Before you set up a website for your business, there are a few questions you will need to answer:

* Do you want your website created in blogging software like WordPress or MovableType, or do you want it set up in HTML?  In other words, do you want the ability to easily write posts and add photos to your site, or do you just need a "flat" site that will not need many changes.
* Will you be designing the site yourself, or paying someone else to do it?
* Will you be updating the site yourself, or paying someone to manage it for you?
* How often wlll you need your site updated?
* Do you need e-commerce components - will you be selling a product on your site?
* Do you need mapping and searchable databases set up?
* Do you want other features - photo gallery sliders, contact forms, live chat, live weather etc?
* How much money do you want to spend on your website?

There are many web design companies that want your business. Many offer custom or cookie-cutter sites.

Let me explain.

Custom: A designer will work with you to create a site with your images, colors and content in mind. You're the boss.  This can go two ways. Your designer can build you a site from scratch - but be prepared to pay a hefty fee for this.  Or, you can go with WordPress - your designer can select a theme that is already available and then customize it for you.  Some themes are free while there is a fee for others.

Cookie-cutter: A cookie-cutter site is template driven - you may be able to pick colors and some other features, but you will be limited a bit - or a lot - by the company's template.

Many sites are being set up in blogging software - and WordPress is the most popular. It's free, though if you want it in your own domain you will need to pay for the hosting.

When you put your site into blogging software like WordPress, it can be set up so that you will be able to update it yourself without having to know html. WordPress also comes with a lot of plugins to help you with all kinds of things - search engine optimization, photo galleries, forms and more. WordPress also has many free and low-cost themes (designs) that you can buy - you can pick a theme and modify its colors, or you or a designer can create your own theme. Or, you can pick a theme or two or three and use code from each to create a new theme (design) that's perfect for you - if you know coding.

Let's say you don't know jack about HTML or other coding languages. You can still use WordPress. Go to a web host company like, or (there are many hosts out there - these are just a few). Sign up for a hosting package that includes WordPress. Pick out your domain name and get out your credit card. (By the way, WordPress also will host your site for a very reasonable price.)

Give them a couple of days to get your domain and blog set up. They will send you the Web address for your WordPress admin page. Then have fun picking out a theme and plugins and building out your site through a pretty easy interface.

What does a Web host service cost? You'll have to do the legwork on this - visit some of the top hosting companies and compare their packages and level of support. A business site may cost more than a personal site. For example, I'm paying around $14 a month to my host for this blog - and I get email addresses and lots of cool stuff in the admin area. Now, if I were a business, it would cost me around $100 a month for a site and email addresses.

If you want your web host to host, design and maintain your blog, you could be looking at a pretty hefty monthly fee of several thousand dollars.

Are you still using a gmail, yahoo, aol or your Internet provider's address for your business email?  Did you know that you are marketing their brand instead of your own? That's why they offer it to you for free.  They also make money by pushing ads out to you on your emails or displaying them to you when you login to check your email.

If you own a business or if you are a private contractor, you need to do all that you can to get your name or the name of your business in front of your customers or clients. Yahoo, gmail and the other free web-based email providers are for your personal email account and should not be used for professional contacts.  If you are a Realtor, for example, your email account should not be  Sure, that email address tells your clients you like dogs, but it says nothing about your business, unless you are a petsitter - and if you are, it looks like you are working for comcast instead of yourself.

Securing your own domain - that's what goes before the .com - and server space are not free.  You'll have to mark funds spent on this as part of your marketing budget, but it is a business expense and is tax deductable.

So, where do you start?

As noted above, you will need a domain name and a host.  Let's start with the domain name, and I'll talk about hosts in another post. 

Keep your domain name simple, easy to remember and as short as possible.  I have several email addresses - one for work, one for personal mail, and now one for this blog -  Mine was easy to set up - nobody else in the entire world wanted  I could have also had,,,  etc.  I went with .com because it is the most widely used.

Now, before you go and print up business cards with your new email address, make sure that you can actually purchase the domain name that you want.  Chances are you may not get what you want at first - there are millions of domain names in use and someone may have already scooped up your business name. 

You can visit just about any web hosting company to purchase your domain name. I would suggest buying your domain at the same time you purchase server space so that you can take advantage of discounts most companies offer.  Do some comparison shopping before you settle on a web host.  But to get started on your quest for a domain, let's visit - it's one of the oldest and cheapest hosts.  At the top of's home page, you'll see a box with "Start your domain search here."  Next to the box is a dropdown menu of domain extensions - there's a bunch - .com, .co,.info, .net, .org, .me, .mobi, .us etc.  I would suggest you start with the default - .com.  Go ahead, put in your top choice for your domain.  If it did n't work, try again. And again.  This could take a while, and you may need a thesaurus to help you with your name if what you want has been taken.

Next up: Web hosts


Hold on to the handrail!

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I had the best of intentions when I started this blog.  I impressed myself by blogging from Ireland each day of our trip in December, but here it is May 1 and I haven't written a word.

So, let's try this again - after all, I am paying a monthly fee to share my thoughts with the world.

stairs.jpgSo, let's talk about home and garden.  It's spring, and I've got the urge to fix up our house.  It is falling down around us, and really needs some TLC.  And speaking of falling down...two members of my family have tripped the light fantastic (well, more like, bang, ouch, bang, ouch, OUCH!) and taken a tumble down our stairs.  Was it our house ghost playing tricks, or the fact that we didn't have a handrail?

I'm going to vote handrail this time.  Well, last weekend my husband and I finally got up the nerve to put one in.  Handyman/woman we are not!

We had the railing and the braces - all we needed was the time.  And speaking of time - it took us HOURS to put in three braces (that's nine screws) to hold that railing in place.   The time included several trips to the store to buy a stud finder, screws and wood glue - and of course, we had to have lunch while we were out.  We started putting holes in the wall on Saturday morning, and finally finished the project - and patching all of the holes in the wall - on Sunday afternoon. 

Our handiwork can be seen at right.

Other projects on the list this year:

1. Paint stairs and railings - they are soooo ugly!

2. New flooring in the kitchen and dining room - no more dark green floors!

3. Fix the leak in the master bathroom (the tub is NOT in use at this time)

That should take us up through December!

Back in the U.S.A.

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We made it home safely, landing at Dulles around 3 p.m. Eastern time. 

It was a very long day!  We got up at 5:30 a.m. (that would be 12:30 a.m. Eastern) and left the hotel for the last time by 7 a.m.  It was still very dark as we walked to the bus stop where we would catch the airport shuttle (Airlink, for 7 euro each).  Very few people were out on Grafton Street - a few hurrying to work, a street sweeper went by and we saw at least two homeless people sleeping in shop doorways.  It was very windy and extremely cold that morning. As we neared the corner where we were to turn to get to the old stone church where we would catch the shuttle, I noticed a young man stumbling along.  He obviously had partied a bit much in the pubs the night before.

I poked Jenn to draw her attention to him, then wished I hadn't.  He was in the process of unzipping his pants to relieve himself on the steps of one of the most expensive shops on Grafton.    

We made it to our bus stop and the shuttle arrived a few minutes later.  We had an uneventful trip to the airport, but when we got to the airport, we had to wait about an hour in line.  We were lucky - our flight would be in on time, but others who were taking a jet to Newark, N.J., learned their flight had been canceled and that the next flight out would not be until 6 a.m. the next morning.  The airline put them up in a hotel and I think I heard they each got some spending money for food.

Our passports were checked, our bags were sent off to the plane, and it was time for breakfast.  We went upstairs to the airport's food court and for the first time that week had a real breakfast - scrambled eggs, toast, a hashbrown and tea (coffee for me).  I declined the full Irish breakfast - I didn't want the rashers (Irish bacon), fried eggs, black pudding (blood sausage - ick!).  They also had what looked to be Heinz beans (beans on toast?). Our breakfast was about 15 euro.

We had to eat quickly because we had to go through customs and U.S. immigration pre-certification.  Customs was a breeze as was immigration (being pre-certified, we did  not have to go through any screenings when we got back to the states).  When we were going through the process, the agent showed us a video image of our baggage and asked us to identify it.  That was interesting.

I think we went through at least four different checkpoints before we actually got to the gate.  We had a short time there before boarding, so Jenn and I pooled our euros and bought some water and a few trinkets in a kiosk at the gate - unfortunately we did not have time to shop at any of the duty free stores on the upper level - we had to clear immigration before 10 a.m.

The flight home was  uneventful. I was in the middle seat again, but it wasn't as bad as it was flying in.  I watched two movies, played some solitaire, and enjoyed the lunch and snacks provided by the stewardesses.

My husband Darrell collected us and our bags and we drove home - stopping by Wegman's in Leesburg for dinner for him and a quick snack for me and Jenn.  We were tired by the time we got home, and I think all of us were in bed and sound asleep by 9 p.m.

An early night

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We walked miles and miles today. we left our hotel on Grafton Street and followed our map to O'Connell Street. We crossed the Liffey River and walked down Dublin's main street. I am so amazed by the quick pace of this city. Fast-walking Dubliners dodge cars, taxis, buses and the electric train...most not bothering to wait for the light to change at the pedestrian crosswalks.

We finally found the city's post office, which was the site of 1916 Easter Rebellio - when Ireland unsuccessfully declared its independence from England.

We crossed the street to take a photo of the post office and saw a fish and chips restaurant - Beshoff's Fish and Chips - that we had wanted to visit. We ordered cod fish and chips. It was very good. We spent £17 on lunch/breakfast.

We then walked back toward the river and took a left onto the road that ran beside the Liffey. We went past the Customs House and noted the (potato) famine statues across the street. We ended up at Dockside, where a Christmas market was under way. There were some rides for children, a few vendors hawking goods made in China, and several food stalls - including someone selling hot roasted chestnuts. Another was selling cornish pies. The aroma from the cooking food was tempting, but we had just stuffed ourselves with fish and chips, so we said goodby to the festival and crossed over the Liffey River and headed toward Trinity College.

This was our day to do some shopping, so we stopped in two shops across from the college. We found some great deals, but I can't reveal right now what we bought - it would spoil the surprise for my husband Darrell, my mom and my sister Trina.

We then made our way to the Stephens Green Shopping Center and made some purchases there. Jenn bought herself a claddagh ring. This is a traditional Irish ring that represents love, loyalty and friendship. The hand on the ring represents friendship, the crown represents loyalty and the heart represents love. A single woman wears the ring on the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertip. This means that the woman is single and possibly looking for love. This helps the lads know who is available. These rings are usually passed down from mother to daughter.

We stopped for some chips (big fries) and a snowflake chocolate latte at a cafe in Dunne's department store. We spent £14.

We finished our shopping at Marks and Spencer, where we picked up a few snacks for our trip home, as well as a 2-liter very tall bottle of diet Coke.

When we returned to our hotel, we got a surprise from United Airlines. As of this writing, our flight, which was supposed to leave at noon on Sunday, will not be leaving until after 7 p.m., but we stll have to be at the airport as if we were taking the earlier flight...and that means we have to be at the airport tomorrow at 9 am for a 7 pm flight. Oh well, it's all part of our grand adventure!

UPDATE: Our flight has been changed again...and will be leaving at noon Dublin time!

Our last full day!

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We are getting a very late start today. We are planning to do some shopping and visit St. Patrick's Cathedral (update - we didn't make it to the church).  I would like to go to Phoenix Park, but I don't think the sun will stay out long enough for us to see the castle there.

I just received an email from United Airlines that our flight tomorrow has been delayed by about four hours, but that we still have to arrive there at the same time in case the situation changes.  Regardless, it is going to be an awfully long day!

So, we're off to see more of Dublin and its trinket stores.  I'll post more tonight along with some more photos.

I hope you enjoy this blog - and please skip over the typos.  I'll clean it up when I get home!

We hopped on another tour bus early this morning. This bus - - was completely full and consisted of mostly students. We headed out of Dublin and went west across the entire country - a 2 1/2-hour trip.  This is truly a wee nation.

We left at 7 a.m., so I missed seeing most of the middle of Ireland because the sun didn't come up until around 8 a.m. or so.  When the light finally appeared, I saw flat pastureland, cows, horses and many, many, many sheep.  I thought I saw a few bogs as well.  The land was covered with the same orangish plants, heather and dry, wine-colored ferns, which I assume might be green in the spring, that we had seen the day before in County Wicklow.

Our first stop, at around 8:30 a.m., was at a Green Apple petrol station/convenience store in Athlone.  I got a coffee and toffee muffin, and Jenn got the same kind of muffin and a little jug of milk.  The toffee muffin was incredible!  We spent £5.85.

thatched.jpgWe reboarded and continued westward.  The closer we got to the coast, the more ruins we spied from the roadway.  I also started seeing the little cottages that I believe once had thatched roofs.  Then we did begin to see some cottages and larger homes with thatched roofs.  Many of those roofs and the metal roofs had green moss growing on them as well.  Some were so thick with moss it made the roofs a brilliant green.

We pulled into the Galway bus station around 10 a.m. and met our tour guide, Eamon.  He told us he was from a town near Galway, and we noticed that his accent was a bit different from what we were hearing in the Dublin area.   He rolled his r's a bit.

So, we boarded another bus, and with Eamon driving and telling us the history of the area in his wonderful accent, we traveled south from Galway into the countryside and its extremely narrow roads (seriously, I can't imagine driving here!).  We saw lots of farmland and Eamon pointed out a couple of fairy forts.  These forts were actually small circles of hawthorne trees. Eamon told us that farmers in that area are afraid of the fairy forts and stay away from them.  The Irish in other parts of the country visit the fairy forts for healing and good luck.

castle1.jpgOur trip took us through Clarinbridge, Kilcolgan and Kinvara.  We saw Dunguaire Castle, which was built in the 16th century in County Galway, near Kinvara.  Jenn and I took lots of photos.  She is standing in front of the castle in the photo above.

We went by the O'Brian clan home  - Lemaneagh Castle, between Inchiquin and Kilfenora. 


The legend goes that the lady of the house - Máire ní Mahon, or Red Mary due to the color of her hair - married around 20-some times so that she could maintain hold of her home and land. After the O'Brian - her husband - was killed by the Cromwell's forces, an army commander told her she would have to marry one of their officers if she wanted to stay in her home.  She did, and a while later she took him up to the tower to see the sights, and according to Eamon, for a little smoochie-smoochie.  Well, she did more than that. She pushed him to his death, and then cried that he had fallen (Eamon's version of the story is hysterical).  So after that, in order to keep her home and lands in the family name, she had to remarry once a year. She did that over and over once a year!


One very interesting place we visited before we started up into The Burren is the cathedral at Kilfenora.  It was built in 1058 on top of  a sixth century monastery. 


We were able to enter the cathedral and photograph the Celtic crosses within.  

We went through Ballyvaughan, a small village on Galway Bay in County Clare,  and on up into into the hills to The Burren.

tomb.jpg This is a very eerie place - flat limestone rocks separated by cracks called grikes covered the hills.  That's where we saw the earthen ring fort and the Poulnabrone Dolmen - a tomb dating back to between 4200 BC to 2900 BC.  Eamon stopped the bus so that we could get a closer look at this important archaeological find. We had to jump from one block of limestone to the next to get close to it; luckily we did not twist or break an ankle in one of the grikes.

bustour.jpgFrom there we went  through Lisdoonvarna, the site of Ireland's annual matchmaking festival, and we we had lunch at Gus O'Connell's Pub in Doolin.  It was a cute little village, but all the stores were closed for the winter.  This country is in a recession, and Eamon said the shopkeepers must have felt it was easier to close and save their money during the off-season. 


This time for lunch I had the Guiness beef stew and Jenn had bangers and mash, shown above.  We spent £24. We both opted for hot tea rather than Ireland's national drink - Guiness beer (though my beef stew was made with Guiness.)  We will be going to a pub on Saturday night to try Guiness and hopefully listen to some traditional Irish music (update - we never tried Guiness).

After that hearty lunch, we boarded the bus once again to visit the main attraction - the Cliffs of Moher.   The site of these cliffs is absolutely breathtaking...I mean literally breathtaking! 

moher2.jpgThere are two ways to view the cliffs - from the right side, where there is also an 1800-era lookout tower, and the left side, where you actually walk across the top of the cliffs - with no barriers!  We opted for the right side, and got spectacular photos of the cliffs after a breath-taking climb of some seriously steep steps.  We spent about an hour and a half taking photos and then touring the information center.  FYI: if you go to the Cliffs of Mohrer on a December day, be sure to dress warmly - the wind is brutal!  

As we were leaving to return to Galway, the fog rolled in and the sun started to set - and it was only 4 p.m.!  Our tour was a shortened version of the one offered later in the year due to the late rising and early setting of the sun - especially on this day, the day of the winter solstice. 

This day also was supposed to be the end of the world, according to some who believed that the end of the Mayan calendar signaled disaster.  While on the bus back to Galway, Eamon announced that the world had not ended.  That made us all feel better, and I think just about everybody but Eamon fell asleep as we made our way up the narrow road around Galway Bay. (He did warn us that if he had a little Irish whiskey along the way that it would help him drive the crooked roads much straighter!)

Day 3: A visit to the countryside

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On Thursday of our great adventure, Jenn and I got up early for a bus tour of County Wicklow, which is the county just south of Dublin (read about County Wicklow here).  Oue tour cost us £25 each.

We boarded the bus at the old stone church that now serves as one of the nation's tourism offices.  Our guide Joe was also our driver.  The bus was super comfortable, and as there were only 13 of us on the tour (Americans, a Canadian, Australians and a few people from Brazil), we had plenty of room.

Joe started cracking jokes and teasing us in the traditional Irish way, and singing in a beautiful voice as soon as we got under way. He pointed out important landmarks on our way out of town, and offered up stories for each of them.  He poked fun at the Millenium Spire, told us about the many statues that we passed, and pointed out the circular American Embassy and the estate where the British ambassador lives.  He noted that among the many embassies in town, when you see a flag flying outside, that means that the ambassador was working inside.  When no flag was flying, he said, the ambassador was out playing golf.

jenn-ess.jpgWe eventually left the city behind for green pastures, grazing sheep, cows, horses and ponies.  Our first stop was for coffee in the village of Enniskerry, which is near the famous Powercourt Estate.   We bought hot chocolate instead of coffee for £2.50 each, and we nibbled on fruit scones we had bought from Marks  & Spencer the day before.  It was drizzling, as it does often in Ireland, and we needed our umbrellas for the first part of the trip. (Jenn is standing in a little park in the middle of the road in Enniskerry in the photo above.)

bus1.jpgWe boarded our bus (the red one above) and made our way into the Wicklow mountains.  The fog was patchy, but we had some good views of the valley below - and the rain was tapering off.  We were in Glencree, which is Irish for heart of the valley.  Joe told us how World War II German soldiers were buried here, and how children without parents were once raised in a huge building nestled in this mountainous area. 

 jen-bus.jpgWe climbed higher and the landscape changed dramatically.  We were surrounded by the bog, which was covered in ferns and heather (it must be beautiful in the spring when the purple heather blooms!). 

Joe warned us never to go out into the bog, and that our chances were slim and none of coming out. He explained that the bog was Ireland's beating heart. The peat on the bog covers water, and it's like a sponge. In wet years, the bog soaks up the rain, and in dry years the bog gives back the water.  He noted that the bog that we were looking at is protected by the nation now, though only one person is permitted to dig peat there, and when that person dies, his claim to the land dies with him and no one will be able to dig peat there again. Joe said peat bogs are being depleted and that if the digging is not stopped, the bogs will disappear from Ireland in about 15 years. The peat that comes from the bogs is still used to warm homes.

This particular area of Ireland is a favorite for film studios.  "Braveheart" was filmed here, and later on down the road, where a bridge goes over a fast-moving brook, a scene from the movie "P.S. I Love You" was shot.  We got out and took photos of the bridge and of each other. 

 We continued to travel the very narrow road (so narrow in places that I was sure we would squash cars trying to go by us) and Joe stopped at one point above Logue Tay - Tea Lake - in the valley owned by the Guinness (of beer fame) family (In the photo above, the lake is behind us).  

The lake has been filmed for many movies ("Excalibur" for one), commercials and TV shows.  Stars like Michael Jackson have stayed at the estate known as Luggala Estate.  Paul McCartney was walking around the lake one day and came up with a song that he called "Scrambled Eggs."  That song was renamed "Yesterday."


We came next to Glendalough - glen of the two lakes.  There we visited a graveyard that dated back to the sixth century and included ruins and a round 30-meter high tower, which was built a thousand years ago. 

glen-arch.jpgJenn and I took many photos here. 


 The colors there were unbelievable - especially the green moss that was growing on everything. 

We then went a short distance up the road to Upper Lake and took more photos.   The photo below is one of my favorites.  Look at how green everything is!

glen-cottage.jpgOur next stop was in the town of Avoca, famous for the filming of the TV show Ballykissangel and the country's oldest operating wool mill.  

 fitzgeralds.jpgWe had lunch in Fitzgerald's, where the TV show was filmed.  This was our first real meal in Ireland (Spar and the grocery store food don't count).  Jenn had beef Irish stew with mashed potatoes and a piece of brown bread.  I had fish and chips and mushy peas (which were very interesting).  We spent £23.

Our last stop before heading back to Dublin was the Avoca wool mill.  There we took a tour of the factory and saw machines weaving dyed wool into cloth.


The mill has a retail shop and we browsed but did not buy - sweaters ranged from $49 to $99, and lovely throws were around $79.

That's it for Day 3.  We have another early day tomorrow. We are going to wild Ireland on the west coast to visit the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren by tour bus.  We also will see Galway City, Doolin, the Poulnabrnoe Dolmen, fairy forts and 16th century Dunguare Castle. 

Day 2 in Dublin

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We made it out of our hotel shortly after noon - which meant we only had about four or five hours of daylight. 

0ur first stop was the Bank of Ulster - I was running low on euros and had to convert my dollars. This bank was not like a U.S. bank. We went through a door of a very old building and walked upstairs to a tiny office where two men sat behind a glass enclosure.  I handed over my $174 and the teller gave me £127.66 in euros.  The bank's commission was £1.27... so, if you are traveling to Dublin, don't use one of the money exchange places in the airport. Go to an ATM or to a bank - it's much cheaper.

0ur next stop was at a Spar store.   We bought an apple turnover for breakfast and took it to the Irish Tourism Center, which is located in an ancient church.  There is a cafe there that's pretty reasonable, so I bought a cafe au lait and Jenn had a hot chocolate. We had already started on our turnovers when we spotted a sign that said no outside food allowed. Oops! 

jenn-tourism-centre.jpgThe tourism center had a number of brochures for sightseeing in Dublin and day trips to the country. You can also book trips there. We collected the brochures and headed out toward Trinity College, and then on to the National Museum of Archaeology and History, where we got lucky and happened on the beginning of a museum tour about the winter solstice, which is this week.

The talk was fascinating, and we also watched a movie about Newgrange, which is north of Dublin. Newgrange is the site of a passage tomb or ancient temple built more than 5,000 years ago - it is older than Stonehenge, the Mayan temples and the Egyptian pyramids. During the winter solstice, many people gather at Newgrange to view the illumination of the temple as the sun rises.

Our next stop was around the block. We passed government buildings and Parliament and entered the natural history museum. The first floor consisted of stuffed animals native to Ireland. The second floor was full of stuffed animals from around the world. I let out a yelp when I opened the door and saw dozens of monkeys, baboons and even an ape. The animals are crammed into glass cases. It was so overwhelming and depressing that we left.

doors.jpgOn our way back to Grafton Street, we spotted doors on buildings and townhouses painted bright colors. I think I heard that many years ago the women of the area had their doors painted different colors so that their husbands would not go into the wrong house after a night at the pub.

bus.jpgIt was getting dark as we passed Trinity and headed into Marks and Spencer, a British department store/restaurant/grocery store. We went downstairs to the grocery store and spent $27 euros on food that we could eat for dinner tonight and breakfast/snacks later on (bread, fruit scones, potatoe salad, peanut butter, strawberry conserves, apples, oranges, bottled water and cheese.)

I had allowed us $100 a day in spending money, so we saved a good deal by buying food instead of going to a restaurant. Today we spent around $34.

Tomorrow will cost us a bit more. We want to get out of the city. There are so many people here, and they all walk incredibly fast, even those doing their Christmas shopping. Traffic is crazy. The double decker buses careen around turns and one came way too close to us while we were standing on a curb. Where is the Garda (police) when you need them?


We took our groceries back to the hotel and ate dinner and did research on day trips. We settled on a tour to County Wicklow just south of Dublin. We will see  Wicklow Gap, Glenalough - a sixth century monastic settlement, and Avoca village, where the oldest weaving mill in Ireland is located. County Wicklow is also a favorite place to film movies and television shows, including "Excaliber," "Braveheart" and "P.S. I Love You."

We leave at 9 a.m. and should get back to Dublin around 6 p.m.

Blah...jet lag!

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It's 10:49 a.m. Here in Dublin and I am just now staggering out of bed. I can't get Jenn to wake up. How long can I use the jet lag excuse?

We are in Dublin!

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We boarded a United Airlines jet at around 9:30 Eastern time last night.. A red eye - or jedi - flight, as Jenn called it (may the force be with us!). She had a window seat, and i was smooshed into the middle seat for seven very long hours. We arrived at 9:30 a.m. Dublin time (4:30 a.m. Eastern time - 5 hours difference).

It took us about two minutes to breeze through customs...nobody pawed through our baggage or interrogated us. The customs agent who put my first country stamp in my passport was courteous. We collected our luggage and went to the airport lobby, where we were greeted by children singing Christmas carols. We did not exchange our money for euros in the U.S. I had read that we would get a better exchange rate by using a bank ATM. If you are ever in the Dublin airport, the ATM is a bit hidden - look to the right of the mini mart.

The euros came out in €50 bills, so I had to buy two Coke Zeros for €1.10 each at the mini mart (The euro is stronger than our dollar - today's rate was €1.31 to the U.S. dollar) so that I could have exact change for the bus into Dublin.

Turns out we took a City Link shuttle to the town center for €6 each - change not needed. That was a lot cheaper than taking a taxi.

When we left D.C. it was extremely foggy. The same was true when we arrived in Dublin. At first we could not see much, but the fog lifted once we drove out of the longest tunnel I have ever been in.

We went past the port area, the River Liffey and then on to College Green near Trinity College, where we disembarked. We took a chance and proceeded in what we hoped would be the direction of Grafton Street. We found our hotel - the Westbury - off a side street and in the middle of one of Europe's most expensive shopping districts.

The 5-star hotel is beautiful. We were given warm, moist towels at the desk to freshen up (that is a first for me!). We were hours early - check-in isn't until 3 p.m., but they found us a room that was ready on the fourth floor.

room-view.jpgThe view isn't much, but the room is excellent. It has very comfortable, modern furniture, a flat screen TV, a Krupps espresso machine, an electric kettle for tea, robes and slippers, Aromatherapy shampoo and lotio, and a gorgeous bathroom.

We sat down on the comfy twin beds just to rest- and got up three hours later.

We were sore, and still tired from the trip - I guess this is what jet lag feels like. But we shook it off and decided to see what we could before it got dark.

holiday-lights.jpgWe walked down Grafton Street, which was crowded with holiday shoppers, street musicians, and were delighted by the colorful holiday window displays. We found a three-story mall and stopped in a few shops. We left with sticker shock...there is a 20-some percent value added tax on most items, though non-European Union visitors can get a refund by taking receipts to the airport.

We left the mall and started looking for a pub or restaurant. We passed up Burger King, McDonalds, T.G.I.Fridays, Papa Johns and several of the city's 666 pubs.

Hunger gnawed at us, so we stopped in a Spar store, which had coffee, pizza and deli stations. It looked like a place where the locals grabbed lunch. We settled on a turkey and sun-dried tomato sandwich. We added chips and a Coke Zero. Total: €14.

We continued our walk around town and found ourselves in the famous Temple Bar district - Dublin's version of Bourbon Street. We didn't stop in any pubs - we were getting tired, so we found our way back to our hotel, where we once again collapsed.

That's the end of our first day in Dublin. Tomorrow we hope to visit some of the free museums, and possibly a castle!

Some random notes:

    • Street signs are in English and Irish (Gaelic).
    • This is a very old city, but there are many, many young people here.
    • Our first stop in a public restroom was interesting - the toilets were a bit unusual.
    • I am having some trouble understanding some terms here. I was in line for our sandwich when a guy asked me if I was queuing (sp?)... In other words, was I in line?
    • Everybody is called "love" for some reason
    • There is a bar called Great Craic - craic means fun in Irish


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Shortly before 4 p.m., we made our way back to the check-in gate to drop off our bags. Lines in the international departure area were very long, and we enjoyed just listening to the accents and different languages around us.

We finally checked our bags and flew through the TSA checkpoint. No cranky TSA workers present, which was nice. We spotted one TSA screener blowing up a blue glove, turning it into a funny-looking balloon for a screaming child. We received a bit of kidding and smiles from the screener who checked our passports.

Once through the gauntlet, we parked ourselves at gate C5 where we are right now. Lots of people are waiting for flights all over the world. Unfortunately, we still have FOUR more hours to go. I had hoped the Internet connection would be better - it took a long time to access the airport's free wireless. Jenn has not been able to get online. So, no Walking Dead tonight...

At the airport

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We arrived at Dulles around 11:30 a.m. and tried to check our luggage, but we have to hang onto them until around 3 p.m. You can't check luggage in any earlier than six hours before your flight.

So, here we sit in the ticketing area, luggage surrounding us. But it's not so bad. The seats are comfortable. We have a window view of the control tower. And sometims we have an Internet connection.

On vacation!

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I have been so busy that I have not had a chance to post anything to my blog.  Best intentions and all...but I'm on here now, and here's what's new:

And no, this time it's not a stay-cation.  My daughter Jenn and I have been packing all night, trying to figure out what to take and what to leave at home for a trip across the pond to Dublin, Ireland.   

We leave at 10 p.m. Tuesday on a United Airlines flight out of Dulles.  We should get to the Dublin airport shortly before 10 a.m. - counting on my fingers, that would be about 5 a.m. here in Virginia.

Jenn, whose middle name is Erin (Irish for Ireland), seems to have the luck of the Irish this year.  She won this trip for two - five nights in a 5-star hotel plus round-trip airfare - after entering an online contest sponsored by Conde Nast Travel Magazine.  She entered the contest last May and was notified that she had won a few months later.  She had until Dec. 31 to take the trip, and this week was the only time that she could get away from college to go. So, her finals are over and here we are, counting down the hours before we board that plane.

But let's go back to the luck of the Irish.  She had another lucky day today.  I had bought her a camera at Costco in August so that she could use it to document her students at school (she's student teaching this year). The camera battery died a few weeks later.  She bought a battery for it and got it working again for a while, but that battery died on her as well.  We went to Costco and stopped by customer service and told them about the camera we had purchased, and that today was the first time she had had a chance to visit a Costco since August.  The clerk looked up the purchase from my card number, and told us that the warranty had expired exactly a month ago today.  But she made a phone call and came back and told Jenn some good news, and even better news. The camera was still in stock, and the clerk said she would be able to refund us the money we paid for the camera .  The even better news was that the camera was on sale, and was $30 cheaper.  We love Costco...

I'll sign off now. We have a very long day and night ahead of us tomorrow.  We're getting up early so that we can be at Dulles around 11 a.m. so that my husband Darrell can drop us off before going to work.  Yes, did I mention our flight isn't until 10 p.m.?  We'll be doing a lot of people watching, I expect while we wait, and wait, but neither of us mind - it's all part of our grand adventure!

February 2014

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