Fall 2017 Drawing for Email Subscribers

Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 21 Inch Express Spinner Suiter
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 21 Inch Express Spinner Suiter

I’m pleased to announce a third quarter give-away for my email subscribers in the USA and Canada. Thank you for following my travels and my writing! 

My Fall 2017 drawing will be for a Travelpro Platinum Magna 21 inch Spinner suitcase. Travelpro has a great reputation for making quality luggage, and I’ve chosen it because, hey, I bought this bag myself, and I’ve loved using it!

What do you need to do to enter?

Simply be an email subscriber to my blog: either via the bright green button below, or by clicking Follow Ann Via Email in the sidebar to the right.

WordPress Reader followers will not be included in this drawing. Why not? As I move towards earning money from my life and travel blog, the email following is an important metric for me.

Already an email subscriber? Great — then you don’t need to do anything :-), you’re entered.

I typically publish posts four times a month, so don’t worry, you won’t get over-emailed. Also, I will never sell or give away my email list, and of course, you may unsubscribe at any time.

When is the drawing?

Promotion ends Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. (Central Time (US & Canada)). I’ll conduct a random drawing and notify the winner via email within two weeks of the end of the drawing. Once I’ve heard back from the winner, have a mailing address, and have shipped the Travelpro spinner via Amazon, I’ll publish a blog post announcing the winner. If I do not hear back from the winner within a few days of my email, I will re-draw. See official contest rules for full information. Travelpro contest rules.


Click image to connect to the full set of rules .pdf

John Drew won the summer 2017 luggage drawing for email subscribers.
Terri Schrandt holding a Hartmann Herringbone Duffle
Terri won the spring 2017 luggage drawing.










Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

Thank you for visiting! 

I’m writing and traveling full-time now, and if you like my work, please subscribe to my blog via email.

Loving Irish Whiskey

How much do you know about Irish whiskey?

If it’s not much, that’s not surprising, since the industry has come back from what some termed ‘the edge of extinction’ on the international market.

Irish whiskey in a waterford glass
Irish Whiskey. Photograph, iStock Photos.

How much do you know about Irish whiskey?

If it’s not much, that’s not surprising, since the industry has come back from what some termed ‘the edge of extinction’ on the international market. In 2015, the Irish Whiskey Association launched a major marketing and public relations effort to change this, to work on repeating the success of the Scottish Whiskey industry in increasing market share outside of their country.

Before my trip to Ireland for TBEX Europe in Killarney, my knowledge was limited to Jameson’s and Bushmill’s whiskey, both of which I liked. Over my eight- day trip, I sampled many, and left with a list of spirits I sincerely hope I can buy at home.

If you live in the United States, here are some statistics on Irish Whiskey in the American market that might surprise you:

Irish whiskey has been the fastest-growing spirit in the country, with sales soaring over the last 15 years. Consider that in 2002, just 434,000 cases were sold in the United States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade group.

By 2016, that number had reached more than 3.8 million cases, growing by almost 19 percent in that year alone, an astounding growth rate that was nearly three times that of the next highest category, American whiskey, at 6.8 percent, according to the council.

— Eric Asimov, New York Times, Irish Whiskeys Rise Above the Annual Celebration

Teeling Whiskey Single Grain
Teeling’s Single Grain whiskey — love at first taste. Photograph, Ann Fisher

I enjoyed exploring Irish whiskeys on this trip. We had Teeling’s Single Grain on our first evening, and loved the smooth quality of it, which led us to Celtic Whiskey Shop to buy a bottle to enjoy while in Dublin.

Whiskey tasting at the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin
Celtic Whiskey Shop, Dublin: All three of these were wonderful. Writer’s Tears is a very smooth whiskey (Pat’s favorite), and I like both it and my favorite of the three, Knappogue Castle (pronounced Nappogue). Photograph, Ann Fisher.

While there, we enjoyed tasting Writer’s Tears (Copper Pot), Knappogue Castle 16 year, and Teeling’s Brabazon — and realized how much tasting was in front of us to even start to grasp all of the creative things distilleries are doing in Ireland. Some of the techniques that make each whiskey so different would be decisions about the type of casks to use in the aging process — some might be a particular type of oak, and others are being aged in sherry or madeira casks, producing a great variety of flavors.

The staff at the Celtic Whiskey Shop were knowledgeable and friendly, and we left with a note introducing us to the staff in Killarney, where the Celtic Whiskey people also have a wonderful bar and restaurant.

At the Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder in Killarney, you’ll find over 800 Irish whiskeys, more that 1,400 whiskeys overall, making it the largest collection of Irish whiskey in the world, and the largest overall collection of whiskey in Ireland. Lord, what a beautiful thing . . .

And to top it off — they have a great kitchen that serves a variety of small plates and main dishes that are outstanding tasting options with their whiskeys.

The Celtic Whiskey Bar in Killarney
The Celtic Whiskey Bar in Killarney, a beautiful thing. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Irish Whiskey flight Celtic Whiskey Bar Killarney
A flight of whiskey: The Irish Favourites, at the Celtic Whiskey Bar in Killarney. Photographs, Ann Fisher.
The smokiness of the Connemara 12 year old was wonderful.
The smokiness of the Connemara 12-year-old was wonderful. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

We chose the Irish Favourites flight: Jameson’s Redbreast 12 year, Writer’s Tears (Copper Pot), Tyrconnell 10 year old Madeira Cask, and Connemara 12 year old (a peated whiskey). It was all good, but Pat came away with Writer’s Tears as her continued top choice, and I favored the Connemara. I found the smoky flavor of the Connemara on top of the fruity notes in the whiskey really wonderful, and like nothing I’ve ever had before — very different from the peaty whiskeys of Scotland.

So, if you don’t know much about Irish Whiskey, you have some delightful tasting ahead of you — what are you waiting for? Get out there and get on it!

The sun’s over the yard arm somewhere . . .


Bottle your own Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder, Killarney
Yes, I did! Bottle my own Irish Whiskey at the Celtic Whiskey Bar in Killarney. And it arrived at my home, just as promised, less than ten days later.


If you’re interested in hearing the interview with Bernard Walsh on the Irish Whiskey Industry, you find it here:

Additionally, this is an outstanding article on the overview of the renaissance in Irish Whiskey:

The Rise, Decline and Rebirth of Irish Whiskey Part II: The Renaissance of Irish Whiskey

Turning Two in Ireland

My blog hit its second anniversary while I was in Ireland for a travel blogging conference, TBEX Europe.

There’s a symmetry to this for me: as a traveler delving into a new country for the first time; as a writer and lifelong lover of literature arriving in the home of James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw;  as a student in the business of blogging, here to learn more.

Shamrock, symbol of Ireland. The word comes from the Irish Gaelic word, seamróg. Photo by Quentin REY on Unsplash.
a pint of the black stuff, Guinness Stout
A pint of the black stuff. Love Guinness! Photograph, Ann Fisher.

My blog hit its second anniversary while I was in Ireland for the travel blogging conference, TBEX Europe.

There’s a symmetry to this for me: as a traveler delving into a new country for the first time; as a writer and lifelong lover of literature arriving in the home of James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw; as a student in the business of blogging, here to learn more.

So over the course of my week in Ireland, I raised many pints of Guinness and multiple  glasses of Irish whiskey to life, to travel, and to my anniversary. Sláinte!

River Liffey in Dublin
The River Liffey flows through Dublin, dividing the city into two distinctively different halves. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

 Three Days in Dublin

Looking through the gate of Christ Church Cathedral. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

It is impossible to know Dublin in only three days, but my friend Pat Wetzel of Cancer Road Trip and I gave it our all (you’ll find find Pat’s account of our doings in Dublin here). We started with an overview tour, then delved into: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church, Temple Bar, Dublin Castle, Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse, the Joyce Center, and the Writers Museum, drank plenty of Guinness, and sampled some amazing Irish whiskey.

On jet-lag Friday, we went to the Guinness Storehouse to learn more about how the Black Stuff is made.

The Storehouse is in the St. James Gate Brewery in a fermentation building dating from 1904. It’s a slick museum of Guinness, and the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland. What did I think? Well, the words tourist trap come to mind. The Gravity Bar at the very top of the Storehouse has an amazing 360° view of Dublin, and would be an excellent place to enjoy that pint of Guinness that comes as part of your entry fee — except that it was so crowded when we were there that we could barely move.

After preparing for rain, we were blessed with good weather — and when the sun came out during our visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we made a beeline for the green to take advantage of the light.

St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin Ireland
St. Patrick’s was founded in 1191, but most of the current building dates to the 1800’s. It is the National Cathedral of Ireland, and both the largest and tallest cathedral in the country. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Temple Bar Dublin
On the street in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

We wandered from St. Patrick’s to Christ Church, then into Temple Bar to find a good pub for lunch. Temple Bar is an area of Dublin bounded by the River Liffey and Dame Street, then Fishamble Street and Westmoreland Street on the east and west sides. It’s home to things such as the Irish Photography Center, the Gaiety School of Acting, and the Irish Stock Exchange, then in the evening it’s the center of a lively nightlife — so there are plenty of pubs :-).

We found one to our liking (BadBobs) and settled in to review photographs and talk. The lamb shank I ordered to accompany my Guinness was outstanding.

Badbobs Temple Bar
The lamb shank at BadBob’s pub , served with carrots, parsnips, and mashed potatoes was flavorful and tender. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

James Joyce and Dublin

Saturday afternoon found us on a walking tour: Introducing Joyce’s Dublin. Parts of the route followed in Leopold Bloom’s footsteps, and other stops, like the one at the Gresham Hotel, took us into stories in The Dubliners, such as The Dead. I thought the tour was great, and anyone interested in 20th century literature will enjoy seeing Dublin through Joyce’s eyes. The James Joyce Center offers several different tours that change from week to week, and when I return to Ireland, I’ll try a different one.

While I easily loved The Dubliners the first time I read it, Ulysses deviled me as a college student. The stream of consciousness style of James Joyce’s writing can be difficult to handle — it requires dedicated attention. Yet it is listed as one of the top 100 novels in the English language, and for a lover of writing, it’s a must-read. The Joyce Center has inspired me to attack the book again, this time with both Ulysses: Dublin Illustrated Edition and the audio version with two narrators: Ulysses Audiobook (additional information about the narrated version is at the bottom of this article).

Following our Joyce tour, we went to see the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial to those who died in the Easter Rising of 1916. Then, still on a literary high — we noticed the Writers Museum across the street from the garden, and went in to explore. I found it disappointing. While they do have a small, interesting collection of letters and books, the displays were incredibly dated, and for most people, this is not a great way to spend limited time in this special city.

Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Photograph, Marc Lechanteur — iStock Photo

The Book of Kells, Trinity College

Book of Kells
Page from the Book of Kells, one of the world’s great illuminated manuscripts.

On Sunday, we made our way to Trinity College. Mission: see the Book of Kells and the Long Room in the Old Library. The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the gospels of the New Testament dating from ca. 800 AD, was created at the Columban monastery in Ireland. It is one of this country’s great national treasures.

I would strongly recommend booking tickets for the Book of Kells ahead, and even with this, expect to stand in line for at least twenty minutes. You’ll see the Long Room of the Old Library after you finish viewing the exhibition about the manuscript.

When you know you have to return . . .

The clock was ticking down towards our train ride to the conference.

On our last Dublin afternoon, we drove past the bullet-riddled columns of the GPO, the General Post Office — rebel headquarters for the Easter Rising. I turned my head to watch the building recede, knowing that I’d have to return to “go deep” in Ireland, to really know and understand this country. So I raise my glass to Dublin, and simply say — “I like you too well to leave. And I’ll be back.”

Ah! Ow! Don’t be talking! I was blue mouldy for the want of that pint. Declare to God I could hear it hit the pit of my stomach with a click. — Ulysses, James Joyce

Practical Notes: Hotels

We stayed at the Conrad Hotel near St. Stephen’s Green for our first three nights in Dublin, which was outstanding. It really exceeded my expectations. The service level of the staff was outstanding, and the room very comfortable. Breakfast was included in our rate, and I thought the buffet was very good.

Hotel in Dublin: The Conrad

Our one unpleasant experience was at Harrington Hall in Dublin on our final night after our rail trip back from Killarney. The Conrad was not available when I booked, so we chose the Harrington for the last evening before we flew home. It is also near St. Stephen’s Green, but unfortunately right across the street from very noisy nightclubs. There is no air conditioning, and we had to open a window because the room was a bit stuffy. Even though our room was at the back of the hotel, we listened to racket from the bars all night long — things didn’t go quiet until around 4:00 am. Never again.

Reading James Joyce

For anyone who’s struggled with Ulysses, and would like to have another go at it, I found Tadhg Hynes comments on recording the audio book interesting, and the audio excerpt on Amazon engaging. I’ve just started listening to this version on Audible, while reading the Ulysses Dublin Illustrated Edition — makes SUCH a difference. If you’re thinking that this approach might work for you, I’d encourage you to listen to the audio excerpt to see what you think.


Narrator Tadhg Hynes: “I first decided to record Ulysses in October 2015. Little did I know then what an unforgettable 18 months lay ahead. Having already recorded Dubliners and Portrait (and being terrified of Ulysses), I decided to give myself a year just to read it. However, after about four episodes I started recording it and became hooked.

Being a Dubliner and having the privilege of walking the pages of this book daily, it became a world that absorbed me totally. Almost everywhere I went in Dublin, Joyce was there. I kept coming across phrases from the book in real life. I was born in Holles St. Hospital some 60 years after the Oxen of the Sun episode was set there. While the city has moved with the times, it’s still unavoidable to get the sense of Joyce’s Dublin even now. . . . I’ve tried to bring out the Dublin wit and the unique language of its people, and I hope that this adds to the enjoyment of this great book.

“I would like to add a special note of thanks and admiration to the wonderful reading of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, given by Kayleigh Payne. Famed for its lack of punctuation and rambling nature, this iconic piece of writing is beautifully interpreted and sensitively portrayed. Kayleigh’s work has brought a new dimension to the recording, and I am eternally grateful.” — from Victorian Classics Audiobooks

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