Friday, July 31, 2009

Ireland & Me

Lovely Carol (left) and Claire. Here we are bonding at Johnny Rockets in Dublin. They are fabulous!
Your basic Irish breakfast. Sooo delish!
Me 'n Betsy on our way to walk the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.
Giants Causeway. Amazing!
Probably the first hour of our 11 mile hike. I was still pretty happy then.

I made the first trek to my own 'holy land' in 2000. Ireland, the land of my ancestors. A most extraordinary place not only to my eyes, but to my heart. The lush green land, the rising hills zig-zagged with ancient rock walls, the plunging cliffs that surround it, the chocolate (for heaven's sake!), the moody weather (that I love so well), and of course, the people. This recent trip was my fourth in 9 years. Yes, Ireland captured me upon first meet. My Fitzsimmons cousins were living in Cork at the time and introduced me to a most spectacular country. In the 3 separate times I visited, I was so enchanted by it that I had to bring different people each time I went. Jenny Beth, Stacy, Justin, Scott and Brianne. Of course they all fell in love with it too.
For almost 6 years I have been away from my beloved Ireland (which oddly enough, means Erin in the Irish). I was all too ecstatic for yet another home-coming, and this time with Lorie, Betsy and Vicki.
And here is how it went:

Wednesday: Arrived in Dublin via Ryan Air, stayed with Claire White (thank you!), then went to sleep (it was quite late). Oh, and I was driving on the beloved left side of the street. Eeks!

Thursday: Ventured out and away to Northern Ireland. Our destination: Giant's Causeway Hotel. We arrived at our hotel around 2 or 3, then after a little rest, we decided to head over to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge via bus. It was only a few miles away. This bridge is a rope suspension bridge in Country Antrim. It links the mainland to the teeny Carrick Island. A place where salmon fishermen frequently fished. The views are stunning.
After we finished capturing the beauty with our eyes and our lenses, we headed back to the visitors center and tea house. I then was told by Lorie (who had researched the area, the attractions, hikes, etc.) that we were going to take a 16km hike back to the hotel. Apparently it goes right along the ridge of the beautiful cliffs in the area, and is supposed to be a great little walk. Well, right up front I'll tell you that I'm not a big hiker. I enjoy a leisurely hike once in a while, but an 11 mile hike isn't a normal thing for me to do. Well, they all decided to go, and I tried deciding if I really wanted to spend 3 hours + on a long walk. I figured, why not?! So, we headed out. It was raining only slightly, but it was lovely. As you all know, I love me some good rain. We kept on and saw some amazing scenery. After every ridge we crossed, I kept thinking that we'd see our goal at some point. We seemed to be saying "I think it's after this ridge" quite frequently. But after every ridge, no hotel. After 3 hours into it, I got restless. I started booking it, and by booking, I mean I was running up every hill I came to. I wouldn't rest (even though I was exhausted from little sleep the nights before, and from this up and down hill hike). I couldn't talk to anyone, because I was in a serious zone. I HAD to find my goal! Where was it?! One sheep pasture after another, one set of boarded steps after another and there was still no end in sight. Four hours passed, and then five. At this point, I was probably talking to myself to make myself keep going. You see, there was no bus that could come and get us, and there were certainly no roads anywhere near. We were off the beaten path, for real! Well, it was 10pm, and the sun had set, though still shined a bit of light for us weary hikers. Every now and then from my weariness would come exhilaration at the sight of what was in front of me or behind me. The views were absolutely stunning! How could I not be swept away by it? I usually gave thanks to my maker at these moments, and also asked for endurance to keep going - though my goal was nowhere in sight. I probably muttered a '3 hour hike? yeah right!' a few times. When I finally saw my goal, I think I could've cried. I walked just as quickly to reach it - even though my companions were a half mile behind me.
When I finally got to my room, I took off my shoes (noticed the lovely swelling in my cankles), and said a prayer. I was thankful to have finished. I was thankful for the much needed energy given to me at my weakest moments, and I was thankful that I would never have to do it again if I didn't want to! There were a lot of personal lessons I learned; things I learned about myself and how I handle trials and how I endure them. Interesting, isn't it?
Well anyway, Vicki had a million cuts on her feet from her shoes (sad), but she also made it.

Friday: Saw Giants Causeway. Wow and wow! Take a look. We then packed up our things (before eating a delicious Irish breakfast), and headed on our way toward Galway. On our way, we passed Yeats country. The place where poet W.B. Yeats grew up. We visited the church he frequented, and paid a visit to his grave stone. In my English Literature days at school, I read much of his works, and was happy to see where so much of his inspiration came from.
We drove through the many beautiful counties of N. Ireland, then finally got to Galway.
Checked into our hotel, then went to see the new Harry Potter movie at the Omniplex. Fun!

Saturday: Well, by this point I was running out of money, and I was still dead from the hike two days before. So, the girls left early and went to see one of the Aran Islands. I, on the other hand, ventured around Galway. It's such a great little town, and it's bigger than most too. If I were to live in Ireland, I think I'd definitely consider the lovely city.
Once the girls got back, we headed to the city center to find some pub grub, and find it we did. I had a plate of Shepherd's pie. Delish! It was while we were out to dinner that I found out I'd have to cut my trip short in Ireland. It's true. Flights were looking bad at best, and my only chance for getting out of Dublin would be Monday morning.

Sunday: Attended the itty bitty branch in Galway and loved it. Had some lunch, then I parted from the amigas and took an almost 4 hour bus ride to Dublin. I was very sad to leave them, because they were on their way to see some of my favorite parts of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher, and the Ring of Kerry. Ah well, it just means I'll have to get back there sooner than later.
I rang Claire and asked if I could stay with her one more night, which of course she was willing (bless her). Then, she and daughter Carol took me to Johnny Rockets for some good ol' American food and great conversation. I munched on onion rings and an oreo shake. Yum!

Monday: Departed from my favorite country and got Business First back to Newark! Woohoo!
The rest was an ordeal, truly. Monday & Tuesday looked like this: Newark to DC to Houston to Phoenix to Denver to SLC. Boy, am I glad to be home!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Scotland: oot 'n aboot...

The Jacobite steam train on the Glen Finnan Viaduct.
Me 'n the ladies (Betsy, Vicki, me and Lorie) at the Falls.
Our fave treat. 'HobNobs: One nibble and you're nobbled!' Ain't that the truth!
Hoping Nessie will magically pop up somewhere behind us while we pose.
Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness behind me.
Kil-something castle. Oh, I'll remember late.

Oh Friends, what a great trip this has been so far! I have been to Scotland twice before, but this has been my first time to venture further than Edinburgh and Glasgow. Oh my, the Highlands are absolutely spectacular! I canna hardly believe it. I didn'a know how fantastic it was! Here is what we've been up to so far (me, Victoria Jane, Betsy Lou, and Lorie Ann).

Friday: I arrived to Edinburgh (got first class - woohoo!), met up with the ladies in Glasgow and we were on our way in our rental car. Drove to a small town called Luss. Quaint and adorable. Walked passed a small church where a wedding was going on, experienced quite a downpour of rain (the first moment I realized I should've brought a coat), heard some bag-piping, then left. On the way to see a plethora of castles, I fell asleep in the car a bit, then woke for Loch Awe and a pretty old castle (I'll get the name later), drove many more hours through amazing country side, then stopped at Eilean Donan Castle. Drove a few more hours to reach the Isle of Skye, and our destination of Portree. We arrived after 10:30, and it was still light! So lovely. We found our hotel and fell right asleep. Ok, we didn't. The drunk folks in the square outside our window were awfully loud.

Saturday: The girls left for kayaking, whilst I, not realizing how terrible the exchange rate is, decided to save some money and hang out in Portree. Had a marvelous time on my own. Then, the rain poured... a lot. It was today I realized I really, really needed to buy a coat. Of course, I didn'a want to spend 50 bucks on a coat, but I HAD to. It was freezing every day, and I was shivvering like I hadn't shivvered in years! I'm not kidding, either. I've been much happier ever since. Though, I'm still cold. Weird. We did some additional driving around the Isle of Skye and enjoyed more amazing country side, and a castle or two. There are many!

Sunday: Left the Isle of Skye and headed for Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. The Macdonalds were conquerors of this castle. Actually, they pretty much ran the country. You see, Miss Victoria Jane is a Macdonald, and very proud of her heritage is she. However, we are finding out that they were a wee bit selfish. They stormed pretty much every castle and made it their own. Quite funny, really. Anyways, after the freezing rain and freezing wind of Urquhart, we headed to Inverness for church. Extra blessings on our heads for changing in the car. That was awkward. Church was great, the ward was teeny, the building quite small, but the same spirit every where you go in the world. Such a comfort.
After we left church, we had a picnic on Loch Ness and enjoyed a few patches of sunlight here and there. We soon left on our way to Fort William to find our accommodations for the next 3 nights at Birch Brae. Basically, it is a small little group of cabin-like houses that are self-catering. Free internet, even! It has been lovely. So, we watched a movie on our surround sound DVD system that came with the place, and then headed off to bed.

Monday: Boarded The Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig. This was a beautiful journey through much more country side. We also crossed the Glen Finnan viaduct (made famous by Harry Potter). It was a really enjoyable chug-chug kind of train that took us to the small sea-side town of Mallaig. We found the West Highland Hotel for lunch where we lunched on the ever-popular fish 'n chips and just enjoyed watching the wind whipping outside while we sat cozy inside. Truly, it was absolutely freezing!!! I don't know how people do it. It felt colder to me than a snow storm. Maybe just because I don't expect this cold in July. Yeah, could be it. Soon the steam train beckoned us with its high-pitched whistle, and we were off! And now, I sit in this 'cabin' warm, tummy full of good food, and ready for yet another day in Scotland.

Two more days, then we head to the land of my heritage... Erin Go Bragh!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mom & Dad's 40th Anniversary

Incredible. That's all I can say. We siblings put on a great party, and a great show! Here are a few pics. I'll post video when I can.

The happy couple.
My mom's sisters Kathleen and Eileen surprised her. She hadn't seen Kathleen in 15 years!
Dear, crazy brothers!
The sisters.
My dear friend Scott was visiting UT and was able to come.
We're cheering for our brothers on stage.
Minutes after my mom was surprised by her sisters. She cried for 10 minutes straight! Not even kidding!

Success!! Love you Mom and Dad!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I got to watch the Michael Jackson memorial from home today, and I have to say, I was weepy. I felt it a very genuine memorial, one that honored a phenomenal entertainer and humanitarian. Since finding out about his death, I have every now and then gone to youtube to remember him in his amazing videos, and then to remember him as a young boy singing on the Ed Sullivan Show. I am amazed. What a talent! It's unfortunate that as such a handsome young man he wasn't comfortable enough in his own skin, and had to change his looks so drastically. It is sad.
I've always been a fan - ever since I was young. I remember in Hawaii when my brother Quinn got the Off The Wall album, and it was listened to daily. I also remember when Thriller was a scary video. He was a big deal on the islands, and the Curran family was definitely affected.
Good times, Michael. Thank you.

Monday, July 6, 2009

He wants to marry me.

My dear, sweet nephew Ryan was sitting next to me at the dinner table the other day and asked, "Auntie, had you been married before?" I simply replied, "Nope, I haven't been married before". He was pensive for a moment and then said, "when I grow up, I'm gonna marry you". Bless his 5 year old heart! I then went on to explain that aunties and nephews don't marry each other, and proceeded to suggest other little girls he might marry when he grows up.
My sister and her family have been visiting from NC for the last week, and being with my nephews has been quite fun. I love how whenever I'm sitting down, Ryan, (who is quite tall for his age, and quite a tank) always asks if he can sit on my lap. It's pretty much adorable. I love being Auntie to my 6 nephews. I know I've bragged about them on countless occasions, but truly, they are very special to their Auntie Erin.