our beautiful selves

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Today’s post is dedicated to my friend Kat. I met Kat about 18 months ago through a community I opened at work. She has brought so much experience and expertise, including leading educational webinars and writing educational blogs. Most enjoyable to me were the 4 virtual mindfulness series we have led together, starting with Stress Less to Awareness in Action to Honoring Your Best Self:Self-Compassion and Loving Kindness to Wise Action: Responding in the Heart of the Storm. For one of our sessions, we focused on core values and during our week of preparation, I was inspired to write a poem, our beautiful selves, in support of our program. Co-creating with Kat is always a lovely invitation to be inspired and alive, filled with appreciation for our beautiful selves.

our beautiful selves
by Vicki L. Flaherty

let us begin
with kindness in our hearts

may we breathe in grace for ourselves
and breathe compassion out into the world

let us pause
opening to our heart-inspired aspirations

may we be silent and still
and connect with the essence of ourselves

in this moment
let us treasure our special gifts and capabilities

may we awaken our vision
and open to possibility stretching like a fertile field before us

let us now fully unwrap our dreams
hold our values tightly and infuse our goals with passion

may we move with confidence and courage
our intentions genuine, clear and bright as a shining sun

let us embrace both the familiar
and the vast and different terrain we encounter

may we be inspired and alive
filled with the honesty and truth of our beautiful selves

* Image is of a purple columbine growing in my backyard.

Things come and go

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I am now reading Meditations on Intention and Being: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, Mindfulness and Compassion by Rolf Gates as part of my mindful morning time. Rolf has been inspiring me for nearly 10 years with his wisdom. When I received the book this summer, I jumped to the section on mindfulness (something empowering to choose to read a book starting in the middle ;]).

Today’s (Day 191) abundantly delicious reading is about impermanence.

“When a biological organism perceives something in its internal or external environment, it reacts…the stimulus arises and the urge to react arises with it – the itch, the thought, the ache between the shoulders. If we sit with this play of sensation without reacting, something happens that offers a genuine insight: the stimulus, the itch, the thought, the ache, arises, stays for a while, and then passes. Things come and go….things change on their own and …it is okay to do nothing.”

I noticed my reaction was to want to be able to sit with itches, thoughts, and aches long enough to let them pass. And, then I saw the opportunity to pause, breathe, and let that desire pass, just being with this insight.

[Read more about how I’m involved in creating a mindfulness movement.]

* I took this photo of the dunes at Fanore, County Clare, Ireland in June 2016. The way the clouds and wind move along the coast are a reminder to me of how things come and go.

Breaking through

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Image courtesy of omelet.co.uk 

Mark Nepo inspired me today with his August 5 reading from The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Live You Have. In this world where the phrase ‘change is the only constant’ seems every so fitting, his piece about the chick being born resonated.

“When in the midst of great change, it is helpful to remember how a chick is born. From the view of the chick, it is a terrifying struggle. Confined and curled in a dark shell, half-formed, the chick eats all its food and stretches to the contours of its shell. It begins to feel hungry and cramped. Eventually, the chick begins to starve and feels suffocated by the ever-shrinking space of its world.

Finally, its own growth beings to crack the shell, and the world as the chick knows it is coming to an end. Its sky is falling. As the chick wiggles through the cracks, it begins to eat its shell. In that moment – growing but fragile, starving and cramped, its world breaking – the chick must feel like it is dying. Yet once everything it has relied on falls away, the chick is born. It doesn’t die, but falls into a new world.




When faced with great change – in self, in relationships, in our sense of calling – we somehow must take in all that has enclosed us, nurtured us, incubated us, so when the new life is upon us, the old is within us.”

I really like this perspective and how it invites holding the old within the new. Here’s to whatever transformation you are experiencing.

Mission Accomplished – Happy Holiday!

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La Concha beach, San Sebastian, Spain

[WARNING: This post might make you long for the sea or very hungry!}

I can’t believe we’ve been back now the same amount of time that we were away!

Our vacation was even better than we had imagined.

We lived into our touchstones for the trip:

RELAXATION (e.g., relaxing day at the beach and listening to traditional music in an Irish pub)

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Los Locos beach, Suances, Spain

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O’Connells  Pub, Galway, Ireland

CELEBRATION (e.g., sharing memories of our nearly 30 years together and dreaming of the future at a sidewalk cafe or savoring pintxos in San Sebastian)

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Cerveza & Pintxos at La Mejellonera, San Sebestain, Spain 

INDULGENCE (e.g., a super size chocolate croissant as the first course for breakfast, dessert after dinner!)

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Chocolate Croissant at Tinas Pechon, Pechon, Spaing

Dessert at McGanns Doolin_C

Chocolate Cake at McGann’s Pub, Doolin, Co Clare, Ireland

For more photos of our vacation, visit our shutterfly site (Spain AND Ireland) – these albums include captions, or our photo albums on facebook (Spain AND Ireland).

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Playa Arnia, Cantabria, Spain

For posts about the locations we traveled, check out my pre-vacation anticipation posts:

Cantabrias, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain 

Galway City, Ireland

County Clare, Ireland

Ballyvaughan, Ireland

The Burren, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher & Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Aran Islands (Inis Oirr), Ireland

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Inis Oirr, Aran Islands, Ireland

2016 Vacation Anticipation – Aran Island of Inisheer (Inis OĂ­rr)

AranIslands

Easily visible from large swaths of coastal Galway and Clare Counties, the Aran Is­lands sing their own siren song to thousands of travelers each year who find their deso­late beauty beguiling. Day-trippers shuttle through in a daze of rocky magnificence (that will be us! ) while those who stay longer find places that, in many ways, seem further removed from the Irish mainland than a 45-minute ferry ride or 10-minute flight. Hardy travelers find that low season showcases the islands at their wild, windswept best (that would be fun some time!).

AranIslands_Inisheer Wildflowers.JPG

An extension of the limestone escarpment that forms the Burren in Clare, the islands have shallow topsoil scattered with wild­flowers, grass for grazing and jagged cliffs pounded by surf. Ancient forts such as DĂșn Aengus on InishmĂłr and DĂșn ChonchĂșir on Inishmaan are some of the oldest archaeo­logical remains in Ireland. A web of stone walls (1600km in all) runs across all three islands. They also have a smattering of early clochĂĄns (drystone bee­hive huts from the early Christian period), resembling stone igloos.

AranIslands_Inisheer Churrachs

Currachs

It is thought that people came to the is­lands to farm, a major challenge given the rocky terrain. Early islanders augmented their soil by hauling seaweed and sand up from the shore. People also fished the sur­rounding waters on long currachs (rowing boats made of a framework of laths covered with tarred canvas), which remain a symbol of the Aran Islands.

AranIslands_Inisheer Ruins

O’Flaherty Castle

Christianity reached the islands remarkably early, and some of the oldest monastic settle­ments were founded by St Enda (Éanna) in the 5th century. Enda appears to have been an Irish chief who converted to Christianity and spent some time studying in Rome be­fore seeking out a suitably remote spot for his monastery. From the 14th century, control of the islands was disputed by two Gaelic families, the O’Briens and the O’Flahertys (my ancestors?!). The Eng­lish took over during the reign of Elizabeth I, and in Cromwell’s times a garrison was sta­tioned here.

AranIslands_Crios

Traditional Crios Belt

As Galway’s importance waned, so did that of the islands, and their isolation meant islanders maintained a traditional lifestyle well into the 20th century. Up to the 1930s, people wore traditional Aran dress: bright red skirts and black shawls for women, baggy woollen trousers and waistcoats with crios (colourful belts) for men. The classic heavy cream-coloured Aran sweater, featur­ing complex patterns, originated and is still hand-knitted on the islands.

AranIslands_Inisheer st. caomhan's church

St. Caomhan’s Cchurch

Inisheer (Inis OĂ­rr, ‘Eastern Island’; pop 200), the smallest island, is easily reached from Gal­way year-round and from Doolin in the sum­mer months (we’ll make a day trip from the latter). It  has a palpable sense of enchant­ment, enhanced by the island’s deep-rooted mythology, its devotion to traditional cul­ture and ethereal landscapes. With only six surnames among the locals, most given names are highly descriptive.  An old castle, ancient churches and a magical spring are just a few of the highlights of Inisheer. Wandering along its shores it’s easy to get the impression that you have the whole world to yourself. (Perfect for vacation, no?!)

* Descriptions are from Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. Images from google images.

Related posts:

Cantabrias, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain 

Galway City, Ireland

County Clare, Ireland

Ballyvaughan, Ireland

The Burren, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher & Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

 

2016 Vacation Anticipation – Cliffs of Moher & Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher

Star of a million tourist brochures, the Cliffs of Moher (Aillte an Mothair, or Ailltreacha Mothair) are one of the most popular sights in Ireland, located 10km south of Doolin. The entirely vertical cliffs rise to a height of 203m, their edge falling away abruptly into the constantly churning sea. A series of heads, the dark limestone seems to march in a rigid formation that amazes, no matter how many times you look. The Aran Islands stand etched on the waters of Galway Bay.

Such appeal comes at a price: mobs. This is check-off tourism big time and busloads come and go constantly in summer. Best to arrive outside of the hours of 11am to 3pm. (Sound fun?! This will be an early day adventure, for sure.) There are good rewards if you’re will­ing to walk for 10 minutes.(Can do!) There are over 600 meters of pathways and viewing platforms along the cliff edge that allow the visitor to enjoy a spectacular and healthy cliff walk. The amazing views of the Cliffs, the famous Aran Islands, Kerry mountains, Galway Bay, O’Briens Tower and the thousands of seabirds make the Cliffs a magical place. If you are lucky on your stroll you will hear and see the Cliffs Buskers playing traditional Irish music along the Cliff pathways. Talking telescopes are dotted along the paths as you go.

Obriens Tower

O’Brien’s Tower stands on a headland at the Cliffs of Moher commanding views south towards Hags Head and north towards Doolin. The tower was built in 1835 by local landlord Cornelius O’Brien as a viewing point for the tourists that even then were flocking to the Cliffs. On a clear day the view can extend as far as Loop Head at the southern tip of Clare and beyond to the mountains of Kerry. Look north and you might make out the Twelve Bens in Connemara (also known as the Twelve Pins) beyond Galway Bay. And unless visibility is very poor, you are almost sure to see the three Aran Islands to the west. The Aill Na Searrach wave view point is at O’Brien’s Tower – Aill Na Searrach is the place where the 40ft wave raises its head several times a year. Surfers can be seen surfing the wave from this point.

Hags Head Arch

Forming the southern end of the Cliffs of Moher, Hag’s Head is a dramatic place from which to view the cliffs. There’s a huge sea arch at the tip of Hag’s Head and another arch visible to the north. The old signal tower on the head was erected in case Napoleon tried to attack on the western coast of Ireland. A spectacular walking trail links the head with the cliffs and Liscannor.

The human story and history of the Cliffs of Moher dates back at least two thousand years as the name derives from a 1st Century BC fort that stood where Moher Tower now stands. The old Irish word “Mothar” means ruined fort and it is this that gives the cliffs their name.

Puffins.

The Cliffs of Moher are home to one of the major colonies of cliff nesting seabirds in Ireland. The area was designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for Birds under the EU Birds Directive in 1986 and as a Refuge for Fauna in 1988. Included within the designated site are the cliffs, the cliff-top maritime grassland and heath, and a 200 metre zone of open water, directly in front of the cliffs to protect part of the birds’ feeding area. There are 20 species of nesting birds, including 9 species of breeding seabirds, and up to 30,000 breeding pairs. Seabirds such as Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Choughs and Kittiwakes can be seen. (Oh, it would be fun to see a Puffin!)

doolin

We’ll visit from Doolin (Dubh Linn – The black pool; pop 250). Doolin lies on the south-western extremity of the Burren and is internationally renowned as a centre of live Irish music, played in its many hugely popular pubs – such as O’Connor’s (in Fisher Street on the way to the harbour), Fitzpatrick’s Bar in the Hotel Doolin and McGann’s and McDermott’s at the northern end. It’s an excellent base for exploring the Cliffs of Moher and a popular departure point for the Aran Islands. Given all its attributes, you might be sur­prised when you realise that Doolin as it’s known barely exists. Rather, you might be forgiven for exclaiming, ‘There’s no there here!’ For Doolin is really three infinitesimal­ly small neighbouring villages. Fisherstreet is right on the water, Doolin itself is about 1km east on the little River Aille, and Road­ford is another 1km east

* Descriptions are from Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. Images from google images.

Related posts:

Cantabrias, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain 

Galway City, Ireland

County Clare, Ireland

Ballyvaughan, Ireland

The Burren, Ireland

2016 Vacation Anticipation – The Burren

The BurrenThe Burren’s name derives from the Irish word boireann, meaning “stony place” – an apt description for this desolate plateau that occupies the county’s northwest. It’s rocky and windswept – a unique striated limestone landscape that was shaped beneath ancient seas, then forced high and dry by a great geological cataclysm. This is not the green Ireland of postcards. But there are wildflowers in spring, giving the 560-sq-km Burren brilliant, if ephem­eral, colour amid the arid beauty. Its northern and western edges hug the coast road between Ballyvaughanand Doolin, while, to the south and east, the rocks gently slope towards lush green fields. Formed mainly of fissured limestone pavement, pitted by occasional valleys hidden beneath ominous-looking cliffs, the Burren is a thoroughly otherworldly place with barely a sign of life. The starkness of the landscape, crisp white in sunlight, deep grey-brown in rainfall, has a primeval allure and remains utterly fascinating. Few now live within its bounds, but many endured this harsh environment in the past, leaving relics of their inhabitation. Ancient burial practices are reflected in the abundance of Stone Age monuments, while later, Iron Age people built ring forts and circular stone dwellings, many of which remain well preserved.

The Burren-Dolmen

History

Despite its apparent harshness, the Burren supported quite large numbers of people in ancient times, and has more than 2500 historic sites. Chief among them is the 5000-year-old Poulnabrone Dolmen, part of a Neolithic/Bronze Age tomb, and one of Ire­land’s iconic ancient monuments. Around 70 such tombs are in evidence today. Many are wedge-shaped graves, stone boxes tapering both in height and width, and about the size of a large double bed. The dead were placed inside, and the whole structure covered in earth and stones. Gleninsheen, south of Aillwee Caves, is a good example. Ring forts dot the Burren in prodigious numbers. There are almost 500, including Iron Age stone forts such as Cahercommaun near Carron.

The Burren strata

Rock Legends

The geology of the Burren (Boireann is the Irish term for ‘rocky country’) is the result of immense drama and excitement in ancient times that produced the moonlike landscape we see today. Follow the deep rivulets in the stone and you’ll see that the barren Aran Islands just offshore are all part of the same formations. Massive shifts in the earth’s crust some 270 million years ago buckled the edges of Europe and forced the former seabed here above sea level. At the same time the stone sheets were bent and fractured to form the long, deep cracks so characteristic of the Burren today. During numerous ice ages, glaciers scoured the hills, rounding the edges and some­times polishing the rock to a shiny finish, and dumping a thin layer of rock and soil in the cracks. Huge boulders were carried by the ice, incongruous aliens on a sea of flat rock.

 The Burren-rose

Flora & Fauna

Soil may be scarce on the Burren, but the small amount that gathers in the cracks is well drained and rich in nutrients. This, together with the mild Atlantic climate, supports an extraordinary mix of Mediter­ranean, Arctic and alpine plants. Of Ireland’s native wildflowers, 75% are found here, in­cluding 24 species of beautiful orchids, the creamy-white burnet rose, the little starry flowers of mossy saxifrage and the magenta-coloured bloody cranesbill.The Burren is a stronghold of Ireland’s most elusive mammal, the rather shy and weasel-like pine marten. Badgers, foxes and even stoats are common throughout the region. Otters and seals haunt the shores around Bell Harbour, New Quay and Fina­varra Point.

 The Burren-walk

Activities

The Burren is a walker’s paradise. The bi­zarre, beautiful landscape, numerous trails and many ancient sites are best explored on foot. ‘Green roads’ are the old highways of the Burren, crossing hills and valleys to some of the remotest corners of the region. Many of these unpaved ways were built dur­ing the Famine as part of relief work, while some date back possibly thousands of years. They’re now used mostly by hikers and the occasional farmer. Some are signposted. The Burren Way is a 123km network of marked hiking routes throughout the region.

* Descriptions are from Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.

Related posts:

Cantabrias, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain 

Galway City, Ireland

County Clare, Ireland

Ballyvaughan, Ireland

2016 Vacation Anticipation – Ballyvaughan, Ireland

ballyvaughan

From Galway, we’ll head east and south. We’ll pass through Kinvarra, a popular honeypot town on the shores of Galway Bay. We’ll follow the N18 around the shores of Galway Bay, lined with native European Flat Oyster beds, and continue along the N67 towards the Burren which hugs the coast following the route of the Wild Atlantic Way. We might check out New Quay (Ceibh Nua), on the Finavarra Pe­ninsula, apparently a quiet and rather bucolic break from the rocky rigours of the Burren, and the Flaggy Shore, west of New Quay, a particularly fine stretch of coastline where limestone terraces step down to the sea, where we might wading birds and otters.

From Bellharbour there’s an excellent walk that begins behind St Patrick’s church and goes north along Abbey Hill. If you walk 1km down the Ballyvaughan road, look out for a large green farm shed on the right. Follow the path down to the shore to see seals and hundreds of birds. Doesn’t that sound delightful?

Ballyvaughan (population 260) was built in 1829 to assist the fishing industry. The harbour saw the village develop as a major trading centre and, not long afterwards, steamers began to ply between there and Galway, bringing visitors and establishing the tourist trade. It’s an eye-catching village, especially when the sun gleams on its predominantly white and cream houses, and is an ideal base for exploring the Burren. Roads south from Ballyvaughan lead to a wealth of ancient and some medieval sites. Something of a hub for the otherwise dis­persed charms of the Burren, Ballyvaughan (Baile Uí Bheacháin) sits between the hard land of the hills and a quiet leafy corner of Galway Bay. The Burren Smokehouse will tempt you with its smoked salmon and tantalizing range of local artisan gourmet foods.

Just west of the junction is the quay, built in 1829 at a time when boats traded with the Aran Islands and Galway, exporting grain and bacon and bringing in peat – a scarce com­modity in the windswept rocks of Burren. A few metres past the harbour, a signpost­ed track leads to a seashore bird shelter offering good views of the tidal shallows.  Ólólainn PUB (highly recommended in both Lonely Planet and Rough Guide travel guides) is tiny family-run place on the left as you head out to the pier, the place for a timeless moment or two in old-fashioned snugs. Count us in.🙂

About 6km south of Ballyvaughan on the Lisdoonvarna road (N67) is a series of severe bends climbing up Corkscrew Hill. The road was built as part of a Great Fam­ine relief scheme in the 1840s. From the top there are spectacular views of the northern Burren and Galway Bay, with Aillwee Moun­tain and the caves on the right, Cappanawal­la Hill on the left, and the partially restored 16th-century Newtown Castle.

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* Descriptions are from Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.

Related posts:

Cantabrias, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain 

Galway City, Ireland

County Clare, Ireland

2016 Vacation Anticipation – County Clare Ireland

County ClarePoulnabrone Dolmen

Clare combines the stunning natural beauty of its long and meandering coastline with unique windswept landscapes and dollops of Irish culture. Rugged nature and the timeless ocean meet on the coun­ty’s coast. The Atlantic relentlessly pounds year-round, erod­ing the rocks into fantastic landscapes, and forming sheer cliffs like those at the iconic Cliffs of Moher and strange little islands like those near Loop Head. There are even stretches of beach where surfers flock to the (chilly) waves. The Burren, an ancient region of tortured stone and alien vistas, stretches down to the coast and right out to the Aran Islands. But if the land is hard, Clare’s soul is not: traditional Irish culture and music flourish. And it’s not just a show for tourists, either. In little villages such as Miltown Mal­bay, Ennistymon, Doolin and Kilfenora you’ll find pubs with year-round sessions of trad music.

Clare-Naughtons

Best Places to Eat

  • Buttermarket Cafe (Kilrush)
  • Linnane’s Lobster Bar (New Quay, near Ballyvaughn)
  • Naughton’s Bar (Kilkee)
  • Vaughan’s Anchor Inn (Liscannor, between Cliffs of Moher & Lahinch)

trad music doolin

FINDING TRADITIONAL MUSIC IN COUNTY CLARE

From atmospheric small pubs in tiny villages where non-instrument-playing patrons are a minority, to rollicking urban boozers in Ennis, Clare is one of Ireland’s best counties for traditional music. Eschewing any modern influences from rock or even polkas (as is heard elsewhere), Clare’s musicians stick resolutely to the jigs and reels of old, often with little vocal accompaniment. Although you can find pubs with trad sessions at least one night a week in almost every town and village, the following are our picks for where to start:

  • Doolin A much-hyped collection of pubs with nightly trad music sessions. However, tourist crowds can erase any sense of intimacy or even enjoyment.
  • Ennis You can bounce from one music-filled pub to another on most nights, especially in the summer. Musicians from around the county come here to show off and there are good venues for serious trad pursuits.
  • Ennistymon A low-key farming village inland from Doolin with a couple of ancient pubs that attract top local talent.
  • Kilfenora Small village with a big musical heritage at Vaughan’s pub.
  • Miltown Malbay This tiny village hosts the annual Willie Clancy Summer School, one of Ireland’s best music festivals. The talented locals can be heard performing throughout the year in several old pubs.

st tola cheese

TOP FIVE CHEESES

  1. Ardrahan – From Kanturk, Co. Cork, with powerful, complex flavours of milk and mustard.
  2. Desmond – Piquant, long-matured, Swiss-style cheese from Co. Cork; also Gabriel, a hard, aromatic and full-bodied GruyĂšre-like cheese from the same makers.
  3. Durrus – Semi-soft, washed-rind, raw milk cheese from west Cork.
  4. Kilshanny – Type of Gouda, sweet, hard and milky, made in Lahinch, Co. Clare; sometimes flavoured with garlic, cumin or nettles.
  5. St Tola – Fine range of goat’s cheeses from Inagh, Co. Clare.

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TRADITIONAL DISHES

  • Bacon and cabbage – Shoulder of pork boiled with cabbage.
  • Boxty – Potato pancakes.
  • Carrageen – Edible seaweed, used for a blancmange-like dessert.
  • Champ – Northern Irish version of colcannon, with spring onions.
  • Colcannon – Mashed potato mixed with cabbage and often leeks.
  • Crubeen – Boiled pig’s trotters.
  • Drisheen – Sausage of sheep & beef blood with oatmeal & pepper.
  • Fadge – Northern fried potato bread. Soda bread baked with bicarbonate of soda, buttermilk and flour.

* Descriptions are from Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.

 

Related posts:

Cantabrias, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain 

Galway City, Ireland