Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Locanda della Vittoria

At every turn, the Royal Victoria Hotel in Pisa reminds you that it has origins in the 10th century and has been family run for 160 years. Rambling halls that open into landings and foyers and courtyards, tall ceilings with plaster peeling in a charming way, tile floors in one room, with marble in another, and halls lined with old photographs, architectural drawings, portraits and sketches. Our window faced the Arno river, and when the sun was shining, light reflecting off the water flickered on the walls of our room. Each bedroom had a table facing the window, with a single straight-backed chair, waiting to hold a portable typewriter and a bottle of wine.

On the way to The Attraction we wandered through narrow streets streaming with bicycles, browsed markets, and crossed the Piazza del Cavalieri, where pedestrians, bikes, scooters and cars are all welcome to find their own path. We found (an) Armani's apartment. And then we glimpsed the tip of the tower.

To be continued...

Monday, November 17, 2008

A culinary culmination

Tonight was the culmination of the coolest culinary thing I've ever done. For dinner I made tagliatelle al tartufo, tagliatelle pasta with white truffle, butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano, using white truffles we hunted in the hills of San Miniato, Tuscany, Italy. I also made truffle butter for freezing and truffle oil for refrigerating. The white truffles from San Miniato are among the most sought-after in the world. The aroma is intoxicating, intensely garlicky but not sharp, with other fragrant notes. Think "Garlique (for Men)" by Versace. We'll post more about the truffle hunt in the days to come.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Last Night in Italy

Tomorrow we head back to Dublin after an amazing week in Italy. Looking out the window just now, Bill observed many people walking by eating gelato. Gelato is one of the great things about Italy. That, and truffle dogs, vin santo, wild boar, beauty, history, olive trees, friendly cats, cheese, leather, cured meats, marble, red wine, paintings, cathedrals, lardo, espresso and towers leaning and otherwise. Everyone should come to Tuscany. Now! (Based on the number of American accents I've heard in Florence, many of you have!)

Check back for our accounts of Pisa, Lucca, Montaione, and Florence.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Week That Was In Ireland

A travelogue by Charles Lamb

Celia and I returned to Dublin Thursday, October 30. On Saturday Bill and Sharon drove us to Carlingford.

The next day we bussed to Howth for a nice Sunday.

We have been busy this week. We DARTed (train) into Dublin each day. We ate fish and chips at Leo Burdock’s and strolled the streets. The GPO (General Post Office) was the headquarters of the Rising in 1916 and it was bombarded by a British ship which came up the Liffey River a block away.

Celia is standing on the corner beside the O’Connell Statue on O’Connell Street just South of the GPO.

We visited Dublin Castle and Christchurch Cathedral; both sites date back to Viking and Celtic eras near 1000 AD.

The Ireland National Museum of Archeology was nice. We saw artifacts that go back 5000 years.

Celia in Raheny, home of Bill and Sharon, with fall colors. We missed the peak of pretty colors in Northwest Arkansas this week.

The Irish were very interested in the US election and seemed to be thrilled by the profound “Yes we can.”

We toured the Guinness Storehouse, where I posed with the safe containing a simulated aliquot of the secret yeast of Andrew Guinness, which is almost as important as the secret recipe of Coca Cola.

We passed St. Andrew’s Church on the way home.

Celia has a latte in the Kilkenny Store for shopping energy.

We went to the National Library of Ireland and saw an interesting exhibition on William B. Yeats. This poem seemed apropos.

The DART provides rides from Raheny into Dublin and back.

Go East

I'm so glad Mom and Dad spent a few days on Ireland's west coast. After our world wind trip to the west with Peggy, I understand the allure of the other coast. But the east coast has its own charm and beauty, so last Saturday we took a drive up to Carlingford.

We stopped at Ballagan Point (we think) and looked for rocks. Then we proceeded to Carlingford for lunch. There were far fewer folks in town than we found during our visits last Spring. We lunched on chowder and chips and Dad and Bill shared a plate of oysters. We strolled the streets a bit viewing the various medieval sites.

On the way back to Dublin we stopped by to visit my work mate Colin and his dogs.

Pretty Refraction

I've endeavored keep a photographic record of every rainbow I see while in Ireland. Here are two excellent examples from Connemara.

At Brona's house on Sunday

From Errislannan Hill on Monday

Monday, November 3, 2008

Six Days in West Ireland

A travelogue by Celia Lamb

On Saturday, October 25, The Gunters and Lambs drove from Dublin to the Connemara region of Western Ireland. We went to the only town in the area, Clifden. There we lodged in a beautiful bed and breakfast, The Quay House, which is right on the water. Our rooms were spacious and comfortable. Sharon and Bill’s room was sort of British Colonial with zebra-skin rug on the floor. Charles and my room was more traditional with four poster bed with canopy. After settling in, we went to the city center and had a wonderful dinner at Off The Square restaurant.

On Sunday, after breakfast which included great home baked brown bread, we went into Clifden to a Connemara pony auction. The horses of Connemara and renowned for their surefootedness. Myth has it that they are descended from horses ridden by ancient Celt invaders. Charles would love to have purchased a horse but we didn’t think we could get it back to the States very easily.

Sunday afternoon we were invited to have tea and cake with Sharon’s co-worker, Brona, and her husband Conall. They were spending the holiday week-end at her family’s oceanside vacation home in Claddaghduff. It is a beautiful location up on a cliff above the Atlantic Ocean. It was quite cold so we enjoyed the peat fire going in the cottage fireplace. We scampered down rocks to a small beach area. In the summer the water is warm enough there for swimming.

Monday noon we left Clifden and drove to Galway stopping a few times for photo opportunities. Charles and I checked in to the Skeffington Arms and Bill and Sharon drove back to Dublin.

Tuesday and Wednesday we took all-day coach tours of the area. Tuesday we went to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren area of County Clare. The terrain is barren and rocky but very beautiful. Boireann, its Gaelic name, means rocky land. We had lunch in a pub in the tiny town of Doolin. The Burren interior has no settlements today because of its shortage of water. The rivers are drawn underground by the limestone permeability. There is evidence of ancient population. The portal dolmen of Poulnabrone and the nearby wedge tomb of Gleninsheen show with what pomp and ceremony the prehistoric Burren-dwellers buried their chiefs 5000 years ago. When we were at the wedge tomb, a wind came up and we were sleeted on.

Wednesday, our coach tour was to Connemara and although we had been in the region (Clifden) we had very different sights today. This region is harshly beautiful, remote and alluring country. Apparently Irish city-dwellers in search of their roots find confirmation of their Irishness in this wild western half of County Galway. We drove through tiny villages where farmers still make their living on tiny acreages lined with rock walls. Lots of sheep here. Also we saw thatched cottages. Our tour included the beautiful Klyemore Abbey. The location and the gardens surrounding the abbey are spectacular. Our last stop of the day was in the town of Maam Cross to see the cottage where The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara was filmed. It was cold and sometimes rainy both today and yesterday but the tours were very enjoyable and informative.

Thursday we walked around in Old Town Galway and visited the swans at Claddagh Quay. We did a little shopping, checked out of the hotel and headed for the train station. Our train ride back to Dublin was quite comfortable. We got back to the Gunters' and were here to welcome them home when they arrived from work.