Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ireland's Ennis

I really enjoy wandering around small cities because they are large enough to provide a variety of experiences and small enough to be walkable.  Ennis, the central city in Ireland's County Clare, is one of those treasures.  The photos in this post were taken on a Saturday in May.  Saturday's are interesting because part of the city becomes an open-air market filled with local farmers and their produce, and many shoppers who flock to discover bargains.  They also have the effect of emptying parts of the city normally full of foot traffic, as people explore the Saturday market.

Ennis was our base for a week while we explored other parts of County Clare. During non-travel times we explored its streets and also its pubs with fantastic food and spontaneous live music sessions. Ennis is definitely on the "have to revisit" list. If you are interested in learning more about Ennis, this website is a good place to start:

Soon I'll be visiting a non-Irish small city (Punta Gorda, Florida) for a week. What we hope to find is a place that is varied,walkable, and warm-three criteria for a place to temporarily escape the Wisconsin winter.  Whether or not Punta Gorda lives up to expectations, the exploration and warmer February times will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for visiting, feel free to stop by the Tavern again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Florida/Green Christmas Reflections

As we travel, we often are faced with experiencing  in unusual environments events that are common to us, and that isn't necessarily bad.  For example, a holiday celebrated in almost every community in the USA is Christmas. Regardless of whether or not you practice Christianity, this time of year when the days are short is a time of family gatherings and also a time when lights are displayed to drive away the darkness.   Often there are certain associaions that go with it.

I grew up in the northeastern part of the USA in the state of Maine.  Wisconsin, on the western shore of Lake Michigan (located in the Midwest) is where I now call home.  In both of these places this time of year also has coldness and snow as part of the general feel.  Lights + religious and non-religious decorations + coldness and snow = Christmas in my mind.  This is "normal" to me.

When we travel beyond our present horizion, there's a strong possibility that we'll discover, "That we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto" as Dorothy said in the film, "The Wizard of Oz".  Last winter I spent a month in Florida, arriving just a few days after Christmas (celebrated on December 25).  As I looked from the balcony of our rented condo, I was greeted with palm trees next to the canal with Chirstmas lights strung around their trunks.  As I wandered around Apollo Boulevard the next day, I came across plastic inflatable Santas and winter sleighs with runners, all next to palm trees and sitting on green grass.  A few days later, we took a side trip to Ybor City, a traditional Cuban section of Tampa.  Christmas wreaths, lights, nativity scenes with Christmas wishes in Spanish, and people comfortably seated OUTSIDE in cafes!  We definitely weren't in my version of Christmas time anymore.  While I'd miss my traditional snowy Christmas season if I never had it again, it was fun to see the season from a different perspective-isn't that what travel is all about? (I even enjoyed a glass of mojito instead of the traditional Christmas egg nog.)

Thanks for visiting, please feel free to stop by the Tavern another time.  Until then, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Seville/Orange Trees/Warmth

As I sit in my December living room and watch the snow falling, I dream of warmer places.  It's not that I dislike Wisconsin winters particularly.  In fact I've missed having a "real winter" the times that I've lived in other places. On the other hand, "real winters" create a different atmosphere when you go out of doors, one in which lingering is not an option.  This is quite the opposite of these images of Seville (Sevilla) in southern Spain.

One of the things I learned about Spanish culture is that families and friends entertain and meet in public places rather than in the home.  As a result, plazas, cafes, and other places are filled with intergenerational groups on a Sunday afternoon.  With the warm sun, brillant blue sky, and streets lined with orange trees, how could anyone not be attracted to the out of doors?  

I tried to include a variety of settings-plazas, cafes, and street scenes. By focusing on buildings and other sights, I was able to catch glimpses of people in their everyday activities without being an intrusive photographer.  Days like this one are what travel is all about, at least in my mind.  They are times when you get a true feel for the land and its people.

Thank you for visiting, I hope that you enjoyed your stay.  Please feel free to stop by the Tavern another time.  Until then, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Irish Windows/Castle and Church

The fragile beauty of a stained glass window backed by the sunlight is compelling.  Regardless of the window's theme, the eye is drawn to the brilliant colors.  To me, these pieces of art are things of wonder.  It amazes me that some have survived the centuries, even through times of turmoil, and have retained their beauty.

All of the windows in this post are found in Ireland. Those related to Irish history are located in Bunratty Castle, a place well worth visiting if you wish to gain a feeling for Irish history. The windows of a religious theme were stumbled upon as we exited from exploring the Dublinia museum.  Once more, the joy of finding the unexpected was experienced.  In both locations, I had not sought out windows to see and photograph but couldn't resist once I saw them.  Beauty, artistry, and history all together- structurely just minor aspects of solid, massive buildings and so easily overlooked by visitors rushing on to the next site of interest.

One on hand, these windows were not in themselves one of the main reasons that I visitied Ireland.  I was more interested in experiencing its land and people as they are today.  On the other, you can't really gain a sense of place without spending time exploring its culture.  The aspects of religion and family reflected by these stained glass windows were certainly important parts of that culture, ones that could not be ignored.

Thank you for visiting. I hope that you enjoyed your stay at the tavern and will come back again.  In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ireland's Rugged Coast

There's a relationship between the nature of the land and the nature of its people. Soft lands with abundant resources often produce gentle, easy-going people. Harsher and more rugged land produces a tenacious people, a people who have learned to survive and thrive.  These are some of the thoughts that hit me when I look at the images of the Cliffs of Moher and the Dunlikkey Cliffs. The other thought was a sense of awe of the natural beauty of these places.

I grew up in Maine, USA and thought I knew what a rugged coast is.  Cold gray surf pounding on steep, rocky shores that are topped by sturdy pines-that's rugged, man!  The southeastern coast of Ireland gave me second thoughts on the concept of "rugged coast".

As you look at the cliffs, you have a sense of strength of land and permanency. Not exactly the case, in reality.  I heard the story of a man who had a favorite fishing spot on the Dunlikkey Cliffs.  He would go there often and spend solitary hours enjoying nature and occasionally catching a fantastic fish.  One day, he rose early and went to his favorite fishing spot only to find it gone. The piece of land on the cliff's edge had fallen into the sea!  On that day he changed his fishing habits.
As I stood near the edge of the cliffs (you notice that I write near, not ON the edge...I do value the advice of people who live in a place) I enjoyed nature with a sense of greater caution than I normally would have.  I knew what to be aware of in my native environment of coastal Maine. I learned from the story told to me by one who knew this place unfamilar to me.  An locally informed traveler is a future traveler. Those who do not take heed.......

Thank you for visiting,  I hope you enjoyed the coastal views of Ireland.  Please feel free to stop by the tavern again.  In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween, American-Style

I have been told by my British friends that they were utterly amazed as they drove across the USA around the time of Halloween. It seems that many Americans go above and beyond the norm in their celebration of Halloween (All Saints Day), especially in their use of decorations.  Yesterday I happened upon a photo opportunity to capture  it in a concentrated form at a local park that has camping facilities and would like to share this with you.

It was interesting to wander around the state park campground and experience the variety of ways that people expressed their creativity and sense of fun.  The campers included young families, people who were grandparent-age, couples without children, and every combination in-between. Some had been coming and camping there on this weekend for years.  There was a definite sense of community, with the joy of Halloween celebration as a common bond.

The ways in which camp sites were decorated intrigued me.  For some, the event meant a few subtle decorations.  For others, it was a time of excess.Some decorated to shock and terrify, while others had cute ghosts or a Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin scene.  All were hosted by friendly people (some in costume) who were ready to share the spirit of Halloween and some candy with Trick or Treaters once the sun went down and the decorative lights went on.

It was a lot of fun wandering around in the afternoon daylight watching campers put on the final touches to their campsites and sit back and admire each other's efforts. The intense surge of political competition was temporarily forgotten, even though the elections are only two weeks away. People camped  together, shared with each other, and enjoyed each other's company. It was a pleasant island of normalcy in an otherwise overwhelmingly divisive political month. We enjoyed every minute of it.

Thank you for visiting, I hope that you enjoyed your stay. I enjoyed sharing part of my culture, even though I am not one to become overly involved with this particular holiday myself. Please feel free to stop by the Tavern in the future and see what's next on the menu. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.