The Time I Fell Down Blarney Castle

For anyone who has ever embarrassed themselves in a foreign country or on vacation – this is for you. I am sharing my experience of falling down one of the most famous castles in the world.

http://makemehappynow.net/2015/05/time-fell-blarney-castle/

Lining Up To Kiss The Stone

Lining Up To Kiss The Stone

 

Bloomsday 2015

Bloomsday 2015

Bloomsday 2015

For fans of famed Irish writer James Joyce, this is not a post about Bloom’s Day. Instead I am talking about the annual road race founded on May 1, 1977 by former Olympic athlete, Don Kardong, in Spokane, Washington. That first year brought just over a thousand participants. This year’s 7.4 mile race occurred on May 3rd under a clear blue sky with over 42,000 participants.

This year’s male winner was Kenya’s Lani Kiplagat Ruggo who ran the race in 34 minutes and 22 seconds.

Kenya's Lani Rutto Wins Men's Heat

Kenya’s Lani Rutto Wins Men’s Heat

The ladies’ race was also won by a Kenyan, Cynthia Limo who ran it in 39 minutes and 27 seconds.

Elite Female Runners

Elite Female Runners

As inspiring as the elite runners are, nothing touches the soul as much as the perseverance of the wheelchair racers, especially as they hit the 6.5% uphill grade of Doomsday Hill.

Young Wheelchair Racer

Young Wheelchair Racer

Bloomsday brings millions in revenue to the Lilac City and is embraced as a fun time with many runners showing their personalities.

Runners Having a Good Time

Runners Having a Good Time

Bloomsday Superheroes?

Bloomsday Superheroes?

I participated in 1986, 1989, 1990, 1997 and 2008. I just might have to add 2016 for the race’s 40th anniversary.

Road Trip to Bend, Oregon

There is something about a road trip that takes me back to childhood. The anticipation of a journey, the smell of adventure (which more often than not is the smell of dairy-air). My husband and I woke up at 3 am, packed the car, and arranged our road trip snacks and beverages so that they were within easy reach. We hit the road at 4:30 am while the city still slept, the early morning air crisp. It wasn’t long before we hit patches of fog which soon turned into long stretches of pea soup. Adventure turned to worry, hoping that we didn’t hit anything. As we headed further west, things became clearer with the sun making an appearance around 5:45 am. Pine trees gave way to scrub brush and tumbleweeds which eventually gave way to farmland made possible through irrigation.

We reached the Tri-Cities around 6:30 am where we stopped at a gas station that had a Carl’s Jr where we enjoyed a quick breakfast and a potty break. After our breakfast, we got back on the road heading down to Oregon. We turned up the tunes while I sang along with every song. That was my strategy for keeping my husband awake. No one could sleep through my car concert. The landscape switched from farmland to huge industrial windmills the closer we got to the mighty Columbia River.

Windmills

Windmills

After several breaks to stretch our legs, we entered the high desert of Central Oregon. We were getting closer to our final destination of Sunriver Resort just south of Bend. Scrub made way for trees while the elevation climbed. After passing by Bend a large lava bed appeared on the right. It was 15 miles further south to Sunriver which we pulled into at 12:30 pm, just a half hour before the Travel & Words conference was set to begin at 1 pm. We checked into the resort and then I got checked into the conference.

Sunriver Lodge

Sunriver Resort

We spent two days at Sunriver Resort where I had the opportunity to learn a ton at the conference and my husband and I were able to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary at McMenamins Old St. Francis School in Bend.

McMinniman's

McMenamins

The day after the conference and our anniversary, we took one last look from the deck of our room before packing up the car.

View from our deck

View from our deck

We made a breakfast stop at Chow before hitting the road for home. It was in the 70’s so we sat out on the patio and enjoyed chicken fried steak covered in onions, mushrooms, blue cheese and country gravy and corned beef hash.

Breakfast at Chow's

Breakfast at Chow

Chow's

Chow

After our hearty breakfast we made the long trek back home. Why is it that the return trip seems so much longer than the beginning journey?

Return journey

Return journey

Stingrays and Turtles in Grand Cayman Part Two

For Part One click here

After visiting the stingrays at the sandbar off the coast of Cayman Island, we took the boat back to shore for the second half of our excursion.

Boat Ride Back To Shore

Boat Ride Back To Shore

From the boat we headed to the Cayman Turtle Farm where we would see their conservation efforts.

The first stop was at a huge tank where the mature Green Sea turtles have access to breeding grounds within the complex. This beach allows the turtles to lay eggs in a protected environment. Conservationists at the farm can then collect the eggs and take them to the hatchery, giving them a better chance at survival.

Retirees

Mature Turtles

Next we headed to the turtle touch tanks where we had the opportunity to pick up a yearling turtle.

My husband Kevin was the first to pick a turtle.

Kevin And His Turtle

Kevin And His Turtle

In order to keep the turtle relaxed we were advised to stroke it under the chin. If Kevin’s turtle could purr I am pretty sure she would have.

One Very Relaxed Turtle

One Very Relaxed Turtle

I got to pick up a turtle next. I’ve never held a turtle before so it was an amazing experience.

My Turn

My Turn

After our turtle experience we had free time to explore the property which included the hatchery, a restaurant and shop, trails and a snorkeling area.

Heading To The Snorkeling Pool

Heading To The Snorkeling Pool

We decided to take full advantage of our adventure by spending our free time snorkeling with the turtles. We took the nice sandy trail to the beach and zero entry pool. The only rule to snorkeling was not touching the turtles.

Snorkeling Beach

Snorkeling Beach

We spent about an hour snorkeling which was amazing. Turtles underwater are so graceful and we were in awe watching them.

After drying off we headed to the hatchery for a quick peek.

Hatchery

Hatchery

After the hatchery we caught the excursion shuttle bus back to the port where we had enough time to visit the Hard Rock Cafe and to walk around a bit.

The Port

The Port

Our Cruise Ship From The Port

Our Cruise Ship From The Port

After a drink at the Hard Rock Cafe we got in line for a tender back to the ship. We had some entertainment while we waited.

How Does She Do That?

How Does She Do That?

Kevin wasn’t able to hold our stuff on his head, but he still managed to carry everything.

Lugging Our Stuff Around

Lugging Our Stuff Around

Grand Cayman was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been. We had so much fun on our Cayman adventure and I look forward to visiting again.

 

Stingrays and Turtles in Grand Cayman Part One

Grand Cayman was my favorite port of call on our Carnival honeymoon cruise in 2013. I had booked a shore excursion to swim with stingrays and then visit a turtle rehabilitation center. The excursion began with a short shuttle ride to our boat where we then enjoyed a relaxing 30 minute boat ride on the most beautiful turquoise water that I have ever seen.

Turquoise Waters of Grand Cayman

Turquoise Waters of Grand Cayman

Waiting To Get Into The Water

Waiting To Get Into The Water

A few miles out lies a shallow sandbar full of stingrays. These stingrays know that they will be fed by the tourists who have come out to see them. Prior to getting into the water we were given an informative talk about how to avoid injury to both us and the stingrays. We practiced shuffling our feet which is how you avoid stepping on a stingray and startling it, which is where most injury comes from.

Once everyone was prepared we were allowed to get into the water. Many tour boats come here so there were a lot of people, but that also meant there were a lot of stingrays hanging out waiting to be fed.

Lots of Tourists

Lots of Tourists

The crew on our boat handled the stingrays allowing us to touch and feed the rays. You could tell the stingrays knew the crew by the way they laid in their arms, content. It was amazing watching the stingrays “cuddling” with the handlers.

Stingray Cuddles

Stingray Cuddles

Each of us had the opportunity to feed the rays which was quite an experience. The crew gave us a piece of squid that we tucked into a  fist. You had to make sure your fingers were tucked in. Then the ray would put its mouth over the top of your fist where the squid was and suck it out just like a hoover vacuum. Such a strange feeling but it was such a unique exciting experience.

After feeding the rays everyone had a chance to kiss the rays if they wanted too. Well Kevin and I were not going to pass up an opportunity to kiss a stingray!

Kevin went first while I took a picture.

My Husband Kissing a Stingray

My Husband Kissing a Stingray

He then received a back rub from the ray. They aren’t slimy, they just feel really smooth. Not bad at all.

Back Rub From the Ray

Back Rub From the Ray

Next it was my turn.

Kissing the Ray

Kissing the Ray

Then I got a back rub too!

My Turn For a Back Rub

My Turn For a Back Rub

Finally we both got to kiss the ray.

Honeymoon Kiss

Honeymoon Kiss

After that we had some free time to snorkel the sandbar, always remembering to shuffle our feet rather than swimming and kicking.

Snorkeling With Rays

Snorkeling With Rays

After our free time we said goodbye to the rays and boarded the boat for our ride back to the island to visit the turtle sanctuary.

Heading Back to the Island

Heading Back to the Island

 

Chance Meeting in London

Check out this post that I wrote on www.makemehappynow.net to find out how I met one of my very good friends while sharing fries in the Sherlock Holmes Pub after a Jack the Ripper tour.

http://makemehappynow.net/2015/04/chance-meeting-london/

 

London Skyline

London Skyline

Disney’s Cars Land

My husband and I visited Radiator Springs for the first time in March 2014. For those of you who have not yet been, Radiator Springs has been brought to life inside of Disneyland’s California Adventure Cars Land. The experience begins with the Cars Land vintage poster which makes a fantastic photo opportunity and in true Disney park style there is a Disney photographer waiting in the very spot to capture your memory.

Vintage Cars Land Poster

Vintage Cars Land Poster

Immediately upon entering this area of California Adventure you feel as if you are inside of the world of Disney’s Cars, from the neatly stacked pile of tires to the bright red fire engine.

 

Neatly Stacked Tires

Neatly Stacked Tires

Red Fire Engine

Red Fire Engine

Since we were there first thing in the morning we started out on Luigi’s Flying Tire ride. Because it was so early we were 3rd in line. Luigi’s Flying Tire ride consists of giant inflatable tires that hover gliding across the ground. The goal is to bump into other flying tires like you would bumper cars.

My husband excited for Luigi's Flying Tire ride

My husband excited for Luigi’s Flying Tire ride

Next we headed to the most popular attraction – Radiator Springs Racers. This ride is well worth the wait. Even standing in line feels like you are lost in the world of Cars.

Entrance to Radiator Springs Racers

Entrance to Radiator Springs Racers

Waiting in Line

Waiting in Line

Once you get through the line you are assigned to a car where you get to race other cars.

My husband strapped into our racing car

My husband strapped into our racing car

The track is decorated like you are racing through the desert.

Racing on the Radiator Springs Racer ride

Racing on the Radiator Springs Racer ride

The ride is well worth the hour + wait times. We were there in the off season and waited about 40 minutes.

If you want to grab a snack the Cozy Cone Motel offers drinks and snacks and is shaped like upside down ice cream cones.

Cozy Cone Motel snack bar

Cozy Cone Motel snack bar

My husband and I had a great time visiting Radiator Springs and can’t wait to go back. Stay tuned for future Disneyland posts.