Dreaming of Ireland

I wonder if my mom (Gail Lee Martin) would have liked to visit Ireland? After working on the family history for years, I imagine she would have liked to see the land of our ancestors. Our research and my own DNA show a strong Irish inheritance. My ethnicity estimate from Ancestry is 27% Irish and Scottish.

farmhouse-irish cottage pixabay

Wouldn’t you like to stay in a cottage in Ireland for a week or two?

I’ve always dreamed of staying in a cottage in Ireland and experiencing village life. What fun to travel around seeing the area and really get a feel for Ireland and its people. A stay of several weeks would allow you to visit places where your ancestors once lived but still have quiet time for relaxing in the wee house.

It turns out that it’s really possible to do this. Here are the steps for making your dream of Ireland into a reality.

Renting a Cottage in Ireland

Start by looking at the listings on the internet. Search for these using the terms “Irish cottage” + “rental.” Here are some examples that I found:

Rent a Cottage
Irish Cottage Holidays

Browse through the listings, looking at locations. Visualize yourself staying in the rustic cottages. Do you want to be in a village so you can walk down to the market for a loaf of bread and to the pub in the evening for a pint?

Would you rather be in the country with a hillside of sheep for company? Think about the setting that fits your dream vacation. Are long rambling walks with skylarks swooping overhead what you want? Would you love puttering with the flower garden and reading in the sunshine?

irish window pixabay

Window in Ireland (photo from Pixabay)

Compare the prices of the different agencies that offer cottages for rent. What amenities are included? Do you want total authenticity with a real peat fire in the fireplace and a thatched roof overhead? Maybe your preference is a cottage setting but one that has some modernized comforts as well? Read the listings carefully for these details.

Now, start saving your money for this idyllic Irish vacation. I’m saving what I earn from writing. It’s exciting to see the savings grow and my Irish cottage vacation coming closer to reality.

June Memory Joggers

Getting people to write about their childhood and various times in their lives was a passion for Gail Lee Martin. When she worked with the Our Echo website, she wrote memory prompts in 2007 for each month of the year.

June 1 – June 30 – June Memories

June has more weddings than another month. Does your wedding anniversary bring back memories that should be written about? Write about all the little things that made your wedding special. Who was there or did you elope? Who made your cake? Surely you have lots of pictures to choose from.

paper flowers in a mason jar - wedding

Gail’s granddaughter, Diana made dozens of paper flowers for her wedding tables. They looked terrific in Gail’s vintage canning jars.

How do you spend the extra hours you have in the summer because of the daylight saving time. Can you remember when we didn’t have daylight saving time and just worked from dawn to dark?

Did your family take long vacation trips? Ever travel on Highway 66 and stay in motels when they were separate little cabins? Remember the Burma Shave signs? I have more postcards from my family’s trips than pictures. 


A Visit to Hot Springs, Arkansas

Post by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain.

Each fall, we visited the family in Kansas while traveling with our RV. Then as we wend our way home to Florida, we make a tourist stop along the way. One year, we stopped in the Victorian spa city, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

 What to See in Hot Springs

It’s a great place to visit, a Victorian and turn-of-the-century destination for its medicinal hot springs. Babe Ruth, Al Capone, and presidents vacationed there. Here’s what to see and do in the fascinating town of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Tour the historic bathhouses on Bathhouse Row. Walk the length of it admiring the turn-of-the-century architecture. Pause to read the history of each (posted in front).


bathhouse-hot springs ark pixabay

One of the bathhouses – photo from Pixabay


Then stroll back along the promenade through Hot Springs National Park. Note the fountains, the view to the downtown and the bathhouses and the well-landscaped park. There are a number of trails to explore if you like walking and have the time for longer excursions.

Go inside the Fordyce Bathhouse to see the preserved steam room, hydrotherapy room, the men’s bath hall and the women’s bath hall, dressing room, etc. It really gives you the feel for the early days of the spas in Hot Springs. Watch the film to get a good overview of the town’s history.

bath-house-row-hot springs pixabay

Photo from Pixabay


You can have the full spa experience even today. Buckstaff Bathhouse Company has been open since 1912. They have hot packs, steam cabinets, Swedish massages, and traditional thermal mineral baths.

Wander through the shops in the vintage buildings across from Bathhouse Row. They include antique stores and specialty shops.

The length of your visit depends on if you want to zip through the historic district and shops (one day) or if a more leisurely tour appeals. If your visit covers two or three days, then you can cruise Lake Hamilton on a riverboat that has luncheon cruises and a sunset dinner/dance cruise. Visit the Mountain Tower to get a bird’s eye view of the area. Search for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. You can keep any you find. The area is quite scenic so there is plenty of camping, hiking, and boating/fishing to enjoy.

The area is loaded with attractions including crystal mines where you dig your own crystals, a racetrack, a Gangster Museum, a winery, the National Park Aquarium, an alligator farm, woodland gardens, and more. Check ahead for special events (Oktoberfest, Balloons and BBQ Weekend, Documentary Film Festival, Music Festival, etc.).

Ha Ha Tonka Ruins

In 2011, Gail’s sister, CJ Garriott wrote this:
I’ve been having the most fun sorting a box of old photos! Found this shot of a teenaged Carol, posing in the ruins of something. I vaguely remembered going on a trip with the folks, “to the Southeast,” which in my today mindset, would be something like Alabama or Georgia. Got to thinking, with my view of the world at the age of 16 or so, the “southeast” could be Missouri or Arkansas! So, I set to googling “ruins” in Arkansas or Missouri and found Ha Ha Tonka Castle ruins in Missouri, much more likely a trip destination for us in the late 1940s.
TeenagedCarolRuins Tonka
Here is what I found, and this could very well be the “ruins” Daddy photographed me standing in, with a nice juxtaposition of my summery white polka-dotted dress amidst rocky ruins.
Lots of photos of the park on that site and also on this article.
Imposing architecture and breathtaking scenery combine to make Ha Ha Tonka State Park one of Missouri’s most treasured spots. Located on the Lake of the Ozarks, the park features the stone ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle built by a prominent Kansas City businessman high atop a bluff.
The Ha Ha Tonka Castle was started by Robert McClure Snyder Sr in 1905. He was killed in an auto accident in 1906 and the castle was completed by his sons Robert Jr., LeRoy, and Kenneth in the late 20s. The master architect, Adrian Van Brunt from Kansas City, designed the three-and-a-half story masterpiece. A central hallway rose to the height of the building. An enormous 80-foot-tall water tower, a stone stable, and nine greenhouses were ultimately constructed on the estate. The stone and timber originated locally.
In 1942 disaster struck – sparks from a fireplace ignited the roof and within hours the huge castle was completely gutted. The remains of the estate now stand stark and lonely at the edge of the cliff, a blackened remnant of one man’s great dream.
The State of Missouri purchased the estate in 1978 and opened it to the public as a State Park. Ha Ha Tonka is about five miles southwest of Camdenton and comprises nearly 2400 acres on the Nangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.
Maybe I can inspire a niece or two to accompany me on a trip to this area some crisply cool autumn!
Love, Carol