This year Christmas was all about the kids. Well, I suppose it’s always about the kids. But for me, this year was mostly about my two youngest grandsons LJ and Declan. We had a full month of festivities and fun.
I started the holiday season going to “Twas the Night” with LJ, my 5 year old grandson. I found that LJ loved plays when he was only 2 and we’ve been going every since.
Our next stop was to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens to look at the Christmas lights.
Our last stop was to have dinner at The Melting Pot in Bellevue. LJ wasn’t too crazy about the cheese fondue but sure loved the chocolate one 🙂
The next week-end I had a special day with Declan, LJ’s younger brother. We also did lots of fun things!
And then off to Country Village in Bothell. It’s always fun to go here. There are ducks and chickens, a playground, little cafes and so much more. And this time of the year there are lots of Christmas activities, carolers, and even reindeer!
And after listening to “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” earlier in the day, look who we ran into!
Next on our list was to go to the Redmond town center and city hall. It was a pretty cold night so we didn’t stay long, but we did manage to watch the tree light up and take a quick ride on the carousel.
More fun things we did…
And a trip to the Reptile Zoo in Monroe. One of the boys favorite things to do!
Grandpa Louie arrived on the 23rd with a truck full of snow from Wenatchee! He brought some last year and I think it’s going to be a tradition from now on. Oh what fun the boys had playing in the snow!
After playing in the snow, we all packed up and drove to Stanwood and The Lights of Christmas festival. There was music, lights, a 3D exhibit, a story teller by the fireplace, a Christmas train and the most delicious melt in your mouth mini donuts I’ve ever tasted!
Whew! It was a busy month but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My other two grandchildren are all grown up with lives of their own, so I’m so thankful that I’m able to spend these special times with these special boys while they’re still little. Time goes so fast, it’s here and gone in a flash.
After arriving in Dublin we checked into the Trinity Hotel. A fabulous, but a bit ‘over the top’ for my taste hotel!
Then off to explore more of Dublin. I loved the colorful doorways and homes, and oh my goodness all the pubs!
During our stay in Dublin as we were out sightseeing, we just happened to hit the centennial of the Easter Rising revolution. We watched its largest ever military parade as it marked the 100th anniversary of the botched but historically significant rebellion against British rule.
The next day we were off on another tour to visit the Hill of Tara, Loughcrew cairns, Bective Abbey, Trim Castle, Monasterboice and the town of Deogheda.
On the ancient Hill of Tara, from whose heights the High Kings once ruled all Ireland, from where the sacred fires in pagan days announced the annual resurrection of the sun, the Easter Tide, where the magic of Patrick prevailed over the magic of the Druids, and where the hosts of the Tuatha De Danann were wont to appear at the great Feast of Samain, to-day the fairy-folk of modern times hold undisputed sovereignty. And from no point better than Tara, which thus was once the magical and political centre of the Sacred Island, could we begin our study of the Irish Fairy-Faith. Though the Hill has lain unploughed and deserted since the curses of Christian priests fell upon it, on the calm air of summer evenings, at the twilight hour, wondrous music still sounds over its slopes, and at night long, weird processions of silent spirits march round its grass-grown raths and forts. 1 It is only men who fear the curse of the Christians; the fairy-folk regard it not.
Evans-Wentz, Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, 1911
This is just one of the many legends we heard from many of our tour guides. Legends are still very much a part of the Irish.
The oldest building at Tara is a small chambered cairn on the summit of the hill which is known as the Mound of the Hostages. This mound, dating to about 3000 BC (can you imagine! 3000 BC!), lies just within the northern edge of a massive enclosure known as Rath na Rig, The Fort of the Kings. Within this great enclosure are a pair of cojoined ringforts, the Forrad and Teach Cormaic, and within the Forrad is the famous Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny.
Next we stopped at Bective Abbey. The Abbey was founded in 1147 and was used as a location for the movie Braveheart.
Trim Castle was our next stop. It is the largest surviving Norman Castle in Europe. Built in 1176, the castle took over 30 years to complete. It was the center of administration for the Kingdon of Meath during the middle ages.
The Keep in the center of the fortress is unique because it was built in the shape of a cross and has 20 corners. It is quite an impressive building.
On our way again and on to the Loughcrew Cairns, the ancient burial tombs which housed the remains of great chieftains of the time. Loughcrew is a passage tomb built about 3200 BC (possibly the oldest cemetery in the world!) which has some of the best preserved stone carving in Ireland. During the equinox, the sun illuminates the passage chamber and ancient art of the cairn.
Monasterboice was our next stop. An early Christian settlement founded in the 5th century. The site contains important celtic high crosses, two churches, and one of the tallest round towers.
On the bus again and into the town of Drogheda. While the others on the bus toured around town, I went straight to the Clarke & Sons Pub. Clarke & Sons is one of the few traditions Irish pubs with old style snugs. It had beautiful mahogany counters and drawers for various grocery items. The bartender was so nice and told me all about the history of the place. I sat in one of the snugs and had a pint.
The “snug”, sometimes called the smoke room, was typically a small, very private room with access to the bar that had a frosted glass external window, set above head height. A higher price was paid for beer in the snug and nobody could look in and see the drinkers. It was not only the wealthy visitors who would use these rooms. The snug was for patrons who preferred not to be seen in the public bar. Ladies would often enjoy a private drink in the snug in a time when it was frowned upon for women to be in a pub. The local police officer might nip in for a quiet pint, the parish priest for his evening whisky, or lovers for a rendezvous.
The next tour we took was to Northern Ireland to see the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the Giants causeway and Belfast.
Carrick-a-Rede is a rope bridge that links the mainland to a tiny island. Local fisherman erected the original bridge over the deep chasm to check their salmon nets. While Han went to cross the bridge, Margriet and I stayed behind. The wind was howling and I’m not too fond of heights anyway, we chose to take a quick picture and go inside for a cup of hot coffee.
I did however brave the wind to explore the Giants Causeway, a place that I have wanted to see for many, many years. I was not disappointed. It was an absolutely awesome place to just sit and look at the pillars spilling out into the ocean. Legend has it that these are the remains of the bridge built by Fionn McCool between Ireland and Scotland. Some say it was caused by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. You be the judge. I prefer to believe the legend ;-).
On our way back to Dublin, we made a short stop in Belfast.
On our last day in Dublin we had to go to the Brazen Head, officially Irelands oldest pub dating back to 1198. We had a nice meal and a good-bye toast to Ireland. What a fantastic trip this was!
After having a wonderful time in Holland visiting family and seeing the sights, my cousin Margriet along with her husband Han and I boarded a plane to explore Ireland. I have always wanted to go to Ireland, mainly to see the castles, and I was definitely not disappointed!
Our first night in Ireland we stayed at Clontarf Castle Hotel. The site of this castle, and its history, began in the 12th century and played a key role in the Battle of Clontarf. The current castle was constructed in 1837 and refurbished into a hotel in 1997. What a thrill it was, and a dream come true, to actually be able to spend the night in a real castle!
As soon as we got checked in and settled, we hopped on a bus and headed back into Dublin. First stop, Madigans Pub for a pint!
Dublin is a bustling city with lots to see. I was so intrigued by its many beautiful bridges that cross the River Liffey that flows through the city.
After an afternoon in Dublin, having a fabulous dinner at the Fahrenheit Grill, and spending night at the Clontarf Castle, the next morning we took a taxi to the train station to go on our tour of Bunratty Castle, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher.
During the pleasant train ride meandered along small towns and fields, we passed vast tracts of peatland (another one of my fascinations about Ireland) and the town of Athenry (remember the song The Fields of Athenry?) before arriving at Galway City.
Galway City is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe but still has that small fishing village feel. We enjoyed listening to street music, walking along the winding streets and the seeing the waterfront.
From Galway City we boarded a bus and headed to Bunratty Village. We checked into our hotel and headed to the castle to dine at The Earl’s Banquet! What a fun evening! The Ladies of the Castle, aided by the Earl’s Butler and a kilted piper welcomed us at the door and entertained us while enjoying a goblet of mead during the reception and the four course feast!
The next morning we took a tour of the castle and village. Bunratty Castle, built in 1425, is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland and contains furnishings, tapestries, and works of art from the period. I was in my element! My dream come true! I used to have actual dreams of me sitting in front of a massive fireplace in a castle and spinning wool. And now I was really there! I explored every nook and cranny of the castle and could actually feel the life of the bygone residents and really felt like I got a glimpse through a window of the past.
The Great Hall was the original banquet hall and audience chamber of the Earls of Thomond. The Earl gave judgements while sitting in his Chair of the estate. The walls are hung with French, Belgian and Flemish tapestries. The oak dower-cupboard is dated 1570. The South Solar held the guest’s apartments. It has a rare spinet dated 1661. The North Solar was the private apartment of the Earl and his family. The oak paneling dates to c.1500.
The Main Guard was the main living room of the common soldiers and of the Earl’s retainers. A small gate leads to a dungeon from this room so the guards could keep an eye on the prisoners. The medieval banquet was held in this room.
I could have stayed in the castle for hours more, but alas, the bus was waiting and I had to pull myself away.
The pictures above are some replicas of rural farmhouses, village shops and streets recreated and furnished as they would have appeared at the time according to their social standing. Top left is the Blacksmiths Forge, the blue house is a simple two-bedroomed home of a fisherman. The timber would have been salvaged from the sea and the floor is of rammed clay. The yellow building is a poor farmer’s mountain farmhouse. This type of home was found on the borders of Limerick and Kerry. It has a loft for extra sleeping space.
On the bus again and off to the Cliffs of Moher. We drove through the market town of Ennistymon with its many pubs and traditional shopfronts.
Then on to the majestic Cliffs of Moher. These are among the highest sea cliffs in Western Europe and an awesome sight.
On the way back to Galway City to board the train to take us back to Dublin, we passed through beautiful pastures with rock fences and the barren Burren. The unique lunar landscape of limestone makes up the national park. It was described in 1649 by one of the Oliver Cromwell’s men as: “No tree to hang a man, no water deep enough to drown him and no soil deep enough to bury him”. That pretty much sums up the Burren.
We arrived back into Dublin and checked into the Trinity Hotel. A fabulous, but a bit ‘over the top’ hotel!
Next we will continue our travels through Ireland and Northern Ireland!
After a busy and exciting week in Barcelona, Donna and I headed to Amsterdam where my cousin Margriet and her husband Han picked us up and took us to their home in Rhenen, a small town about an hours train ride from Amsterdam. It had been many, many years since I had visited Holland, so it was wonderful to get a chance to revisit the sights and see my Dutch relatives again!
The first tour that Donna and I took was to the Zaanse Schans windmills, and the cute little towns of Volendam and Marken.
Around 1920 there were only about 20 windmills left of the 1000 that had made the Zaan district the oldest industrial area of the world. On March 17th, 1925, windmill society De Zaansche Molen was founded to preserve the mills for future generations. This society now owns thirteen industrial windmills; it keeps them in excellent condition and operates them regularly.
Next stop was at the quaint little fishing village of Volendam with the harbor full of classic sailing vessels and rows of brick houses featuring great examples of 17th century Dutch architecture. We toured the Volendam Museum that contained many memories of the rich history, culture and folklore. It held various works of art by many artists, authentic interiors, varying thematic displays and a photo gallery. As a child I remember my Grandfather wearing the same hat and eye-glasses. It really brought back good memories.
We walked along the canal, went to a cheese factory (of course!) and ate in a café along the waterfront before taking a 20 minute boat ride to Marken.
Marken has a population of less than 2,000, but traditional architecture abounds! We walked along the tiny paths running through the village to a wooden shoe factory where a local traditional clog maker demonstrated how a simple block of wood could be transformed into a wooden shoe in minutes.
The next day we went into Amsterdam to take a canal cruise and see some of the sights.
We walked through the floating Flower Market, visited the Rijksmuseum, floated along the canals, then took the train into Utrecht, my very favorite town in The Netherlands, to meet Margriet and Han for dinner.
Utrecht is one of Netherlands’ oldest cities, with a compact medieval center set out around canals unique to the Netherlands: there’s a lower level where warehouses were located in the 13th century, now converted into restaurants and bars, giving the canals a split-level character and meaning that visitors can enjoy a meal or a drink down at water level.
While the canals form Utrecht’s restful core, and where I fell in love with the city, elsewhere the city is busy reinventing itself. Construction was everywhere. Roads are being turned back into the canals they once were and a new train station was nearing completion. It is home to Utrecht University, one of the oldest in the Netherlands and one of the largest in Europe with a student population of 40,000. This city is a must to visit!
At Holland’s water village of Giethoorn, the loudest sound you can normally hear is the quacking of a duck or the noise made by other birds. It is so peaceful, so different and has such simple beauty that it hardly seems real as you gently glide along small canals past old but pretty thatched-roof farmhouses. Its nickname is “Dutch Venice”. In the old part of the village there are no roads (though a cycling path has been added) and all transport is done by water over one of the many canals. You can turn down a “side street” (another small canal) and drift under a wooden bridge where an elderly resident may be strolling over to see a neighbor. The lakes in Giethoorn were formed by peat farming to heat the homes, and are a mere 3 feet deep. What a special treat it was to experience such a place.
We could not visit Holland in the spring without visiting the Keukenhof gardens, the most beautiful spring garden in the world! There were more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths in bloom, with a total of 800 varieties of tulips.
After visiting the Keukenhof gardens, I sadly dropped Donna at the airport as it was time for her to return home. I hopped on the train and headed back to Rhenen to rejoin my cousin and her husband, and to prepare for our next leg of my trip, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
After a wonderful week in the Algarve in Portugal, Donna and I hopped on a plane and headed to Barcelona, Spain to spend our next week. What an exciting and busy city! We stayed in an apartment in the center of the city, just a block away from the Plaza de Catalunya.
A short walk around the corner was the cathedral where we watched street performers.
The Plaza de Catalunya is a large public square, and the city’s busiest square. It’s located between the old city and the Eixample district where nine streets meet including the Rambla and Passeig de Gracia. The beautiful square is surrounded by trees and home to several works of public art and monuments…and pigeons! It’s an absolutely lovely place to just sit and relax, but is also a main stopping place for public transportation and tour buses.
There were so many things to see in this bustling city, and we saw as much as we could in the time that we had. Here are some of the highlights of the city.
I was surprised while going through the Picasso museum. I have always known of Pablo Picasso’s abstract forms of art, but had no idea he had so many other forms. It was enlightening to see the phases he went through as he struggled with his life and art throughout the years. The museum has more than 4,300 works of art from Picasso’s early years of apprenticeship and youth to his ceramic works later in his life. I discovered that we shared the same birthday, October 25th! And that he died in 1973. I was 22 years old. How did I not know that?
Built in 1929 for the Worlds Fair, the Poble Espanyol (meaning Spanish town) is one of the biggest attractions of the city. The outdoor museum features exhibits on contemporary art, with streets, houses, parks, theater, school, restaurants and artisan workshops. It was a great way to spend a few hours.
La Boqueria is an enormous indoor market with a stone floor and metal roof and one of the largest and most famous marketplaces in Europe. In 2005 it won the prize for the best market in the world. Many of the stall owners are 3rd and 4th generation traders. Everything under the sun is sold here. From bull’s tails and black eels, to hand-made pasta and seafood, to meats and cheeses, and on and on. At the entrance to the market are Jamon shops where I purchased some of the best Jamon iberico I’ve ever had. It was at a premium price, but what a treat!
The Agbar tower is the headquarters of the Barcelona water company, a building of ever-changing colors that has become the third tallest building in Barcelona and the new symbol of the city. The Columbus Monument was constructed in 1888 as a tribute to the discovery of the New world (America) and to mark the Universal Exhibition of that year. Columbus stands on a pillar adorned with images of Africa, Asia, America and Europe.
Of course while in Spain, one MUST go to a Flamenco performance!
Another must, if you don’t see anything else while in Barcelona, is the absolutely fascinating Sagrada Familia. In 1882, the foundation stone of the project conceived by Francisco de Paula del Villar, the first architect of the church, was laid. A year and a half later, Antoni Gaudi took over the works and turned the initial project around to create, all these years later, an outstanding, innovative church, which is still under construction today.
At present there are two completed facades adorned with motifs taken from nature and Baroque decoration and 8 completed towers. After Gaudi’s death in 1926, the building continues following the plans and models he left behind. The hope is that the construction will be complete in 2026 which marks the centennial of Gaudi’s death.
The interior of Sagrada Familia is as fascinating as the exterior. Everywhere you look is impressive. There are pillars that resemble thick trees and the ceiling is a remarkable vaulted structure where the “branches” of the trees meet. The intimacy combined with the spaciousness is that of the forest. The light from the ceiling of the central part of the church illuminates the rows of tiles and makes the green and golden triangles shine. It’s an absolutely beautiful, abstract, unique, fascinating place to visit.
Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, is one of the Barcelona buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi It was built between 1906 and 1912. All of Gaudis buildings are unique and most unusual! Arc de Triomf was built for the Universal Exposition in 1888 as was the Expos main access gate.
Casa Amatller and Casa Lleo-Morera stand together with Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and is called the “Block of Discord” because of its unique architecture.
Casa Batllo was originally built by a middle class family and in 1904 Gaudi was commissioned to refurbish the building. Casa Batllo reflects Gaudi’s playful side and the strange and fantastic style he is known for. The exterior, covered with a mosaic of colored glass and ceramic fragments, was made to curve and bend like a wave.
The top of the building looks like the back of an animal, generally referred to as a dragon. It appears to have scales and a spine adorned with round pieces of masonry which seem to change color as you look at it from different angles.
The interior of Casa Batllo is just as fascinating as the exterior. There is a staircase banister which looks like the spine of an animal; a room that is decorated to look like it’s under water; relief glazed tiles; a wooden elevator which still functions; a huge central skylight; stained glass; mosaics and unexpected details in every corner.
And from the tiny balcony high atop Casa Batllo, we will say good-bye! We are now off to The Netherlands!
How time flies! I’m just getting around to posting about my wonderful vacation to Europe that I took in April of this year. I traveled to five countries in four weeks. It was fantastic and I saw so many wonderful things!
I started in Portugal with my friend Donna. We stayed in the Algarve, the southern coastal area of Portugal. This is the second time that Donna invited me to join her in her condo in Albufeira.
Of course we had to have dinner just up the street at our favorite restaurant Donaldos
We drove along the coastline and visited some places that we missed the last time we were there. There are so many beautiful beaches! These are just a few.
Praia Da Oura is the beach just steps from the condo. It was relaxing walking along the water and discovering all of the rock formations. What a beautiful place!
Praia da Marinha with its golden beach and magnificent cliffs is one of the most beautiful beaches of Portugal, and is considered one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in Europe, and one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world! I can definitely see why!
Praia de Carvoeiro, a traditional, small fishing village originally surviving on tuna catches now has, not surprisingly, become a popular resort. The beach town has a beautifully sheltered sandy bay and spreads out just in front of the square with cliffs protecting it on either side. I love the stucco buildings with the terra cotta roof tiles we saw all throughout Portugal.
Another of our favorite restaurants is Vivaldos, a seaside restaurant just steps from our condo along the boardwalk. We were thrilled to find that there would be a Fado singer one evening. Fado music, originating along the waterfront in the early 1800’s, speak of life, struggle and passion. It is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and is infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. It is beautiful to listen to, and to watch the expressions of the lovely singer.
The Castelo de Silves is a castle in the town of Silves. Built between the 8th and 13th century, the castle is one of the best preserved of the Moorish fortifications in Portugal, the most important Moorish fortification resulting in its classification as a National Monument in 1910. It was fascinating to see the archaeological excavations, and to imagine how the people lived all those many years ago. It is believed that around 201 B.C. the Romans conquered Silves, transforming it into a citadel of their occupation, and commercial center that prospered for the next five centuries.
While in Silves we also visited the Municipal Museum of Archaeology of Silves. The exhibition begins with an array of prehistoric artifacts dating from the Paleolithic period (1,5000,000 to 10,000 BC) to the Modern Period (15th to 17th centuries).
The picture above shows a gravestone in the upper left from the Iron Age (7th to 2nd Centuries BC), a head in the upper right from the Christian Medieval Period (13th – 14th Centuries) and some vases from the Bronze Age (2nd Millennium BC).
In the center of the museum, and the reason the museum was initially built, stands a Cistern-Well discovered in the 1980’s. The shaft with a diameter of about 8 ft. surrounded by a 4 ft. wide spiral stairway gallery covered with a semi-circular domed ceiling. For lighting and ventilation purposes three semicircle domed windows were open between the gallery and the shaft. Access to the water was accessed through the circular opening. The well was constructed of red sandstone.
Now we’re off to Spain! My next post will tell of our adventures in Barcelona!
Contrary to popular belief, dogs that pull on the leash while being walked do not want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha, or dominant over their human. There is a much simpler explanation: dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong.
A leash, though vital for safety, can also be frustrating for a dog, because being ‘tied’ to a person essentially stops a dog’s ability to act naturally. That being said, all dogs should be taught how to walk on the leash in a positive way without being jerked, yanked, choked, or shocked, so that walks can be enjoyable for everyone.
If you are overpowered by your dog’s pulling and can’t start teaching for fear of being pulled over, there are humane equipment solutions to help modify the pulling while you teach your dog to walk appropriately:
- A chest-led harness is a perfect training aid, as it takes pressure off a dog’s sensitive neck area by distributing the pressure more evenly around the body. When the leash is attached to a ring located on the chest strap and your dog pulls, the harness will turn his body around rather than allowing him to go forward. This harness is great for anyone who needs extra help, because safety must come first.
- Some dogs are so strong that a canine head collar is needed, which acts the same way a halter does on a horse. Whenever the dog pulls, it automatically brings his head around. Head collars can help in severe cases, especially with pregnant women or elderly clients, but dogs need time to habituate to them, as they can be uncomfortable at first.
- Avoid the use of choke or prong collars, as these devices cause pain and significant physical damage to your dog’s neck.
The Stop and Be Still Technique
- Leash pulling is often successful for the dog because the person inadvertently reinforces the pulling by allowing the dog get to where he wants to go when he pulls. But you can change this picture by changing the consequence for your dog.
- Whenever he pulls, immediately stop and stand completely still until the leash relaxes because your dog either takes a step back or turns around to give you focus. When the leash is nicely relaxed, proceed on your walk. Repeat this as necessary.
- The Reverse Direction Technique
If you find the preceding technique too slow, you can try the reverse direction method.
- When your dog pulls, issue a ‘let’s go’ cue, turn away from him, and walk off in the other direction without jerking on the leash.
- You can avoid yanking by motivating your dog to follow you with an excited voice to get his attention.
- When he is following you and the leash is relaxed, turn back and continue on your way.
- It may take a few turns, but your vocal cues and body language will make it clear that pulling will not be reinforced with forward movement, whereas walking calmly by your side or even slightly in front of you on a loose leash will allow your dog to get to where he wants to go.
- You can also reinforce your dog’s decision to walk close to you by giving him a motivating reward when he is by your side.
- Vary the Picture
- Once your dog is listening to you, you can vary the picture even more by becoming unpredictable yourself. This requires your dog to listen to you at all times, because he never knows when you might turn or where you are going to go next.
- Instead of turning away from him when you give the ‘let’s go’ cue, reverse direction by turning toward him. You can turn in a circle or do a figure eight. Any of these variations will get your dog’s attention.
- Do not forget to praise him for complying, because the better you make him feel when he is walking close to you, the more he will choose to do so.
What Not to Do:
Do not yank your dog around. While it might be tempting to use your dog’s leash to correct him, rely more on teaching him what to do than correcting him all the time.
Article By: Victoria Stilwell, Positively.com