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The Wandering Widow

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

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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)

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

 

 

THE KILLARNEY PUB CRAWL

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 FOOD

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.

THE RUGGED STUFF

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

THE PEOPLE

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.

 

 

BONUS BEACH DAY!

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.

10 Things I Love About Scotland

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

XOXO,
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.

Backyard Adventures

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As I get ready to head out in search of global adventure, I needed to get a few last-minute checks off my Idaho bucket list. If you’ve never been to my adopted home state, you’re missing out.  I’ve been blessed to see a lot of it and this weekend, thanks to some amazing friends, I focused on the Valley of Magic. (Okay, so it’s called the Magic Valley, but I like my version better).

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I started at the Minidoka Internment Camp Monument. This has been on my list for a long time. This memorial to a blight on American history has huge significance for the Japanese American community. When I first moved to Idaho, I was surprised to learn that the Japanese Americans I met either didn’t celebrate their heritage (like we did in Hawaii) or didn’t know about it. The more I learned about Minidoka, the more that made sense to me. Why would you celebrate the very thing that caused you to lose everything and get rounded up and imprisoned like cattle? For those of you that don’t make time to read but want to learn more, I recommend the Dennis Quaid movie, Come See The ParadiseNot only an amazing love story, but a pretty good depiction of the time.

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I also found it shocking that most Idahoans don’t know about the role their state played in one of the most regrettable acts in American history.  Groups like Friends of Minidoka are helping to change that (if you want to support their efforts you can donate at minidoka.org). Heavy stuff, and a story that more people need to hear.  My friend and fellow adventurer, an Idaho native, was there for the first time too and she was sad to learn about all of it.  But it felt surprisingly peaceful to me as if the simple act of being there and bearing witness was enough to calm the energy of the place.  The Japanese have a word called gaman, which is loosely translated as enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.  In hindsight, I guess that attitude also helped get me through my dark days of grief, although the patience and dignity parts are questionable, so we’ll just go with enduring.

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After the dusty camp, it felt great to spend two days on the water.

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The first day we rented kayaks and had a leisurely float down the Snake River under the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls.  Normally you’d see base jumpers off the bridge, but it was quiet there that day.  The water was relatively smooth, and the wind wasn’t horrible. Overall a perfect set up for a beginner.

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Gotta love kids. They are fearless. When I was growing up we’d jump off of Hercules Rock, very similar to this, on the Makaha Coast.
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The second day a group of us kayaked down the Snake River in Hagerman to get to Blue Heart Springs. This little crystal blue oasis off the river is fed by underground springs. On a clear day, you can see straight down to the white sand bottom and see the bubbles percolating up to the surface.  It was windy the day we went (not ideal conditions for a beginner), but the crystal blue water was still amazing.  I never cease to be amazed at the beauty we can find if we make time to look for it.  Blue Heart Springs is a Caribbean blue jewel in the middle of the high desert.

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Our group consisted of a few pros, newbies, kids and a chihuahua.
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First looks at Blue Heart Springs are breathtaking.
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So for those of you that have been wanting to find an adventure of your own, it may be closer than you think. What’s waiting for you to find in your backyard? Live Now. ❤️

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

THE DETAILS

Minidoka Internment Camp:

Bring your walking shoes and park near the entrance under the guard tower. Follow the paths and read the placards. Many have audio options of interview excerpts from people who lived in the camps.  It’s free to enter and self-guided, but you’ll want to monitor the website to see if there are any activities going on while you’re there.

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My favorite quote:

I will always remember my father’s statement on the eve of our departure to Camp Harmony. “I don’t know what will happen to us. I don’t know where they’re going to take us. I don’t know whether we will ever be able to come back here. But always remember, this is your country, and you must act accordingly.”

Bob Saito

Kayaking under the Perrine Bridge:

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Ask this guy about his adventures and how many countries he has adventured in.

Put in at Centennial Waterfront Park. We rented kayaks and all our gear from AWOL. They made it super easy. Make your reservation online, check in and sign your waiver, and then walk to the dock where some very nice young people will help you get all set up. You don’t even have to drag your gear, just hop in your kayak (or raft or paddle board or whatever) and have fun.  We took a leisurely two-hour trip which got us past the bridge and allowed a leisurely return.

And if you need a quick snack while in Twin Falls, head downtown to Twin Bean, home of the best crepes I’ve ever had. The fact that they were named after Harry Potter has nothing to do with that, although my Gryffindor crepe was magical.

Kayaking to Blue Heart Springs:

I borrowed gear for this one, but you can rent in Hagerman and have them delivered to the “dock” at Banbury Springs. If you don’t plan on making a return trip, you’ll want to leave a second vehicle behind at Thousand Springs RV park so you can get back.

This was a four-hour trip for us. We fought wind and current in both directions (which is why I can’t lift my coffee cup today) so it took some of us a lot longer to get through.  When you get to Blue Heart Springs, you’ll find a spot on the rocks to have lunch (don’t forget to pack yours) and enjoy the sunshine. FYI the water is COLD. Shock your system cold.  While some of us did jump in, we didn’t linger.

Check another one off the bucket list.
Worth the freezing cold water to check another one off the bucket list. My friends were wise enough to wait to tell me about the snake that swam by until I was out of the water. Photo credit to Scott Ryan.

The Only Place Left to Go is Up!

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Sometimes when you can’t see the answer, you need to change your perspective. That thought thundered through my brain this morning as I woke up at the butt crack of dawn to meet a friend to go on a hot air balloon ride.  (For some reason I’m determined to get over my fear of heights and can’t seem to keep my feet on the ground).

 

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Morning fog and the sun just starting to peek over the mountains. Sometimes it’s worth it to get up early and go outside.

 

I’d originally purchased this trip for Mom since a balloon ride was something she’d talked about wanting to do pretty much my whole life. As Dan and I rushed to check as many things off our bucket list while we could, it became important to me to help her Live Now with one of hers. As it turned out, she wasn’t able to make it, but I’m grateful that I got to.  I’d have never known what I was missing.

 

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This couple got married just before lift off. OMG the feels!

 

As I get ready to set sail on world adventures, having some in my own backyard seems like a good idea. And Boise pulled out all the stops this morning. After nine months of trying to get off the ground, this morning dawned still and beautiful for our early morning trip.  Our balloon was named the Phoenix, which couldn’t have been more perfect since the rising Phoenix has become the symbol of my survival and transformation. And it’s the heat of the fire that lifts the balloon to new heights, new views, and a new perspective.

 

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Phoenix Rising.

 

If you ever get the chance, do it.  Sometimes the only place left to go is up.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

The Info:

We booked with Boise Hot Air Balloon Company. They’ve been easy to work with despite the multiple rescheduling. Safety is a priority, so don’t give them a hard time if you get grounded at the last minute. I thought my nine months of rescheduling was long, but there was another passenger who’d waited two years. Boise weather this last year hasn’t been kind to balloon pilots.

We met early at the Albertson’s parking lot in Eagle and were shuttled to Eagle Island Park for launch.  TIP: if you are in a hurry to get back, you’ll want to schedule your own driver. We ended up having to wait for everything to be packed up before we got shuttled back, turning a 45 minute flight into a three hour excursion.

The weather in the air is about 10 degrees warmer than on the ground. Add to that the temperature inside the balloon itself can get close to 200 degrees, and you may not need a jacket. Long pants and closed toe shoes are required, and you will want to remember your sunglasses, since you’ll be staring into the sun for the better part of the ride. But what an amazing sunrise!

 

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You know which of your friends are fellow adventurers when they show up at 6 am after you give them less than 12 hours notice to get childcare arranged.
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Idaho has some of the most incredible sunrises I’ve ever seen. And I grew up in Hawaii so that is saying something
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One of the things I will miss about Idaho is being part of this close-knit ag community.
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Good morning, Beautiful.
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Evolution of wagon decomposition. You’d never see this from the road.
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Proof Scotland doesn’t have the monopoly on beautiful lake islands.

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In a few weeks you’ll able to smell the onion fields everywhere.
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Amber waves of grain.

 

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