St. Finbarr’s Oratory, Gougane Barra

St. Finbarr's Oratory, Gougane Barra

St. Finbarr's Oratory

This is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit.  I got the opportunity, finally, while on holiday in West Cork last weekend.  It’s a really beautiful place.  There was a wedding taking place while I was there (it’s a very popular place for small intimate weddings), and, as there were photographs being taken, I didn’t venture onto the island.

There’s a hotel across the lake from the church as well as a pub/café and shop.  Fishing licenses can be purchased at the shop and there were a few people fishing down at the lake.  There are some lovely walks around the forest park so it’s a really nice place to while away a few hours.

Pictures from Oregon


Ooh, I’ve found my blog again. 🙂

It’s a while since I’ve written here, mainly because I was away in Portland (and other places), and also because I was catching up on a LOT of overdue ‘stuff’ that I neglected while I was studying for exams.

I regret not bringing a laptop with me and blogging in the evenings from my various hotel rooms in Portland, but, apart from using Foursquare to sign into hotels/restaurants from my iPhone, it was nice to get a break from technology.

I returned home with over two thousand photographs and several video clips of various places I’d visited during my time in Portland, Oregon,  and I couldn’t post here without making some reference to them and to the fantastic time I had there while visiting my brother and sister-in-law.

Warning: Extremely long blogpost to follow.


The trip out west was a fortieth birthday present from my husband who, on hearing that my parents were flying out to see my brother, Ian, (who I hadn’t seen in three years), thought it was a great opportunity to get rid of me for a while for me to visit too.

And so it was that, after twenty hours sleepless travel on two connecting Delta flights, my parents and I found ourselves in Portland Airport faced with an irate American Security Official who thought we were trying to ‘start something’ by crossing his ‘line’, which we had been oblivious to as we zombie-walked from the plane trying to find our luggage.

Luckily Ian had arrived early to meet us and was able to point us in the direction of the Baggage Claim area (which wasn’t, as we thought, back in the direction of the plane we’d just come from), as well as congratulate us on such a good start to our stay.


Springhill Suites, Portland, Oregon

We spent our first couple of nights at the Springhill Suites in Hillsboro, Portland (above), a really nice hotel in a peaceful area close to shops and restaurants (and Starbucks – yeah!)

Saturday Market

Our first trip to Portland City Centre took us to the Saturday Market, a hugely colourful affair,  and filled with stalls carrying handrafted jewellery and clothes, food vendors selling everything from Mexican fajitas to icecreams, and various bands and solo performers playing music, from one end of the market to the other.

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Kells Irish Bar was where we stopped for lunch.  They had a great range of Irish food there although, I’ll have to say, I prefer my own home made Boxty.

I spent most of my time staring, like a Gobdaw, at the hundreds of dollar bills stuck to the ceiling. Excuse the blurriness of this next photo but ‘vino’ + ‘darkness’ + ‘no flash’ does not = good photo result (plus I had to crop my father out of the photo too – obviously it was better with him in it!).

Kells Irish Bar

Apparently the dollar bills stay up there thanks to a bit of ‘Irish Magic’, although I’ve heard tell elsewhere on the internet that they’re wrapped in coins first which stick to the ‘metal’ ceiling.  I don’t know how they stay up there really but, when I realised that there were ten and twenty dollar bills up there too, I was able to think of more than one way to get them down.


The House

Some of you will know (assuming that a few friends are actually reading this and that they’ve stuck with it this far….thanks you guys…) that my brother was in the process of buying a house in Portland, and you may be wondering why we weren’t staying with him while we were there.  Unfortunately there were a few hiccups with the purchase and, by the time we arrived, he still hadn’t signed for the house.  Or….at least… that’s what we were *told*.  Funnily enough….on the day we were leaving…..he signed for the house. Hmmm…..

No, seriously though, I’m glad it’s all sorted now because between the stress of trying to get a house purchase sorted, and the stress of having your Irish kin that you haven’t seen in three years arrive on your doorstep to be shown around for two weeks, I’m sure anyone would crack up altogether.  Luckily Ian has always been pretty much cracked anyway. 🙂

We got to see the house, and I took a few photos of it.  I don’t like posting photos of other people’s personal stuff so I’ll just post the view from it instead.

View from house

I really wouldn’t mind waking up and looking out at that view every morning so, if anyone would like to pay my fare for my return to Portland, I’m sure Ian will gladly put me up for a week or three! 🙂


We stayed in several hotels during our stay.  I was really impressed with the majority of them with regard to the size and location.

The second hotel we stayed in was the Park Lane Suites on SW Kings Avenue in Portland.

Park Lane Suites, Portland, Oregon

Park Lane Suites, Portland, Oregon

Park Lane Suites Bedroom

The Park Lane Suites were really handy in terms of access to Portland itself, with the Max (light rail) nearby.  There’s an entire free section of the Max too which runs through the centre of Portland.  Woohoo! Cheapskating traveller’s heaven! Although, after walking three blocks one day in order to avail of the free transport, we were given out to by my mother for being too mean to spend $2 on the bus. ($2 goes a long way in Starbucks, Mum!!)


Bridge Lift – Portland

One of the highlights of our visit to Portland City Centre was viewing a bridge lift (Burnside Bridge) that allowed a tall yacht to pass underneath.  Lots of people stood at the quayside wall to watch and take photos.  I was glad I wasn’t the only person to consider this a great novelty. (I am attaching a photo of ‘heads’ to prove my point.)

Burnside Bridge Lift

Coffee and Beer!

At an Espresso Bar that Ian frequents most mornings on his way to work (and owned by Kim who used to live in Dublin), we got to sample ‘Pumpkin Coffee’.  My father thought the coffee a bit sweet, something I found strange considering he takes two spoons of sugar in his coffee.  I thought it was lovely, and usually I baulk at the taste of sugar in tea or coffee.

Espresso Bar, Portland

There was a lot of coffee drank while in America.  There was plenty of beer downed too although, from the photos I took it would seem that more beer flowed than coffee.  Ian really should be more careful where he parks his pick-up truck.

Pickup truck outside liquour store

Pickup truck


Look - No hands!

Look - No hands!

Rockaway Beach, Oregon

Of course, aside from the beer and coffee drinking, there was a lot of sightseeing done too.  We spent two nights at a beach house at Rockaway Beach on the Oregon Coast.  It was the most amazing place, and we were so lucky with the weather.  On the evening we arrived it was quite dull, but the next day the sun came out and shone its heart out for us.  Bliss!

Beach House - Rockaway Beach, Oregon


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Chinese Gardens, Portland

I made a visit to the Chinese Gardens in Portland where I met up with Mona, an online friend from Calgary.  It was great to finally meet up with her (after two years of commicating online I think?), and we couldn’t have picked a better place to sit down and chat than the Chinese Gardens, a colourful oasis of peace and calm in the middle of busy Portland.  Of course we sampled some of the Chinese tea.  There were SO many varieties that it was almost impossible to choose.  I played it safe with Jasmine tea while Mona opted for Monkey tea or something or other.  The gentleman who served us was lovely and showed us how to drink out of the cups.  For an extra dollar or so there was some sort of tea ceremony that you could avail of too, but I decided to keep my dollar.  People do strange things with their dollars in America.

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The old homestead, Oregon

I finally got to see where Ian has been living since he moved out to Oregon three years ago, and prior to his moving to Portland.  Even though mam and dad visited him there during the winter, I’m not sure it’s the sort of place I’d like to stay for too long in the snow.  It’s very isolated.  You’ll see one of the photos below is taken at an angle.  That would be because I was flung to the side of the pickup as we ascended the mountain on some really ‘FUN’ roads!

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It was a five hour drive from Portland out to Cougar mountain, and the mountain is thirty five miles away from the nearest town – Mitchell – population of 155.


The Little Pine Cafe

The Little Pine Cafe

Grocery Shopping in Mitchell

Grocery Shopping in Mitchell


I got to shoot my first rifle too. GAWD I’ve always wanted to say that – it’s so Steve Earlish.

Pesky Varmints

Pesky Varmints!

We spent the night in Mitchell at the Oregon Hotel which is owned by Hugh and Skeeter Reed.  Hugh is probably the most amazing 72 year old you’ll ever meet. He certainly doesn’t LOOK 72.  I’m sure you’ll agree when you’ve looked at this video that I found on YouTube.

The bear in the video is Henry who, shortly before I arrived, had permanent residence in Mitchell and was quite a tourist attraction.  Unfortunately he’s been removed from the public eye now and I didn’t get to see him while I was there which was disappointing.  Hugh offered to introduce us before we left but, unfortunately, we were only staying for one night so there wasn’t enough time.

Skeeter is Hugh’s wife, and they’re both really lovely people.  The evening we stayed in Mitchell was possibly one of the best nights we had in Oregon thanks to their hospitality.  We sat out on the porch in the warm sun talking and having a laugh, with the crickets chirping (and that buzz in the air that you always hear on programmes like the Waltons, and that I still haven’t identified), and later on everyone joined in a barbecue out the back of the hotel.

View from the porch

View from the porch


Having a beer

Having a beer or two...or a bagfull...

Of course, the evening was over far too soon.  (I helped in that respect by going to bed early.)  Honestly, I don’t know where my parents got the energy from but I was knackered! I think I said goodnight to everyone at about 11 o’clock and left them in the garden finishing their beers.

The room I stayed in reminded me of Little House on the Prairie.  I didn’t have my camera at the time (gave it to Ian to mind) and the photo I took with my iPhone is a bit grainy.

Oregon Hotel

The Painted Hills

The following morning we said our goodbyes and started out home, but not before visiting the famous Painted Hills.

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They were spectacular!  Mum had tried describing them to me from the last time she was there but, honestly, they were so much more magnificent in real life.  I hope my photos did them some justice.

Mount St. Helens

Another fantastically beautiful place to visit! We were lucky enough to be able to spend a morning at Mount St. Helen’s, (a stratovolcano that last erupted in May 1980), the day before we returned home.

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We all had a really fantastic time in Portland.  Thanks to my brother and my sister-in-law for taking time out to show us the sights even though they were under pressure at the time.  I am looking forward to going back some day and maybe even travelling around a bit more.  In the meantime I have plenty of photos and memories to last for a while.


Something fishy going on!


Originally uploaded by Susan Cloonan

I can’t believe I’m sitting here, just after midnight, looking at photos of fish and watching Finding Nemo!

The photos were taken last year when we visited the aquarium in La Rochelle on our way to Biarritz. I wish I’d written down the names of the different fish though. I would have if I’d known I was going to forget them.

More photos of France.

The tourer and towing machine!!

Waiting in Rosslare for the Oscar Wilde to unload

Arrival in France!! Wahayyy!!!

All of us outside Chateau Antoine d’Abbadie 

In Lourdes!

Lourdes was a 3 hour drive from Biarritz. We didn’t mind the drive, but next time we’ll stay nearer so that we can explore the surrounding area a bit more. We visited the Betharram Caves (Grottes de Betharram) on our way back. It was a two hour tour that included an extremely short boat ride and a really fun trip on a small train through the caves.

A photo of St. Jean Pied de Port – the cobbled road to the Citadel.

I really like this photo of Mont St. Michel – we stopped there for three nights on the way home.

Taken on the Mont St. Michel coastal walk.

Snail made out of flowers – in the middle of a roundabout en route to Cherbourg. 

Of course, all good things surely must come to an end… they did when we drove off the ferry, back in Rosslare. Back to the miserable Irish weather!