A long and winding road; from the charm of Rothenburg ob der Tauber to the devastation of Dauchau

Historic town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Franconia, Bavaria, Germany Stock Photo - 31341853
Rothenburg ob der Tauber by 123RF

Visiting Germany certainly introduces one to vibrant cultural contrasts. As in a dream, one day you may be experiencing a fairy tale town such as enchanting Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the next day the nightmare of Dauchau. Such is the reality of Bavaria.

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The Black Forest photo by Bavarian Clockworks

The Black Forest in Bavaria in southwest Germany is the site of many of the tales by the Brothers Grimm. Legends say that the brothers were inspired by this beautiful area when they wrote Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty.

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Illustrator Arthur Rackham’s Sleeping Beauty ca. 1916
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Rackham’s Hansel and Gretel ca. 1909
Rackham's Rapunzel
Rackham’s Rapunzel

Come to think of it, many of the fairy tale lands were not always that safe either…

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Rothenburg by Ravensburger

We had just a short time to drive around the Bavarian charmer called Rothenburg. Built on a river, the walled-city began in 970. It has had its ups and downs like any 1,000 year-old city started in a medieval era, but in its current state, boasts a dear collection of restaurants, shops, historical pageants and businesses. We saw only a small part of the the town and regretted that we didn’t arrive early enough to tour the village (translation: shop for Christmas.)

It was raining and dark the night we left Neuschwanstein castle heading toward Munich. The highways in Germany have an interesting habit of winding through towns. In the U.S., we exit our freeways on the outskirts of town but in the parts of Germany we visited, the roads and roundabouts take you right through the middle  of the village.

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The Griesbrau dining room. Photo by Booking.com

At the Griesbrau in Murnau, we stopped for dinner and were pleasantly surprised.  Now we were wandering, trying to find hot food,  and in the center of town we came across an old stone building with gleaming copper vats in the entry and dried hops hanging from the rafters. This restaurant was so charming (and crowded) that we had to grab the last table amid the stares of, who I assume were, the regulars. The waitress gave us the stank eye when we didn’t order alcohol ( we were used to that) and we were directed to the buffet/bar.

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A hearty-looking bearded gentleman was carving roasted meats and filling plates with sides. There were 3 or 4 choices of each; Newell had pork bellies (sliced like bacon), Tim had roasted pork knuckle and I had ribs (a rack so large they lapped over the side of the generous plate). Newell and Tim had kloesse (potato dumplings)  and I had a stuffed baked potato, I am still so American. We all ordered the sweet and sour red cabbage. A truly fun dinner concluded an interesting day at Neuschwanstein castle.

Arriving in Munich, we discovered that our Airbnb host had asked a roommate to let us in, but he had taken “the wrong plane” and would be arriving late. We parked our compact car up on the sidewalk to avoid being hit in the center of the narrow street and rested until the man arrived so we could settle in for the night.

After he finished some vacuuming and bed-making, we were ready to call it a day.

I had heard about the museums and galleries in Germany and was anticipating viewing the great art there, but Newell had another idea. Instead of heading into the heart of town, he drove us to the north to visit the memorial at the former Nazi concentration camp at Dauchau.

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Photo by Destination Munich




As painful as it was to read the narratives and view the photos of glassy-eyed, hollow-cheeked prisoners, reality hit me hard when we approached the ovens of the crematorium. 41,000 prisoners, all men, had their lives ended and mortal remains destroyed at this horrible place.

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Crematorium ovens; photo by Expedia

I’m very protective of the lives of American soldiers, after all I am the mother of one. As we toured the D-Day invasion sites on the beaches of Normandy, I wondered if the spilling of so much American blood was worth it. Upon visiting Dachau, I concluded we should have intervened sooner. Sacred to the memory are those that sacrificed their lives to save their fellow humans from the horrors of places such as the concentration camp at Dachau. We must never forget and never allow these atrocities to occur again.

After this heart-wrenching excursion we ventured into Munich for dinner and a night on the town.

We found a local hangout, Andy’s Krablergarten, and were seated at a long refrectory-style table with a family from Australia. Newell and I ordered schnitzel, pounded-pork cutlets dredged in flour and spices and deep-fried. Between that and the salad and French fries, I didn’t think I would ever need to eat again after that meal.

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We wandered downtown for a little while and ended up in a bookstore (such is a night on the town for authors.) Newell has collected Astrix and Obelisk comic books since he was a teen living in Germany.

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Asterix and Obelisk

He found a few more to add to his impressive collection. I found the English-language section and bought C.S.Lewis’ “The Four Loves.” Well-fed and well-read, we headed back to pack for our 8-hour train ride through the Alps and into Tuscany to see our son and his family near Pisa.




Going for the silver

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We did it; we are going for the silver! Happy 25th Anniversary to my partner in time (and hopefully eternity), the father of Tim and the other half of McMurtry Creative Media. 25 years ago he married me, my 4 kids, my hopes and dreams, extended family, quirks, talents, body and soul.  I got a priesthood holder, stability, humor, 2 more sons and lots of love. What an adventure we have had; we are still looking forward to a few more laps together.

At the end of the day I’m always glad to see him and that is good.

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For both of us, marriage the second time around has been satisfying – we’ll take the silver.

Neuschwanstein Castle: the madness of King Ludwig

Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria

King Ludwig II was plagued by mental illness and his ambitious castle-building agenda was bankrupting his kingdom. When he started construction of a new castle across the valley from the one he grew up in and near his parents, he may have thought he was finally coming home.

High in the mountains of Bavaria, the castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle in his parks and the movie of the same name. The castle, although never completed, became a major tourist attraction almost immediately when it was open to the public shortly after Ludwig’s suspicious death in 1886. At the time a financial drain, the castles of King Ludwig II have become income-generators for Germany in the ensuing years.

Neuschwanstein doesn’t allow photography inside the castle but a number of photographs are available online. The interiors were inspired by Wagnerian operas and Bible scenes; Richard Wagner  was a friend and Oktoberfest was the celebration of his grandfather Ludwig l and his bride Maria Teresa.

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The kitchen was remarkable for it era – or today. Photo by www.new-swan-stone.eu

Having worked in art and design with creatives, it was not hard to recognize the over-the-top decorating that can be associated or illustrative of mental illness. The interesting thing about Ludwig’s is that he left a legacy that is enjoyed by visitors from all over the world.

Coburg Bavaria and the heart of the Reformation

Many lives were changed as a result of the great Reformation movement. In 1517, a young monk named Martin Luther was sheltered in die veste Coburg translating the Bible into his native tongue of German. After being immersed in the holy writ for months, he had discovered 95 points of doctrine that differed from the then-current practices of the Catholic Church. He carefully penned his 95 Theses and nailed it to the door of the church at Wittenburg on Halloween, October 31, 1517 where he knew they would be seen by the people coming into the city for services.

Die veste Coburg; construction began in the 8th Century A.D.

The owl has been a symbol of intelligence since ancient Greece.


Coburg, in addition to being a formidable fortress, had beautiful stone walkways.

The thesis were seen and sent to Rome where the Pope ordered Luther to recant or be excommunicated and executed (according to some sources.) Luther did not recant and was hidden by his friends until the furor blew over.  Pope Leo X died never knowing the impact or significance of the reformation movement.

What do Mormons think of Luther? “Joseph Smith said of Martin Luther’s German translation, “I have an old edition of the New Testament in the Latin, Hebrew, German and Greek languages. I have been reading the German, and find it to be the most [nearly] correct translation, and to correspond nearest to the revelations which God has given to me for the last fourteen years.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 349)

And so we visited the castle at Coburg, just days before the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

We sought shelter from the cold October rain in this passageway.

The wurst day ever. Outside of the castle a vendor was selling grilled wurst, it smelled so smoky and delicious but it was the Sabbath, so we didn’t buy any.

We attended Sunday services at this LDS chapel in Coburg. General Conference had been televised the previous week but because it is on in the middle of the night, the local congregation would view it during church services the following weeks. Newell found a gentleman who was writing a history of the church in the area  and knew the family he lived with in high school.

Newell’s baptismal font

Newell lived with a local family during his senior year of high school. He was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accepted the gospel and was baptized in this font. Coming from a Presbyterian family, it was the beginning of his reformation as well.

On the way to our next Airbnb, we found this Catholic church and stopped to visit for  a few minutes.

Old records from the church ledgers

A collection of saints

Tomorrow we visit Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein, the inspiration behind Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle.

If its raining, this must be Germany

The plaza at Aachen

We flew from the Paris Charles de Gaull Airport  on a Saturday morning and arrived in Dusseldorf Germany where we rented a car to tour the southern part of the country. We had learned to choose the smallest car available and were again rewarded for this wisdom while driving and parking on Munich’s narrow streets.

German rental cars tend to be upscale. We had reserved a BMW but when we were given an SUV instead, we RAN back to the office and requested something SMALL; a very wise move.

Having spent many happy days on the streets of Disneyland while growing up,  Germany didn’t seem all that unfamiliar; a sort of cross between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Walt Desney’s Mom Flora was born to German parents who obviously had some cultural influence there.

The day was rainy and gray but we were excited to visit more historical family sites and see where Newell had lived as an exchange student in high school and as an LDS missionary.

photo by www.lebensbaun.com

We stopped at a market to buy food for lunch and were rewarded for parking in the wrong place by a woman who blocked our car so we couldn’t leave. Her act of unkindness caused us to miss the last tour of Charlemagne’s castle at Aachen. Note to locals: please have some patience with drivers who may not be aware of the unposted rules.

The unremarkable market had a remarkable bakery; thank goodness for quality-conscious businesses. We sampled several German breads (delicious) and pastries (not as good as French but still delicious), local produce, meats and cheeses. All very good. We traveled on to Aachen.

“Karl der Grosse (Charles the Great) also known as Charlemagne King of the Franks
The courtyard at Aachen.

The royal seal of Charlemagne
A mosaic ceiling in Charlemagne’s castle. It is in remarkable shape considering that it is over 1200 years old and that it escaped damage during the fighting in Aachen during WW2.


The story goes that Charlemagne had a mosaic of heaven installed over his throne to remind him that he ruled by divine consent.

According to one source the double-headed eagle that represented Charlemagne’s kingdom symboilzed the union of Rome and Germany.
This seal was one of many embedded in the street at Aachen

We were pleasantly surprised to find a prosperous community, probably not surprising since the capitol of the kingdom of Western Europe had moved there in the early 800s. The medieval king Charlemagne, grandson of Charles “the Hammer” Martel  had inherited a large and diverse kingdom which he united through many means. He was regarded as “the Father of Europe” and was the first Holy Roman Emperor; crowned by the Pope on Christmas in 800 A.D.

Charlemagne’s contributions included communication and education – he built free public schools for all children regardless of their financial status and had Latin taught throughout the country. He developed a standardized alphabet called Carolingian Uncial and encouraged literacy. As a high school art student, this font was one of my 2 favorites, I din’t know at the time I was related to man who had it created.


He promoted Christianity among pagan inhabitants; often at the point of the sword and established clerics and churches throughout the country. During his reign the Gregorian chant was popularized. He would also dictate sermons and topics to have discussed in churches throughout his kingdom.

He standardized taxes, built roads and bridges and had a library installed at his castle. He invited scholars to study there and share their wisdom with him, promoting learning, culture and the arts during a time referred to as the “Carolingian Renaissance.”

Charlemagne was tolerant and respectful of the Jewish people in his kingdom whom he considered economic and cultural assets, unusual in European history .  He had laws drawn up that protected them from excessive taxation by the church.

 Downtown Aachen had a collection of shops with the king as a theme, one had him posed with a bag of their chocolate, it seemed a bit disrespectful to me.

No one does gingerbread like the Germans who invented it. Here’s a store window downtown filled with gingerbread hedgehogs and marzipan mushrooms.

Tim was collecting chocolate from every country we visited, Belgium was close by so we made a quick stop at Darci’s, a chocolate factory

From Belgium, we headed back into Germany to our Airbnb.


I left my heart at Mont Saint-Michel and Bayeux

Join us for a fun radio talk show on Kim Power Stilson's Valentine's Day Talk Worthy broadcast: BYU SiriusXM Radio 143 or http://www.byuradio.org/ 3 p.m. Eastern. Love is in the air!

Its almost Valentines Day and I have been so busy chronicling the McMurtry European Art Tour that I have not taken the time to create a fabulous Valentine’s Day post. I repent and will work on that; in the meantime, here is some love  from the archives for your enjoyment:




Mont St. Michel

When I was studying interior design at Palomar College, the curriculum included architecture from history including cathedrals. Mont Saint Michel was such a structure built on an island off the coast of Normandy, France beginning in the 8th century. When the tide was out, there was no access to the island, it could only be reached by boat at high tide. I was surprised to find as I studied family history that an ancestor had been born there before 1100 A.D.

The Bayeux Tapestry in Bayeux, France.

We also learned about the Bayeux Tapestry, a 70 meter (or 229 foot-long)  piece of linen embroidered with dyed wool yarn that shows the history of William the Conqueror‘s invasion of England in nearby Bayeux.

William the Conqueror statue in Falaise. Photo by www.vanderkrogt.net

I didn’t know why at the time, but I was fascinated with this piece of historical art. I later found out that we were descendants of William the Conqueror. His half-brother Bishop Odo and my great…great grandmother Matilda of Flanders commissioned the tapestry now on display at Bayeux.

Matilda of Flanders statue in Luxembourg

William was a descendant of  the first Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne whose throne we would visit at Aachen and his grandfather Charles Martel who saved Christianity and Western civilization from a Muslim invasion in the 8th century,

Its medieval style was referenced in Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks opening credits.

We drove from Paris to Beauvoir and stayed in an Airbnb listed as La bourdatiere. The converted farmhouse was older than the United Staes but updated , super clean and comfortable. The host Arnaud served croissants, local cheeses, yogurt, orange juice and hot chocolate for breakfast (since we don’t drink coffee.)  His place was one of our favorite inns.

La bourdatiere Airbnb in Beauvoir, Normandy, France
The property of La bourdatiere

We walked through the village of Beauvoir to reach the shuttle for Mont Saint  Michel. It was a beautiful, sunny but chilly October morning.

As we left Beauvoir, we passed cornfields and other crops waiting to be harvested and fields at rest.

A view of Mont St. Michel in the distance from Beauvoir. I imagine the farmers and peasants loved seeing the beautiful cathedral as they worked.
Mont St. Michel, Normandy Coast, France

Built on a rock, the village is almost completely uphill once you enter through the gate.

Sheilds featured the 2-headed eagle that was a symbol of Charlemagne’s kingdom.

Because of the sacrifice of American, British and Canadian troops in WW2. the flag of France flies over the beach at Normandy.
We loved the medieval stone architecture and the more recently updated slate tile roof, it was all so romantic.

Even after a hearty meal at Arnaud’s, these breakfast sandwiches made with hash browns looked inviting.
The sunshine and sea air felt so lovely.

Homey yet majestic, Tim and I loved Mont St. Michel, he said it was one of his favorite destinations in Europe, and I would agree.
From Mont St. Michel we drove to Bayeux to see the Tapestry. We had checked the schedules before the trip, very important when you are visiting destinations which may be closed or close early on different days of the week and different seasons.
Bayeux topiary of a medieval Norman warrior
The Bayeux Tapestry exhibition.

The making of the Bayeux Tapestry; l.inen cloth and dyed yarn wool.
The Conqueror.
From Bayeux we traveled to Omaha Beach, the site of one of the D-Day invasions to liberate France from the Nazis in World War 2.
Allied Memorial at Omaha Beach
Fewer than 100 Nazi soldiers defended this part of the coast.


The entrance to the main German bunker
An American Sherman tank is a reminder of the past.
German forces placed these on the beaches to deter landings.
In the fight to liberate France, there were 7 fleets in Operation Overlord along the coast; 6 decoys and the authentic invasion.
“The Allied casualties figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. Broken down by nationality, the usual D-Day casualty figures are approximately 2700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6603 Americans. However recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate – and much higher – figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2499 American D-Day fatalities and 1915 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4414 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2500 dead). Further research may mean that these numbers will increase slightly in future. The details of this research will in due course be available on the Foundation’s website at www.dday.org. This new research means that the casualty figures given for individual units in the next few paragraphs are no doubt inaccurate, and hopefully more accurate figures will one day be calculated.”
Tim pauses to remember the sacrifice made at Omaha Beach.
The tranquility of the Normandy Coast belies the horrors of the war that was fought to liberate Europe. In a few days we would visit the Dachau Concentration Camp and see firsthand the importance of America’s involvement in the war.

24 Hours in Paris

Winged Victory at the Louvre

The Air France flight from Dublin was pleasant and polished. They served sandwiches and the airline messages were delivered in French and English. It was my first  experience outside of a primarily English-speaking country. There were no lines at the customs windows when we arrived mid-afternoon and the mod red and pink glossy decor of the airport restrooms looked like something out of a darling 60s  movie.

Notre Dame on the Seine REiver

After that things became sketchy. The travel guides recommended groups take a taxi into Paris, costing about 70 euros. As we approached the airport exit to public transportation, a man came up to us and asked if we needed a ride into the city. He and Newell negotiated the price and we followed him to his late-model black car parked in an unregulated area of the parking lot. Tim rode in front and Newell and I were in the back. We gave him the address of the Airbnb in Paris which he programmed into the dashboard computer, and after speaking  French on a phone to whom we assumed was a dispatcher, we took off.

At about this time, Tim noticed that there was no meter in the car and became concerned about who the driver was and where he was taking us. He told us he as originally from Ghana and that he had moved to Paris to be near his mother. Newell kept him engaged in conversation as the commuter traffic into the city became thicker. We ended up being dropped off around the corner from the tall apartment building. We were not convinced that we had not narrowly avoided a human trafficking incident or some other danger.

We have since learned there is a private uber-type company in Paris, called Blacklane, and maybe this man was one of their drivers, but N and T  didn’t think so. I would get some identification and ask for a license before taking the offer of a ride into the city if I visit Paris again. 

Downtown Paris

Our AirBnb was in a great downtown location, just a few blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. It was in an old building undergoing renovation. The host spoke little English and we had a hard time getting into the locked building and finding the apartment on the 5th floor. The tiny elevator and the 3 of us with luggage meant we had to go up in shifts and the floors weren’t marked. We tried to get into the apartment and when we couldn’t find the key, we called and found out we were on the wrong floor. Finally we found the right unit and with great difficulty were able to use the old skeleton key to gain entrance. The studio apartment was small and unkempt; there was a tube of anti-fungal ointment near the tiny kitchen. After our late night in Dublin and unorthodox ride into the city our patience was starting to wear thin. We started a load of the laundry in the tiny washer, grabbed Bel Vitas, handfuls of mixed nuts and dried fruit and headed across the Seine to the Louvre.

The afternoon traffic in Paris was intense, sirens and crazy drivers were everywhere. Unknown to us, we had just missed Fashion Week which I’m sure was even more hectic and crowded.
The streets of Paris
 The narrow streets encased by tall rows of buildings made negotiating our way to the river difficult. London presented a similar challenge, but at least we were finding directions in our native tongue.

We had an ancestor who was the Mayor of Paris around 700 A.D.; an office that actually was close to kingship. Charles Martel was also a great warrior who fought the massive Saracen armies who were poised to overrun France, kill the inhabitants and eventually launch an assault against Rome to topple the Pope and Western Civilization.

Charles “The Hammer” Martel

The brief video linked to his name shows the importance of the Battle of Tours  or Potiers and how he and his men saved the culture of Christianity and Western Europe. He became known as “The Hammer.” His grandson Charlemagne or Charles the Great would become the first “Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire;” we would see his throne in Aachen, Germany in a few days.

There was always a long line to get into Notre Dame.
One of the iconic rose windows of Notre Dame.


We didn’t have time to explore Notre Dame, but the Louvre is open until 10 p.m. on Wednesdays. The website says admission is free;  but if you want to see the more important exhibits you have to buy tickets (no way were we going to travel all the way to Paris and not see the Mona Lisa; we bought tickets – they count on that mindset.)

Backdoor of the Louvre.

After the terror attacks the area was heavily guarded by serious-looking soldiers dressed in black and carrying large automatic weapons, unfortunately a common site at the most-visited European landmarks.

The Louvre Musee

I’m not sure what I was expecting of the Louvre, it is so iconic and important in the world of art and antiquities, but honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed. It seemed sort of sterile and the rich history I had hoped to experience was there but not presented in an interesting and vibrant way.

After we entered and purchased tickets we made our way to the Mona Lisa; making sure that if the museum closed we would not miss this important exhibition.

The Mona Lisa secured exhibit at the Louvre


Newell and Mona

Mona and Tim



Corridor inside the Louvre.

Even though I’m an artist, I do not appreciate public displays of nudity;  I referred  to it as academic pornography when I was in college. There was a plethora. Here are a few paintings that were not suggestive.


Everywhere we looked there were superstars of the canon of Western art including: Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo.

The Winged Victory
Venus de Milo

The Louvre also contained a lot of religious art, many paintings that I have seen in Christian publications and many  altarpieces.

A view of the galleries from above


Newell liked his mischievous grin

In line at the concessions, we saw a mouse dart out of the kitchen and because it was late, were only able to get a couple of bottled orange juices, for which we were grateful.

We left the Louvre right before closing time; Tim wanted to walk over to the Eiffel Tower; it was farther than we thought. We arrived after 11:00 p.m. just after the sparkling lights were turned off. It truly was a beautiful sight. Once we waded past the souviner hawkers we marveled at the architecture and scale of the tower.

And we are finished for the day. Tomorrow we’ll have a quick look around, seek a few more souviners (Ashlyn asked for something from Paris) and find some legendary pastries; yes, I believe they are the best in the world.

Paris in the morning was more charming.


Morning on the Seine

We found a cafe serving breakfast and ordered modest dishes, the food was ok but not as good as we expected. At the end, the owner charged us an additional 15 euros for service on a bill that was only about 20 euros. Americans beware – Paris is a giant money pit. But with the help of online searches we found a store that sells scarves and another where we bought a hot pink Eiffel Tower for Ashlyn and an Eiffel Tower snow globe for Ashley’s collection. 

We weren’t in the city long enough to discover the more charming or scenic neighborhoods, which would have been nice, but we had reservations for an Airbnb near Mont St. Michel and so we rented a car (which also had additional fees that were not expected on the reservation) and we were off to the country. 



Emerald Isle Day 2 – The Unsuspecting Captives of Castle Kilkenny

Photo by Tim McMurtry

Day 2 found us waking up in the luxuriously appointed home of our Airbnb hosts in the Model Farm neighborhood of Cork, Ireland. The lovely furnishings, beautiful back yard and gritty gravel road were so provincial and inspiring; its no wonder that farmhouse style is a perennial favorite. After a breakfast of musli and showers in a bathroom fancier than most we’ve experienced, we were off to visit Waterford to purchase a gift of crystal for M-I-L Joyce.


An ocean inlet in Cork Ireland. Within 2 weeks the water would be blowing over the canal into the streets as Hurricane Ophelia hit the coastal village.
Hurricane Ophelia makes landfall in Cork. Photo by videoblogsterpro.com

But first, a stop to shop for an Irish dolly requested by our little red-headed granddaughter Ellyza.

Still struggling to stay safe on the NARROW lanes and (to us) backward roads of Ireland, we found a toy shop, Smyth’s, in Cork. You could have pinched me to wake me up, I thought I was in a Toys R Us in the states.

An Irish toy store featuring American toys

We were greeted by towering rows of Disney, Fisher Price, Legos and other “American” brands. (I know Legos are Scandinavian, but they’ve been big in the U.S. since the 60’s). We looked at princesses and baby dolls, but none had the handmade Irish look and charm that we thought Elle would enjoy so we journeyed on to Waterford.

Beautiful Irish countryside.

A decidedly modern bridge entering the oldest town in Ireland.


Reginald’s Tower, the oldest building in Waterford, the oldest city in Ireland established by Vikings in 914 A.D.


The ruins of an old Norman (French) church.
A ship similar to those of Waterford’s original settlers.
Oops – Viking selfie moment missed.


Entering Waterford, we found the downtown business district including Waterford Crystal Corporate headquarters and showrooms. Waterford is a name synonymous around the world with stunning Irish lead crystal. Newell’s mother had given us a very generous gift to help us “enjoy our trip to Europe” and he wanted to thank her by bringing back something he knew she would enjoy. He found a sparkling crystal pendant to hang in her window to release a prism of colors in the Florida sunshine.

I looked at the gorgeous  (expensive) crystal pieces and wanted an ornament for our Christmas tree. I found a seahorse that I loved but discovered that it had been made in Slovakia or Slovenia; not the authenticity I was looking for. I found an embroidered shamrock at another shop instead.

After visiting several gift shops we finally located a little a red-headed, blue-eyed Irish lass to bring home to Ellyza, whom I think named her Bridget or Molly. And we found lunch at an Irish pub, oh my. Tim had a seafood pie with a mashed potato crust and a creamy seafood-filled sauce with crumb topping. Newell had Guinness stew and I enjoyed a wrap with authentic Irish (French fries) chips and malt vinegar. Ahhhh.

Next stop Kilkenny, one of Newell’s family heritage locations.

Newell and Tim opted to visit the castle of Kilkenny, but because of the climb in Blarney Castle the previous day, my foot was aching so I decided to explore the main block downtown. In a Dunnes store (much like a fancy Target), I found  a few Halloween decorations (how did it become such a big holiday in America and was just reawakening in the country of its origin?) Also some cosmetics and food for dinner; salads, yogurt, bread, toffee pudding and some soup we hoped to heat at the place we were staying. . It was lucky for me that I stayed behind, I avoided becoming one of the captives of Castle Kilkenny.

The formidable Castle Kilkenny, photos by Tim McMurtry


“After having a great time in Waterford and heading towards Dublin we saw a sign indicating Killkenny was not far away.  Having ancestors from County Killkenny and it wasn’t dark yet, we decided to go.

The town center was old, medieval with very narrow streets. Driving is difficult on the opposite side of the street than what you’re used to.  Add in the narrow streets with cars parked on both sides with barely enough space for one car to get through (yet it’s a two lane road.)  I didn’t get to see much, because I was so focused on driving.  When we found a place to park by a large department store I was ready to get out an explore.

Pam’s foot still hurt so she didn’t want to explore, but Tim and I wandered around city center heading towards the castle.  There were neat old churches, cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways you could only walk through and lots of people with interesting accents.

We got to the castle and checked, but we were too late to take a tour.  It was an interesting castle surrounded by a 12 foot stone wall and a very large lawn that lots of people were playing on or walking their dogs or just strolling around.  Here is what it looked like from the castle.  Notice all the people walking around and there are even more in the distance.  I thought it would be cool to take a picture from the hill you see it the distance.

We got there and took a picture as most of the people were clearing out.  There was this one man in the yard…” here the story stops, I will add the basics and hope Newell will finish his narrative later.

Tim shares that they were about here when they heard a bell ring. Not knowing what it was for, they started for the castle to find out.

When they arrived, to their chagrin, they discovered that the bell signaled that the castle was closing and they were locked in! The beautiful 12 foot stone walls defied their attempts to exit. Finally they found a tree that they could climb up, then get on the wall and jump off the other side. Imagine their astonishment when they discovered they were in a private yard, also with a locked gate! Somehow they figured out an escape route and got out. And there I was blithely shopping and wondering what had taken them so long.
Climbing over the wall here to exit the castle was not a viable option.
The escapees found this route back to town.

The only really bad experience we had with lodging was to present itself in Dublin.

I had reserved a suite through Orbitz in the city (the neighborhood photo should have been a warning.) I thought we could cook our dinner and the guys could go explore while I did laundry. When we arrived, there was no one to let us in. After several hours of calling Orbitz and talking to customer service reps in the Middle East (who kept hanging up on us)  someone found us a room at a different hotel.

Props to the gas station manager who let us stay in his market to use wifi calling long after closing time while we frantically searched for a place to stay that night. His Irish hospitality and generosity were much-appreciated; he wouldn’t lock up and go home until he knew we had a place to stay. He and his friends even called around to see if there were any vacancies nearby. We finally arrived at the hotel at 1 in the morning, there was no way to heat up the dinner we had bought for the night; we had to throw it away. We were tired hungry, hangry and ready for the few hours of sleep we could catch before we had to return the rental car and fly to Paris.


Erin go braugh!

Enjoy a conversation about all things Irish today on BYU Sirius Radio XM 143 at 3 p.m. Eastern or listen here: http://www.byuradio.org/listen
We loved Ireland. Loved. Ireland. Our trip to the Emerald Isle was nearly a spontaneous afterthought. As we were planning our travel agenda, Tim mentioned that he would really like to visit Ireland. It was not on the mainland of Great Britain and not on the way to France but because every year we do a St. Patrick’s Day feast and it was in Tim’s heart, we decided to drop in. We were glad we did.
Leprechaun Garden Centerpiece and Crudites
Our St. Patrick’s Day recipes in the Deseret News and other media sites

We left the Airbnb at 5 a.m. to catch the flight from Edinburgh on Ryan Air (we were informed later that we were lucky the flight wasn’t cancelled, not an unusual occurrence.  I had never experienced anything like that flight. Unlike larger airlines, you had to purchase any drinks or snacks you wanted. and the flight attendants were hawking lottery tickets. The bright colors and atmosphere were more like a carnival than the business-like airlines we were accustomed to. It was a fun introduction to the light-hearted ambience that permeates the island.

Since arriving in Europe, we had utilized public transportation, but in order to reach the Blarney Castle in the brief time allotted for the visit, we rented our first car. We had become accustomed to traveling on the left side of the road, or so we thought, until we actually were driving on the left. And for the first time, the road signs were not in English (all right they had translations but the first language was Irish.) I believe we had shaken off jet lag and Newell was awake enough to tackle this but it was not easy. We drove out of the airport in Dublin and fortunately were able to follow other cars onto the freeway we needed to reach Cork. We had GPS but it was helpful to carry maps we had picked up at AAA. A visual of distance and city placements was very helpful.

Yep, that’s us on the left side of the road, not too bad until you get to the freeways and roundabouts, then its a little creepy.
In Ireland the first stop was for lunch. We got off the freeway in Kildare and found what appeared to be an upscale outlet mall with a grocery store/bistro nearby. I could have lingered for quite a while if there had been more time, it had a charming Cape Cod-type of architecture and looked promising but Blarney awaited. Unlike the U.S. with our late hours and perpetually-open businesses, it seemed like the UK shuts down precisely at 5 or 6 p.m, which is one reason dinner in pubs becomes an attraction, sometimes the only option for prepared meals at off-hours.
We checked out the bistro and opted for a trip to the market instead. We needed to stock up on a few things and didn’t want to take the time for a sit-down meal. The Irish market was adorable. We found prepared sandwiches and a lunch deal that included a fruit smoothie and bag of vegetables or fruit; we added some fancy cheese straws, bell peppers and a few local treats. The cashier was friendly and patient with our awkward attempts to transition to Euros.
Back on the left side of the road, we were off to the Blarney Castle for a quick kiss…
The Blarney Castle has a large verdant estate
First view of the castle

Someone knitted or crocheted sweaters for the trees (what no Irish cable stitch?)
The Blarney Castle, Ireland

The old stone castle was large and imposing. Climbing the narrow winding stairways inside to reach the storied stone was a challenge. I wondered how the female inhabitants of the castle carried food and other supplies up the stairs while wearing long skirts. Eventually a later family built a more accessible castle on the property.


Tim acquires the gift of blarney.

The view from the top. Note that these are not tiny cows.


After CAREFULLY climbing back down the stairs we explored the poison garden and estate surrounding the castle.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

Apparently it was a thing in the past to have a few plants around that could do some damage – digitalis, ricin, opioids and others.


After capturing 2 leprechauns for my little granddaughters , we drove into Cork.

Newell enjoying an Irish burrito; not quite what we are used to, but still yummy.

Cork was charming, seaside and windy. 2 weeks after we were there, Hurricane Ophelia blew through, rerouting our trip home. We stayed at an airbnb home at Model Farm that was so beautiful, more elegant than many nice hotels we’ve been in. After a good night’s sleep, we will head into Waterford, the oldest city in Ireland originally settled by Vikings.


if renting a car abroad, always get the GPS option unless you have internet on your phone with no roaming charges. From roads to gas stations, stores and destination addresses a GPS is invaluable. Also we found the smaller the car the better in Ireland, France and Germany where the roads were often very narrow – I mean NARROW. Like squeezing down a lane with stone walls, we were knocking the ivy off the stones, but fortunately not the paint or rear view mirrors.

Decide how to approach dining ahead of time. If, like us you are short of time and trying to economize, you may want to pack an insulated bag and a few reusable ice packs. We had a large gray insulated zippered tote from Costco that proved invaluable for not only keeping food cold but it also doubled as a carry on tote for flights. We were able to stash a large quantity of stuff, my purse, a small backpack, jackets, magazines, etc. Some airlines only allow one carry-on and a purse or backpack, this stretched it. Also when driving and toting our stuff from one airbnb to another, it was convenient for corralling the food.