TGIF: The stars make no noise at Ireland’s Blackhead Lighthouse

Sunset at Blackhead

Sunset at Blackhead Lighthouse in Ireland.

Hailed as one of the great lighthouses in Ireland, Blackhead Lighthouse is perched high on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Belfast Lough.

I stayed at Blackhead Lighthouse during John Eagle’s Northern Ireland Lighthouse tour. Sitting on the porch one moonlit night, my hearted pulsed with the beam of the lighthouse as it swirled quietly in the darkness.

Warning off perils ahead and nearby, Blackhead Lighthouse faithfully stands guard. While the lighthouse has saved countless lives, it stood watch as the Titanic tragically passed by on its final journey.

My stay at Blackhead Lighthouse was the highlight of the tour. As I stepped into my bedroom, I was delighted to see a self portrait of one of my favorite artists,  Albrecht Durer, hanging on the wall. My room had a fire place and a magnificent view of the ocean.

Almost every room at Blackhead had a fire place including the restroom. Today we consider a fireplace in every room a luxury but in times past it was a necessity as it was the only source of heat.

Sunset at Blackhead

Sunrise at Blackhead Lighthouse.

We stayed at Blackhead three days and two nights. I made the most of my stay. I witnessed a blazing sunrise, glorious sunset and quiet moonlight while sitting on the porch of Blackhead Lighthouse.

Yes, the stars make no noise as the Irish quote goes. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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http://www.greatlighthouses.com

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TGIF: Save big at an iconic location in Ireland

Trinity College

Stay at Ireland’s most prestigious college.

The Trinity College in Dublin offers affordable and modest rooms in a popular location. Shopping, restaurants and bus stops are nearby. Trinity College is home to the Book of Kells the crown jewel of Ireland.

The book of kells

The Book of Kells is a medieval manuscript of the bible.

The campus green space and historic buildings offer a pleasant setting. The single room I stayed in was off the beaten path and quite a distance away from the Accommodations Office. The floor I stayed on had no elevator and was very awkward to find. Thankfully a staff member was close by to assist me with my luggage and finding my room. My single room was sparse but neat and clean with comfortable bedding. There was a little noise in the afternoon in the dorm but it was quiet during the night. The room had wifi but no tv. A shared bathroom and shower were in the hallway. There was a sink in the room for freshing up. It was an ideal overnight stay after a nine day road trip around Ireland.

The Long Room

Visit The Long Room after viewing the Book of Kells.

I enjoyed easy access to the Book of Kells, airport express bus and most of all the affordable price. I love history so the setting was an added plus. The staff is very pleasant, helpful and check in and check out were easy. If you check out early like I did some entry gates will be closed. I followed other people walking and found a gate with access. You may want to check with the Accommodations Office to find out which gates are open for early departure.

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TGIF: Ireland’s Stunning Upside Down Lighthouse

West Rathlin Lighthouse

West Rathlin Lighthouse is built upside down.

The West Lighthouse on Rathlin Island is a marvel of human ingenuity. Unlike most lighthouses, the Keepers had to climb down to the light. The Commissioners of Irish Lights Engineer-in-Chief CW Scott came up with this novel idea. Because the top cliff was often obscured by fog and low clouds, a traditional lighthouse would not do.

Built in 1912 on a somewhat vertical cliff, the project was a huge undertaking. It took almost 4 years to complete. The enormous amount concert used had to be mixed by hand. An inclined railway was built for landing materials.

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2016: A Tale of European Cities

Monument to King Alfonso XII.

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness….it was the season of light; it was the season of darkness…”

I thought about this Charles Dickens quote from the “Tale of Two Cities” when reflecting on my accomplishments and disappointments in 2016. I started the year complaining on the road with fans from the Orange Bowl. I checked everything but the traffic when planning my road trip. Thanks to that mishap I now look at the traffic on Florida 511 and Florida events when traveling.

A view of Madrid.

A beautiful view of Madrid at Parque de la Montana.

The following month I traveled to London and Madrid. In Madrid, I was spellbound at the monuments at Parque del Retiro. I saw “Guernica” by Picasso at the Museo Reina Sofia. I visited The Museo Nacional del Prado home to paintings by European Masters like Durer, El Greco, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Rubens, etc. My favorite painting were “Las Meninas” by Diego Velazquez and “Adam and Eve” by Albretch Durer.

Museo Nacional del Prado.

Museo Nacional del Prado.

After Madrid I flew to London. In London, we stayed a block away from Buckingham Palace at the Nadler Hotel. We watched the changing of the guards several times.

Changing of the Guards

The gallantry of the Changing of the Guards.

We walked to West Minister and saw the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and worshipped at West Minister Abbey.

Big Ben at London.

Big Ben with a view of the London Eye.

The next day we rode the Tube to Trinity Buoy Wharf where I sketched a lightship and a lighthouse. Somewhere along the way, I went to the Tate Museum and saw the paintings JMW Turner bequeath to the people of London.

Self portrait of Turner.

Self portrait of JMW Turner.

My daughter wanted to stroll down her childhood memory lane so we visited the London Bridge. She was disappointed but satisfied that she had actually seen it.

London Brige

A view of London Bridge.

We ended our stay with a look at the Tower Bridge and The Tower Castle.

The Tower Bridge of London.

The Tower Bridge of London.

A few days after I returned from Europe, I had a kidney stone. The only relief was that I didn’t get sick while traveling overseas. That would have been a bigger pain than the kidney stone.

Sunset at Blackhead Lighthouse.

Sunset at Blackhead Lighthouse, Northern Ireland.

After the kidney stone, I felt a sense of urgency and decided to book a lighthouse trip to Ireland instead of waiting next year. During the summer, I visited The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where I stayed at Blackhead Lighthouse. I had an oceanfront room with a fireplace for two nights. That alone was worth the cost of the trip. We saw over 24 lighthouses in the course of 8 days. It was an amazing trip.

As I look at my disappointments in 2016, I realize that I wouldn’t have accomplished much without them. I actually better prepare for my trips, drink more water, take advantage of more opportunities and have gratitude for the little things in my life. Without the darkness, we can not relish the light.

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History Comes Alive at King John’s Castle

King John's Castle

King John’s Castle.

In the tale of Robin Hood, I learned about King Richard’s brother King John who usurped the throne and the crown. At King John’s Castle In Limerick, Ireland; I learned about the invasion of the Vikings and the English. I visited interactive displays that brought the castle to life. The castle took decades to build before being completed in 1212. Inside the castle are archeological remains of buildings and structures dating back to the time of the Vikings.

Courtyard of the castle.

Courtyard of the castle.

I discovered that the Gaelic Society in early medieval Ireland had craftspeople and monasteries full of great thinkers and theologians who were esteemed throughout Europe. When the Normans invaded Ireland in 1169, they intermarried and adopted local customs.

During British rule, tension was created when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church because he wanted a divorce. The persecution of Catholics led to widespread violence.
The castle was living timeline that further explained the culture and the history behind the formation of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

http://www.shannonheritage.com/kingjohnscastle

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“A Terrible Beauty” Exhibit at the Hunt Museum

The History Lesson

“The History Lesson” and other thought provoking paintings on display.

Limerick was a perfect place to begin my lighthouse tour of Ireland. I learned about the history of the Irish people at the Hunt Museum’s exhibit “A Terrible Beauty.” It gave me valuable insight into the culture and the history behind the formation of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Silver coin Judas received to betray Jesus.

A silver coin thought to be the coin Judas received to betray Jesus.

The Hunt has a collection of 2,000 original works of art. I was fascinated by a coin said to be one of the silver coins Judas was given to betray Christ. There were modest works by Renoir and Picasso I admired.

I enjoyed the special exhibit “Terrible Beauty” by Robert Ballagh. It is a centennial reflection on the Irish uprising. Ballagh revisits paintings like Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading  the People”, Goya’s “Third of May” and other reinterpretations to bring to light the universal struggle for social justice. They provide a powerful backdrop to Ballagh’s other paintings that are a personal narrative about the courageous leaders of the uprising. I was especially intrigued by “The History Lesson.”

View of the Shannon River from the Hunt Museum.

View of the Shannon River from the Hunt Museum.

After touring with a docent, I stopped by the Museum cafe for tea and a light bite. I walked along a walkway outside the Museum to catch a glimpse of the Shannon River and King John’s Castle to complete my visit.

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