Home » Blog (All Posts) » Archives for Leigh (Bella) St John

Author: Leigh (Bella) St John

Seaweed Bath Checked Off My Bucket List

While for many, the thought of being surrounded by seaweed is something straight out of a horror movie, for me, having one of Ireland’s famous ‘seaweed baths’ has been on my bucket list for some time.

Seaweed baths are popular in Ireland, but are not a recent phenomenon as many date from Edwardian times, when they were more widespread than they are now. There were baths in most large Irish seaside towns.

According to ‘soakseaweedbaths’, “in 1904 French scientist Rene Quinton published the medical work ‘L’eau de Mer, Millen Organique’ (Sea Water Organic Medium). Quinton’s study indicated that sea water and human plasma (blood and lymph fluid etc) are almost identical in their composition of mineral salts, proteins and various other elements. Indeed it is known that similarities between seawater and human blood plasma are so great that, when removed from the body, white blood cells are able to survive in sea water, whereas they break down and disintegrate almost instantly in any other medium.

Many therapeutic benefits are attributed to seaweed bathing. Scientific studies have confirmed that seaweed bathing helps lower body stress and relieve skin conditions (psoriasis, eczema, acne etc). It has also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of muscle aches and joint stiffness (rheumatism and arthritis), and excellent for some circulatory problems. Seaweed treatments are associated with body toning, slimming and the release of toxins. Indeed, the therapeutic merit of seaweed can be aptly described as one of nature’s timeless treasures, fostering beauty, balance and vitality.”

So, after a minor sleep-in, and getting a few hours of work done – upon arriving at the hotel’s spa, I changed, and after spending a relaxing 15 minutes or so in the ‘relaxation room’, I was shown through to the seaweed bath.

Imagine a lovely hot bath…  That’s essentially what it is… only it is sooooo much more…

The water feels ever so soft to the touch… and there is a lovely film on the surface of the water that feels like a gloriously expensive moisturiser…

…and contrary to popular opinion, they do not smell like the beach at low tide!

After soaking for about three-quarters of an hour, a gentle rapping on the door indicated it was time to extricate myself from the tub and return to the ‘relaxation room’ ready for my pedicure and hot stone massage.

Btw, a hint – if you do have a seaweed bath, don’t rinse off the water from either your body or your hair – it is a fabulous conditioner!

Then, after a total of four hours at the spa, and purchasing several boxes of the dried seaweed to take home with me, I relocated to the bar to do some more work and have an early dinner… (and I do love being seated next to old and dusty bottles of wine…)

All in all a most glorious day!

~ Bella

PS:  While I was eating dinner, and then again while I was awaiting the car to take me back to my apartment, I was dismayed (that is putting it mildly) by the number of disrespectful and unruly children – and parents who were little better…

…and yes, I realise that statement exudes snobbishness, and I do not apologise for it in the slightest.

I was thinking that it is a shame there is not more of an appreciation of the manners and respect of old…

When the taxi arrived to take me back to my apartment – a half-hour ride – I was absolutely delighted that my driver was an elderly man who asked me if I minded if he played on the car stereo Gaelic love songs from 50+ years ago…

“I miss times when men were men, and women were women, and children knew how to respect their elders,” he said.

= Heaven!

Donegal Castle and getting deliberately lost…

Although today was – according to the weatherman – going to be party sunny, partly cloudy, some shower and some rain… I decided to brave the elements and go exploring.

First stop was Donegal Castle.

From Wikipedia:

Donegal Castle (Irish: Caisleán Dhún na nGall) is a castle situated in the centre of Donegal Town in County Donegal in Ulster, Ireland. For most of the last two centuries, the majority of the buildings lay in ruins but the castle was almost fully restored in the early 1990s.

The castle consists of a 15th-century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing. The complex is sited on a bend in the River Eske, near the mouth of Donegal Bay, and is surrounded by a 17th-century boundary wall. There is a small gatehouse at its entrance mirroring the design of the keep. Most of the stonework was constructed from locally sourced limestone with some sandstone. The castle was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan, Lords of Tír Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries.

These stone stairs were amazing!!!  Just to feel the parts that were rough and the other parts that were word ever so smooth by centuries of people traipsing up and down…

…and while I was in this room (below) the wind gusted so hard, the window slammed shut…

Next stop was to give Boswell (trusty rental car) some go-go juice – and I observed a strange element…

From there it was off and gallivanting along small, relatively unmarked roads, just to see what we might find…

I think this (below) is what they call a “renovator’s dream” – or nightmare as the case may be!

…and the road was even skinnier than it looks here…

…and yes, as Murphy’s Law would have it, I did encounter a car coming the opposite direction a little later along this road, but with some mutual reversing, and a lot of breathing in, we both went safely on our respective ways…

Now back home and getting stuck into some more work…

Oh, and very excited – about to send Bridgit’s Book Three off to the printer!!!  YAY!  It will be live on Amazon by next week.

Happy Friday to you!

~ Bella

Loch Gill, W.B. Yeats, and Parke’s Castle

The beautiful Lough Gill / Loch Gile / Loch Gill was my destination today for a boat ride, departing from Parke’s Castle.  If you look to the far left of the photo below, you will see Parke’s Castle with the white tower, and our boat moored slightly to the right.

While Robert Parke’s fortified manor house dates from 1610, it was built on the site of the earlier 15th century O’Rourke Castle.

According to Wikipedia:

“The Metrical Dinnsenchus tells the following story of how the lake came to be and how it got its name.

“Bright Gile, Romra’s daughter, to whom every harbour was known, the broad lake bears her name to denote its outbreak of yore. The maiden went, on an errand of pride that has hushed the noble hosts, to bathe in the spray by the clear sand-strewn spring. While the modest maiden was washing in the unruffled water of the pool, she sees on the plain tall Omra as it were an oak, lusty and rude. Seeing her lover draw near, the noble maid was stricken with shame: she plunged her head under the spring yonder: the nimble maid was drowned. Her nurse came and bent over her body and sat her down yonder in the spring: as she keened for Gile vehemently, she fell in a frenzy for the girl. As flowed the tears in sore grief for the maiden, the mighty spring rose over her, till it was a vast and stormy lake. Loch Gile is named from that encounter after Gile, daughter of Romra: there Omra got his death from stout and lusty Romra. Romra died outright of his sorrow on the fair hill-side: from him is lordly Carn Romra called, and Carn Omra from Omra, the shame-faced [gap: extent: two lines] Loch Gile here is named from Gile, Romra’s daughter.””

While cruising on the lake, we listened to Irish ballads, and poems written by W. B. Yeats.  Yeats was passionately fond of County Sligo and it influenced many of his works.  Although he died in France, his wishes were that his body be brought back to his beloved Sligo – he is now buried in Drumcliff, County Sligo.

For lovers of old and classic movies, you might remember the movie, “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

You might also remember that John Wayne’s character travels to Ireland to reclaim his family’s farm and his birthplace in Inisfree.

Well…  This is (below) Innisfree!

The stone wall you can see peeking through the trees was once a medieval church.

The Castle was basically closed for renovations, but it looks fascinating from the little that could be seen.

From there it was back home to one of my watering holes to upload the photos (the wifi in the apartment I am leasing is extraordinarily slow at the best of times) so that I could post this when I arrived home…

(to put the next comment into perspective, today I was wearing a long skirt (as usual), an off-the-shoulder top, and one of my absolutely glorious Downton-esque hats…)

…and if my day wasn’t already lovely enough, as I was leaving, an elderly gentleman stopped me and said, “excuse me lassie, but you looking like that all dressed proper like, you remind me of the pretty girls back when I was a wee lad” …and I’m guessing he was in import from Scotland, but not being sure, I didn’t say anything other than to thank him and tell him his comment made my day!

Well, although it is going on for 5:00pm, my work day is just starting so I had best get to it…

Sending love and smiles to all…

~ Bella

Exploring Creevelea Friary, County Leitrim

After a lovely sleep-in, Boswell (trusty rental car) and I went in search of a particular medieval abbey that dates back to 1508 – Creevelea Friary.

…and I thought yesterday’s excursion was skinny and windy?  It had nothing on these roads – and I must admit, it was fun!  …although none of these photos show just how skinny nor how windy they were in parts – as the thought of taking a photo while barrelling around a corner wasn’t exactly enticing…

…and again, we took some roads less travelled…

…and blonde moment – when I say the sign below, I wondered why they called it a Tabbey?

…and down a track, the Abbey comes into view…

While there, I had the place pretty much to myself with the exception of a lovely couple I met – Raymond and Vera.  While they live on the east coast, Raymond’s family is from the western side of Ireland and they are frequent visitors to the Friary.

Vera took me to a particular spot that has quite the history…

Father Bernard Peter Magauran was a Franciscan priest who, in 1826 became parish priest of Killanummery and Killery, and Titular Guardian of Creevelea Friary.

After his death on 17thDecember 1837 aged 65 years, he was buried at the Friary, but there was such a strong belief that the clay of his burial site had miraculous healing powers that people to this day come and take a small spoonful of the clay.

Indeed, a section has been cut away and edged to assist those who come to pay their respects and to obtain a spoonful of the curative clay.

Vera was so lovely that she found a silk flower and put a spoonful of clay in it for me…  I was very touched at the gesture.

Actually, Raymond and Vera are off to America in November for the beatification ceremony of Father Solanus Casey, to whom they are related.  (Btw, here is a terrific link that gives you more information on Father Casey: http://www.themichigancatholic.org/2017/05/pope-francis-announces-fr-solanus-to-be-declared-blessed/)

Not knowing a great deal about the practices of the Catholic religion, it was wonderful to spend time listening to Vera and learning more about a subject that is quite foreign to me.

When Vera and I were looking up at the tree that is growing so precariously yet so strongly on the side of the wall (in the photo below), she was reminded of a poem of which she could only remember the last line – but I promised to go hunting for it:

“Trees”, by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

…and finally we head home…

Wishing you a most glorious day, my dear Friends!

~ Bella

Slieve League and the Donnegal Countryside

We have had rain here for the past few days and while I do actually love the rain, I am not particularly partial to going exploring and sightseeing in it…

Although, yesterday evening, the sun began to peek through (these photos below from last night around 8:00pm), so I decided that today would be a road trip!

I left home around 10:00am-ish and the skies were still overcast but Boswell (trusty rental car) and I decided to press on…

We were heading north toward Donnegal…

…and if it you think you see fluffies sitting on the seats, you would be correct!  They are hot-glued to them!  I don’t know why, but I think it’s cute…

You’ve heard of a bird’s eye view – well, this is a bear’s eye view!

I also loved this road trip for several other reasons…  It was a real ‘driving’ road trip day.

While much of it is dual carriage-way, the challenge here is that it often is 100km/hr, and you round a bend, straight into a 50km/hr zone!

…or, you are doing 100km/hr and suddenly find yourself on a bend that is best taken at 45km/hr tops – without warning!

…and this was the first time in over a decade that I have driven a manual – and on these bending roads, I loved it!  I have done some rally driving a gazillion years ago, and while I wouldn’t tackle such an adventure again, it was ever so cool to be able to relive itty bitty bits of it…

On my trip, I was listening to a station playing Irish music – and in the breaks, they were doing a live feed from a local agricultural show.

At one point, they invited a five-year-old boy to join the presenter at the microphone and when he was asked about his favourite part of the show, he replied, “the tractors”.

“What other things did you see that the fair?” asked the presenter.

“Diggers!” responded the boy.

Laughing, the presenter then asked, “so, apart from tractors and diggers, was there another thing you saw at the fair – maybe the cows?”

“The loaders were grand,” said the lad.

…a little later the radio announcer said, “and we have a report that a black cow has gone missing from (forget the name) Farm.  If anyone has seen her, please call the station.”

Boswell and I took several ‘detours’ – as in road off to the right or left that just looked interesting… and this was one of them…

What this road trip also achieved was to allow me to totally overcome my apprehension of driving on ultra skinny, skinny, skinny windy roads!

…and finally we arrived at Slieve League…

According to Wikipedia:  Slieve League, sometimes Slieve Leag or Slieve Liag (Irish: Sliabh Liag), is a mountain on the Atlantic coast of County Donegal, Ireland.  At 601 metres (1,972 ft), it has some of the highest sea cliffs on the island of Ireland.  Although less famous than the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Slieve League’s cliffs reach almost three times higher.

Lunch doesn’t get much better than this…  Fresh lobster roll, made on the spot for me by the same man who caught the lobster, and cooked it this morning!

…and around 4:00pm, back into Sligo County…

..and now I am home, sitting with my bedroom balcony door open, looking out over the same images you saw at the beginning of this post, and listening to a live concert in Sligo, just along the river (so the sound carries wonderfully!)

What a fabulous day!

~ Bella

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Today it was a glorious 20oC and so Boswell (my cute little rental car) and I headed out exploring along the Wild Atlantic Way…

…and managed to find Easky Pier and Castle – although this sign was not exactly encouraging!

I love that dotted around the coast are the drawings made my local youngsters, encouraging us to take care of the area…

Someone had been feeling very zen…

The Beach Bar – venue for a scrumptious lunch!

Local seafood – yum!

Then off again, meandering along skinnnnny country roads…

…and back home in Sligo in time for me to work through the evening…

…and I leave you with a photo of last night’s sunset – that was taken at 10:06 PM !!!!!!!

~ Bella

Sligo Rally

Welcome to the Connacht Motor Club Sligo Rally!

I caught up with a friend today and we went to Riverstown Folk Park for what is known as a regroup halt – essentially a short rest-stop during the Sligo Stages Rally.

After a wonderful fill of motor fuel fumes, we headed to Sandhill for lunch…

All in all, a fabulous day!

Oh, and yesterday I went wandering but there wasn’t enough in my wandering to warrant a separate post, so here are my photos…

Wishing you a most blessed Sunday!

~ Bella

Welcome to Sligo, Ireland

After a delightful time with friends in Malahide, on Monday I drove across the country to Sligo where I will be staying for the next nine weeks.

It was sprinkling all day but that did not dampen my enthusiasm…  This (below) is the view from my bedroom balcony on the day I arrived…

As I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, I strolled down the street to what has now become one of my new ‘locals’, The Embassy Steakhouse Bar and Grill.

The staff are ever so friendly – and the food is sooooooooo delicious!

Arriving home and look what greeted me in the water below…

Tuesday night – back for dinner…

…and this salmon and couscous was “culinary heaven!”

Although the Irish Whiskey at the Grand Hotel in Malahide was the best they had, I was pretty sure this place would have even better – and they do!

It was like drinking heavenly nectar!

Then home again…

This is the view I get while still with my head on my pillow……..  Bliss!

There is always something to see in the river…

Today, I went for a wander and in less than five minutes’ walk from home, I arrived at Sligo Abbey.

From Wikipedia:  “Sligo Abbey (Irish: Mainistir Shligigh), a ruined abbey in Sligo, Ireland, (officially called the Dominican Friary of Sligo) was originally built in 1253 by the order of Maurice Fitzgerald, Baron of Offaly. It was destroyed in 1414 by a fire, ravaged during the Nine Years’ War in 1595 and once more in 1641 during the Ulster Uprising. The friars moved out in the 18th century, but Lord Palmerston restored the Abbey in the 1850s.”

…and every churchyard needs a cat…

Back home…

There are two tiny islands in the river…  I have named this one Ducklet Island…

…and this one Swanlet Island…

It’s like having my very own nature preserve right outside my bedroom door!

Until next time, sending love and smiles to all…

~ Bella


Farewell Romania ~ Hello Ireland!

First, let me say, “I love Romania!”

I would go back there at any time – but that’s for another post…

Yesterday morning I left beautiful Romania and since my flight was at 07:15, I arrived at the airport at 04:30 – thinking that would be plenty of time…


This (below) is a photo of Bucharest airport at 04:30…

This photo (below) was taken at 06:00… and one of the people in front of me mentioned that today was a relatively good day…  Apparently the last time he was there, it took over three hours to just get this far…  I guess Romania is quite popular!

See the yellow lettering in the faaaaaaaaaar off distance (below)?  That is the border patrol through which one needs to pass before one even gets to the beginning of the trek to the gates…

This photo below was taken just before 07:00 (bearing in mind my flight is due to leave at 07:15)…

Standing in line, I saw this gizmo…  There isn’t a red button large enough………..

I finally board the plane (that is scheduled to depart at 07:15) at 07:13 (after arriving at 04:30) and what was mildly disturbing was that while I was in line, there was a drip-feed of other people joining the line…  Ever so slowly…  Not like normal where, where the flight is called, everyone crowds into the line…

…and then when we took off, there was only around 30-40 people on the plane…

Me thinks many of the intended passengers were still standing in line at Bucharest airport!!!

Then, I arrive in beautiful Ireland!!!

What was also exceptionally lovely was that I was speaking with a client who is also a very dear friend and I mentioned that I was arriving in Dublin on July 1st – and he said that he was also arriving that day – and when we cross-referenced, we discovered we were arriving within less than an hour of each other…

So, we met at the airport and journeyed in my lovely rental car (his name (the car’s name) is Boswell and he is taking excellent care of me!) to my hotel in Malahide where I stayed the first two nights before heading to Sligo…

Not only that, but another of my very dear friends who is originally from Ireland but now lives in England is over here visiting family, so we caught up yesterday and today…

I feel ever so blessed!

I am staying two nights at the Grand Hotel in Malahide, built in 1835… just about 5-10 years before my time…  🙂

Here is where we curled up and drank and ate and drank at the Matt Ryan Bar…

…and I said to the waiter that I wanted a double of the best Irish Whiskey they had… and it was luverly!

Then, we went for dinner…

…and the following morning, went for a stroll along the beach road…

…and had a SCRUMPTIOUSLY DELICIOUS brunch!!!

Snoozed for awhile – soaked in the hot-tub (and found the first place anywhere in the world I have encountered that says you must wear a swim cap to go into the pool..!)

…and then enjoyed a delicious steak dinner (of which I could barely get through half, but it was sooooooooo good!)…

…and now about to head up to my room – btw, the bed and pillows are SOOOOOO comfortable here that I will find out what they are!  Seriously!  I think this is the most comfortable bed and pillows I have ever experienced in my entire 172 years on the planted!

Goodnight dear Friends!

~ Bella

Romanian Day of the National Flag

I awoke this morning to the sound of a PA system being set up and tested downstairs and then when, about an hour or so later, I heard drums I thought I would go and investigate…

It turns out today, June 26th, is The Day of the National Flag here in Romania.

Romanians are quite big into celebrating – and the military is no exception.  Here is the Military Celebration Calendar just for June and July:

June 10 – The Day of the Military Paratroopers
On June 10, 1941 by the Order D.M. 93/1941 the first Paratroopers sub-unit was established – the Company of Special Missions– commanded by Lieutenant Stefan Soverth.

June 18 – The Day of the Military Builders
On June 18, 1920 they established the Directorate of Buildings and Military Domains.

June 26 – The Day of the National Flag
The National Flag Day was established by Law No. 96/1998, to be held annually on June 26. The Ministry of National Defence and the Ministry of the Interior organize military ceremonies in units across the country while public authorities and other civil institutions celebrate the day through various festive activities.

July 1 – The Day of the Military Bands
As provided by the “Organic regulations” of 1/13 July 1831, “musician soldiers” (a band comprising 1 drum, 24 musicians and 8 drummers) became part of and started their service in the Permanent National Army.

July 13 – The Day of the Military Speciality “Electronic Warfare”

July 14 – The Day of the Military Communications
On July 14, 1873 was established the first Communications sub-unit – the Telegraphy Section, marking the beginning of the Military Communications

July 15 – The Day of the Military Submarine Men

July 20 – The Day of Aviation and the Air Force, the Orthodox celebration of Saint Elijah the Thunderer.

July 23The Day of the Military Press
The first issue of the “Observatorul militar” weekly appeared on July 23, 1859.

July 25The Day of the Radiolocation
By the National Defence Minister’s Order of July 25, 1955 the Radio-Technical Troops was established.

July 26The Day of the Military Archives
On July 26, 1920 by Order no. 4 of the General Staff, the Archives of the 6th History Section of the General Staff was established.

July 29 – The Day of the National Anthem
The Day of the National Anthem was established by Law No. 99/1998 to be celebrated every year on July 29.

…and now back to work…

~ Bella