjoy the cosy atmosphere of a pub. In Dingle and many other times in Ireland, we gobbled up some classic pub grub.

Seamus in Tralee.

Seamus in Tralee.

On the neck of the Peninsula is the town of Tralee, which we also visited. Tralee is a very old town which is said to be the base of an ancient roadway. The roadway is associated with the Scotia’s Grave which is rumored to be the burial site of the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh’s. Whether the rumors are true or not, Tralee is a pleasure to explore.

Meadhbh in Kerry.

Near a different peninsula, called the Beara, we made a brief stop at Bantry Bay. There we saw a few ships belonging to the Irish Naval Service. The vessels are traditionally named after Ireland’s famous female from both history and mythology. For instance, one of the ships we saw was Róisin.

The ship, Roisin.

The ship, Roisin.

The lead ship of her class, Róisin was designed in Canada. The name, meaning dark little rose, was likely based off the title of Owen Roe Macward’s famous poem, Róisin Dubh.

Bantry Bay under storm clouds.

The Bay is often linked to Rebellion of 1798. From the readings in the Rebellion Centre in Ennicorthy, we knew that the bay was the place where the Wolfe Tone led a French Fleet in an attempt to launch a rebellion. Also in relation to Ireland’s efforts towards independence, we visited the isolated memorial of Michael Collins. Very near the settlement of Bealnablath Collin’s memorial stands. A large cross marks where the Irish revolutionary leader was shot during the Irish Civil War.

The memorial of Collins.

The memorial of Collins.

Another day we drove to Skibbereen. In the past, Skibbereen, like much of Ireland was tragically plagued with a terrible famine. On the drive there many verses of the song, Dear Old Skibbereen were sung. There are many songs dedicated to, or at least mentioning, Irish towns. Despite the season, on the way back to our lodgings, as a group piped out Christmas in Killarney.

– Siobhan

The Ring of Kerry

Based near Killarney we toured a large chunk of the south coast of Ireland. In the country side, outside the city, we spent our nights. Daytimes were spent on excursions throughout the Kerry and the surrounding counties. Our first journey was to follow the tourist route named the Ring of Kerry. The passage is a circular connect the dots of small towns in the southwest of the county Kerry. The route is scenic designed and is popular with drivers, bicyclists and hikers alike. We chose to take in the view in the car. The choice was a wise one because almost immediately into our journey the Irish weather faithfully rain down hard.

Seamus at a view point in the Ring of Kerry.

Seamus at a view point in the Ring of Kerry.

Too far from home to turn back, with stubborn determination we continued around the route. Most of the scenic stop points were completely curtained by the downpour. Nonetheless, we kept on with the plan. On the road we saw that we were not the only ones dedicated to the trail. Uphill, against wind and beating rain we saw a bicyclist peering through his goggles. We admired the devotion of the bicyclist however we were content within the confines of the car.

One of the beautiful views at the Ring of Kerry.

One of the beautiful views at the Ring of Kerry.

Eventually, our commitment to the Ring paid off. After a dinner break in Dan Murphy’s Restaurant in Sneem, we continued with the route.

Dan Murphy's Stone outside the restaurant in Sneem.

Dan Murphy’s Stone outside the restaurant in Sneem.

Near the completion of the circuit (about half and hour away from Killarney) the rain finally, finally eased off. The views were breathtaking. The remainder of the drive was interrupted several times with stops at scenic points, including the Ladies View, to take photos and short strolls.

Wanda taking in the views in Kerry.

Wanda taking in the views in Kerry.

On one of these occasions we discovered a thick and fairytale-like wood. With the ideas of leprechauns, brownies and other ‘wee folk’ dancing in our minds, we followed an overgrown path leading into the forest.

Meadhbh and Seamus at the waterfall.

Meadhbh and Seamus at the waterfall.

No sprites of any sort were to be seen but we did come across a rather magical little waterfall.

– Siobhan

The Gift of the Gab

The gift of the gab is a gift not easily achieved. We began the procedure by driving into Blarney and pinning down the Blarney castle. From there we located the lump of bluestone from which the gift emanates, the legendary, Blarney Stone.

The Blarney Castle.

The Blarney Castle.

The Blarney stone brings visitors from all over the world eager to pucker their lips and place them on the stone. This process is said to endow the kisser with the gift of the gab or in other words, the power to schmooze.

 

Wanda on a bench in Blarney.

Wanda on a bench in Blarney.

Legend has it that builder, King of Munster, Cormac MacCarthy ran into some legal difficulties while constructing the castle. Goddess, Cliodhna came to his aid. She instructed him to kiss the first stone he found on his way to court. Obediently, MacCarthy kissed the Blarney stone and was consequently granted great eloquence and won his case in court.

‘Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses

He never misses to grow eloquent;

‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber,

Or become a member of Parliament.

A noble spouter he’ll sure turn out, or

An out and outer to be let alone;

Don’t try to hinder him, or to bewilder him,

For he is a pilgrim from the Blarney stone.

Francis Sylvester Mahony

The site had been occupied since 1210 A.D. Eight hundred years of development has resulted in beautiful gardened ground and a fantastic stone castle. We wandered through a large portion of this area: taking care not to ingest anything in the poisonous material garden and avoiding puddles in the caves under the castle.The main destination was, of course the stone.

The Blarney stone as seen from the ground.

The Blarney stone as seen from the ground.

We climbed to the roof of the castle in pursuit of the famous rock. The narrow and steep stairways were slightly difficult to manage. It was hard to believe that the likes of Winston Churchill had once succeeded at the same journey. Despite our disbelief, staff maintained that Churchill, as well as many other famous intellects and celebrities conquered the cramped staircase in order to kiss the stone.

Meadhbh inside the Blarney Castle.

Meadhbh inside the Blarney Castle.

Famous or not, the lips of millions have been placed on stone, which isn’t the most appealing thought when it comes time to perform the kiss yourself. Health hazards become of lesser concern though, when hanging over the edge of the castle to reach the stone.

The back of the Blarney Castle.

The back of the Blarney Castle.

 

The Blarney Stone is in no way convenient positioned. The only way to reach the stone is to lean over backwards on the edge of the parapet containing the stone.We do not recommend the stone to anyone with a fear of heights.

Seamus kissing the Blarney stone with the helping hand of the assistant.

Seamus kissing the Blarney stone with the helping hand of the assistant.

With the help of iron support bars and an elderly assistant, we each managed a peck on the stone. Sadly, there has been no apparent sign that the gifts promised were granted.

– Siobhan

Vinegar Hill

In Wexford county we settled in the tiny city of Enniscorthy. Although small, there is a lot in Enniscorthy worth seeing and its size makes everything accessible by foot. We were able to enjoy the sunny days that are atypical of Ireland’s climate. Firstly, we walked from our hotel by the Slaney to Enniscorthy Castle.

The Slaney river.

The Slaney river.

Dating back to 1190, the castle has had a sundry of unique individuals pass through. The first evidence we saw of this was in the dungeon of the castle.

The art on the dungeon walls.

The art on the dungeon walls.

In a small room, that was used by modern residents as a boiler room, we saw the dwellings of the past prisoners. One of these unfortunate detainees had used his time in his prison to express himself artistically. We saw the preserved etchings of this prisoner on the walls of the dungeon.

A room with old furniture in the castle.

A room with old furniture in the castle.

The rest of the castle was filled with the souvenirs of the its history. Furniture from the most recent residents of the castle remained. There was also an exhibition featuring articles from the Irish Rebellion of 1798. During this time the Enniscorthy castle witnessed several battles and was even used as a prison.

A bronze copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

A bronze copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

From the roof of the castle we could see the site in Enniscorthy that is most associated with the rebellion. Vinegar Hill was the location of a battle between the Irish and British.

The view of Vinegar Hill from the castle.

The view of Vinegar Hill from the castle.

As we learned later in the National 1798 Rebellion Center, the name of the hill was the result of the improper pronunciation by the English of the Irish name Chnoc Fidoh na gCaor. We were very impressed with the exhibits in the center.

The exhibit in center describing the battles between the Irish and the British as a chess match.

The exhibit in the center describing the battles between the Irish and the British as a chess match.

Through audio-visual re-enactments we saw a very effective portrayal of the largest rebellion in Irish history.

Meadhbh in the Rebellion Centre.

Meadhbh in the Rebellion Centre.

Once we had thoroughly surveyed the center we journeyed up to the hill itself. We climbed up the hill that over fifteen thousand soldiers had once climbed in pursuit of the Irish.

Vinegar Hill

Vinegar Hill

At the top, we stood on the site where over a thousand Irishmen were murdered. The British military did not spare children or women and tortured many of their victims.

The view from the Vinegar Hill.

The view from the Vinegar Hill.

Fortunately, a large group of Irishmen managed to escape toward the Wicklow mountains that could be seen from our vantage point on Vinegar Hill.

 – Siobhan

Presidential Tour

Our arrival into Dublin was followed by the American president’s touchdown into Ireland. Barack Obama had flown to Ireland to attend the G8 summit, accompanied by his family who intended to do some touring. The Obama’s schedule had one or two similarities with the Quigg’s schedule, except the father of this family of four did not have world affairs to attend to. The first item on both agendas, however, was a visit to Glendalough.

The round tower.

The round tower.

Based in a bed and breakfast in Wicklow, we drove to the medieval settlement called Gelndalough. Our visit wasn’t quite as glamorous as the Obama’s visit. The park facilities closed off the site to the public so as the Obamas could tour in privacy. Insects, however are not so discerning.

Seamus exploring Glendalough.

Seamus exploring Glendalough.

Reports in local papers described the Obamas irritation with the midges swarming the area and welts on my neck and hands can confirm that the midges also bothered us.

An old grave in Glendalough.

An old grave in Glendalough.

On the other hand, we had no problem with “midgets” which concerned some perplexed CIA staff. We fended off the midges as best we could as we strolled through the site. There were many medieval sites to be seen such as St. Kevin’s Church and the Round Tower.

A ruined building in Glendalough.

A ruined building in Glendalough.

The Round Tower is a thirty meter high structure that looks as if it could have once been the home of the fairytale character, Rapunzel. In reality, it was used as protection for people and treasure during attacks.

Meadhbh standing by one of the old headstones in Glendalough.

Meadhbh standing by one of the old headstones in Glendalough.

After taking in the ruins we walked around the remainder of the park which holds many lovely walking trails running through the forested area surrounding the lakes.

The Glendalough cemetery.

The Glendalough cemetery.

Once the midges finally got the best of us we returned to the car and drove to the former house of   Charles Stewart Parnell.

Meadhbh and Wanda outside the house of Parnell.

Meadhbh and Wanda outside the house of Parnell.

Wanda walking away from the house.

Wanda walking away from the house.

We toured through the house of the Irish politicians and even stood in the room where he was born.

The Parnell family tree.

The Parnell family tree.

Afterwards, we returned to Wicklow in search for a spot of grub. We eventually settled at a very nice Indian food restaurant just as the Obamas chowed down on traditional fish and chips in the company of Bono.

– Siobhan

Day Trips

Every now and then we would pack the car and venture into one of the nearby beach towns. The south of France is where French vacationers flock during summer breaks.

A windsurfer in Sanary-sur-Mer.

A windsurfer in Sanary-sur-Mer.

Towns like Sanary-sur-Mer are crowded with Parisians searching for a recess from their city life. The warm beaches on the Mediterranean sea are very enticing.

Sitting in Sanary-sur-Mer.

Sitting in Sanary-sur-Mer.

The day we visited, the sea was a touch too rough to enter. Braver people than us rode the waves in the sea, while we watched from a rocky outcrop enjoying the sun.

Our vantage point of Sanary-sur-Mer.

Our vantage point of Sanary-sur-Mer.

A different day in a different town, we were able to dip into the Mediterranean. In Saint-Cyr-sur-mer the sea was dead still and perfect for wading through. Although the small city features many resorts, the beaches are among the lesser crowded. Much unlike the city of Cassis.

Siobhan, Seamus and Meadhbh wading in the waters of Cyr-Sur-Mer.

Siobhan, Seamus and Meadhbh wading in the waters of Cyr-Sur-Mer.

Cassis was swarming with tourists taking advantage of the gorgeous summer weather. The beaches were absolutely blanketed with French sunbathers. Instead of squeezing in a spot on the sand, we walked through the city taking in the maritime scenery.

Meadhbh sitting on the outcrop in Sanary-sur-Mer.

Meadhbh sitting on the outcrop in Sanary-sur-Mer.

With no intention of visiting a beach, we went to Arles one day, where we also did some walking. Arles, unlike the other towns we visited, is known more for its history than its beaches. We did a walking tour around the city to see the Roman monuments and to follow the footsteps of the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh.

A cafe painted by Vincent Van Gogh.

A cafe painted by Vincent Van Gogh.

The city has a collection of Roman monuments the most prominent being the arena known as the Arles Amphitheater. The theatre was reminiscent of the theatre in Rome, although the amphitheater in Arles was obviously not as colossal.

The Arles amphitheatre.

The Arles amphitheatre.

The Van Gogh part of the tour also reminded us of earlier times in the year. We had been to the artists country and had seen a lot of his influence while in Amsterdam. Not to mention we saw a huge collection of his pieces while in the D’Orsay in Paris. Arles is the city where the artist rendered over three hundred of his works. On our walk through Arles we saw several of the bridges, cafes and houses that he illustrated. After exploring Arles we ventured into yet another

A isolated church in the midst of the camargue.

A isolated church in the midst of the camargue.

one of southern France’s many facets. Recollected from references in his elementary French classes, Seamus wanted to visit the area Camargue. The Camargue is unlike any other part of France. It is a marshy wetland that hosts a number of species that do not habitat elsewhere in the country.The site is particularly known for its flamingos. We didn’t spot any flamingos but we had no trouble seeing seagulls, horses, pheasants and clouds and clouds and clouds of midges. We went to a restaurant and one of the small towns that are peppered between the marshes. There they served us fish caught only in the Camargue. Including our time in Paris earlier, we really had seen the most diverse parts of France. We left the country thoroughly satisfied with our exploration there. We made our final French drive into Marseilles where we boarded our first flight since February to the final country of the year, Ireland.

– Siobhan

C’est La Vie

Our return to France was punctuated by a short detour into one more country. We had hit most of the smallest members of Europe and despite the dismal weather, we were not going to miss the opportunity to pass through Monaco. Although not as small as the Vatican city, Monaco occupies only a small space in the corner of France.

Driving to Monaco.

Driving to Monaco.

Eating in Monte Carlo.

Eating in Monte Carlo.

Unfortunately, the terrible downpour prevented us from venturing too far from the car while we were there. Still, from the car on the drive there, through the raindrops running down the window, we were able to discern what would be beautiful views one a dryer day.

The view from the window in Provence.

The view from the window in Provence.

The state’s size does not correlate with its reputation. Monaco’s district of Monte Carlo is renowned world wide for its concentrated wealth. The extravagance of the small location has lured in celebrates, stars and royalty throughout history. The same luxurious presentation appeals to film directors. Monte Carlo has set many feature films and popular television shows. The streets of Monte Carlo can be seen in more than one James Bond film.

The cat next door sitting in our kitchen window.

The cat next door sitting in our kitchen window.

Jordan's cat visiting.

Jordan’s cat visiting.

Sadly, we weren’t able to see these scenes because of the deluge. Instead, we enjoyed a meal at a cafe before entering back into France. The rain followed us through France into Aix-en-Provence, the nearest city to our destination. About twenty minutes outside Aix-en-Provence, in the midst of France’s finest country sides, we found the house where we would be experiencing a little bit of French lifestyle.

Seamus relaxing by the pool.

Seamus relaxing by the pool.

The rain poured as our landlord, Jordan showed us around the property. The next day, in cheerful weather we saw better the house where we would spend the next month. The house and surrounding area was extremely pleasant and we had no trouble making  it into our temporary home. With the exception of a few day trips, we mostly kick-backed  and enjoyed the French countryside.

Meadhbh picking strawberries.

Meadhbh picking strawberries.

Fresh strawberries from Jordan's garden.

Fresh strawberries from Jordan’s garden.

There were a few things to attend to. Meadhbh buckled down on her school work while I managed some details for my first year at university this fall. Wanda practiced her art and Seamus arranged the final schedule of including our return to Canada.

The gaps between completing these tasks was filled with cooking and baking in the spirit of the French, lying by the pool and strolling through the country side.

Our fresh cherries.

Our fresh cherries.

The baking was particularity enjoyable. France’s grocery stores are undoubtably more diverse than the groceries in Canada. In addition to that, Jordan offered us full access to  her garden. With both these resources Meadhbh was able to try out some of the French recipes of Julia Child and she also made Seamus’s all time favorite French dish, canard a l’orange.

Canard a l'orange prepared by Meadhbh.

Canard a l’orange prepared by Meadhbh.

Choux pastry swans as prepared by Siobhan.

Choux pastry swans as prepared by Siobhan.

To accompany the meals, I attempted some new treats such as macrons and practiced some of desserts I’m more familiar with like lemon meringue and apple pie.

A neighbour thankful that Meadhbh doesn't know how to make escargot.

Our little neighbour who was lucky that Meadhbh doesn’t know how to make escargot.

The month flew by and every day was truly delightful.

 – Siobhan