26 February 2018

a few more things we learned

There are a few things we've learned in the past couple of years since we stopped doing the expat blog. One thing we've learned is that we learn something new every time we move. The first thing is to watch out for i mold. This was not a problem in the first couple of places we lived, but a couple of years ago, Bill wanted to try living in Moville, on the Inishowen peninsula in the most northern section of the country--Malin Head is just up the road. We rented an apartment that was in a refurbished corn store and apparently, the work that was done was not done well. We looked at it and it was fine. Three weeks later, when we moved in, the bedroom had mold halfway up the wall. When we opened the curtain, we saw that there was some kind of gunk growing between the panes of the double-paned window. We scrubbed the mold, but there was nothing we could do about the window. It was contained in there, so not hazardous, and the mold did not visibly reappear through the summer. But we had a cold snap in the autumn and then it warmed up quickly to be in the 60s and it took off. No room was unaffected and there was black mold growing everywhere. It was gross and I was ill because of it. We now live in a house without a mold problem and you can bet that we checked everything carefully for any trace when we looked at it! So that's one thing.

Another thing I would look for is an electric shower. In the apartment, the shower was hooked up to the mains and the immersion (water heater) was not big enough to accommodate that. That's another issue--the immersion heaters. It's good if they are hooked up to a timer if you happen to be in an area where there are off-peak and peak electricity rates. It will come on during off peak times and go off before the peak times, but you can turn it on during the day, if needed. I think there's a post about that in the blog, because we had it in Ballinrobe. The place where we are now does not have this, so if we want hot water from the tap, we have to turn it on and wait. There's an electric shower here, though, so that heats up the water on demand.

If you like an open fire (people here are crazy about their fires!) a back boiler is nice, as it will heat the water and radiators.

Furniture is also important. Make sure you sit on the couch/chairs to make sure they're comfortable. Most rental places come furnished, which is great, but sometimes the landlords use the rental as a storage unit for unwanted stuff, so things can be cluttered and they often do not want to remove stuff. In the moldy apartment, there was a huge TV in a small living room/dining room. We don't watch TV and asked for it to be removed, but they wouldn't. And, although the place was set up to be a holiday home, and there were 3 bedrooms, there was only a loveseat and 4 uncomfortable wooden dining chairs to sit on. The loveseat folded out into a bed, but was sinking towards the middle, so sitting on either end caused a backache.

20 January 2016

new address

Hello,  We have decided to continue this blog on a daily basis with the posting of a daily photo and leave this blog mainly for the informational content

You can find us at:  http://somewhereinirelanddailyphoto.blogspot.ie/

23 December 2015

season greetings from Killybegs

The last few weeks Killybegs underwent a holiday makeover.  On December 5th the big event scheduled was the arrival of Santa and the lighting of the Christmas Tree.  Unfortunately the festivities had to be cancelled due to the arrival of Storm Desmond, an extratropical cyclone, and rescheduled for the next night.
Shari and I walked down to the center of town to join the other people gathered to wait for the beginning of the event.  After about 1/2 hour we could hear music and drums from the distance playing some holiday tunes.  St. Catherine's School band led the parade in to the town center.  Some were playing their music with their accordions while others pounded to the beat of their drums.  After the music was finished, Santa made his entrance to the clapping of the crowd.  He walked around and bent down to the children's level where he gave out candy and took a lot of selfies.  Everyone was enjoying seeing the scene unravel.  The small kids were ecstatic.  Finally the moment everyone was waiting for happened.  The Christmas Tree's lights came on.  It was a fun time being there.  The interaction with the children and the people with Santa was really nice.  A nice family evening full of joy and happiness.

Below are some photos of the decorations seen around town.  Enjoy and have a safe and happy holiday season!!

The next four photos below are from Donegal Town

Shari does love her yarn

Killybegs Community Hospital

25 November 2015

keeping warm

This is our first winter in Donegal and we are in the learning stage of using our fireplace.  There are a few options that we can decide from to heat our cottage.  The first and the simplest one is to have some kerosene delivered.  We have a tank out behind our shed and a timer inside to control it when to come on and off.  We decided that we weren’t going to use that option this year because we want to see how the fireplace works.  The fireplace has a back burner which will heat our water and radiators, it just takes longer than the kerosene (2+ hrs).  Anyway, we’re not people who like lots of heat.  Lately we been firing up the fireplace around 4pm and keep it going till around 10-11pm.   It provides us with the warmth and is not overbearing.  There are also numerous choices on what to burn.  Briquettes, wood and coal.  We have been doing a combination of all three and that seems to be efficient for now.  The coal burns the hottest and if you place the briquettes or wood on top of that, it burns nice and steady.
Winter temperatures here are not the coldest we have experienced such as in Maine and Fairbanks, Alaska.   Actually, the temps feel like spring but the nights do get colder and generally remain above freezing.  Other factors are rain and wind.

So we will see how this winter goes for us.  We just started  using the fireplace a few weeks ago and are learning what works best for us.  As for now, it’s a little bit of everything.

SuperValu advertises what they sell.  It's very close to our cottage and we have a small shopping cart that we can use to haul the stuff back home.  Our neighbor has a supplier that will deliver the coal up to us so we don't need to buy that down at the store.  The other items can be purchased at Aldi's and Lidl's down in Donegal Town when our neighbors drive there to shop plus the items are a little bit cheaper.  Polish coal is not allowed in this area so the sign is a little outdated.  Prices are right though.

The coal comes in a 25kg bag.  We usually fill the pail up and bring it inside.  Doesn't smell at all.  Neither Shari or I couldn't believe that people still use coal these days but a lot still do.

We sometimes use a heat log when the fire is going good.  It is made of compressed sawdust.

Wood logs, compressed sawdust log and a fire starter log which burns for 2 hours and we sometimes use to get the fire going fast.  Then we add the wood or briquette and sometimes coal.

The briquette comes in a bundle of 20.  Once they start to burn, they break up in layers.  They last about an hour and smolder a bit longer before they are gone.

The end result

14 November 2015


Finally, another post after months of silence :)  Well, our move and settling in to our new town has been completed for almost 6 months now.  Moving was hard considering Shari did mostly everything.  Unfortunately a case of the shingles prevented me from doing the simple things that you take for granted.  The numbness and some sensitivity is all that is left after 8 months and hopefully that will pass eventually too.

When we were done, it was nice to say we moved by bus.  I imagine not many people do that or would want to do it.  Anyway, it was a free option for us and it was different and for us different is good!

There are lots of interesting places to see in town and you can walk there which is a real bonus to us considering we no longer have a vehicle.  The bus has a regular stop here too and you can get anywhere you need to go plus we can catch a ride with one of our neighbors if we happen to being going to the same destination.

If you have questions about moving here, you will find the info on our moving experience earlier in this blog.  Email us with any questions you might have and we’ll try to answer them for you.

Going forward in this blog, we will be posting photos of the places we visit, things that catch our eyes as we walk around town and share our story with you.

There is a video that the Carpet Factory shows that illustrates how they made their famous Donegal Carpets.  It's a nice window in to the past.

Fintra Beach

Fintra Beach is a beautiful beach to stroll anytime.  The times I've been there, it wasn't crowded, just a few people walking their dogs.  It is very peaceful place to explore!!

01 May 2015


Well it has been a strange few months to start off 2015! Bill got some kind of crud from a guy in the GP's tiny waiting area--that was in February. Then he got some back spasms, which reoccur intermittently. Then he went down with a bad case of shingles. The pain which usually accompanies this did not begin until he was already 2 weeks in, but when it came, it incapacitated him. We had been thinking about moving but we were not having any luck getting return calls from letting agents so we decided to let it go, stay here, take day trips, and decide where we wanted to move at a later date.

As it turned out, the day trips never happened and it was just as well that we never got replies from letting agents, because Bill was in no shape to move or travel. At one point he commented that he wished the place he'd seen listed months ago--a terraced cottage in the Old Coast Guard Station in Killybegs--would become available again. At the time he first saw it, we were in the middle of our Ballinrobe lease and we could not pursue it. Less than a week after he said that, the listing was back up. I hadn't paid much attention to it before, since we couldn't pursue it anyway, but I looked at it this time and really liked it. It seemed like a shame in a way, because we both thought it would be snapped up before Bill could get well enough to travel. We watched and waited.

By the Easter holiday weekend he was saying he felt like we should go the next week. We decided to wait until the Tuesday following the holiday (which was 7 April) and see how he felt. If he still felt like he could go, I would call the letting agent and see if I could make contact.

Tuesday morning came and he gave the go-ahead. I called the office and spoke to the letting agent right then. He said the place was still available and we arranged to see it the following day. He asked if we could provide a letter of reference from a previous landlord and since we did not want to give notice here until we had another place, I emailed the landlord we had in Maine. He was kind enough to write a really great letter and email it to me. I forwarded that along to the letting agent. We booked a couple of nights in a B&B, packed our backpacks and caught the 7:20 am bus out of Ballinrobe the next morning. We got to town, went straight to the agent's office, went to the cottage, looked at it, said we would take it and then settled in to wait. He sent the letter to the owner and said he would contact us the next day. Late in the afternoon he called and said that the owner agreed to rent it to us so we went by and gave him a security deposit. The following week we went back with a small load and signed the lease. We paid the first month rent and got the keys. We have been going back and forth ever since, bringing suitcases and backpacks (Bill is still not up to par 2 months into this shingles stuff, so the loads are lighter than they otherwise would be). We have done 4 round trips and have a one-way journey next week when we move up to Killybegs for good. We have been moving by public transport. I have moved using a moving van, a U-Haul, the US Postal Service, our truck, and a plane, but this is the first time I have moved by bus--it's really handy to have places furnished here!

We have had a couple of surprises as we tidy up the odds and ends of moving house, as they say here. First of all, I think there is a bit of cross-cultural communication stuff that is tricky. When we look stuff up online we end up finding stuff that seems like it is what we need until you read further and things get confusing. The bank was a case in point. We found all this stuff online that made it sound like a long and involved process to switch branches. Finally we decided that it'd be best to just go to the bank and ask what we needed to do. When I said we were moving, the woman immediately assumed I wanted to close my account. I told her I didn't want to close it, but we'd be living in Killybegs and would need to use the bank there. "Oh you don't have to do anything," she said. I asked about changing contact info and she said that yes, we would have to do that and she would give us a form, which she spent 5 minutes searching for on the computer. She printed it and gave it to us, telling us to fill it out and bring it back. We got the form on Monday and left for Killybegs Tuesday. We came back yesterday and filled out, signed, and returned the form this morning. The woman there signed it, dated it, said she would fax it to Dublin and the change should happen Tuesday (this is a bank holiday weekend) or Wednesday. We are almost afraid to hope that it could be so easy.

Eircon is another thing. Bill was going around in circles trying to figure out what to do, so I googled "eircom service and moving" and got a simple form to fill out which supposedly will start the process of moving the service from one address to another. They are supposed to call and we will see. I have no more trust in them than I ever did, but they do hold one hostage--either through the contract or because they own the phone lines. Even if we try to switch to a new provider, we will still be entangled with them to some degree because they own the lines--and according to some stuff Bill has seen online, people have paid dearly for trying to go with a different provider. They really have worked out this rip-off con game quite well.

One unpleasant surprise was the post office. Turns out that if we want them to redirect our mail to the new address, we have to fill out a lengthy form, bring proof of address of a very specific type, and pay a 65 euro fee for 3 months of service--and it goes up from there. We have one piece of recurring mail that is important, so Bill changed the address on that and we will leave the rest to be delivered here and discarded by the next tenant--just as we did with the mail we got for the previous tenant!

All in all the good outweighs the bad. We may still have hassles with Eircom and the bank. The mail issue is a small one. The electricity seems like it'll be straightforward--we just send them a meter reading on our last day.

After trying to contact several letting agents and steeling myself for a hassle, we ended up having a wonderful experience. This guy is great. He has great communication practices, answers questions thoroughly and clearly, gave us a lease that was standard and gave general terms, then gave terms related specifically to that property and then attached a multi-page inventory of every single item in the house--right down to the number of plates and coffee mugs! I told him I was impressed with how thorough it all was. He brought us to the cottage and showed us how to use the water heater and when he had a question himself about a couple of things, he called the owner and got answers. He will manage the property as the owner lives in Dublin.

The owner went to the cottage before we signed the lease and cleaned everything, checked stuff, and even bought a stand alone freezer for the place! The fridge that was there was an under-the-counter model with a tiny freezer compartment. He felt a bigger one would be better so he got one. He also left a new frying pan and new wine glasses. I thought it was a really thoughtful thing to do. It was so wonderful to stumble into the place after a long day and find it some homey and welcoming!

Looking back, I am glad those other letting agents never called or emailed back. If they had, I might have missed my chance to live in the little cottage at the Old Coast Guard Station in Killybegs. As soon as we got off the bus, I felt like I was in the right place and when we walked into the cottage, I knew it was the right place for us.

04 March 2015


It's been interesting here to see how things run on cash here. Some places don't even bother to accept credit cards--both B&Bs we've stayed at were like that, so we made sure we had cash. Almost our only shopping is done in grocery stores, so I am not sure what it's like in other sorts of places, but we almost never see anyone pay with a debit card here. This is understandable when you consider that every time the debit card is used, a fee is charged--it was 20 cents when we first got our card, but I think it's gone up to 25 now. It would be easy for the fees to add up fast, so we have gotten into the habit of withdrawing cash and using that. This has the added benefit of making it much easier for us to know where we stand. The rent gets transferred to the landlord's bank account automatically each month. The electric bill gets taken out. The internet bill was being taken out by direct debit as well, but after our problems with the company, Bill will opt to pay that for the remaining few months of our contract. Because Bill's Social Security payment is in dollars, but is deposited into a bank that deals in euro, we are never sure exactly what our actual monthly income will be--it depends on the exchange rate and this has changed quite a lot since we got here as the euro has weakened against the dollar. When we arrived it was 1 euro to US$1.44. Now it's about 1 euro to US$1.12. In practical terms, our income has gone up automatically for the past 10 months, but of course, what goes up, must come down, eventually :-)

I know pretty much what our monthly bills will be--the electricity is the only thing that varies, and that comes every couple of months, so I just figure on 50 euro a month for that. It's not been that much yet, so that works. Because I know how much we need to leave in the bank, we can take out the cash we need and that's what we use.

One thing I noticed right away was how tiny the tills in the grocery stores are. I've been in a lot of grocery stores and worked retail a few times over the decades and I am used to the big, flat tills with slots for all of the bills to lay down flat. here they are tiny, little metal rectangular boxes that have space for the coins and spaces for the bills to stand up on the long edge. This can be done because the bills are different colours and sizes, with the size increasing as the denomination gets larger.

It's easy to see at a glance what you have. They have 100 and 500 euro notes as well--we had some when we got here, but the larger notes are not as readily accepted--we had to use the 500 euro note to pay our security deposit on our apartment because no bank would change it for us. The people in the office commented that they don't usually see those.

There are no 1 euro notes--they do that in coins. There's a 2 euro coin, too--change accumulates quickly.
Someone told us that she has a container where she throws all her 2 euro coins at the end of each day. When she goes on holiday, that's a good part of her spending money. She said it's amazing how quickly it adds up!
We toss our change into a small container and when we get a text from the library saying a book is in, we take the 1 euro per item fee from the container.
This currency took some getting used to at first--we had to examine all the coins to see what we had as we were paying for something. But now it's easy to differentiate. It doesn't seem so much like play money anymore!