Days 5&6 – End of Backroads Bicycling

The clouds cleared the afternoon of Day 4 and gave us a view of the countryside we hadn’t yet experienced.  The day’s ride began in Kenmare and ended in Killorglin at the Carrig Country House in County Kerry.


Here is Lois overlooking Caragh Lake the end of Day 4 as we neared the Inn.


Carrig Country House in Killarklin, County Kerry


Tea served in our room at the Carrig Country House after a long day of bicycling.

On Day 5 we awoke to sunshine and warm temperatures. The first leg of our travels took us to Cahersiveen, where Dan remembered a bakery he visited while touring the Ring of Kerry with workmates, Bo and Dan in November, 2013. The Ring of Kerry is a long road that circles the peninsula jutting into the Atlantic in County Kerry, located in the southwest corner of Ireland.


Outside Dan’s all-time favorite bakery with Lois and Rainee (from CA). He visited here in 2013 and was so pleased to find their delicious Almond Choco pastry still available. (Below)


The Almond Choco pastry is so filling. I guess having it once every five years is ok.


Typical lunch and coffee break setting.


On our way to Valentia Island. Beautiful day with views of the Atlantic.


Every 7-10 miles, Backroads van was available for bike maintenance, water, snacks, etc. We felt loved and well-taken care of on this trip. Some people call it Snackroads!


Views from Valentia Island were incredible.


Views of the Skellig Islands in the distance, as seen from the south end of Valentia Island.


We are standing near the southern end of Valentia Island. In the distance are two small pyramid shaped islands, the Skelligs, where scenes from a Star Wars movie was recorded.


Our main leader was Rhiannon Browning, with bike above her head, being photographed by Tibet. The three leaders did a huge amount of work behind the scenes to make our trip seem effortlessly managed.


Lois and Desiree (from CA) on the ferry from Valentia back to Knightstown to end our Day 5 ride.


Our group of 17 cyclists on our last evening together with two of our leaders on the right.

The morning of Day 6 included an optional 16 mile ride, which we were glad we did. It started at 6:45 AM and returned in time for our final superb breakfast at the Carrig Country House.


In front of a mural in the town of Killorglin.

We departed Carrig House on a bus back to Cork with 13 of the group, leaving the leaders behind to prepare for another week of bicycle tours.


Getting on the bus to Cork to end our time with Backroads.

We were dropped off at the train station to finish our stay in Ireland in Dublin, Belfast and beyond. More blog posts to come.


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Days 3 and 4 – Racking up the cycling miles

Day 3, like Day 2, started out with rain. However, unlike yesterday, which started with a 10 km (6 mile) uphill ride, Day 3 was flatter, and eventually stopped precipitating.




We stopped for a coffee and hot chocolate break in Lauragh in a cafe shared with the town post office. We liked the name of the town because it reminded us of Laura giggling.  (cafe and “bike sign” shown above).


After the Lauragh cafe, we biked to our lunch destination in the town of Castletownbere. This is the one day we were scheduled to have lunch and dinner on our own. AND…. just as well, because… IT WAS JUNE 19, 2018 – Our 25th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!!!

Because it was our anniversary, we biked only until 1 PM and took a shuttle back to the Park Hotel Kenmare where we enjoyed an evening out and celebrated our anniversary.


Part of the bicycle tour we didn’t do that day is pictured above. We were able to drive through and see the beautiful valley with its switchback roads called Healy Pass.


This statue of the crucifixion is at the top of the long road up Healy Pass.

We enjoyed our anniversary dinner at the Mews restaurant in Kenmare, a picturesque southern Ireland town on the Ring of Kerry.  Our dessert plates were decorated in tasty chocolate sauce with “Happy Anniversary” written along the edges. (Zoom in on Lois’s photo to see how well that was done!)

Miles traveled on Day Three: 30 miles

We departed the Park Hotel Kenmare on the morning of Day 4, bicycling 28 miles the first leg of our day. This was a day of steep and sheep: steep hills and hundreds of sheep along our way, but only a few in our way.


Along the way the cool morning of Day 4, before shedding a layer on the inclines.


We walked up the steepest sections, accompanied by sheep.



Zach, one of our Backroads guides, was sharing information on different rides through the nearby glens (valleys) and hills using the map at the top of the glen, known as Glencar. This glen is brother to a similar glen in Scotland called Glencoe that provided a gorgeous scene for the feature photo of our family’s 2013 trip.

We stopped midday for an incredibly delicious spread of gourmet food at the gorgeous Blackstone’s B&B on the way to Carrigh House Inn, where we stayed the next two nights and enjoyed evening meals together.

Miles traveled on Day Four: 65 miles

More to come with Days 5 and 6 later…

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Celebrating our 25th Anniversary on a Backroads Bicycle Tour in Ireland

It’s been a couple years since our last blog entry. It’s good to be back in touch!

If you asked Lois what her idea of a perfect vacation would be, she would always say, without hesitation, “a vacation in which we would hike or bike all day, settle into a cozy, quaint and unique hotel or B&B, eat a scrumptious dinner accompanied by interesting conversation and then go to bed early. Then do a variety of that for multiple days.”

When we heard about Backroads and their “Go Active” approach to vacations in 2015, we looked forward to one of their uniquely-crafted tours to eventually fit into our schedule. Late last year, we decided to make that a reality as the best way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary on a week-long bicycle tour of Ireland.

2018 Ireland Bicycle Tour Map

Here is the map showing the biking routes for each of the six days

That journey started last Friday evening, June 15th, departing Boston, MA for Shannon, Ireland, where we arrived very early Saturday morning. Our taxi driver gave us our first taste of Ireland on the way to Limerick. He filled us with insightful recommendations for our first day of touring in Cork.


Waiting for the train in Limerick


Roadside view of Cork during our first walk through the city

We arrived in Cork late morning and took a cab to our B&B, the Hayfield Manor Inn.

Hayfield Manor Inn

We stayed at the Hayfield Manor Inn the first night. We met the Backroads staff and fellow bicyclists the next morning.

The Hayfield Inn is located near University College Cork (a lovely campus to walk) and Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral.


University College Cork near our Inn


St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

After freshening up, we strolled through the city of Cork, with a visit to the English Market, much like to Quincy Market in Boston with elements of Haymarket Square, with all kinds of fresh produce.

On our walk back to Hayfield Manor, we stopped at the Labyrinth prayer walk area in the courtyard of the St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. These labyrinths date back to many years B.C.


St. FIn Barre’s Cathedral prayer labyrinth


Description of labyrinth and its usage over the millennia.

Our first day on the road, we shuttled from the Hayfield Manor Inn to Inchigeelagh to get briefed on the bicycles and on safety.


Preparing to depart on Day One from Inchigeelagh

After about 11 miles on the road, we stopped for lunch in a quaint, cozy pub. Lois was loving this trip already!


Lunch at Cronin’s Pub in Gougan Barra

Then 25 miles later, we arrived in Ballylicky.


Carriganass Castle on the way to Ballylicky

Day One ended at Seaview House Hotel in Banty, West Cork.

Distance biked on Day One:  36 miles.

Day Two began at Seaview House Hotel and took us to Molly Gallivan’s in Ballylickey for lunch. One very long hill preceded lunch. The day was quite rainy, windy and chilly (in the 50s), but none of that dampened our spirits even a bit. Bicycling so many miles made us thankful for those cooling elements. The day’s ride ended at Park Hotel Kenmare.


200 yard long tunnel we traversed on Day Two after a 5.5 mile uphill climb


At Molly Gallivan’s roadside farm, store and cafe. Backroads set up and hosted a multi-course lunch. Here we are with bike-mates Desiree and Rainee, both from California.


Molly Gallivan’s roadside retail and cafe

Backroads adds surprises along the way to add local interest and to break up the trip. One of those surprises was an incredible French shop called Lorge Chocolatier. We were given cups of richly succulent hot chocolate and left with bags of luscious goodies.


Lorge Chocolatier, along our route. A memorable stop!


A shelf of intensely tempting chocolates


No one seemed more enthusiastic for this stop than Dan!

We were pleased to be rewarded at the end of Day Two with a stay at the lovely Park Hotel Kenmare, our landing place for the next two nights. Each night, hotel staff delivered our wet sneakers to the hotel boiler room to be dried out.


Park Hotel Kenmare,

Because of the frequency of rain showers in Ireland, the countryside is lush with green vegetation and gorgeous flowers.


Foxglove blossoms appear throughout Ireland


One of the many picturesque roads and bridges along our way. This one was near Kenmare and was laced with tiny pink and white flowers.

Distance biked on Day Two: 53 miles

More tomorrow on Days Three to Five.

After three and a half days with Backroads, we are convinced it was a brilliant decision. We are having a simply splendid time of it!

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Finishing up our trip

The past few days have been full of events and touring so this will be a compilation of the last couple of days here in Oxford. We head home tomorrow (Sunday) and it truly has been an incredible three weeks in the UK.

On Thursday, Lois joined Dan and Dawson for a few morning classes with the RZIM summer school. She came back to the apartment early afternoon, before the four of us (Lars, Laura, Lois and Paige) went out for a tour of some famous authors. We were picked up by a friend named Julia, who we met at church on Sunday. She lives nearby and picked us up to bring us to some famous sites near Oxford

The first part of the tour was focused on C.S. Lewis. We were able to visit the church Lewis and his brother attended.

After looking around the inside of the church, we went outside to the graveyard that borders the building. Lewis is buried right outside of this church.


We spent some time in the graveyard, before heading out and taking a short drive to the home where Lewis lived during the end of his life. Behind his house is a trail in the woods and we took a short walk though it.

We left the house and the woods and took a longer drive to a church in a different town. This church has a graveyard nearby and Winston Churchill is buried here. IMG_5103IMG_5102

We walked through the graveyard and also in the church. The church had photographs of Churchill and also a section where you could buy Churchill related merchandise. After we were done there, Julia brought us to her house where we enjoyed tea, cake and great conversation.


The final part of the tour was a visit to the burial site of JRR Tolkien. This particular gravesite is very close to our apartment, and we had no idea that the location of Tolkien’s grave was that close.

We headed back to the apartment after seeing Tolkien’s grave and walking around the graveyard for a little while.

The rest of the day was spent hanging around the apartment.

Friday was the last day of Dawson and Dan’s week long program, and it was also the end to Dan’s five week program. The whole family and Lars went into Oxford center to listen to the final session and then to watch a closing ceremony for Dan.



After the closing program, we went out for a cup of coffee and/or ice cream.


Later on in the evening, we enjoyed a lovely dinner with everyone who took the RZIM summer school or business program. It was a great way to end Dan and Dawson’s time in the program.

We spent the first part of today back at the Ashmolean Museum. Dan and Dawson hadn’t been here yet so they enjoyed walking around for the first time. We grabbed a bite to eat with a friend from the business program before heading back to the apartment for a bit.

A good part of this afternoon was spent cleaning up the apartment and packing things up in suitcases. We were able to go out to eat at a restaurant at the Trout Inn. We had great food and a good time together on our last night in Oxford. After dinner, we enjoyed a nice walk home and we are currently back at the apartment, getting ready for bed.
We have all loved the past three weeks (five weeks in Dan’s case) in Oxford and are sad to leave tomorrow! Hope you have enjoyed following our journey here in England.

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Day 17 & 18: Blenheim Again

Day 17

Tuesday morning, Dan and Dawson left early for their classes at the RZIM Summer School. A few hours after they left, Lois, Lars, Laura and Paige took a bus to Woodstock. We headed to Blenheim Palace, which was a location we had visited last week. We were able to reuse the tickets we had purchased during our last visit, as they are good for a year. We were actually given photo i.d.’s and had to use these whenever we entered or exited the palace.

Although the three girls had already been to Blenheim, Lars had not so we decided to take him. Paige and Laura decided to let Lois and Lars tour the palace at their own pace, so the group split up upon entering Blenheim. Paige and Laura moved through the rooms pretty quickly, focusing on photography more than the actual history of the museum. Lois and Lars took their time reading about Winston Churchill, and they even took a guided tour through the palace.

After the girls had walked through the palace for a little while, they decided to go out into the gardens and to hang out in the botanical garden for a bit.

DSC_0900.jpgThey decided to find a lake located on the opposite side of the palace grounds, but they found themselves lost. After wandering around on paths and ending up in areas prohibited from guest’s visit, they found their way to the bridge overlooking the lake. DSC_0952.jpg

By the time the girls found the lake, it was time for them to meet up with Lars and Lois for lunch. We had packed a lunch from home and we had our lunch inside, along with tea from the palace cafe. After this, we packed up and decided to walk to the botanical garden together.


Lois and Lars in the garden


Lois and Laura in the garden


We left Blenheim Palace early afternoon, and took a bus back to the apartment.

Later on in the evening, Lois and Dan went to a dinner at Magdalen College with the rest of the students in the RZIM summer program. They had a great dinner, and listened to a speaker after the meal.

Day 18

Today, Laura and Paige were able to join Dan and Dawson for a few of the lectures. They had a great time hearing from John Lennox, Sam Allberry and Mari Ovesypan. We went out to lunch afterwards, before coming back to the apartment.

Dan and Dawson left shortly afterwards to have dinner with the summer program at Blenheim Palace.

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Day 15 & 16: Bookstores and Cafes

Day 15

Sunday morning, we enjoyed our second (and final) visit to St. Ebbes Church. It was a wonderul time of worship and fellowship.


Afterwards, we went out to eat at a great restaurant called, Turl Street Kitchen. We had a good lunch here before heading out to walk around Oxford for a little while.


Laura and Lars trying to decide which lunch to order

We visited a small stationary shop named Scriptum, located on the same street as the restaurant we ate at. The store was full of pretty stationary and journals. They had a great collection of books with really cool covers.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

We spent a good amount of time in here, just looking at all of the book covers because they were all so detailed and pretty.

After this, we did a bit of walking around in Oxford’s covered market, before heading back to the apartment. The rest of the evening, the girls and Lars stuck around the apartment, while Dan and Dawson went to register for classes for the next week. They will both be going to classes Monday-Friday, and the rest of the family will be able to attend a few of these classes.

Day 16

Monday morning, Dan, Dawson and Lars left for classes. A little later on, the three girls went out in Summertown to a second hand store and then to a cafe. We visited a great cafe called Modern Baker. If you are ever in the Oxford/Summertown area, we highly recommend this cafe.


It has healthy snacks and a great variety of hot and cold beverages. We each settled on our preferred drink and got a few vegan bars to snack on. Lois ordered a drink called turmeric mylk (no, that is not a typo) and it is now a new favorite. The ingredients for this drink are almond milk, turmeric, pepper, and coconut milk. The ingredients sounded like an interesting mixture to me, but after I tried a sip of her order, I found that I like turmeric mylk very much.

We returned to our apartment and relaxed for a little while. Lars came home soon after we did and he later went for a walk. Paige spent a good portion of her afternoon in a cafe, reading a book. Later on in the afternoon, Lois and Paige sat and chatted with one of our neighbors who has an apartment down the hall from us. We had a great time talking with her and getting to know her.

Dan and Dawson arrived home in time for dinner and went out again afterwards to another session in the program they are taking this week.  The view from the back of our apartment here in Oxford is very similar to our view in Boxford: lots of trees




some birds



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Day 14: Picnic in the Park


Today we woke up to blue skies and a slight improvement in the weather. The good weather lasted until we stepped out the door around midmorning; then everything got cold and windy. Dan doesn’t have classes on the weekends so our whole family and Lars took a bus into the center of Oxford. We walked to Merton College, where Lars would be attending a wedding.



So Dawson was kind to give her a piggy back ride

After going in the wrong direction for a little while, we successfully found the location of the wedding. Lois walked in with him while the rest of us waited outside.



Waiting for Lois to get back (Bonus points if you can spot Lois)

We continued our day by taking a walk to a park that was behind Merton College. We stopped in a grassy area and had a picnic lunch. We had packed sandwiches and apples from home and we sat on the grass, picnicking while watching big groups of tourists walk by.

We finished up our lunch and decided to go for a walk to visit the University park, located on the other side of Oxford.

Once we arrived at the park, Dawson and Laura decided they wanted to rest on a bench, while Lois, Paige and Dan took a walk on some of the paths in the park. At one point, it started raining so we took refuge under a massive tree and we were kept dry until the shower passed.

After our time in the park, we walked to a teahouse named Old Parsonage, where we had a lovely afternoon tea.

We went back to the apartment after tea to relax for a little while. Dan and Lois went back into Oxford center to have dinner together, while Dawson, Paige and Laura went out for pizza. While out, Dan and Lois did some walking around Oxford and some of the colleges nearby.

We are now all back at the apartment, with the exception to Dawson, who is out with a friend somewhere in Oxford. Paige and Laura got to watch some fireworks from the balcony, but it was rather short-lived, due to the fact that whoever was setting off the fireworks only had about 3 or 4 firecrackers to set off. FullSizeRender

About an hour after the first firecrackers, there was a huge show of firecrackers that was much more impressive than the three or four set off by our neighbors. We aren’t really sure what the fireworks were for, but our best guess was that maybe England celebrates the 4th of July two days early… but I’m guessing that probably isn’t right.

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