apple

London and Ireland Trip, October 9: Cliffs of Moher and Galway

Breakfast at in the fine dining room at Ballyseede was very nice; I had eggs Benedict, and Lori had an omelet.
Eggs Benedict Omelet
Ballyseede Castle

This is the other dog of Ballyseede, a gentle Irish wolfhound (shown with a small child for scale). He (the dog, not the child) is named Mr. Kenny, after Enda Kenny, the current Taoiseach (prime minister of Ireland).
Mr. Wiffle

Some more pictures of Ballyseede and its gardens under less gloomy skies:
Ballyseede Castle Gardens at Ballyseede Castle

Our path this day took us northward along the coast to Galway. We took the car ferry across the Shannon river. The passenger door was obstructed enough that Lori had to sit inside for the whole ride, but I was able to get out and feel the wind and take in the scenery. It turns out that Lori didn’t miss that much in scenery:
River Shannon Ferry

I did get a chance to see the nearby Guinness plant:
Guinness plant, River Shannon Ferry

Towns were few and far between on the coast of County Clare when we started thinking about lunch. I tried to use my Roadfood instincts, but we chose the Quilty Tavern more for location than from an instinct for quality.
Quilty Tavern

It was one of our worst meals in Ireland. I ordered the seafood chowder because we were on the coast, and it was unpleasant, with a flavor that was strongly fishy and almost rancid. My ham and cheese sandwich was also a perfunctory assembly of cheap ingredients. Lori ordered the Quilty Club on the theory that the name of the town meant they took a particular pride in the sandwich - but although her sandwich was better than my food, this was not a sandwich that merited any pride. And the service that we received was so neglectful that it would have needed to improve a few notches to qualify as negligent. I was very glad that I had enough small currency to cover the bill I calculated and leave, because waiting for a bill and credit card processing might have taken another eon.
But note that Lori’s sandwich was served on fine china, and my tureen of soup came on a doily-lined plate. And the pub was a Victorian beauty with lots of polished old wood. Once again the beauty of the pub seems to have no connection to the quality of the food and service.
Seafood Chowder Ham and Cheese Sandwich
Quilty Club

Quilty does not have the cliffs that mark the coast to the north and south.
Shore at Quilty

We had other cliffs in plan, though - our scenic destination of the day was the Cliffs of Moher. They are one of the famous sights of Ireland, but also famous in the movies for roles like the Cliffs of Insanity in The Princess Bride.
Unfortunately, we arrived in late afternoon and the western sun made it hard to take good pictures - but we try not to be the type of tourists who insist that geography be rearranged to suit our schedule; it is both rude and ineffective.
Cliffs of Moher

Lori had visited the cliffs on a previous trip in 2001, but since her trip they have built a visitor’s centre. It’s quite a nice visitor’s center, actually, with some good exhibits on the history and geology and a dizzying movie from the perspective of a bird in flight - but the cliffs are far more of a stirring sight.

I was surprised to learn that O’Brien Tower was built as recently as 1805.
Cliffs of Moher

I don’t actually have something to say about each of these pictures. You can interpret a lack of text as “yet another picture of the cliffs."
Cliffs of Moher

I saw a coin-operated telescope that still had some time on it (actually, I didn’t realize that it was coin-operated until it shut off), and I decided to experiment with taking a picture through the telescope with my iPhone. I think the results are more “interesting” than “awesome”, but it’s kind of nifty.
Cliffs of Moher through telescope
Cliffs of Moher through telescope

This warning sign makes me laugh. I would have bought a t-shirt featuring this graphic if they had had it in my size. (The other sign we saw: every few yards we saw signs for suicide hotlines. We were told later that Ireland is having a big problem with suicide, so much so that 15% of deaths of young people are due to suicide.)
Cliffs of Moher warning sign

I walked a bit south of the visitor’s centre, and tried to get a picture that captured the scale of the cliffs. This is my best attempt. That’s O’Brien Tower again, and it is a modest tower but still probably three stories high or so. And this is not a perspective trick; the tower is on the cliffs it appears to be on. The cliffs are really much higher than the tower.
Cliffs of Moher

So I’ve shown all these pictures from the top of the cliffs, and they are imitations of the photos of the Cliffs that you see in guidebooks and and websites. But what do you see if you look east from the cliffs, towards the land? You see a stone fence and cows, just a dozen yards from the cliffs’ edge.
Cows at Cliffs of Moher

We drove through the very small town of Doolin because Lori had stayed there years before, but did little more than take pictures of the ocean under cloudy skies.
Doolin Beach

We got to Marless House, our B&B near Galway, a bit after dark after some navigation difficulty; the streets were complicated enough that I was able to pay attention to either the roads or the GPS, but not easily both.

For dinner, we went to Lohan’s in downtown Salthill at the recommendation of Mary, the innkeeper.
Doolin Beach

I ordered a Galway Hooker and it was a very nice beer. Lori won the alcoholic beverages of the evening, though, with a Kopparberg Fruit Cider.
Galway Hooker, Kopparberg Mixed Fruit

The crab and salmon cakes were quite nice, with a very crisp exterior.
Salmon and Crab Cake

Lori had the chicken rolled with bacon and stuffing, possibly a little complicated but very savory and tasty.
Chicken rolled with Bacon and stuffing

My bacon and cabbage came with a light mustard sauce that made it much lighter than I expected.
Bacon and Cabbage

The only thing I didn’t enjoy so much was our apple tart. It was very beautiful, but it had the cakelike crust that we’d encountered with most pies and tarts in the British Isles.
Apple Tart
apple

London and Ireland Trip, October 8: Killarney National Park and Ballyseede Castle

This was Rockcrest House, our B&B in Kenmare.
Rockcrest House

After leaving the B&B, we stopped in Kenmare for a bit of shopping and a visit to the KenmareLace and Design Centre, upstairs from the little town museum. Kenmare had been a great center for lacemaking, because in the 19th century Poor Clare nuns taught poor local girls to make lace as a way of making a little money. They had some fabulously intricate pieces on display, and a docent on hand who told us about the women who made them. We bought a marvelous delicate lace brooch for my mother, because she has tatted lace herself, and another for Lori just because it was beautiful. In a fit of optimism, Lori bought a kit that will enable her to make a small piece of the same lace. So far, she hasn’t started.

They didn’t allow pictures, but I recommend going to http://www.kenmarelace.ie and gawking at the pictures there.

I was finished before Lori was, so I took a few pictures of Kenmare.
Kenmare

This small round bridge is called Cromwell Bridge. The obvious conclusion is that it’s named for Oliver Cromwell, who brutally rampaged across Ireland during his time as Lord Protector of England. But the name was in used for a hundred years before he came along.
Cromwell Bridge

We drove off towards Killarney National Park, along the inland edge of the Ring of Kerry scenic route. Once again the roads were narrow and twisty, with steep drop-offs and no shoulders. Once or twice we went through a short tunnel that was barely wider than the car.
Ring of Kerry Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry

Another panorama from the Ring of Kerry:
Untitled

One of the most famous sights in Killarney National Park is called Ladies’ View, so named because Queen Victoria’s handmaidens were delighted by the view on a visit here. Lori was pretty delighted with it too.
Killarney National Park
Ladies View

A panorama from Ladies’ View.
Ladies View Panorama

Ladies View

Just down the hill from Ladies’ View was this medieval ruin:
Castle Near Ladies View

Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park Killarney National Park

Our planned stop in Killarney National Park was Muckross House, for another tour of a fine estate. But first, we ate lunch at the Garden Restaurant at Muckross. This is not any sort of obscure local eatery; this is clearly impersonal food for tourists. But it was very tasty. Lori had the chicken and vegetables, I had the shepherd’s pie, and we shared a dessert of plum sponge.
Chicken and vegetables, Muckross House Cafe Shepherd's Pie, Muckross House Cafe
Muckross House Cafe

Muckross House

Muckross House Muckross House

Lori was keen on taking a jaunting car ride ever since we had read about it in tour books. (Tourist level: so very touristy.) Finding a jaunting car ride was easy; the process appears to be to stand near Muckross House and not aggressively reject the possibility of a ride. Using this process, we ended up on a ride to Torc Falls drawn by an old codger with a habit of repeating everything twice. “Three hundred sixty-five windows in the house,” he’d say. “Three hundred sixty-five windows.” But he carries some history of his own there - he’s been driving a jaunting car for decades, and his son is now driving a jaunting car of his own.
Muckross House
Untitled
Lough Leane, Killarney National Park
Stream near Torc Falls Stream near Torc Falls
Near Torc Falls
Untitled
Jaunting Car Driver

Muckross House was a grand house. Multiple gorgeous rooms were decorated in a variety of period styles. I think some furnishings we saw dated back to the 17th century, but I am not sure of this. The detail I remember most is that the family had hardly any social contact with the (non-noble) locals; their only social life came when they visited England or someone from England visited them. It seems a dismal lonely lifestyle - especially for the children. This was a theme we heard repeated in every grand house or castle we toured.

No pictures because they didn’t allow pictures, but we have some lovely pictures of the gardens.
Muckross House Gardens Muckross House Gardens

On the other side of the parking lot from Muckross House is Muckross Traditional Farms, a collection of farms still being run as they were in 1930 or so, when horses provided most of the power and carrying water was a major part of daily life. I was particularly eager to tour these farms because I had read they are staffed by old farmers who can talk about the way things were back then. Unfortunately, we learned when we got there that during October, they are only open on weekends.

We stopped by Ross Castle on our way out of Killarney National Park, but the last tour was over.
Ross Castle
Ducks near Ross Castle
Ross Castle

We have a great many pictures of Ross Castle and Lough Leane under gloomy grey skies. These are some of our favorites:
Lough Leane Lough Leane
Lough Leane Lough Leane

Our destination that night was Ballyseede Castle. There’s a story in how we found Ballyseede. We were both eager to spend the night in a castle in our Ireland stay, and we mentioned that to a travel agent we were trying to work with. She immediately recommended Ballyseede, because it was so affordable. Now, I tend to be very thrifty or even stingy. But my castle stays are rare enough that I don’t want to choose a castle just because it’s cheap. But we could not persuade this travel agent that we had other priorities in our castle selection. That and chronic non-responsiveness led us to abandon that travel agent and arrange our trip entirely on our own. But we had her recommendation and other recommendations that Ballyseede was a good value in a castle stay, so we decided to spend one night there.
Ballyseede Castle Hotel

Our room was pretty, but bland compared the enthusiastic luxury of Lawcus Farm.
Ballyseede Castle Hotel

We ate in Ballyseede’s pub instead of the restaurant because I was having an attack of thrift. The woodwork in the pub was beautiful.
Fireplace

My steak and Guinness pie was excellent, with a very crisp puff pastry crust.
Steak and Guinness Pie

Lori had a nice but not particularly Irish pasta with tomato and spinach sauce and a very rich Bailey’s coffee.
Pasta with Tomato and spinach sauce
Bailey's Coffee

One of the special features of the pub is the dog Einstein, who spends much of his time there. Einstein has a special trick: he has several stones that he considers his. He will carry them in his mouth, drop them at your feet, and implore you to toss them for him to fetch.
Einstein

As we were finishing our meal, we overheard the manager offering a tour of the castle to another couple, and we inserted ourselves into the tour. He told some ghost stories, for which Lori will give a more sympathetic retelling than I. My clearest memory is that of Hilda, the last family resident of the Castle; as with the residents of Muckross House, she did not socialize with the locals, so the highlight of her day was when the postman arrived. The story is that she’s sometimes seen in her window, waiting for the postman to arrive.

Lori: The tour of Ballyseede gave information on the history of the castle, its present uses, and the ghost stories surrounding it. My memories have dimmed, but I’ll do my best.

The castle’s date of origin is uncertain. The history we heard dates back to 1584, when the land was granted to Robert Blennerhassett, after the defeat of the previous owners, the Fitzgeralds, the Earls of Desmond. The rent for the castle was to be a single red rose from the garden, to be presented on Midsummer’s Day each year. The descendants of Robert Blennerhassett occupied the castle until 1966. Hilda was the last of the family to live there, and it’s said her spirit makes itself known on March 24 each year, which was her birthday. It is also said, as Ralph commented above, that her spirit can be seen in the window of her bedroom, looking for the mailman or visitors who rarely came. There are some watermarks under said window that are said to spell out “R I P.” It may be a bit of wishful thinking to say that - we could see where they get the idea, but the letters (such as they are) are far from sharp and clear.

There is also a romantic tale that a woman in white roams the halls at night, carrying the single red rose used to pay rent. We didn’t see her, but she makes a great story.

The castle now does weddings in a banquet hall in the oldest part of the castle, and it is in this room the ghost stories were told. A woman on Trip Advisor claimed she could’t sleep because the stories were so scary. The stories were pretty tame…I’d hate to think of what happened to her after she saw “The Sixth Sense,” a ghost movie that had me looking over my shoulder for at least three weeks.

The guide did have some ghost photos. They aren’t available online, so you’ll have to take my word for it - they were creepy. One was a photo of several Irish ladies at a wedding a few years ago. They’d posed on the staircase with their arms around each other. What was creepy was that a skeletal hand showed up draped on one lady on the end’s shoulder…looks like the ghost wanted to join in the fun. The other was of the pet cemetery (yes, they have one for the castle dogs and horses). There was a ghostly image of a dog’s face in spectral blue that was certainly creepy. I have no idea how likely or unlikely it is that these were photoshopped.

I can say that I do believe in ghosts, I do think something’s probably there, and that we had no encounters of our own that night. We did enjoy Ballyseede, and would recommend it to anyone visiting Ireland who would like the castle experience for a modest price. The decor was lovely, and I enjoyed wandering around taking it all in.

For more information, here’s the castle website. http://ballyseedecastle.com/history.php

Ballyseede Castle
Wedding Cake nook, Ballyseede CastleHotel
Ballyseede Castle
apple

Anniversary Weekend

We had a lovely anniversary weekend in Ohio last weekend.

On Friday, we drove up to Cleveland in time for dinner with our Roadfood friend Jeff Sanders. We had dinner at Sokolowski's University Inn, with lots of chat and stories of our Ireland trip. We left to go to Jeni's in Chagrin Falls just before they closed. It was after midnight when we finally left Jeff to go to our hotel.

Saturday, June 20:

For brunch, we went to Slyman's Deli in Cleveland, where we split a wonderful piled-high corned beef sandwich.
Slyman's Deli

We drove on to Lakeside, Ohio, on the banks of Lake Erie. Lakeside is a Chautauqua community, an offshoot of the original in Chautauqua, New York. The Chautauquas were Methodist summer camps founded on the principles of religion, education, arts, and recreation. Most of them have now closed, but Lakeside is one of the few still around. (My overall impression was that Lakeside was like a small resort town whose population has a disproportionately large fraction of PBS viewers.)

Lakeside charges an admission fee for the community, and uses those fees to pay for concerts and lectures and so forth. We had some trouble at the gate. We'd bought tickets as soon as they went on sale in April and had them held at Will Call, but apparently it was so early that their ticket-filing systems were not yet running smoothly. But the woman who dealt with my problem was very gracious and kind, and we eventually got a temporary pass to go to the central ticket office and get our tickets reprinted.

Lakeside was full of small-town charm. People were friendly and happy to talk, and the weather was beautiful.
Lakeside, Ohio

We checked in at our B&B, then strolled around. We stopped at the little Lakeside Museum, where we ended up in a lengthy pleasant conversation with the curator, more about the history of the museum itself than the history of Lakeside.

We strolled down to the Lakeside Hotel, where there was a classic car show going on. The nice thing about classic cars is the clear joy folks have in a spotlessly maintained old car.

We ate dinner at the Lakeside Hotel. I had baked walleye, Lori had the roast beef, we shared a dessert of white cake with mascarpone and raspberry jam. The best thing we had was my pomegranate splash, a nonalcoholic cocktail.

In the evening, we saw Natalie MacMaster and her husband Donnell Leahy in concert. It was a great show; they're both very skilled fiddle players. The cutest moment of the show was when they brought out their two oldest children (aged 8 and 6) to play fiddle themselves, and then another two children (5 and 3) to all join in step dancing. (They have another two children even younger. By my math, she's spent about half the time since the oldest's conception pregnant.)
Lakeside, Ohio

After the concert, we strolled down to the Patio restaurant to get ice cream before returning to our B&B.

Sunday, June 22:

We had a pretty good breakfast at the B&B, and enjoyed some time sitting on the porch chatting with the hosts.

We attended church services at Hoover Auditorium. The best part of the services was the gathering of children for their service - they got a very big parade of children singing together.

Lori then resumed shopping through Lakeside's cute little shops. She saw one painting of flowers that really caught her fancy.

We ate lunch at the Patio; I had the special of chicken and noodles served over mashed potatoes.

We played miniature golf, and I managed to get two holes-in-one.

We walked back to the art shop to consider the painting again, and we spotted a beautiful necklace showing the moon over a lake. I went in and bought it for Lori. The saleslady offered to gift wrap it for me, but I declined; a present should stay in the wrapping longer than it takes to wrap it.

We drove down to a different B&B for the night, the Victorian Tudor Inn in Belleveue, Ohio. It was a quirky Victorian place with a great many knickknacks, but the proprietor was very friendly and hospitable. (But the bathroom in our suite was enormous and extra lovely.) Lori feigned surprise that I had ordered the Romance Package, with roses and chocolates in the room, and a bottle of wine for us.

We ate supper with Jeff again at the Jolly Roger in Port Clinton. It was a feast of fried fish, not necessarily the romantic dinner that we'd originally planned. But it was good to see him on his drive back to Chicago.

Monday:

After breakfast, we ambled across northern Ohio. We stopped for lunch at Miss Molly's Tea Room in Medina - it was an interesting cultural study, because although it offered fancy teas and scones, the lunch items that I ended up choosing were chicken divan and strawberry pretzel salad - dressed-up versions of items you might find at a Midwest potluck.
Tea Room in Medina, Oh

We arrived at Pat and Lisa's far in advance of the time we scheduled, so far that Lori insisted we drive around the neighborhood for a while to kill time.

We ate a long dinner with Pat and Lisa at Thyme Squared. It was splendid to chat at length with them.

Afterwards, Pat and Lisa indulged me by playing ROFL with us. I'd just acquired this party game a week ago and hadn't had a chance to play. Pat and Lisa vastly outscored the two of us, but I look forward to playing again.

It rained hard as we were in the restaurant with Pat and Lisa, but we managed to avoid the rain as we drove home until we were near Pittsburgh. We were glad that the rain had waited until then instead of hitting us in Lakeside.
apple

London and Ireland Trip, October 7: Ring of Beara

Our plan for Monday had been to drive the Ring of Kerry, whose scenic beauty makes it famous and very popular with tourists. But in two different events, our host at the B&B and another diner at the Lime Tree recommended we drive the Ring of Beara (around the Beara peninsula) instead; “It’s less touristy.” And my own superstitious quirks are such that I would not ignore such a double recommendation. So we drove the Ring of Beara.

It was a pretty drive under louring grey skies. But here’s the thing: “It’s less touristy” is apparently code for “the roads are so narrow and twisty that a tour bus would end up looking at its own license plate.” There were many beautiful scenes that we couldn’t photograph, because we’d have had had to park in the middle of the road and worry about blind curves.

I really regretted the theft of Lori’s phone this day. I use one of our phones as a GPS; I would have used another phone to take time-lapse videos, as I did in the Midwest in 2012.
Beara Peninsula Beara Peninsula
Beara Peninsula Beara Peninsula

This is not the best rainbow we saw in Ireland, but it was one of the few we were able to photograph.
Rainbow, Beara Peninsula

We stopped at Derreen Gardens, an old estate planted into a luxurious subtropical rainforest garden with many exotic plants in the late 1800s. We paid our 7€ at the honor box, and ended up regretting it. The paths were wild and wandering, and there was no portable map and few signs. So we did not feel we could walk a loop and reliably get back to our car. We encountered no other people except the sounds of a flute from the manor house, so it was a strange lonely place.
Derreen Gardens Derreen Gardens
Derreen Gardens Untitled
Derreen Gardens
Derreen Gardens
Derreen Gardens Derreen Gardens
Derreen Gardens Derreen Gardens

The name “King’s Oozy” sounds like something the king should see a doctor about.
Derreen Gardens

More pictures from our circuit of Beara.
Beara Peninsula
Beara Peninsula Beara Peninsula

We had plans to visit a cheesemaker in Eyeries. We found the tiny town of Eyeries, but didn’t find the cheesemaker. The brightly painted houses of Eyeries were very typical of Irish small towns.
Eyeries

This tree of roadsigns in Castletownbere was also very typical.
Road sign, Castletown

We ate a bland lunch at Murphy’s Restaurant: stuffed ham and turkey roast for Ralph and ham, cheese, and tomato toastie for Lori.
Murphy's Restaurant
Turkey Roast Ham, Cheese, and Tomato Toastie

A Beara landscape from our stop at Molly Gaffigan’s gift shop:
Beara Peninsula

Our last stop on our circuit was at Bonane Heritage Park. I was interested in stopping, because the park had a prehistoric stone circle and we had not managed to visit Stonehenge. Lori was not so interested, because the scowling clouds that had been with us all day had now gathered into a dripping rain. If we had had two cell phones (and effective cell service), she might have stayed in the car, but since we did not, she wanted to stay together. It’s good that we did stay together; we spent much longer at the park than I had predicted, and she would have been very nervous if she had been alone.
The honor box asked for 4€, but we had spent all of our small cash for the honor box at Derreen Gardens. I regret this, because we enjoyed Bonane much more - particularly because Bonane had good signs and clear routes.

Near the parking lot was a reconstructed crannog. I had never heard of a crannog before; a crannog is a dwelling on an artificial island in a lake, with a path of stepping stones under the water providing access for people who knew the secret.
Crannog, Bonane Heritage Park
Crannog Sign
(full size)

At the top of the hill was a ring fort. In the famine times, it had been used to try to grow potatoes, despite deep superstition prohibiting farming such sites. That gave me a new appreciation for the depths of the Famine, because this was such a high remote site that cultivating it would be a big challenge.
Ring Fort, Bonane Heritage Park
Ring Fort, Bonane Heritage Park
(full size)

A panorama from the center of the ring fort:
Ring Fort, Bonane Heritage Park

The Dromagorteen stone circle at Bonane is much less impressive than Stonehenge, but but it still requires a monumental amount of labor to lug dishwasher-sized rocks to the top of this hill. And the astronomical calculations and delicate adjustments must have required both labor and care.
Stone Circle, Bonane Heritage Park
Stone Circle, Bonane Heritage Park
(full size)
Stone Circle, Bonane Heritage Park
(full size)

Near the stone circle was a fulachta fiadh, a pre-pottery cooking pit in which hot stones were dropped into a pool to heat water. My impression is that the actual cooking pit was much smaller, but the raised ring comes from the piles of used cooking stones.
Fulacht Fiadh
Untitled
(full size)

Lori suggested a selfie to confirm that we were viewing archaeological sights in the steady rain. Here we are, soggy and bedraggled but having a good time.
Us at Bonane

I quite enjoyed Bonane Heritage Park; I wish we had had more time to spend there.

That evening, we went to Foley’s, the other pub in Kenmare, to seek dinner and Irish music.

The brown bread was as good as ever.
Bread, Foley's

We shared the crab and salmon cakes for an appetizer; they were tasty, but very homogenous; the opposite of the big lumps of crab found in some Baltimore crab cakes.
Fish Cakes, Foley's

I had the stuffed pork chop, which was nicely prepared.
Pork steaks, Foley's

Lori’s steak and Guinness pie was quite tasty, but the presentation of serving it on top of the mound of colcannon was a little odd.
Beef and Guinness Pie, Foley's

Our dessert was a sticky toffee pudding that was only okay.
Sticky toffee pudding, Foley's

The music in the back bar that night was Dan O’Sullivan playing rousing Irish-music-for-tourists. We had a great time listening to him. We bought one of his CDs, and we stayed listening until the bar closed. But all the listeners were tourists, and the songs were tourist songs; it was like a performance at an Irish bar in the US transplanted to Ireland.
apple

London and Ireland Trip, October 6: Fungie, Dingle, and Kenmare

Sunday’s view from our bedroom window was much greyer than Saturday’s.
View from Milestone B&B

Even with the soggy day, Lori was very keen to take a boat tour out into Dingle Bay.

There was time before the boat ride for another trip to Murphy’s Ice Cream. We’ve forgotten the flavors, but it was excellent ice cream, worth eating two days in a row. (Side note: the Murphy’s website made me laugh with this bit: "WORST FLAVOUR WE EVER MADE: Smoked Salmon Ice Cream (horrible)”)
Murphy's Ice Cream Murphy's Ice Cream

This T-shirt says “Póg mo Cone”, which is much funnier if you’re familiar with the Irish phrase “póg mo thóin”. Of course, the western part of the peninsula (including Dingle) is a Gaeltacht, where Irish is still spoken predominantly, so this joke would be well understood locally.
Murphy's Ice Cream

Our boat for the tour of the bay.
Dingle Boat Cruise

The biggest reason for a boat tour in Dingle is Fungie the dolphin. Fungie is a very unusual dolphin: he lives in Dingle Bay year-round, where most bottlenosed dolphins migratory. He seems to be solitary, where most bottlenosed dolphins stay in groups. And he’s made Dingle Bay his home since 1984, although the typical lifespan for his species is 20-25 years. Fungie is also distinctive because he is very friendly with boats; the local boat tours offer that if you don’t see Fungie, you don’t pay for the tour.
We ended up seeing Fungie quite a bit, especially after the captain encouraged the five-year-old passenger to call “Fungie! Fungie!” repeatedly.
Fungie the Dolphin
Untitled


As we were out on the boat, the soft grey mist turned to wind and rain. Lori insisted we take a selfie to show the conditions we were in, though it’s nigh-impossible to look good under such conditions.
Dingle Boat Cruise

The mist was beautiful, but it’s hard to take really splendid photos of the mist - particularly on a boat rocking with the waves.
Dingle Bay Dingle Bay
Dingle Bay Dingle Bay
Dingle Bay Dingle Bay

I’m fond of this picture - the lonely crenellated tower looks like something from a somber fairyland. I tried several times to get a closer picture, but none came out as good.
Untitled

Lori was feeling very cold and wet when we returned to land, and rushed into a pub as soon as possible. She got little sympathy from the barmaid, but she did get an Irish coffee.

We returned to the Food Festival for a bit. We started with a little knot of outdoor food vendors - not clearly part of the Taste Trail, but still part of the festival.

Curry from Green Saffron - this was particularly nice because it was warm and we were chilled from the rain.
Dingle Food Festival Curry from Dingle Food Festival

The lentil shortbread was not actually that good.
Lentil Shortbread, Dingle Food Festival

Reel Dingle Fish was back on the Taste Trail. The smoked haddock was really nice.
Reel Dingle Fish Reel Dingle Fish

The Chart House is one of the nicer restaurants in Dingle. The goat cheese tartlet was probably the best, but the black pudding and apple chutney turnover was surprisingly good (according to the member of our duo who will sample black pudding).
The Chart House The Chart House The Chart House, Dingle Food Festival
Ice Cream from the Chart House

Lori was very keen on the cheesecake sundae from the Little Cheese Shop.
The Little Cheese Shop The Little Cheese Shop

Fenton’s was very proud of their mini burger, and the proprietor told us repeatedly how good it was as he was preparing it. Our verdict: not so much.
Mini Burger, Fenton's Restaurant

This red-headed busker won Lori’s heart (and tips) because he looked only eight years old.
Busker, Dingle Food Festival

Enjoy another scenery picture. This looks very Ireland to me.
Dingle Peninsula

We backtracked a bit to drive to Kenmare, another small Kerry town at the tip of the Kerry Bay between the Iveragh Peninsula (the peninsula with the tourist-popular Ring of Kerry) and the Beara Peninsula. This was the view from the window of our B&B in Kenmare.
View from Rock Crest House
Kenmare

At the recommendation of our host, we went to The Lime Tree, an upscale (and dimly lit) restaurant in a building that dates back to 1832.
We started with an appetizer of oak smoked salmon.
Smoked Salmon, Lime Tree

I ordered the Lamb Two Ways, with a mini shepherd’s pie and a small rack of locally sourced lamb. This was outstanding, probably the best lamb I’ve ever had.
Lamb Two Ways, Lime Tree

Lori got the chicken with boxty. It was very tasty but apparently not photogenic.
Chicken, Lime Tree

For dessert, we shared a lovely bread and butter pudding.
Bread and Butter Pudding, Lime Tree

The story of the building:
Lime Tree History

As we walked back to the B&B, we saw a sign on the door of a pub that said “Irish Music and Dance Tonight”. I’m quite certain of this, because I double-checked the sign later. So we figured this might be our chance to get a nice local pub session. We went in and found the bar area deserted. We asked a bartender about the dancing, and were told that it was in the back room.

So we went to the back room. There was indeed live music and dancing… but the instruments were an electronic keyboard and an electric guitar. And the choice of music didn’t fit our expectations of Irish music; the second song we heard was John Denver’s “Country Roads”. But there were people dancing; they were dancing two-steps and country western waltzes instead of jigs and reels.
On the one hand, this was definitely a local, non-tourist experience; the room was filled with locals, mostly elderly with a few younger folks. On the other hand, we found it hard to find a seat and even harder to find a conversation. We left after half an hour with only a pause to double-check that the sign did indeed say “Irish".
apple

London and Ireland Trip, October 5: Dingle Food Festival

This was the view from our bedroom window on Saturday morning. (I have commented that there is hardly any better symbol of indefatigable optimism than an Irish clothesline.)
View from Milestone B&B

The teapot at breakfast came swaddled in this cute tea sweater.
Tea sweater

Lori had the scrambled eggs with salmon.
Salmon and scrambled eggs

I had the Irish fry; this was one of the better fries of the trip.
Irish breakfast

And then down to Dingle for the Dingle Food Festival.
Dingle

I don’t remember the explanation of why there was a gypsy parade at the food festival.
Parade at Dingle Food Festival

The festival was one of the best food festivals we’ve encountered, because it had the Taste Trail. Seventy-five restaurants, shops, and food stalls were all selling small tastes of their various specialties for 2€ apiece. This meant that we were able to try a whole lot of places without becoming too horribly gorged. Even so, we did not managed to sample everything; we managed fourteen places on Saturday and about the same on Sunday. (There were also cooking demonstrations, workshops, music, and more, but the Taste Trail was the main thing for us.) It was touristy, certainly, but it felt to us as if it was catering to Irish tourists instead of international tourists. (Someone told us that this festival was a chance for the locals to relax a bit after the tourist season abated for the year.)

Crab Roll from Dingle Bay Hotel.
Crab Roll

Mini burger and whiskey custard from Murphy’s Pub.
Untitled

I’ve lost track of who supplied this cupcake for Lori:
Untitled

Liam O’Neill Gallery offered “Traditional Dingle Mutton Pies with Derry Clarke from L’ecrivian restaurant, Dublin”. This might have been my first chance to dine on food prepared by a Michelin-star chef, but I didn’t like the mutton pie much.
Mutton Pie

Biscuit Cake from the Strand House
Biscuit Cake
Untitled

Murphy’s Ice Cream offered a lot of specialty flavors. All of them were good, but I remember particularly liking the Oats and the Cheddar Cheese flavors. Murphy’s was one of our favorite stops on the Taste Trail.
Murphy's Ice Cream tasting flavors

I’ve lost track of which flavors these were. My guesses (clockwise from top): butterscotch, oats, and Irish marmalade.
Murphy's Ice Cream

Tempted Strawberry Cider served in a frame shop. This didn’t live up to my mental image of strawberry cider, unfortunately.
Tempted Strawberry Cider

Pizza from The Diner reflected an imperfect understanding of 50s diner culture.
Pizza from The Diner

I had never had periwinkles before. (Periwinkles are edible sea snails; these pictured are from Hannie’s.) Eating periwinkles involves probing the snail with a toothpick like a game of Operation in order to retrieve a crumb of meat the size and texture of a small pencil eraser. They weren’t horrible, but I discarded them as not worth the effort after less than half the serving.
Periwinkles

The bacon and cabbage from MacCarty’s was outstanding. Far better than I expected from a rather ordinary bar.
Bacon and Cabbage
MacCarty's

Dick Mack’s is a haberdashery and bar. This combination might improve the process of shopping for men’s clothing. (They weren’t actually on the Taste Trail, I think.)
Dick Mack's

We took a break from the Taste Trail to see the beautiful Harry Clarke stained glass center at the Diseart Centre, a former convent. They didn’t allow pictures, of the windows; some pictures are available online at http://www.diseart.ie/visitor/harry3.html.
Diseart

Foxy John’s (a hardware store plus bar; this sort of conversion is apparently a thing in Dingle) had samples of Annascaul Black Pudding, an award-winning artisan black pudding (and other breakfast meats). This was definitely qualitatively better than many of the other black puddings I had in Ireland, but it didn’t make me a black pudding lover.
Annascaul breakfast produce
Foxy John's

Pumpkin soup from An Gallerai Beag.
Pumpkin Soup

Cones of chocolates from It Must Be Food.
Untitled

I think this cupcake came from Deirdre’s Delights.
Untitled

We hit Kennedy’s Butchers just as they (and the other shops on the Taste trail) were closing up for the day. The three sausages were excellent.
Kennedy's Butchers
Kennedy's Butchers
Kennedy's Butchers

This meringue tea cake might have come from the Tree House Cafe. I’m not quite certain, though. I took notes of our destinations in one of the guides to the festival, and I’ve mislaid that guide. The guide is available online, but without our notes. I’ve managed to reconstruct most of our travels from a vague memory of our route, and the guide’s list of the foods served at each stop. The Tree House Cafe is next to Kennedy’s Butchers, which matches my remembered route - but the guide said that Tree House Cafe was serving something else, and I don’t see this meringue listed anywhere on the list. (Note from Lori: I bought that from the counter. It wasn’t a food festival thing, it was just a tea cake…and a LOT bigger than I thought it would be!)
Untitled
Untitled

After such a day of the Taste Trail, it was a bit tricky to figure out supper. We wanted something a bit more substantial; Lori in particular hadn’t eaten nearly as many tastes as I had. But we didn’t want much, and we felt that that a nice restaurant would be wasted on us. So we ended up returning to the Diner for garlic bread and pizza. This pizza was adequate, but I don’t think it would measure up in New York or New Haven.
Garlic Bread at the Diner Pizza at the Diner

We attended evening Mass at St. Mary’s. The service used a mixture of English and Gaelic, which made it very hard for me to follow.

Lori: I am a card-carrying Catholic. One of the beautiful things about Catholicism is the universality of the Mass. However, the occasional Gaelic mixed in with the English, and the thick accents of the Priest and congregation meant that I was often lost too, despite the fact that the responses are the same no matter where you go. We think some of it was simply that the accent gave everything a slightly different cadence and/or rhythm than what I’m accustomed to. Still, it was a beautiful little church made of stone, warm-toned wood, and stained glass, I enjoyed hearing parts of the Mass spoken and sung in Gaelic, and I was happy we went there for Mass.

After the Mass, we went seeking Irish music. Dingle is a famous town for Irish music, and we wanted to make the most of our opportunities while we were there. We never found Irish music that night, but we got one of the best stories of our trip. This photo may be as close to Irish music as we came that night - but the key to understanding this picture is to know that I do not play guitar.
Bennett's Hotel

What happened was this: as we were passing Bennett’s Hotel, Lori wanted to take a peek inside, because it was a venerable old establishment with a sumptuous entryway. When we poked our heads in, a guy at the bar enthusiastically beckoned us inside.
(I’ll call him Paddy, because he gave that as his name at least once.) It turned out that he and his (mostly silent) friend Jim had come from about thirty miles away looking for a session, and he had seen me and assumed from my appearance that I was a bluegrass player. Unfortunately, the closest I come to being a bluegrass musician is that my sister-in-law is an amateur fiddler. Paddy was not convinced despite our protestations, and it was at his insistence that we posed with his guitar.

We talked with Paddy and Jim briefly; I recall that Jim was a police officer, but I don’t recall any background about Paddy. They had no idea that the Dingle Food Festival was in town; they had just come to find a session the way they do once a month or so.

But Paddy’s attention soon drifted away from us to land upon Molly (definitely not her real name). Paddy started chatting with her with casual interest, but his conversation flourished wildly. Within ten minutes, he was introducing her to us as his girlfriend; within another ten minutes, he was asking to borrow Lori’s engagement ring so that he could propose to her. Molly did not seem to wholly reciprocate his infatuation; her responses were along the lines of “That’s not my real name; I’m not telling you my real name. I’m not going to marry you. I’m not even going to go to a different bar with you.” But Paddy was utterly undaunted and continued pouring out his adulations to his lady love. (This might have been creepy if she wasn’t enjoying it, but she was clearly having a fine time. After Paddy and Jim left, she told us her real name (which I’ve now forgotten) and told us that her cheeks were sore from laughing so hard.)
This is the picture Paddy insisted we take of the two lovebirds. It is one of our most memory-laden photos of the trip.
Paddy and Molly

Paddy and Jim eventually unslung their guitars and started to start a session of their own, and were firmly told “no music here” by the bartender. They wandered off while we stayed to chat with Molly and her friend.

We walked a bit more looking for a pub with music, but the ones we found were full to bursting. We stood outside one pub listening to the music for a while, but it had been a day of a lot of standing and walking, and we went back to the B&B around ten.
apple

London and Ireland Trip, October 4: Dingle and Slea Head

This was one of the most picture-heavy days of our trip.

Friday morning, I had the bagel with bacon and egg because it had looked so good when Lori got it by accident, and Lori got the porridge on the first try.
Bagel with Bacon and Eggs Porridge

We did our best to hustle to Dingle, a town of about 2000 people on a peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. We were carefully planning to be in Dingle for the weekend of the Dingle Food Festival, but I wanted to see the sights of the Dingle peninsula on Friday to leave us plenty of time for the festival on the weekend.

It rained in the morning but cleared up as we drove. We saw three rainbows on our route - but none with an opportunity to stop for a picture.

We noticed that the town of Castlemaine has a plaque proclaiming itself the origin of the Wild Colonial Boy (as commemorated in the song of that name).

The Dingle peninsula looks very much like my stereotype of Irish scenery. Some miscellaneous pictures from the eastern part of the Dingle peninsula, near Inch and Anascaul:
Dingle Peninsula Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

A panoramic view of green hills and hedgerows:
Dingle Peninsula Panorama

We got into Dingle about 1, and stopped for lunch at the first spot we saw, a family restaurant named Harrison’s. It was adequate but not delightful; Lori’s plaice and chips was a bit greasy, though my smoked haddock and chips had a nice smoke flavor.
Fish and Chips at Harrington's Smoked haddock and chips

We checked in at the Milestone Bed and Breakfast just east of town. (A pleasant place, but one of the tiniest bathrooms we’ve encountered. I had to turn sideways to get past the sink to the shower.) The Milestone B&B is so named because of the standing stone in the front yard, dating back to 2000-1400 BC.
Milestone at Milestone Inn

Barbara, the innkeeper, gave us a photocopied hand-drawn map of the Slea Head Loop to guide our drive and an oral commentary on the various sights. It was helpful advice; for example, we passed by beehive huts from the 8th century, because Barbara said there was no explanation, just a chance to pay a few Euros to an old woman to see the ancient huts in her garden. (Again, it’s wacky to me that such old structures are just lying around.)

I did want to stop at Dunbeg Fort, because of its longer heritage. It’s a cliff fort (or something; archaeology has apparently not been clear about its purpose) that might date back as far as the fifth century BC. It too is very low-key; the “visitor’s centre” is the pub across the road. We didn’t see any signs or explanations, so we are left guessing with everyone else about the purpose of these ditches and walls.
Dunguaire Fort Dunbeg Fort
Dunguaire Fort

More scenery pictures from near Dunbeg Fort:
Slea Head Loop Dunguaire Fort
From Dunguaire Fort

In my collection of pictures, I find an occasion for another rant about the narrow Irish roads. I did not feel that this was wide enough for our car and the dog-walker, much less an oncoming car.
Dog Walker on Slea Head Loop

We stopped at a turnout at the western end of the peninsula to see the Blasket Islands. There was a piper playing there at the turnout at the far western edge of Ireland. We bought one of his CDs.
Blasket Islands

More views of the hillsides of the Dingle peninsula.
Slea Head Loop Slea Head Loop
Slea Head Loop

This island of the Blaskets is nicknamed the Sleeping Giant because of its silhouette.
The Sleeping Giant

The Blasket Islands are a group of three medium-small islands off the coast of the Dingle peninsula. A small community of subsistence farmers eked out a living there until the last few residents were moved off the island in the 1950s. We didn’t visit the Blaskets, but we did visit the Blasket Islands Centre on the mainland. It was a good museum of the people of the Blaskets, and it inspired us to buy two books of stories of the residents in the early nineteenth century. Things I particularly recall from the museum:
- There were no harbors on the islands, so the boats that were used were curraghts, large canvas-covered canoes. This made it a big challenge to get a cow to the mainland to be inseminated; there were pictures of the cow in the curraght upside down with all four legs tied together.
- What happened to the Blasket Islands community was an influx of money. Typically the eldest daughter of a family would go to Dingle and work as a domestic servant until she had put together a little money, and then go off to America. Then she would send money back to help another member of the family make the passage, and so forth until all the young people were gone. This evaporation of young people to better opportunities eventually made the community unsustainable, so there were only a handful of old folks when the government finally moved everyone to the mainland.
Blasket Islands Centre

We would have had better light for photography earlier in the day. But the down side of being on the west coast on a fine sunny day is that the sun was very bright on the water.
The Sleeping Giant

Slea Head Loop Slea Head Loop
Gallarus Oratory Untitled

We had time for one last stop before heading back to Dingle, so stopped at Gallarus Oratory. This is a small building built of carefully fitted stone without any mortar. It’s presumed that this was a Christian church from about the 8th century, but there’s no clear evidence.
Gallarus Oratory

Gallarus Oratory

Wikipedia claims that there’s a local legend that if you exit the oratory by climbing out of the window, your soul will be cleansed. But I fear that if I tried, the effect would be more like that of Winnie the Pooh climbing out of Rabbit’s burrow.
Gallarus Oratory

We got back to Dingle to attend a concert at St. James’ Church. We were again seeking music that met our stereotype of Irish music, and again we didn’t quite get that. It would be presumptuous for me to claim that this was not Irish music - it was performed by Irish performers and the words were in Gaelic. But the sound of the performers was more like what I would call “singer-songwriter” than “Irish”. And the pews we were sitting at were hard and uncomfortable, and we hadn’t eaten dinner. We decided not to return after intermission in order to get dinner before restaurants closed.
Untitled

We had a nice meal at the Old Smokehouse. We started with crab au gratin:
Crab au Gratin at the Old Smokehouse

I had the salmon en croute (made with local salmon). It was tasty and well prepared, but again I was growing tired of seafood.
Salmon en croute at the Old Smokehouse

Lori won dinner with her chicken with ham, ricotta, and apricot. Very tasty.
Chicken with ham, ricotta, and apricot at the Old Smokehouse

For dinner, we shared a very nice peach and strawberry crumble, accompanied by a pitcher of custard.
Peach and Strawberry Crumble with custard

Dingle has a reputation as a great music town, so we went out to seek Irish music once more. At the Mighty Session bar, we found a duo playing with accordion and flute, and had a good time listening to them for an hour or so.
apple

London and Ireland Trip, October 3: Kinsale

Is this not the prettiest porridge breakfast one could wish for? This was actually a second attempt; Lori had ordered the porridge, but received a bagel with bacon and egg instead.
Breakfast Porridge at Old Presbytery

We took a walking tour of Kinsale in the morning, even though it was a wet, grey day. Barry the tour guide had large umbrellas available for the use of the tourists, which was a remarkable courtesy. Barry was a good tour guide and did a good job of explaining Kinsale’s history. Much of the wall that enclosed Kinsale in medieval times is still present, and the five historic gates still constrain traffic.
Kinsale Harbor Kinsale Harbor
Untitled Kinsale Kinsale

The medieval tax schedule is still posted in the old town hall (now a tiny but interesting museum).
Kinsale tax schedule

We ate lunch at the Lemon Leaf Cafe, a bright little cafe tucked into the back of a gift shop. Lori got a lovely cup of tomato soup (just the thing for a rainy day) and a very nice ham and chesse sandwich with apple and raisin chutney. Again, in the US such a sandwich would probably be toasted in a way that melted the cheese, but here it was just served on toast.
Ham and Cheese Sandwich at Lemon Leaf Cafe

I got my share of melted cheese, though, with a bacon and cheese rarebit that was simply fabulous. With great smoky bacon and sharp cheese, this was a meal worth a long journey for.
Bacon Rarebit at Lemon Leaf Cafe

More harbor pictures:
Kinsale Harbor
Kinsale Harbor

We spent the afternoon with a bit more sightseeing and a bit of shopping. We bought cut crystal glassware at Kinsale Crystal. Cut crystal in Ireland has changed over the last few years. Waterford Crystal was the most famous Irish crystal company. But in 2009, Waterford went bankrupt and closed the factory in Waterford, and most of the production has since been moved to Eastern Europe. But a group of former employees now makes crystal under the name Sons of Waterford, and sends the blanks to small local shops like Kinsale Crystal to be cut and sold to tourists. (And these shops are very accommodating for tourists; they offered to ship our purchases directly to our home so that we didn’t have to worry about packing glass in our luggage.)

Lori spotted a beautiful rainbow shawl in Kilmaran Woolens, and I bought it for her as a Christmas present with the thinnest possible pretense that she did not know what I had purchased.

Because Kinsale is known as a town for gourmet dining, we looked for another gourmet restaurant for dinner, and ended up at Finn’s Table. This was an exceptional dinner, one of the best of our trip.

We ordered half a bottle of wine in the happy knowledge that we wouldn’t be driving anywhere. Julie Finn, one of the proprietors, cheerfully offered to decant it for us, even though it was only half a bottle.
Finn's Table

I liked brown bread everywhere we went in Ireland, but I especially liked it here. The white herb roll was also excellent.
Finn's Table

Lori began her meal with the tomato, ginger, and rosemary soup. Lori generally avoids spicy food, but the ginger and rosemary seasoned this very nicely.
Tomato, Ginger, Rosemary Soup at Finn's Table

Kinsale is a port town, so local fare means seafood. So for my appetizer, I ordered the grilled oysters with vodka, lime, cilantro sauce. These were really outstanding; the seawater taste of the oysters came through clearly, but the sauce transformed it and made it radiant. (When I praised the oysters to the proprietor, she tried to introduce me to the oysterman who had gathered them, but he had just left the restaurant.)
Grilled oysters with vodka, lime, cilantro sauce, Finn's Table

Lori had beautiful fragrant lamb chops.
Rack of Lamb, Finn's Table

My entree was the surf and turf with fondant potatoes. (The lobster came from local waters, and my beef and Lori’s lamb were raised by Julie’s husband’s parents.)
Surf and Turf and fondant potatoes

Lori’s dessert was a selection of caramel tart, house made ice cream, and chocolate mousse.
Caramel tart, Ice Cream, Chocolate Mousse

However, I won the better dessert with mine: lemon posset with blackberry sorbet and housemade shortbread. (A posset is a chilled milk dessert, similar to what I call “pudding” in my American dialect.) The flavors were radiant and sumptuous, and it was a splendid finale to the meal.
Lemon posset with blackberry sorbet and housemade shortbread, Finn's Table

We had some chances to talk with Julie Finn at some length because we praised the food so highly. She said that she and her husband have only been in business in Kinsale for a year or two. We certainly think they’re off to a terrific start, and we wish them every success.

We wound up the night at Dalton’s Bar looking again for craic. The two women customers left shortly after we arrived, but we had some pleasant chitchat with the bartender.
Dalton's Bar Untitled
apple

London and Ireland Trip, October 2: Rock of Cashel and Kinsale

Let me share some more pictures of Lawcus Farm, because we loved it so much:
View from Lawcus Farm
Lawcus Farm

Another panorama; again you can click on this for a much larger image.
Lawcus Farm Panorama

The base of this table was made from the stump of a five-century-old oak on the property. Mark spoke more than once about how he wanted the Oak to be part of the Lawcus Farm story.
Lawcus Farm Tree of Life Table

Ralph and Mark in the entrance to our room:
Untitled

And the two of us with Ann Marie.
Untitled

When we said our goodbyes to Mark, he gathered us into his arms, bowed his head, and prayed over us that Lawcus Farm might confer some of its magic upon us and bless us in the rest of our travels and our return to the United States. I get misty-eyed every time I remember this. This is definitely a service that we have not received in any hotel.


For our first trip stop after Lawcus Farm, we went to Kells Priory. Once again, I am struck by how casual the treatments of monuments can be. Kells Priory dates back to 1193, but this historic ruin is left open to the public with no more guard than a revolving door to keep the sheep from straying out into the road. Well, and a large quantity of sheep droppings, which did diminish Lori’s enthusiasm.
Kells Priory
Kells Priory
Kells Priory

As we were driving around, from time to time we would see a wordless sign with an icon of a camera. Image from Wikipedia:

We thought this meant a scenic view, though we were baffled by the fact that often there was no place near to park and enjoy the view. This picture was taken at one of those signs where we could find a convenient place to stop. It was only after we returned to the United States that we learned that this sign means “speed limit enforced by cameras”. So this is an Irish landscape that is not claimed by road signs to be particularly scenic - but it shows what it was like to drive through central Ireland.
Untitled

We arrived at the Rock of Cashel around lunchtime. Before touring the Rock, we had lunch at Granny’s Kitchen, a cheerful little cafe nearly in the shadow of the hill. Vegetable soup, a bacon and cheese toastie (much better than the previous evening’s toastie), and a ploughman’s lunch plate of bread and cheese.
Granny's Kitchen Granny's Kitchen Granny's Kitchen
Vegetable Soup Cheese and bacon toastie Ploughman's Lunch plate

The Rock of Cashel is a cathedral and its related buildings atop a hill. It’s not a particularly high hill, but it stands alone and offers a dramatic view of the surrounding countryside. It’s been used as a religious site for centuries (“Only documented to the fourth century AD”, the guide said deprecatingly), and is reputed to be where St. Patrick converted the King of Munster to Christianity.
Rock of Cashel

If we were able to arrange every detail to best suit ourselves, our visit to the Rock of Cashel would have come at a time when it was not undergoing restoration. We didn’t manage to get a good view of the whole castle.
Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

We took lots of photos at the Rock of Cashel, and unfortunately most of them are not that good. The sky held a mixture of dark clouds and open patches, so every shot had to deal with both dark shadows and bright sunlight.
Rock of Cashel

The vicar’s building has been restored to the way it was around 1500. This is a large replica of a seal that was carried by the vicars as a medieval equivalent of a company credit card; they could charge purchases to the abbey’s account by showing the seal. This system was ended after twenty years or so because it was abused.
Rock of Cashel

The view of the countryside from the Rock of Cashel. At the right of this picture, there’s a chunk of tower that fell centuries ago and has not been moved.
View from Rock of Cashel

This ninth-century sarcophagus shows Viking influence, but it is lost to history who occupied it.
Sarcophagus at Rock of Cashel

Lori enjoyed imagining what it would have been like to stand in the cathedral centuries ago.
Rock of Cashel

We were told that in the 1920s, the graveyard was getting overcrowded, so they limited new burials to people who could demonstrate a family tradition of being buried there. Apparently there are still a few living people with the right to be buried there.
Untitled

There are crosses on the site that are a millennium old, but this one is far more recent.
Rock of Cashel

We stopped by the Cork airport, because when we'd called Hertz about our accident on Monday, they'd asked me to bring the accident report to a Hertz location within a week. But when we got to the Hertz stop in the airport (after a great many roundabouts and a few wrong turns), the young man on duty was utterly uninterested in taking our accident kit. We grumbled at the pointless detour.

Our stop that night was in Kinsale, a small fishing and tourism town on the south coast of Ireland. Once again the medieval heritage was apparent in the attempts to park; I got so discombobulated by the narrow streets and complicated traffic that I missed the turn into the parking lot of our B&B - and it took me almost half an hour to get back, even with the GPS.

Lori was enchanted by the selection of tea treats that the B&B provided. The only one I remember by name was the white chocolate orange scones.
Tea at Old Presbytery

Kinsale claims to be the gourmet capital of Ireland, so we tried to have more upscale meals while we were there. For dinner, we ate at Jim Edwards.
Jim Edwards

I had a seafood chowder. This was my first encounter with seafood chowder in Ireland - and I didn’t like it very much. It had a very strongly fishy taste.
Seafood Chowder at Jim Edwards

Lori’s potato leek soup.
Untitled

I had the hake entree, because I hadn’t heard of hake. Once again it turns out that despite my attempts to eat the local specialty even when it’s seafood, I am not that much of a seafood lover - and this had a strong fishy taste.
Hake at Jim Edwards

Lori is even less of a seafood lover than I am, but she had the baked salmon because it was a seafood town. Perhaps it’s just that we’re more familiar with salmon than hake, but we both liked hers much more than mine.
Untitled

My dessert was an apple pie, and this was not a very good apple pie. Part of it, of course, was that British/Irish norms for pie are very different from American norms, so this came with a very thick crust. But even allowing for that, this was not worth finishing.
Lori liked her banoffee tart much more.
Apple pie at Jim Edwards
Banoffee Pie at Jim Edwards
apple

London and Ireland Trip, October 1: Kilkenny

Breakfast at Lawcus Farm was a three-course affair. We started out with fruit and juice (and optional granola, which we declined.)
Lawcus Farm


Next was rich, tasty porridge. Instead of sweetening it with honey, Ann Marie suggested Orchard Syrup, an Irish syrup made from boiling down apples. It was tasty enough that we brought home a bottle as a souvenir.
Porridge at Lawcus Farm
Orchard Syrup

As we were finishing our porridge, we noticed Robin the farmhand walk in with a bowl of eggs. These eggs were fried up and served to us only a few minutes after they were laid. At this point in the narration, I feel I’m supposed to rhapsodize about what a difference it makes to have such super-fresh eggs - but my palate is coarse enough that I did not notice a difference between this super-fresh egg and a nicely fried supermarket egg. Even so, it was well cooked and it tasted very nice.
We were told that the bacon might or might not have come from Lawcus Farm pigs; they serve more bacon than their own pigs provide, so they have to make up the difference with bacon from other farmers in the village. So there’s some question of whether the bacon is super-local or merely very local, but it was very tasty and savory. This was a great Irish fry.
Irish Fry at Lawcus Farm

Lori chose pancakes instead. As I look at this picture, I’m surprised to see sautéed mushrooms on the plate; I suspect Lori handed them to me.
Pancakes at Lawcus Farm

While Lori got ready, I overheard Mark giving other guests a tour of Lawcus Farm, and I tagged along.
Lawcus Farm
Lawcus Farm
Lawcus Farm

Mark said that everything in the place came from “picking” - pieces and scraps he’d picked up from other buildings. For example, the flagstones in the floor in the large dining room had come from another house, whose owner had had to take up the stones to bring the construction up to code. And the windows of our room (the upper floor on the left) had come from an old church that had been torn down.
Lawcus Farm

A panorama of Lawcus Farm:
Lawcus Farm Panorama

In the bar, Mark gave us each a shot of poitín, an Irish spirit (distilled from barley, potatoes, or whatnot) that occupies the same cultural niche and former historic illegal status as moonshine in the US.(For further reading: http://www.thejournal.ie/poitin-ireland-1175839-Nov2013/) Mark said that this was the good stuff; this is what the police would drink. I don’t remember much of the taste; it was potent and pretty smooth.

We set off to a Farm and Folk Museum that Mark had told us about in nearby Bennettsbridge. This museum is run by one man, Seamus Lawlor, in a barn or large shed behind his house.
Farm and Folk Museum

This picture of monuments outside the museum is interesting to me for two reasons. The monuments for the evictions during the Great Famine and for the invasion by Oliver Cromwell suggest to me an anger about those cruelties that persists to the present day. And the monument in the middle begins “In proud and loving memory of James Lawlor who was founder, member, and chairman of the first Irish Transport and General Workers Union branch in Co Kilkenny in 1917”, and I suspect that James Lawlor was an ancestor of Seamus Lawlor who runs the museum.
Farm and Folk Museum
Farm and Folk Museum

In retrospect, I think we may have overestimated how strongly Mark was recommending the Farm and Folk Museum. Here’s the thing: there is a fine line between “museum” and “barn full of junk”, and this place only stayed on the “museum” side of that line because of a smattering of handwritten labels. (We have visited places that were on the wrong side of that line, particularly the Tower Museum in Colorado.)
Farm and Folk Museum
Farm and Folk Museum Farm and Folk Museum
Farm and Folk Museum Farm and Folk Museum
Farm and Folk Museum Farm and Folk Museum

But as we looked around, we saw a story of affection for the life of farmers of the 19th and 20th centuries. We read some nice tales and poems of threshing day, when a community’s threshing machine would visit one farmer’s fields and there would be a party of harvesting and gathering.
Farm and Folk Museum Farm and Folk Museum

And there were clear signs that Seamus Lawlor still holds a grudge over the famine times. That was more interesting to me than the Famine itself; I know about the Famine, but I was not expecting it to be still aflame in the hearts of Irish.
Farm and Folk Museum

We got a nice view of the bridge that gave Bennettsbridge its name:
Bennettsbridge

From the museum, it was just around the corner to Nicholas Mosse pottery, a ceramic factory whose work has appeared in tourist stores. We watched people work, shopped for pottery, and got a little snack: local apple juice for me, Diet Coke with a local marketing campaign for Lori.
Drinks at Mosse Pottery

The drive back to Stoneyford gave us a moment when we weren’t using my phone as a GPS, so Lori had a chance to take a few pictures of the road. I may not have yet ranted about how narrow Ireland roads are. So many of the roads are about one and a half car widths… and the speed limits are high; the speed limit on a road like this might be 80 km/h (50 mph). Look for the car visible in one of the pictures to show just how narrow these roads are - and remember that these are two-way roads.
Road to Kilkenny Road near Kilkenny
Untitled Untitled
Untitled

I’m particularly fond of this picture.
Road near Kilkenny

We ate lunch at Knockdrinna Farm Shop, an award-winning cheesemaker in Stoneyford
Knockdrinna Farm Shop

We had a couple of interesting juices:
Juices at Knockdrinna

We ordered a plate of their cheeses - but unfortunately, I don’t remember them. I know that there were two cow’s milk cheeses, two goat’s milk cheeses, and one sheep’s milk cheese.
Knockdrinna Cheese sampler

For an entree, we shared a chicken and ham pie. It was tasty, but it had barely any ham.
Chicken and Leek Pie at Knockdrinna

From there we drove into Kilkenny to see the sights. We parked downtown and walked several blocks through soft rain to Kilkenny Castle.

Butter Slip is a narrow covered alley that got its name because that was where butter was sold in medieval times.
Buttter Slip, Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle was our first encounter with a Downton Abbey-like estate, with doughty walls and beautiful gardens. It was occupied until 1935, but then everything in the castle was auctioned off and it was left vacant. It was sold to the city in 1957 for 50 pounds.
Kilkenny Castle Kilkenny Castle Gardens Kilkenny Castle Gardens
Kilkenny Castle Gardens

There was work being done on the crest at the main entrance, which yielded an entertaining juxtaposition of old and new.
Kilkenny Castle

The east wall that would have been the original entrance when the castle was built in 1195 has been torn down centuries ago.
Kilkenny Castle

One little curiosity of the restored castle: they had a gizmo for enclosing your wet umbrella in a plastic bag for the protection of the antiquities.
Untitled

Kilkenny Castle didn’t allow pictures of the interior. It was pretty (mostly in a turn-of-the-century style matching the last inhabitants) and fancy enough that we bought a book on the castle to get some pictures.

The River Nore as viewed from the castle.
From Kilkenny Castle

A pub sign worth commemorating from our walk back into Kilkenny:
Kilkenny

A few miscellaneous photos of Kilkenny city streets:
Kilkenny Kilkenny Kilkenny

Lori’s aunt Helen had particularly recommended that we visit the Black Abbey in Kilkenny. We climbed up to the top of the hill, only to discover that the building we were heading to was not actually the Black Abbey - it was St. Canice Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. The round tower is one of the two round towers in Ireland that tourists are allowed to climb. I climbed up the stairs, but the door inside was closed.
St. Canice Cathedral

We found the Black Abbey on our second try. I expected it to be more black. It turns out that it’s called the Black Abbey because it’s a Dominican abbey, and black is the traditional color of the Dominicans.
Black Abbey

Another picture from our walk downhill. This was just a canal running through the town, but I think this is one of the prettiest pictures I got.
Kilkenny
St. Mary's Cathedral

The Black Abbey was open to tourists, so were able to go in. The stained glass was particularly beautiful. As we were looking at the windows, a group of monks came in for evening vespers. We worried that we were intruding on their prayers and tried to leave quietly. As we left, one elderly monk caught our eye and gave us a blessing with a gesture and a smile. He did this with no break in the prayers he was singing. Lori said he just had this aura of kindness.
Black Abbey Black Abbey

Another picture about the sometimes-difficult interactions between traditional medieval streets and modern cars. This particular street was one-way, at least - but cars of many different colors had left paint on the edges of this arch.
Narrow Arch on a Street

We ate dinner at a pub called Kyteler’s Inn, founded in 1324. Alice Kyteler, the mistress of the tavern, apparently outlived four husbands, but she was convicted for witchcraft (Kyteler’s material claims she was framed) and had to flee to England.
Kyteler's Inn Kyteler's Inn

Dinner was pretty touristy and disappointing. I had a fairly sad ham toastie, Lori had some chewy Irish stew.
Sad Ham Toastie Chewy Lamb Stew

The reason that we came to Kyteler’s: Mark at Lawcus Farm had suggested it as a place for Irish music. It turned out that they did not actually have music on Tuesday nights; instead they had bodhran sessions. It was extremely touristy, but I gladly took the chance to try to learn a little bodhran. It may be fairly said that I was not any good at playing the bodhran; I was slower to pick up the techniques than most, and I felt I was continually trying to catch up. But I think that I was a very good sport about it, even when the leader was razzing me about my difficulties.
Untitled