A Visit From Flat Stanley

I love getting mail. Especially mail that doesn’t contain the words “statement”, “due” or “billing”. And I really, really, really love getting mail from home (hint, hint). We were all excited, then, to receive a special package a couple of weeks ago from a friend of mine back in Washington.  Inside there was a letter from her first-grade son and a paper cutout of a little boy: Flat Stanley.

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If you have ever met Flat Stanley yourself, then you know what a special treat it is to welcome him into your home. If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, then let me enlighten you. Flat Stanley is a children’s book (actually, now, a series of books)–it is incredibly entertaining, and I actually used to read it to my class every year. The book is about a little boy named–you guessed it!–Stanley, who gets squashed flat as a postcard when a poster falls on him. Now that Stanley is flat, he can do all sorts of things that he couldn’t do before: slide under locked doors, fly like a kite, and even fold himself up in an envelope to travel the world. And this, of course, is how Stanley came to arrive at our house in Ireland.

We had fun taking Stanley with us around town to show him what life is like here in Ireland. And, although we didn’t have any big adventures planned for the time that he was here visiting, I think we still showed him a pretty good time.

The first place we took Stanley was the harbor town of Kinsale. It is a short drive to Kinsale from our home in Cork, and is one of our favorite places to visit. Kinsale is known for it’s gourmet food scene, art, and history (it is the site where the English defeated Spanish forces in a 1601 battle of the Spanish War).

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While we were in Kinsale, we took Stanley on a walk through town.  We ate lunch at a yummy cafe called Lemon Leaf, toured Desmond Castle, did some shopping, and visited an arcade to drive the bumper cars. I think Stanley was pretty worn out from all of the excitement, so we decided to head back home for some naps in the afternoon.

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Later in the week we took Stanley to our favorite walking path. The path goes along Cork Harbor for miles and miles–I have no idea where it actually starts or ends because we haven’t found them yet. We did, however, spend some time on this beach right off the pathway. David took Stanley down to the shore to throw stones into the water while I tried to convince our dog to get out of the water and rejoin us for our walk (whose idea was it to let her off the leash, anyway?).

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Stanley enjoyed looking at all of the fishing boats that were anchored offshore. I bet he was trying to figure out how he could act as a sail for one of the boats and carry it out to sea.

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Stanley spotted this playground by the path and he wanted to stop for a little play break, so I obliged. Jacob was happy to help Stanley go for a swing.

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We finished our walk in the town of Passage West. Stanley thought that this building, The Shamrock, seemed very Irish. He insisted that I take ONE MORE photo of him here to prove that he was in Ireland (this Stanley is going to make me look like a Japanese tourist. Geesh!).

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The next day Stanley woke up early to help us drive Daddy to work. After we dropped Daddy off we went right up the road from Daddy’s office to a castle called Blackrock Castle. The tower of Blackrock Castle was built in 1604 to help protect the harbor from pirates (!) and Spaniards (?). Now there is a science center, an observatory, and a restaurant inside the castle.

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Stanley enjoyed Blackrock Castle so much that he was practically begging me to take him to another castle. And, since there are over 3,500 castles in Ireland, we had several to choose from. The next morning after we dropped David off at Preschool we drove out to another castle a few miles away (shhh! Don’t tell David that we have fun while he’s away at school!).  This castle is called Barryscourt Castle:

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Barryscourt Castle is a Tower House–a castle that a family built as their personal home (a very well-fortified home). This particular castle was built in the early 1600’s and was home to Lord Barry and his family (this family controlled most of County Cork in those days).  Today the castle has been restored using traditional building methods (only stone, mortar, and wooden pegs hold this place together!). Inside, several rooms have been set up with period furnishings and fittings so you can get a picture of what life would have been like in the castle. Stanley even climbed right up onto Lord Barry’s chair to see what it would be like to eat a feast fit for a king (it was a big chair for a small Stanley–look really closely and you’ll see him!).

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We were all getting hungry by now, so after we picked up David from preschool we stopped by our Farmer’s Market for lunch. Stanley ate some pizza and raspberries, then he helped us buy some milk and yogurt from the dairy stand. He thought that the fresh Irish milk was yummmmmmmmy!

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For our final adventure with Stanley, we decided to go somewhere truly memorable. We took an incredible day-trip out to Killarney, and Stanley got to join in all the action. He rode with us on a horse-drawn carriage called a trap through the Gap of Dunloe:

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He walked with us to beautiful lakes (he really wanted to go swimming, but we told him it was too cold for that right now):

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And, because he loves them SO much, we took Stanley to one more castle. This castle is called Ross Castle, and it was one of Stanley’s favorites. He liked looking out at the big blue lakes from the top of the tower.

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Stanley wanted to stay in the castle longer, but he knew that it was almost time for him to leave our family. Even flat little boys start to miss their homes. He had a fun visit here in Ireland, and he can’t wait to come back again some day!

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