Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sacred Trees

Cong Abbey
Sending you sacred tree love from Cong Abbey, Ireland this Sunday morning.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Burren

The Burren
Not a lot of time to blog since my time in Ireland is full of wonderful sites to visit. Yesterday it was The Burren, land of fissured bedrock. It's a unique landscape where arctic, alpine and Mediterranean plants live side-by-side. It's also a land dotted with holy wells and monastic ruins.
Temple Cronan
Our guide took us to the ruins at Temple Cronan, an important monastic sanctuary site. The ruins have been dated to the 12th century, but there is thought that an original building may have been established as early as the mid-600's by St. Cronan. It could have been a pagan worship site before that.

There will be more about The Burren...but not today. I have places to go and things to see!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Multiples: Galway Kegs

Galway Kegs
Seemed like the perfect 'Multiples' photo for Galway! Tried my first pint of Guinness last night at dinner. I loved it! Not sure that's a good thing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


How ever do people learn to speak this language? I thought French was hard! At church on Sunday we sang a prayer in Gaelic. Everybody seemed to know it; I hummed along. I hear Gaelic all the time on the street, and it's actually the first language of many people along the west coast

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sunday Worship

It was such a pleasure to worship at the St. Nicholas Collegiate Church on Sunday. The 11 AM sung Eucharist service was well-attended; I would estimate at least 100 people, including several families with young children. The choir was exceptional. The church, Anglican/Church of Ireland/Episcopalian, is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland that was remained in constant use. (Although it was used by Cromwell's forces as a stable for their horses when they took Galway in 1652 after a nine month siege.)

The church is fascinating to tour. Its oldest tomb dates from the late 13th/early 14th century. Called the Crusader's Tomb, it may have been moved here from a nearby chapel of the Knights Templar which was destroyed in 1324. Its inscription is in Norman French, and it is decorated with an elaborate cross...
Crusader's Tomb
This tall pseudo-Celtic cross is the WWI memorial remembering those parishioners who died during that Great War....
WWI Memorial
The Shoemaker's Tomb commemorates a shoemaker and his wife. The slab contains a very rare example of a 16th century interlaced Celtic-Revival cross...
Shoemaker's Tomb
This banner which hangs by the Choir Room contains representations of the coats of arms of the 14 'Tribes of Galway.' These were 14 influential merchant families which ran Galway from the 15th-17th centuries. Interestingly, all but two of the families were from either England or Wales, but integrated so well into Galway society that they became quite powerful...and Gaelic adopting local manners and customs. If you count, you'll see that there are 15 illustrations; the one in the middle does not represent any of the families...
The 14 Tribes of Galway
I hope to have time during my visit in Galway to return and take a guided tour of the church. So many interesting things to learn about!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chris Who?

This is the St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in Galway. It was built in the early 1300's on the site of an earlier chapel. While today we think of St. Nicholas as a mostly secular 'saint' for children and Christmas, in medieval times he was the patron saint of sailors and very important to this seafaring town of Galway.

You may be asking yourself...why do I even care about this pretty church? If you're American, you certainly should care. It is said that Christopher Columbus worshiped here in 1477, years before he discovered the Americas. It is also said that his famous voyage of 1492 was inspired in part by the voyages of the Irish saint, St. Brendan the Navigator. According to legend, St. Brendan's sailings took him deep into the Atlantic, perhaps even as far as north America.

Was Chris inspired by tales of St. Brendan or did he think they were merely Irish boasting about discovering a new land? We'll never know for sure. What we do know for sure is that 'in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.' and put the Americas on the world map!

I went to Sunday morning services here . More about the interior of the church in my next blog post.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Saturday Evening: Part 1

After settling in at my B&B, I took a little wander back through old Galway...High St. to Shop St. where all the action is on a Saturday night. Here are some random images from my 5 minute walk...
Claddagh Monument
Swans on the River Corrib
Gorgeous flowers. 
Galway is full of flowers!

Stay tuned for Part 2...the action on Galway's Shop Street.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Eyre Square

If you've been to Galway, you've been to Eyre Square!
My first impressions of Galway....lively, young, energetic with a really happy vibe!
And music everywhere.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Getting Ready to Go!

I'm getting pretty excited about my upcoming trip! It's been in the works for over a year. Can you guess where I'm going??
Maybe this will help! These photos and the music are courtesy of Creative Commons. I hope to have my own to share with you soon.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Assumption Day Mary

Today is Assumption Day, a national holiday in France. In honor of Mary, here she is in Mazerolles.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: The House at Zaronza

Author Vanessa Couchman
Looking for an end-of-summer read that will have you sleuthing for ancestors on your family tree or better yet, making plans to vacation in Corsica? Look no further! The House at Zaronza written by my friend, Vanessa Couchman is just the book for you. Published last month by Crooked Cat Publishing, this historical novel has it, betrayal, reconciliation, and war all vividly staged against the beautiful Corsican landscape of the early 1900s.

Cap Corse
When Rachel Swift arrived in Zaronza, she felt strangely at home in the Corsican village previously unknown to her. She was there to search for information about her grandmother whom she had recently learned was born in Corsica. What Rachel found were love letters and the handwritten life story of Maria Orsini, a woman closely connected to her grandmother. Forbidden by her family to marry the man she loves and forced into a loveless marriage with her cousin, Maria endures a hard, insulated life in the highly patriarchal Corsican culture. In direct conflict with the norms of her times, though, she eventually becomes first a businesswoman and later a volunteer nurse at the Western Front during WWI. Her story is one that will have you turning the pages long after you should be asleep for the night!

Rugged Corsican countryside
Vanessa and her husband have loved Corsica since their first visit to the island in 2003. They have been back several times since. It was on one of those visits that Vanessa was inspired to write the story of Maria Orsini. I sat down with her over lunch in her lovely restored French farmhouse, and she told me the story of real handwritten love letters framed and on display at the bed and breakfast where she and Per were staying. The letters were written by the village schoolteacher in the early 1900s to his sweetheart whose family disapproved of their relationship. The couple hid their letters in an old Corsican shrine which served as their private mail box. While none of her letters have ever been found, his letters indicate that their relationship was doomed. She married another, and he eventually emigrated. This was enough to spark Vanessa's imagination and The House at Zaronza was born

Typical Corsican shrine
I left Vanessa's with both an appreciation for just how far women's rights have advanced in the last 100 years as well as one of Vanessa's research books about Corsica: Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica by Dorothy Carrington. I think I've added a visit to Corsica to my bucket list!
Corte in central Corsica
The House at Zaronza is available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions. It is also on sale at SmashWords and from the publisher, Crooked Cat.

All photographs are courtesy of Vanessa Couchman and used with her permission.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Multiples: Wheelbarrows

Virtually all of France in on holiday at least part of this month...if not all of it. Leaving these guys sad and lonely.
Wheelbarrows in French? Les brouettes

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Early Morning Sun

The Chateau
It was a little after 7am when I carefully tiptoed down the stairs at Anita and Richard's. No need to disturb them just because I was crazy enough to want some early morning photos. I wasn't disappointed when I got outside and saw the dawn-kissed Chateau next door.
Najac was equally pretty with its castle floating above the sea of fog in the river valley below.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Big Band Jazz with Friends

My friends, Anita and Richard, just returned from a visit to the States. I was excited to hear about their adventures, so Anita invited me to their lovely home in Mazerolles for dinner, a jazz concert and lots of conversation about what they saw on their travels. Since the concert wouldn't finish until late, she also suggested that I stay the night to avoid the hour-plus drive home late at night on the dark, winding narrow roads of the causse. That was an offer I couldn't refuse! As I arrived, I stopped at the top of their village to take a couple of shots of Najac across the valley from their home.
We dined alfresco on their covered porch. I enjoyed this view of their neighbor, the Chateau as I ate Anita's signature tomato and goat cheese tart which was accompanied by salad, gazpacho, bread and of course, wine! Can't beat the scenery, can you?
The free big band jazz concert was held in the tiny village of St. Michel-de-Vax near St. Antonin-Noble-Val. This is always one of the venues each summer as one of the musicians is from this 30 house hamlet.The band is called Culinaro and is a group of session musicians who get together 3 or 4 times a year to perform. There are 14 of them including the singer, and they play classics by such greats as John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Herbie Hancock. They also throw in a little jazz with a Latin flare...salsa and bossa nova The singer is terrific; at times she sounded a lot like Billie Holiday. Hearing live jazz by professionals in the heart of a medieval village sitting under the huge plane tree in the village square is an experience I won't soon forget!
Spending the night meant I was able to get some photos of Najac in the early morning light. I'll share some of those in my next post.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Happy Flowers

I'm such a sucker for sunflowers! I ooh and aah over every field I see. I was really surprised, though, when Laury blogged earlier in the week about this field which is only about a kilometer from my house. I had no idea this little strip was planted in sunflowers. It's tucked away behind the bus stop and a greenhouse making it hard to see from the road.

Sunflowers are such happy flowers, aren't they?
I think these guys are especially happy because they're keeping company with Madame Gentou's luscious tomatoes...