Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The travelers were fairly non-stop in England and Scotland, so Friday we were pretty relaxed. Also, we were going to a Hooley that night and needed to conserve our energy. Hooley means "party," and the Hooley at Johnnie Fox's pub in Glencullen is supposed to be the Hooliest. We arrived for dinner at 7:30. The Hooley guests sat at long tables and enjoyed a three-course meal. The music and dancing started at 9:00. It was a little like being at a wedding reception with a great band that got everyone singing along and clapping, even if you didn't know the songs or anyone else at the party.
Even though it's impossible to sit still to Irish music, the real dancing was left to the professionals. However, just watching Irish dancing can wear you out. The festivities lasted until midnight. We expected a slight traffic jam upon leaving, but most of the participants were in no hurry to go. We had an hour drive back to the North side of Dublin, so with regret we piled into the Polo and headed out into the cold night.
Everybody gets funky at the Hooley!
After sleeping off the Hooley, we drove North of Dublin to Drogheda. One of the oldest towns in Ireland, Drogheda sits on the River Boyne. Although the town is steeped in history, we were primarily interested in finding lunch before heading to Monasterboice. So we joined the throng of Saturday shoppers wandering the streets and found some Irish sustenance. I ordered lasagna, and when asked if I wanted chips with that, I was so struck by the ludicrous question, I just said, "Sure." "And cole slaw?" "Of course!"
I know it's no worse than garlic bread and pasta, but it seems worse. You really have to shake off any latent adkins aversions to the simple starch to dine without horror in Ireland. By the way, lasagna with chips--delicious!
(Looks like I could have been at Ryan's.)
Monasterboice is the site of some of the best examples of Celtic (or High) Crosses in Irleand. The site of a 6th century Catholic monastary, Monasterboice has crosses and a round tower from the 10th century, and some other ruins from the 13th. The High Crosses at Monasterboice are carved with biblical scenes and were used to teach scripture in the absence of written texts.
Adoration by the Magi
The Incredulity of Thomas
Round towers protected the church valuables and the community from the Norse raids of the 10th and 11th century. Part watchtower, part vault, these tapering towers were typically over 100 feet tall, with a door 15-20 feet from the ground accessed with a movable ladder. The tower at Monasterboice was constructed around 968. Bill and I visited Monasterboice on our trip last Fall. Visiting again, I was particularly amazed by this tower, the perfect construction that has stood against every affront for 1000 years.
Oh, and it just happened to be my parents 46th Anniversary on November 24. Dad gave mom a necklace with an image from the Book of Kells made by the jeweler we met at the food market.
Sunday morning we set off for the West Coast. We took a taxi to Heuston station in Dublin, and a train to Ballinasloe, where due to railway works, we boarded a bus for the remaining hour to Galway. The scenery on the way to Galway is as green and sheep-filled as one has come to expect. In Galway we had a nice lunch, looked across the Atlantic and thought of home, and again, wandered city streets full of shoppers and fellow wanderers. We saw the Spanish Arch, which I learned later was part of a bastion built to protect the docks from the Spanish in the 1580s when England feared a Spanish invasion of Ireland.
Our departing train was the first full Inter-City train I've been on. The last train to Dublin on Sunday is full of students, and a few card sharks. Or one at least. Dad beat us all at hearts after claiming to have not played for 40 years.
Monday Mom, Dad and I headed into Dublin for a last bit of shopping. Bill met us for dinner, so finally, Mom and Dad had their visit to the Chipper. This was Bill and my first visit to this location of Leo Burdock's. It's not quite the same eating off of plates instead of out a paper bag while walking, but neater and more comfortable, and still quite tasty!
We took a stroll to Raheny Centre for breakfast and to buy chili makings. We thought we should start acclimating Mom and Dad's American palate. The chili was gloriously accompanied by CORN MUFFINS!!! Gastronomes take note, Irish cheddar goes quite well with buttermilk cornbread.
Mom and Dad should be back in Arkansas by 5PM CST.
We'll miss you!
Monday, November 26, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Dad also had carpaccio for starters and Mom had pumpkin soup. The three Lambs (hey, I'm still a Lamb!) had duck, whilst Bill had venison. Our duck confit portion was so large as to be almost burdensome, but it was delicious. Bill's venison was good, but a bit mono-flavored, I believe he said. I had an ice cream trio for dessert, M & D shared a creme brûlée. Bill had...a lemon something? Can't recall. As is often the case, the appetizer was my favorite part.
Carpaccio with truffle oil, parmesan shavings and red onion/rocket salad
Breaded Irish goat cheese on a portobello mushroom, topped with pesto, microgreens and red onion pickle
On Monday, Bill and I ate lunch at Cork's English Market. Bill had a South African sausage sandwich and some spicy tomato soup. I had a roast beef and horseradish sandwich. All was yummy. For dessert, a fruit custard tart. The market is much more enjoyable on a weekday. We walked through on Saturday and it was a madhouse.
What else? Bill's recent creations include a lentil, sausage, potato and spinach soup, and we've had pasta and grilled chicken salad. We also ate a frozen pizza and McDonald's. I thought it would take about six months for me to darken the door, but in the absence of Wendy's, Whataburger, Sonic, DQ, and even Shortstop, a trip through the drive-thru on a rainy Sunday evening seemed like a good idea.
The drive-thru process involves three windows. Window 1: place your order with a person. Window 2: pay a person and get napkins and ketsup. Ask about change and be told to drive to the next window. Window 3: receive food from a person. Ask about change and be told change is given at previous window. Beg to differ and manager in standard short sleeve shirt/tie combo brings change. The Big Tasty burgers were okay, but we threw the fries away. And it's not because we've forgotten what Freedom Fries taste like, people. These were yucked.
Sunday for lunch Bill and I visited the carvery at our local pub. I had a very tasty cottage pie. (Much better than the shepherd's pie* we had in Kilkenny, Mom.) Perfect for a rainy, cold day when you need energy to spend the afternoon reading in bed. Bill had bacon-wrapped chicken.
We've enjoyed some baked goods from the SuperValu--a Bramley apple tart and a mincemeat pie. Mincemeat is showing up everywhere for the holidays.
We've also grown quite fond of bourbon biscuits, and are apparently not the only ones.
*Shepherd's pie is traditionally lamb, whilst cottage pie is beef
Monday, November 19, 2007
Charles at Windsor Castle
Celia admires Henry VIII armor
View from the Eye
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Electric Kettle--By the time you've collected your cup, tea bag and spoon, the water is boiling. Also, makes quick work of cooking pasta when you start with two kettles full of hot water.
Convection/Traditional Oven combo--So far Bill likes the convection features of our oven (after he downloaded the user manual to decipher to buttons). He hasn't done any baking yet--he'll have to translate into Centigrade temps, but I'm sure he'll be fine. I haven't touched it of course, but I do like the huge red switch on the wall that shuts off power to the whole stove/oven.
Clothes washer/dryer combo--As a washer, it works great. It holds only six shirts, but those shirts will get clean. The spin cycle makes you think the apartment is about to take flight. As a dryer, this thing sucks. The combo is a nice idea. You can set a load to wash and dry, then forget it. But an average wash/dry on cold wash takes about four hours and produces incredibly wrinkly clothes. The dryer doesn't vent to the outside, so it dries by the condensation method, which best I can tell, is the basic principle that water left to its own devices will eventually evaporate. Supposedly, air heated in the drum is blown through the tumbling clothes and absorbs moisture. The wet air then passes through a heat exchanger to re-condense the water. The heat exchanger uses cold water from the cistern, which means the cistern pump turns on for 5 seconds every 15 seconds or so. Sometimes the pump likes to emit a little squeak each time it turns off. The cistern room is adjacent to our bedroom, so the pump sounds make it undesirable to run the dryer at night. (The pump provides great water pressure for the showers, so props to the pump.) Drying clothes while I sleep was one of my key life efficiencies. Also, to minimize wrinkles, I've taken to drying half a load at a time. Another downside, the dryer produces wet lint. Wet lint is gross. So, a noisy, time-consuming wrinkler. Not cool. When I get a job we'll seriously consider a laundry service. Although, I do feel European draping clothes over the radiator.
Dishwasher--totally normal, except it has a compartment which you fill with rock salt. Perhaps it has an ice cream freezer feature we have yet to discover.
Fridge--small, but keeps drinks America-level cold (and will freeze the yogurt if you're not careful).
Friday, November 16, 2007
A few more Corkorians told me they would never go to Dublin. “Dublin is not even Ireland,” one told me at Charlie's where we were listening to a trad session. “How do you mean?” I asked. “Well,” his friend said, “you know the phrase 'outside the pale.' Dublin had a wall around it. Didn't even want to be part of Ireland.” “Yeah,” the first guy said, “they've always associated more with the English.” As a matter of fact, the most famous pale (meaning territory or jurisdiction) was a 20-mile radius around Dublin fortified by the English against Gaelic Ireland, in the 14th and 15th centuries. I have hard time mustering any confederate spirit, and these guys are bringing up divisions that are 600 years old.
Turns out, Cork is a bit like Texas, my pub friends explained. Cork has always been considered a place of rebels, just like Texas. And Cork has a sing-songy accent, evocative of the Texas twang. (The Cork accent is great, and the first time I've heard “ye” used in casual conversation.) These guys are fans of Texas music, Joe Ely in particular, and Texas personalities like Willie and Kinky. I told them that KGSR and KUT stream online, and one wrote down the call letters. One guy had been to Austin and loved it. “We went to Antone's,” he said. “Oh yeah, that's great,” I said, “the blues.” Although I've never been to Antone's. Ah, Bach.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
"We would like to open a joint current account, please," I said.
"Certainly, may I see your passports and proof of address."
We presented them to the customer care specialist.
"I'm sorry, these aren't utility bills."
"But they're from the utility companies. This one even has a reference number," I said, pointing to the number.
"We need an actual bill."
"But we have to have a bank account to activate our utility contracts, otherwise we have to pay a deposit."
She said nothing, but her expression said "Not my problem."
"We have a tenancy agreement," I said hopefully, pulling it from a folder.
"I'm sorry, we can't accept that."
Sharon noticed a sign on the wall that said in the absence of a utility bill other arrangements could be made. "What about these other arrangements?"
"Here is what we require," the lady said, handing Sharon a slip of paper. It was no help. We had none of the required documents. Nothing could save us now.
"We will also accept a PPS letter," the lady offered.
"So, you won't accept our tenancy agreement as proof of address, but you'll accept a letter from the Welfare Department with our PPS numbers, for which we used our tenancy agreement as proof of address?"
I was speechless. Her unwavering confidence was unassailable. Shaken but undeterred we left the bank in search of PPS letters. The local welfare office was close by. A sign in the lobby said to go to Claims for new PPS numbers. Great. A sign in Claims said they were no longer accepting applications for new PPS numbers and to go to the office on Pearse St. in city centre. Huh? As of November of last year. Oh. Reminds me of the time we were in a Dairy Queen in Austin and listened to the drive-thru clerk tell every customer they were out of beef after each person ordered. Is it so hard to say "Welcome to Dairy Queen. I'm sorry, we're out of beef. Can I take your order?"
The lady in the welfare office on Pearse St. was very helpful and we were out of there in about ten minutes. We'll have our PPS numbers in less than ten working days. That's great, but doesn't help us get a bank account now. I was about to call a utility company and ask for something that looked more like a bill when I remembered reading that sometimes banks will accept a television license receipt as proof of address. Everyone in Ireland with a television has to pay the government €158 a year for the privilege. This is how the state television channels are funded. The funny thing is that you have to show no proof of address at all when you pay your television tax, and they will dutifully write down whatever you say is your address. I called AIB to ask if the television license would suffice as proof. It would. Éirinn go Brách!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
On Tuesday they toured the city by bus and the Thames by boat, in addition to walking almost six miles. (In contrast, I walked no miles on Tuesday. In fact, I did not even leave the apartment!) I told Mom after our climbs to the Cork Gaol and the top of Blarney that she was rated for any tourist activity. My left thigh hurt for two days after Blarney.
Celia and the Tower Bridge
Charles and the Eye
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
We offer a smallish room with an Irish King bed (same as US Queen), a full guest bathroom with tub and shower, and a continental (fend for yourself) breakfast. Accommodations can also be scrounged together for smaller guests.
Any combination of the following:
- JIF extra crunchy peanut butter
- can green chilies
- can Rotel tomatoes
- masa harina
- med-hot to hot salsas
- episodes of the next season of Battlestar Galactica
We look forward to seeing you!
Monday, November 12, 2007
Celia and Sharon enter Cork City Gaol
Today we went to the town of Blarney, home to the famous Blarney Castle. More than anything else we have seen, the castle made me realize I am actually in Ireland. The castle ruins are one of Ireland’s most famous landmarks. The Blarney Stone is located on the very top of the castle. The way up is a narrow winding stair (almost a ladder). Once you start up, you have to keep going because you can’t go back down that way. The view from the top is worth the effort. Charles kissed the blarney stone which is supposed to bestow the gift of gab. Sharon, Bill and I declined.
The grounds surrounding the castle are beautiful. Not far from the castle is an area of outcroppings of huge rocks. There is a cave which dates back to Druid times. I did think Icaught a glimpse of a little blue person.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Mom and Dad and I made it to Malahide Castle yesterday. Quite nice, and interesting as it was used as a residence until the 70s. It's handy too, just a few stops North on the DART. Thursday was a rest day (Bill and I made our trek to the Embassy). That evening we dined on the early bird dinner at Ruen Thai.
Wednesday the 'rents and I went to...Kilkenny!!! We are apparently obsessed with this town. It is a good day trip from Dublin, and I knew it was easily traversable by foot. I'll post some pics later.
I did not get either job I interviewed for, but I am undaunted! I will analyze requirements in Dublin! Or should I say, analyse.
Hope everyone has a lovely weekend!
Thursday, November 8, 2007
No one was staring at me in horror this time as I drove back through Kilkenny. The new gearbox purrs like a kitten. A kitten with a slight case of congestion, but it is a used gearbox, and the car is eleven years old. I drove the N78 through Castlecomber and Athy back to Dublin. Quite a nice drive, until I hit the M50 ring road. The N7/M50 intersection is under construction, and it is truly horrendous. I'm just glad I don't have to navigate it during the week.
I'm not sure I've truly opened my heart to Kilkenny, but I did loan my car to her for a week.
I was expecting the embassy to be like the oak-linked offices of a distinguished law firm where we would repose on leather couches eating coke floats and popcorn while a gum-smacking young lady in a smart, navy suit would push lighted buttons on a large phone on a gleaming desk, and slivers of bandstand music mixed with baseball play-by-play would float through the room when the large door behind the desk was opened to admit the next esteemed citizen.
In reality, the part of the embassy we experienced was basically a transported DMV with extra security. But, we got what we needed and the papers are flying to the states for the buyer to sign tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Look how cute!!!
We're in the oldest bar in Ireland, by the way, the Brazen Head. Libations have been served on this site since 1198. The current building dates back to 1688.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Trinity College, “College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin,“ was founded in 1592 (44 years before Harvard U.) by Queen Elizabeth I as the "mother of a university", and is the only constituent college of the University of Dublin. Trinity and the University of Dublin comprise Ireland's oldest university. Trinity is one of the seven ancient universities in the English speaking world and the only one outside the present United Kingdom. However, I felt smug knowing Darren McFadden (U. of Arkansas founded in 1871) had just tied an SEC record by rushing for 321 yards last Saturday, and nobody at Trinity could touch that performance!
These pictures show Sharon and Celia at the gate and inside Trinity College.
At the end of the day my trusty pedometer indicated we had walked 6.4 miles! No way would I walk that far in Arkansas unless I had car trouble!
Saturday we planned to visit the Red Stables Market in our park and then Malahide Castle. When I woke up I found a weary Dad on the couch saying that he had not slept a wink. Since we had the ghost tour that night I really thought Dad needed sleep, so we decided to visit the market and then hang out at the apartment. (I'll let Bill fill you in on his whereabouts.) We enjoyed crepes at the market and bought some baked goods, lamb and goat cheese. Mom and I had no trouble napping that afternoon, but Dad did not get any real sleep. We headed out around 6:00 for downtown. We looked around for a place to eat, and wound up at La Paloma, a Spanish restaurant Bill and I ate at on our first visit to Dublin.
The Ghost Tour was fun. It's a super nice bus, first of all. Our guide was quite the story teller. We heard about the scary tales Bram Stoker's mom used to tell, some famous ghosts including the Lady from the Water and the Lady in White, grave robbers and leper colonies. My favorite part was visiting some sites at night--St. Kevin's graveyard and the ancient Gates of Dublin.
After 36 hours awake, Dad slept Saturday night! Sunday we went to church and then had a carvery lunch. We talked ourselves out of any sightseeing, except for a drive to Howth and back. Bill made us Irish Stew for dinner, and then we decided we had the strength to make it to a movie (Death at a Funeral--Farce!).
Today the parents and I headed out after lunch to see The Book of Kells at Trinity University. Quite interesting and amazing. I told Bill I want one.
We walked from Trinity back up to O'Connell and wandered Henry and Talbot streets. We caught the bus around 6:20 and were so glad to have dinner waiting for us when we arrived home! Bill made tasty Irish pork sausages with lentils and spinach. We had a couple newkies in the fridge that finished the meal out just right.
Tomorrow we're riding the tour bus around Dublin.
Cool tree in St. Anne's Park
Carvery Lunch on Sunday. Dad had roast beef and we three had chicken and mushroom pie. That's my plate with no carrots!
Dad is ready to give up his seat to any elderly person in the coffee shop at Trinity U (make sure to enlarge to read sign).
Friday, November 2, 2007
Then we bought sandwiches at Spar and ate them in St. Stephen's Green park. We were kicked out at 5 o'clock sharp (herded out by a booming-voiced park guard) and shopped at St Stephens's Centre for a bit. We walked up Grafton Street amid the throng and made our way to our bus stop on Eden Quay.
Leaving St. Stephen's Green shopping center
On Grafton Street.
The excitement of the evening was when Dad left his cap on the bus, caught up to the bus at a red light and rode to the next stop, which luckily was within sight. He returned triumphant, his hog cap upon his head.
Bill met us at the pub for dinner. Mom, Dad, and I had mushroom soup (and chips) and Bill had a burger.
Today we got a late start, me the latest of all! We walked out to the beach on Bull Island and watched the ocean. We got rather chilly and had to come home and strengthen ourselves with tea and biscuits.
Tomorrow, Bill has to go back to Kilkenny to get the car (with its shiny new gearbox). I think the parents and I will visit the farmer's market and maybe Malahide Castle. Tomorrow night we're taking a Ghost Tour of Dublin.