Tag Archives: Travel

Ireland, here or there

I recently traveled to Ireland with my son, and we experienced the wonderful scenery, the friendly people, the history, and the delicious food and drink that this island has to offer. We flew into Dublin – and after an exciting time on Saint Patrick’s Day – we set off by rail to the western, more wild part of the country. The scenes from the train changed from urban to countryside, as we made our way to Cork. All the little village stops along the way were quaint and the conductor would announce the stop in both English and Gaelic, concluding with a thank you:

Thank you for riding Iarnród Éireann. (Thank you for riding Irish Rail).


To my ears, it sounded like he said, “Thank you for riding, here or there.

This thought resonated throughout the journey as we went by bus or shuttle to remote locations or simply walked through villages and towns in which we spent the night. There is something exciting and wonderful about rambling through the country-side and discovering new places. Whether it was the colorful row houses above Cobh harbor or the barren stones and sea/landscape of the Burren, forests near Killarney or the city street, Ireland offered what seemed like all possible combinations. And these were accessible from points A and B or C or…Z

Just by what seemed a random direction, any number of beautiful sights and experiences could be found by wandering.

It is no wonder then, that the Irish poets and storytellers, or those that emigrated over the last couple of centuries, spoke and sang so fondly of this beautiful country. It stands in stark contrast to the tragic history of conquest, famine, civil war and unrest that has plagued the people of Ireland over the centuries. Both sadness and beauty erupting from the same surroundings is remarkable, and dare I say, poetic. The countryside simply cries and laughs and inhales – everywhere you look.

Here or there.

Travel: Catch as Ketchikan

This summer, my wife and I took the best. vacation. ever.

I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska. It ranked up there with Ireland, Maine, Switzerland…you get the idea. I am smitten with vast wilderness, mountains and fields of green and rock.

We took an Alaskan Cruise, which I highly recommend if you are looking for vacation ideas. Along with my parents (who had done the Alaskan cruise before) and my brother and his wife, we set sail from Seattle to head up the Inside Passage of the Alaskan Panhandle. A beautiful setting that words and even pictures don’t do justice. It is 360 degrees of wilderness. Pristine. (And so much more than I can describe in one post)

Our first stop on the cruise, after one day “at sea” was the town of Ketchikan. Our ship docked and we disembarked to explore.

Did you know that Ketchikan gets an average of 162 inches of rainfall a year? That’s an average of 13.5 feet. Yes…It was raining.

Climate is just one of the things that I think Alaskans just accept and deal with. The people we met seemed to be very satisfied with their pace of life and adapting to the challenges that Alaska offers.

After helping my father find an eyeglass nosepiece repair kit… Note to tourist areas…Let some brand name pharmacy set up shop in your area, so that people don’t have to walk a mile and enter every little tourist shop and ask if they have [fill in the blank]. Now, I know they WANT you to go into every little shop. But if you are looking for something specific then it might be more beneficial to have an obvious drug store and people wouldn’t get frustrated… I set off exploring.

I’m not a shopping kind of person, so I wanted to avoid the tourist trap souvenier places. I walked past the jewelry and tee-shirt shops…all of them bustling with activity… into the town.

Up a hill and stone’s throw from the Episcopal Church, I discovered the Ketchikan Public Library and City Museum.

Did I mention that it was raining?

I decided to visit. The library was closed. I’m not sure why, it was a Monday morning. But the museum was open. I like finding little known haunts like local bookstores, museums, and restaraunts .

And, I like to stay dry…so,

I contributed my donation to the city of Ketchikan, and stepped into the history of the town.

The flow of the room went counter-clockwise, starting with various native artifacts of the Tlingit people, natives of the area. Small totems and various toys and tools carved from wood and whalebone. Native people are such experts at using available resources, and their attention to detail is amazing.

There were also items from the early pioneer settlers of the area and mementos from the heyday of the salmon fishing industry. Like this awesome gas mask to protect workers from the ammonia that was used in cold storage facilities.

I was fascinated by the pictures on the wall. The photo shown here, conveyed a baseball game played in 1912.  Because space was at a premium, they played games in the creek bed tide flats when the tide was out. The game would be called when the outfielders’ shoes got wet.

This, to me, was descriptive of the spirit of the settlers in Ketchikan.

Making things work.   Adapting.