We are just about 2 hours from boarding our plane to Boston. I must admit that Grace, Emma and I are very excited to return home. We have enjoyed every wonderful minute in Ireland but the land of our beloved family is beckoning us back from across the Atlantic!
A few final thoughts come to mind about this incredible country. First, kindness is a virute worth its weight in gold. The Irish people have this one mastered and I’ve been moved be their outgoing gestures of love and support. From the clerk at the gas station to the mother of the Galway Rose – every person we’ve met has made our life a little richer. What a wonderful feeling – to leave a place fuller than when you arrived. I plan to remember the genuine kindness of the Irish people and take it home to Boston – sharing it among friends and family!
Our final Rose event was last night and Emma and I decided to go out in style! Despite our weary feet (and my back) we donned our only clean clothes and arrived at the Rose Dome in time to see our Boston Rose entering with her escort Struen. Grace wore her usual fantastic smile and glowed when she saw us standing in support of her on the final night!
Once in the Dome, the environment was electric – everyone waiting to see who would be crowned the 2016 Rose of Tralee and represent the 64 incredible Roses from around the world. Below Grace with her Boston escort friend James and fellow Roses. All the Roses and escorts were a bit more giddy last night as they’d been “on parade” for 2 weeks and it was all finally coming to an end. I think it is safe to say they’ve made lifelong friends and many international visits will follow this incredible journey in Tralee.
Finally, a shout out to the Boston and New England Rose Committee – such a wonderful group of people. Our family is very grateful to be part of this organization which is dedicated to the growth and success of young Irish women. I feel confident that Grace will make her mark as the Boston Rose this year and our family will be right behind her, supporting her efforts.
And now the only way to end my Ireland posts – I think – is by saying Sláinte to all the incredible Irish people we have met this week and to those who have followed this journey via my blog! This word means good health in Gaelic. It is also one of Papa’s favorite words which he has taught his grandchildren. They all know to greet him with a Sláinte accompanied by a high five! (If they forget, he will remind them.) We take off soon and send you all our best wishes and prayers for a healthy and happy new school year. We also send warm congratulations to 27 year old Chicago Rose, Maggie McEldowney who was crowned the Rose of Tralee last night!
We woke to an unusual site – sunshine streaming through our window at the B&B. What a lovely surprise after days of rain and overcast skies. After another delicious breakfast with real eggs and strong coffee (french toast for Emma), our B&B owner pointed us in the right direction and we were off in the Fiat toward the seaside. Our first stop was the lovely village of Castlegregory, a picturesque Irish town with heavenly beaches and only a 20 minute drive from Tralee.
We then hopped onto Connors Pass – the scenic (and more treacherous) route to Dingle Bay. The Fiat did not disappoint and its small size was perfect for the curvy roads and hairpin turns up into the mountains. It was a beautiful ride with stunning views but at one point, a big truck was coming toward me and I downshifted and closed my eyes hoping we would not side swipe each other. (I’m okay Dad!) Views from the road are below – please excuse the many photos but it was simply too gorgeous not to try and capture the beauty with my iphone camera!
When we got to the top of Connors Pass, we found a flowing waterfall bursting forth from the mountain with tourists climbing up to the top. Being an adventurous duo, we decided to pull over and check it out. Emma climbed much higher than me, but our efforts were well worth it!
We finally arrived in Dingle and were greeted by a crowded downtown filled with visitors from all over the world. We managed to park the Fiat and find the pub that our B&B owner recommended for lunch and once again, she was spot on. It was an authentic place – not one for tourists – where I had the local smoked salmon (on gluten free bread!) and Emma opted for a more American chicken sandwich. The food and service were delightful and we enjoyed gazing out the window toward Dingle Bay with the sun spilling in through the window.
We enjoyed walking through the town, popping into shops and even managed to visit St. Mary’s, the local Catholic church which was built in 1885 to light candles and offer prayers for our family and friends at home.
By late afternoon it was time to get back in the Fiat and head for Tralee to see our Boston Rose and attend the TV night and party. The drive back was just a beautiful as the drive toward the coast and we found it hard leave the beauty and serenity of the sea and mountains.
Back at the Rose Dome, it was another fancy event and Emma and I enjoyed watching our Grace on TV. She looked elegant in her gold sequin dress and greeted us warmly when we reunited. She is having a fantastic experience during this once in a lifetime event – making friends with young women from around the globe. Her escort Struen was as gentlemanly as ever and we all enjoyed the lively Rose party until Emma and I decided we were turning into “pumpkins” around 1 am. (I am getting too old for this?!)
This will likely be my last post from Ireland as we leave early tomorrow. Emma and I plan to enjoy downtown Tralee today and then attend the TV show and party tonight. I will do a wrap up post once back in Boston. Thanks for keeping up with our wonderful adventures – it has been a gift to spend this time with my girls. I am particularly thankful to my dad Joe Papa Powers for inspiring Grace to apply for the Boston Rose. He has been her biggest supporter and fan and she had made us all very PROUD! The Boston Rose has a busy year ahead of her with senior year at Fairfield University plus her duties representing young Irish women as the Boston and New England Rose. May God bless her and all the Roses, young Irish women who have made this Festival such a wonderful gathering and celebration of the Irish people.
Emma and I decided to take a break today from the busyness of the International Rose Festival in downtown Tralee. Sadly, the weather has been less than ideal…but we have tried not to let it dampen our spirits. The locals shared “this is the craziest August in memory – we’ve never had so much rain and cold temperatures.”
On our way to the seashore, we decided to stop for Sunday supper. Our B&B owner gave us a great recommendation for a real meal in an authentic setting. Kate Browne’s Pub in Ardfert did not disappoint – a steak sandwich (real beef) and fries for Emma and fresh cod and vege’s for me! It was a delicious meal in a relaxed atmosphere with families of all ages enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon. The most refreshing part was that the people were talking – not texting – and seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. (Imagine that!!) I think we can learn something from this way of life back in the States! Somehow, we’ve forgotten to slow down and enjoy the precious moments that God gives us everyday. (The Irish people have reminded me to take in and give thanks for every wonderful moment in Ireland with my girls this week.)
Below, Emma and I walked along Banna Strand beach, on the southeast coast of Ireland. The views were magnificent, despite the overcast skies.
The sight of signs advertising “surf lessons and a wetsuit for only 5 Euro” caused us to laugh out loud! I’ve learned that the Irish people do not allow the weather to prevent them from outdoor living. We saw children in the park, couples on the shore and mothers pushing strollers in the cold and rain. All seemed to be perfectly content.
The views back to our B&B were outstanding – although Emma cautioned me not to look since I was driving on a narrow road, at dusk, on the left side of the road! We did manage to take a few photos after pulling over for a treat – ice cream for Emma and a gluten free macaroon for me!
We plan to join up with our Boston Rose tomorrow. She has been busy with official appearances and duties. Below, little sister Emma is pictured with Grace’s two handsome escorts at the Rose Parade after-party. It’s been quite a ride for both sisters. Good night or Oiche mhaith as they say in Gaelic. (There are many Gaelic road signs in this area of Ireland and many people speak the language fluently.)
The Irish sure know how to have fun! Despite the torrential downpours and chilly night air, the International Rose Parade went on as planned. Downtown Tralee was mobbed with people, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the Roses. In addition to the crowds on the ground, the Irish had a huge crane, with dangling performers high above the heads of cheering fans. It was simply incredible! Emma and I got wet – but were lucky enough to sit in the covered stands when the Roses were announced! Below right, Grace is responding to the cheers of the crowd as she ascends the main stage.
Grace had the pleasure of riding on the Thomas the Train float, with 5 other Roses. What a site as they came down Denney Street, accompanied by the sounds of bagpipers and drums.
After a very festive parade, the night ended with a glorious fireworks show. Pictured below are Grace and her rosebud Jill! Grace’s new escort for the next few days is Struen, from Scotland – a terrific young man who recently completed his studies at the London School of Economics.
Emma and I had the joy of attending a very crowded Mass this morning at St. John’s in Tralee. It was a beautiful Gothic church with stone columns and a high ceiling. We particularly loved the opportunity to light a candle in front of Our Blessed Mother, in prayer for all our friends and family at home! We are thinking of you and send our love and prayers from the Emerald Isle.
Twinkling sky lights amidst the dark dome sky, flickering candelabras inside beautiful floral topiary centerpieces, tabletops adorned with fine china and crisp linen…the stage was set for the annual Rose Ball in Tralee. Walking into the dome, Emma and I were amazed at the beauty and elegance of our surroundings – indeed it was magical! We met up with a black sequined gowned Grace who was eager to spend some quality time with us. Finally – a night to relax and have some fun together.
We loved meeting the other Roses from around the world. It’s obvious that Grace has formed some wonderful global friendships!
The Rose escorts are truly the unsung heros of the week. They attend to the Roses every need – taking care of them in such a chivalrous manner! Grace’s escort Evan from Galway is below – such a kind young man and so fun to be around. He has 3 older sisters thus is very comfortable being around high maintenance girls like Grace! (hee hee) Also pictured is Grace’ friend James – a Rose escort from Boston whose mother was the Boston Rose some years ago.
The evening was truly “a celebration of Irish families around the world.” What a wonderful opportunity to meet so many lovely people. Emma and I had dinner with Pat and Bernie – the London Rose’s parents. Our conversation was lively and deep and our shared love of the Irish people and culture binds us all together as one.
Grace and Evan take to the dance floor above. When the band finally played The Rose of Tralee I caught Grace’s eye and we thought of Papa, her number one fan who is cheering her on from home. We love you Papa and Nona!!
Our lovely hosts from the Boston Committee have been invaluable. Dierdra Leger is pictured above left with Emma and a former Rose of Tralee. Our night ended at approximately 2 am. I even managed to drive the Fiat back to the B&B without incident in a rain storm – all in all, a fantastic day to remember!
The 65 International Roses are truly the *stars* around town. It’s amazing and sweet to watch the eager girls and boys approach the Roses in search of an autograph and photo. I had the pleasure of watching Grace interact with a few young fans today – she took so much time to speak with each child, asking their name and interests. To the girls she said “Do you want to be a future Rose?” Their answers were immediate “YES!”
I am learning many new vocabulary words and traditions while in Tralee. Did you know the Irish use the word crack in place of fun? “Emma and I are having a crack time!” – it sounds so funny, but not to the locals. A popular Rose tradition involves something called twinning where a Rose or Roses are paired with a local pub. We had a grand time this afternoon at Sean Og’s Pub where the Boston Rose is twinned, along with the Galway, Roscomman and Dubai Roses.
Our afternoon in the pub included a few pints and some Irish dancing, of course! Emma joined in the fun as the Galway Rose played the concertina, while the crowds cheered and clapped for the Irish dancing sisters. What a delightful way to spend a few hours. Emma and I also had the pleasure of meeting Grace’s Rose escort from Galway, a terrific young man named Evan.
Yesterday was just a wonderful as today. Emma and I walked through the Rose Garden where all the International Roses names are listed on a glass wall. (Grace’s name as the Boston Rose will be there too!) The statue of The Rose of Tralee brought back memories of Papa and his love of this land and its people.
It was a delight to watch Grace and 31 other Roses take center stage in the Dome on Wednesday night. Each Rose was interviewed live and performed her talent. Grace looked stunning in her tulle ballgown, with removable skirt, for proper Irish dancing. It was a magical night I will long remember!
Tonight is the “big social event” of the season according to the locals – The Rose Ball. Emma is excited to attend after meeting so many handsome young Irish escorts today – it should be a crack experience for both of us!
Upon arriving in Shannon at 5:30 AM on Tuesday – with little sleep from the overnight flight – Emma and I decided to break one of the cardinal rules of traveling. We booked a room at the airport hotel to catch some much needed sleep (and back rest for me!) Much to my surprise, the lovely Irish folks at the hotel offered a “day rate” – I guess for those weary American travelers who just need a few hours rest before taking on the challenge of the Irish roads.
Feeling refreshed, we hopped into our Fiat – which did NOT fit our two large suitcases – and headed toward Tralee. A giggling Emma tried desperately to fit our bags into the trunk, but alas, we had to stand them in the back.
When asked by Emma if I knew how to drive a stick shift I offered “sure, it’s been a few years, but Papa taught me well.” Thankfully, he did and I must say that I impressed my middle daughter with my “keen” shifting skills as we merged onto the first roundabout. (hee hee) Once highway bound, I needed Emma’s guidance to stay LEFT. After an uneventful and beautiful drive down to Tralee – amidst the rainy backdrop of the Irish sky – we arrived safely at the Rose Hotel.
Due to our tardy arrival, Grace was busy getting ready for the first Qualifer Night – where she would watch half the Roses on the main stage. (She performs tonight.) We did have a chance to greet her for a few minutes and grab a much needed hug!
Taking the recommendation of our Boston Rose Committee friends, we ate an early dinner at Stoker’s Pub where we were greeted warmly by Mary and the other locals. They were eager to talk about the Boston Rose and our experience in Tralee thus far. (The Bartender even asked if I was the Boston Rose’s sister – WOW – that made my day!) What a warm group of people – I think we are going to enjoy our week in this picturesque Irish town! We retired to our lovely B&B and enjoyed a quiet night.
This blog post diverts just a bit from the current Rose of Tralee Festival taking place in Ireland. For a moment, I’d like to look back on how our family became involved in this historic event. It all stems from LOVE.
I am very fond of Bishop Robert Barron’s definition of love – “to will the good of the other.” Perhaps his words are particularly meaningful because I’ve had the privilege to experience what they mean while growing up as the daughter of beloved parents Joe and Joan Powers.
It was Joe “Papa” Powers who sponsored Grace to apply for the Boston/New England Rose of Tralee. Just as Papa had done with his own children, he supported Grace throughout the entire Rose process with unwavering encouragement and love. And on the night of the Boston Rose selection, it was Papa who sat in the front row cheering the loudest in support of his Grace Mary. Can you imagine his smile and full Irish heart when she was announced the winner? It was a dream come true for an Irishman who has always been fully committed to his family – willing their ultimate good! (Papa is pictured below with Grace after she was announced the winner.)
Papa and Nona’s example of unconditional love has made a deep impression on me and my siblings. In turn, we have passed it on to our spouses and children as the ultimate virtue and goal in life – to love one another as God has loved us.
When I leave for Ireland tomorrow, Papa will be cheering on Grace from Cape Cod with his beloved Nona, where they will read the blogs, follow the International Rose facebook page and watch for Rose of Tralee news from the Old Country. I’ll be travelling with my Emma Rose, who will probably become a future “Rose” someday – who knows? We’ll be in good hands because Papa and Nona have shown us how its done – with love. They will be “willing the good of Grace” and that’s all one can ask for – to give and receive love. Indeed we are blessed!
Growing up as an Irish American, it’s somewhat hard to comprehend the “largeness” of the Rose of Tralee Festival. Over the past two days, I’ve learned just how big it really is in the Old Country, as my dad lovingly refers to his beloved Ireland. One of my favorite recent facebook posts came from the Rose of Tralee International page. It read “Rose of Tralee is a celebration of Irish women and what’s wrong with that?”Nothing we think!
What a fabulous statement – “a celebration of Irish women.” These young women are wonderful mentors for young girls everywhere – they are accomplished professionals; businesswomen, nurses, teachers, engineers and college undergrads to name a few. They are young women who give back to their communities in a myriad of ways, possess various talents and seek to better themselves with ongoing study and advanced degrees. Most of all, these young women are PROUD of their Irish heritage, like my Grace Mary who is pictured below with fellow Roses at a recent event in Dublin.
After a few days on the Rose Tour, Grace is fully engaged and loving it. She is enjoying the camaraderie with young women from around the world as well as the warm welcome received from crowds of lovely Irish people. Dad and I can’t wait to join in the fun!
With Grace safely settled in Dublin a full week before our arrival, I find myself missing my “baby girl.” Of course a 20 year old is not a baby, but tell that to any mother about her first born. Always one to tilt her head for the camera, below is a favorite picture of Grace at the young age of five.
Face-timing with Grace this morning from my parents home on Cape Cod brought tears to my eyes as she headed off to lunch in Dublin with the other Roses. She is truly an independent young woman, something we all hope and pray for in raising our children. I can confidently say that without the many years of disciplined Irish Step dancing, Grace would not have become this type of self-assured woman. The lessons learned in Irish Dance from Liam & Sally Harney complimented what Peter and I tried to teach at home (with God’s grace) – working hard towards a goal, sacrifice, and willingness to put others before self. We are grateful to the Harneys for their influence in Grace’s life!
Sixteen year old Grace is pictured below in her traditional Irish dance solo costume for an Oireachtas (a regional competition.)
So have hope parents – all the wonderful activities you involve your children in will help them to become the young men and women that God is calling them to be. Every team, group or club will help shape their mind and soul and give them strength to be become their best possible self! Most of all, turn to God for guidance – He does not disappoint.