Ireland 5: Inishmor, largest of the Aran Islands

Aran Islands have always meant to me beautiful cabled sweaters. Now I’ll forever associate the name with the patterns of rock walls (and sweaters as well).

Ireland 4: Galway

It was supposed to be a blustery and rainy day, with the end of “Storm Brian” affecting western Ireland. I have no faith in weather reports, and leave it up to the universe. Almost always not as bad as they say it’ll be.



Ireland 3: Westport to Galway

We drove south through Connemara, heading to Galway. First stop area was around Croagh Patrick, though we didn’t have time to climb. Another year. Across the way is the National Famine Memorial, a very moving sculpture of a coffin ship with skeletons forming the rigging. Nearby, the ruins of the Murrisk Abbey. Then through the phenomenal Doolough Valley, where people collapsed and died of starvation while seeking relief during the potato famine in 1849. A very stark landscape. Considered buying a sheep. Decided against it. By the southern end of the valley, we were in pouring rain for the remainder of the afternoon.


Ireland 2: Westward to County Mayo

After a few days in Dublin we rented a car and drove a few hours west/northwest, ending up in Westport, in County Mayo. Chris dislikes mayonnaise intensely, but now we know that it’s really Contae Mhaigh Eo.

Ireland 1: Dublin

Ithaca College’s London program has its fall break, so Chris and I have used the extra time to explore Ireland. We flew to Dublin on a Sunday afternoon, hours before Hurricane Ophelia was due to strike the island. Where we were it ended up being just a windy day, but we hunkered down in the pub and had REO Speedwagon’s “Riding the Storm Out” stuck in our head for hours.

Lake District

We based ourselves in Buttermere, a tiny hamlet in the northwest portion of the Lake District National Park, and braved the weather for some wonderful days of walking, eating, eating, and walking.

London 4: City, Friends, Family

After trips to Egypt (Diana) and Copenhagen (Chris), we settled down for a few “regular” weeks at home in London.

Egypt 3: On Land

Before and after the diving trip, a night spent in each of Port Ghalib and Hurghada. Enough hours to appreciate that this is one very complicated and interesting place.

Egypt 2: On board the Emperor Asmaa in the Red Sea

Seven nights on the Emperor Asmaa, sailing from Port Ghalib down to the St. Johns area, and back via Fury Shoals and Elphinstone, among other great dive sites.



Egypt 1: Underwater

In 2013, my dive instructor in Yap told me that the Red Sea had been one of his favorite dive places. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed incongruous. Scuba diving in the Red Sea? Really?  Somehow it wasn’t a place I associated with vibrant coral reefs and tropical fish. But just one more example of how little I know about this wide wonderful world.

So when I learned we’d be spending 4 months in England, I figured this was a good time to go, in that I’d be relatively closer to the Red Sea than we are in Ithaca.  Specifically, I made plans to spend a week on a liveaboard (yes, sounds like “liverboard” – yet another way to confuse people when describing this trip). We sailed on the Emperor Asmaa and I shared a tiny cabin with a Swedish woman who was also traveling solo. She happened to be pursuing her “Advanced” open water diving certification as well (which permits us to dive to 30 m/100 ft, compared to our previous limit of 18 m/60 ft), so we spent a lot of time together. Good thing we got along like 2 fish in water!

Overall impressions: it was super. A very intense week of diving, with much higher expectations overall for capabilities and skills compared to other trips I’ve had. This isn’t a beginner’s way to spend a week. The typical day begins with a 5am wake-up and by 7pm, we’ve done four hour-long dives at 3 or 4 different places. My final dive was my 50th overall (since I began in 2013), and there were people on board who have done thousands!

There are plenty of corals, fish, sharks, dolphins, and dozens of other interesting living things to watch. I can imagine how my old dive instructor found this place so captivating, especially since he was remembering it from his visits in the 1980’s-1990’s. Many of my fellow divers reminisced about the massive schools of fish that used to be part of every Red Sea dive. Vivid and diverse corals. Sharks galore and not at only the deepest depths. But like all other oceanic places, the environments are stressed by too many people (tourists, fishermen, industry, pollution, plastics, etc.).  It’s still great but perhaps not at its earlier glory days. Plus, honestly, nowhere has ever wowed me as much as the Yap dive sites (damn you, Reed Perkins).

The photos below were taken with my GoPro3 with a simple red filter added to it. Basic no-frills underwater photography. Plus, I’ve put some short video clips online too. The videos show more of the fish than the pictures do.

For truly amazing fish pictures from our trip, check out these taken by my fellow diver Adel Zakaria.