Sunday, September 30, 2012

Emerald Isle Day 7

Today started out a bit rainy and blustery giving way to wind, clouds and glimpses of sun.

What We Did Today: We had a very leisurely morning with another fabulous breakfast. No singing at breakfast though we had loads of laughter with the other guests.

Our drive today took less than 2 hours to get to Dingle and by the time we arrived the rains had stopped and the sun was trying to get out. Aside from the gorgeous views on the way into town and the Atlantic Ocean just a short walk away from our B&B, today was ALL about the food. Not just food..."really gorgeous" food, as locals say.

First the views...

Now the food...

Once we arrived in Dingle we went to get a pint of Smitick's (Smithwicks) and a small bite to eat to hold us truu (through) to dinner. Dad had his 2nd beer in 30+ years. We stopped in James G Ashes Bar and had the best seafood chowder I have EVER eaten. It's made to order so if you don't want the icky, fishy salmon in it, you just say "no to salmon yes to everything else." Our choice included mussels, calamari, cod and clams. It was served with awesome, homemade soda bread (the bread here is to die for). Of course we got a side of chips (fries) and it's served with ketchup and mayo. Dean loves, loves, loves the mayo here and they put it on everything. Any food is a vessel for this creamy white condiment he adores. He's nearly convinced you could order mayo with a side of mayo!

Sunday is quiet in most towns in Ireland and Dingle was no exception. Many stores, restaurants, and a fair amount of pubs are closed on Sunday. Today was the day most folks were at home or in a pub watching the big Hurling rematch. When teams finish a game in a draw (tie) they just schedule another game to hold the rematch. There's no shoot out or sudden-death first score wins. The Kilkenny Cats won (team color: black and amber).

We then took the "long" walk around town and ended up at Murphy's for homemade ice cream (not just vanilla). Dean had peanut butter and brown bread ice cream mixed together to make peanut butter sandwich ice cream. Sounds bizarre right? Not so much once you taste it.

Then more walking down to the ocean where we heard the Killorglin Pipe Band playing bag pipes and drums on a street corner.

We walked back to the B&B, took a short rest then went out and ate another fabulous dinner. The food here has not disappointed yet.

What We Learned Today: We learned a little about the symbolism of Celtic Knots. Even though most stores were not open, I still managed to spend money. On the pendant below, the outside knot symbolizes Eternity. If you follow the line there is no beginning and no end. The spiral in the middle symbolizes Life-Death-Rebirth.

Word Of The Day: Weather like we had today is what the Irish call a "soft day." Rainy, windy and gray. Soft days are nothing new to us. As our hostess in Kenmare said this morning "It's a soft day today, one for staying in bed or one for the bar."

Tomorrow we shall live and dine like kings and queens.

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Don and Gail Travel Update #7

After almost two and a half months in Portland enjoying family and friends, taking care of appointments and many repairs and maintenance on vehicles, we are once again leaving Portland and heading east. We don’t know how far east we will get before turning south because  of winter weather.

We have enjoyed our time here renewing friendships and seeing  things that we haven't seen for a while. We also traveled up to Washington to see son, David, and family and son, Dean, and wife.

David and Karla

Madison and Seth

Picture 057
David and Karla’s wonderful vacation cabin in Winthrop, WA, nearing completion.

Picture 009
Dean and Terrie

On August 24 we had our 50th anniversary! Below are a few pictures you might enjoy.

Don and Gail Flaming Wedding - 24 August 1962 - 1
50 years ago

35 years later

Picture 110
50 years later

Recently in Texas

We’re looking forward to seeing family and old friends around the country, making new friends, revisiting a few favorite places, and discovering wonderful new ones! We hope to find opportunities of service once again this year.

Don and Gail | Mom and Dad

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Emerald Isle Day 6

Today was GORGEOUS!!! Sunshine all day long. Woot Woot!!

What We Did Today: We slept in just a little and took our time getting started. Breakfast included spontaneous singing. Yes, we actually sang out loud with strangers, like they do in the movies. Our hostess, Mary, was joking with some guests about leaving and started singing "I'm leaving on a jet plane" then said "everybody now" and much to our surprise every guest in the dining room joined in and sang the entire chorus to that song. I think the response actually surprised Mary and suddenly no one was strangers anymore.

Last night, after chatting with some locals, we decided to forgo the Ring of Kerry and took the road less traveled to the Ring of Beara. The locals passionately shared it is unspoiled, less touristy with no tour busses, and equally if not more beautiful. We can now confirm all of the above are true.

So off we go with Dean behind the wheel this time. He did really well compared to my first day at the helm; however, he didn't get baptized in Ireland's biggest city during rush hour ... in the rain. Yes, I went there. :-)

The views from the Ring of Beara were spectacular, the terrain was barren, windswept, rocky and still quite green. The hillsides, fields and roads were pockmarked with sheep. The roads were super skinny in some parts and wound in every direction. We passed maybe 25 cars, a couple tractors and not one, single tour bus.

Here we are at the very end of the road. You can hop a cable car to Dursey Island and get the distance to a couple famous cities. The air out here smells so crisp and clean you can feel it move into your body and out to the tips of your fingers and toes.

We returned over the Healy Pass. All the white spots you see on the hillside are sheep...Everywhere sheep.

What We Learned Today: Irish myth says cutting or disturbing a Fairy Tree brings very bad luck. Fairy Trees are Hawthorne Trees. We learned this myth/legend/superstition while looking at gorgeous photos in a gallery of the same Hawthorne tree in Summer, Fall and Winter (we bought them). When the Milesians, a mythical race, came to Ireland they banished the natives to the underground and became the Sidhe. The fairy folk who live underground and sometimes reside in certain trees or bushes, usually of the hawthorn variety. You don’t want to disturb the fairy folk or you might bring some kind of misfortunate on yourself. Cutting down one of those fairy trees would certainly disturb them. The Irish would go out of their way not to do that. That’s why you might see a lone tree in the middle of a farmer’s field, the base piled up with stones just to be sure one did not accidentally bump into it.

Word of the Day "You're able for it" means you're up to it. Here's how we heard it. Dean ordered desert (shocking, yes?) and the waitress was explaining one of the chocolate desserts. Before she could finish Dean says, "I'll have that one." She laughed and said "it's not for everyone because it's very decadent warm chocolate and when someone say yes right away I know your able for it."

Road signs also teach you ... :-)

Tomorrow we're off to Dingle.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Kenmare, Ireland

Exploring the Beara Peninsula

Tried posting earlier from the road. No joy.

Just a quick update to show where we are at and what we just saw while out driving around the Ring of Beara.

After taking a slight detour, we dropped down into Munster, Ireland at the South Western tip of the Beara Peninsula. They have a cable car which goes over to the island across the small waterway.

Here's a vide of the point South West of the town of Munster.

Note: In the video, I say "South East" when I should have said "South West". Driving on the other side has given me issues.

YouTube Video

Here's a 3D map showing where we are on the peninsula. The purple marker shows the town of Munster and the blue dot is where we are at right now.

Note: You can click on the images for larger ones.

A larger map showing where in Ireland we are.

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Location:Main Street,Castletownbere,Ireland

Friday, September 28, 2012

Emerald Isle Day 5

Fabulous day today!

What we did today: We left Kinsale after a fabulous breakfast and made our way to Kenmare. We also took a quick hour to do laundry today. The weather was cool and overcast with breaks of sun. We are expecting a sunny day tomorrow.

First stop was Blarney Castle near Cork. We spent a couple hours here exploring the nooks and crannies of the castle and taking in the gorgeous grounds. Blarney Castle was built in the 1480's in the tower house style (fortress residence) once common in Ireland. The taller the house, the less likely the opportunity for invasion.

The origins of the famous Blarney Stone legend may derive from the decendent of Cormac Laidir, original occupent of the Castle, during the Nine Year's War. Native Gaelic Aristocracy came in open defiance of the English Crown. Sir Cormac tried to appease both sides and his ability to play each side against each other allowed the word "Blarney" to be passed on to modern speech, referring to smooth, flattering and cajoling talk. Do you know anyone with the gift? Well, you can kiss the stone to get it.

There are two, tight, very steep circular stairwells inside the castle. The kitchen was on the 2nd floor and the grand eating/entertaining hall was on the terd (3rd) floor. Once you climb these stairs it's difficult to imagine carrying trays of food up and down everyday. On the way down a man emerged from one cranny in front of me and I asked, "what's back there" and he replied, "a murder hole" then proceeded down the stairs. Everyone in the stairwell had a good laugh.

The dungeon . . . it goes on and on and the ceilings get lower and lower

The skinny stairwell we used to ascend to the top

View from the top

The Kiss

YouTube Video

After this we drove to Kenmare, did laundry, walked the town and went to The Coachman's Pub for a great meal then stayed to listen to traditional Irish music over dessert and Smitick's Ale (Smithwicks) or tree (3). Love this stuff, hope we can get it in America someday soon. Michael O'Brien and the Celtics played for an hour and totally had the crowd into it. We're going to hit the pub scene again tomorrow for more music.

What we learned today: "Baloney is flattery laid on with a trowel. Blarney is flattery laid on with the lips; that is why you have to kiss the stone to get it."

One last view from the top...

Word of the Day: Today it was phrases and tings (things)
- Surface Redressing = construction term for repaving a road
- Polish Coal = It is literally coal from Poland. We couldn't figure out why we kept seeing signs for it on sale. Turns out the Irish buy coal to use in their fireplaces and stoves to heat a home. The signs say "buy 4 and get one free."
- At Loggerheads = In dispute with. We heard this in reference to the Hurling championships which are currently going on. It was about two opposing teams. "We're always at loggerheads with dem (them)."

Tomorrow we take the road less traveled so check back for more.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Kenmare, Ireland

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Emerald Isle Day 4

We opened our hotel door this morning and Bob the dog was sitting right outside, as if he'd been waiting hours for that very moment to greet us and say good morning. Our fantastic hostess, Yvonne, gave us the skinny on getting to all our destinations today and even sent us off with a few postage paid postcards. Today's weather was chilly and overcast and to our delight, not a drop of rain! Driving through the countryside gave us the privilege of seeing all facets of the color emerald.

What we did today: We were off to an early start and were on the road by 9:00 am. Our first stop was 45 minutes by car to the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. The preserved and partially restored ruins were, in a word, fascinating. The Rock of Cashel first gained it's importance as a fortress. It's origins as the center of power date back to the 4th & 5th centuries. It also contains a chapel and a cathedral. Restoration work has revealed small glimpses of the colorful paintings once present on the walls of the chapel. The graveyard was full of intricately carved Celtic cross headstones. Some headstones with Celtic knots and others were so large bible stories were carved into all four sides.

In the second photo below, notice the long, skinny opening on the top of the tower on the right side. Archers used these spaces to defend the fortress and they are accessed from tight, round staircases inside the cathedral.

After this we drove 1.5 hours south to Waterford and toured the famous crystal factory of the same name. Waterford is clearly a port and industrial town, yet it still holds that same charm we've seen true-out (throughout) Ireland with the colorful doorways and varied storefronts. What's the crystal worth you ask? Here's a small clue of what the handcrafted masterpieces cost: the clock value is $323K, the small football trophy value is $2K and the globe $8,600.

We are here ... yes Ireland is an island.

We arrived in Kinsale, known Ireland's gourmet capital, just in time for dinner. We were not disappointed as dinner was deelish!

What We Learned Today: Crystal is hard, brilliant and made from sand, potash and red lead, which gives it the sparkle.

And we also learned . . .

Word for the Day It's a construction phrase. Today was the first day we actually experienced anything significant in the way of road construction. A mile or "tree" (3) prior to reaching the construction zone there are signs which say "Traffic Calming." They slowly reduce the speed until you reach the construction (calm) area. We also noticed they don't always have flaggers to manage traffic when it's reduced to one lane. They use portable traffic signals to move cars through the construction zone.

Tomorrow we're off to Kiss the Blarney Stone and then head to Kenmare for 2 days.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Kinsale, Ireland

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Emerald Isle Day 3

Our day got off to a late start and ended with Irish Whiskey, served in Waterford Crystal.

What We Did Today: After a full Ayerish breakfast including baked beans and a potato that looked like a waffle we were back in the car on our way to Kilkenny. The curbs and street corners minded their place and I decided leave them be. There were very few cars on the highway and that made the driving fun. The liquid sunshine of Dublin gave way to actual sun in Kilkenny. Yay!!!

Kilkenny is built around a castle with charming skinny streets and colorful storefronts and pubs.

Once we checked in and Bob, the house dog (above) at Butler Court, helped us unload and check out our rooms we were off to Kilkenny Castle. The original stone castle was built c.1146-1219. The grounds were gorgeous and the inside is partially restored and even contains some furniture original to the home. The self-guided tour allowed us to linger and really take it in. Afterwards we stopped in the Tea Room, housed in the original castle kitchen, for a quick bite and met a couple from County Meath. They shared some great stories of travels through Ireland and gave us a short list of must see places in Northern Ireland.

Below is the entrance to the castle from the street (with Dennis and I at the gate), then the main entrance once inside the gate, and the last photo is taken from the rose garden in the back.

We then made our way through town, on foot, to Smithwick's Brewery (pronounced Smithick). After the tour we all enjoyed a pint of Smithick's Ale and a sip of their pale ale while chatting with a couple from Florida and a couple from Austrailia. Some of you know I'm not a beer drinker and I had the WHOLE glass... it was really good! It's really too bad we cannot get this ale in the US. We learned Smithwick's, who was owned by Guinnes, are both now owed by Diagio and the Kilkenny brewery will be closed after a 300 year history in this quaint town.

The second photo below is the ruins of an actual Abbey located within the walls of the brewery.

What I Learned Today: It's all about the beer. The proper way to poor a pint of beer from the tap is...fill the glass half full, then "tree-quarters" full, then all the way full and finally top it off with foam. The bubbles in beer should always be clear. The reason Stout is so dark is because of all the roasted malt in the beer. Smithwick's Ale has a ruby red color because it uses only some roasted malt. I also learned you can pick out different ingredients of the beer by swirling the glass, getting your nose in it and taking a deep breath. Just like sniffing wine.

Word for the Day: Two words and one phrases today. We met so many great people today including a couple retired ladies at dinner who asked about American politics, warned us about pick pocketers, and answered our questions about their terminology.
- Haven't a sou: Common phrase used in Ireland to express you don't have any money
- Footpath: A sidewalk
- Slainte (pronounced Slonta): Our version of "cheers" - as in you raise your pint of Smithick's and say "Slainte!"

So what about that Irish Whisky you ask? We flipped on the bathroom light when we got to the hotel tonight and the fan was banging and clanging like mad. We called Yvonne, the delightful owner, to let her know we thought it was worth her time to come have a look-see. Dean helped her dismantle the fan and disconnect the electrical wires. She was so happy for the handyman work, she offered us a glass of Ayerish Whiskey. Would you have turned that one down? When she returned we each had two fingers of whiskey served in Waterford cut crystal glasses, with a side pitcher of chilled water to finish!

Tomorrow we're off to the Rock of Cashel, Waterford to check out the crystal, then to Kinsale on the southern coast.

P.S. - I know I'm truly on vacation because I bought shoes today ;-)

- Posted, using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Kilkenny, Ireland