Weekend in Blue Ridge 

Weekend in Blue Ridge 

This past weekend was spent by the lake up in Blue Ridge with a fantastic group of people who I am lucky enough to now call my friends. Leanne, Robert and myself headed towards Blue Ridge last Friday after work and a 2 hour trip took us just over 3.5hrs due to Friday traffic and roadworks around the new Atlanta Braves Stadium. But the roadworks and Braves Stadium is a story for another day.

The weekend was filled with good food, good company with lots of laughs, time on the lake, late nights and lazy mornings. Any weekend that includes 9 children and 11 adults that has zero drama is always going be a good weekend.

Below is a gallery of images from the weekend including some on the lake as the kids had fun, some as I got to watch the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway depart and some scenery shots I took and over edited for some dramatic effect.

Gallery of Images from weekend




I have a job!

I have a job!

So things have been a bit hectic the last week or so. Last Wednesday I started my first ever job in the USA. It is with Lanier Parking Solutions and it is a grand job to get used to the working culture within the USA. As someone who has worked since he was 16 not being able to work was tough.

View from my work

But all the paperwork is sorted and it’s time to start to earn some wages and restart my life of employment. My first few days at work were a bit strange, my broad Irish accent meant a lot of people didn’t understand what I was saying! As I mix more and get to know more people outside of our social circle here my accent will mellow a bit. I don’t want it to disappear as it is something that helps define who I am and where I came from.

Today also marks 6 months of marriage to Leanne. It has been an eventful and fun six months and the journey we have embarked on is still in its infancy.

6 months ago today.

I will try develop out this post more over the coming days as life now takes on a more normal day to day routine.

Another step!

Another step!

So today after a little over 6 months and a small wait while the Georgia Drivers services figured out I was entitled to a drivers license I finally got to do my driving test. My last test was back in 1991 in Ireland and then I was the young person and the tester was the older person, well not today. Today after I got checked in and a small mishap with not having insurance card with me, I was all set. When my name was called I was greeted by a 20 something year old! After a quick introduction and another check of paperwork we were on our way. Even though I can drive and am a tidy driver with 25 years experience I was quite nervous, especially for the parking, emergency stop parts. Making sure I indicated and looked all the way around, even though normally most people here think indicators are Christmas lights, only to be used in December!

And so out of the parking lot and onto the real test, the driving on the public highway. This was the easy part, stop at stop signs, count to 3 before even attempting to move, indicating all the time, keeping speed below the limit, watching all the time. We got back to the parking lot and the young man told me I had passed but he had to tally the score! So on the road test I scored 100 and on the technical skills I scored 100, it seemed kinda easy to tally that score 🙂 But I suppose he had to do it officially and after a minute or so I was sitting in my car with the official document, 100 score and passed!

I got my Georgia Drivers License

The drivers license here is as important as your social security number and probably as important as a passport so it was vital as I still job hunt to get that done and out of the way as soon as paperwork allowed. It was good to be able to drive for a few months to get the practice as it did prove invaluable. Sure even this past weekend I drove over 12 hours for our Memorial weekend trip to Florida and back.

On the Beach in Florida

The weekend away in Florida was fantastic and it was great to be able to share the time with Leanne and some fantastic people who have now become my friends too. We sat on the beach, bobbed about in the sea and drank some beers, overall a brilliant time. I alluded to Memorial Day in my post last week and it struck me on the drive home from Florida yesterday the amount of USA flags that were flying outside houses, business and even some cars. This is something that I would love to see copied back home in Ireland but unfortunately the only time flags will be flying outside houses or cars will be if some sports team or person does well. Politically it would be nearly impossible to place flags in cemeteries due to the connotation it would have to the Troubles and republicanism, but maybe as a country, Ireland is growing up a bit more and the events of 2016 will allow more national pride in the Defence Forces, its veterans and those who have given their lives in service to Ireland and peace throughout the world without it being overshadowed by political point scoring.

Anyway, all that is for other blogs to debate and I do have my thoughts on it but here isn’t the time or place.As each step on this journey is taken I am ticking them off, I have my legal residence status approval, drivers license, green card is on its way and soon a job. All these things are part of my journey in my new life here in the USA and I couldn’t have taken one of these steps without my wife by my side, her support is unwavering and gratefully appreciated. Between this blog and my personal FB page I have been doing nearly a running commentary on my life now for 18 months and I do enjoy sharing various milestones with people, especially friends and family both here in the USA and back home in Ireland.

I just want to thank everyone who has followed this journey so far, there are still a good few episodes and milestones to go so please keep following, liking and even sharing across social media.



Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend

This coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend and I will be joining my wife and her/our friends on a beach trip to Santa Rosa beach in Florida. This weekend marks the official start of the summer vacation period and it is bookended by Labor Day at the end of the summer.

But Memorial Day has a very serious reason for being in existence, it is to remember members of the armed forces who gave their lives in service to their country. Not to be mixed up with Veterans Day (Nov 11th) which is for all living veterans of the armed forces.

Military Veterans Grave in Decatur, GA

As usual for me when something new comes up I have to do a small bit of research. And it’s funny the things you find out, Memorial Day was founded after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Considering I now live in Decatur, GA, it’s a strange one that Memorial day has its origins in another Decatur!

Memorial Stone in Decatur Cemetery
Plaque on Memorial Stone

Being a former member of the Irish Defence Forces I can appreciate Memorial Day and it is something that we back in Ireland are really only to start recognize as a nation. The Defence Forces always had commemorations for fallen comrades and I was lucky in my role as photographer to have a front row view of those ceremonies every year. A few years ago a new monument was erected in Dublin to remember all members of the Irish Defence Forces who had died, both at home and abroad.

Irish Defence Forces Memorial Monument

As this weekend I will be away in Florida the blog will be taking a little break as well but I will be back with a post or two next week. Also keep an eye out for a podcast on http://www.trailblazers.irish featuring myself and the story behind stpatstospartans.irish and the story of me in America.

A stroll around Decatur Historic Cemetery

A stroll around Decatur Historic Cemetery

Last night as my wife, Leanne, played tennis at Glenlake I had the opportunity to take a walk accompanied by our 2 dogs, Bozley and Lassie, around Decatur Historic Cemetery. As a photographer and a person, cemeteries have always held a special kind of fascination for me. Looking at headstones, reading the names and dates, trying to find the curious, oldest or strangest headstones and wonder about the stories of the lives of the people interred within.

Decatur Cemetary (9)
Looking across Decatur Cemetery

And so I set off at approx 6.30pm not realizing how big the cemetery actually was, it was a lovely evening, not to hot, but just nice with a slight breeze to cool the air. I followed the path to the oldest part, using google maps to help me find my way. Admiring the lovely greenery and pond, which I later found out is stocked with fish, I made my way passed some lovely headstones, all immaculately kept.The cemetery itself is approx 58 acres with about 7.5 acres allocated to the oldest part. The oldest headstones date from 1827/28, which means the cemetery pre-dates the city of Atlanta by more than a decade.

Enjoying the evening sun and cool breeze meant the walk was very leisurely and the dogs were nice and relaxed walking by my side, especially as I stopped quite often to view a headstone, take a photo or just look across the expanse of the cemetery. I had made my way from one side of the cemetery to the other when I came across a strange looking headstone/memorial in the shape of a reclining man that I just had to get a photograph of. It was only on my way back across the cemetery that I found the cemetery office and got a booklet that explains the history of the cemetery and contains information about some of the more significant headstones that I found out what and who it was for.

Decatur Cemetary (18)
Reclining Man – To commemorate a 17 year old Eagle Scout, David Hicks, and designed from his own drawing by his architect father

As i continued my stroll I kept looking out for older and more curious headstones. I came across some WW1 veterans, some Civil War vets, Korea,Vietnam, WW2 and other conflicts around the globe. There were families, children, some simple headstones , some very ornate and some that were just plaques in the ground. One that caught my eye was for an infant of just 2 days old, and being the brother of a young sister I never knew due to her passing at 6 weeks this one hit home a little. The headstone to my sister is now safe in my parents garden back in Dublin.

Decatur Cemetary (17)
Only 2 days old….RIP

And so with the time approaching 7.45pm and the dogs running out of steam I decided to head back to watch some tennis and see how Leanne was doing. Her match had got delayed so was only starting so I had time to do another small walk as I had noticed one particular stone in the booklet that I wanted to see. Young Beverly Claire Bottoms was tragically killed when she was struck by a car when out cycling. She was an avid reader and at night after the lights were turned off she would go under the covers and read some books. Her father designed a special memorial for her that sits beside her grave and below is a picture of that special memorial.

Decatur Cemetary (22)
Beverly Claire Bottoms – 1957 -1964 RIP

I have lots more photos so I will include a gallery at the bottom of this post and I will definitely be returning to Decatur Historic Cemetery and finding out lots more about not only the history of the cemetery but the stories behind some of those interred within its boundaries. I hope you enjoyed my tale about my walk around Decatur cemetery and I hope to continue to discover new things about Decatur and Atlanta over the coming months as I settle into life in America, specifically Decatur. Oh and aside from all that Leanne and her doubles partner, Deanne, won their second match of the week are into the final on Sunday.



Moving along nicely and reinventing myself

Moving along nicely and reinventing myself

Over the last couple of weeks I have received the paperwork required to work legally in the USA while my application for full permanent residencey is awaiting approval. I have also got permission to travel outside of the US but that card has run into a glitch but will be sorted over the coming weeks. The travel isn’t that important but it is good to have just in case I have to head home to Ireland for any emergencies.

Work though is vital. I have never been out of a job or with something to do for this long. I do manage to keep myself occupied by walking the dogs, keeping the garden tidy, sorting my website and doing research about what I hope will be my photography business going forward.

As the title of this post implies, don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. When I think back to where I was a couple of years ago to where I am now, the change is immense. I was working shift work in Dublin Airport and didn’t really have much or time for a social life. Having a proper conversation with an adult at times was impossible as getting up for work at 2.30am doesn’t really allow for meeting up with people. In the last few months I am meeting people, having conversations and socializing a lot more. Sometimes I can be shy and not socializing a lot only makes that worse. But mixing with more people has helped me blend into my new life here.

New clothes, new hairstyle and new outlook as well as being happy in my newly married life are just some of the things that help overcome any loneliness I may feel. I would love to be starting a job soon too as I feel that would be like the icing on the cake after nearly 6 months of being in the USA.

Moving country isn’t easy but with the support of everyone, both here in the USA and back home in Ireland, I feel I am over the worst of the ‘missing home’. I have noticed recently that I don’t compare things here to things back in Ireland as much as I did when I first arrived. Ireland will always be my country of birth, will probably always be my ‘home country’ but the USA is now home, Georgia is now my home state and Decatur, outside Atlanta is now my home city.

Trailing Partner

Today’s post is actually an interview I done for another blog. The blog is about expatriates from all over and is basically a survival guide with real life stories to help and advise. Click on the link to visit site.

ExPat Partner Survival

I was asked to do an interview as my story is a bit different to the other stories on the blog. Most are from partners who have followed their spouses around the world for jobs. My story involved travelling to the USA for love and it had its own unique set of problems and adventures.

My interview can be read at the following link….

Billy in Atlanta Interview

Food, Glorious Food

So I am now one day short of being in the USA 4 months. Maybe now is a time to talk about food. Ok, so there are so many choices about where to go get something to eat it can be overwhelming. I have found a few places I like, a couple I won’t be in a rush back to and one or two I maybe will try later. It’s all about new experiences and stuff I wouldn’t dream of ordering in Ireland I will try here.

I am certainly a potato, meat and two veg type of guy. Give me a roast beef dinner, roast potatoes, mash or boiled potatoes and two veg, preferably Broccoli and Cauliflower, with some gravy on the meat and I am sorted. Add on a few chips (french fries) and it’s the perfect dinner. And yes I know that’s 3 types of potatoes, but chips don’t count and I enjoy the other 2.


Us Irish were brought up on potatoes, the humble spud is a stable of many a dinner around Ireland nearly every day. Yes we eat pasta, rice and everything else but there is something about the humble spud that is homely. It is so versatile, it can be mashed, boiled, roasted, fried and even added to salad. It is a bit stereotypical to say we all eat potatoes but it’s probably a better stereotype than saying we all drink Guinness. Next time you are thinking of a dinner to have, give the potato a chance and you to may realize how versatile it actually is and easy to cook.


I mentioned potatoes and salad a minute ago, up till recently I always thought the only place a salad belongs is between two slices of bread in a sandwich. But as it seems to be as normal as potatoes here I may as well try a couple. I do like my salads simple, some ham/chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, boiled eggs, onions and some dressing. I even surprised my wife last night by ordering the Big Chef Salad in Jason’s Deli close to where we live. It was perfect, and had both ham and chicken, two boiled egg,  baby tomatoes, mixed lettuce and choice of dressing, not a potato in sight.


I have only briefly touched on food and choices here but I am on a journey and experiencing lots of new things and food is definitely one of the new experiences I am enjoying. Oh I am also very lucky in not only can I cook simple dishes but my wife is a fantastic cook. So here’s to lots more fun experiences not only out at dinner but also at home.

Election Fever… Or Non Fever!

I don’t buy into political or election fever. Politicans and elections are necessary evils in any democracy even if some of them should not be allowed to be in charge of a cookie jar. I will leave the US election alone for a while as yesterday there was a general election in Ireland to elect a new government. Ireland has suffered a lot from the main political parties using the country as their own play thing over the last 80 years but in 2011 a message was sent by the voters to the political elite, nearly wiping out the once biggest party and sending them into opposition.

Dail (House of Parliament) Chamber

And now just 5 short years later it seems the electorate has sent the same message to the present government…..if you treat the people like dirt, they will bite back. For years political activists made sure their supporters got out to vote, but Ireland as a country and a society has changed. We don’t want their particular brand of politics, corrupt, localised and selfish. As a recent emigrant I am unable to exercise my right to vote but I haven’t voted for any of the main political parties in my voting life, and am highly unlikely to even if the law does ever change allow emigrants vote.

Voting Station for Election 16

Polling stations stay open from 7am till 10pm so no one really has an excuse not to vote but I will be surprised if the turnout is over 50/60%. Voter apathy about the whole system is massive. Politicans earning thousands while people struggle to meet everyday bills doesn’t help. The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) telling people who are not part of his imaginary recovery that his government have turned the country around from the lows of the late 2000’s are struggling to believe the main parties. All this leads to voters going to vote for independent candidates or not vote at all. Do the main parties heed this message, not a chance as they are ensconced in their own little ivory tower of invincibility. 

Ballot Paper

Counting of votes will go on all day today but early indications are that it could be a hung parliament with no real government, which could lead to yet another election in a few short months. Do the public have the stomach to listen to politicans on the doorsteps or TV again, unlikely but they may have to. Could a few independent candidates get together with one of the main parties and form a coalition, or could the 2 biggest rival parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, join together to form the coalition fron hell.  Either way if you are a student of politics, keep an eye on Ireland over the next few days, weeks and months. One thing though is looking likely, the annual meeting between the US President and the Irish Taoiseach in the White House for St Patrick’s Day will be cancelled as Ireland probably won’t have a Taoiseach by then.

Dail Eireann Building

Just a quick word on the US election that seems to go on forever. I arrived here last November a day already the election machine was motoring. With votes taking place now every couple of weeks it does seem a drawn out process and I am still figuring it out, who is standing for who, what are the parties, and all the primaries/caucuses.  Next week is Super Tuesday, and I reckon the TV news stations will explode. Georgia goes to the polls next week yet unless you are really involved you wouldn’t notice as it’s not like Ireland with its posters everywhere.

Election Posters in Ireland

I don’t know if that changes as the main election gets closer in November bit it is definitely an interesting process and something I am enjoying learning about. I am not sure I like the way though it is more about showing how bad your opponent is rather than concentrating on your own positives but it seems to be the way the candidates go. In a debate the other night CNN had closed captioning for the hard of hearing, and had to put up the tagine ‘unintelligible yelling’, well that sounds like most politicans to me…. Unintelligible!

Go on red light…… Only if turning right!

Have been asked a few times recently what I miss most, what I like best, what is the hardest thing and a few other questions along the same lines. Today I will answer what I find the hardest. And the simple answer is driving. Not the skill of making the car go forward or awareness on the road but the sheer volume of traffic, different rules and amount of lanes on roads.

Spaghetti Junction, Atlanta

I have been driving nearly 26 years now and all of it has been in Ireland. So we drove on different side the road, the roads are smaller, the cars are smaller and journeys much shorter. The drive from Orlando to Atlanta was 7 hours and I drove half of it but overall the drive was possibly the longest drive I had taken in milage in a car. Oh I have been in a car longer, especially when serving overseas or in the 70’s going anywhere in Ireland could take hours in the days before motorways found their way to Ireland.

Georgia Road Signs

Another huge difference is the turn right on red law. At the majority of junctions it is allowed to turn right on red once it is safe to do so. It’s a bit like a yield sign at home but it certainly does take a while to get used to. My pet hate is traffic lights hanging across the road up in the air. I can understand why, junctions are so big and wide, having them in the corner on a post would make little or no sense as they couldn’t be seen. But for a split second you have to look up and take your eye of the road and it only takes a split second for an accident!

Interstate 285

So onto 285, the dreaded Interstate that is like the M50 at home. 285 circles Atlanta completely and even though it’s officially called the Atlanta Bypass, everyone calls it 285. For me, who drove the M50 at home everyday going to work for the last 2 years, 285 isn’t so bad. The hardest part about it is the amount of lanes and lane indiscipline shown by drivers. And now to introduce a new word to my American friends, on Irish roads we call them sort of drivers Gobshites, well I am sad to say Atlanta and Georgia has its more than fair share of them too.

Drive safely, drive with consideration and get to your destination and allow others to theirs safely and don’t be a Gobshite!