# Friday, 30 November 2007

Something I will not miss...

...is the next door neighbor's teenage son who thinks he is the next member of The Who!  He is a bass player who frequently has his band members over to practice in their "club house" which is at the back of the property.  It is basically a shed without insulation and the problem is they like to practice at full volume, the same pieces, over and over and over!!  For someone who "works" at home, it is very annoying to have to listen to this for hours on end in the afternoons and evenings.  I have been trying to do paperwork all day; bills, insurance claims, etc. - fun stuff and it is hard to concentrate when your insides are pulsing with the sound of a bass. Sigh.....this will NOT be missed......

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Cordoba & a little more Granada

Tuesday we were off on an out of town adventure - we took the bus from Granada to Cordoba, about 2 hours away. Thankfully my very very rusty Spanish was enough to navigate taxis & bus stations as we really met very few people who spoke any English at all. For as many tourists around this area I was a little surprised no one spoke any English.

Along the route we drove by at least two Moorish fortresses (and of course, one of them had an attached cathedral) on the tops of hills which dominated the landscape.  It was fun to see them all lit up on the way back.

View from the bus of the Fortaleza de la Mota in Alcala la Real

We arrived in Cordoba around 1pm and proceeded to la Mezquita, the 8th Century Mosque in which Charles V carved out the middle in the 16th Century to build a huge cathedral amidst the sea of columns.  The collision of styles and cultures was fascinating.  It is impressive how many Moorish design and architectural elements still remain, but too bad that so many didn't survive.  Now officially a cathedral, it is hard not to see this building as a mosque first and a Christian cathedral second.  It was very quiet and few tourists were there so we were able to take our time and enjoy many picture-taking opportunities. We both love Moorish architecture so this building was quite a treat.

  The cornices and arches of the Mezquita

 The sea of columns, reused from Roman temples

We walked about the center of town a little till the Alcazar (de los Reyes Cristianos) re-opened in the afternoon.  It is the fortified palace built in 1328 which was used by the Inquisition for more than 300 years and a prison till the 1950s. The tranquil gardens and large modern hall with exquisitely restored Roman mosaics don't divulge its tumultuous past.

 View of the Alcazar from the tower

The gardens looking toward the Alcazar in Cordoba

After a long day we were weary and the entirely full bus was not exactly the thing we wanted, but what can you do.  It wouldn't have been so bad except the woman directly to my right across the isle ate, non-stop for over an hour, a full bag of popcorn, with her mouth fully open! Argh! Sigh....... again, what 'cha gonna do.

Our last day we decided to sleep in, and sleep in we did - we both woke around noon!  Another night of about 11 hours of sleep -pure bliss!!  By the time we were out of the hotel and to food it was already lunch time, even by Spanish standards, so we grabbed a quick pizza, found the post office, walk about a bit and happened to stumble upon the Monastery of St. Jerome.  As our tour book said, the very austere exterior does not divulge the over-the-top interior.  The main church look like someone was a little OCD with the Baroque and didn't know when to stop.  While grandiose, it was all a bit loud, as if someone was screaming Baroque at you.  

The VERY Baroque interior of St. Jerome's

We ended the day with a visit to the archaeology museum which was just down the street from our hotel.  It was a nicely done little display exhibited in a Renaissance building.  

The last food hurrah was back at the restaurant from Monday night and the same delicious Paella. Even eating at 7:30pm we were the first ones in the restaurant followed about 30 minutes later by some German tourists and British tourists.  It wasn't until about 9pm the place started to have some locals come in....my questions is, what do people do till 9pm when they have dinner! :)

I am now inspired to seek out some great Paella recipes and give it a go - but I think it will have to wait a few weeks! :)

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# Monday, 26 November 2007

Granada part dos y tres

We are resting in our lovely room with a view (of the Alhambra, that is) after a great day visiting the palace complex.  We slept in a bit, till 9am, and had a nice little continental breakfast at the hotel and walked up the back side of the hill on which the Alhambra is situated.  Our hotel is very centrally located and we really are enjoying it as a place to stay. In fact, our room when we arrive was small, but nice, the problem was however, since it was winter and they had turned off the hotel's air conditioning, the room did not have a window which opened to the outdoors, it was warm & stuffy, and definitely too warm to sleep comfortably. When we inquired about this they stated they would upgrade us to another room the following night free of charge - very nice!

The view from our room up to the Alhambra

Back to the day - we walked up to the palace and did the tour of the main palace or Palacios Nazaries. We really enjoy traveling in the fall/early winter as the crowds are less and there are fewer children to trip over.  I can't even imagine how exhausting this place would be at the height of tourist season with the summer heat, but we had a lovely sunny, crisp day with only a few tour groups to navigate around.

Reflecting pool at the "Court of the Myrtles"

A small bite for lunch at the plaza within the Alhambra

The views from the palace were amazing and we could see our hotel from several vantage points. 

Our hotel is up the street in the center of the photo

With all the fall colors blanketing the trees, it proved a nice contrast to the red palace and the bright blue sky.

Yesterday, after sleep almost 13 hours (I think we were both exhausted!) we had our brunch of Tortilla Espana & sliced chorizo while basking in the warm sun.  The restaurant was along the Carrera del Darro near our hotel and provided the perfect spot for people watching out on their Sunday stroll.

Reeves and a lovely brunch venue

We then walked up and down the Albaicin area till we arrived at the Catedral.  It wasn't open yet so we decided to take an open-top bus tour around the city.  It was so-so, with the audio cutting in and out, but it let us see a few parts of Grenada outside the area we could comfortably walk. 

We arrived back at the Catedral and visited the Royal Chapel & the main church.  It was such a spectacular interior and much more uplifting and light than the typical English or French cathedrals which was a nice change.

We ended our day with a huge lunch which was actually our dinner since we had skipped "lunch". It was an incredible Paella which we shared and did very well, almost finishing the whole plate!


By 7:30 we were ready to collapse and enjoy an evening in our cozy room with a view.

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# Saturday, 24 November 2007

The Rain in Spain stays mainly...

..on the coast!  And thank goodness, especially since when Reeves and I landed in Malaga, Spain, it was overcast, raining and cold we were not too terribly happy about the beginning of our holiday. Our flight was right on time and we made it to the bus station toot-sweet, but that just gave us a couple hours to wait in the cold for the bus. We were both discombobulated from waking way too early, the bus station was a bit scary and dirty and we were having a hard time finding anyone that spoke English.  I think with all the stress of everything that is going on, at that moment in the bus terminal, if we could have just been back in Dublin, we would have both wished it!

We did, however, make it safe and sound to Granada, our destination around 4 pm after driving out of the rain into a beautiful sunny afternoon- just in time for lunch, Spanish style.  Just around the corner from our hotel was a lovely restaurant where we could sit and have a menu in English, at least for the first day when we were tired and grumpy.  It turned out to be fabulous and after we walked around for a short bit taking some shots of the full moon over this charming and romantic town.

The moon over Granada - no it is not a new Denny's menu item :)

We are now back in our hotel room and ready for bed like the old fogies we are - especially when people are just going out to dinner here!!  I really do love our hotel - more about that soon.

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# Friday, 23 November 2007

Yet another series of adventures...

While we really love living here in Ireland - the wonderful people, the culture and the great travel opportunities - the time has come to move onto the next stage of our lives.

Reeves has accepted a new position at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington and we will be moving state-side the second week of January. While this is a great opportunity for us, we can't help but be a bit sad leaving this great country.

Just in case we thought we might be bored over the next six weeks till we move, we have a few trips to keep us occupied.  Tomorrow morning (7 am flight - eek!) we are off to Granada, Spain for 5 1/2 days.  Then we have a 3 day trip to the Southwest of Ireland in Dingle planned for the second weekend of December.  For Christmas we are off to New York to spend a few days in Manhattan to visit our friends and then to Goshen, NY to spend the actual holiday with our family.

So, new adventures are afoot for the Littles - stay tuned for the latest craziness!

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# Sunday, 18 November 2007

Waterford & Cashel - Another Irish Adventure

Yesterday we made our way down to Waterford, an adorable little town on the banks of the Suir River. Our destination was the what most people think of when they hear "Waterford", their Crystal Factory.  Housing their entire line of crystal products, there were plenty from which to choose. I have always wanted a set of lovely old fashioned tumblers, so we purchased the Dolemn patter.

tumbler  Our new tumblers

We had thought we might spend the night so we could see the sites, but with the Irish weather there was not much to do outdoors, so we decided to head over to Cashel to see the historic site, the Rock of Cashel.  First used as a defensive fortress for the overkings of Munster, it was given over to the church in 1101.  From there a great church and other buildings, including a round tower were built here as it became the seat of an archbishop.

cashel The Rock of Cashel fortress - view on a clear day, which wasn't our trip

We could see why the site was abandoned for a less inclement location the 18th Century - while we were there it was raining quite hard and the umbrella bending wind was whipping the rain around in all directions.  The restored private living chambers of the monks, now housing a museum and theatre, were not heated and they were freezing and damp.  I can't even imagine what it would have been like 1000 years ago without modern advances of electricity and central heating!

We had skipped lunch and by 4 pm we were ready for food.  Right at the bottom of "the rock" was the most scrumptious place called Cafe Hans (with a sister restaurant for dinner called Chez Hans next door in a converted chapel).  Reeves had a lovely gnocchi with spinach & rashers and I had yummy lamb chops over mashers and green beans.  All the food was top quality and an unexpected treat as most restaurants we have stumbled upon are barely better than "pub food" and finding good cuisine in Ireland is usually a challenge when you don't have a specific recommendation. I would highly recommend this place if you are in Co. Tipperary.

While I was hoping we could spend the night to avoid driving home in the weather, Reeves really wanted to sleep in his own bed so we braved the pouring rain and bad drivers and made it home in one piece - another Irish adventure to add to our collective memory.

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# Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Harry is SOOOOO Dreamy!

...and that is the only word with which you can describe Harry, utterly Dreamy!!  We just got home from the Harry Connick Jr. concert and is was such a lovely evening!  We had the most excellent seats - we were only 5 rows from the front and positioned just slightly behind, but almost in line with the keyboard of the piano - the perfect spot to be blown away by his talented fingers and see that sparkling smile.  Being so close made it almost feel like an intimate bar gig, that is if you didn't look behind you and see the crowd. :)  I also never realized what a natural comedian he is - it was one of the band member's 50th birthday and they brought out this little lopsided chocolate cake, lit the candles and we all sang happy birthday - Harry then proceeded to bring some slices of cake down to the audience and handed a couple the people right in front of us.  He then walked all the way to the back to deliver some cake and came back around to the stage after telling some very random but funny stories.  A good time was had by all!!

A random 7 degrees of separation with HCJr. - I went to the same high school as his wife, Jill Goodacre, in Boulder, Co. She's a couple years older, but was already known as the Victoria Secret Model by the time I was a Senior. (ok, so maybe that is one's a couple degrees :) )

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# Monday, 12 November 2007

Happy Kiss-iversary

Today is the 14th anniversary of the day Reeves and I first kissed!  I has been 13 fun filled years full of lots of kisses.

I knew Reeves was something special from that very first kiss so long ago....back in the dark ages...when I was still a Junior in college! :)

Happy kiss-iversary Honey!! 

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# Wednesday, 07 November 2007

Nice Plumage

I was realizing today this is the first time I have visited the greater Seattle area at this time of the year - what a beautiful place!  The trees are in full fall bloom in vibrant shades of crimson and mustard leaves.  Today, Leslie and I took a drive along Lake Sammamish from Redmond down to Issaquah.  It was an overcast day and was raining a bit on and off so there were low clouds nestled down among the pines, weaving themselves into the trees - gorgeous! It gave the lake a cozy feeling making me want to curl up in front of a lovely warm fire in my fuzziest of PJs. 

We ended up having lunch in the cute little downtown area of Issaquah and then driving up and around the Bellevue, Kirkland and Juanita areas.  There really are many great little communities which have beautiful wooded areas and great views of the mountains and various water features.

It started to get me in the holiday mood with the weather and the environment - scary thought x-mas is less than 2 months away.  It always seems to sneak up on me when I least expect it!! 

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# Friday, 02 November 2007

Going, Going....

Never a quiet moment and we are off again, this time to Redmond, Washington.  Reeves is going to have a busy week of work but I get to hang out with my friend Leslie and enjoy all the delights of area, including some wine tasting!  Since I am getting my new laptop while I am there, I will hopefully get some more time to blog, as well as working on my genealogy class which, I can't believe, is almost over.

I also can't believe the x-mas season is already here!!  The shops here have had x-mas decorations up even before Halloween - it is becoming especially intense now since there is no Thanksgiving holiday to break up the November-December time - my how the time flies!!!

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