Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ireland: Skibberin

We spent the day in Clonakilty, visited the train museum (see below) and wandered around town. Clonakilty is known for where Michael Collins came from, but in reality, i think he only lived there a couple of years. We saw the building he lived. For 2 yrs. With his sister, i believe.
Near Michael Collins' home for 2 or so years is this post office, that i'm assuming used to be a church.
On our drive to the next dairy farm B & B, we came across this stone circle in the middle of nowhere. It was very pretty--with an excellent view of the ocean.

We stopped in Skibbereen for lunch and amelie and ceri explored the Heritage Centre, which focused on the famine. One of the best nuggets of knowledge ceri learned was a typical irish family of 6 would eat 25 pounds of potatoes per day. Per day! It's no wonder the country just about starved to death.
We ended the day at our B&B. Below is the view from the B&B. The farm went right up to the ocean and it was really quite beautiful. Early the next morning, i went for a run around the farmyards when the cows came up to be milked. I thought i had the paddock to myself, but almost ran into a huge-ass bull. His head was bigger than me. It scared the crap out of me and i almost fell over in cow poop. Of course, he was harmlessly chewing and watching the funny asian-american running around in circles.
Here i am at the B&B after the girls went down, enjoying the best drink of the trip: Irish ale.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kinsale and Clonakilty, Ireland

We took the overnight ferry from Swansea, Wales to Cork, Ireland. The girls enjoyed sleeping on the boat, and amelie doesn't even remember falling out of the bunk in the middle of the night.

We arrived in cork, but seeing it was 7am, we decided to drive straight to Kinsale, a small seaside town. We had breakfast complete with black and white "pudding." As we walked around, i couldn't help think of the difficult times ireland has been through. When it wasn't being invaded, or sectioned up, mother nature decides to reign down plagues and famines. And currently, they are in the middle of economic uncertainty.

As tourists, we wouldn't know it. The people were very helpful and friendly, but we did tend to be the only tourists exploring the touristy areas.

In kinsale, there is an old fort called Charles Fort--Unique for it's star shape.

We completed the day driving a short distance to clonakilty. We stayed just outside clonakilty at a B&B on a dairy farm. Unlike B&Bs in the states, the ones in ireland tend to be more family friendly. We didn't see any other guests as the one we stayed at and the hostess was very kind. We put the kids to sleep and she cooked ceri and i a lovely meal (lots of potatoes!) complete with an Irish Coffee. The next morning, we explored the farm and visited with the baby cows and watched the big cows get milked.


We wet to see Aunty Judy in Swansea for one night. She has her son over for the night as well, and Ceri hadn't seen this cousin since he was a kid, so it was a nice surprise. Judy has 2 dogs, and was fostering 2 more dogs. Amelie particularly liked Zeb. She doesn't remember, but she used to play with Zeb the last time we were in swansea.

We satisfied my castle-itch at Kidwelly castle, near swansea. Although it's an abandoned shell of a castle today, it is well preserved, and they let you climb around and explore the rooms

Here is adele in one of the castle rooms:

Add Image And here is amelie demonstrating how the Murder Hole works. Of course, in the good ole days, this hole wasn't covered with a grate. The area she is standing is over the front gate of the castle and i'm guessing they dropped hot oil and feathers, or witches or whatever else they had an abundance of through this hole on the bad guys.

Sutton Bonington

On our drive through the Midlands, we swung by the small village of Sutton Bonington, which is where ceri lived while his father spent 1 year teaching at the local university. Below is the school he went to:

And this is the flat he lived in.


After 2 days in london, we drove up to Eyam, which is in "The Midlands," to see ceri's ex-uncle and step-aunt. I did find the relation strange, but considering ceri has known them growing up, and hadn't seen them in years, it wasn't such a strange connection. They had their grandchildren staying with them for school holidays (george and emily), and we figured out they are 2nd cousins of our girls.

The drive to Eyam was my favorite. They call it the Peak District, and it was lovely. We drove by lush green farmland separated by 100 yr old dry stone walls. The sheep had just popped out their babies, and they were so cute. Eyam is an old village that is known for shutting itself off in the 1600s when the plague came through. It has some very interesting history. Below is 'main street' of Eyam.
Below is the main church in Eyam. It's a beautiful old chuch with only one person buried from the plague. Interestingly, because the town was shut out to the outside, most people had to either bury their own loved ones in their back yard or card them to the local plague pit.
Aunt Lynn brought us to Chatsworth Palace that was nearby. They converted the connected farmyards to a kids play area that was perfect for the kids. Below is the actual palace.
Peter and lynn are also very interesting people. Their house is the Doctor's House for Eyam, and he's lived there for 30-so years, when he first moved to the village. It has been a doctor's house since it was built in the 1600s. Peter is retired now, and spends his time training for long distance walking. He had just returned from a week long walk, and was preparing for a walk across ireland. Three yrs prior, he and a friend walked the longest stretch of the Great Wall of China any person has walked. He is also a runner, and was preparing for the London Marathon, which was 2 wks after our stay. He forced me to run with him in the country side, and we ran by the Boundry Stone on the outskirts of Eyam. This stone is the village boarder, where people would leave the supplies for Eyam during the plague and the villagers would leave their coins soaking in vinegar to disinfect it.

UK & Ireland

We started in London for a couple of days. We stayed with Aunt Wendy and Uncle Brian. Our gracious hosts prepare lovely dinners for us, live a short bus ride to the tube station and have some really interesting stories about growing up and living in London. Brian was a first responder firefighter in london for many years, and is always good for somewhat tragic and heroic stories, including his experience as one of the first responders for the Moorgate tube station accident (link).

Here they are in front of Hampton court. They took us to this palace for the day, and amelie was especially intrigued with the actors playing king Henry VIII and his wife, Catherine, seen below. They walked the grounds of the palace and fooled our girls into thinking they really did see the Queen and King of England.

We also took the thames river boat cruise to Greenwich.

Below is the official Greenwich clock. The grounds were impressive. They have a telescope to ensure the time is correct.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ragbrai Saturday (55 mi)

The last day was a short day, and we rode it quickly. Less than a mile from the end, we were given an option in Burlington to "rattle the snake," and take the bikes up a very very steep hill. Being one to like challenges, we rattled the snake without getting off the bike and rolled to the river.

After this pic, we quickly found my brother and booked it an additional 5 miles or so to the RV and booked it home. My father was falling fast and my children were impatient. We started the long drive home, and rolled into the hospital at about 8:30pm and literally dropped my father off to be admitted for IV antibiotics.
Perhaps the funniest videos...
Before (on the drive down):

After (on the drive back):

Total miles biked in 1 wk: 528 miles! I had a great time, the weather was perfect and the riding was excellent. I can't wait to do it again.

Ragbrai Friday (88 mi)

My dad was doing pretty darn good with the riding until he came down with a tooth infection, fever of 103F and chills so bad he couldn't move. He decided to sit out Friday and hope to come back strong for the last day. At breakfast, we ran into the duo above on a tandem. I believe the little one is wearing his dad's arm warmers on his legs. They weren't the only parent/child duo on a tandem. Surprisingly, we saw many young kinds on the backs of bikes pumping their legs away.

The ride was tough this day. Windy, hilly and hot and i don't believe i ate enough food the day before. It was a long day, and towards the end, i was sick of stopping at each town and i wanted to get the ride over with. Luckily, my husband made me stop, made me eat and drink and, shockingly, i felt better. At one point during my semi-bonk, my husband says, "I'm so glad i didn't have to train for this!"

In Mt. Pleasant, we stayed at a very large RV and campsite right next to the music stage. My niece had a fever, my dad looked like crap and my mother was having stomach issues. We took the kids and found a steam powered carousel and a trolley for the kids. As the day came to the end, we were seronaded with music that wasn't too bad or too loud.

Ragbrai Thursday (111 mi)

Above shows the thunderstorms that had passed in the night and luckily went away for the rest of the day. It was sunny by breakfast. We managed to find the Chris Cakes every day.

Below is a church in Blakesburg, IA with the best pie ever. I'm not even that into pie, but the pecan, strawberry and chocolate cream was SO good. Really. Good.

I convinced my husband to accompany me on the extra 27 mi loop to do a century (100 miler). The longest i've ever riden at once was 2 days before (87 mi), so i figured the extra few miles wouldn't be much. And it wasn't. Not too hilly, pretty scenery. I was pretty proud of myself and thought i was hot stuff, completing it without too much pain, but it did catch up with me (see Ragbrai Friday).

As we rolled into the overnight town (Ottumwa), the skies opened up and it rained hard. We huddled under the awning at the gas station along with 50 other cyclist and waited it out for about an hr. Instead of going into the town center, we ate at the closest "restaurant," which was Wendy's, which i hadn't eaten in since high school. Despite, i wolfed down fried sauce-drenched chicken and a baked potato and we headed for the Baptist church.

You can't tell from the below picture, but the gracious baptist church let the men pitch their tents in the church basement, which was air conditioned. I thought it strange that three men, who know each other were in three tents in the same room with no others. Whatev.

Ragbrai Wednesday (53 mi)

Above is our site at 5:30am with no rain, but heavy fog.

It took a while to burn off the fog, but no rain clouds above and not too cold, we couldn't complain. By 9am, we were in the 'star town,' or about midpoint and listened to some really bad karoke before the machine (thankfully) broke and a comedian took the microphone. He was a bit disgusted about the whole bike short situation. Most people clean out their shorts with them in the shower and dry them out on the fence--which is what i did and it worked quite well. I almost accidentally left a pair that was left on a bench outside a house we were staying by and i wasn't sure if they were mine or not, and did not sniff them as my brother suggested to see if they were mine.

We rolled into town pretty early this day, so my husband and i took our kids off my mother's hands who made a bee line for downtown by herself for some alone time. Below is a charming old school shop in the main square.

We stayed in Chariton, IA in a church parking lot the concrete jungle suburbs. Chariton did a great job organizing an efficient and cheap shuttle. We ate at a goopy chinese buffet and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon.

Ragbrai Tuesday (87 mi)

We had breakfast in the above barn in Orient, IA, which lead to many jokes by my brother. The day started with spits of rain. Below is another example of the historic buildings we'd come across in small town, IA.

Macksburg, IA had skillet throwing in the main square. For a small contribution, you can attempt to knock the basketball head off the body with a skillet. Why? I don't know, but it was hypnotising to watch. As you can see, they put a pretty high fence on the back, but didn't cover it with fence, so a few times, a skillet thrower would whip it onto the street and cyclists would scatter to warnings of "HEADS UP!"

After an attempt to find a vegetarian option for lunch, and settling for breakfast burritos (with sausage), the sun came out.

Below is a bridge of madison county, IA.

We stayed in Indianola, IA this night in another driveway of very generous people who let us bath, wash our clothes and relax on their porch.