My latest adventure has been one with the U.S. government-a VA hospital to be exact. This is a whole different kind of work environment and there is a lot of get used too but I am very much enjoying taking care of some of our Veterans. This year is the 150th birthday of the hospital I am part of and there seem to be quite a few plans in the works for the celebration. However, the most interesting thing that I have come across is that a Civil War soldier will be honored by being buried at the closed cemetery on the property. His remains were found on the west coast and they have made their way back to Maine in order to be part of this event. He fought for the 20th Maine in the war and now he will be placed back at home. I often think of the brave men and women who have the courage to be part of our military. I honor and respect them. I am glad to be giving back to them in my home state. And above all, want to thank them.
I experience simple moments and simple pleasures. In my opinion, life is about finding them, whatever they happen to be. I have always said that I am not one to buy shoes or purses, but choose to spend my time and money on adventure in whichever form I enjoy. The simple truths in life that I adhere to are: 1. being near or on the water brings me a kind of peace that is good for me 2. Travel is a nourishment to my soul. There are very few things that can give me the joy that I feel when I experience a new place. 3. Kindness and positivity are far better ways to exert my energy than a bad attitude ever could be. I have had many people tell me that my smile is what they remember about me. It takes more effort to be negative or mean and I just don’t think that is productive. People tend to respond to kindness. I have found that the quickest way to disarm someone is by giving them a genuine smile and making them feel that they are very important to you in the moment you are with them. I think it’s amazing that a simple smile can sometimes turn a whole day around for someone.
I have been working in a small community at the very tip of Maine. It’s in what us southern Mainers call “the county” and I have discovered that people here call where I’m from in Maine, “downstate.” I find it amusing that we as Mainers have all these funny little terms for things and I don’t tend to notice them until I am trying to explain to someone from out of state. I hear all kinds of jokes and assumptions from people that are not from here; and even though there may be a grain of truth in them, most of the time I just brush it off. Some of us say “ayuh” as yes. Most of us use wicked good; and I can assure you that I have been using that expression since I was little. Mainers are a hard bunch to impress and I can assure you that unless you were born in this state, no matter how long you have lived here, you will always be “from away.” We are proud, hard working, down to earth people for the most part that cherish our natural landscape and resources. I personally love being a coastal girl; growing up on sailboats and ferry boats. I am finding that as I get older, I can appreciate the part of Maine that has the mountains and vast wilderness. And now that I have had a lot of time to live in other places, I can truly appreciate my home for what it is. I get excited when people want to talk about Maine and tell me how much they love it here or would like to visit. This current assignment is my first time ever spending more than a day in northern Maine. It’s not all that different to me….small town with community pride. I can get on board with that.
I recently took a trip to Quebec City to finally say I had been there. I have wanted to go for quite some time and any excuse to bust out my very rusty high school French is good with me. I went up for one day and stayed at a beautiful place in the old part of the city called Hotel Manoir Victoria. I felt almost instantly like I was in Europe; even while I was driving into the city. All the signs are in French, which I am usually not too bad with, but when you’re driving 60 miles an hour, looking out for all the crazy lane changers and listening to your GPS, translating a sign becomes infinitely harder. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hand my car keys over to the valet as soon as I got to the hotel. It’s a beautiful, historic building just inside the fortification. I didn’t realize until a couple of weeks before my trip that Quebec City is the oldest walled city in North America. French is also still the first language to most people there and it’s about 70% residential.
Once at the hotel, I went to my charming, 5th floor room with a beautiful view of the city. I had decided to book one the city tours and am so glad that I booked a bus tour as it was off and on snowing/raining and just all around dreary. I wouldn’t have been too happy to be walking around in that mess. The tour included some of the most famous and old hotels. churches, French architecture and history galore. We saw Place Royale, Plains of Abraham, the outside of the Citadel and all kinds of cute shops and houses. I was sorry to say that I only had one day in that city and look forward to a return trip.
It’s a good time of year when I can say that baseball season has started again. I look forward to it every year and always harbor fantasies of going to spring training. Somehow I just haven’t been able to have that happen yet, but I still have it in my mind. I do however still keep my annual tradition alive of going to a game on Jackie Robinson Day-April 15th. All of baseball celebrates that historic day: April 15,1947. This past year I was again lucky enough to go with my Dad to Fenway Park. They played the Toronto Blue Jay and they gave us a victory. This is big because every other time that my Dad and I have gone to a game, it’s always a loss for the Red Sox. I was so happy that bad luck streak had finally ended! The weather was nice and I always love a trip that involves a train ride. One of the best things about that day is that I unexpectedly saw one of my favorite retired players: Tim Wakefield. I was busy watching something else and he just appeared on the field. I was totally starstruck and despite having my camera in my hand, I wasn’t about to think straight long enough to get a picture. It does amaze me that I can be reduced to that behavior even as an adult! I guess we all have our weaknesses!
In the last year I have become increasingly obsessed with the Appalachian Trail. It started with a book I read that a friend wrote. I thought it was really interesting, but certainly something I would never be a part of beyond reading. I had spent a good portion of my adult life thinking that I hated hiking mostly due to one negative person in my life. As it turns out, that isn’t the case at all.
It really started when I took an assignment in southwestern Vermont. I was located close to a trail crossing and I ended up going to a “hiker feed” that was sponsored by the Green Mountain Club. I was finally experiencing the hiker culture in real life and I fell hard and fast.
I have read as much as I could get my hands on and I still find new things to read every day. I became a member of the Appalachian Trail Convservancy and will talk about the trail any chance I get. I have certain go-to friends who share my crazy obsessive nature in regard to the AT and hiking in general.
Recently, I spent a weekend in a resort tucked into the White Mountains-The Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa. It was a spectacular weekend with some incredible views and fun not soon forgotten. I admit, that of all the AT, I am most nervous about the Whites and Maine. I have heard time and time again that it’s the hardest part of the trail. But, what a challenge to overcome it! So, as I sat on the beautiful wrap around porch staring at Mt. Washington, I couldn’t help but mentally wander along that amazing trail that defines the true outdoor experience.
I completed the number one thing on my bucket list at the end of January 2016! The last state I had left to see was Arkansas. A little anti-climactic, I know-I mean, I really should have ended with something a bit more exciting, but I am still thrilled for the completion! Without this traveling job of mine, I can say that it would have taken a lot longer, so I am even more grateful that I was about to accomplish this.
Why was I in Arkansas besides the obvious? Well, I have wanted to go to Branson, MO for years. My grandparents enjoyed it there and I am fascinated with Titanic history. There is a Titanic museum there that has a life-sized replica of the Grand Staircase and you can walk on it. To be honest, once you stand next to it, it’s overwhelming. It made me think of all the people who were on that glorious ship and what a sad story most of them had. The museum is quite amazing-no photography allowed inside and they make you turn off your cell phone, but such a wonderful place to visit, I think I easily spent about 3.5 hours in there just looking at all the artifacts and pictures. Admittedly, you need to be a big history nerd in order to appreciate it, but still very informative.
Also, during that long weekend trip, I stopped in a small town called Wamego, KS to go see the Oz Museum. Make all the Kansas/OZ jokes you want, but this museum is very cool. They had so much memorabilia and interesting facts, that I think even the most avid Wizard of Oz fan would be impressed. It is set up like you started in Kansas and walked through Oz meeting characters along the journey. They even have a constantly running loop of the original movie. Also included is information about the books, The Wiz, Return to Oz and other books not written by Baum. Totally worth the 10 mile detour off of I-70.
Early start-0700 for breakfast and then left the hotel at 0800. We drove a couple of hours south to the Rock of Cashel and took some pictures from as close as we could get to it. We then went onto Blarney Castle; where yes, I did climb the 175 (somewhat scary) stairs up to kiss the stone. I was pretty proud of myself for that one, despite being somewhat disappointed at how fast we were pushed through the line. The stairs are narrow, winding and a little bit tricky in spots; sometimes I even needed to use a rope to pull myself up. I spent a little bit of time in the Blarney Woolen Mills, but not enough to see very much. We then went to our hotel-Killarney Towers and Leisure Center. We went on a carriage ride up to Ross Castle, which was beautiful. Then we went to dinner, took a swim in the beautiful pool. After that, a woman from the tour and I went out and listened to some music-very good. There is always live music to be had in Killarney and its’ many bars! We then met up with some other people from the tour group and went out to a dance club. Ring of Kerry tomorrow.
July 11, 2015
It seems every morning we are starting at 0700-ugh! I need to go home to get some sleep! We saw the Ring of Kerry this morning; drove a short while to see “an honest-to-God Normand Church”-whatever that means. Then we saw the Gap of Dunhoe, although it rained quite a bit, so there wasn’t much to see. We also stopped at Moriarty’s to do some shopping-I found a couple of things. Then we drove to a place to see a sheepdog demonstration. It was really cool and the dogs are SO smart, but the thunder and lightning storm was a little scary. We also saw the Daniel O’Connell birthplace, Ladies View, ate fish and chips in Portmagee. Then we went to Valentia Island for the Skellig Experience. It was pretty interesting, but I am SO tired! We then went to Waterville, Sheem and saw (sort of) the McGillycuddy Rocks. The landscape was very beautiful! We had the night free, so I used the pool, went to dinner at Murphy’s (fantastic beef stew) and then met up with some people from the tour groups and we did a pub crawl. I ended up dancing with some smelly, toothless man-but we still had many laughs!
July 12, 2015
Another early start to catch the ferry over the River Shannon to County Clare. It was nice and fun to see where the freshwater (river) and the salt water (Atlantic) met. It took about 25 minutes and then we were off to the Cliffs of Moher. We had to find 7 pure white horses for our greatest wish to come true. But, if we saw a pure black horse, our wish went to our enemy. (A note: the Irish have many superstitions and sayings, so it amuses me to hear them.) I saw all the horses before we made it to the Cliffs of Moher. It was pouring when we pulled up, but basically by the time we got off the bus, it let up enough so we weren’t drenched. What a sight to behold! It’s just another one of those places that overwhelm my mind and no matter which words I choose to describe it, it won’t be enough. After that, we went onto our hotel-Bunratty Castle Hotel-right across the street from Bunratty Castle. We had some free time before dinner, so I went to the sauna and pool-it was fantastic! Then we got dressed up for our medieval banquet; the year was 1625 and it was a lot of fun. We of course, caused some trouble, but in a good natured way. After that, we went back to the hotel and most everyone from our group went to the bar-it was a late night-went to bed at 0400.
July 13, 2015
Our last full day. 😦 This has been such a wonderful trip! I overslept and almost missed the bus! Yikes. We drove to Connemara Marble store and they showed us some of the beautiful marble and told us a bit about it. I bought a couple of small things, but there was certainly more I wouldn’t have minded having! We also had tea and scones. Then we drove to Galway and I checked out the cathedral, which was amazing. Then we headed to Dublin and went out to dinner. Then off to the Temple Bar-but it was too crowded and hot to spend any amount of time in there! Back to the U.S. tomorrow, but the bright side is that I can go through customs while still in Ireland and not have to back in the States! Yay!
I am about to start a new assignment in the wilds of western Kansas. I’m sure that the thing I need to be most afraid of is getting lost in a field of wheat, but I am trying to keep a positive outlook on the whole situation. I am from a small island and I have never been a city girl, so I should be right at home in a town of 1800 people, but I also long for adventure and the new experiences that are to be had. I am hoping to finally get to the 50th state-Arkansas. That would be a really exciting accomplishment. In the meantime, I’m going to wait and see what comes my way.