Europe Home and About Ireland

Blarney Castle, Republic of Ireland

Blarney Castle sits north of Cork in the southern part of Ireland, its most famous for the Blarney stone which if kissed give you the gift of the gab! The castle is situated on an impressive estate where the entrance fee was part of our tour costs with Busabout / Shamrocker Adventures and we arrived early in order to beat the crowds (mainly tours with older clientele).

Blarney Castle, the Jewel of Southern Ireland Castles

There is a queue to enter the castle and kiss the blarney stone, to give an idea when we arrived it took 35 minutes for us to make our way (causally) through the castle up to the stone. However once we left I noted the line to kiss the stone extended well past a 2 hour mark, so early is essential to avoid a morning in queue and there is plenty of other things to see.

The main attraction… no not the sign!

The castle itself is quite a fascinating structure, while the walk up is enjoyable (yes lots of stairs and tight spaces) they have off shoots into the various rooms used by staff when it was a functional castle. Its a good idea if you can spare a few minutes to check out a few nooks and crannies as they are unique but also give you a bit of breathing room from the line of eager rock smootchers.

The Famous Blarney Stone – and protective rails and attendant.

Now if you don’t want to actually kiss the rock (I for instance did not) its still worth the climb for the amazing views of the grounds.

The poison gardens on the grounds is worth a wander around, if you are into botany or want to notch up your survivalist belt on which plants not to eat this is the place to do it.

A had a good giggle over how some of the plants were in tiny protected. Mandrake, Wolsbane, Nightshade… all deadly and in little cages; however, Cannabis (Marijuana) is kept in a playground sized bubble! Priorities…

Those yellow flowers looked so tasty!

On last glance back at the castle… through a rock… oh Ireland is the Emerald Island, but also the land of unique rocks.

Everyone has to get this photo… including me.
Europe Ireland

Kinlay Hostel and Galway, Republic of Ireland

Finally after a long day of travel from Londonderry we arrive in Galway and get dropped off at our Hostel for the evening… a perfect fit for a day of almost zero exertions… you like stairs right? The reward was one of the nicer hostels on this trip, and as we were staying two nights a chance to do laundry!

Welcome to Hostel Living… sometimes it not pretty…

So after we got our luggage up to our rooms some of us took to the town to look for food and take in the sunset golden hour.

Spanish Arc

Shamrocker Adventures (and Busabout) offer several tours in Ireland, and there is a combination that is very specifically setup so that the main four Rocker tours (North, South, Western, and All Irish) all meet up in Galway and here we join into one large group for Galway and the Aran Isles portion of the trip. Now while the logistics of this feat is notable, it is also why all the tours have funky travel days. So if you were ever wondering why 7/3/3/3 day trips were offered, its because of that 10 day rotation (with downtime for staff before the next rotation).

One of the bars we visited during the night

However, and I hate to be critical of what was already quite an enjoyable trip, but the “ice breaker” event that Shamrocker has set-up for everyone is an optional pub crawl through Galway with a contest to steal potatoes from eachother… what sounded like a fun game quickly got ugly competitive as soon as alcohol was thrown into the mix, with each bus group vying to win it for their “team”. After having my potatoe stolen, and stealing back another and a pinpong ball (?) the thrid bar we went to had a band playing in the other section and I left the pub crawl and enjoyed the rest of my evening…

Local Irish Band Playing at the Third Bar
I found out there was more than three flavors of the Cider I liked back in Ballitoy
Europe Italy

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy
To begin our day, we traveled to the Galleria dell ‘Accademia where are guide took us through the various sculptures and works of art until we reached the Michelangelo sculpture of “David”. Photography in the Galleria dell ‘Accademia is not permitted but there was certainly a collection of “art work” available from the street merchants outside.

Europe Italy

Venice, Italy – canals, gondolas and a lot more

Today we started the day with a visit to a glass blowing factory on Murano Island. Then it was off to St. Mark’s Square on the main island.


Canada Explorer Ontario Ottawa

Supreme Court Of Canada – July 1st, 2011

Louis St. Laurent. – Canada’s Prime Minister – 1948 to 1957.

Today, I was on my way to participate in the Canada Day Celebrations and maybe to find a spot to photograph Ottawa’s Royal visitors one more time. So, having completed my blog of Will and Kate at the Cenotaph from the day before, I headed down to Parliament Hill.

I noticed as I was passing the Supreme Court of Canada Building, that the doors were open and people were coming and going in numbers. I have photographed the outside of the Supreme Court of Canada in the past but have never gone inside so …. in I went!

Home and About

Elgin Street Infrared Walk-Around

Elgin Street Infrared Walk-Around

So, I was a few minutes early to a friend’s birthday party on Elgin; I had a camera in my bag. What happened next was extremely predictable…

Canada Explorer Montreal Quebec

Old Montreal, Quebec – Just out wandering on a cold Sunday morning – Part 2

Cour d’Appel Du Quebec

It was morning. It was cold. The wind made it feel like -20C despite the bright sunshine. Very few people out on the streets. Wandering around the streets of Old Montreal under those conditions is quite the experience. The quiet was deafening. The stone and concrete gives off no heat.

Canada Explorer Montreal Quebec

Old Montreal, Quebec – Just out wandering on a cold Sunday morning – Part 1

It was morning. It was cold. The wind made it feel like -20C despite the bright sunshine. Very few people out on the streets. Wandering around the streets of Old Montreal under those conditions is quite the experience. The quiet was deafening.

Note: Due to the number of photos of this area, I am breaking this morning’s meanderings into two blog postings. This one will show a few things that I found interesting and the next one will focus more on the architecture and street layouts.

England Europe European Inspiration London United Kingdom

Day 1 – European Inspiration – Ferry Ride down the River Thames

Day 1 – European Inspiration – Ferry Ride down the River Thames

After a ride on the London Eye , my plan was to head towards the Tower Of London, but it was about a 30 minute walk down the Thames in the heat of the day (sun more an issue than the temperature). I decided to grab a ferry ride at the base of the Eye for around £8.

Once we were underway, one of the shipmates gave us a guided tour down the river, explaining what each building was called, and if time allowed a bit of history on each.

We did pass by the Shakespeare’s Theatre; an open top round building which was built in the style and location of the original theatre. The last time that I was in London, I was able to attend a show, which was great and I suggest it for fans of Theatre.

Also, apparently, London has a tall ship docked for your amusement.

There were some really neat buildings to see along the shoreline which were more modern in design.

Oh, and we passed under the “London Bridge” the real bridge, which is not very exciting.

Not to be confused with the tower bridge!

As you can see below, the ferry kindly turned so that we could all get a photo of this amazing bridge!

The ferry then drops you off at the docks right beside the Tower of London, convenient!

Louisiana USA

New Orleans, Louisiana – A French Quarter Walkabout

Having already spent some time in Jackson Square, we continued on with looking at the various streets, buildings and sights in the French Quarter.

This post is generally a photographic look at the architecture that one might see when strolling down the streets of the French Quarter or riding along in one of the carriages that ply the streets replete with tourists.

Some of the establishments, such as Checkpoint Charlies, have played a pivotal role in the music and laundromat business for a long time, while others such as Stanley’s are relative newcomers. Still others house upscale restaurants while others haven’t changed at all over the years and still provide apartments to the local residents.

It was St. Patrick’s day so street performers and many of those walking the streets were decked out in many shades of green.

Some of the buildings were more colourfully painted than others :-).

While others barely get thorough Mardi Gras before starting to get ready for the St. Patrick’s Day parades.

We also wanted to watch the local St. Patrick’s Day parade so slowly made our way over to the area of Royal and Frenchmen where primarily locals had begun to assemble on street corners with their families to meet with their neighbors and friends and wait patiently for the commencement of the parade.

Photos of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade are in a separate blog entry.