The Mini Door – Photo

How do you get into St. Patrick’s? You enter through this door. Not the big door, silly! The small one.
These cut-out doors captured my attention for some reason. I find them quite amazing. We have actually only seen the big doors open once, and I think that was a matter of chance.

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Secret Garden – Photo

Looking out our window while staying in St. Patrick’s provided a fabulous view of the secret garden. This photo is from late January, with everything in bloom it is even better now.

The bell tower is off to the right.

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St. Patrick’s – Photo

Upon first arriving in Ireland, this is where we stayed until finding a flat for the semester. St. Patrick’s College shares a campus with National University of Ireland, Maynooth (where we are attending.) St. Patrick’s is the oldest Catholic college in Ireland. This building, also named St. Patrick’s, is the home of the monks who live here, and the seminary students. It is also the temporary accommodation for visitors and new students.

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Life in Ireland with One Suitcase

Have you ever come home from a trip and unpacked stuff that you never used? That won’t happen to me on this trip. I will return from nearly 5 months in Ireland having used everything that I brought. With some careful planning, I was able to fit everything for the trip in a single suitcase and carry-on backpack.

What worked:

  • I planned on dressing in layers to stay warm, and this system worked out quite well. Even with the worst winter in 40 years, I stayed warm and comfortable. I might not have looked properly outfitted, but with thermals, “regular” clothes and the rain jacket on for wind protection was more than enough.
  • My packtowel has been used for the entire trip and has worked splendidly. I have received a number of compliments and jealous looks on weekend excursions; my large bath towel fits into my toiletries bag, while other travelers’ towels took up half of their backpack.
  • The bar shampoo experiment. My bar of J.R. Liggett’s shampoo has lasted the entire trip and will still be in use after I return home. I am looking forward to returning to the Co-op where I purchased it and trying one of the other scents.

What could use some work:

  • Next time I will pack less in the way of clothing. The one dress outfit has only been worn when I pushed the laundry day too far back. Likewise, I could easily get by with fewer socks and underwear.
  • Both my wife and I could have brought less in the way of hobbies. She finished knitting a beautiful scarf for me, but has not used her knitting needles much otherwise.
  • I could pretty safely get by with less in the way of school supplies. It seemed like a waste to buy more when I already had so much at home, so I brought it with me. During orientation the library gave out pads of paper, and I have typed the notes for all but one of my classes. As a compulsive list-maker, the binder full of paper still came in quite handy.

It is quite a feeling to realize that you can comfortably live out of a suitcase. It is nice to know that we can safely pack up and head out to different lands without looking like this guy.

Heading to Suomi

My wife and I are heading to Suomi (Finland) tomorrow. We can’t wait!

My wife studied there during high school, and lived with a host family while she was there. We’re being met by her host mom at the airport and we’ll be staying with them for 10 days (gotta love Easter break!). She is very excited about seeing her host family again, and introducing us to each other. I’ve heard a lot about them and can’t wait to meet them and experience this very important part of her life.

I will get to meet new people, visit another country, sample new foods, and other exciting things. Of course, my wife can’t wait for the opportunity to be the guide. Generally, I am the one with the “inside knowledge” about a place or activity, so she’s looking forward to this change of roles.

I’ve already checked, and there are a number of geocaches in the area, so we should have no problem pushing past the 400 milestone, which we have been hovering just under for some time now. We will be taking our travel bugs and geocoins with us, as well.

We’re packed and ready to go, now we’re just counting down the hours! I will be sure and give a trip report once we return.

How Do You Define a Place?

What makes somewhere worth visiting? After leaving, why do you gush about one place and forget another? I’m sure that everyone will answer these questions differently. However, there is an easy way to determine your personal definition of a place. Think about your favorite trip (or the one you dream about.) What first comes to mind? Is it the people, food, the landscape, music or something else? Whatever it is, that is how you define that place (it may be different for different places).


The first few weeks my wife and I spent here in Ireland, we visited the largest cities. Dublin and Cork are fabulous places, full of amazing buildings and historic places. However, we came away less than thrilled. Neither of us are city people, we much prefer the wild places. When we pictured Ireland we both saw a rolling green countryside criss-crossed with stone walls, the fields dotted with sheep all watched over by thatched-roof buildings. The cities, of course, offered none of these things.


Finally, we headed to Galway and spent all of one night there before heading out to The Burren (Irish for Rocky Place). This was the country that we had been picturing; we saw our rolling hills, endless stone walls and sheep. We also visited the Cliffs of Moher. (I got to wave “back home” across the ocean.) The weekend was far too short, and the bus did not stay at any of the stops nearly long enough. We will definitely be returning.


When you go somewhere, be sure and seek out what really interests you. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in the trap of seeing what everyone else recommends! You might have different tastes than they do. Many of our fellow students are most interested in seeking out new pubs with traditional music. While we enjoy the music, we have no interest in visiting the pubs. So we seek out our own adventure.


Our own adventure includes not only the amazing landscapes, but also local foods. We are visiting local eateries in search of traditional foods (and yes, this did include a stop at a pub for a pint… gotta try it out, after all!) Our collection of recipes is growing, so that we can prepare our favorites when we return home. You can see a soup recipe here.

As you can see your definition of a place might not be a single thing, but a combination. My wife and I view Ireland as the places, the food and the people. In the places where we don’t experience all of these things to our satisfaction, we will leave disappointed and they will slip from our minds. Once you know how you define a place, you will know what you need to search out in places you visit, to ensure that you have a fulfilling and warmly remembered experience.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – Photo

While visiting Belfast we took a tour to the Giant’s Causeway, which included a visit to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Carrick-a-Rede means the rock in the road. The road is the sea route for Atlantic salmon on their westward journey past Carrick Island. For over 350 years, fisherman have strung a rope bridge 30m above the sea to allow them to access the best places to catch the emigrating salmon.