If Our Travels Paint a Portrait, Our Journey was a Masterpiece

October 16, 2016 at 6:42 pm 1 comment

“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.”  

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Picture me donning a beret, dipping my paintbrush into a multitude of colors, blotting a palate, and giving birth to a portrait… Describing the past two weeks of my life can easily be expressed through the eyes of an artist whose canvas is about to be saturated with a plethora of colors and blended to create an original masterpiece! 

Two weeks ago, our three grown children, my husband and I  boarded our plane with the uncapped enthusiasm o five children on a field trip, stoked to be embarking on a journey together, ready to explore, experience and embrace a brand new land.  Across the pond awaited a city, a country and a continent that greeted us with open arms. In  London we were “United in a Kingdom” where the people, the culture, and the history, (not to mention the fish and chips) all work their way into a visitors heart in a significant pattern, leaving lasting impressions and a craving for a future return. Feeling like guests rather than tourists, we arrived at St. Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster, dropped our suitcases like hot potatoes, and hit the ground running.

 

Beauty is in the Eye of the beholder”

We boarded The London Eye, with great anticipation. Picture a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames, towering over London at 443 feet (135 m) tall.  Nicknamed The Millennium Wheel, it is described by its operators as “the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.” Weary of heights? No worries, riders are snuggly encapsulated with others,  encouraged to roam around during the thirty-minute ride or may remain glued to your seat inside the outer space-like cabin for a birds-eye peek. With its one-of-a-kind, breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view of London, The London Eye is a must. *We suggest you buy the fast track pass to avoid long lines and maximize your time in this      magical city.

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City of Motherly Love… That is the Queen Mother, of course. As our son Kevin posted a family photo of us on Instagram, posing at The Tower of London, his caption read “here are the real crowned jewels.”  Have you heard of Big Ben? I thought it rang a bell… I am happy to “chime” in on how Big Ben, the iconic Clock Tower, garnered its famous nickname… Most believe the Great Bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the Great Bell. Sir Benjamin Hall’s name is inscribed on the Great Bell, suggesting that he was the source of the Great Bell’s nickname. 

Time for a change... The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, The Tower Bridge with its glass bottom walkway, Hyde and St. James Parks, Trafalgar Square, a Riverboat Cruise down the Thames River and a leisurely stroll along the banks, make it hard to declare a favorite spot. The Anchor Bankside Pub, situated on one of the most historical reaches of the Thames River, lays claim to fascinating and historical associations. Sitting just a stone’s throw away is its most famous neighbor, the original Globe Theatre site which stood from 1598 to 1613 and was rebuilt in 1997. Shakespeare himself enjoyed a pint of ale or two within the walls of the Anchor. Many of England’s best known literary figures and actors frequented the pub and were known to study their lines in preparation for many a Shakespeare performance.

I certainly felt the creativity and literary history all around me.  As we ate, drank and became merrier, I felt empowered to tell The Anchor, Banksidethe stories of our journey, the catalyst for this blog. Glasses raised, our son Richie declared a toast to “Mems on The Thames (pronounced Tems) celebrating the unforgettable memories we forged during our time together in London ~ Cheers!  

“Traveling ~ it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a Storyteller.” Ibn Battuta

Enter Dublin, the capital and largest city of Ireland. But even more extraordinary than this beautiful city in this magnificent country, is the purpose of our trip. My children’s Nana, my husband Rich’s Mom and my Mother (in-law) who treats me like a daughter, is turning eighty-years-young! What better way to celebrate this milestone than in the homeland of her parents, grandparents and family.

With all six of Nana’s children,nine (out of eighteen) grandchildren, and three additional family members in tow, this trip of a lifetime will live on forever in our hearts and minds.

 

It was first in Dublin, that eighteen family members congregated to honor a woman who has a Heart of Gold! Everywhere we went, including The Guiness Brewery, droves of folks sang “Happy Birthday” to Patricia, our Matriarch, who could barely contain her emotions throughout.  Patricia Dougherty, tickled Pink and moved to tears, is basking in the fruits of her labor, now spanning four generations.  Nana truly deserves a “Pat” on her back!  

Every ship needs a captain and at the helm of our ship was our oldest nephew PA, world traveler, born leader and time-keeper. Keeping us on our toes, PA arranged every detail of this magnificent trip with flying colors. With a Coach passenger bus equipped with a Roscommon native/ driver/tour guide/ entertainer and cousin, Enda navigated north from Dublin toward Belfast and back to Dublin, taking on curves and narrow roadways like a precisioned Nascar Driver. This afforded all eighteen of us a Golden Opportunity to visit hidden gems along the Ireland Coast while spending as much time together along the route, laughing, playing games and avoiding politics.

On January 1, 1892, Annie Moore, a 15 year old girl from County Cork, accompanied by her younger brothers, became the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island.  

 

 

 

 

Arriving at Cobh, a famous port in County Cork, we stood on the same platform where countless Irish families began their emigration process, voyaging to a promising but unknown land. Cobh was also Titanic’s last port of call before its tragic voyage.

 A ferry to Kerry took us to one of our favorite towns known as Dingle. The name, as quirky as the town itself, fits this colorful little town perfectly because it overflows with its irresistable and infectious charm.

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This unique village sits on a cozy little harbor on the south side of the Dingle Peninsula. With an abundance of pubs, shops, bookstores and all things Irish, you can even find a hardware store known to moonlight as a pub after business hours.

The Dingle Peninsula itself boasts some of Europe’s most stunning beaches and secluded sandy coves, like Inch Strand where some family members relinquished their socks and shoes to feel a true Irish beach between their Floridian toes. Known as a deserted beach before we showed up, our large,  boisterous family replaced the well-known silence with splashing, laughter and shenanigans.

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As night fell upon us at the end of non-stop days, the sky was freckled with millions of stars.   Somewhere between exhausted and exhilarated, we climbed into our sweats and oversized tee’s. Siblings and cousins shared rooms in our bed and breakfast, imitating childhood sleepover’s where sleep was the last thing on our minds. Mornings arrived quickly and cows served as our alarm clocks. The fall air smelled like Irish Spring soap.  

Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, until you find your dream”… Reaching the top of Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway and The Waterfalls of Donegal, it was as clear as day that experiencing these incredible “wonders of the world” with “our wonders of the world” made it even that more special! 

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Of  titanic proportion… while visiting the shipyards in Belfast where the Titanic was built, hearing survivors testimonials, recorded in their own voices, and reading telegrams written by those in their last moments, was heart-wrenching. The reality of a time not too long ago (1912,) reminded each of us of the preciousness of life. The vulnerability and sacrifices made by so many of our ancestors, made us not want to waste another minute but instead relish being in the moment and being together.

While celebrating life, eating an obscene amount of  food (from Jacks Restaurant at The Ballyliffin Lodge in Donegal,) dancing to live Irish, Pop, and Country music with a group of golfers visiting from Sweden, we raised our glasses and raised the roof. The next thing we knew, we were informally invited to check out an Irish Wedding next door to us. Meeting the Bride and Groom, (Nana posing for a picture with the Bride,) taking over the center of the dance floor, we can now add Wedding Crashers’ to our resumes. “This more the merrier” philosophy of life is commonplace with so many people whose paths we crossed along the curvy way through Gaelic paradise. 

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“Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life.” Albert Einstein

Our most meaningful moment was visiting the birthplaces of my husband’s grandparents in Donegal and Roscommon. We fell in love with the Finan Family, cousins who remained in Roscommon while many of their family members emigrated to Brooklyn and the Bronx, never to return again. We were fixated on stories spun by Michael, Anne, Padraig and Nichola Finan, Fiona and Manus Tiernan. Touring Rich’s Grandmother Maryellen Finan’s original home  felt like time had stood still. A 1961 black and white tv remained on the floor of the two-bedroom home. Spending quality time with a new extension of our family ignited tears of joy for an indescribable reunion yet evoked tears of sadness when it was time to bid farewell. Waving all the while as the bus pulled away, our beautiful Irish Family became tinier in the distance. 

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” Angela Schwindt  

As we boarded the plane to New York’s JFK Airport, baggage bulging and hearts expanded, Richie, Kevin, Katie, Rich and I embraced one another in appreciation for a trip of a lifetime. While there is no place like home we felt blue that at the culmination of our family trip each of our children would go to their respective homes. With Thanksgiving around the corner, we will reunite in New York City and embark on our next adventure!   

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller      

 As I dab the last bit of paint on my canvas and finish up this blog, I know my masterpiece shows my true colors ~ loving my family immeasurably and being ever so grateful for our blessings! 

Our Irish eyes are smiling. With love to have and hold. We need not look much further. We’ve got our Pot of Gold…

Jayne Bonilla is a passionate parent,  a children’s advocate, a published author and a motivational speaker. Her greatest qualities are her courage to be herself, her sense of humor and her faith in others.

http://www.makeashortstorylong.com

 

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. jaynebonilla  |  October 20, 2016 at 6:42 am

    Jayne Bonilla is a passionate parent, a children’s advocate, a published author and a motivational speaker. Her greatest qualities are her courage to be herself, her sense of humor and her faith in others.

    Reply

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"It is better to improve than it is to prove"
- Jayne Bonilla

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