Staycation Travels

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​As we wound down our staycation, I kept trying to make things interesting. We were all a little depressed that we weren’t able to go away this year, and really, after the wonderful time we had in Ireland last year with family, there really was no way to attempt to equal that, but I did want the kids to feel that they’d gotten a break before school returns next week.

I gave them each a journal, and began to dictate topics to start them off. They were not thrilled.

Then I hit up the I Love NY app, and found a perfect (on paper) idea to both give us a tourist opportunity, and remind us of our Irish adventure.

We discovered the Irish-American Heritage Museum. I had misread the website, so there really isn’t a large exhibit space. They typically have events, and in fact, later that week, they were hosting a Celtic cruise on the Hudson. They did have a display of Saratoga Race Track Travers’ Race posters by Greg Montgomery.


They also had a couple of small spaces of interest, both in current Irish-American life, history, and the diaspora. There was a table of Kennedy family photos, which I thought their prominence so clear that there was no label as to who they were. I did recognize one photo of the President and his mother.
Another section told the story of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Honor Guard, and still another was some religious items and artifacts, including a relic of St. Columba.

All along the walls depicted the history of the Irish-American beginnings especially in the Albany-Saratoga region with several track photos as well as Honorary Diplomas from the Educational Institute of Scotland for both Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.

We spent a lovely hour looking around and asking questions.

Admission is by donation, and there was also a little gift shop.

After that, we stopped at a local Irish pub for lunch.


It really was a nice way to end our summer before going back to work and school, and offer homage to our once in a lifetime trip last year, which still calls to my heart.
Next week, I will surprise the kids with Irish candy as a before school treat. It’s been too hot to get it even the short distance to the Irish shop in town.

What adventures have you found this summer?

Travel – One Year Ago Today in Wales

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​One year ago today, we were winding our way back from Wales, over hill and dale, across the Irish Sea to stay overnight in Dublin, and then return to our home base and our cousins in Northern Ireland.

When I first went on my solo adventure to Wales in 2009, upon returning I was asked if I wanted to bring my family to see what I saw. My immediate answer was no. I didn’t want to share it with anyone, but the reality was that I also didn’t want them to spoil it for me.

Like when you set up a movie night for your best friend to watch your favorite movie, and while they’re watching the movie you’re watching them to see that they love it as much as you do…but…they don’t, and it kind of ruins the experience for you, and now every time you watch that movie again, you’ll think of your friend who didn’t like it, and wonder why they didn’t like it.

Wales could not impress them as it did me, and I did not want to see the looks on their faces of huh, so this is it.

I knew that if I wanted to visit Wales on this trip, and I did, not only to pilgrimage to my saint’s holy well, but also just to feel the land under my feet, the rocks under my fingertips, then I would have to bring them along. This was a family adventure and I couldn’t leave them behind for three days. I resigned myself to whatever they would feel, and I made peace with it.

From the ferry, we began the drive across Angelsey to cross the bridge into mainland Wales and the hour or so drive to our hotel, adjacent to St. Elen’s Well. Winding hilly roads bordered by stone walls, and there was finally a pull off to see the view, right before the bridge.

Leaning on the cold stone wall, looking out across the field that met the dry bed that met the water, seeing the Menai Bridge across the way, the mountain ahead and to the left of us, I turned to see where my family was, and there I saw it.

Their looks.

Even the kids.

They may not have had the spiritual connection or the hiraeth of homecoming, but they had amazement. It was about to drizzle, and it was grey, but judging by their faces and their eyes sweeping across the landscape, it was the brightest, sunniest day they’d ever seen.

And as we drove deeper into the towns at the base of Snowdon, their eyes only got wider. We got out several times between that first time and reaching our hotel. There were rivers to see, stone buildings, mountain views, sheep and cows, but oh the amount of sheep defying gravity on the side of the mountain.

I was glad I brought them.

They could maybe kind of understand my obsession connection.

I wasn’t even mad when they unintentionally one-upped me. It was at the point when I couldn’t do anymore climbing, so when we passed through Llanberis on our way back to Holyhead, they went up to see and take pictures for me of Dolbadarn Castle, one of Llywelyn Fawr’s. Actually, I believe that his grandson, Owain Goch ap Gruffydd was kept confined there by his brother Llywelyn the Last. So I was a little jealous, but I was still okay with it. Mostly. Now, they’ve been to a part of Wales that I haven’t. 

Maybe one day I can rectify that.

Dolbadarn Castle. Llanberis. North Wales. (c)2018


On the path to Dolbadarn Castle. Llanberis. North Wales. (c)2018

August – Vacation/Staycation – Photo/Art

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A variety of road trips, top to bottom: rental car, Celtic shield pin, Days Inn motel sign, Via Aquarium entrance, pansies on the path, crosswalk, Ballycraigy welcome sign, Erie Canal Cruises. (c)2018

August – Vacation/Staycation – Reflection

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We won’t be getting a vacation this year. My husband will get the time off, but we don’t have the finances to go anywhere, so what special thing can we do before school starts up again in a little more than two weeks.

This certainly won’t be the first time we have a staycation. To be honest, most of our “vacation” time was spent traveling the two hundred fifty or so miles to and from our parents’ houses. When my father was ill, and before my oldest started school, we would drive down one weekend, my husband would take my father’s car home so he could work, and then return the next weekend. We did this at least once a month.

In those ensuing years, I was able to travel a bit with help from friends, and my husband went to his mom’s with the kids for a weekend or to ComicCon, and we did many road trips – day trips – just to get away from our four walls, which always seemed to be in need of housekeeping. It still does.

What’s a family to do?

We are fortunate to live in and around the capital of New York, and so there are many options for day trips from amusement parks to historical sites, horse racing, and shopping. We recently did a quick overnight to Destiny USA, the largest mall in New York, and very similar, if not in size and scope, to the Mall of America. It was like a mini-vacation, and my husband and son checked off nine new comic stores (in less than twenty-four hours) while my daughter and I went shopping at Lush and drank bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea. We’d never been there before, and so it was nice. It was different. And it was really not expensive at all.

Where to start?

AAA

Tour books, maps, they can even make reservations for you. I actually prefer to do this myself since we rent our car from Enterprise, and this trip was free because of points accumulation.

Priceline

We booked our hotel (in the carr on our way to Syracuse) online. We didn’t find out the hotel until after we chose and paid for it, but we got a comfortable $78 room with free breakfast for $46.

Know before you go

In NY, we have a wonderful I Love NY app that offers you suggestions on where to visit, where to eat, and what to do. Google your own state, and discover what’s right in your backyard.

Look for discounts

Again, use AAA. I always forget to ask about a AAA discount when I’m at home, but it’s available in many places. Military, senior, and student discounts are also often available. Look online for special offers, coupons, and recommendations.

Make memories

Buy an inexpensive journal in the dollar section of Target or any dollar store. Use your cell phone camera to take photos of the places you’ve been, and the family you’re with.

One of the things that amazes me is discovering the “tourist” things to do in my “hometown”. We spend all of our time traveling somewhere else that we forget that people often are traveling to our neck of the woods, and we should take some time to explore our own environs.

Here are some suggestions for the central New York region, whether you’re local or visiting from afar:

1. ESAM – Empire State Air Museum

2. Erie Canal Cruises

3. Six Flags Great Escape and the Lake George Area

4. VIA Aquarium

5. Grant Cottage

6. Saratoga Race Track

7. Schuyler Mansion

8. Niagara Falls – New YorkCanada (You will need a valid passport for travel to Canada. Visit the State Dept. for more information.)

9. Destiny USA

10. National Comedy Center

Inside Lock 17. Erie Canal Cruises. (c)2018

Travel – A Look Back at Our Irish (and Welsh) Adventure

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​On August 14, 2017, my family and I boarded an airplane and flew across the Atlantic Ocean to the western side of Northern Ireland, the land where my mother-in-law and her family was born and raised. Our trip was for many reasons, primarily returning my mother-in-law’s ashes to the land of her birth to be put to rest with her father, as per her request.

It was also an opportunity to catch up with our Irish cousins, for me to take a side trip and pilgrimage to one of my saint’s holy wells, and for our family to have a much needed break and time away together. This would really be one of the only vacations we’ve taken for this length of time.

Between leaving at night, the eight or so hour flight, and the time difference, we arrived on Tuesday, August 15th at approximately ten in the morning.

That was two days and one year ago, and for the next two weeks or so (perhaps a bit longer since I began this project later in the week than I had planned), I’d like to include you on my look back, my reminiscence, my retrospective, my journey, contemplations at no extra charge. In fact, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about aspects of this trip (as well as my previous trips to Wales) and I know it holds a tender place in my heart as well as my family’s.

Let’s begin.

My two youngest children and my brother-in-law had never been on an airplane before. I am a nervous flier. Everything couldn’t have been smoother, although the plane was quite loud and bumpy. It wasn’t terrible; I think it was normal, but it still rattled the young ones. We held hands for parts of it, and my son couldn’t really eat his dinner. He was much better on the return flight, I think because the first one was over.

We arrived at Belfast International Airport, got our luggage, got our rental car, loaded up the sat nav as they call the GPS there and headed to our cousins’ in a nearby town, about fifteen minutes east.

More to come in the days ahead.

Belfast travel collage. (c)2018

August: Vacation/Staycation: Recipe

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This isn’t quite a recipe, however…

Whether traveling to somewhere new or visiting somewhere you’ve been before, snacks are important. Here are five Snacks to Pack!

Snacks to Pack!

1. Craisins or Raisins. These come in individual packages or you can share them using Ziploc snack sized bags.

2. Pretzels. My kids always want cheese doodles. Orange fingers in the car? Absolutely not!

3. Bottles of water.

4. Granola Bars. They come in all kinds of varieties; my favorites are Nature Valley’s Pecan Nut Crunch.

5. Cereal in Ziploc bags. Cheerios, Kix, Lucky Charms are great for this kind of traveling snack.

Enjoy your summer, whether you’re traveling far or staying near.