A week later…

2015-11-20 11.49.45It’s been a week.   That’s the Paris symbol – a sailboat on the Seine – been that for years.  And the Latin motto – Tossed but not sunk.

A disjointed blog follows.

People ask me about the pulse of Paris.  I have no clue.  My own feelings are simultaneously deep and ponderous and totally incomprehensible.

My best description is that Paris has been dulled.

How can I separate myself from my emotions and discover those of other people?  I cannot.  There was a journalist who was at the nightclub.  As he was interviewed and told his story, you could see that he was no longer a journalist.  As he gave witness, he was a participant who still hadn’t processed the event.  I say the event for lack of another word – but there is another word: the Horror.

On the Metro

  • After the show How to be a Parisien in just one Hour, I think I should be sitting in the metro being amused by the French uniform of black. I am not.
  • I see a woman with flowers and I wonder what for and I don’t think of for a celebration or love or fun. I think for the memorial.
  • I see the diversity in Paris in the metro. Black brown white tan yellow orange rose. Old young. That is what makes up paris.
  • I don’t want to wallow in Paris pity.
  • I want to be in the bus not underground.
  • Metro gives me too much time to think.

Eating out

The cafes are still not full to the normal level.  I ate out near the Tour last night. French food is still amazing even in the tiniest spots.  But I must admit to succumbing to comfort food twice this week.  2015-11-18 14.03.09I found myself just wanting something that had good memories – like going out for a McDonalds run at midnight while rehearsing or building sets at UCSC some umpteen years ago.  Funny how those things help.


A trip to the big outlet shopping mall One Nation for a specific purse and to get out of Paris for a few hours.  Trip is a bust.  The store is there but without the bag I want. They did call the Paris store so it was waiting for me in Paris.  That process was amusing.  A natural reflexive action in the states- the clerk will ask should I see if another store has it?  Not here.  Two shop clerks.  Neither wanted to call, back and forth and back and forth until one finally gave in and called, found it and put it on hold.  Afterward I was so tempted to say- see how easy that was?!?  But I didn’t. Just said thanks and left.

The mall is dead.  Don’t read Paris attacks into that.  Simply the time of year and rainy day. But also there are many empty storefronts. I suspect it’s hopping in mid-summer.


A comment on my French language skills.  I went to England and they improved. Same after Ireland. And now I am automatically placing the him, them and it in the right places: before the verb.  French construction is more like: I it to him gave.   I prefer English where I have time to decide if I want to say I gave it to him or I gave the book to Fred.  So now I am saying it correctly and then all those little men in my head start opening the champagne and celebrating and I immediately forget what I was going to say. But it’s fun.  And I am told by drivers and clerks that I shouldn’t apologize for my French. C’est bien.   Imagine.  Someday in the future I won’t have to write about improving my language skills

Closing France.

Hollande said he was closing the borders.  No, he didn’t mean that no one could go out or come in.  It’s the Schengen thing again.  As far as I understand, they were doing to tighten the borders on Nov 30 for the climate conference.  That would mean instituting passport control.  I think they have just moved that forward two weeks or so.  It’s allowed in the Schengen Treaty – a country can close their open borders with a good reason for 3 months.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out as it’s being discussed in the European Union meetings right now.  But once in the EU, you are not stopped between countries.  Free to go anywhere.  Free to transport your Kalashnikovs anywhere you want, including Paris.

2015-11-20 13.18.22Notre Dame
This afternoon I stopped in Notre Dame for a bit of meditation.  And it was almost empty.  In all my trips here I have never seen so few people.  Usually too, there is a low hum – the noise the tourists make.  2015-11-20 13.44.07Not today.  Silence.  It’s been like this since last Friday night.   Fewer people on the streets still.  No crowds at the Eiffel Tour still.


And to end on a more positive note. 

2015-11-20 11.20.31Today I met with a conversation friend who has also become a  coaching client.  He has had a goal of working in California.  And today he showed me his plane tickets.  He will be in SF in January meeting people to flesh out some business projects.  Woo Hoo Him!  We met at 930 as usual and chatted away.  And at 11 (a more respectable hour, I guess) he ordered champagne for a toast.  This warms my heart on so many levels.


Day three. And do I have greater perspective? Probably not. Am I still processing? Yes. Probably for a long time. I wrote the commentary on Amazon and the Flu Shot as a distraction from the carnage but it rests at the back of my mind, constantly.

Some observations.

2015-11-16 18.54.08I went out Sunday afternoon to arrange the details of a turkey for Thanksgiving; my friend and I then walked to Notre Dame.   It was closed – but there was a service going on for the families and friends of victims and the survivors.   The plaza in front of Notre Dame was empty by Paris standards, especially on the bright sunny day. Even the sun could not raise the mood. The major gardens were all closed. Apparently for safety reasons – to not make targets of groups of people. It would have been a day when Luxembourg should have been overflowing… I heard later that people were gathering in the place de la Republique and leaving flowers and lighting candles. It is the same place where the Charlie Hebdo march ended back in January. No words…

Sirens continued throughout the day. Every time you hear one, you stop and pray. There was a false alarm in the Bataclan theatre area. TV showed people running for cover. But simply false alarm.

This afternoon I had a conversation at a friend’s in Courbevoie, across the Seine from me in a close suburb. We looked out over all of Paris and talked of the events. As the sun set, it was clear that the Eiffel was lit tonight – it was dark on Saturday night. Last night, Sunday, it was lit as usual, but no twinkling lights on the hour. I was curious for tonight, Monday. Instead of going to a Toastmaster’s meeting, I stayed on bus 82 for a closer look at the Tower. As we wound through the Paris streets, I noticed many free spots in the cafes. It was early – but still… The Shangra-la Hotel (very ritzy) had their gates shut and security outside.

2015-11-16 18.12.01When I arrived, the sky was dark and the Eiffel Tower was alight with the tricolor.   Blue, White and Red. And yet, when I walked through my favorite Eiffel Tower sightseeing spots, they were almost empty. No one was out.

After filling my heart with that sight, I went home. But before catching the bus, I stood on the bridge at the Eiffel and noticed that there was only one lane in each direction as construction work has shut down the center lanes. And I thought, ah, it would be difficult to drive a speeding car shooting innocent people through this area. And then I remembered, they don’t need, they don’t want, a getaway route. All of them seem to have worn suicide belts – all but one used them and the last guy was shot by the police probably before he could trigger his.

I don’t want to think this way. Damn them.

Amazon.fr Jungle…

I love Amazon.com. Not sure I have the same feelings for Amazon.fr   I tried ordering things from them last April. Amazon.f has a great system that’s probably the same in large cities in the US where they deliver to stores for you to pick up if you can’t receive packages at your apartment. But when I ordered and selected a delivery station (relais), it was not possible. Grrr.

I don’t know why I tried again last month, but I did. Hope springs eternal. And amazingly, it worked. Super. Buoyed with that experience, last week I ordered a computer cable. But no. It wouldn’t work. This time I sent an email to Amazon and got a nice answer back that there is a difference between Amazon and the Amazon Marketplace. The Marketplace cannot ship to the relais.

Armed with that knowledge, I ordered the cable to be delivered to a friend’s house. Should have arrived last Friday. Apparently, Amazon.fr does not have guaranteed delivery. It didn’t arrive. Track package – simple in the US – the package is scanned in at every stop and you can watch it get closer and closer to you. Um. No. It’s “en transit.”

My friend is going on vacation so there is a time constraint here. After much searching, I found the “Amazon.fr contact us” again and started an email chat – not, of course, available in English. Oh and I don’t mean to imply they should provide that service – it is France, after all. Just another small obstacle but I persevered. She told me that the item had a problem in delivery. It was put on a bad truck. Seriously, le mauvais camion. OK – maybe that is wrong truck, not a naughty truck.

But they don’t know where it is. They asked me to have patience until tomorrow. And tomorrow if it doesn’t arrive, they will refund my money.

Note to sell: saving 8 euros by using Amazon is not worth the time and energy compared to going directly to FNAC (Best Buy) and getting one immediately.

Flu Shot Travails

The French and in general the European Health Care systems make sense to me. Unfortunately, I can’t participate. I have my US insurance and a high deductible emergency insurance for traveling. So the visits to the doctor are my responsibility.

There’s a very cool Irish doc who has been here years and was referred by an American ex-pat. With your health, you don’t want to have any language confusion so I have seen him twice. The office visit has been 90 euros. Ouch. Expensive. But, shrug, he’s good and speaks English. Worth it, I think.

It’s fall and time for the flu shot. Kaiser told me to get the flu shot here – the vaccine is global WHO approved. Okey dokey. Where to go? Someone said Air France offices but that sounded too weird. So I called the doc – yes, they could. Drop by for the shot and bring 50 euros. I decided to try the pharmacy. No, they cannot give the shot but were nice enough to give me the names of several nurses I could see. I called one. Jackpot: close to me and spoke English. Had the appointment for noon today. I am ushered in – all three nurses were in the room and they were laughing and telling me I had three nurses at their service. I responded in French, how great and how many of them spoke English? And two immediately shook their heads and scurried out of the room! The remaining nurse was very nice. I took off my sweater and presented my left arm. And she said, well where is the shot?   Huh? I am here for the shot. No no no. The nurse does not have any medication. I have to buy the flu shot at the pharmacy.

Trudge down to the pharmacy. I buy the medicine. She says keep it refrigerated – I say I am immediately going to the nurse.

I hand the nurse the package. She opens it. There is the flu shot – medicine and needle! Preassembled. What the? I said to her – I could have had a friend give me the shot! She said yes, or you could have given it to yourself. Well, that would never happen.

No forms to fill out like in the states – nothing about negative effects, allergies, nada. Just a receipt for me to give her my French medical number – no – so instead she marked it paid and gave it to me to see if Kaiser will reimburse me.

Total: 6.60 Pharmacy, 6.60 nurse – 13.20 euros. So that was cheaper than the doc and closer, even though it was multiple trips.

Always something new.

Je Suis Paris (final)

2500 killed or injured.  If Nov. 13 had occurred in the US, that’s what the number would be  proportional to the size of the populations.  USA is about 325 million, France 64 million.  129 killed, 352 wounded – almost 500 people.

I finished the other two blogs about Ireland before tackling the current situation in Paris.  Somewhat because I don’t know what to write.  I can tell you the facts in my life.  I had gone to a show – How To Be A Parisien In an Hour – a comedy revue.  Probably less than a mile from the terrorist activity that occurred an hour later.  And then about 2030 (8:30) my friend Anna and I went to dinner in the 2nd arrondisement.

We had a delightful and delicious dinner and lingered talking until 2300 (11:00).  My phone was in my purse.  Yup – many of you who know me well might wonder – but I do put it away at times.  And when I went to use CityMapper to find the best bus home, I saw ALERTS from AP, BBC, Le Parisien, Figaro, Le Monde – and even two texts from friends in the states.  “Are you alive?”  That’s a shock to the system.  I scanned the alerts and called the waiter over – maybe I was not reading it right – 30 dead in Paris?  Truly I was the first person in the restaurant to know and this was at least an hour after it started.  And 45 minutes after my first text from the US.  The guys next to us started looking at their phones too.  Friends told them to stay away – they live in that area.  The guys told us not to take the metro – someone thought a terrorist might have used it to get away.

OK then.  What do you do?  We figured we needed to get going as our options would be fewer and fewer as the night went on.  Outside, yes, taxis.  But none available.  Emergency vehicles and police cars screaming by.  I tried Uber but it came up with a window saying the Uber service was disrupted.

I am usually a great strategic thinker.  Creating multiple ‘what if’ scenarios in my mind. Multi-tasking.  Not then.  I couldn’t process.  A mild form of shock, I concluded later.  I could think about Uber.  Then stop.  Think about bus.  Then stop.  Think about Metro – stop.  And cycled back to Uber.  So I took the phone out and this time I tried to click past the warning message.  I got to the map screen!  Success.  Except.  Those of you who use Uber know that the map screen shows you all the Uber cars in the area.  Usually the screen is full of tiny cars.  Not tonight.  One single car.  And 12 minutes away.  I clicked Request and prayed.  Well, I would have prayed if I could have processed the two thoughts at the same time.

He accepted.  So we waited on the corner, me counting out the minutes to Anna – 11, 10, 8, 7… both of us were praying at that point that he didn’t change his mind.  Our options were played out.   And then there he was, our white knight on a white charger – or a blue Renault.

Anna had her own shocky moment when she had trouble spelling the name of her street.  We were taking her home first and then me back to my place – 6 miles away. (walking wouldn’t have been an option.  I can do the distance, but not on a night like that after midnight).  She’s more fluent in French than me – he told her that he was just about on his way home when my request came through.  And he didn’t want to leave me stranded.  See – white knight!  And an Arabic knight.  Maybe Muslim.  This isn’t about religion – it’s about power and politics and evil people.

Home, I turned to BBC and two French news channel to find out exactly what was happening.  And it turns out our theatre was probably less than a mile from the Bataclan theatre where the shooting started about an hour after we left the area.  We had dinner about 1.5 miles away.  My house is about 6 miles away.

2015-11-14 22.13.22I stayed in today – tired with only 4 hours of sleep and had no desire to go on the metro and I wasn’t sure what was open anyway.  Government offices and facilities (except for weddings) were all closed.  Disneyland is closed until at least Wednesday.  The Eiffel Tower is closed and dark.  No lights shining tonight and for a while.  Many stores are closed – owners’ decision.  I did run out to the boulangerie about 10.  Yes. Open.

Anna and I had dinner together using FaceTime.  It’s a time when it’s good to connect with friends and family.  Thanks to all friends who contacted me on Facebook or text or email.  Facebook has a new feature – when I opened the app, FB immediately said – you appear to be in the area of the Paris Attacks.  Do you want to check in and tell your friends you are safe?  I said yes and it was done.  What a great public service!  And friends in Paris kept in touch – text or calls or video.  I felt the concern and support and I appreciated it.

But as I was thinking about actually getting together in person with friends and thought about having coffee or dinner… I remembered, while the majority of those killed were at the theatre, the others were relaxing on a Friday night with friends over dinner in their local cafes. This is not limited to the big venues. They are trying to make all parts of your life feel unsafe. I don’t have the pulse of Paris on this. I expect the Parisien spirit will be like Je Suis Charlie. But right now any demonstrations are forbidden. The authorities have more work to investigate.

The reality of all this struck me later in the day when I was talking to an American friend who has lived in Paris for years.  She told me that a friend of her son’s was killed in the Cambodian restaurant.  

People ask me when I am coming back.  Not until I have to, in December.  While I don’t understand the infrastructure and am not totally fluent in the language (although I did get all of Hollande’s speech today), I have been buoyed by my French and expat friends.

I still love Paris.

Tour People

Any tour is a roll of the dice for your tour mates.  This one was no different.  Only 13 but two of them were bizarre.  Some of the rest of us rated them 13 on the bizarro scale of 1 to 10.  Drama Drama Drama.  I should have nicknamed them Shakespeare and Bacon.  Or Tennessee and Arthur.

They came as friends.  Mid way they moved to separate rooms.  Didn’t go on any/many of the tours.  Sometimes not even on the day bus trips.  Why would you spend all that money – for tour and flight – and not participate?  One claimed physical problems as she leaned on her cane. But she was spotted in the factory stores (not the tour part, the store part) making her way quickly through the merchandise, cane under her arm.  What the…

They also took no responsibility for their tardiness.  Instead they attacked the tour director for reprimanding them in public when he simply said, “we have to leave on time.  I will have to leave her here.”And the friend answered, “do what you need to do.”  Talk about throwing your friend under the bus!  She did go find her at that point.  Probably because all of us and Paddy were looking at her with our mouths dropped open.

And then they made up and shared the last room and had breakfast and dinner together and toured Dublin as a couple (not to imply anything like that…).  I think they bonded again over their hatred of the tour director.  Misplaced.

No worries.  I am done with them.  Bless them.  And me.

The Enchanted Tour Details

CIE tour company is great. I heartily recommend them. It’s a huge operation with many many tours to choose from

My tour took me around most of the country- missed only the top and Giants Causeway and the mid center.  The tour bus holds 48; our tour was 13!  We were the last of that particular tour for the year.  And November is iffy for weather.  Yet this was The Enchanted Journey!

What follows is a quick summary of the journey.  Skip if too travelogue-y for you. But you will miss great photos.

October 31 arrival. The tour uses very nice hotels but they are located a distance from city center. On my own I would stay downtown. But who wants to pack twice?  Not me.  I cabbed it to the national archeological museum giving me from 4-5 to visit. Then wander the streets and end up at HRC for my pin.

Next day Sunday the tour officially commenced.  On a bus for 48, truly with the luck of the Irish- only 13 people!  A bus tour around Dublin to give us the highlights. No need for the hop on hop off bus.  One stop was Glasnevin cemetery.  Odd.

Monday an early departure up to the Ulster American Folk Park.  Thomas Mellon of Mellon bank fame was born in this area and relatives donated money to create this park. You could see what life was like for the Irish and where he actually lived.  And they created the America that he emigrated to.  From the reproduction of the Irish socks, to the ship that carried you over and the welcoming American docks.   It was a bit like Disneyland…  Then reproductions of a variety of American houses that the immigrants lived in. So it was a display of two worlds and interesting to both Americans and Irish.

IMG_3830On to Donegal.  The country side became sparser. Clearly hard to sustain agriculture. We also crossed the border into and then out of Northern Ireland. Except there was no border.  All the border crossings are gone.  All the towers and military bases gone. The Troubles over.  I must read about that peace process.  I found it interesting that our tour director always used the phrases:  North of the country and South of the country.  I am not sure why.  He didn’t want to separate them? It is too touchy a political topic?

Donegal is a small town. Heck. See my early blog- they are all small towns!  We visited the castle. I wrote an earlier blog on the Muddle Ages.  I really meant Middle Ages.  In Ireland. What I have figured out is that Irish castles do not look like British or French Middle Age castles.  These are primarily square towers, usually crenelated.  They don’t hold as much fascination for me.  And there are the ruins of many Abbeys. The work of Cromwell who was British and strongly Protestant.

Two nights in Donegal- that’s the beauty of this particular tour- two nights in three cities.  Not as much packing!

Tuesday – a drive up to Sleave League. 2015-11-03 10.20.30 2015-11-03 10.28.08 An awesome sight that would have spectacularly awesome if it had been clearer.  Our weather held- no rain- but low clouds obscured the view of the tops of the cliff. We took a mini bus to the top and had a local guide who showed us the EIRE marked in white stones.  IMG_3714This was used by US and Canadian pilots crossing the Atlantic.   In fact, this was a violation of the Geneva treaty- Ireland was neutral during the war.  But thank you, Eire!

The afternoon 2015-11-03 12.37.51included a demonstration of weaving at the Triona design Tweed company. If I ever buy tweed, it will be from them. The fabric is so lightweight and soft!  I limited my purchase to a cap as my head was cold (consequence of short haircut).

Wednesday we set off for Galway.  We stopped at a pottery factory – Beleek and again in the North of the country (Northern Ireland). image 2015-11-04 09.34.33I was surprised at how interesting these “factory” tours were turning out to be.  We saw the artisans making items for QVC – apparently QVC buys these limited editions for sale only on QVC.  The only item that interested me was the basket.  Only because the making was fascinating. But too fragile and too expensive. I stuck with the photos.

A short stop at Yeats grave.  Another gal and I confided that we both didn’t get poetry.

After Yeats we went on to the Museum of Country Life. A history of the land and the people and the famine.  There was little about medieval life.  A hard agricultural life to be sure.

Then into Galway to the best hotel: The Meyrick. I had a room that was 500 some sq feet. Yes I paced bit off.  Larger than my apartment in Paris. And a walk through the -again- small town (and third largest in Ireland).

2015-11-05 10.59.39 2015-11-05 11.48.17Thursday was a loop from Galway through Connemara to Kylemore Abbey, an 19th century castle.  Reminded me of Downton…  We drove through the Maam valley.  I could live there.  It was a beautiful and energetic place.  Back through a land of lakes to Galway.

An early morning start on Friday to Killarney. We went along the Wild Atlantic way.  But before we were really out in the country, we witnessed an accident.  I mentioned this in another blog post, but here it is again… A sedan in front of us going our direction swerved to the right (remember, we drove on the left), hit the fence and ditch, turned over and then spun around on the roof until is stopped facing us. image Fortunately, we were far enough away that Paddy was able to stop safely.  Before we could get out, we saw a hand reach out the driver’s side and slowly pull herself out.  A young woman emerged – and flexible enough that I don’t think she had immediate back problems.  An apple half eaten rolled across the highway.  She was an American from Michigan but living in Iceland here by herself on her second day.  And the car was totaled.  Other locals stopped so after Paddy called the Garda, we took off.  All the Americans puzzled that we could leave the scene…  But what was really strange was that the Garda called Paddy about 2 hours later: they couldn’t find the car!

The Wild Atlantic Way is a tourist drive that is spectacularly beautiful. The road led us to the Cliffs of Moher.  IMG_3894 IMG_3879The photos don’t do it justice – bad time of day for light.  But don’t miss it if you go.

And the last stop was the Flying Plane museum.  A reproduction of the Pan Am Clipper than landed in the bay.  With movies about the search for ways to make the flight affordable – meaning less gas.  The Brits came up with this idea.2015-11-06 16.17.14  And years later the US adopted it.2015-11-06 16.17.20
imageIt’s also the birthplace of the Irish Coffee.  No, for you San Franciscans, that was not the Buena Vista (BV) by the Bay.  Same guy.  He moved.  But he did create it in Ireland. (You pour the cream in over the back of a spoon.)  The plane too was more interesting than I expected.  Wow was flight different back then!

Saturday was supposed to be a drive around the Ring of Kerry.  But the farmer with the sheep dog show was off to his daughter’s wedding.  (Really! Huh!)  So Paddy offered us an option of another sheep dog but on the Dingle Peninsula.  image imageWe took that.

And wow.  Everyone who had seen the Ring of Kerry thought Dingle more impressive. IMG_4055There were many photo stops and each one more glorious than the previous. 2015-11-07 10.42.25

The trip was nearing the end.  A drive back to Dublin through the rain.  Yup.  Rain.  Really the first day of any significant rain.  The weather on the trip was amazing.   Truly it was the Enchanted Journey.

Sunday brought us to the Blarney Castle.  Nope.  I didn’t.  Kiss it.  You have to climb the steps – which I could have done – I climb at least 3 floors every day.  But uneven stone.  And wet.  I wasn’t going to tempt fate.  Last thing I needed was to slip and fall.  And I figure I have a pretty good gift of gab already…

The final event was a great Irish meal – yes, corned beef and cabbage – and show with dance, song and comedy.  Out at the Abbey Pub quite a distance from Dublin.  But worth it.  Especially as Paddy drove.  To get us into the mood, he sang Molly Malone on the way.  After we applauded, he said he was so glad we enjoyed it.  And he added that he loved to sing with his eyes closed.  Hahahaha.

Monday I slept in.  It was a demanding trip.  By bus sure –  but somehow I walked 6-7 miles a day!  Yikes.  And up early for the bus every day.  So I lounged. Then a city bus to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.  Beautiful.  Some of you know I am a some-time-calligrapher.  So to see these intricate drawings and designs – wonderful. And followed by mundane shopping!  Found a blazer and walking shoes.  Score.  And I was able to pack it all in the suitcase for the early morning flight.

Home and all was well.

Yes. I am returning to Ireland!

Why Ireland?








Frankly, I never really wanted to visit Ireland.  I am not a fan of St Patrick’s Day. Stems from my dad who would perversely give out oranges on March 17.  Orange for Northern Ireland. (As our driver says – the north of the country).  And dad was a Swede so I am not sure why he did this.

And then there were The Troubles.  A mild name for the fighting between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  I was disgusted by this war between Protestant and Catholic.   Ok. I have learned a lot more about Irish history and it’s more complicated than I realized.  So all that aside, I ended up here.

And I am enthralled.  A spectacular country.  A much different scale for me. And friendly folk who almost speak English!  And I say that referring to their accent, not the Gaelic/Irish language.  Some days they are almost as difficult to understand as those Kiwis!

i am drawn to the valley near Kylemore Abbey and the Dingle Pennisula.  But I don’t know why.  I have an even stronger attraction to the Brittany region in France – clearly an attachment to the Celts.  Being with some dozen others and nonstop traveling, I haven’t had a moment to meditate on this.  It may require a return trip…

But that’s problematic.  Not sure I want another motorcoach trip (see next blog post) and doubt the rail service will get me to the right places  and driving on the left – well, I have done it but I think I am past that now   Especially if I come back on my own without a navigator and watcher who can yell “get in the other lane!!!!”

This was brought home to me when we watched someone drift to the wrong side, hit the wall, flip over and spin. Literally.  (Photo above- can’t figure out how to place photos from a iPhone post…). She was up ahead of us.  As we pulled up to the car, we were holding our breath.  And slowly a hand reached out the driver’s side window followed by a head.  She pulled herself out and stood   A swollen lip seemed to be the extent of her injuries- but I wouldn’t rule out back or neck issues later  She was alone, from Michigan but living in Iceland.  And was on day two of her vacation   She might have been reading a map and eating an apple- a half-eaten apple had rolled out a window and was lying on the roadside. Our driver called the Garda (police). A local stopped and stayed with her as she called the car rental company (hope she had insurance – it was totaled) and we went on our way.  Interestingly enough, the Garda called back about 2 hrs later   They couldn’t find the wreck.  I hope she is doing well.

But when I return to Ireland, I won’t be driving!



Leaving the Schengen area to extend my time in Paris. Have I explained the Schengen? It’s a treaty named after the city where it was signed. Originally it had nothing to do with the EU bit now new members to the EU must agree. It opens borders. You can travel through freely. When I was a kid living in London. And later when a college student studying, I had to show my passport when leaving and entering each European country. Not now. But what makes it confusing is that some non-EU countries participate. Iceland. And Switzerland are both Schengen countries. Not in the EU. U.K. In the EU but not in Schengen And Ireland is not In the Schengen because they have a border agreement with the U.K.

Next time I do 9 months in France I will plan my departure better so that I don’t have to find places to go outside the Schengen.

As I was getting ready in Paris I was thinking through the travel. How to get to CDG and then from Dublin airport to the hotel. Several minutes later after working through my French phrases I suddenly remembered the Irish speak English!

But they have all the signs in English and Irish. Gaelic. Like Brittany and Wales. And they teach Irish in schools These Celtic countries want to hold on to the culture.

Leaving Dublin the road was a freeway with trees and shrubs lining either side. Could have been anywhere. Sight impossible. Bit come to a rise and Ireland slips into view. The green fields looked wonderful but after a week traveling I know that area doesn’t compare to the landscape of Donegal or Galway or even Dingle.

The size of country is a bit of a shock. From top to bottom 6 hrs; side to side 3. It might just fit inside California.  And population. 4.5 million. Size of Louisiana or Kentucky. Los Angeles has 3.9 million. That means their large towns are small by US standards. The third largest is Galway with 75,000. Dublin area has over a million.

There’s something about Ireland though…

And if you read about the well in an earlier post- it was a sacred not scared well.

Where are the Muddle Ages in Ireland?

Lots of 19th century stuff here in Eire.  But where are the medieval castles and towers and churches?

Yes. Donegal  Ashley was built in 1474, while Richard III was king.  But most of that part was destroyed or significantly changed in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The Museum of Country Life pretty much started with basket weavers in 1800.

There are some standing stones but we won’t be visiting as far as I know – maybe one in Kerry, three days from now.   And Skellig Michael of course. And the Book of Kells back in Dublin…  But even Paris has a number of structures dating from 1100.

Oh but we did stop at a scared well which was adopted as a Mary spot by the Catholics…  Transforming the Goddess into Christianity.  But that is a spring not a structure.

My brief foray into Irish history tells me that there were a lot of independent chieftains and tribes. And frequent Viking forays for pillaging.

But the history from 1700 on is one of a poor country.  A hard life. And now as we drive, I see so many relatively new houses.  And hear that there is a huge emphasis on education. Trying to become an intellectual commodity perhaps?  In a green green country without extensive resources.

Still figuring Ireland out.  Stay tuned for more.