Where to Stay in Ireland?

Getting excited! (Photo Credit: A. Kopp

Getting excited! (Photo Credit: A. Kopp)

My girl and I are off to Ireland in the not too distant future. She sent me a link today for a possible place to stay – glamping in a country manor garden. ‘Glampers’ receive a ‘glamping box’ on arrival with matches, water, specialty apple juice, a jar of homemade chocolate cookies (sold!), maps of the estate and a torch and head-lamps. Cool!

Yes, it’s time to start the planning phase of where to stay in Ireland. We already know we don’t have enough time to explore Northern Ireland this go ’round. For now it’s a few days in Dublin before working our way west towards Killarney and north toward Galway before completing the loop back towards Dublin.

What are our accommodation preferences?

1. Budget… but does that mean a hostel? Possibly, especially if it includes an element of  number 2.

2. Unique... not a chain… but not so quirky we can’t sleep.

3. A place with intriguing backstory. It could be something about the building’s history or the owner/manager’s background and how they came to be running the place.

Okay travellers, I’m asking for your advice.

Where would you recommend we stay? Why is this the place not-to-be-missed?

Looking forward to your brilliant suggestions!


Parks Canada: A Rosy Welcome

Parks Canada initiated a fun program last year called The Red Chairs Experience. The idea was to place red chairs in special places within Canada. Visitors are then encouraged to discover their locations and share their experiences with others via social media outlets. It’s a cheerful way to help spread the wonder of our landscape.

Imagine my happiness when I stumbled across said chairs in Kootenay National Park. The pop of colour mid-winter is a boon. My guy and I were taking the short, but scenic stroll up Marble Canyon’s interpretive trail to the 40 m/130 ft deep gorge of Tokumm Creek to check out ice formations when we spotted this rosy pair.

A duo of red Adirondack-style chairs at Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

A duo of red Adirondack-style chairs at Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Although I was aware of the program before our discovery, this is the first pair of chairs that I’ve come across. Quick research suggested that 11 of these rosy duos can be found in different locations in Banff, 2 along the Icefields Parkway, 2 in Yoho National Park, 2 in Kootenay National Park, and 6 in Jasper National Park (as well as other parks across Canada).

If You Go: Marble Canyon can be accessed off Hwy 93 (17 km/10.5mi south of the Trans-Canada Hwy). The trail which criss-crosses the canyon is a short 0.8 km/0.5 mi one-way. Note: Stairs can be icy in winter; boot grips recommended.

Where have you discovered the red chairs?

Winter Hiking: Alberta’s Boom Lake

We had to search farther afield than normal – heading out near Lake Louise – to find winter for a mid-week nature fix. But when skis skitter, clatter and refuse to obey direction, I’m more than happy to swap out skinny skis for the hiking boots and ice grips my guy had the foresight to pack. It’s been a strangely warm winter. Recent rain turned the trail rock hard. Winter hiking never looked so good!

Boom Creek running free mid-February is a sure sign of a warm winter! (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Boom Creek almost ice-free in February is a sure sign of a warm winter! (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Close to the Continental Divide, Boom Lake trail is an easy 5 km (3 mi), gentle jaunt uphill through a thick evergreen forest. Total elevation gain is only 175 m/575 ft, but the resulting lake view is worthy of much steeper ascents.

Soaking up the views at Boom Lake. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Soaking up the views at Boom Lake. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

If You Go:
The trailhead can be found 7 km (4.3 mi) south of the Trans Canada Hwy (#1) on Hwy 93 (heading towards Radium, BC).

Write Smart, Write Now!

Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
– Albert Einstein

In my spare time, I’m always looking for ways to improve my freelance career. The path wanders and it includes everything from searching for new markets, to learning to be a better blogger, to brushing up on my writing skills.

Be a Better Writer is a new site for me. It’s geared toward fiction and I write non-fiction, but one of the posts caught my eye. I had to take a closer look. “Tight Writing Gets Published” is a perfect primer (or refresher) for self-editing – no matter if you are penning a novel or drafting a travel article or editing a children’s book. Get rid of those things, somethings, and somehows. Use strong verbs and resist adverbs. Cut the excess and your writing will improve.

In the words of Elmore Leonard, “try to leave out the parts that people skip.”

What sites would you recommend for improving your writing?



Cuba: Colourful Land of Contrasts

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

The street scene below shows a typical neighbourhood within walking distance of Old Havana. It’s also the neighbour of a casa particular we stayed at in this chaotic and charming city. I’m not sure you can make out the goat’s head and two dead chickens lying on the right side of the unpaved access street just off the malecon, but we did have a moment of wonder about the reason for their appearance on the second night of our stay.

Colourful. crumbling Havana. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Colourful. crumbling Havana. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Less than a dozen doors down on the left of the narrow street shown above is Casa 1932. Fate smiled on us when a cancellation allowed us the opportunity to meet doctor turned designer Luis Miguel and spend a couple of nights in his 1930s-era Art Deco treasure.

Casa 1932 - an Art Deco jewel in the heart of Havana. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Casa 1932 – an Art Deco jewel in the heart of Havana. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Leaving Havana, we took the “tourist” bus Viazul – visitors are not allowed to take the local buses –  through to Playa Larga and shared taxi to Cienfuegos and Trinidad, enjoying the shift from hectic city to relaxed countryside and back again.

From classic cars to horse and cart – Trinidad’s cobblestone streets are a testament to Cuba’s duplicity. American beauties share narrow roads with grass-grazing classics. Word from the street is that newer model cars cost in the $30,000 plus range; classic cars run from $15,000 – $25,000. A doctor we met with a specialty and who teaches young doctors earns less than $450/month. She can’t afford a car. No word on how much a horse and cart would cost.

Classic beauty on the outside; modern diesel engine under the hood. (Photo: B. Kopp)

Classic beauty on the outside; recycled diesel engine under the hood. (Photo: B. Kopp)

Modern couple with affordable transportation. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Modern couple with affordable transportation. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Streets that look like war zones harbour priceless gems. Horse and carts ply the same streets as classic hulks harbouring diesel rather than gas engines. What you see is not always the full story. I have so much more to learn about this fascinating country.

New books, new books!

Love coming home from a travel adventure to find hardcover proof that I do have a job! Four new children’s non-fiction books arrived from Crabtree while I took 10 days to decompress and dip into a little of Cuba’s charming culture.

The first two books explore the world of writing. “How to Write Science Fiction” reviews the elements of science fiction and guides young readers with step-by-step instructions on how to compose their own, out-of-this-world science fiction stories. “How to Write Drama” follows a similar pattern.

Two new books in the Text Styles series from Capstone. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Two new books in the Text Styles series from Crabtree. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Many people credit Ghandi with this saying and it is the cornerstone for Crabtree’s new series. My two books, “Be the Change for the Environment” and “Be the Change in your Community” offer a blueprint for young readers to follow and become active citizens. Can’t wait to present them to a local school!

Caring for Earth is everyone's job. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Caring for Earth is everyone’s job.    (Credit: M. Kopp)

Helping others helps you. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Helping others helps you. (Credit: M. Kopp)

What do you use as a yardstick for measuring your “success” as a freelance writer? Leave a comment below!