The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief



Adventure Part 9 – Kilkenny, Ireland

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Just like my visit to Cork, I didn’t put much thought or research into choosing Kilkenny as a destination, beyond the fact that it was in the general path of my return to Belfast. My friends had visited recently and couldn’t say enough good things about it. Good enough for me! Sometimes going into life with no expectations leaves you open for the best kind of surprises, and I’ve continued to luck out.  Although, you really can’t go wrong anywhere in Ireland.

So I hopped on a bus and headed off to Kilkenny and new adventure. And it got off to a bit of a rough start. One of the most annoying adjustments to life as a widow for me was learning to take care of stuff Dan used to handle. In addition to being (over) protective of me, Dan would take care of all the junk I hated. In the last year, I’ve been forced to learn to deal with horrible contractors, hire and fire lawyers, fix broken things myself, and remember what day trash gets picked up. In Kilkenny, I added a new one to the list. I’d booked a hotel online, and it was a disaster. Not kidding, it looked like a room you see in an “American tourist murdered here” kinda movie. It doesn’t sound like much, but changing hotels and then fighting the cancellation fee was a big deal for me since Dan would have handled that after taking one look and turning around with a big fat, “Nope!” Yeah, feeling pretty proud of myself right now.

Kilkenny and I got along great. It’s got everything you could want in an Irish town–a castle, lots of shops, restaurants, pubs, its own whiskey guild, and a river that flows through it. Ireland’s medieval capital, Kilkenny is also breathtakingly beautiful and was another spur of the moment decision that turned out to be fantastic.

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce

P.S. Just for Brian…Oh My God! They killed Kenny!


River Walk: One of the best green belts I’ve seen outside of Boise. Maybe even better! You can walk for miles along the river on a paved walk, so it’s popular with walkers and dog people. Benches dot the path so you can sit and enjoy the view, along with the occasional sculpture, and beautiful street art when you get to the freeway underpass. A lovely way to start or end each day, although the lights do get turned off early in the fall.


Kilkenny Castle Park: More woodsy than the river walk, the castle park is on the other side of the castle wall from the river. Different vibe, but still easily accessible, and the fall foliage is gorgeous in October! Don’t let ANYONE put you off visiting Ireland in the fall; it may be the prettiest time to go.



The Kilkenny Whiskey Guild: Did you know the first written account of whiskey distillation in Ireland comes from Kilkenny? Guild members commit to stocking a minimum of 60 Irish Whiskeys and providing knowledgeable staff to assist with pairing advice and other recommendations. Look for their sign outside of restaurants and bars.


Savour Kilkenny was just getting started as I was leaving, but I did my Airborne Best to sample as much of the local offerings while I was in town. I blame the whiskey and ice cream for shrinking my pants the week I was there. Totally worth it.

Matt the Millers: Great food, friendly staff, and awesome live music. I got a few new Irish Pot Still whiskey recommendations based on my current favorites. Matt the Millers is a member of the Kilkenny Whiskey Guild and has live music every night. Their Table For One service was consistently superior each time I went, which I can’t say for many pubs and restaurants.

Langton’s Bar and Grill: Langtons supposedly wins Best Irish Pub every year. I haven’t verified that, but the food, service, and live music were phenomenal. It’s comfortable, but the kind of place where I’m Madam for everything, even though I was rocking jeans and a Boise State Broncos tee. Madam likey that a lot. Also a member of the Kilkenny Whiskey Guild, I got some great recommendations for Irish Single Malts.

Murphy’s Ice Cream of Dingle: One of my Irish friends boasted that Murphy’s makes the BEST ice cream in Ireland. He may be right. The Black Forest Gateau made with Tipsy Cherry sorbet was my first experience, and it was heavenly. I went back later (Okay, so it was the same day. Don’t judge me!) for the Irish Coffee made with Jameson’s Whiskey. What magic is this?!? Ice cream and whiskey fell in love and had a beautiful baby, that happens to pair well with a scoop of the sea salt ice cream. This heavenly place also has something called an Ice Cream Intern, which means I’ve been doing life wrong all these years. Tell Padraig I sent you.


I won’t bash a business publicly so my first hotel will remain unnamed, but I do want to give a huge shout out to the River Court Hotel. Despite rolling in looking like a trainwreck after a night of no sleep, they got me a spacious room and let me check in immediately even though it was only 9:00 am. Riverfront views and professional staff made this a win, on top of the fact it was the same price as the dive I’d initially booked and included breakfast each morning. I highly recommend this one if you are going to stay in Kilkenny. Did I mention you have a postcard view of the castle? Oh, and I got to be Madam here too. And you know Madam likey that.

Adventure Part 8 – Cork, Ireland

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Cork must have read my post about loving storms. And since Ireland is nothing if not hospitable, Storm Brian rolled into town shortly after I did. I don’t mind the rain. I consider myself a pluviophile, and after years of living in the high desert, it was one of the things I was looking forward to most about my time in Ireland. You know how the Inuits are said to have hundreds of words to describe snow? Well in Ireland there must be as many words to describe rain. I’m not sure which one is appropriate to use when it rains so much your umbrella starts to leak so, if you know, please tell me. I still love the rain but am learning to appreciate it from the warm sanctuary of my favorite coffee shop or pub, especially when it’s blowing sideways.

I know I’m supposed to learn something from each part of this journey and, when I think about it, moving through the grief process is a lot like surviving the storm only to face the endless rain and grey skies. Sure, it would be easier to take shelter from the bad weather and hide out, but we’d miss out on so much! We must sometimes force ourselves to get out there anyway, Live Now, and not waste the time we have. We have to find a way to recognize the beauty that is all around us, even when sunlight does not illuminate it or you have to wipe the rain out of your face to see it. Along the way, we might meet new friends, discover new paths, dance with strangers, and have adventures that propel us forward on this journey rain or shine.

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I hadn’t done much research on Cork before getting there. It was one of those close your eyes and point to the map decisions. In fact, I actually got busted complaining about having to choose where to go next. After an ass chewing from a friend about my bad attitude, I corrected and I’m glad I went. Even at the end of the tourist season and dealing with damage from back-to-back storms, Cork knows how to show a lady a good time. I love college towns, and Cork was no exception. City Centre has a layout that is easy to navigate, even for a Lost Girl like me, and there is something going on every night of the week.

Cork Walks has marked paths around the city so you can get out and stretch your legs. My favorite was along the river, although when I encountered fallen trees in my path, I decided I should probably not walk there again until the storm was over. Death by falling tree is a real possibility in Irish storms.

I clearly didn’t take Storm Brian seriously enough. I got over and around this guy so I didn’t have to backtrack, but stayed away from tree lined paths for a few days afterwards.


Just like Belfast, there are shops, restaurants, and pubs everywhere, and due to the weather I probably spent too much time in all of them. Here are a few of my faves.

The Woodford: I always seem to find a favorite pub in every town I visit and tend to go back multiple times. You know I rate everything on Table For One Service, and these guys were awesome! Welcoming, good food, funny, and had my favorite whiskey. Ask for Joel; he’ll take good care of you. And don’t forget to check out the live music.

The Oliver Plunkett: Amazing live music and the food is excellent. Friendly service every time I went in, even when they were busy.


The Frisky Whiskey Bar: Upstairs from Oliver Plunkett, the name alone makes this place a win, and I was relieved they didn’t sell a lotta merch, or I might have ended up with yet another whiskey bar tank top in my collection. They do a traditional Irish dance/music show in the evenings and serve food. And whiskey, of course.

Amicus: They make homemade ice cream every day at Amicus. Despite being in the country for a few weeks, I still hadn’t tried any and had been promised that Ireland’s superior dairy quality made the ice cream amazing. All true. I highly recommend the passion fruit ice cream, which I’m pretty sure was sent down to us from heaven. The rest of the food is also delicious, but I’m still dreaming about that ice cream.


Kinsale: A 45-minute bus ride from Cork, Kinsale is a pretty coastal town with brightly painted houses and cute shops and pubs. Sunday afternoons a lot of shops are closed, so do your homework. Pubs, however, are open, because you have to have your priorities straight.


Cobh: The last stop of the Titanic before it set sail towards its doom. Larger and busier than Kinsale, it too has brightly painted houses, shops, and pubs. My favorite thing was not a pub; it was St. Coleman’s Cathedral. This was a surprise since I usually avoid churches and cathedrals (please reference any of my previous What Not To Say posts about spewing useless religious platitudes at the grieving for the explanation). This giant grey monolith towered above the city but didn’t feel imposing at all. The sweet church bells must have magic in them because they called me in and I couldn’t stop my feet from climbing the hill to get there. After spending time exploring, I had to force myself to leave so I wouldn’t miss my bus.

Grey skies are no match for colorful Cobh.

St. Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh, Ireland.
Blarney: a 15-minute drive from Cork, Blarney Castle is easily accessible. The gardens are the best part and unfortunately closed the day I went due to damage from Storms Ophelia and Brian. If you intend to kiss the Blarney stone (Eww!), you’ll want to bring a lotta hand sanitizer for your lips. And ladies, maybe skip the skirt that day since you’ll be hanging upside down with a stranger holding your knees. Make sure to give yourself enough time to explore the gardens and the walking paths. And call first if you’re visit coincides with a recent storm.

The Jameson’s Distillery in Middleton: Come to mama! You can do the tour, or skip it and do the premier tasting if you’re short on time. It breaks my heart that some of my favorite whiskeys aren’t available in the US, but it’s fun to enjoy them while I’m here. You can also bottle your own, and they’ll do a personalized label for you which makes a lovely gift for the whiskey fan back home. Full bar with some delicious whiskey cocktails and a restaurant onsite.


I’d started to feel the effects of hauling luggage around for eight weeks and sleeping in some horribly uncomfortable hotel beds. Thanks to Storm Brian I made time to fix that when I found Caroline at Dervish and treated myself to a massage. They take walk-ins, but you can call and schedule an appointment as well. Prices are comparable to what you’d pay in the states.

Adventure Part 7 – Killarney, Ireland

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Killarney was one of the stops I’d made on my spring trip, and I had some unfinished shenanigans that needed my attention. Since I am leaving a lot to chance on this adventure, it made perfect sense to travel from Northern Ireland to about as far South as I could go in one day. Um, no. It’s a good thing I’m not in a hurry because I spent a whole day on trains, trams, and buses. Fortunately, I continue to luck out meeting cool new people on trains, and this travel day was no exception.

It was also the first place on this adventure I was going back to with a big item that needed checking off my list, and I found my closure at a whiskey bar. I know you’re shocked, but I’m convinced all good stories start with whiskey.

When I first visited Killarney in April, I was having a rough time. I was having fun, but crying myself to sleep every night that I was here on this dream vacation without Dan. After two weeks on the road, I was tired of living out of a suitcase. (That sounds hilarious now). I was tired of getting lost everywhere I went. (Also hilarious since Killarney isn’t large enough to get lost in unless you’re like me and getting lost is your superpower).

So there I was, tired, hangry, and couldn’t find my way back to my hotel. To prevent yet another public cryfest, I got angry. I started yelling at Dan (in my head, no need to let ALL the cray-cray hang out) that this was all his fault. I was angry at him for dying. I was angry that he’d made me promise to take this trip anyway. And I was hangry and knew I was going to lose it soon. I yelled at him to find me a place to have a good meal and an even better whiskey, that wasn’t too crowded with tourists at that hour.

Imagine my surprise and relief when I turned the corner and found Murphy’s Whiskey Bar. My lunch was fantastic, and I did get to try a fancy new whiskey. I also noticed a wall of American police patches behind the bar. There were none from Idaho. It felt like Dan had led me to that spot, and that’s where he wanted his last Caldwell PD patch to end up. (I’d found it in a box just before leaving for Europe). So, threads still attached from where I cut it off his uniform, it’s traveled with me ever since I left home. Now it lives at Murphy’s. Somewhere he is laughing that not only is he hanging out in a bar, he’s also hanging out in an Irish whiskey bar with a bunch of other cops.

The only thing better than checking one off the list is having friends there to help you. All the way from Idaho!


When you visit Murphy’s on your next trip to Killarney, look up and raise your glass to Dan Bain. I officially close this chapter of the adventure. Cheers. (Details below as usual)

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.




Killarney caters to tourists, and you can find live music pretty much every day of the week. I ran out of nights to check it all out.

***PSA: Ordering a Black and Tan or Irish Car Bomb at ANY bar in Ireland makes you an insensitive ass. (If you don’t know why, pick up a freaking history book or google The Troubles). You may be asked to leave. Even if you’re allowed to stay, you’re now embarrassing me. Don’t do it.***

Murphy’s Whiskey Bar: There are two sides to Murphy’s, separated by hotel reception. The cop patches are only on one side (door number three). An excellent choice for lunch or dinner, with an extensive whiskey collection and live music on the weekends. And you can’t forget your opportunity to take a photo of that super sexy Caldwell PD patch for Facebook and Instagram. Tag me so I can send you a virtual high five.

Here’s the scoop on the patches. For my non-American friends, historically many US cops have had Irish heritage and a strong connection to Ireland.  One or two patches showed up at the bar one day, and more followed suit. You know how that goes, it then takes on a life of its own. Each patch is a story about how it got there and the person or department it’s connected to. I love that Murphy’s allows them to stay, and that Dan Bain and Caldwell, Idaho (and maybe even me, too) are now part of it.

The Lane Cafe Bar (in the Ross Hotel): If you’re tired of traditional Irish pubs (we’ll have a chat about that later) this contemporary cocktail bar will take good care of you. Good food and a surprisingly large menu considering cocktails in Ireland are limited to two shots.

The Killarney Grand/Liquid Lounge: Live music every night in the traditional bar on the ground floor. Upstairs is a cocktail bar that opens around 11:30 pm with a fantastic piano player.

Reidy’s: Fun place with multiple bars, each with their own theme. Start at the front and keep working your way back until you find a spot you like.

Courtney’s: Pulling pints in three centuries, this traditional pub has a cool, down-to-earth vibe. Perfect place for a pint or a whiskey. TIP: the fireplace is en fuego hot, so don’t stand too close unless you want to set your backside on fire.

O’Conners: Another traditional pub, covered with signed dollar bills. O’Conners will have a soft spot in my heart as the place I tried my first Guinness.


The Flesk: Open only for dinner, and I recommend making reservations. A friend suggested this place, and it didn’t disappoint. Excellent seafood and superior service. I wasn’t out of place in my usual jeans and hiking boots, but you would also blend in if you wanted to dress up a little. Thomas was a gracious host, and you’ll have to ask him about the connection with the American Legion.


Torc Waterfall


Last time I was here I wasn’t able to get out and do any hiking. I overcame my reluctance to hike alone because the trails in Killarney National Park desperately needed my footprints. Glad I did because I found one that’s now on my Top Ten. I’d say “check that one off the list” but know I’ll be back for more. The proximity of this beautiful National Park to the center of town is hands-down my favorite thing about Killarney.

You know I hate driving, so the hop on/hop off Red Bus was my best friend to get to and from town to Killarney National Park sites. Torc Waterfall is about a 5-10 minute walk from the parking lot where you get dropped off. Don’t stop there or you’ll miss all the views. There are three looped trails with varying degrees of difficulty and length to choose from, and bathrooms next to the parking lot.


Keep going, and you can follow a trail along the lake past the Muckross House estate. It’s easy, beautiful and it goes for miles. I encountered only one other hiker that day, so it was like we had the lake to ourselves. I loved it so much I went back more than once. The bus will get you back to town when you’re ready.


Want to stay on a paved path but still be in nature? Start at Killarney House and Gardens and continue until you get to the River Walk. Paths are well marked and maintained, and you’ll get to enjoy some up-close views of the red deer and Kerry cows that roam the area. I know towns and cities in the US that would kill to have a natural resource like this.


Unfortunately, all the ocean-faring activities I’d hoped to do wrapped up at the end of September due to weather. Even when you don’t have a hurricane headed your way, the season ends the first part of October. It looks like I have yet another reason to come back. If boating out to the Skellig or Blasket Islands is a high priority for you, be sure to plan accordingly.


I still can’t get over how friendly people are here. When I got into town, my new neighbors picked me up at the train station, took me to the market, and checked on me every day. And I lucked out with the Airbnb jackpot. Great place and the most attentive and friendly host I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something since they’ve all been fantastic.

Everyone I met gave me great tips for dining and suggestions for the next stops on my adventure through Ireland. I don’t know if they make everyone in Killarney kiss the Blarney Stone when they are born, but I’ve heard the best stories since I got here, and been in stitches since everyone also seems to be a comedian. Even the rare cranky ones.




Hurricane Ophelia blew out all the grey weather and my last full day in Killarney dawned with sunny, warm, blue skies. Since I’ve been so openly in love with Scotland’s beaches, one of my Irish friends decided I needed to give Ireland’s a fair shot. Yowzas, I’m torn. I love the Carribean blue and wildness of the beaches in the Orkneys and Hebrides, but being able to run around the beach and watch surfers without a jacket won out for personal enjoyment. I could have stayed forever.

A short drive up to North Kerry made for a fun afternoon of beach hopping. Ballybunion Beach was my favorite of the five with the cliffs, castle ruins, and a long stretch of sandy beach. I’d recommend staying the night, so you don’t have to rush back, but be aware that most restaurants close up shop in October.

The Kids Are Watching

A Wandering Widow Post

In case you haven’t figured it out by now,  I live in “unconventional” mode as I endeavor to figure out this new post-Dan reality. I try hard to be a good person, but after decades of taking care of everyone else first, these days I do what I want. I don’t feel bad about eating or drinking like a rock star, sleeping in or staying out all night. I don’t feel guilty about leaving home to live the life of a nomad. I don’t feel guilty that I haven’t got a clue where I’m going next or when/if I’ll ever come home. I don’t even feel bad about the fact that other teenagers who have shown up with nieces and nephews were warned not to be shocked by their Aunty Pirate who SOMETIMES sports a colorful vocabulary that could make a Marine blush. Before you lecture me, they hear it all at school. And I kinda DGAF.

But there is one thing for which I give many f@#$s. I’ve recently learned there is a group of young people who are watching my every adventure move. Their parents are sharing my travel stories (language cleaned up, of course), or they are following on their own. (Dear parents, rest assured I keep Instagram clean). I have heard that teenagers sit around sometimes and talk about what adventure I had that week. OMG!

This knowledge is overwhelming on multiple levels. For the first time in life, cause it sure didn’t happen when I was one, some teenagers think I’m cool. I’d high five myself, but what a freaking responsibility. I’ve said from day one of this adventure that what I want my nieces and nephews to remember about me is that I lived the #$!@ out of every minute and that no matter how scared I was, I never let fear stop me from pursuing life and love. I want them to learn that risks are worth taking and that making memories will always be more important than acquiring things. I want them to know that sometimes life is $hit for no reason (thank you Sheila for this quote), but we have a choice in how we move forward when bad things happen. If your kids are following along, I wish the same for them too. And, no promises, I’ll see what I can do about the language.

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

Adventure Part 6-Northern Ireland

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Before I left Scotland, someone in Glasgow described Belfast to me as very European, and I had no idea what that meant. I get it now. Belfast boasts a diverse population with a seemingly endless supply of shops, restaurants and pubs to enjoy. If Scotland’s landscapes and single malts are rugged and handsome, those in Belfast are smooth, charming and a helluva lotta fun. Wait, what were we talking about?

Unlike Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, this was my first trip to Northern Ireland. For those of you who didn’t pay attention in school, NI is a separate country and part of the UK. I’d heard that the people of Belfast like to have a good time, are iffy when it comes to the rules, and have a quick (and dark) sense of humor. All accurate from what I’ve observed. My outsider’s theory is that their experiences during the Troubles have cultivated a collective “Live Now” attitude, which resonates with my heart and might be why I fell in love with it instantly.

It hasn’t stopped raining since I got here, but it feels warm and welcoming nonetheless. I’ve spent a good chunk of my waking hours laughing, and laughter is good for the soul. The day I spent at the salon getting my hair cut, laughing so hard I was almost crying at my sassy young stylist’s descriptions of Irish men and football players by region. I’m laughing out loud right now as I remember it. She should take that comedy bit on the road! Or listening to my driver’s explanation why Belfast is the best city in Europe. (FYI every taxi driver in every city I’ve been in insists their city is the best value for the money). Or laughing while listening (it’s not eavesdropping if they’re so loud you can’t help it) to a group of university students’ thoughts on life, girls, and why they are going to solve the world’s problems. Cheers dudes, I genuinely hope you do.

Don’t get me wrong; Northern Ireland has its share of rugged beauty. With the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-rede (not for the faint of heart) rope bridge, and countless miles of gorgeous hiking trails, there is a lot more to this place than just the city.

Although after just one afternoon I decided to make Belfast my home base for this week. I had to hopscotch my hotels a bit since the sold-out FIFA World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany affected availability significantly. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Right? I got laughed at by everyone I asked about getting a ticket, but thanks to some new friends I connected with a lovely gentleman who was too ill to attend (I really hope you’re feeling better Dave!) who agreed to sell me his ticket since I was a visitor. Wow. What a memorable experience! To all the doubters who told me to give up trying, this is a good reminder that all kinds of good things can happen in life if you have faith, friends, and don’t quit taking chances.

One of my faves.

If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, don’t forget to head north. I fell in love with Belfast and will be back soon since a week wasn’t nearly enough time to get to know this city. (Details below as usual).

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.



That’s right you typo maniacs, now that I’m in Northern Ireland that’s how you spell it. There’s lots of it. Some of it is crap, some blessed by the angels. Maybe someday when I’ve completed the Scottish single malt challenge, I’ll start working my way through all the Irish stuff. Until then, you’ll have to decide for yourself what your favorite is. My current splurge is the Redbreast 21, and I will forever owe a couple of cool Canadian dudes for this recommendation.


There is no way to get through all of them, so here are a few I recommend.

Brennan’s Bar (City Centre):
Fabulous service, decent pub food, good wifi, and Sunday’s feature an all-male staff. Don’t judge me. It backs up to a tiny street called Bains Place, so I was obviously meant to be there. That and it came highly recommended by some Idaho friends who were recently here. Thanks Jimmy and Michelle!

The Crown Bar (City Centre):
Owned by the National Trust and directly across the street from the Europa Hotel, the Crown features some incredible woodwork and stained glass. This place is worth a look even if you don’t like pubs, but it’s likely to be packed at all hours of the day.

The Harp Bar (Cathedral Quarter):
This one came highly recommended by my Belfast guru, and I can see why. We loved it so much we went back three times! The live music and atmosphere quickly made it our favorite place. My only complaint is that my drinks were always double the price when poured by a female bartender.

The Dirty Onion (Cathedral Quarter):
One of several pubs that claim to be the oldest building in Belfast. Friday night was rocking with fantastic live music, and the patio was full. Sunday night not so much. It’s around the corner from Harp Bar and The Duke of York, so be sure to stop in.


Just like the whiskey and the pubs, there are almost unlimited dining options, so here are my two favorites.

Hadski’s (Cathedral Quarter): An epic Belfast Pub Crawl can really work up an appetite. We found Hadski’s and lucked out. They were full, but had two seats open in front of the chef. Are you kidding me? Those are the best seats in the house because your dinner comes with a show. The food was plated so beautifully I felt bad digging into it. Then I realized it was so delicious I didn’t care and had to refrain from licking the plate. If you’re going to be in the Cathedral Quarter, go there. Happy noms!

Fratelli’s (City Centre): I stayed in City Centre for a few days. I liked Fratelli’s and dined there more than once. I’d describe the food as Italian with a delicious twist, and the restaurant has a robust wine menu. Hey, a girl can’t live on whiskey and pub food alone.  Excellent service despite being a solo diner on very busy evenings.


Giant’s Causeway: This lengthy stretch of hexagonal basalt columns is geology nerd cool, and far more accessible than Scotland’s Isle of Staffa. That may also be why it was less impressive to me. Sorry, Northern Ireland. I still liked it, just wish I’d visited the Causeway before Staffa. My recommendation is to get there first thing in the morning (or late in the day) to avoid busloads of annoying tourists.


I promise to give it another shot. I do appreciate that so many people can go to experience the science behind this world heritage site, and it looks like some fun hiking. Minus the tourists. And before you say it, I’m a traveler, not a tourist. Completely different mindset and behavior.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: They closed the bridge for crossing the day I visited due to crazy high winds. While disappointing, I didn’t come all this way to die. It’s a freaking rope bridge. It sways in the wind. If the wind were strong enough to push grown men (and one short girl) around on the trail, attempting a crossing would be beyond terrifying. I’ll be back to take on that bridge another day.



The Troubles: In my opinion, political history tours about the Troubles are necessary for foreigners to understand the current culture of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. When I mentioned the Troubles to family and friends back home, I was surprised how few people knew anything about it beyond a song by U2 or some vague recollection of the IRA. I know it isn’t our country’s history, but it is part of our global history and no different from taking a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii or visiting the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan. I won’t go into detail (click the link to educate yourself) but felt the tour I did was pretty neutral and fact-based, and I learned a lot. Kudos to my guide JR because I was unable to guess which side he’d grown up on, and he still won’t tell me.

Another thing I think I liked about Belfast, is directly related to the Troubles. I can’t quite put my finger on it and will probably butcher this, but there were so many widows created here during that time frame that my being a young W is no big whoop since everyone knows one and it doesn’t make me a freak of nature like I often feel at home with non-W’s. The loss of life during The Troubles is horrifying but, for the first time since Dan died, I feel like my tribe has expanded beyond my local widow’s group to an entire community. As I said, there is no clear or easy way to describe it, it’s just a feeling I have.

This quote is part of a display at Belfast City Hall.  This last room on the tour displayed several quotes from widows on both sides of the conflict. It was powerful and emotional and I had to leave before I lost it.


Irish Genealogy: Do you claim Irish heritage? JR gave me a good tip, and I spent some time at PRONI, the Public Records office, trying to track down additional information on my great-great-great-great-grandparents who left Co Antrim sometime after 1802 for the US. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available before the mid to late-1800s unless you know what church your ancestors belonged to, so the only new bit of information I was able to glean was the name of their parish. Kudos to the lovely Paul who spent a fair amount of time helping me search, even though I could tell by his facial expression that it was hopeless. And the fact he said to me that it was almost undoubtedly impossible if I didn’t know the church affiliation. (Dear Paul’s Boss: Please give him a raise because he didn’t roll his eyes once despite my endless and annoying questions and “what if” optimism).

There is no charge to visit PRONI, but you’ll need valid government-issued photo identification to access the records. Your passport will do fine to get your new official ID card. PRONI is just a short walk from the Titanic Museum, so if this is something you’re interested in schedule adequate time to visit. And bring as much information with you as you can. Names and dates alone aren’t very helpful.





What I’ve Learned-Adventure Month 1

A Grief Recovery Project Post

Wow. It’s hard to believe I’ve been away for over a month on this grand adventure and, as I write this, getting settled into another new country. It seems like forever since I waved goodbye to my baby sister as she dropped me off at the airport. I was a little nervous, but filled with excitement. And it has been an adventure full of excitement and bliss and peace. As I continue to learn about the places I visit and the people I meet, I’ve learned a lot about myself as well.

1. I can do it! And I can do it by myself. Even though I hate managing the details, I’ve not been homeless once, and have lucked out with fantastic places to stay. I’ve learned not to wait too long, as tourist season runs a lot longer than it used to, but have ended up with some happy accidents because of that.

2. No matter how much thought I put into my packing list, I still brought too much stuff. It seems I end up visiting the local charity shop in every town I visit, shedding increasing bits of my old life (ten pounds o’ stuff to date). It has become surprisingly easy to learn how little I need and how little attachment I have to what remains. Even then, taxi drivers almost always complain about how heavy my bag is.  Ahem, move aside gents and let a woman show you how to manhandle this beast up the stairs. <<Insert Who Runs the World? Girls! fist pump here>>.

3. I’ve learned that alone doesn’t mean lonely. I’ve met amazing people and had amazing experiences BECAUSE I was willing to go out and do things on my own.  While I still have the occasional Table For One annoyance, for the most part, things have been great. I’ve been able to get seats on sold-out tours, free tickets to events when someone didn’t show up, and private history lessons in a lot of places I’ve visited. My favorites to date have been my spontaneous attempts that landed me a ticket to my first ever football game that happened to be a sold out FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany, and the opportunity to rappel (or abseil as they say here) down the side of the Europa Hotel.

4. I remembered I like meeting people. For a long time after losing Dan, I didn’t want to meet anyone new. I didn’t want to tell my story and had no room in my broken heart to learn theirs. That’s changed. Every morning I wake up and wonder who I will meet that day. I’m hungry to learn their stories and have no trepidation in sharing mine. Making real life connections with other human beings is glorious. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it.

5. I can be pretty chill. I know some of you who have known me a long time are questioning the validity of that statement (or flat out laughing), but it’s true. In addition to the #LiveNow lessons I continue to learn along the way, I’ve gotten pretty good at going with the flow. I’m learning to sit back and enjoy the last minute changes that happen in this thing we call life. Somehow the universe always replaces it with something better, or at least something I need more.

If I can learn all this after just a month on the road, I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me on this journey.

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

10 Things I Love About Scotland

A Wandering Widow Post

It may sound silly to say a country could sweep you off your feet, but that’s exactly what happened to me. When I first visited in the spring, it was enough to make me swoon and put Scotland at the top of my list for this adventure. I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen in love with Scotland itself or if it were because it was the first place I’d felt joy in a long time, but I knew I’d figure it out. I’m thrilled to report that it’s all Scotland, and I love it even more than before.

Here are the top 10 reasons I love this country. Believe me; it was a struggle to narrow it down to 10.

1. The Highlands. I’m afraid photos just don’t do it justice. The majesty and power and magic of the mountains and hills, the glens, and the rivers are enough to make me wish I was a poet or painter or that I had the resources just to get out and walk every last inch of it.



2. The skyscape. If I take any more photos of clouds, my camera may quit on me. But it’s hard to stop myself from doing it. The clouds are ever changing, which alters the light and the colors of everything you see. Time-lapse photography was made just for this.

Outer Hebrides Clouds (3 of 1)


3. The beaches. Okay, so the beaches here are a little different than the ones I enjoyed growing up in the tropics, but that makes them no less beautiful. The white sand beaches up in the Orkney Isles are crystal blue. And despite the cold wind, I’m already dreaming about going back.


4. The ocean. I’ve spent more time on boats and ferries in the last five weeks than I have in the last five years. Rough or smooth, always cold and windy, I couldn’t get enough of it. One of my favorite memories of this trip will be holding on for dear life (it was a titch rough that day) on the top deck of the ferry as I headed to the Orkney Isles, laughing like a maniac and keeping an eye out for the infamous whirlpools I’m told can appear.

It was hilarious. Maybe you had to have been there.

5. The history. Scotland’s history is deeply rooted in the culture and people. It oozes out of the very earth under your feet and the abundant water that runs through it. Researching my Scottish ancestry made it that much more powerful and personal. Recognizing clan names from both our family trees was like winning the long-lost relatives jackpot, even when I was advised not to tell anyone mine and to use Dan’s instead. (this is hilarious for a number of reasons). And no, it’s not Campbell.

6. The casual vibe. I like getting dressed up as much as the next girl, but when you’re living out of a backpack, it’s convenient to be able to go pretty much anywhere you want in jeans and hiking boots. (The LBD remains packed in the bottom of the suitcase, just in case). No one ever seems to be in a hurry. Scotland may be the most chill place I’ve ever visited. And did I mention super dog-friendly? Dogs are welcome in most bars and cafes, so Fido doesn’t have to be left at home or in the car. Izzy-booboo would be in dog heaven here.

7. The people. And not just the rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes. (Seriously ladies, you can stop messaging me pictures of rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes). Every single person I met was kind, friendly and welcoming. In Hawaii, we call that the Aloha Spirit and the Scots are pros.  Maybe that’s why I felt so immediately at home here.  The only rude people I encountered were middle-aged American women, but that’s a post for another day. 

8. The ease of transportation. For those days foot power just isn’t enough, you can get almost anywhere by bus or train. For everything else, you can hop on a tour or find a hired driver or a new friend who wants to take you there. It made it really easy to travel solo, especially since I didn’t want to rent a car and drive.

9. The single malts. You had to have known whisky would make this list. I accepted the single malt challenge while I was there. It will probably take me two years but, by the time it’s over, I will have sampled at least one offering from each of the 130 distilleries on my list.

10. The Idaho-ness. I haven’t felt homesick at all for Boise, but since Scotland reminds me so much of Idaho, it’s like I never left. Just like Idaho, Scotland is full of mountains, rivers, and people with a great love of the outdoors, family and friends. So yeah, Scotland reminds me a lot of Idaho, only with better weather.

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Scotland, do it. Don’t wait. And take me with you.

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

Bonus Reason:
11. Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn, officially making it the coolest country in the world.

Adventure Part 5: Oban and the Inner Hebrides

A Wandering Widow Post

Over the last few months, I’ve written a lot about going with the flow and trusting my intuition as I navigate this new post-Dan reality. Unfortunately, there isn’t a process map for picking up the pieces and starting over, and I have had to learn to trust my heart to guide me. It’s something I encourage my fellow W’s to do as well. No one knows you, or what you need, as well as your heart does. As much as I try to live that way, every now and again I still need a reminder, and Oban was most certainly a beautiful one.

Oban is best known for its single malt distillery, but this Western port has got a lot more than that to offer. The seafood is legendary, and it’s the jumping off point to explore the Hebridean Islands. I did a lot of research for this trip, so before I left home, I’d put it on my list of possible home bases.

But when I passed through Oban a few weeks ago on my way to the Isle of Skye,  I found it underwhelming so took it off my list of places to stay. That was shortsighted and dumb. Due to some scheduling limitations, and the encouragement of my friend (and Scotland expert) Gavin, I decided to go back. Yay me! (Or, yay my intuition and Gavin). Out of all the places in Scotland I’ve fallen in love with (which is most of the country), Oban is the one I feel I could put down roots and stay long term. I can’t believe I almost missed out on that.

So my dear W’s, trust your heart. Trust your instincts. Only you can decide where this journey will take you. And wherever that may be, it will be the right place for you.

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.


Getting There:
Since I chose not to drive in Scotland, I relied on public transportation. Oban is a four-hour train ride from Edinburgh. The train ride was incredibly beautiful, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your trip through the Trossachs.  TIP: The earlier you buy your tickets, the less expensive they will be.

I knew I wanted to stay on the Corcoran Esplanade, a short strip of super cute B&Bs right on the water and a five-minute ocean front walk to the center of town. I’d been referred to Kilchrenan House by my B&B Hosts at the Pipers Lodge when I was in Skye. Availability was an issue since I’d waited so long to decide where I wanted to go. So instead of a full week, I was only able to get four days. Four beautiful days! Book early, especially if you want to stay for awhile. I don’t think four days was enough and would have liked at least a week if not two. Frances and Colin are super friendly and welcoming hosts, and you can’t beat the amazing view of the ocean at breakfast, or the sunsets in the evening from the front porch.


If you tried to force me to choose between the ocean and the wooded hills and mountains, I couldn’t do it. Thankfully, in Oban I don’t have to.


Fingal’s Dogstone


No matter how much it feels like we died with them, somewhere deep inside our hearts life still stubbornly persists.


For Jacob, who loves fall foliage.
Fattest sea chicken ever!


I’ll never see blue and orange together without giving a silent cheer to the Boise State Broncos. Sometimes not so silent.
Dunollie Castle, all snuggled in for fall.

The Inner Hebrides:

I decided to do a day tour of Iona, Mull, and Staffa, which are part of the Inner Hebrides. My scheduled tour got canceled due to weather the first day, but I was able to get on one the next day. Good thing, since it was sunny and the ocean was pretty calm.

It was freaking fantastic, although Mull was just a pass-through so shouldn’t be advertised as part of the tour. Staffa is the famous basalt column island that is home to Fingal’s Cave. I wish I’d had several hours here, but did get down to the cave and also had a chance to scramble around up top and enjoy the views.

An early morning departure from Oban.
Sunrise over Oban.


First view of Staffa. I may have been jumping up and down on the boat.
Fingal’s Cave.


My inner geology geek was in full squee mode.
Can’t get enough of this.
Again, again, again! Can’t wait to go back.
So much life in such a harsh environment. And so pretty.

Iona was stunning. Crystal blue waters, white sand beaches, and the greenest fields I’ve seen outside of Ireland. If you like to hike, you’ll want to spend a whole day here. I’ve already decided on my next visit that I’ll need to overnight on Iona to fully explore the trails.

I still can’t get over the color of the water here.
View from the nunnery.
Heilan coos. Can’t get enough of those bangs and big dopey eyes.


If you like to hike, you’ll need at least a full day here.


Beyond my skill set, but total props to the dude that was getting ready to go out that day.

The Food:

I’d been advised by fellow travelers to make reservations at EE-USK as soon as I got to Oban, which I did. Wow! The seafood and service were superior. And despite being a Table for One, I was seated at a window table so I could enjoy the best view they had to offer. Top notch, so be prepared to pay for it.


The Whisky:

First of all, whisky in Scotland isn’t called Scotch and isn’t spelled with an “e” so please stop messaging me about typos. This whisky woman knows what she is doing.

Now on to the business of single malts. Oban grew up around the distillery. That means it’s an entire town centered on the production of an amazing single malt. It also means that the distillery can’t expand. Their Instagram boasts “great from small, ” and they rock it. Their copper stills are works of art, and I would encourage you to do a tour (even the short one) to check it out. Here science and art come together to make beautiful single malt babies. If you’re a whisky fan, I also recommend doing the four taster, since we can only get one or two of those easily in the US.


Beyond the tour, go across the street to the Oban Whisky and Fine Wine Shop and talk to James. He was able to turn his single malt hobby into a business, which is both cool and makes me a little envious. And he knows his stuff. In addition to the tasters and education, he gave me suggestions on which newer distilleries would be coming online soon, and which whisky bars in Glasgow would likely have the lost and silent stuff on my single malt challenge checklist. And, now that I know the Old and Rare whisky festival is a thing, it’s going on the bucket list.



Adventure Part 4: Slowing It Down in Edinburgh

A Wandering Widow Post

Okay, so I know adventure and slowing it down don’t usually go together. But that’s what this week was all about. I still have 11 months left to go on this adventure, and I’m notoriously bad at pacing myself. Hey, this is all new to me. I’ve never had a vacation where I could take so much downtime and not feel guilty about it. Sleeping in, coffee in bed, and writing for hours isn’t something I’ve ever gifted myself with on an itinerary.


I chose to stay in Edinburgh and rented a cute flat in walking distance to both Portobello Beach and Arthur’s Seat. Each evening as I sat enjoying the view with a glass of wine, Arthur’s Seat (on my list to hike since my last trip here) would silently mock me through the living room windows. Whatever Dude, I’ll get to you when I feel like it. (Which I eventually did).


Can you see the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Abbey?
arthurs seat
Check Arthur’s Seat off the list.
Make a wish.


I took time to smell the flowers, walk on the beach, people (and dog) watch, and eat ice cream on the promenade. There is something about the ocean that is soothing to the soul, even one as unremarkable as Portobello Beach. But this island girl will take any beach she can get and be happy about it.

These pillars (from the 1800s) in the Community Garden were rescued from Argyle House.
Have a seat and enjoy the view.

This week was also a good reminder that we need to make time to rest on our grief journeys (and life in general). Sometimes we are so eager to get away from the horrible emotions and feelings that we choose “busy” as a shield as we run pell-mell towards grief recovery. The truth is, those feelings aren’t going anywhere, but if you’re too tired to face them you won’t get anywhere fast, and it’s easy to start drowning again. So be kind and every now and again give yourself permission to take a timeout.



Walk on a beach.

And eat ice cream.


The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

Ice cream, the beach, and one of my favorite poets. Can’t get much better than that.

My favorites:

The super cute flat I rented was in Portobello. My Airbnb hosts (the same cool people who left me a bottle of wine when I checked in) were awesome! I’d mentioned how much I loved the beach, so they called one day to invite me to join their family beach walk out at Yellowcraig, a beach I wouldn’t have found on my own since it was about a twenty-minute drive away.

From the car park at Yellowcraig, take the path through the woods.
Once you’re through the woods you’ll cross the grass covered dunes.

Fidra Island is said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. If you look closely you can see the hole in the middle.

Their advice helped make this week so much better and relaxed, and they recommended all three of the pubs below.

The Scottie:
Since it was practically across the street, I went for dinner almost every night I was there. The food was excellent, and the service even better. Light and bright, the vibe changed every night depending on whether there was live music or football on TV. It must have a loyal crowd because everyone knew everyone.

The Barrelhouse Bar and Grill:
After climbing Arthur’s Seat, I rewarded myself with lunch at the Barrel House. I was surprised with how many American items were on the menu, but the neon, “I am the God of Hellfire” sign above the bar was what drew me in since I knew there had to be a story there.

I am the Goddess of Hellfire. Wait, that’s not how the song goes?

The Espy:
Right on the promenade, The Espy is home to the best cullen skink (seafood chowder) I’ve had in Scotland, a robust single malt menu and ocean views. A perfect spot for lunch during my beach strolls.

Peace out Edinburgh. I’ll miss you. ❤️


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