Category Archives: Travel

Friends I’ve finally met!

Today I read the last of the poems in #ThelmaAnnBrennan’s collection entitled #EarthCarriesSpirit published in 2014 by #ChapelStreetEditions in Woodstock, NB. It made me think about the lady who wrote the contents in this anthology and what her words meant to me. I like to think that now she is a friend.

I met #AnnBrennan on my recent trip to Ireland with #GerardCollins and the Go and Write Ireland expedition. Ann was one of the participants, new friends all as we got acquainted with each other. But there was something about Ann – a kinship I felt immediately but couldn’t define.

Ann became our de facto tour guide as a few of us ventured out to explore Dublin. A prolific writer herself, historian and lifelong learner, this wasn’t her first trip to the Emerald Isle. As we roamed the streets, Trinity Library, the parks and the pubs, she regaled us with the history of the places, development and stories of her adventures.

Checking out the lunch menu

Ann’s gentle manner drew us all in as we learned to appreciate her unique viewpoint on Dublin, Ireland and the world in general. In turn, she keeps herself firmly routed in rural New Brunswick.

She’s a Leo

After our stay at Clontarf Castle, we headed to the west coast of Ireland. Again, Ann’s extensive knowledge of both the history and the mythology kept us intrigued.

Bundled up against the stiff breezes at the Cliffs of Moher

Ann’s passion for the faeries of Ireland drew us all in as we explored Poll na Bron – a portal to somewhere, or perhaps some time, else. Standing beneath a faerie tree she told us tales of the wee folk and their powers of regeneration or rebirth of the spirit and the land. And she left tokens to mark our passing through to thank them for their hospitality.

Under the faerie tree

Participating in an adventure like Go and Write Ireland yields unexpected benefits. New friends. New perspectives.

Thank you, Ann, for the gift of your friendship, the copy of your book, and the chance to follow your adventures around the world through your words and rhythms.

Ann Brennan with her Lion at Clontarf Castle

 

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Winding down in Ireland

We spent our last two ‘working’ days at the charming Old Ground hotel in the beautiful town of Ennis. After our last, and stimulating, official workshop with #GerardCollins we boarded the bus for a final tourism jaunt that included the amazing 8-mile long Cliffs of Moher , a visit to the Burren and a stop at the Poulnabrone Domen – an ancient portal tomb, surrounded by faerie trees. A magical day indeed and we were lucky to also enjoy clear skies and sunshine.

Atop the cliffs people were strolling and cattle grazed – hopefully with enough sense not to plunge over the edge to their deaths 700 feet below.

Cliffs of Moher

 

Very narrow roads through the Irish countryside.

One of many occasions when we were grateful for Patrick’s driving skills. This stretch was relatively flat with no serious drop-offs, but there were times when the sea was below us as we crept past oncoming buses or trucks.

After the Cliffs of Moher we headed to what was described as a lunar landscape of the Burren – well named. It reminded me of the area around Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia.

And then it was off to the Poulnabrone Dolmen. I’m a huge fan of the #Outlander series by #DianaGabaldon. Although her stories were set in the highlands of Scotland, I could imagine mystical characters touching these portal stones or witches dancing in the moonlight around them.

The stones date back to between 4200BC and 2900BC and no doubt possess some mystical qualities.

On the grounds there were also faerie trees. One of our number, Ann Brennan, was researching faerie stories for a children’s book she was working on. She pointed out one of the famed trees and left tokens of crystal and food for the faeries who blessed our visit. On our way back to Dublin the next day Patrick pointed out a spot where a major highway had been diverted around a faerie tree, so strong is the belief and respect for the traditions.

FaerieTree

 

#AnnBrennan telling faerie tales before placing tokens beneath the tree.

Continuing on with my tree fetish, I had to capture some shots of the way the branches grow in these mystical trees – perfect spots for faeries to climb, hide and keep an eye on things.

And so our adventure came to an end. We had a dinner back at the Old Ground Hotel that night and early the next morning headed back to Dublin. Once again we passed miles of dry stone walls and scenes typical of the Irish countryside. A final dinner was held in downtown Dublin followed by each of us reading something we’d written. The open sharing of experiences was amazing considering what a widely diverse group of people we were. There was a phenomenal amount of talent displayed that night – each piece read leaving us yearning to hear more from each reader.

Dry Stone Wall. Notice how the stones are placed to allow rain or snow to drain through, not stay to freeze, expand and destroy the structure. Clever builders those old craftsmen.

 

Farewell Ireland. I will miss the lilt of your people’s language and laughter, the sense of the mystical and magical that emanates from your very soul. I return to my ‘real’ life forever changed, for the better, I hope.

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Continuing on to Ennis

Jane Simpson greeting one of the ‘locals’.

Those who know me know I’ve been a horse-crazy person my whole life. Somehow, on this trip, I failed to scratch my equine photography itch except as we were leaving the Celtic Crystal spot. Right next door was a Connemara Pony breeding farm so I managed to catch a few shots.

New foal hiding behind his dam – a little camera shy.

 

We stopped for lunch in Galway City and had a chance to wander around the streets. At this point the cold / virus, whatever it was, that I’d been resisting for days really took hold so I made a beeline to a pharmacy right after lunch. Other group members managed to capture shots of the amazing street performers that seemed to be everywhere. Sadly I missed out on most of that – but that’s ok. I’m not really a ‘city’ person anyway.

Our next break came at Coole Park en route to Ennis. It was formerly the home of dramatist and folklorist Lady Gregory who entertained famous writers and cultural icons of her time. There’s an “Autograph Tree” (a Cooper beech) in one of the beautiful gardens featuring carved signatures from Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and many others who spent time there. The 1000 acre park was developed by Lady Gregory’s husband and forebearers as a nature preserve and arboretum. The species of plants, trees and wildlife have inspired numerous literary and works of art. I could have spent all day there – but the bus was leaving for the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis.

A remaining corner from the original house on the estate before it was ceded to the Irish State in 1927.

I am, and have always been, fascinated by trees. Wandering the grounds of Coole Park I was totally intrigued by the scenes unfolding before me, any one of which would have made a wonderful setting for a book or movie.

Textures and faces revealed in the bark of this ancient tree.

Segments of the park were originally separated by stone walls like this.

I indulged my fascination with trees, their shapes, colours and textures. In the ones below I could imagine those long, skinny split branches as legs of an acrobat standing on his head, legs waving in the breeze.

There could be creatures here in these dark woods, reaching out to snag unwary passersby.

The urge to climb this tree and perch high in the branches to see what magical armies might be marching toward us was almost overwhelming. Such amazing settings for stories, folk tales and to stir the imagination.

Brave blossoms forcing their way up to the light and air through tiny crevices in the rock walls!

 

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Onward to Ennis

We left the town of Cong after touring the Abbey and exploring the side streets, not to mention a bit of shopping! Then our tour took us through Connemara – surrounded by mountains, punctuated with lakes and bogs. Patrick, our driver, educated us all on how peat is harvested, dried and used, the beauty of the many lakes, and farming practices in the area.

I was totally amazed by the endless ha’penny fences. According to Patrick, centuries ago children were paid a half penny a day to clear stones from fields. They were then used to make these dry stone fences delineating fields and pastures, primarily for sheep. An amazing craft, the fences are built with no mortar and constructed in such a way that any rain or winter snow won’t remain between the stones to freeze and destroy the structure. Mile after mile we saw these perfect, straight and strong fences and were astounded.

Ha’penny fences in Connemara.

Patrick then offered us an opportunity to diverge from our itinerary and visit the Celtic Crystal showroom to experience a demonstration of glass carving. We quickly agreed that this would be a terrific idea. The crystal creations are all created freehand by trained and experienced glass cutting craftsmen. No patterns or templates are used in the manufacture of these individual pieces.

 

 

We watched in fascination as the craftsman took a simple blown-glass bowl and began to cut the patterns, all by ‘eye’, into the crystal. It takes eight years of intensive training and practice to become so skilled in this delicate operation.

The Claddagh design

Irish Harp design on a portion of the 3′ high crystal cup

3′ high hand carved crystal cup.

 

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On the road again…

At this point I was beginning to think Willie Nelson’s song was our theme song as we piled into our bus to say goodbye to Sligo and head off to Ennis. Our driver, Patrick, was a marvellous man who regaled us with Irish lore, history and not a few jokes to keep us interested and amused en route.

Our first stop was in the charming town of Cong, County Mayo. Famed as the location for the film “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, I was far more intrigued by the remains of the local Abbey. I couldn’t resist shooting the amazing stone structures, much of which is still standing in a beautiful park-like spot.

Town of Cong, abbey ruins

Apparently the abbey was originally built in the 7th century, destroyed in battle (several times) and rebuilt each time, the latest being in the 13th century. The stonework and detail totally intrigued me!

 

Mary’s Rock

One friend asked me to bring home a pebble from some place that intrigued me – and so here it is, Mary’s rock – from the Abbey in Cong.

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Insanity in Ireland

Did I mention that, in addition to staying in a castle, we spent a night in a former insane asylum? Oh yeah. Now known as the Clayton Hotel, the building served as a Victorian era asylum in a prior incarnation. Most of our group reported suffering through uneasy, if any, sleep that night and several felt eerie experiences. It is the one place where I felt no urge to take any photographs. When we left the next morning we noticed that, right next door, the more modern psychiatric facility had been built. Go figure!

Statue of William Butler Yeats

On the way to Sligo, after our tour of Lough Gill, we stopped at Drumcliffe, under the Benbulben Mountain, to visit the grave of poet W. B. Yeats.

Yeats’ epitaph

 

Benbulben Mountain

 

Benbulben Mountain

From there we headed to Sligo… and the asylum for a night.

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Magical time in Ireland

Spring arrives earlier in Ireland than it does here on Canada’s east coast. The flowers were beginning to bloom and the trees had fresh leaves – no doubt providing hiding places for all of the “little people” that the country is famous for.

Trinity College Library, Dublin

No trip to Ireland would be complete, for a writer, without a visit to the famous Trinity College Library. Standing in that massive hall gazing up and beyond over the thousands of books displayed was not unlike a religious experience. Did these authors share the doubts that we neophyte writers feel? Probably. But to see so many books of such historic significance was awe inspiring. I could have just sat there all day soaking it in.

Grafton Street

Just around the corner from Trinity College modern life exists in the vibrant centre of the city. Local residents and tourists alike roam the streets shopping, listening to street entertainers, hustling from place to place and, of course, dropping in to one (or more) of the ubiquitous pubs! Life in Dublin isn’t all about history!

Sligo

After five days in Dublin, attending workshops, site seeing, getting coaching from #GerardCollins and writing we headed out for a tour of the west country. The first stop was in Sligo for a quick walk about and a pub lunch. Narrow streets, ancient buildings and charming people made for an interesting, if short, time.

Sligo

 

17th century Parkes Castle on the banks of Lough Gill

An intriguing site to roam around and explore. Once we’d done that we headed out for a tour of the Lake aboard the #RoseofInisfree – known as the subject of several poems by Yeats.

The thatched-roof blacksmith’s shop within the castle walls.

 

Parkes Castle as seen from the lake.

Thank goodness for photos that allow us to remember at least some of what we saw on our whirlwind tour of western Ireland!

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Trail Guide Evaluation 2014

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That moment

As a photographer I have trained myself to really look and see a beautiful scene before setting up and clicking the shutter to capture an image, to wait for the perfect moment in time.  Many times I have found myself taking a deep breath and sighing with pleasure, just enjoying the moment. It may be the subject; it may be the light; but whatever it is it is awe inspiring and fills my heart with joy.

When someone ELSE enjoys the scene the same way it is even more amazing.

Three years ago my husband and I were on vacation on Prince Edward Island. We went after the traditional tourism season and had most of the Island virtually to ourselves. One of my goals was to capture sunrise over the bluff at Cavendish Beach so in the middle of the night, on a cold and blustery morning, I dragged my husband and dog out of our warm cottage to help me schlep my gear over the dunes to the beach. Their secondary job was to help keep my tripod, camera etc. from blowing away while I composed and took the shots. This was a personal project for me and I enjoyed the results – a series of shots beginning before, and lasting through, the rising of the sun exactly where I wanted it – right over the bluff.

While I like all of the images from the series, the whipped waves from the wind and careening seagulls flying around just prior to the sun peeking over the bluff created one of the more satisfying shots.

A few weeks ago a client called me looking for a beach / sea image that might be suitable for a large framed photograph to be given as a gift to some newlyweds as a signature art piece on a wall. Not sure exactly what she was looking for I suggested she poke around my website and see what struck her. Not long afterward she called and said she’d found THE image – one that intrigued, gave lots to look at, told a story, and had depth and texture. It was one of my sunrise series, and one of my personal favourites from that series.

Imagine my joy when, after picking up the package and taking it home, she sent the following message:

“OMG… we unwrapped the picture and we are both speechless. It is beyond stunning. Just beyond.”

Thank you for that and for sharing my joy in the scene. I hope the recipients of your gift are similarly delighted.

Windy, cool, sunrise in October at Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island

Windy, cool, sunrise in October at Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island

 

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I will need time to adjust

Mares in the morning mist

Mares in the morning mist

After attending Brazil on Focus with Paula Da Silva and a host of talented international photographers for two weeks, it’s going to take a while to settle back into my regular life for sure.

Just the temperature difference alone is a jolt to the system. It was hot and humid in Bahia, Brazil and it is crisp and cold here at home. Shiver.

I will need time to adjust for sure – and time to contemplate and put my thoughts and feelings into some sort of coherent order to share with you all.

In the meantime, here’s a peek at some of the photographs from my amazing journey!

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