Wonderful Ireland Walking Tours – Dunquin to Caus, Ireland

The last full day of my trip, was also my last chance to hike again. I was fretting over the decision quite a bit. I had my blister pads, I had my new walking shoes. I packed my hiking boots in case of emergency. I read the directions, checked the route a million times and the weather. If all went right I could do it without causing more damage. If it went wrong, I could call for a pick up. I chose to hike.

I am very glad that I did, though it was still tough and I kept checking my feet every time we stopped. We hiked from Dunquin over a small hill and wound up overlooking where I had toured the day before. We even walked some of the same roads. It was pretty neat knowing what I knew from the tour of the area and having the slower pace to walk through and see it all again.

The route was flat after that first hill, thank goodness. And it did end up raining a bit but not enough to force me to change my shoes. The low land coastal scenery made this leg of the hike my favorite by far.

The winding trails along the cliffs and the cool ocean air was so pleasant. Being able to hike between houses and farms on small dirt paths made it feel like something out of a movie. Which it was, both Ryan’s Daughter and Far and Away were filmed in the Dunquin area.

We stopped for lunch when we hit the beach for the first time. Resting and eating our sandwiches (pronounced sang-which among the locals) from Gleeann Dearg. We saw the other groups that had stayed at our guest house pass us. And then we picked ourselves up from our cozy grassy knoll and carried on down the beach. At one point when we got closer to Murreagh Village we saw a group racing rather large horses on the beach. I would guess it was a part of this Seaview Equestrian group, however having not stopped to ask I cannot say for sure.

We walked off the beach and into the village. Stopping for pints for some, bathroom and assessing the rest of the day for me, at the local pub and ice cream from a local shop down the road. Everything seemed to be holding up alright for me, so despite still be anxious about any of this being a good idea I trudged on.

And it is a good thing I did because immediately following our break we hit the cliffs and they were nothing short of amazing. I could have sat here all day but we had to walk on. After the cliffs we turned inland on some roads near Baile na nGall (prior to the 2003 Official Languages Act it was known as Ballydavid) and crossed a few cow fields. There was a patch that would have been pure sludge but because of the recent dry weather it was not. Thank goodness. Then past a small river and to our inn for the night in at the An Bothar Pub and Guesthouse which is right near Shanacill, though the address appears to be Caus. However neither show up online as official towns, just blips on the map.

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Mossie Tour – Dingle, Ireland

The fourth day of hiking I decided again to not. Due to the terrain of the trail I thought it best to not risk tearing up my feet anymore. Many years ago when I first started traveling the way this day unfolded probably would have terrified me. But the great thing about traveling is you get used to uncomfortable situations and the unknown really fast. So instead of being sad or anxious I just ran with it.

The tour offices close early in Dingle (after my group showed up). I was pretty much standing outside the doors when the tourist office opened the next morning. I asked if they had a tour that I could get on last min, any tour. They said maybe, but the guy needed three for it to be worth it and I was only one. Check back at 11 was the answer.

I sprinted back to the hotel (mind you while Dingle is small these two places are on the opposite end of town). I packed my own bag for a day of hiking but with my new sneakers instead of my boots. I grabbed my sack lunch. I used the ‘bat phone’ to set up my ride for 3pm, I took screen shots of directions to our hotel and directions to a couple of things in town in case my tour fell through and said good-bye to my group. Later when I stopped back in the tourist office there was a french couple that wanted a last min tour as well but needed a third. Perfect! Off we went.

Our tour guide was Mossie and it was a wonderful day. He gave us a quick history of the Irish English conflict during the Tennent farmer years and showed us Burnham House which was the home to Thomas Mullins, 1st Baron of Ventry.  Mullins was one such land owner, not kindly favored by the Irish. It is now a girls school so we didn’t get to go in.

Mullins had removed a lot of old land markers and grave stones when he took up residence in the area. When he was removed and the land returned to the native Irish, stones that were found were placed in his yard. The language is read bottom to top, and the stone pictured above was a grave stone. However, there is no grave to mark where it sits today and the site like many is lost to time.

After the Mullins house we went back in time to the Pre-Romanesque period and visited some Clochan sites, more known as Beehive huts. Not the same that were filmed in Star Wars, those were replicas not originals. They were modeled off those on Skellig Island. Skellig is a UNESCO site and to film in the huts would have been too risky. However some exterior shots were taken on the island. My head in the picture above is covering Skellig. At the site we visited we got to see a complete hut, and were given a lot of history and information around usage. And I got to hold a baby lamb.

After the huts we drove along the coast toward the Blasket Islands. The coast line was just gorgeous.

We made our way  past the Blaskets to Dunquin. Dunquin is the most westerly settlement in Ireland, the Blaskets are the most westerly bit of land in Ireland. The area is Gaelic speaking first, and English is learned as a second language. The view-point below is over looking a ridge to the far left where the Star Wars sets were built. And little did I know it at the time, the next day I would be hiking all through this area.

We learned that the majority of the archeological sites are actually on private land, rather than state-owned property. So most sites that you visit will require payment. This is normal and helps farmers pay for the upkeep of the area. So if you ever find yourself in the area and someone asks you for 3 Euro to see some ruins, chances are they aren’t there to fleece you. It is well worth the cost to see some of these amazing sites.

The last site we visited before returning to Dingle was the Gallarus Oratory. Little is known about the churches origins. It is thought to be dates to the 12th Century. It was discovered in 1756 by Charles Smith. The small church has a doorway and a small window facing west and east respectively. Over the window is a couple small outcroppings that are thought to have once held candles. Next to the church is a flat pile of rock and a headstone, archeologists found human remains here but again little is known about them.

Antelope, Oregon

Antelope like a lot of small rural towns in central Oregon, is just that small and rural. Mostly unknown these days, its heyday having long since passed since the railroad stopped running, buildings mostly left empty save for the few  souls who enjoy the solitude and low-cost of living.

But unlike most towns, Antelope was the center of a large federal investigation in the 1980s when a group purchased a large plot of land just outside town and little by little things got very out of hand.

Antelope was originally a wagon route connecting the Columbia River shipping route with Canyon City in Central Oregon. The town continued to grow until 1900 due to increased traffic thanks to the railroad. In 1981 the Rajneesh group purchased a ranch outside town, continued pressures between the group and the locals escalated until 1985 which ended in the group vacating and the town being left again to the locals. Sadly because of the conflict many people had moved away. So what was once a small but busy down with a opperating school and a cafe. Is now just a handful of houses and a post office.

When we visited it was very quiet, we poked around a few of the old buildings. Being mostly interested because we had been watching the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country. We also wanted to make sure we weren’t disturbing any locals so we mostly just picked our way around the school and drove through town a couple of times snapping pictures.

It is a very cute little town. It is sad that because of that conflict it has turned to ruin. It would have been nice to see more life returning to it. I hope next time I get a chance to drive through this part of the state, which is gorgeous and I highly recommend the road trip, that it has a little more pep in its step so to speak.

Casamento’s Restaurant – New Orleans, Louisiana

What can one really say about the best meal of their life? No matter what it will insufficient and at the end of the day all I can say is next time you find yourself in New Orleans if you have no reason to be in Uptown, go there anyway. Stand in line for a table at the microscopic Casamento’s and no matter what else you order, make sure you include a side of spaghetti and meatballs.

Casamento’s has been operational since 1919. Opened by a Sicilian man by the name of Joe Casamento and still retains the exact same spotless decor as the it did the day it was opened. It is small, tiled floor to ceiling and quite possibly the most charming place on the planet.  Kept operational today by Joe’s grandson CJ.

You can either sit up front with the oyster shuckers, who will give you all sorts of history about the restaurant. Or in the back closer to the kitchen, which you walk through to get to the restrooms.

Since I don’t eat shellfish, I could only watch in awe and sniff the incredibly aroma coming off the bbq’ed and cheese covered oysters my dining companions ordered. While I very impatiently waited for my fish. Which by the way was so good I almost cried. It doesn’t look like much but it will change your life.

Despite the fact that we all had entrees and most of us had an appetizer we also ordered the spaghetti and meatballs. When at an Italian restaurant you have to try to Italian food, right?! Again it doesn’t look like much but I really did cry a little bit eating this. I have never in my life, even in Italy had such incredible marinara sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

We were so hungry after a long day of exploring, and then walking all the way from the Garden District to the restaurant, then waiting for them to open that we managed to eat everything we ordered, including dessert. And honestly, I probably would have eaten more. We almost went back the next and last night of our trip but we weren’t really in the area. Sadly. So next time, this will be my first stop, and quite possibly the only place I eat.

Additional Information:

  • Uptown (south of the Garden District)
  • 4330 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
  • Closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday every week.  June, July and August as well as all major holidays.
  • Open Thursday through Saturday 11 – 2 for lunch. 5:30 to 9 for dinner.
  • Sundays 5 until 9 for dinner only.

Lafayette Cemetery No1 – New Orleans, Louisiana

The Layfayette Cemetary No1 is located in the heart of the Garden District in New Orleans. Which was established at the time of the neighborhood (1833) to bury the family members of the wealthy land owners who built the area up to what it is today. Similar to other famous cemeteries in the area, the burial is done in tombs above ground. The thing that I particularly like about this one above others is that there are trees, and thus it is not in the blazing sun while you tour. It is also the cemetery used in the filming of Interview with a Vampire.

The practices of above ground burial is not uncommon world wide, though it is a bit here in the states. The reasons why the local folks chose above ground burial traditionally is varied, ask anyone and you will get a different answer. But I would image to a certain degree all reasons have some merit and probably played into the decision. For more information check out Prairie Ghosts site.

Regardless of the reasons why, it really is a lovely little plot of land. A large number of companies will provide walking tours if you are interested. I don’t always suggest such a thing but we really enjoyed the one we partook in and would highly suggest using them if you are interested.

The tours provide not only information about the burial practices and types of tombs but also history of some of the more famous residents, so you also get a good deal of local history which I found really interesting. I have been on a few tours, in a few different local cemeteries and this was by far my favorite.  It also happens to be across the street from the Commander’s Palace, famed brunch and jazz location.

Additional Information

  • Google Maps lists address as: Prytania St New Orleans, LA 70130
  • In reality it is a square block between Washington Ave, Prytania St, 6th St and Coliseum St.
  • Take precaution, heat stroke is really common.  Always wear a hat and sunscreen.
  • Muggings are common in all the cemeteries due to the nature of the environment so never go at night and always go with a group.

Garden District – New Orleans, Louisiana

The Garden District in New Orleans is 250 acres of sprawling mansions, tree lined streets and the most relaxed atmosphere imaginable. Quite the change from the beautiful but very crowded and cramped French Quarter.

Originally established in 1833 on plantation land bought and developed by wealthy tradesmen from all over the country. Who mind you built their large mansions here rather than the French Quarter to avoid interacting with the Creoles.  It wasn’t until 1852 that the area was annexed to become a part of New Orleans. As such everything about the area is a far cry from what you would expect if all you know of New Orleans is the French Quarter.

The large plots still intact with the original Victorian architecture feels like something about of a movie. Which it is in fact often a part of a movie as filming in this area is quite common, as are celebrities, many of whom live in the area. Sandra Bullock being one of them. I did see her house, though not her. Which is too bad, I swear if she just gave me a chance we would be the best of friends.

But the Garden District isn’t just fancy houses and old trees. It is also home to the Lafayette Cemetery No1.  A beautiful example of the traditional above ground burial practices in the area, which also happens to be tree lined and fully shaded unlike the ones in the French Quarter. Uptown, though not a part of the official Garden District is just a hop skip or street car ride down the road and is filled with local shops and restaurants. Food every bit as good as other parts of town, but with more local flair, less touristy.

Many companies offer walking tours of the area which I will admit is kind of fun. There is so much history it is nice to just take a stroll while learning something. Though if you are on a budget there are any number of self guided walking tour printouts you can find on the internet.

If you are looking to experience some of the charm and beauty of the area but you don’t want to listen to party people shouting all night this is the place for you. Quite, beautiful, clean, and safe. Perfect.

Flora Nola – New Orleans, Louisiana

I wanted to split my New Orleans posts up between the north side of Canal Street and the south side. Or more specifically the French Quarter and the Garden District. They are both really fantastic parts of the city but with very different atmospheres. I love the French Quarter, but there is something really special about the Garden District and if you are looking for a more quiet experience of the city sticking to the south end of Canal Street is really advised.

So for no reason other than getting to share some pictures of the flora of the area, here is a ridiculous amount of pictures of plants. The picture above was taken closer to Tulane University right off the main path of the Audubon Park. If you are in the area with young kids this would be a great place to spend some time, there is a zoo, a golf course, a nature institute and I am fairly certain the park as a whole is larger than Central Park, don’t quote me on it though. I had to take a picture of the tree above because my eyes just about popped out of my head when I realized how big it was. From this angle you can see that it stretches from one side of the street to the other but on the other side it also stretches across the next street over AND around the house which shares the property line.

The above picture was just down the street in the same neighborhood. It is of a Norfolk Pine (you know those little potted trees you see around at Christmas) well it was at least 20 feet tall. Never in my life have I seen such a large one!

Back over in the Garden District you will see these palm leaves every where, not just in plant form but on wrought iron every where you look. It was a popular pattern during the architectural booms of the city and such a great tribute to the area.

I honestly have no idea what type of leaf this is, but I just loved the vibrant green and curling edges. I found it sitting on a path in the Lafayette Cemetery. Which is full of these gorgeous trees. Did I mention too that this was in November, as someone from the Pacific North West it is so lovely seeing so much green when I had just left so much brown and grey.

These little ferns you can see popping up all over garden walls, house walls, steps and tombstones. Really anywhere, though it always amazes me that life finds a way in the worst growing conditions.

Oleander, deadly and so beautiful. And smells so amazing, though a lot of people are terribly allergic.

I just could not get enough of all the plants, over grown and lush. So incredibly. I could and did spend entire days walking around just looking at plants. If you love the outdoors, love plants/flowers or just enjoy spending your vacations strolling around aimlessly with a cup of coffee the Garden District is the place for you.

French Quarter – New Orleans, Louisiana

I have never been to a place like New Orleans, where just a few blocks away from where you stand you feel like you are a whole world away. Even between several of the Garden District neighborhoods the change in environment is stark. From one side of the Canal Street to the other it’s like being in two very different parts of Europe, all while standing next to the Mississippi River Delta.

The French Quarter, or the north(ish) side of Canal street is in a lot of ways why people come to New Orleans and for good reason. It is gorgeous. Built by the French, in the French style, while Louisiana was a French territory. And it is home to Bourbon street, named as such after the Bourbon Royal line in France, the ever popular party spot. But the district is so much more than just late night drinking.

It changed hands over the years between France, Spain, France again and then finally the United States via the Louisiana Purchase (which included just about the entire middle of the country and a small portion of Canada). As such the history of the area is long and sordid. As well as ridiculously beautiful.

My favorite part of the day is always morning, while everyone else sleeps I like to walk around and experience the world while it is quiet and empty. This is my favorite way to experience the French Quarter, poking my head around every corner discovering all the hidden gems of the area.

It is also a VERY popular filming location everything from the classics like A Street Car Named Desire to the more current American Horror Story. So for all the movie buffs out there if you are planning on taking a trip check out this site to find the must see set locations.

If you aren’t the intrepid explorer type like I am, the area obviously houses any number of other ways to entertain yourself. From top notch food, a variety of museums or of course the night clubs. If you are looking for something other than random wandering check out the French Quarter Website. And maybe if you have a little extra time just stop and look around for a second, I bet you will see something beautiful and unexpected.

Greystone Mansion – Los Angeles, California

Back in June my husband had to be in Los Angeles for work so I tagged a long for a semi cheap vacation. I did a lot of walking while down there, since he had the rental car and I was mostly on my own. I spent a lot of that time wandering around the Sunset Blvd. And one of those ended (not really ended because I had to walk back) at Greystone Mansion. Greystone is the former home of Ned Doheny, son of oil tycoon Edward Doheny .  Ned’s life ended in scandal in a mysterious murder suicide with his male secretary only a short while after having moved into his newly completed home.

He was survived by his wife and five children. The house is now a city park, or at least the grounds are. The house itself is used privately for events and not open to the public normally. Though tours can be arranged through the Friends of Greystone, the organization that currently manages the park.

However the grounds are free to the public for 10am to 6pm daily. To see the interior of the building however, you can check out the wide array of movies and TV shows that used the location. Such as my all time favorite Gilmore Girls, where it was used as Rory’s high school, Chilton Academy. It was also used as the Royal Children’s Hospital in Star Trek into Darkness, where can watch Benedict Cumberbatch stand outside the building looking ever so dreamy.

The rules of the grounds are quite strict. Though given how incredible they are and how impeccably well kept I can’t blame them. No dog, picnics, skate boarding allowed. And professional photography is only allowed via permit attained at the park office (so please forgive my unprofessional photos, which they always are, because I am lazy).

To get into the grounds you surprisingly go past the main gate up the road….and turn left. Then continue up past the house to the parking lot. The hill is steep, and I was on foot. I thought I was going to keel over, I was so thrilled when I got to the top and caught my breath enough to enjoy the gardens. I walked all over the grounds, snapping unprofessional photos and enjoying the view.

The mansions exterior is stunning. I walked so far around the grounds I wound up at the bottom of the property on the inside of the main gate, which was not an exit. I was promptly turned back around by the security guard and told to exit the same way I came in. Which was at the top of the giant hill I had just walked up and down. I may have whimpered a bit at the realization that I had to walk back up it. Oh well, I took the stairs with my chin held high, well I was actually watching the stairs because I was about 8 miles into my day and my legs were getting a little jello-ie.

The voyeuristic side of me wished I could have toured the interior. And I may have more than once tried to tiptoe through the rose bushes to see into the windows. That being said, the grounds were truly stunning and the view unforgettable. For everyone with time on their hands and an affinity for architecture or garden design I would highly suggest a visit.

Sunset Blvd – Los Angeles, California

Back in June of last year as I have mentioned in the previous few posts we were in LA for a part work part play trip. We were also lucky enough to stay with extended family rather than the hotel my husbands office wanted to put us up in.

So while we was off working for half the week (with our rental car) I was on foot. Luckily the house we were fortunate enough to stay in was in a nice part of town and near some pretty  fabulous areas to walk, the Sunset strip being one of them.

The strip, long famous for its night clubs such as the Viper Room, is still packed with venues of all sorts. But the streets are clean, the sidewalks wide and it is dotted with shops, countless restaurants, and plenty of watering holes if you fancy yourself a drink.

I spent a couple days walking around the area, one day I walked east and found myself down at the Farifax Farmers Market. And another day I walked west and found myself on palm lined streets of Beverly Hills.

My favorite spot to stop was of course the book store called Book Soup which famously takes its name from the Groucho Marx movie Duck Soup. I went to the store more than once, wandering around the winding stacks. I never did quite figure out their system. There was certainly a fiction section in the center of the store. Off to the right seemed to be books on California and celebrity biographies. Where as the left offered up art books of all kinds. I didn’t buy any books as I was already toting three library books with me, but I bought some fabulous cards to send to some friends in the upcoming months.

Needless to say, whether you are a person who likes urban hiking like myself or if you would rather tour via a tour bus. Or anything in between, I think the Sunset Strip is well worth exploration while in Los Angeles. There is a lot of see, a lot to eat and plenty of opportunities to see filming locations or possible celebrity sightings.