Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Dubliners

We were fortunate to have two visits to Dublin and enjoyed beautiful weather. Dublin being a city moves at a faster pace than the rest of Ireland, but it can still provide unique moments of colorful and kindly people to give it a special charm.

Views of Dublin - from heaven (Christ's Church) to hell (Kilmainham Gaol) and places in between.
Interestingly, Museums are free in Ireland, (as they should be everywhere) however you pay to see the churches. I guess the taxes keep the museums open and fees keep the churches maintained. After Italy and France it will be hard to be overwhelmed by another church, but sometimes the simple and cherished have as much energy as the grandiose.

We went to two plays in Dublin, one at the venerable Abbey Theatre, "The Aristocrats" and then a brilliantly acted  (Don Wycherley, Father Ted) one-actor play  "After Sarah Miles" by Michael Hilliard Mulcahy, which we enjoyed  at Smock Alley Theatre. This captivating story-telling of the life of a fisherman in small village (Dingle was the location for filming Ryan's Daughter) and his experience from the movie being filmed in Dingle and how it has a thread through his life. This play resonates Ireland and it's people, and later when visiting Dingle and the famous dolphin "Fungi" (a tourist Icon), we had the play's images brought to life.

Dubliners refers to the short stories of James Joyce. Joyce's tales of characters from Dublin in "Dubliners" as well as "Ulysses" "The Dead" and  15 others books etc. are cherished here.  Bloomsday, (June 16th, the day Ulysses takes place) is celebrated in week long events and Pub readings, with costumed characters and all things Joycean. It has gone global, but the spirit here is both reverential and commercial as many establishments try to cash in on the celebration. We went to a couple events and it was lively and fun. More fun than trying to get through the Odyssey of "Ulysses".


Our first trip to Ireland, and we had to catch up with our old friends from International Theater in Vienna. 32 years ago Rebecca had her eye on Patrick (top left) and they married and settled in Ireland and raised 2 wonderful sons.

  Rich and Pat are standing in front of  a huge white granite Bullau stone called the Motte Stone.  It stands alone on a high hill close to Pat's home in Avoca.  Lot's of folklore on this stone, from the legendary Irish giant Finn McCumhail who hurled the stone from a high mountain, to making wishes come true if you walk around the stone 3 times.  Some people have claimed to have seen light emanating from it.  
The stone is a mystery - unlike the 2 characters standing next to it.
 Go on to a site that talks about the mysteries of Ireland for more details.

A pint in the local neighborhood pub with two locals Pat and his son Dave

Anywhere you travel in the world - you can always count on finding an Irish Pub.  A famous James Joyce quote, "A good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub."   There are over 1,000 pubs in Dublin, and like the churches in Rome - there is one (or more) on every block.  We enjoyed many blocks!

This was a special pub we closed down one evening.  O'Shea's Merchant Pub was full of locals that welcomed us like we were long lost friends.

No self-respecting tourist leaves Dublin without going to the Guinness Storehouse and learning how to pour a proper Guinness.  Pictured at top are Richard and Renata taking their lesson seriously - you can see my pour in the foreground of their pictures, I failed miserably and did not get certified.  The middle picture shows me wallowing in my grief - at least I passed the tasting skills test.
How can you tell a tourist in Dublin?  They are wearing a Guinness Tshirt - me? I'd rather drink my Guinness.

Of course we can't leave Dublin without writing about what we ate.  Irish Soda Bread with Irish Butter was eaten every day.  It seems everyone makes the bread a bit different adding their own variations- it was all good.  The staples - Irish Stew (no one would admit it was better than their mothers), Fish and Chips, Seafood chowder with lots of Salmon was a favorite.  Top right is a crab pie with fries (I went back twice for that one) Middle left is a fancy mixed fish fry.  
"There is no love sincerer than the love of food"  George Bernard Shaw

We walked around the Motte Stone 3 times and our wish was granted - after a delightful time in Ireland we wished for a safe trip to Norway - stay tuned!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Music of Galway, "It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive"


Our first bad weather came in Galway, however, that gave us a chance to experience the music, pubs, and people of this wonderful city. Whether it be the Traditional Irish music at Cranes Bar, the buskers (talented musicians and singers on the streets), or world music of the Fringe Festival at the University, Galway is a musical city.

 Galway has the touristy Latin Quarter, with dozens of pubs and its requisite youthful inebriation and noise, but it blends in well with the joyful love of music and living. Bruce Springsteen's lyric in the post title fits nicely here. 

I was invited up for a rendition of "Thunder Road" at a pub,
 (did ok) and for the 4th of July went to a Springsteen Tribute Band. The Springsteens sounded great and it was a real pleasure to hear our favorite songs with the Irish who love Bruce. 
We closed down several pubs at 3 AM.  We were glad it was raining so we could sleep in.

BINGO, or finding the Galway  "Pot O Gold"

We  decided to see what an Irish Bingo Hall was like and we ended up each winning 2 times. $$ :-)

The odd thing here is they don't shout out BINGO!, they just say "check" for someone to check their numbers to see if they won.  Perhaps the Irish reticence for boasting makes it a more humble winning. Not Us, we BINGO!! FOUR TIMES, I think they were glad we are not regulars. We of course went to a pub and celebrated our Irish Luck and returned the euros to the local economy.

 An oft repeated quote about the Irish, "there are no strangers, just friends we haven't met yet" (Yeats and several others).  It is very much the feeling of how friendly and nice the Irish can be. Like many of you reading this, we now have our "met some locals in a pub, and before long we were singing and dancing and rounds of drinks being ordered, and stories and laughter filled the night" experience.  A wonderful night. This is not to mention the number of times directions were asked, meals were ordered, or conversations started whereby we felt the warm smile, the lovely lilting kindness in a voice, a lyrical turn of phrase, that can only bring a smile to your face.  Even the bleeting sheep seem to be welcoming us. "Happy Out"


If I had to live in Ireland, I would choose Galway - so I can live in South Park...

...not really, I just found it vibrant and relaxing.  The town is close to the national parks and just a few hours into Dublin... it was so relaxing, I went back through my pictures and didn't find many to share - or maybe we just spent way too much time in the pubs...
...There are sand beaches and salmon fishing in town - not that I am a fisherman - but those men sure look relaxed.  Fresh salmon was plentiful in all the restaurants - so my omega 3 requirements have been filled for the rest of the year.

Galway is known for it's organic food and since it is on the River Corrib which leads out to the Atlantic - there is plenty of seafood available, especially salmon, and the fresh Atlantic Salmon is probably the best I have ever eaten (no salmon farms here)  Besides seafood we ate herds of lamb.  We celebrated Mandy's birthday dinner here with lamb 3 ways (bottom right).  John Dory(bottom left) was delectable!   The middle picture with the fries is fresh cod au gratin with broccoli - that richness was worth every kilo I gained that night!

How to make a perfect Irish Coffee by Killian at the Pins Bar and Bistro Restaurant.
(Of course I already knew how - but what the heck, he's cute and I love that Irish accent.)
1)  Warm up the glass with hot water  2) add a shot of coffee  3) add a shot of your favorite whisky  4) spoon of brown sugar  5)  add hot water  6)  top off with whipped cream and  a few coffee beans  VOILA!
Next stop Dublin!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Cliffs of Moher, 3 Sisters & 1 Mad Cow

After 22 days in Ireland, the sisters (Yoly and Mandy) caught up with us to tour the Western Coast. 
We started at the Cliffs of Moher.  (I don't think they knew what they were getting into...)

The signs should keep you away from the edge of those cliffs.... 
....but not for sister Yoly - she is at the end of the cliff trying for that National Geographic shot.
(I don't think she saw the above signs or  maybe she doesn't understand Gaelic)

All along the cliffs cows were grazing - very picturesque!  --In your mind think of Rich singing Oklahoma ..."the cattle are standing like statues..."  and if you know Rich - he was singing very very loud!  I happened to be talking to this beautiful Kerry Cow trying to take a photo of her - look closely at those eyes - she was looking directly at me, I think we made a connection.  Wrong!!!!!   I have never seen a cow act like a bull before - she started to snort swinging snot back and forth with her head rearing along with her back feet.  Oh my God, she is actually MAD at me (personally, I think it was Rich's singing)  -   she started to charge at me, I thought she was going to jump that small fence and force me down the Cliffs of Moher like those signs.....I SCREAMED! and thanked God her udders were so full of milk she could not jump the fence where I had fallen. Hilarious now, scary then.

We decided the only way you can really see the majesty of the Cliffs of Moher is to see if from the other side.  We took a boat out and saw something we couldn't see from the walk above...

....The Bird Hotel

This stand alone rock was full of nesting birds.  There had to be a "No Vacancy" sign somewhere.  
Maybe this is what inspired Hitchcock!

We ended the day with a beautiful sunset over the cliffs....

....and headed over to O'Connor's for some of the best pub food we have had in Ireland!  
Lamb and fresh fish was our diet in Ireland!

On our way to Galway.....

This is a collage of Burren National Park.
The Burren is composed of limestone pavements with cracks/crevices known as "grykes".  The limestones date from 350 million years ago.  The Burren is rich with historical and archaeological sites. There are more than 90 megalithic tombs in the area, portal dolmens, a Celtic high cross in the village of Kilfenora, and a number of ring forts.

The Pot of Gold was waiting for us in  Galway!..............