A Magical Birthday Week

That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up

Walt Disney

Henry and I both celebrated milestone birthdays this year. His was in May and mine was the last week of June. Sorry, you’ll have to guess our ages! What better way for two seniors to celebrate than to be kids again. We went to Disney World!

We took our time and stayed off the Interstates on the way to and from Orlando. We even broke up the trip on the way down with a night beside the St. John’s River in Palatka, Florida. Our room overlooked the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza and river walk beside the river. We enjoyed two fabulous waterside meals our first day. Lunch at Skippers in Darien, Georgia is always delicious. Corky Bells on the St. John’s River was crowded but we found two seats at the bar and enjoyed a great dinner.

The next day, our room was ready when we arrived at our resort in Orlando early in the afternoon. Our condo was about 15 minutes from any place we wanted to go at Disney World.

On most trips to Orlando we spend at least one day in one of the theme parks. This was not one of those trips. Our plans for the week were to relax, enjoy the amenities at the resort where we were staying, and get our Disney fix by dining at three Disney restaurants.

Our first Disney dining experience was at Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Village Resort. As we explored outside before lunch we had fun reminiscing about our stay there about 40 years ago. Lunch was fabulous!

We weren’t going to a theme park but we still wanted to experience some Disney magic. What better way to do that than to go to Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Character Dinner at the Contemporary Resort on the night before my birthday.

We arrived at the Contemporary Resort about an hour before our reservation. Sipping a cocktail while watching an afternoon thunderstorm over the lake was a nice start to the evening.

Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck all made appearances. As each character walked through the restaurant they stopped in front of each table to wave and pose for pictures. Seeing the excitement in the kids eyes as each character came by was priceless. I don’t know who enjoyed it more – the little kids or us.

It was pouring down rain after dinner but before heading back to our condo we took a monorail ride around the lake.

The next day was my birthday. It would be hard to top dinner with Mickey Mouse but we did. Our lunch in Sanaa Restaurant in Kadani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge was amazing. The restaurant overlooks a savanna with giraffes, zebras, impalas, wildebeest, and other animals. Before and after our meal we watched the animals from an overlook outside. Our table was at a window with a great view of the animals as we ate. The meal was the best we had all week and the live entertainment outside the window was perfect.

When we weren’t out eating we enjoyed sitting on our screened in porch overlooking a pond or going to one of the pools. The pond attracted several Florida birds who came to the pond to fish. Great Blue Herons, a little blue heron, egrets, an osprey, and an ibis all made appearances.

We’ve been to Walt Disney World many times since the 1970’s. We learned on this trip that you can have fun without going to one of the theme parks. You are never too old to be a kid at heart!

I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.

Walt Disney

Driftwood Beach Sunrise, a Historic Island, and a Capsized Cargo Ship

The morning after our anniversary celebration, Henry slept in while I got up early to watch the sunrise at Driftwood Beach.

Sunrise at Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, GA
Sunrise at Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, GA

A Brief History of Jekyll Island and the Jekyll Island Club:

  • 1886 – The island was purchased for $125,000 by wealthy American industrialists to create a hunting retreat, the Jekyll Island Club.
  • 1888 – The Jekyll Island Club opened.
  • 1896 – The San Soucie (meaning ‘Without Care’) was built with six units. It is one of the earliest condominium buildings in the United States. William Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan were two of the owners.
  • 1910 – A plan was made for the Federal Reserve Banking System during a secret meeting of the Jekyll Island Club.
  • 1915 – The first transcontinental call was made by one of the club members.
  • 1947 – The State of Georgia purchased Jekyll Island for $675,000 and the island became a state park.
  • 1972 – The Jekyll Island Club was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1985 – 1986 – The Jekyll Island Club was completely restored and opened in 1986 as the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.
  • Today, Jekyll Island is a popular beach destination on Georgia’s coast with several hotels, a campground, easy access to miles of beach, and many activities to enjoy.

Here are a few images from around today’s Jekyll Island Club Resort. Click on an image for a closer look.

We took some scenic drives around the 7 1/2 mile long and 1 1/2 mile wide island. At the fishing pier on the north end of the island we had a great view of the Sydney Lanier Bridge and the Golden Ray cargo ship.

Sydney Lanier Bridge

We came across some birds as we wandered around the island.

Osprey on nest, Jekyll Island, Georgia
Tri-colored heron on Jekyll Island near Driftwood Beach

On September 8, 2019 the Korean cargo ship the Golden Ray left the port of Brunswick loaded with cars shortly before it ran aground in the St. Simons sound. The ship caught fire and thankfully, all of the 24 crew members were rescued. Since then, a special response team has been working to remove the ship. Recently, the team has put the efforts on hold because of COVID-19 and hurricane season. For more information go to St. Simons Sound Response.

Killarney, Blarney, Cobh and Irish Whiskey

One afternoon during our stay at a delightful Bed and Breakfast in Killarney, we took a jaunting car tour through parts of Killarney National Park. Our guide Mark and his horse Susie took us through the forest, beside the lakes, and we had our first view of Ross Castle.

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Killarney National Park, Ireland

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Red Deer in Killarney National Park, Ireland

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Ross Castle on Killarney’s lower lake

On our way to our next destination near Cork, we drove to Ross Castle for a close up view. I was fascinated by all the fishermen unloading their fishing gear in the parking lot so I looked around to see where they were going. Boats were lined up on the banks of a stream which led to the lake on the other side of the stone bridge.

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Fishing Boats in Killarney National Park, County Kerry, Ireland

Ross Castle is in a beautiful setting on the banks of Killarney’s lower lake inside Killarney National Park. We wandered around the castle before driving to County Cork,

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Ross Castle, Killarney National Park, Ireland

At the end of the day we arrived at our next bed and breakfast near Blarney. The gardens and views from the B&B were stunning.

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View from our B&B in Tower, Ireland

On Henry’s birthday we visited Blarney Castle to join the millions of others who have climbed the steps to the top of the tower to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift of eloquence.

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Blarney Castle

Kissing the stone sounds easy. However, actually doing it isn’t so easy. First you must get in line and then go up a series of steps before arriving at the parapet walk at the top of the tower. Once it’s your turn to kiss the stone, you must lie on your back, hold onto an iron railing, lean backwards over a crevice, and hope you can reach the stone to kiss it! I needed help, but I did it!

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At the top of the Blarney Tower

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Me kissing the Blarney Stone

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After kissing the stone it’s time to go back down the stairs

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Do you see the person who is leaned back to kiss the Blarney Stone at the top of the tower?

Our next stop on Henry’s birthday was the pretty seaside town of Cobh which was the last place the Titanic picked up passengers before beginning it’s maiden (and only) voyage in April, 1912. We enjoyed a tour of The Titanic Experience Cobh before wandering around the waterfront and watching the activity in the harbor from a waterfront park.

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Annie Moore and her brothers sailed from Cobh to the United States in December, 1892. She was the first Immigrant to enter the United States at Ellis Island

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Titanic Experience Cobh at the original ticket office and dock where passengers were picked up

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Waterside Park in Cobh, Ireland

Next up was a tour of the Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery in Midleton.

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Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery, Midleton, Ireland

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Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery, Midleton, Ireland

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Sláinte! Toasting to Henry’s birthday after the Jameson Distillery Tour.

To top off a fun filled day we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a nearby pub.

Next up, two train rides and Northern Ireland.