The joys of retirement – a trip away without too much preamble!

Flew into Madrid on the VERY EARLY Ryanair flight on Monday morning. The assistance at the airport is brilliant especially as Ryanair gates seem to be at the furthest end of every airport! The plan was for a restful break, a little bit of sightseeing, some retail therapy and nice food and wine! We were armed with some recommendations from a previous resident of Madrid, which is always helpful.


Our hotel, the Petit Palace Hotel in Plaza del Carmen was a find – really central (close to Sol which is the main centre and from which many streets radiate with plenty of shops and bars and restaurants) with lovely staff, a nice sized room with a balcony overlooking the plaza.

We did some unpacking on arrival, before hitting out for a look around. I was particularly fascinated by the clear blue skies – not a cloud – and as we were staying in Old Madrid, some gorgeous architecture.

We allocated Tuesday to city sightseeing. The hop-on-hop-off bus is a super way of seeing the city and it allows for stopping at the sites that interest you most. We hadn’t factored in that this was Easter holidays and a major event on Madrid’s calendar, so there were lots of queues. We were quite happy to sit in gardens and read about what was inside!!! A return visit at a quieter time to explore these culture areas.

Statue of Goya, outside Prada


Unfortunately Retiro Park was closed due to a tragedy and it would have been great to get in there as there is usually daily entertainment.




We opted for the Templo de Debod instead – a haven of tranquillity in a busy city. We were only sorry we hadn’t a picnic but found a lovely restaurant nearby for a bit of lunch.





A plate of seafood paella is a must in Spain! Although Madrid is located in the centre of the country we were assured that the fish is brought in daily from the Northern coast.


We arrived back in Sol and found ourselves in the middle of Argentinian celebrations – before a friendly football match planned for the evening. Very colourful and cheery.


It’s always nice to see somewhere outside the city, so we headed for Toledo on Wednesday. Really impressive and worth the trip. The tourist Office recommended an audio visual presentation, “Toledo in Motion” as a quick and easy way to get an idea of the history of what was the capital city of Spain and is now a UNESCO site.



It was great to sample the Toledo speciality dish, “DEER BURGER” and a pitcher of Sangria as we sat on a terrace overlooking the city.

We took the metro back to Sol, again the centre of celebrations. This time is was the passion procession – hundreds of people were gathered to view the procession of bands behind the cross, a very joyful approach to the Passion and the reason so many Spaniards were in the city this week! We did not realise the celebrations would continue well into the night- our room gave us a prime viewing platform.

Retail therapy up around Grand Via was planned for Thursday and we arrived back to the hotel with our purchases, hoping they would all fit into the cases going home!!!! We booked a really nice restaurant, Casa Alberta, reputedly where Cervantes completed Don Quixote for that evening, a really atmospheric old restaurant with great food, accompanied of course by a bottle of Rioja!!!! Had a vino in Plaza Santa Ana on way home – coolish so glad there was a heater!


Case packing on Friday morning before we went out for breakfast. We obviously made a good impression on our waiter as he treated us to a glass of champagne. A nice finish to a lovely break!


A family get-together is always a great chance for reminiscing and that’s what we did at a family wedding last week – funny too what different memories or versions of memories we can have!!!

 I grew up in an amazing place: THE BIG RING, St Mary’s Park, Walkinstown, Dublin 12. We all knew each other, we all played and fought together and had a particular loyalty to those others who lived in the BIG ring; those who lived in the LITTLE ring couldn’t just join in with us: they had to be invited or more often they were in competition against us!!! My best friend lived in the little ring and we sat on a wall at the corner and talked and talked after school every day.

I never knew the Christian name of some of my neighbours or of my parent friends: they were ALWAYS called Mr or Mrs. and my parents’ brothers and sisters were titled Aunt and Uncle. Priests and nuns were ALWAYS called Father and Sister. You wouldn’t dream of swearing in front of an adult. You “watched your mouth” or there would be consequences. We helped neighbours with their shopping bags (hoping for a reward!)

Winter and Summer, we played Rounders, Hide n Seek, Red Rover, Beds/Hopscotch and Tug of War outside on the road or the green. We put up a swing on the pole at the corner of the green.

We played two balls, we cycled, we roller-skated, we skipped. During holiday time we went out early morning and had to be home when the street lights came on or when someone called “You’re wanted!”

We wore the same clothes day after day and had a bath and our hair washed on Saturday night. We had Sunday clothes for Mass.

Recycling was done as we searched for bottles and jars to exchange for favours with the Rag n Bone man. Jars (always called jamjars, in particular were a luxury as most of them were kept to be “boiled” for jam. We shared drinks out of the same bottle with just a wipe on the sleeve between users. School never closed and you always walked to school – we wore wellies and a plastic mac that enveloped body and schoolbag if the weather was bad.

Mr Whippy’s music gave notice of the ice cream man’s  approch and we hoped that Mam would be flush so that we could afford a cone! A NINETY-NINE was a rare but wonderful treat.


We ate bread and butter, jam and banana sandwiches for our tea. Blackberries were picked in Tallaght for jam; I can’t remember where the crab apples for jelly came from; but I can remember topping and tailing blackcurrants from the garden. Dad had a plot (allotment) in Islandbridge and we sometimes went there to help “harvesting”.

Fast food was what we ate if we were called in, in the middle of a game that we wanted to return to before our team lost or won or we missed our turn! We had fried eggs and potatoes on Friday or sometimes fish! Chips were made in a chip pan that could NEVER be left unguarded in case it set the house on fire. A friend of my mother’s called every few months and brought Crunchies and Aeros. Dad always brought back “English sweets” ( I can still remember sucking Spangles for hours) if he was through the NORTH delivering. He sometimes called to the park in the truck on his way back to the brewery and we took a lift to the end of the road. my dreams that time were of becoming a truck driver and reversing into narrow laneways!!!!

We went to Dollymount with our cousins some Sundays during the Summer and ONE roast chicken with plenty of thick slices of bread and sand(!!!) fed two families. (My aunt called it the miracle of the loaves and chicken!). Sometimes we went to Glenmalure fishing or to the Curragh just to gallop around. We visited Granny many Sundays where we met all the cousins and played outside in the hayshed while the adults talked inside. When visiting the Wicklow relations we walked the hills to keep us occupied.

There was a kids’ film on in the Star or the Apollo on a Saturday afternoon. The first one I went to was Pollyanna. The Residents Association held a Christmas party in the Apollo every year – a film and goodies!!



Not everyone had a television but we did. It didn’t start until 6 in the evening and we watched Flipper (the dolphin), Skippy (the bush kangaroo), Lassie (the wonder dog), Mr Ed (the talking horse), WHOLESOME I think they would be called today!!!


I never remember being afraid of anything – the big girls on the road brought us to the library and to Girl Guides. We knew there were some strange people around but we avoided them kindly – crossing the road or going around the long way!!!

People say today’s kids have everything!! Well that’s not strictly true
We had Everything

Mothers Day 2018 – Mam and Gran

Mother’s Day quotes

“A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone else’s.” Princess Diana

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Abraham Lincoln

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” Unknown.

“If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” Stevie Wonder

“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.” James Joyce

“My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.” Jodi Picoult

“God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.” Jewish Proverb

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” Oprah Winfrey