TGIF: You won’t need a pot of gold when visiting Ireland

I am not sure what I like best about Ireland; the kind people, good food, spectacular sights or low prices. The accommodations and restaurants are extremely affordable or down right cheap. I really can’t say enough good things about Ireland. Whether exploring the Wild Atlantic Way, or visiting castles, you’ll find much to explore in Ireland. You can climb the highest peak in Europe at Slieve Leage. Splash in Ireland’s pristine turquoise waters. Along the way, you’ll witness seals and puffins on the scenic shores. You can also enjoy an expedition to a upside down lighthouse and escape to a quiet island. 

Evocative cliffs encapsulate this fairly land island.Tory Island has the distinction of having a resident, King. Besides greeting visitors, I’m not sure what his official duties are. The King of Tory rules over a small and quaint island kingdom. Tory Island lighthouse, a monk’s tower recall local history. There’s a hostel and hotel, grocery store, some shops and a post office within walking distance. Tory Island offers a quiet retreat and a taste of the past.

Rathlin Island is a popular destination. You can scale an upside down lighthouse. Catch a bus to the lighthouse and enjoy nature. West Light builders ingeniously came up with a way to avoid clouds that could obscure the light. Watch puffins, skylarks and other birds at the West Light Seabird Center. It’s largest seabird colony in the United Kingdom. Over 250,00 seabirds return to breed on Rathlin Island each year. 

Stop by Dublin and don’t miss Trinity College. It is the oldest university in Ireland. Its stunning architecture transports you to another era and dimension. Venture to the Long Room, one of Europe’s most impressive libraries. Beautiful marble busts adorn the aisles of the library. Star Wars used the library for inspiration. Walk through the pages of history and see the Book of Kells. It is a medieval manuscript of the four Gospels that is considered to be Ireland’s finest treasure. 

Whether you’re a history buff, beach goer, nature lover or lighthouse enthusiastic, Ireland offers a lot for your money as well as fun for everyone.

TGIF: Travel beyond the ordinary 

When most people think of Florida, they think of its stellar attractions. With the cost of inflation, the average family could sink a cool $1,000 for a vacation. Florida offers more than attractions. I stopped by the coastal town of Tarpon Springs before a cruise to an island where Anclote Key Lighthouse is located. I arrived early in the day and found all-day parking for only $3. Tarpon Springs Historic District is adorned with quaint shops and Greek restaurants. The prices at the restaurants are modest and the dining varies from simple wraps to full course meals.

 I was impressed that the area wasn’t a tourist trap but seemed authentic. It’s a great place to stroll and spend a few hours without getting ripped off. There are monuments to guide you through local history and boating tours for more in depth tidbits on the local culture and folklore.

I caught Odyssey Cruise Lines from Tarpon Springs with a group for the reopening of Anclote Key Lighthouse.  The tour guide navigated through calm seas and narrated located history. We learned about the once thriving sponging industry and saw locations where movies were filmed.

After a short boat ride, we arrived at Anclote Key State Preserve and debarked at a pristine beach. A scenic nature trail led us to Anclote Key Lighthouse. I drew several sketches and took photographs of the area and fuel house before scaling the 102 ft. lighthouse.  The steel framed lighthouse built in 1887 offered a panoramic view of the tiny island. I was delighted to be able visit during the reopening. The lighthouse had been closed a few years and was restored through funds from the Florida Lighthouse Association and Friends of Anclote Key Lighthouse. It was money well spent. 

TGIF: Life Decoded at South Beach 

Celebrating the ease with which I found a parking space at the Miami Beach garage, I was hopeful for a great day. Tourists laughing and chattering against a backdrop of palm trees, were signs of good things to come. This is the South Beach that advertisers promote. Life at its best. But having lived there for 4 years I knew there was a darker side. Skyrocketing homelessness and rampart crime. But just for today, I held those thoughts at bay. 

On the way from the garage, I found myself spellbound by H&Ms window display: Denim Decoded. Using a few bare essentials of clothing they had put together an astonishing look. How clever I thought. If only my life could be so genuine and simple. Life Decoded. Stripped away of all the complexities with only the bare necessities remaining. Simplicity at its best. 

As I stepped into H&M a transformation took place. I was no longer weighed down by the troubles of this world but carefree. Leaving the store my purse was $30 dollars lighter. But it was worth the investment in this new way of being. 

With a new sense of calm and joy, I strolled along a walkway beside the beach. Tents for the wine and food festival blocked the view. But it didn’t matter I knew a few minutes later the ocean would appear. 

At the Bass, I laughed and marveled at the exhibits. The sculptures of “Vocabulary of Solitude” by the Ugo Rondinone brought back to mind my fascination with mannequins on display at H&M. How could these lifeless characters inspire me and an artist? Like Michelangelo releasing the soul of his sculptures from stone, Rondinone had endeavored to do this with polystyrene foam. While at the museum, I met with a friend and asked about the expanded education center. I was excited to hear how the community had embraced the new programs and exhibits.

After I left the museum I headed to the Art Deco District. I was hoping to find a building I had once drawn. No luck. So I decided to sketched the Royal Palm Hotel. 

Now it was time to leave. I placed an order at Pizza Rustica and braced myself for the drive home. Surrounded by a sea of cars I withdrew to a reservoir from my peaceful day. When traffic became a parking lot, my serenity began to dissipate. A few minutes later I got a call about the sudden death of my cousin. Saddened, I thought about my day and all the things I relished. I was glad God had given me a day to enjoy the simple things in my life: art, friends, shopping, dining and the beach. Life decoded.