Wild and tame and beautiful

County Kerry is in the southwest part of Ireland, and I look forward to spending more time there... on the next visit. We did get to spend a short amount of time in Killarney National Park, which is a beautiful combination of wild and tame scenery.

I'm used to the national parks of the West, which showcase stunning natural beauty, and also have amazing, rustic lodges built by the CCC. Killarney National Park is different. There are mountains and hiking trails and the local red deer, but the focal point of the part is Muckross House, a 19th century Victorian mansion.

The house stands on the shores of Muckross Lake, with the mountains of the park standing guard behind. It was built in 1839 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, watercolourist Mary Balfour Herbert. During the 400-year period that the Herbert family lived here, this is the fourth house that the family built on the estate. The house wasn't open for visitors while we were here, but a tour would definitely be on my list of "must do's" next time.

The gardens are spectacular. They were extensively expanded and improved in the 1850s, in preparation for a visit by Queen Victoria. The rhododendrons soar way over my head, and there are vast numbers of them, laid out with wide green paths between them. With enough time, you could just choose a path, and wander for hours.

There was a spectacular woodland garden, with native plants and huge trees. And a secret garden. And beautiful greenhouses. We had so little time here, I rushed to see as much as I could, and couldn't take nearly as many photographs as I wanted.

Muckross House, Gardens & Traditional Farms, 
The National Park, Killarney, Co Kerry. Ireland
June 9, 2015


Triple digits

This weekend we headed for the Yakima Valley by way of Mount Rainier. A good idea, the "head to the mountains" part, to try and escape the heat wave that hit Western Washington.

Going to the hot side of the state, right into triple digits, was an accident of planning... not exactly the best idea to head into the heat. But we had a good reason:  a wine club party at Cultura, our favorite winery.

But a stop in Enumclaw changed the focus of the weekend just a bit. After breakfast at The Kettle, we grabbed a geocache and learned about a new series of cache, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mount Rainier National Park in 2016. While we waited to get DW's lifetime National Parks pass at the forest service office, we planned out our route to get as many of the caches as possible. It's going to be fun!

The views from the Sunrise road were amazing today. You can see three other Cascade mountains volcanoes from the viewpoint halfway up: Adams, Baker, and Glacier Peak. Most days you can't see them; any clouds of haze at the horizon obscures them. Today we could see all of them.

The view from above Tipsoo Lake was even better. For years I've wanted to take the MX-5 to the overlook and photograph it with the mountain in the background. Either the mountain is hidden behind clouds, or the roadway is crowded with cars. Today I got lucky.

But best of all were the wildflowers, weeks early because of the mild winter and the warm weather. We walked down into the meadows around Tipsoo Lake, surrounded by flowers and the heady fragrance of the lupine. I wanted to lay down and drink it all in, but I settled for a half hour of photography before we headed east.


Garden art, winery style...

Today was another bottling day at DeLille Cellars. We were just about through our lunch break, when one of the guys rolled out on a forklift and deposited a heap of barrel staves and hoops on the ground near the table. He said we could take any or all of it home today.

I looked around and no one was making a move, so I didn't hesitate:  I asked if I could have the hoops. We drove the MX-5 today, but I managed to get 5 hoops and 5 barrel staves into the trunk. Plus the 6 bottles we got for our work on the bottling line. Not bad for a roadster!

. . . . .

As soon as I saw the barrel hoops, I thought of the gorgeous winery gardens at Camaraderie Cellars in Port Angeles.

We were last there in the summer of 2012, and I'd really like to make another visit this year, sample more of their wonderful wines, and spend some time in the gardens. I wonder if they do winemaker's dinners; I'll have to check that out.

Winemaking isn't Don Corson's only talent: he's also responsible for the beautiful gardens that surround the winery tasting room, and the varied garden art and structures there.

Under a large canopy is this chandelier made from barrel hoops. It's wrapped with mini Christmas lights, and has a beautiful large blown-glass globe in the center. This will be the inspiration for my own barrel hoop chandelier.

This "room" is beautifully landscaped, with plenty of comfortable seating. Windows from an old house form a windbreak along one side, without blocking the view into another part of the garden.

At the other end of the garden is a smaller room, with a fence made from sticks woven through uprights.

I love the table in this intimate room:  it's made from a huge slab of stone, set on pedestals made from cedar tree trunks.

The gate to the winery is made from barrel staves.

And before I forget... Camaraderie Cellars makes first-class red wines. You have to drive a bit to taste them, but this winery is worth the effort. And if you love to drive the back roads, you'll feel right at home.



I woke at 2:30, and again at 4:15, and got up and dressed. I watched the sun rise over the chicken coop, the farthest north and east the sun rises each year. I fixed tea and opened windows, and walked through the gardens in the early morning light.

It's good to be home.


Dublin doors

Instead of taking a much-needed nap this afternoon, I switched to my 35mm prime and took my camera for a walk through the Georgian neighborhood of Dublin. Which, conveniently, includes my hotel. All of these doors are on the same street.

My target is architecture, specifically, the many colored doors, and their surrounds.

I want to do something special with these photos, but will need some help from a friend who has Photoshop Lightroom. Because I'm fairly short, and these doors are more than fairly tall, the photos will need some tweaking to straighten out the perspective.

But they're still beautiful.

This eggplant-colored door has double columns and side windows.

Many share the same classic pediment style, but the fanlight windows are very different. The blue door has a very plain window. The yellow door has 7 panes of glass, and the center of the "web" has more rings.

The fanlight windows above these doors are like pieces of lace, frilly and beautiful. I especially love the way the arched trim goes clear to the ground, framing the columns and the doors.

This dark green door is framed by a pair of columns on each side, and still has the antique center-placed doorknob. The window has an elaborate lacy fanlight, different from the other fancy windows on the street.

I have many more door photographs, but these are some of my favorites.


Dublin, revisited...

We said our goodbyes over breakfast this morning, then gathered up our cameras and headed out. Rich and Mel headed toward Guinness; we headed back to Trinity College for a bit more shopping, then went to the National Museum of Ireland (Archaeology). This is the repository for all archaeological artifacts found in Ireland. It first opened its doors in 1890, and is free to visit. You can read about the collections here.

I was amazed by the ornate mosaic floors. Because of temporary exhibit walls it's impossible to see the floors in total, but you get the idea.

I have a thing for old pottery, and for weaponry. Not sure why. Things made by hand, with a purpose, then embellished beyond what's necessary for utility. That appeals to me, how people will create beauty, even in the midst of hardship.

When we were in Dublin two weeks ago, it rained the day we explored the Temple Bar area. Today was sunny, and we had time to kill, so we retraced our steps. The streets were full of people walking here and there, and the flowers that decorate the pubs were bright in the sun.

We met up with Rich and Melinda at Jameson's for lunch, and a tour, and whiskey tasting.

We finished the day with dinner and beer at Parnell's, a pub just around the corner from our hotel. Then the fun part: pack everything except for clothes for tomorrow, and do the paperwork for our VAT refund. Oh joy.


Full circle...

A long day of driving: Portrush to Belfast, then back to Dublin.

In Belfast, we took a turn around the city, looking at political murals of Shankill and Falls Road. Then we met a local guide at the Titanic museum, to learn about the industrial era and the Titanic, built in Belfast's shipyard in 1911.

A metal strip on the pavers between the Titanic exhibits and the water marks the spot where Titanic once sat in dry dock, next to her sister ship, Olympic.

Titanic on the left, Olympic on the right.

Our local guide has a personal connection to Titanic: her grandfather worked in the shipyards, and in an effort to improve his fortunes, decided to take a position on board Titanic and sail to New York on her maiden voyage. She gave us a tour of the building where the ships were designed, and where the draftsmen worked. We were one of the last groups to tour this building. It and others along the wharf will become part of a new hotel. Personally, I think that's a shame. This beautiful building, with its soaring roof and skylights, is a part of the history of the Titanic, and should be preserved.

After the Titanic exhibit, Dave and I returned to the city center for lunch, then spent an hour exploring the Belfast City Hall. Its soaring rotunda and stained glass make it a spectacular place to visit.

Then we settled in for the long drive back to Dublin, and our last night together. With no stops, I snapped through the coach windows. This blurry shot of the green Irish countryside reminds me that Ireland would be a great place to paint. My dad would have loved it.

Tomorrow at breakfast we'll say goodbye to most of our group, but a few of us are staying on in Dublin for a few more days.