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"Graiguenamanagh is in County Kilkenny; St. Mullins in County Carlow. The two are separated by the Barrow River, the life and soul of the area. Choosing between these two outposts of Irish country living, you may be torn. Each has its assets. The good news is that, living in one of these villages, you'd have easy access to the other by foot or bicycle along the 4-mile-long riverside towpath that joins both.

"Graiguenamanagh comes from the Gaelic 'Gráig na Manach,' meaning the 'village of the monks.' Founded in 1204 at the point where the Douskey tributary joins with the greater Barrow River, Duiske Abbey, in the middle of the village, is today a buried treasure. Behind its basic exterior, you'll find a vast, bright, and uplifting space where the light bounces off the white stone walls and radiates through the stained-glass windows.

"It's hard not to be drawn to places with such history.

"The present town, though, is more defined by its remarkable stretch of river than its monastic past. Approaching from the Carlow side of the Barrow provides an extraordinary view of the quayside with its stone buildings, cottages, and line-up of pleasure boats and barges.

"Completely off the rest of the world's radar, Graig is one of Ireland's best-kept secrets. Most who make it here do so by boat or by foot along the towpath and feel lucky and special to have stumbled onto a place of such natural beauty and tranquility. Life here, again, revolves around the river, but there's plenty to do out of the water, too. Golfers have great options. Just 2 kilometers outside Graig, on the Carlow side of the river, is 18-hole Carrigleade Golf Course. Other notable courses in the county are Kilkenny Golf Club, Callan Golf Club, and the prestigious Jack-Nicklaus-designed Mount Juliet Golf Course that has twice hosted the WGC-American Express Championship. If you're not a golfer, the Mount Juliet resort is ideal for a leisurely stroll and a treat of afternoon tea.

"This southeastern region of the Emerald Isle is rich with old estates, gardens, castles, and period homes to satisfy the history aficionado. Kilkenny Castle and its gardens are a main attraction, but Rothe House, also in Kilkenny Town, is a lesser-known treasure. It's the only surviving merchant's townhouse from the 17th century, today a museum with recently reopened gardens. From Graig, it's just under 20 minutes to Woodstock House and Gardens in Inistioge.

"These two towns on the banks of the Barrow, Graiguenamanagh and St. Mullins, have held on to their unspoiled natural beauty. Life here feels more like the 1950s than the 21st century. Go a little beyond either village, and you could imagine yourself in any past century. This is the lost Ireland so many retirees dream of.

"Thinking more practically, Ireland is not a super-affordable retirement choice; however, property values today are down 50% and more from their pre-2008 boom-time highs. Markets elsewhere in Ireland, especially in Dublin, are moving up again. This remote region of County Kilkenny, though, remains seriously undervalued, one more reason it's worth a look..."

Again, Lynn's complete guide to retirement life in County Kilkenny, including a detailed budget and current property listings, is featured in the current issue of my Overseas Retirement Letter. If you're not yet a subscriber, get on board here now.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Lynn provided video footage of this idyllic corner of the Emerald Isle. Take a look.

 

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My favorite outpost here is Graiguenamanagh, the "village of the monks," on the River Barrow. While "Graig" has all the appearances of a sleepy Irish village, the river is a hub of activity. Visitors here don't come for the nightlife. They come to swim, jump from the diving boards, kayak, barge, fish, and eat some of the tastiest home baking from local tearooms and cafes.

Last week, I spotted the perfect retreat here currently on the market for 75,000 euros. I'll be reporting in full on this special area for Overseas Retirement Letter readers later this year.

Lynn Mulvihill

P.S. Ireland is one of the 21 countries we'll be featuring during this year's Retire Overseas Conference taking place in Nashville next month (Aug. 29–31).

You have 48 hours remaining to register for this, the biggest and most important retire-overseas event of the year, taking advantage of the Early Bird Discount.

The current US$300 Early Bird Discount expires Thursday at midnight.

Sign up now here.

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'Tis the season to remember
No we're never far from home
Merry Christmas, everyone

--"Merry Christmas, Alabama" by Jimmy Buffett

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Our seven Christmases in Ireland, we could never bring ourselves to participate in one of Ireland's quirkiest festive traditions, what the Irish refer to as the "Christmas Day swim."

On Christmas morning, from beaches, piers, and coves around the country, people of all ages gather to immerse themselves in waters of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (maximum).

"Swim" is a bit of a misnomer. There is no particular distance that you need to cover, nor any agreed-upon duration you must stay in the water. You simply join the crowd of people running toward and then into the water (cheered on by well-wrapped-up spectators), screaming as their bodies hit the ice-cold sea. A quick splash of the arms and legs, then back in to shore to dry off, wrap up, and enjoy a hot drink or a shot of whiskey.

Wetsuits have appeared on the scene in recent years, mostly among the kids, but it remains an unspoken rule among the hardy adults taking part: Traditional bathing suits only...

Our four Christmases in Paris were all about the lights. Each year, starting in November, Boulevard St. Germain, just a few blocks from our apartment in this city, is strung with tiny white lights. The trees, the building facades, they're covered with them. Each morning and again each evening as I'd walk Jackson, aged 4 through 8 at the time, to and from school, we'd linger at the intersection of rue du Bac and Boulevard St. Germain as long as possible, looking up and down, up and down, slowly, working to fix that magical view in our memories. "It's a fairy land," 4-year-old Jack declared it one morning. I see it still.

Twinkling lights and decorated shop windows. This time of year, storefronts throughout Paris are draped with pine garland, and shop windows are decorated with green trees flocked with white and trimmed with red and gold baubles. No one does shop windows like the French do shop windows, and no others compare with the shop windows of Paris at Christmastime.

This year, we're in Baltimore, celebrating the season with my family, remembering all the other parts of the world where we've found ourselves this special time of year in years past, and wondering where the coming New Year will lead us.

On behalf of the entire far-flung staff of Live and Invest Overseas, please accept our warm and heartfelt wishes for a Merry Christmas, wherever you're enjoying it this year, and our sincere hope that 2013 is the year your far-flung dreams of adventure overseas begin to come true.

All the best from our family to yours. We so much appreciate your coming along with us for this ride.

Kathleen Peddicord

 

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"Dating from the 1800s, early celebrants would have hunted a real wren, killed it, and tied it to a holly branch or pole to parade around town. From door to door these 'wran boys' went, wren on display, begging for money to bury the 'evil bird.' The funds were then used to hold a dance for the whole town.

"Why the lack of mercy to one of the most innocent birds?

"Stories from Irish folklore fail to present the wren in a good light. The most popular tale (that's believed to have started the tradition) goes back to Cromwell's invasion of Ireland. On one occasion, as Irish troops prepared to advance on Cromwell's sleeping soldiers, a wren perched on one of the soldier's drums made a noise that woke the sentries just in time to save their camp.

"Today, no birds are harmed in the celebration of The Wran. A fading tradition, 'wran boys' gather in only a handful of places around the country. But, for the town of Dingle, County Kerry, Dec. 26 is a major date on the social calendar.

"Starting Christmas Eve, and often right up to noon on the big day, men gather in local pubs to hand-weave their traditional straw costumes ('rigs') in a process that takes hours.

"Come Wren's Day, thousands of spectators line the streets of Dingle to watch this spectacle of men, dressed in rigs and brightly colored costumes, take over the town.

"Starting at noon and going on until the early hours of the following day, The Wran is a blaze of color and a lot of noise, thanks not only to the accompanying musicians' fife and drums, but to the collection boxes the wran boys shake. Rather than paying for a dance for the whole town, today's funds go to local charities.

"Be warned. Innocent by-standers will often get swept into the parade or chased down side-streets.

"'It's like Ireland's version of Carnaval,' my friend Alison, a Kerry native, recently explained.

"As a child, Alison made the trip to Dingle every year with her family. She recalls being both terrified of the revelers and in awe of their beautiful costumes.

"Efforts have been made in recent years to revive this dying tradition. For the last 20 years, Sandymount in Dublin has been running a big Wren's Day fundraising event. And, as part of its September harvest festival, the town of Listowel, County Kerry, hosts an Annual All-Ireland Wren Boy Competition.

"But for a true sense of the spirit of The Wran, follow the crowds to Dingle."

Kathleen PeddicordContinue Reading:

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Feb. 2, 2011:

"Kathleen, I'm a retired American attorney living in Ecuador, and I wish to commend you for your services.

"It's really difficult to educate Americans about these ideas because we are understandably influenced by negative media reports. However, with the current economic dilemma in the United States, it's important to think hard about diversifying our portfolios and placing a portion of our assets offshore. Your advice is very valuable in this regard..."

--John M., Ecuador

***

"Kathleen, I live in rural Missouri. I'm retired and living on a fixed income. With all the political uncertainties in this country, I have started to investigate the option of moving.

"Every Saturday morning, I sit with a cup of coffee and type into Google, "Retire in ____."

"I sure am learning a lot about other countries.

"This is how I found your newsletter, and it is terrific. I sure like your style and the platform you have.

"I do have a suggestion. What are the chances that for each country you could provide a link to an expats' blog or bulletin board so we could get some real behind-the-scenes gossip?"

--Steve W., United States

Great idea. We're on it.Continue Reading:

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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