Sunday, December 16, 2012

Counting down to Christmas

It is really feeling more like Christmas now, and I love it. We are several concerts into our Cantante programme, and there is nothing like some Christmas music to get you in the mood. We had a concert on Friday at a place called La Estacíon in Alfoquia. The name means 'Station' and it was quite literally in an old, disused station building, converted into a function room with a small stage at the front and a make-shift bar across the back. At first I thought it was a bit stark and chilly, but they had put some pretty trees and other decorations at the front, and crackers on each table, and once the people started arriving it soon warmed up. It was acoustically good in there, and I think it was our best concert to date. 
This morning we led the singing at our church carol service and that was lovely. There were several Spanish visitors in the congregation which was nice, so one of our members translated throughout the service and they did appreciate it. (She is English but has a Spanish husband so she is very fluent. I did find I could understand more of what she said than I used to be able to, but it will be a long time, if ever, before I can speak it like that!) I was on refreshment duty after the service and I had taken along five dozen of my mincepies which all disappeared. It was great to see the building so full as we are usually only a congregation of about thirty to forty people. My friend and I were kept busy making tea and coffee while another friend served mulled wine. It was a lovely friendly, happy atmosphere, but of course, I was too busy to take photos for once.

In my last post I showed you a man fitting our street lights to a pole outside our house. They were switched on this weekend and look very pretty.
We also saw some Christmas lights on Wednesday when I went on my sewing group annual outing to Granada. We had to be on the coach at 8.00 so it was an early start for me, and we didn't get home until 10.00. I was shattered and went straight to bed! Out here, Christmas is fairly low key, but it is a bit more apparent in the cities. I'm not a shopaholic, and usually only go when I am actually in need of something that isn't available locally, but I was with friends who were set on buying new dresses for Christmas and  we had some fun rifling through racks of party frocks. They have too many frills and flounces for my taste, but they do use some very pretty fabrics. 
As it got dark we walked through the shops to the plaza where the trees and fountain were all lit up. There were rows of temporary chalets all round the plaza with stalls selling hand crafted goods and I enjoyed browsing around these. 
We also went in a tent that housed a traditional Belén or nativity scene. In Spain this does not mean a stable a few shepherds and three kings; it incorporates all aspects of village life. 

Covering the whole of a huge table, there were figurines of men working in the fields, market stalls, sausages being prepared after the pig-killing, wood men, mothers playing with or feeding their children etc, etc. 

Somewhere in amongst it all you will find a stable with the baby and Mary and Joseph, and nearby there will be a field probably with a goatherd rather than a shepherd, and three kings arriving, but you do sometimes have to hunt for them. It is fun seeing what other activities you can spot. Some cities have several Beléns set up in the streets, and even some private houses have quite elaborate ones. All the characters can be bought in specialist shops throughout November and December. The photos were taken in a very dark tent so they are not too good, but they will give you an idea of what it is like.

The one thing that is not quite so Christmassy is the very mild weather we are enjoying. This week it is back up to around 19 degrees, and even warmer in sunny, sheltered spots. We sat outside to eat our dinner at around 4.00 today, and it was lovely. It does get chilly at sundown so we have to make sure we have all the doors and windows closed before then to conserve the heat. 
This week Chris bought me a little halogen heater for my craft room which is nice when I want to work down here all evening. We have a color gas fire in the main room which is very efficient, and my halogen uplighter is often all I need down here in my craft room, but if I am working on my blog, or editing photos etc and want to sit at the computer for a long time, it does get cold even for me, so the heater will be just perfect for some instant heat.

The mild weather is encouraging everything to grow in the garden rather than to take a winter sleep! As I thought, we do have "Roses in December" (see my earlier post on 25th Nov.) Isn't this just perfect? By the way it had water droplets on it, not because it has rained, but because my tubs were so dry today that I got the hose out and gave them all a drink. I nearly lost my beautiful poinsettia because it had dried out, but I spotted it drooping just in time I think.
We also have a beautiful patch of pink by our garage gates. This is incarvillea and it is really in next-door's garden, but it always comes through to us to face the sun. It has been flowering for weeks and weeks and still looks beautiful. Some people think it is a nuisance because it is such a vigorous grower, but I love it. We keep it trimmed back all year so that it doesn't take over, and I think it is a lovely way to hide the very basic chain link fence.

And finally I want to give you a link to a video. Do click on it and watch it right through if you have a few minutes. A while ago our son Ben and his friend Bob worked together on the words for a charity song which they called 'Santa won't be coming". Then Ben wrote some music for it and their other friend Charlotte sang it. Later, through some of Bob's contacts, they were able to take it to a Catholic primary school in Redditch. Ben arranged the music and the school choir learned the chorus and supplied three little soloists for some lines. Then they all got together and he recorded it. Another contact made it unto a video which is now for sale through the school and the money will go to the Catholic charity CAFOD. I think they did it really well. Ben certainly enjoyed his part. I think it is a shame they didn't include one shot of him playing the piano at the end, but he is in the credits. He is now hoping to do something similar with the Birmingham youth choir for next year. Anyway, you can watch the video by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Busy, busy, busy!

Well I have just discovered that it is over two weeks since my last blog, but that is not really surprising as I have been very busy. And I probably will be again for another week yet, so I thought I'd try to fit a post in tonight.
The 3rd of December brought our first Christmas concert with Cantante and it was a special one for us because it was at our local bar, so for once it wasn't us doing the travelling. We held it there because Mick and Ali, who run the bar, are great supporters of our village children's charity Asadis, and this year Cantante are collecting for them. 
It went very well. We were extremely short of space, but despite struggling to squeeze up close and still find space for our music folders, we survived. There was a good turnout of both English and Spanish families, and they all seemed to enjoy it. They particularly liked our rendition of the old favourite "While shepherds watched.." which we sing to the tune "On Ilkley Moor but at"!, and also our finale song which is the "Milennium prayer" - The Lord's Prayer sung to "Auld lang syne", as performed by Cliff Richard at the turn of the century. We raised almost 200€ for Asdis as well, so it was a very successful evening.

At the weekend it was our bi-annual Gallarte expo, when a small group of local artists and crafters display their work and hopefully sell some of it. I never manage to have anything made in the way of craft at the right time, but it has become my role to supply baking and jam for sale, so once again I turned up with lots of mince-pies which sold very well. The Spanish folk must be getting used to them. They had no idea what they were the first year I made them. I sold quite a lot of plum jam, and also the piccalilli I made a few weeks ago. I had made six of the fabric pine cone decorations that I showed on here a couple of months ago, and I sold five of them, but I only sold one of the bobbin lace decorations. I wasn't all that surprised, because when money is short, people are more likely to buy food than decorations. 

The expo ran from Thursday through to Sunday morning, and then we took everything down and went off to a nearby restaurant with our 'other halves' for a Christmas meal together. As we always do at El Cumbre, we had a lovely meal and it is such an attractive setting. The whole building is set around a Roman theme, as you can see by the huge mural in the back of my photo. Outside there is a big garden area with archways and 'ruined' walls, through which there is lovely a view of the Cabrera mountains.

Yesterday when we took the dogs out, there was a big 'structure' leaning against the telegraph pole outside our gate. I guessed it was the Christmas lighting for this year, but I couldn't make out what it was. Shortly after we got back, a lorry drove up and a man went up in a crane to fix ours and it was instantly recognisable as a glass of bubbly! He saw me taking pictures and gave me a wave. He was probably thinking 'mad English woman' but then he doesn't know about my photo a day project. It still seems a bit incongruous to have Christmas lights being hoisted up a pole when the sun is shining in a clear blue sky. They won't be lit until the week before Christmas, but then, of course, they will stay on until after the Three Kings fiesta on 6-7th January.
We are getting Christmassy in other ways now too. Last week I spotted some lovely poinsettias for sale in Turre and chose a big, beautiful one to sit on our front porch. It is just sufficiently sheltered there, as although they do get planted in lots of public flower beds, round roundabouts etc, if we have a really cold wind they do blacken and sometimes die, but our porch one usually survives. Isn't it a lovely splash of colour?
Today I did a round trip this morning, starting at Turre where I left Arwen at the vet's for a shave under anesthetic again. I didn't really want to have her done in the winter. I think she will feel the cold. But her fur was in a dreadful state and she won't let me anywhere near her to cut it. So this is the only way. For something so very soft and silky, it is amazing how hard the tangles become and it makes her uncomfortable. She does try to pull them out herself but she can't do it.  She looks rather sweet again now and is much happier. 
While she was being attended to, I drove over to Vera to collect a parcel from the depot because we were out when the courier called last week. While I was there I went into the big post office and posted all my overseas cards. I was a bit late doing this but I always forget that out here, the 6th and the 8th of December are public holidays, so no-where is open. And because they fell on Thursday and Saturday this year, many places stayed closed on Friday as well. I am afraid Michael (our grandson) will get his card a day or two late. He will be 18 on Wednesday! I remember the day he was born so plainly. It was the Christmas party at my pre-school and I had Emma with me. We took her to meet her new brother with her face painted as a little cat!

I then paid a quick visit to Iceland, whizzed home to store the frozen food away, and then went back to Turre to collect Arwen. She was still half asleep when I got her home, but she is fine again now. She has been sitting on my lap - a very rare occurance - but I expect I am keeping her warm.
All the animals are feeling the cold a bit now and the cats spend more time indoors than they do in the summer. Even the dogs will bark to come in as soon as it gets dark. Our only heating is the black calor gas fire visible in the back of this photo, and as you can see, the animals are all happy to share a blanket if it means they get to curl up (or lay out!) in front of it.
This afternoon I decorated our Christmas tree. I love getting the decorations out and meeting up again with lots of happy memories. Here is a group of some of my favourites -  there's Ben's treble clef, Emma's ballerina (we each had one), our milennium bear and the tiny teddy I helped the boys to make with light-weight modelling clay many moons ago, a set of celtic crosses that always make me think of Jim, some lovely hedgehogs and an owl made from pine cones that Jean gave me, and the fabric bell made by Brenda, and the big bauble that started out as an empty, clear glass one which I learned to decorate on the inside at a workshop at the craft shop in Ellesmere. And so it goes on. 

Something new joins the collection most years, and inevitably some things fall apart or get broken, but it always ends up as my beautiful tree that I still love, and that still brings me close to friends and family at the one time of year when I sometimes wish I was back amongst them all.
While I was busy with the tree, Chris was being a plumber's mate. Those who have visited us and who have needed to work around our temperamental bathroom plumbing (both toilets have a tendency to go into perpetual flush mode), will be glad to know that we now have two new cisterns, and hopefully the problem is solved. The plumber also fitted a new drinking water tap in the kitchen because the other one was worn out so that my kitchen work surface  was always wet. The new tap has the feature whereby it has to be held down to make the water flow. This could be a good idea as my party trick was to turn the tap round and leave it to fill the kettle while I did something else because the flow was so slow, and of course I used to forget it until I heard the waterfall as the overflowing water cascaded all over the floor! Now I will have to stand there to hold the tap on so no more floods!
Well I've rambled on a bit so I will leave you with this beautiful photo which I took this morning. It is unusual for us to get up to walk the dogs before the sun is up, but today it was partly obscured by cloud so wasn't visible until a bit later. It was around 8.o'clock when we saw this lovely sunrise coming up behind the mountains.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ready, Steady, Bake!

It is that time of year again, when cooler days make a few hours working in a warm kitchen seem like quite a good option. So this week I have been busy.
I started off by making some Piccalilli. This is not something I have bought very often, though Jonathan used to like the spreadable version in his lunch-box sandwiches, but when a friend posted a recipe on her blog, and said how good it was, I thought I'd give it a try. 
It took quite a long time to cut all the vegetables up, but I did want to make them smaller than usual, so the pickle could be used in sandwiches if we wanted it to. They looked very pretty all mixed together in the pan, and they kept their colours, even after they had been cooked in the sauce. 
I was rather taken back by the quantity of spices in it, but it smelled lovely when it was cooking, and the little taste I had was not too strong. It is supposed to be left unopened for a month for the flavours to mature, but at least it will be ready for the cold meats at Christmas. I am also hoping to sell some at the Gallarte sale in a week or two.
Here is what I made. Now I need to print some labels for it, and try to work out a list of ingredients in Spanish which is obligatory for food sold over here. I have to do it for all my jams too but that is relatively easy as they don't have much in them, - fruit, sugar and water is about it.
My next job was to bake a small Christmas cake, so I left the fruit steeping in brandy all night, and then let it cook slowly the next day. We don't eat a lot of it, but I like to have some in, to offer visitors etc.

Yesterday was the first day of my mince-pie marathon. I made three pack of pastry on Friday afternoon and left them resting in the fridge overnight. Yesterday something more important kept cropping up, but at around 11.00 I finally got started. 
The table was raised up on bricks again for a few weeks to save my back. It is too low to work at all day. By tea-time I had made twelve dozen. 

I have orders already, and that's without me actually telling anyone I am making them again this year, plus I have promised to make five dozen for our church carol service, so I need at least sixty dozen, and I know others will ask for them when they see me bring some in that friends have ordered. Last year I made eighty dozen but I would really rather stop at the sixty this year. That is five full days of baking which is really enough. I have been asked to take some to sell at my friends 'fat club' next Thursday. (That's an odd combination. They may be very yummy, but low in fat they are not!!). I also have the Gallarte (our local arts and crafts group) sale the week after, so it really depends on how many I sell at those two events, what the final score will be.  
Once again the garden is growing well, due mainly to all the rain and now some sunshine again. It looks as though there will be an excellent crop of oranges this year. This lovely bunch are hanging over the fence into our garden, from a tree next door. I am keeping an eye on them and I shall be picking them as soon as they are ripe enough. The house is empty most of the year, though they do come to pick some of the fruit early in the new year. I am sure they won't mind us having these few. Their trees are weighted down this season.
In the front garden we have beautiful roses out again. The autumn flowering always make me think of mum. When I inherited her desk to do my homework, inside the lid she had a pull-off from her calendar that said "God gave us our memories that we might have roses in December". It is not quite December yet but I don't think I will need my memory to remember these. They will still be blooming in a week or so, as we move into the new month.
And finally, here's a photo of a big black nasty that had the temerity to come into our bedroom during the night. Mum always used to say "If you want to live and thrive, let the spiders run alive", and I have worked hard at conquering my fear of them. 
My turning point was when I managed to hold a tarantula for the 'Animal man' who I invited to the annual Science day at my nursery. I just couldn't let my fear show in front of the children, though I did tell the man to keep his hands under mine in case I 'freaked' and dropped it! So these days I am quite good at catching them and putting them outside, but when they go above head level, they are making a big mistake, and they have to go.

My hero husband came to the rescue. He  climbed onto our bed and sprayed it until it fell to the floor where I was able to deal with it. I know it was only looking for a winter home, but I am not up for sharing mine with him!

And on that happy note I will leave you until next week's ramblings. Hasta luego.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Hi all. I think this will be a much shorter post than usual, (Hooray I hear you say!), as I have done little of any significance this week. It has continued to be grey and damp, though there have been a few occasions when the clouds have opened up to let a watery sun shine through.
I have still managed to be out and about nearly everyday, with an extra trip to Huercal-Overa on Wednesday to collect my new glasses, and to Albox on Thursday for my monthly parchment craft lesson. I can't show you what we made as it is a card I will be sending to someone very soon, and they might just spot it on here. My glasses are OK. I am not thrilled with them, but I guess I am still getting used to them. I shall persevere!

Do you remember this photo I posted back in the early summer, of our lovely yellow and red hibiscus. It only lives in a pot but it seems quite happy there, and every year it carries these big blooms for months. It is quite an unusual colour and I love it.

Well this week, it has suddenly decided to bloom again. I think the rain has confused all the plants. It would not normally be in flower now. But I did laugh when it opened to show this big bright orange flower! It is as though the rain has washed the red from the centre up through all the yellow, turning it orange. It has half a dozen flowers out, and they are all the same. It is still very beautiful, but I hope it reverts to its true colours again next year.

As many of you know, for the past six months I have been involved with a project to knit little vests and hats for the 'Fish and Chip' babies of Africa. I started out just responding to a request on a blog I follow, but the project here has taken off big-time, and we now have a web site and groups of knitters all over S.Spain, and in UK. When the original project ended I needed to find a new outlet for all the garments that we were still knitting, and eventually a lady from my church in Oswestry, put me in touch with Brian Hatton of Greenfields Africa. They now ship our knitting to Africa and supervise its distribution. Fortunately we have  a man at out church here who is a courier, and he has offered to take our parcels to Brian in UK, free of charge, which is a huge help. The good news is that Greenfields work among the pregnant women has been so successful, that now many of the babies are born free of AIDS so they have a longer life expectancy. This also means that there is now less need for all the little vests we were knitting, and more need for larger clothes to fit up to four year olds. They have also particularly requested blankets, so I am busy working on two of those right now. (I showed you these in my previous post.) I have been in touch with Brian to request some photos of his work that I could show to my knitters, and yesterday he sent me some. I will just put two on here but if you would like to read more about what we are doing, and see the rest of the photos, you can go to our web site by clicking here. (My friend looks after the site and she promised to put the photos on this week)
In the mean time, here is Oscar. He has only ever had a Fish and Chip vest, that has grown with him. I am glad to be able to say that Greenfields have now provided him with some more clothes.
The other item that they have requested is little teddies. They provide a pattern for this, probably to save them being showered with lots of unsuitable stuffed toys, and also so that each child is given the same. The caption on this photo says, "We believe that EVERY child, everywhere in the world, should have a teddy of their own".

I must just share this photo with you. Aren't they cute! Don't panic; they're not mine! While Chris and I were out walking the dogs yesterday, we spotted these in a typical Spanish back yard. They looked so sweet all cuddled up together, and all staring at us with wide, innocent eyes. Chris took a photo with his phone but they were too far away for a really good shot, so this morning I took my camera with me, and sure enough, there they were again, so I took this photo of them. They probably live out in the yard, but the house owner had put a dish of food for them, there is no shortage of water around, and they can cuddle up to keep each other warm. There was also an outhouse where they could shelter, but they seem to prefer the garden. Perhaps they all want to be as close as possible to the food bowl. It must be a bit of a 'free for all' at feeding time.

Well my local forecast actually says it will be sunny tomorrow so I am off to sort out the washing so I can put the machine on overnight, and get it hung out first thing in the morning, just in case it doesn't last. Even the Spanish folk are beginning to grumble about the rain. My friend Cati put on her facebook post, something about more rain today,  and then she said "Ahora entiendo los ingleses". (Now I understand the English!)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A wet week in 'not so sunny Spain'!

Yes we have had a whole week of grey and often wet days, which is unusual for us, even in November. It has been so wet that I even bought myself a light-weight raincoat, and folks who know me well, will know that I don't do coats!
It has been the kind of week when you don't go out unless you need to, but fortunately we have had sufficient necessary journeys to stop us turning into couch potatoes.
I spent most evenings in the sitting room, with either Paco or Luna, or both, keeping my knees warm, so I decided to find something new to make, to stop me nodding off. (There is very little on the television that is guaranteed to keep me awake!) The man who delivers our "Fish and Chip" baby knits to Africa, wrote to tell us that he now has sufficient of these in his store, and he asked us to turn our hands to making blankets and more standard small children's garments instead, so I sorted out my wool and have embarked on making blankets. I have two on the go as I get bored with a big project, and instead of knitting I am doing different styles of crochet.
The first is Tunisian crochet which I did many years ago when mum bought a Tunisian hook from somewhere. As a child it appealed to me because it was relatively easy and it grew very quickly! I am now using a much smaller gauge hook, and a slightly different stitch called Tunisian afghan stitch. It makes up to an even, firm fabric that will make a good blanket. I am making strips rather than squares as it cuts out much of the sewing up at the end.
The second one is Bavarian crochet which I have not done before. I saw something made in it on the internet and I liked the look of it, so I bought, and downloaded the instructions, and this is how it makes up. Pretty isn't it?

This week we had to go to the hospital at Huercal-Overa for Chris to have a special blood test that apparently couldn't be done at our local clinic. It is to do with an ongoing problem with arthritis in his knees and wrists. Our doctor had told us to just turn up and no appointment was necessary, but although we got there just as they opened up, we were number 56 on the list! Fortunately I had taken my crochet with me, so I got quite a length of it done. When he had finally had his turn, we went to our optician which is just down the road from the hospital, and I had my eyes tested, as it is now six weeks since my cataract operation. So I am now looking forward to having new glasses in a week or so.

Despite the poor weather there is still plenty to see in the garden and along the road side. Here are a few photos I have taken in between the showers.
It is amazing how everything has grown since the storm last month. The ground is covered in tiny plants pushing up through what was barren land. Many are even in flower as though they think it is Spring. Certainly our 'green zone' at the back of our house is truly very green right now.

Yesterday I spotted this spider suspended between two branches of the bougainvillea. he looks too fat and heavy for his fine web to hold him. He was busy wrapping up a wasp to go in his store cupboard. We occasionally get some nasty big black spiders, and lots of tiny grey ones which jump, and can give a very unpleasant bite that itches worse than any mosquito bite, but ones like this, that I used to think of as common garden spiders in England, are not seen very often. He was quite a handsome fellow, but I wouldn't care to walk into his web on a dark night!

Another thing I have noticed  this week is huge collections of birds. I stopped to watch these ones on my way home from Turre on Wednesday. They were in the tops of all the trees and packed tightly along all the overhead cables. They are definitely members of the starling family, and are very like the starlings in UK. The noise they were making was amazing. You can quite see why the collective name for them is a "murmuration of starlings". 
When something startled them they all took off and the sky was black with them, but I was disappointed to find that they didn't make any of the wonderful formations of flight that I used to watch when they all came to Oswestry.

The exceptional amount of rain we have had, including some very heavy showers, and some that have lasted all night, has hampered the workmen's efforts to clear and repair roads damaged in the flooding. 
I stopped by the rambla in Turre which is usually a dry river bed, and this week it is still a fast flowing river. I did find a tiny trickle of water down there one spring when I walked along it, but it was hidden by bushes and trees that were taller than me. All that has washed away now, and there is just water , a lot of debris, and a few struggling plants. No doubt it will all recover in its own time. Nature is quite remarkable in its ability to heal, but it won't start to happen until it is dry enough for the water to subside.

There is one good thing about this weather. We rarely see a really good sunset because most days the sky is clear when the sun goes down, but this week there has been a lot of clouds which reflect the last rays of the sun, and set the sky on fire. One day last week, the sun had managed to come out for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and I was just in time to catch this beautiful sight. Ten minutes later and it was all gone, so I am glad I looked up when I did.

And finally, this is for family members who I know don't usually visit my other blog, so apologies to those who do, because this paragraph is a direct copy from my post on there last Wednesday.

"And finally I must share something very special for me. As you are aware, our five sons came out together to help us celebrate both our birthdays a couple of weeks ago. Our youngest son, Ben, is very musical, writing songs, singing and playing the piano, saxophone and guitar. He only does it for pleasure but he often puts a video on you-tube, so I can see what he is doing. I was expecting to him to come over that week, so I had borrowed a piano so he could entertain us all at our party. But he then surprised us by singing a little song he had written especially for us. Many of our party guests  were, like us, older ex-pats, and we all miss our families back home, and our friends were very taken with the way we have stuck together as a family, and when Ben sang, "there wasn't a dry eye in the house". This week Ben has sent me what he called a "rough, live recording" of our song, so I am sharing it with you here. After all, it is not every week that you get a song written especially for you is it? Click on this link to hear it."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A tour around Ireland; Week two.

Hello again. I thought I might as well go for it and post about the rest of our holiday before it is too 'old news'. I think the photos for this week are even better than those from the first week. See if you agree.
We left Cork on the Monday morning and drove straight across the country and on to the Dingle Peninsular. It was a very wet morning so our first view of Inch beach was less than inspiring. However, this area is known for its beauty so we remained hopeful, and gradually the weather did improve. There is a designated "Tourist route" around the peninsular that takes in many of the places of particular historical interest, and some superb views. 

We decided that we didn't have time to do it all but we would try to get around most of it, but first we called in to meet another cousin - Joe's sister Philomena and her husband. They have a working farm and also run a small bakery attached to the house where they make bread and scones to sell locally. They made us very welcome and we had a great time catching up on news of the family. We then did our drive around the peninsular and returned to their house for a lovely meal. They then took us to their son's house where they had arranged for us sleep.

The next morning we were off again, this time driving through Tralee and Listowel to board the Tarbert ferry. This cut quite a bit off our journey and we were soon arriving in our next stop - Galway. Here we had booked into a bar near the town centre, so we dropped off our bags and set out on foot to explore. It was a pretty town with a fast flowing river and a canal running through it. We walked to the Spanish Arch which led on to an open area spread on both sides of the River Carrib. It was very fast running water, but several folk were sitting on the wall and danging their feet over as they took in some gentle autumn sunshine. 
We walked around the mouth of the river and on to the Claddagh; a wide expanse of grass used partly as a practice field for a local school football club. We watched them play for a while. Irish football is quite different from Soccer. We then kept walking across the Claddagh, which ran along the coast for a long way, and when we got to the end, as in the words of the song, "We watched the sun go down on Galway Bay". It was a long walk but we enjoyed the sun and there was no rush to get back.

After a very nice meal where we were staying, we went back down the road to Taffes bar to listen to some traditional music. Before we left the next morning, Chris bought me a necklace that I had seen the previous evening. It is a celtic cross with a piece of Connamara marble in the centre.

From Galway we headed up towards Sligo, but I wanted to stop just before there to visit a waterfall I had seen in one of the Tourist leaflets we collected everywhere we went. While we were looking out for it, we saw a sign for Knock Sanctuary and Chris said he would like to go there, so we did another detour  but it wasn't far out of our way. Although I am not very interested in all things catholic, this was a lovely place and it was very interesting to read all the signs around the place. It was built to commemorate a Vision of Mary with St Joseph and St John, seen there in 1879, and apparently witnessed by fifteen people. It is now a place of pilgrimage, and in 1979 the Pope visited it 'as part of his pilgrim journey to Ireland'.
We were soon on the road again and we found the village of Collooney and parked up, and then we set off to ask the way to the falls. It was cold and we decided to have a cup of tea first but we couldn't see a cafe, so we went into a bar. There was a nice fire burning in there and several men drinking Guiness at the bar. But Chris asked if we could have tea and the barman told us to go and get comfy and soon he appeared with a big pot full of tea and profuse apologies that he had no biscuits to offer us. We managed to squeeze nearly three mug-fulls each out of the pot and when we got up to leave, the barman gave us directions to the falls and refused to take any payment for the tea! That doesn't happen very often.
The falls were lovely with a backdrop of grey stone buildings that were the old mill, and bright trees in their autumn attire all around it. I love the sound of falling water, and this was fed by a fast flowing river. Just above the falls there was a rock with big heron perched on it. I crept closer and it stayed so still that I wasn't sure whether it was real. But then it suddenly took to its wings and disappeared.
We travelled on through Sligo and before long we reached our Guest House in Donegal. It was a lovely place run by a very kind and helpful couple. Chris was looking forward to coming here as his dad, Sam, came from Donegal. He knows Sam took him there once but he was very small and doesn't remember anything about the visit. He knew our guest house was in the right area so he asked the proprietor if she knew anyone in the region called Perry and she did. Her neighbour and friend was a John Perry. She rang him up and he came down to see us, and he turned out to be a cousin, the son of one Sam's brothers. He also brought his brother Ozzie, and later John's son David arrived. He was keen to meet us as he, like Chris, is trying to trace the family history. He had our names on his list but didn't expect to be meeting us. He exchanged information with Chris, and showed us some old family photos.
After their visit we set off to see a nearby lake called Lake Eske. It was raining lightly, but we could still see that it was very beautiful. At one end there was a castle and we wandered in to look at it, but then we discovered we were in the grounds of a luxury, 5 star hotel, built to incorporate the old castle. No-one seemed to mind us being there and we wandered freely through the grounds looking at a large collection of black sculptures that were dotted around.
Then we drove around the coast to Slieve League Cliffs, some of the highest in Ireland. The last bit was a steep, narrow road so we were glad we were able to drive up it. The wind at the top was so strong we could hardly stand against it, and I had difficulty holding the camera still, but the views were amazing. The steep red rock cliffs dropped straight into the sea, and the Atlantic ocean beat tirelessly at their feet.
On the way back down we stopped to take more photos at a pretty little river. We stood on a bridge looking at it, but when we turned around, the other side of the river was a rushing, churning bowl of white water.

On the way home we stopped off at Donegal Craft village, which was a group of small studio shops where we could both see things being made, and buy them if we wanted to. There was an artist studio, a jewelry maker, a baker/tea shop, a weaver, but the one that caught our eye was a sculptor who took pieces of bog wood, that had been preserved in a peat bog for up to 2000 years, and carved them into whatever the wood suggested to him. Of course, they were rather expensive, but having walked round stroking all of them, we decided to buy a piece between us as a memento of our holiday, and this is what we chose. It is made of bog-pine and mounted onto a piece of rock so it is quite heavy, but I wrapped it up well and put it in my hand luggage, and it survived the journey. I love the smooth feel of it, and will probably go on stroking it every time I pass it!

That evening some more members of the family came to visit us. Aunty Mary was in her eighties and she was the widow of one of Sam's brothers. Later her son Tom joined us. She also brought cousin Muriel with her, who was married to the son of another of Sam's brothers! Both Peggy and Sam came from such huge families,and they tend to have names that are used in each generation, so it is no wonder Chris has had such trouble sorting them all out. Muriel is also very interested in family history and she had an album of old photos which were facinating to look at.
Our final main destination was just over the border into Northern Ireland. This was the Giant's Causeway, which I have often seen on television, and was keen to see for myself. It lived up to our expectation being both interestingly different, and rather beautiful. We spent a long time there, but I think the photos in my gallery speak for themselves, so I won't say any more about it here.
Just beyond the Causeway there is a little place called Carrick-a-rede, famous for its hanging rope bridge that the not so faint-hearted can cross to a small island. We were not up for that, but we stopped off there to meet one more cousin. John and Ozzie have an older brother called Ron who works for the national trust at the site. He was very surprised to see us, but we had a cup of tea with him in the cafe there, before heading off south down around Belfast to Downpatrick where we had booked in for our final night. We drove the long way round on the road that hugged the coast most of the way. It was a bit bendy for me but I just about survived.
We were up and packed early the next morning and set off for our last day of driving. We had plenty of time to get to Dublin as our flight wasn't until tea time, so we headed first for a town called Newcastle. This is famous as it is the place where "The mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea." Another favourite Irish song of ours. Along the promenade we saw a large sheet of metal engraved with the words of the song, and with a picture of the poet who wrote it, lazer cut in the centre so that you could see the mountains through and around him. We had to drive through the mountains which took us through some lovely countryside, but we realised that we were still a bit early for the airport so we stopped off at a little village called Swords. We found a nice tea shop, and then wandered down the high street. Then we filled up the hired car and returned it to the depot, and headed into the departure lounge. We were relieved when the case went through as we knew it might be over weight, but we were just under by a few grams!

Well I am sorry this is such a long post. There is so much more I could tell you, so believe me, this is greatly edited. There are some lovely photos in my new folder, "Touring Ireland; Week two" so do click on it and have a quick look if you can.