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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Famine tower
Some vacations are all about sightseeing.  Some are about laying about.  This trip has been the best of both.  Following my half day of riding about the countryside, I felt totally betrayed by my thighs.  Yes, I am in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in, but that muscle that runs down the front of your thighs had not been called upon for way too long.  The best I could manage for the next three days was falling into chairs, asking Mike to pull me out of chairs and praying that my right knee would hold.  I now understand what the grab bars are for in bathrooms.

Fortunately, my screaming thighs did not interrupt our cocktail hour or my enjoyment of Mary's creative kitchen skills.  On the nights that we stayed in, our evening would begin with a cocktail and a tray of local cheeses to be tasted. There was Wexford blue, creamy Gorgonzola, and several different varieties of brie.  After our first cocktail, Mary would start effortlessly putting things out on the table and, before you knew it, dinner was ready.  I learned that a bacon sandwich is not fully dressed without a healthy smear of raspberry jam.  but, most nights we went into town for our dinner, making our restaurant choices with the help of Fodor's and Trip Advisor.  And, man oh man, does Dingle have fabulous fish and sea food!  I will need to re-up my Weight Watcher's membership as soon as we get home.

Mike had been reading about the Blasket Islands, following our trip to the Blasket Center a few days earlier, and Friday we decided to take the four hour Eco-Tour to see them up close.   The Grievous Angel is able to take about sixteen passengers out to sea for the four hour tour, leaving each morning from  Dingle Harbour.  The course that we took follows the western coastline past the places we had driven to earlier in the week.  We passed Ventry Bay, Slea Head and the western most landfall of all of Europe as we cut through the waves on a heading to Great Blasket.  We navigated through dozens of small islands made up of nothing put volcanic peaks that rose up out of the ocean.  We saw waves of puffins as they soared up the shear faces of rocks that lifted straight out of the sea.  As we neared Great Blasket, we slowed to a few knots to allow the engines to run quietly.  This allowed us to crawl close to shore and enjoy the grey seals as they sun bathed along the beach and rocks or popped up and down, out of the surf to have a closer look at us.  At first, you are straining your eyes to catch a glimpse of even one seal.  But, once you see their human sized heads pop up in the surf, you become aware of them everywhere you look.  They really do look like a synchronized swimmer in her brunette bathing cap, prepping for the Olympics , popping up and then sliding straight back down into the sea.  And, we saw the paths that the last island residents walked as they left their homes for good in 1953.

Cathedral Rock
As we drew past Great Blasket, we headed to the far side of the island and on to more unnamed rocks that just sit out in the Atlantic Ocean.  There are formations where German U-boats hid during WWII.  But, the most surprising rock was only recently charted and has been named Cathedral Rock.  It is a huge formation that sits off the end of a rock island and is connected to the main rock by two natural bridges, forming perfect cathedral windows.  Breathtaking.  What a wonderful way to spend four hours at sea.

Saturday we packed up and headed to Labasheeda and Mary's house.  But, I am leaving off the missing member of our group.  On our trip to Ireland three years ago, we had met Mary's husband, Bruce.  And, now his absence was really felt in our threesome.  Being a wonderful Father, he had headed off to the new world a few months earlier to help their daughter in a major building project.  As can happen with construction, Bruce had had to stay much longer than originally planned.  So, we had to carry on without him.  This has been a huge disappointment for us (and Mary, for sure) so we will be forced to return.

It was wonderful to see Labasheeda again.  Mary and Bruce have been working
to restore an old building that had been a combination residence and shop before the roof went missing many years ago.  They have taken a huge stone building and have restored, rebuilt, rewired, re floored, re plumbed and added on.  It's still a work in progress, but you can feel the magnificence that it will become.  Since our last visit, Bruce has extended the back of the house, creating what will be a kitchen, dining and sitting area and a wrap around deck.  All this looks out over the Shannon River.  You can now sit inside or out and watch the small freighters and sail boats silently slip past, or the occasional dolphin swim by as the tide constantly changes the shore line.

Yes.  Mary cooked.  One night neighbors dropped in and stayed for an impromptu sandwich dinner party.  The next night she cooked and I tried to memorize what she did.  We had lamb and roast potatoes.  On our last night, Mary made the ultimate Irish boiled dinner.  I learned about putting an apple in the water with the meat.  I learned about mashed veg, colcannan and steamed potatoes.  The girl is a wonder to behold.

Quin Abbey

Bunratty Castle

Monday we took a little side trip to Quin to visit an old Abbey and do a bit of sight seeing.  Then today we packed up and Mary drove us to Galway, via Bunratty Castle.  It was hugs, kisses and promises to plan another holiday when we can be four instead of three.  Bruce is all that was missing from the Dingle and Labasheeda legs of Mike's and my excellent trip.

Monday, May 21, 2012


 Saturday was a low-key day.  A day for walking about, a visit to the grocery store for Mary and me, having learned the previous evening that toilet paper is not an efficient way to start a fire, and Mike’s daily visit to the bookie.  Somehow, we did all find ourselves back in Murphy’s Pub at lunch, but that should be no surprise to anyone. Then, on our way home later in the afternoon, we made a stop at Dingle Riding Stable to enquire about my signing on for a half day of trekking, to include a canter on the beach.

Everyone has his or her bucket list.  Mike had checked off a big item on his list when we attended the Killarney races.  Now it was to be my turn.  A canter in the surf had always been at the top of my bucket list. My dream was never specific as to the actual location for this ride.  It could have been down a beach in Mexico, or along the shore in Greece.  But, Ireland was the time, the place and the opportunity.  Jupiter was aligned with Mars.  They had a spot for me the next morning on a ride that would leave from Ventry Bay, canter the length of the beach and then ride through the hills and valleys, returning to the stable’s location above Dingle. 

Mary (our own version of a soccer Mom) drove me up to the stable early Sunday morning.  There I found a pair of tall riding boots that fit me, allowing me to tuck my jeans in, and a helmet to keep me from scrambling my brains should I become unseated at any time.  The stable yard was where I joined the other riders and it became rather obvious that I was to be the least qualified rider in our party of five.  It’s not that I’m inept, having spent a number of years enjoying lessons and training from some of the Morgan horse world’s most notables.  Rather, it was that I had not been on a horse in six years.  It mattered not that I used to ride up to six hours a day, traveling to show rings from North Hampton, MA to Oklahoma City. Six years and monthly Social Security checks tend to make a granny of thirteen a bit cautious.  But, it was a bucket list thing. 

Our band of riders was driven out to a windswept pasture that sits behind a pub and a Catholic Church on the outskirts of Ventry.  The horses had spent the night there, having been ridden on the reverse ride the previous day, from Dingle to Ventry.  Our mission was to get our posse up, around and over the mountains and back to a cozy stall above Dingle.  So, riders up, stirrups adjusted and girths checked.  I found myself aboard King, a mix of all the dependable and sure footed breeds of Ireland.  The first order of the day was straight to the beach for a walk along the edge of the incoming surf.  Once we were about half way down the long expanse, we cut back up to a path that was behind the hedges but followed the shore.  This is where the first long trot was called for.  Our guide kept looking back to assure herself that we were all still aboard our mounts and were managing to post with our feet still in the stirrups.  Up down, up down, up down.  Yup.  I remember how this works, but yikes it does make a girl’s thighs burn.  Back to a walk and a return to the beach.  Our guide asks if we are all now up for a full-blown gallop down the entire length of the beach.  Ummm.  Now I have a dilemma. I do not want to be the timid one who holds the group back, causing grumbling through the ranks, nor do I want to be carried back to Dingle in a sling.  “A controlled canter, please?”  Thank God I spoke up because one of the other riders asked for the same option.  Alright, here we go. 

CONTROLLED CANTER, MY ASS!  The horses warmed to the feel of the sand, skimming the surf.  The riders were all well tipped forward, signaling the horse to let ‘er rip.  I had contact with my horse’s mouth, resting my knuckles on his withers as I kept repeating to myself “White on rice, white on rice” keeping time with King’s out stretched body as his feet pounded the beach.  Thank you, Sandy Sessink, the woman who taught me to recognize my diagonals, feel the correct lead and to never grip like a clothespin , always relaxing into the horse. And she always told me to ride that horse like “white on rice”.  I didn’t fall off.

Our ride then turned to the hills.  For the next four hours, we worked our way back toward Dingle.  So far, Dingle had not presented her bright, sunshine summer face to us.  We had mostly found the weather to be promising…promising of rain to come.  When you look to the surrounding mountains, it looks as though the upper reaches are smoldering as the mist embraces them.  The clouds are not the gathering thunderheads that we see in North America, they are a blanket with an occasional hole poked through to show just a wee look at the sun. Most vistas are mist softened as they reach toward the horizon.  I had dressed for all weather options, being well protected from anything the day might bring.  I brought my camera, but it was very hard to snap anything because the motion of the horse caused blurred photos.  Rather, I tried to imprint upon my mind the glory that stretched out before me.  Each blink of my eye needed to be the shutter, sending the images to my brain.   And, as if Ireland knew about my bucket list, she managed to blow away much of the clouds on this day.  If I looked to the hills, I saw stone walls breaking the pastures into jigsaw pieces, climbing toward the crest.  Houses with small out buildings perch along the sides of lanes, defying gravity as they grab onto a wee flat spot .  Because this was a mostly sunny day, I would occasionally see the forty-acre wide shadow of a cloud as it blew across the hillside. Looking back down the hills, you see the green mosaic of the pastures as they fall to the sea.  At this time of year, the gorse is in full bloom, shouting with its yellow voice as it clings to every hedgerow. There is more yellow in the lovely shy iris flags that live along the roads.  The hedgerows themselves are punctuated with wild fuchia, belles of Ireland, and buttercups. I felt in danger of a swoon due to the feast that my eyes were drinking in.

We passed the ruins of an ancient castle.  We stopped and dismounted at the Gallarus Oratory, a sixth or seventh century structure that is in near perfect repair today, having been built by dry stacking and without any mortar.  

Sometimes we found ourselves on a paved road, having to tuck in if a car needed to pass our band.  We passed through farmyards, down one-track rock strewn farm lanes, past fields of sheep.  It’s odd that when a person is on foot, sheep and cows totally ignore you or will actually walk away.  When you are on a horse, all other four-legged creatures come to meet you.  They stare at you.  They chat amongst themselves. 

The final leg of our trek brought us to a rapidly running creek bed.  The horses all stopped for a drink before be walked into the creek to follow it’s route uphill for a bit.  By this time, my screaming thighs, my aching arms, tired shoulders and chaffed other parts were scanning the hillside for a glimpse of our destination.  One last turn and I caught sight of Mike in the stable yard, waiting to hear about my day.  Thank God he was there because there was no way I could have found the strength to remove my boots.  He may have thought it was a sense of camaraderie that made me take his arm for the walk to the car, but truthfully I did not really trust my legs to hold me upright until I could fall into the car. 

A shower, a nap and a fine dinner of roasted sausage and salad waited.  Mary asked if I minded if she simply prepared the meal while I tried to move as little as possible.  What a silly girl she is!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Thursday morning and we puttered about our cottage.  It was to be a day of walking into town, reading menus posted outside pubs and making a list of the restaurant kitchens to be sampled. The three of us rendezvoused at Murphy’s pub for a pint and a spot of late lunch before dropping into the Internet Café for mail call and posting of the previous day’s blog.  

Mike tries to stay busy while I post my blog
 at the Internet Cage

Lunch had been so satisfying that we decided to stay home for dinner, simply picking away at what ever cheese and salad we could rustle up. We also purchased a pack of turf logs so that we could enjoy a cozy evening fire as we each read our books or knitted or watched one of the few TV channels our landlord had provided.  It was a great plan, but we had forgotten to purchase anything to get the fire started with.  In desperation, we built a teepee of the turf logs and placed a roll of toilet paper under it, in hopes that the burning Charmin would last long enough to jump start the turf.  It didn’t.

We decided to do a driving tour out to Slea Head on Friday.  This region is fiercely Gaelic.  I strongly suggest that you know where you are going because the road signs and signposts are without a word of English.  Shortly before lunch we headed out toward Ventry Bay and The Stonehouse café.  Great plan, but with no address or other landmarks to direct us to the actual location of the Stonehouse, we stopped into the Skipper instead.  Bad decision.  Three watery bowls of mushroom soup, no doubt made with reconstituted mushrooms that were then pulverized and topped with butter that lay in a film upon the soup, one serving of pate, one warm Corrona and two cups of tea for 37 Euros.  When we had first entered the establishment the host had warned us that we had to eat quickly as he was expecting a tour bus within the hour.  That should have been our first clue that this was a tourist trap, but did we listen?

We continued our drive along the peninsula, passing the beehives that were actually huts built by ancient monks to protect them from the elements.  They are sprinkled among many of the local farms that cling to the road along the cliffs.  If you want to see one up close, there will be a farm wife that will greet you at her gate and then collect a fee before allowing you entrance into her back pasture.  You must then shoo the sheep out of the way, watch were you step, and then stoop way down as you enter through the wee little entrance to the beehive for a closer look.  We choose not to stop, simply catching a glimpse as we drove toward Slea Head. 

WOW!  What an impressive sight, as the southwest corner of Ireland disappears into the sea at Slea head. From the top of the cliffs you can look out toward the Blasket Islands.  It’s easy to make your way down the cliffs thanks to the making of the movie Ryan’s Daughter.  Much of it was filmed at Slea Head and David Lean needed to get the camera and sound equipment down the cliff face.  He built a basic road for this purpose and today you can easily walk down the serpentine asphalt roadway to the beach below. Of course, walking up is not quite so easy a walk!  But, whether you stay on the top or make your way down to the beach, it is breathtaking.

From Slea Head, the road followed the cliffs and began heading north toward Dun Chaion (pronounced Quin).  This is where you can pick up the ferry for a quick ride across to Greater Blasket Island.  No one lives on the Blaskets any longer, the last residents leaving the island in 1953.  But, it is an area rich in history and heritage. We were lucky enough to find the Blasket Center open and treated to one of the most beautiful and interesting museums I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.  The Blasket Islanders were a small, tightly knit community who lived an incredibly difficult life.  The islands are rocky, fog covered more often than not, and blown by sea dampened winds everyday.  Some where in the early nineteen hundreds, Gaelic scholars decided to chronicle the Islanders lives before all their history was lost as the elder members of the community died.  Many of the islanders then began to write, recording their history and their way of life.  These are the people and the stories that are presented in the Blasket Center today.  The building itself is designed to pay tribute to the people of the Blaskett’s.  The walls are stone and glass, and as you pass from photograph to photograph through the center, you catch a glimpse of the islands.  The main corridor slopes down so that as you work your way through, you are heading down to the sea.  At the end, you find yourself in a small glass conservatory looking across the bay.  You can still see the island’s last three buildings and the stone walls that divided the farm fields.  Breathtaking.

The rest of our drive about was filled with amazing vistas, small enclaves of holiday homes and sheep everywhere.  We arrived back at our cottage in time for of each of us to enjoy a few chapters of our individual reads and a cocktail before a late dinner.  We chose a traditional restaurant/pub that offered music later in the evening.  Dinner was outstanding and the music was a mix of traditional with a hint of blues.  All in all, it was a glorious day.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Tuesday morning and time to make plans for the day.  As this is my third visit to Ireland and Mike’s fourth, we have learned a few short cuts for making the most of our precious days here.  In the interest of friendship, I will share some of this local knowledge with you.  Let’s begin.
     1.  Never, never, never waste any time on your hair.  No matter how it starts the day, the second you step out of your hotel, your hair goes to hell in a hand basket.  No one cares.  Very few Irishmen wear a hat.  So, you will be at the mercy of the weather and the weather is not terribly merciful.   More than likely it is softly raining, or it is just about to begin, or with any luck at all, you are out in the ten minutes between the previously mentioned “soft rains.”
     2.  Forget about fashionable boots.  Yes, in London and all other major European cities, you wouldn’t go more than twelve hours without pairing your boots with every ensemble you might care to walk out in.  Try those same boots in Ireland and you are likely to have twisted some lower extremity, making walking painful.  City, country, suburb, you will not go a block without having to navigate over bricks and cobblestones.  These are hard enough to travel while wearing a sturdy, lace up shoe with a solid sole, making any other shoe choice unwise.  Truth be told, don’t worry about much fashion at all.  Ireland is a country filled with sensible citizens, who understand that an oversized sweater and gore-tex anything will see you through the day, from start to finish.
     3.  Pay absolutely no mind to what the day looks like when you wake up.  This works both ways.  If it is misting at 8:00 AM, the clouds will break by noon.  But, do not be fooled by a brilliant, cloudless morning.  The sort of morning that arrives in twenty-seven shades of green, birds singing and the air clear and golden, can break your heart by noon. As Mary tells me, Ireland is a country of many weathers. And, reread point number one to see what this means for your hair.  
     4.  But, most importantly of all, pay absolutely no mind to points 1, 2 and 3.  Just get your self outside and inhale deeply.  Always have a sweater and raincoat in your backpack, run your fingers through your hair, and prepare to tuck in somewhere if necessary.  You’ll have no trouble finding a pub with a coal or turf fire burning and a steaming bowl of fish chowder to ward off a chill.  You might also manage to find a pint or two.
Yes.  He's Irish!

Paying careful attention to points 1 through 4 above, Mike and I decided to head out to Muckross House for a day of touring.  Rather than a bus tour, we simply grabbed a taxi and had the driver deliver us to the estate.  Our driver, Tim, was a lovely senior citizen, filled with lots of suggestions for enjoying the day.  I think that’s what he was saying.  Every sentence was crammed full of “Yup, yes, yes, yes, indeed, indeed a grand spot, yes, yes, yes, for sure.”  And, just like in the US where those from Maine have a hard time understanding a Louisiana drawl, Ireland is filled with regional accents.  If you have no problems in Dublin, your ear will be sorely straining to catch even half of what is said in other quadrants of the country.  So, Tim was interesting.  He deposited us at Muckross House and promised to return at 4:00 to collect us.

We did all the tourist things at Muckross, starting with a trip up to Torc Falls in a jaunting car.  Spectacular! The jaunting car is one horsepower and the horse was a black and white Irish Cob named Patches.   We were the first passengers of the day for Patches and the driver, and I’m not totally sure the driver had recovered from the previous nights ration of Guinness.  Mike paid the thirty Euros for the trip and was tempted to give the driver an extra five for a bath.  Patches was a bit “fresh” in the morning air, making us grateful for the blanket the driver tossed over our knees as we smartly trotted out way to the falls and back. 

Muckross house is a magnificent country home.  The estate was built in the 1860s and, along with its 24,000 acres was given to Ireland by the third owner, creating the Killarney National Park.  The house’s history and furnishings are closely tied to a visit by Queen Victoria just three months before the death of her husband, Albert.  The original owners spent six years preparing for the royal visit and many of the specially commissioned furnishings, draperies, and wall coverings are still in place.  The tour of the house is very interesting because you are able to visit every nook and cranny, giving you a good peek into life in the Victorian era.  The nursery, the kitchens, the bathrooms, the billiard room, and all the other living spaces are open for accompanied tours.

Nothing like a day in the park to work up an appetite for a wonderful dinner at the Stonechat nestled into an alleyway off the main street in Killarney.  The air and the meal and the wine insured another great nights sleep. 

Our Rental Cottage
Wednesday morning is all about packing and waiting at the curb for Mary!  She drove down from Labasheeda to pick us up in Killarney.  After only one snafu with a flat tire, she arrived and we headed out to Dingle.  The drive was gorgeous but we were all feeling a bit weak with hunger by 1:30.  The need for lunch found us at Inch Beach and the most delightful café sitting up above the beach and dunes.  The surf was a bit tame, so we only saw a few dog walkers enjoying the day as we looked out from our perch above.  Fish and chips and a pot of tea fortified us for the remaining drive to Dingle.  I claimed the back seat for myself, as driving along cliffs and up winding roads through the countryside is not my favorite thing to do.  I pump an imaginary brake pedal and grab onto any handhold I can find, sucking in my breath at every hairpin turn.  Mike and Mary happily chatted away, oblivious to me.  Fortunately, to my mind, we arrived in Dingle while still in the upright position.   After stopping at a local grocery store for a few necessities, we found our holiday house and settled in for the next ten days.  Perfect! Woot?  No internet?  How refreshing!  Let's go find our dinner!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Saturday morning was moving day and we caught the 11:00 train out of Dublin heading to Killarny.  Ireland is very manageable without a car.  In truth, you will see much more from a bus or train than you ever will in a car.  Most of the roadways are narrow and edged with shrubs making sightseeing difficult.  That, and you will have your eyes squeezed shut much of the time.  If you are the driver, and forced to keep your eyes open, you will arrive at the end of the day with cramps in your fingers from gripping the wheel so tightly and a blinding head ache from your passenger screaming.  Just saying.
     We needed to transfer trains in Mallow and it was easy peasy.  You grab your suitcases and step off of the first train, cross the platform and up onto the waiting train.  Slip your bags into the rack at the end of the car and then you make your way to an empty seat.  Mike and I seated ourselves, and looked forward to more beautiful sights.  But, first, we were forced to witness a real, honest to God, chick fight, involving three females.  It seemed that two of them had rushed to seats in the very end car (where we were seated) whilst the third member of their party was washing her hands and looking about for some paper towel.  She exited the Loo to find herself standing alone on the platform, her girl friends no where in sight.  She then got into the first car and did not spot her friends.  She worked her way down, going from car to car, until she FINALLY found her pals in the last car.  That is when the yelling began.  She stood in the aisle, shaking her finger at her two rude sitting friends.  She told them how panicked she was, how near she was to a nervous breakdown thinking, they had left her.  The other two were answering back that they ALWAYS rushed on to save seats and she should quiet down.  But, instead, the mad woman continued to ramp up her anger.  At the last second, just before what might have been fisticuffs, the enraged one turned to me and smiled.  Without a word of a lie, this woman will never see seventy-five again, nor will either of her friends.  With a huge smile, she giggled and asked me what I thought of her rude friends.  All I could think of to say was, "We're tourists and you're scaring us!"  So, after all three stopped laughing, they broke out a deck of cards, put their coins and match sticks on the table and began a lively game of something.  Every time one of them came close to raising her voice, she was told to hush before she scared the tourists.

      We arrived in Killarney without any further excitement.  What a charming, picture post card town!  Winding streets, pubs galore and cobbled walkways.  Mike had booked us into the Malton and it is spectacular.  It's an old railway hotel in the grandest of Victorian style.  It has the feel of being a guest in a manor home like Downton Abbey.  Domed ceilings, glass conservatories, wide staircases and quiet servants, oops, I mean employees, walking at triple time on crepe soles so as not to disturb the guests.  Our room was a large corner suite on the second floor with a view out two sides toward mountains. The grounds are park like with flowering trees and manicured lawns all the way around.  We unpacked and took a brief intermission before walking about to explore the town.  The only sounds we heard were the voices of dozens of kids who had been released by their parents to play outside while the adults lingered over the last of the First Communion luncheons in the dining room.  Mix in the sounds of the horse taxis as they smartly trotted about, delivering people and entertaining visitors.  Our dinner was grand, thanks again to Trip Advisor, where Mike does his research before we ever leave home.
     Sunday is race day!  One of the items on Mike's bucket list was to attend the racing meet in Killarney.  Remember, horses are to Ireland what breathing is to the rest of the world.  From our hotel and the heart of Killarney, it is only a ten minute walk to the race course.  Wait, did I say the race course?  This is a story of efficient use of land.  For all but a few days in May, a week in July and another later in the summer, the race course is the Ross Golf Club.  During racing, they suspend golf and put up the jumps.  What you find is a race course with fairways through the infield.  The rest of the year, you will tee off in front of the grandstands and play through the horse box (horse trailers) parking ground.  Race day was a beauty!  Sun and a good breeze barreling through the pass between the Purple Mountains and McGillicuddy's Reeks, straight at the race course.  Families everywhere!  Picnics well packed and children running serpentine between wooden tables and up to the rail and back.  The walking ring rail is packed with knowledgable betters elbowing about, trying to get a good look at their favorite.  Just before the race start, the horses and riders head to the track for a warm up gallop and to give the horses a look at the first jump.  As post approaches, the spectators move as a wave to the track side rail.  During the first race, I was standing next to two boys, about ten or twelve years old.  As the field approached the last jump, both lads were yelling and rocking atop their imagined mounts, "Come on Captain!  Come on Captain, Come on boy!"  I don't really know if Captain held on for them, but both boys sprinted the last thirty yards with the leaders, presumably to cross the finish line with THEIR horse.

     The rest of the afternoon, between races,  was filled with Irish music, step dancers in front of the grandstand, bookies calling out the odds to their clientele, tweeds, silks, fascinators, and children everywhere.  Glorious!
     Back at the Malton and a quiet four star dinner before retiring to our room to watch the end of The Players Tournament.  If Kevin Na holds on, I will be sitting pretty in our Sawmill Golf Pool!


Friday, May 11, 2012


      We've arrived.  The flight from Toronto to Dublin was painless and we actually arrived ahead of schedule.  This is a really special bonus because it meant we beat all the other international flights to the customs agents and were able to cover the distance from plane to taxi stand in about fifteen minutes.  The only down side to it all was joining the rush hour crush into the city, but our driver wanted information about Disney World, so the time flew by.
     Good news!  The Brooks Hotel is still an oasis of comfort within an incredibly hip city.  Yes, Conner, the butler, is still there and he claims that he remembered me but couldn't place Mike.  What a charmer!  Still dressed in his cut away grey morning suit, wearing his "Best Of" lapel pins, perfectly shaved and every hair on his head brushed into obedience.  A deep three hour nap and Mike and I were ready to meet the city.
     Dublin is an incredibly young city.  Statistically, the average resident's age is somewhere in the mid 30's.  Even though the Celtic Tiger has been reduced to a quiet kitty during this economic downturn, the cities heartbeat is still beating loud and proud.  The restaurants and bars are packed with hip locals and a lot of German and Scandinavian tourists.
     Our first destination on our walkabout was The Queen Of Tarts, a wee little tea shop on Dame Street, near Dublin Castle.  Word of warning...if you are thinking that Dublin Castle is like something from a travel brochure, not so.  It has been modified, subdivided, updated, torn apart, rebuilt, rezoned and chopped.  A gate here, governmental offices over there, a bit of a remaining wall and if you squint your eyes a bit, you can almost see where they displayed the heads of slain enemies.  But, the castle holds great importance to the history of Ireland and is worth a guided tour if you want to understand it's landmark status.
     Following our late lunch we walked about a bit more and returned to our hotel in time for me to meet up with local knitting ladies.  I spent a spirited evening sitting with women who meet weekly in the bar at The Brooks to chat about their knitting and their lives.  I had been tipped off about this group by a chance meeting the week before with a young lady who had just returned to Canada from living a year in Dublin.  The two Clair's were the first to arrive and they graciously invited me to join them.  From that moment it was as if we had been friends for eons.  Knitting will do that!  Then along came Edel and we were joined by Keeko and a couple of others.  Edel, spent the entire evening making suggestions of sights, tastes and sounds of Ireland that she thought we would enjoy.  You could see that she had a special love and pride about her city and she wanted to open my eyes to all of it.  At the end of the evening, I was thankful to Lilly for introducing me to these women.    
     After knitting, Mike and I walked two short blocks to a trendy little alleyway named Coppinger Row, filled with chic restaurants and very hip patrons.  We found a corner table in the front window and both ordered the roast lamb dinner.   It always surprises me when Americans turn there nose up at lamb.  But, I must say that over the years I too have had some pretty strong mutton that has been labeled as lamb, and am usually cautious about ordering it.  But, Irish lamb is a unique meat and is to be ordered when ever possible.  That, a nice bottle of red wine and the crisp linens at The Brooks insured a great sleep for us.
    Friday we awoke to find a bright and crisp morning.  But, not to worry, because the soft rain returned by noon.  Now, about breakfast.  Where else but The Brooks would you start your day with the most lovely bowl of Irish porridge, sprinkled with brown sugar (not the American sort) and swimming in cream with a dash of whiskey?  Who would have ever thought of this?  I am here to tell you that whiskey is the perfect topping to porridge.  This gave us a proper start for a full day of walking.
     Trinity College and Temple Bar got most of our attention on Friday,  These are two places not to be missed.  Granted, Temple Bar is a bit touristy, but still great fun.  A pint of Guinness here, a cheese tray there, and buskers every twenty feet.  For dinner, we managed one more pub and more Irish fare.  Mike had the sausages with chips and I had a steaming bowl of Irish stew.  I have decided that a proper Irish stew is something I am going to ask Mary to teach me about during our stay in Dingle.  Remember Mary?  Read this blog back in 2009 and you will get re-aquainted with Mary and her mad kitchen magic.  Then, stay turned here and you will see that we are spending ten days in Dingle, at a holiday house with Mary.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.
      Tomorrow we take the train to Killarney for a four night stay.  So, good night all!

Monday, May 7, 2012


It's that time again!  Time to bring the luggage up from the basement. Time to do a practice blog entry.  I don't seem to have the proper skills to remember how to do all this blog stuff without posting a dry run.

     We are heading to Ireland on Wednesday.  Does everybody have their passport handy?  Do you have your raincoat?  And, remember to pack one of those electric outlet converters.  Do a final check for the proper cords for charging the camera, the lap top and the ipad.  For me, I have prepared a couple of knitting projects that won't take up too much room but will keep my hands busy for the next three and a half weeks.
     I'm glad you've signed on to take this trip with Mike and me.  We will be sitting in a pub in Dublin within 48 hours.  Welcome aboard and Slante everybody!