It Begins Again…

Trip Advisor has been sending me a lot of e-mail lately, telling me how cheap it is to go to Ireland again. Or to lots of other places. These e-mail temptations always seem to show up while I’m trying to concentrate on work, and not on how much I’d like to be traveling. So, to take some of the sting out of them, I decided it was time to start planning the next trip.

I’m thinking spring/summer of 2015 for this one. That gives me about a year and a half to figure out what I want to do. After some thinking, agonizing, and discussing, I’ve decided that I’m not returning to Ireland this trip1, but to move slightly east and see England and Scotland2.

So, with that decision made, I did what I always do when starting a new project: I hit the bookstore for research material. I was sad to see that For Dummies books seems to have stopped making travel books – those were always a good starting point for research. I’ve tracked down and ordered the latest editions of their books for London, England, and Scotland, and grabbed a few Lonely Planet guides to get me going.

It's a good start, I think.

It’s a good start, I think.

So, that’s the plan. I know that there are a few places that I really want to see:

  • London
  • Oxford
  • Edinburgh
  • Tintagel
  • Stonehenge

I’ll have to figure out what’s practical, and how best to do it.

Here we go again!

  1. Though, as I type this, there’s a slideshow of my Ireland pictures showing on my TV, and I begin to second-guess that decision. I love Ireland so much! []
  2. And maybe Wales. I dunno. We’ll see as the planning progresses. []
Posted in England/Scotland 2015, Planning | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Music at McGann’s

I just got e-mail that the video I made of part of a session at McGann’s Pub is ready on YouTube. So, here it is.

Posted in Doolin, Ireland 2013 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Mostly Churches, and the Long Journey Home

I had planned to write this yesterday, but circumstances conspired to prevent that. So, that’s the first thing to get done this morning1.

On my last day in Dublin, I was dragging my feet a little in the morning, and didn’t make it down to breakfast before 9:30, when they stopped serving. I’ve only had breakfast at Kilronan House twice in my week’s stay here, and once was very rushed so I just had cereal. The day I took my time, it was very nice, but the scheduling has just not worked out very well.

But I headed down to St. Stephen’s Green, planning to start the day with a ride on the Hop On Hop Off bus, seeing as my ticket from the day before was still good. I stopped at the Marks & Spencer’s on Grafton street to have a bacon roll and some juice, and then went and rode the bus tour right around the circuit.

The ride went through Phoenix Park. This is the phoenix monument in the middle of the park. The name of the park, though, comes from the Irish words for Clear Water - they just sound like Phoenix.

The ride went through Phoenix Park. This is the phoenix monument in the middle of the park. The name of the park, though, comes from the Irish words for Clear Water – they just sound like Phoenix.

The band dark plaques set in the base of the obelisk are made of Napoleon's captured canons, melted down to celebrate Wellington's victories. I thought I would spend some time in Phoenix Park, but it would take me the entire day to do the park justice. I decided I had other things I preferred to do.

The band dark plaques set in the base of the obelisk are made of Napoleon’s captured canons, melted down to celebrate Wellington’s victories. I thought I would spend some time in Phoenix Park, but it would take me the entire day to do the park justice. I decided I had other things I preferred to do.

Again, Dublin Castle had no tours running, due to the official suites being occupied. I could have gone on to the grounds, but I had done that last trip, and it was the interior I really wanted to see. So I waited until Christchurch Cathedral before getting off.

There was some sort of fair going on at Christchurch. I got a really tasty bratwurst and an ice cream cone for lunch and some very nice fudge to take home.

There was some sort of fair going on at Christchurch. I got a really tasty bratwurst and an ice cream cone for lunch and some very nice fudge to take home.

I didn't get inside Christchurch last visit. It's beautiful and impressive.

I didn’t get inside Christchurch last visit. It’s beautiful and impressive.

This is the resting place of Strongbow, who is an interesting figure in Irish history. He was an Anglo-Norman knight who came to help the king of Leinster regain his kingdom. Some see him as the beginning of English rule, while others see him as a liberator. He was a popular figure in Kilkenny; less so in other parts of the country.

This is the resting place of Strongbow, who is an interesting figure in Irish history. He was an Anglo-Norman knight who came to help the king of Leinster regain his kingdom. Some see him as the beginning of English rule, while others see him as a liberator. He was a popular figure in Kilkenny; less so in other parts of the country.

The altar of the Christchurch.

The altar of the Christchurch.

The engraved stone pulpits and the eagle lecterns are traditional.

The engraved stone pulpits and the eagle lecterns are traditional.

So, for an extra four euros, in addition to admission to Christchurch, you could get a tour of the bell tower and a chance to ring the bells. It meant more stairs2, but I really couldn’t pass up the chance. The stairs were narrow, low, irregular spirals, as usual.

Climbing up the stairs in the transept, you then have to cross the roof of Christchurch to the bell tower. The view is stunning.

Climbing up the stairs in the transept, you then have to cross the roof of Christchurch to the bell tower. The view is stunning.

The Ringer's Room. No bells here; they're in another room up above. The man on the left is the Ringing Master. He was wonderfully mad about bells and the ringing, and gave us a great lesson on the history and technique of bell ringing.

The Ringer’s Room. No bells here; they’re in another room up above. The man on the left is the Ringing Master. He was wonderfully mad about bells and the ringing, and gave us a great lesson on the history and technique of bell ringing.

We didn't get to ring the main bells - they're set upside down and have a good chance to drag a novice ringer up to the ceiling if you over-pull. We rang bells that were hanging mouth-down, using a technique called chiming, which is a sort of weird counterintuitive method. I wasn't able to get a picture of me ringing the bells, but here are some others in the group.

We didn’t get to ring the main bells – they’re set upside down and have a good chance to drag a novice ringer up to the ceiling if you over-pull. We rang bells that were hanging mouth-down, using a technique called chiming, which is a sort of weird counterintuitive method.
I wasn’t able to get a picture of me ringing the bells, but here are some others in the group.

The crypts below Christchurch are extensive. A lot of the treasures of the cathedral are on display down there.

The crypts below Christchurch are extensive. A lot of the treasures of the cathedral are on display down there.

One of the things on display is a case with a cat and a rat. One chased the other into the pipe organ, and they were mummified there.

One of the things on display is a case with a cat and a rat. One chased the other into the pipe organ, and they were mummified there.

Now, a little more than a year ago, the heart of the patron saint of Dublin, St. Laurence O’Toole, was stolen from the cathedral. I wanted to find out what had happened with that, so I asked at the information desk. The heart has not been recovered at this time, and the police haven’t made any progress on locating the thieves. Very unfortunate.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is just a few blocks down the hill from Christchurch, so I walked down there next.

One of the main sections of St. Patrick's Cathedral is the hall where the colours of the Irish regiments hang. By tradition, when an Irish regiment is disbanded or retired, its colours are hung in this hall until they rot away.

One of the main sections of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the hall where the colours of the Irish regiments hang. By tradition, when an Irish regiment is disbanded or retired, its colours are hung in this hall until they rot away.

All the cathedrals and churches have monuments, paid for by wealthy parish members for their loved ones. St. Patrick's has more than any other church I've seen.

All the cathedrals and churches have monuments, paid for by wealthy parish members for their loved ones. St. Patrick’s has more than any other church I’ve seen.

I don’t have a good picture of the whole interior; the place was just too full of people for that.

This statue was said to be St. Patrick, but really it was cobbled together from older statues of other people that were found lying around the city. They couldn't find any good feet, so a labourer just hacked them out of stone - they look terribly out of place compared to the detailed carving on the rest of the pieces.

This statue was said to be St. Patrick, but really it was cobbled together from older statues of other people that were found lying around the city. They couldn’t find any good feet, so a labourer just hacked them out of stone – they look terribly out of place compared to the detailed carving on the rest of the pieces.

Jonathan Swift is a big deal at St. Patrick's. He was Dean for a fair long while, very active in the city politics, and was buried here. Beside him is buried his companion, Esther Johnson. No one is certain what the relationship between the two was - some say friends, some say lovers, some say they were secretly married, some say they were half-brother and half-sister (Swift's childhood is kind of strange, so the records are not clear).

Jonathan Swift is a big deal at St. Patrick’s. He was Dean for a fair long while, very active in the city politics, and was buried here. Beside him is buried his companion, Esther Johnson. No one is certain what the relationship between the two was – some say friends, some say lovers, some say they were secretly married, some say they were half-brother and half-sister (Swift’s childhood is kind of strange, so the records are not clear).

In among the monuments for wealthy, important folks, there's a plaque on the wall to one Alexander McGee. This was a long-time servant of Swift's, and Swift had him interred in the walls of the cathedral both as thanks for his loyal service and to point out the equal value the church should place on the souls of the rich and the poor.

In among the monuments for wealthy, important folks, there’s a plaque on the wall to one Alexander McGee. This was a long-time servant of Swift’s, and Swift had him interred in the walls of the cathedral both as thanks for his loyal service and to point out the equal value the church should place on the souls of the rich and the poor.

"Here is laid the Body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology, Dean of this Cathedral Church, where fierce Indignation can no longer injure the Heart. Go forth, Voyager, and copy, if you can, this vigorous (to the best of his ability) Champion of Liberty. He died on the 19th Day of the Month of October, A.D. 1745, in the 78th Year of his Age." Yeah, Swift wrote his own epitaph. He was like that.

“Here is laid the Body
of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology,
Dean of this Cathedral Church,
where fierce Indignation
can no longer
injure the Heart.
Go forth, Voyager,
and copy, if you can,
this vigorous (to the best of his ability)
Champion of Liberty.
He died on the 19th Day of the Month of October,
A.D. 1745, in the 78th Year of his Age.”
Yeah, Swift wrote his own epitaph. He was like that.

Okay, remember last trip, I got a picture of these strange sculptures in front of St. Patrick's. They are apparently representative of needles and pins, to honour the Royal School of Needlecraft, who produced eight beautiful altar cloths for the cathedral that are still in use today. Look carefully at the hole at the top of the tall one.

Okay, remember last trip, I got a picture of these strange sculptures in front of St. Patrick’s. They are apparently representative of needles and pins, to honour the Royal School of Needlecraft, who produced eight beautiful altar cloths for the cathedral that are still in use today.
Look carefully at the hole at the top of the tall one.

Yes, some clever person has put a small stuffed camel in the eye of the needle. It's tied in there with a fine golden chain. Street commentary.

Yes, some clever person has put a small stuffed camel in the eye of the needle. It’s tied in there with a fine golden chain. Street commentary.

After St. Patrick’s, I walked back up to Christchurch, took a left, and came to St. Audoen’s in a couple of blocks. I’d seen St. Audoen’s before, at night, on the Ghost Bus tour last trip. It’s the oldest continuously operating parish church in Dublin.

It doesn't look nearly as sinister in the day time.

It doesn’t look nearly as sinister in the day time.

The roof was removed from about two-thirds of the church as the parish shrank and grew poorer. Part of the roofless church is left open to the elements.

The roof was removed from about two-thirds of the church as the parish shrank and grew poorer. Part of the roofless church is left open to the elements.

Another part of the roofless church has been roofed over and turned into a bit of a museum. It's a small museum, but really quite beautiful, and with some great folks working there. John took this picture, and we talked for quite some time about the history of the church, of Ireland, of Canada, and lots of other stuff. Very friendly, very knowledgable. What's that on the wall behind me? The seal of St. Anne, which was used to seal legal documents and contracts. Not this big one, of course. This one was symbolic, and used to swear oaths and such.

Another part of the roofless church has been roofed over and turned into a bit of a museum. It’s a small museum, but really quite beautiful, and with some great folks working there. John took this picture, and we talked for quite some time about the history of the church, of Ireland, of Canada, and lots of other stuff. Very friendly, very knowledgable.
What’s that on the wall behind me? The seal of St. Anne, which was used to seal legal documents and contracts. Not this big one, of course. This one was symbolic, and used to swear oaths and such.

Quite a contrast to the cathedrals. St. Audoen's is tiny, beautiful, and perfect.

Quite a contrast to the cathedrals. St. Audoen’s is tiny, beautiful, and perfect.

The lucky stone of St. Audoen's. There's a long write-up on the history of the stone, and all the strange things and miracles attributed to it. John told me to be sure and touch it, as it would grant me luck for a year.

The lucky stone of St. Audoen’s. There’s a long write-up on the history of the stone, and all the strange things and miracles attributed to it. John told me to be sure and touch it, as it would grant me luck for a year.

It was getting late in the afternoon by that point, so I made my way along the Liffey to the Brazen Head, where I was going to be attending a dinner with some storytelling and music. I got there early, so I had a drink in the oldest part of the oldest tavern in Dublin, drinking where Vikings drank in the 12th century. And, of course, my picture of that part didn’t turn out at all.

The Brazen Head exterior. The interior has an open courtyard, surround by little rooms, each with a little bar. Upstairs are some nice private dining rooms.

The Brazen Head exterior. The interior has an open courtyard, surround by little rooms, each with a little bar. Upstairs are some nice private dining rooms.

The dinner was great. Johnny was the host, and gave us a lot of good and entertaining information about the lives and beliefs of common folk in Ireland. One of my favourite bits was his talk about the fairy world - Johnny did an excellent job of explaining the magical thinking that led to the development of the fairy faiths.

The dinner was great. Johnny was the host, and gave us a lot of good and entertaining information about the lives and beliefs of common folk in Ireland. One of my favourite bits was his talk about the fairy world – Johnny did an excellent job of explaining the magical thinking that led to the development of the fairy faiths.

And then it was ten o’clock, and I made my way back to the B&B. Next morning, I wanted to get to the airport in good time, and spend an hour or so in the Aer Lingus business class lounge, doing up this post.

Well, it didn’t work out. After security, which was very busy and rather slow, I had to go through US Customs preclearance, which was even slower and busier. I made it through that, eventually, and then had to go through a second security screening – again, very busy and slow. At that point, I was nowhere near the business lounge, and there was only about forty minutes before my plane; this out of the three hours I had budgeted.

On the flight back, I sat beside a lovely woman named Joanne, who just happened to have written a paper on an important 16th century play back in 1975 or so. It was being staged for the first time in 450 years, and she had been invited by the university to attend, as her paper has for years been the definitive work on the subject. We had a great conversation covering history and politics and the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s and lots of other things. It was absolutely delightful.

And then I was in Chicago, and got sent to the wrong gate, and almost missed my plane back to Winnipeg. I was tired and frustrated and grumpy, having been up for about 22 hours straight, and I was very glad to make it home.

And that’s it for this trip. I’m already starting to think about the next one.

  1. It’s not really first. I’ve already put laundry on, dealt with some e-mail, and gone out to busy some bread. But still. []
  2. 86, they told me this time. I really don’t know what this obsession is with counting them. It only makes things worse. []
Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Another Delay

It’s been a long day, and I’m exhausted. I’ve got to get up moderately early to get to the airport for my flight home, so I’m going to finish up today’s blog post tomorrow morning at the airport. Sorry about the delay, but I am wiped.

Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | 4 Comments

Family Day

Today, I met up with my brother, Al; my sister-in-law, Daph; my nephew, Ryan; and my niece, Keira. We got together at the spot on the north side of St. Stephen’s Green where the tour buses stop, and tried to get on a Viking Splash tour, but it’s a Friday, halfway through June, and a lot of school groups had booked the tours right up until 5:30. We decided to see how we were doing towards the end of the day, and maybe try and get on it then1 if we were up to it.

So, instead we got on the City Sightseeing Hop On, Hop Off tour. I had been predisposed towards them – there are two companies running these tours in Dublin – and the gentleman running the tour offered me a deal because I had gone on the City Sightseeing tours in Belfast. That made it an easy choice.

We were looking at three stops: Dublin Castle, Dublinia, and the Guinness Storehouse. But Dublin Castle was off limits today, due to some important heads of state staying there – I don’t know who, but it was probably connected to the G8 session starting up in Fermanagh next week.

Dublinia, though, was open for business. Again, there were lots of school groups in there, but we were able to work our way around them.

Dublinia, though, was open for business. Again, there were lots of school groups in there, but we were able to work our way around them.

Dublinia is a wonderful little museum aimed at kids that shows Viking Dublin, medieval Dublin, and the way the information was discovered. Among the things they have is a chain coif and a full helmet that kids can try on.

Dublinia is a wonderful little museum aimed at kids that shows Viking Dublin, medieval Dublin, and the way the information was discovered. Among the things they have is a chain coif and a full helmet that kids can try on.

They also had some slave collars that the kids just had to try on.

They also had some slave collars that the kids just had to try on.

Keira made a new friend who led her astray. They both wound up in the stocks.

Keira made a new friend who led her astray. They both wound up in the stocks.

And, of course, there were helmets, shields, and swords in the gift shop, so the kids had to attack each other.

And, of course, there were helmets, shields, and swords in the gift shop, so the kids had to attack each other.

The next place we went was the Guinness Storehouse. Al and Daph had gone on the tour about nine years ago, with a newborn Ryan on their backs. They had had a wonderful time, and were excited to go on it again.

Have to say, we were all pretty disappointed.

From what I understand, Guinness is no longer Irish-owned, but has been sold to the Italian corporation, Diageo. Al and Daph had described a tour rich in history and story, with lots of interesting facts and cool things to see and do. We all found that the tour was bland, uninteresting, and mainly focused on extracting more money from people. It was also incredibly crowded – we made it all the way up to the Gravity Bar, which was a pretty cool room, but Al and Daph didn’t even want to stay to have their “free”2 Guinness.

Still, there were a couple of cool things.

Here are the kids by the waterfall. They were fascinated by the fact that, in the water overhead, there were coins that were not being washed over the falls.

Here are the kids by the waterfall. They were fascinated by the fact that, in the water overhead, there were coins that were not being washed over the falls.

This was kinda neat. It's a forced perspective room that lets you recreate one of the iconic Guinness advertisements.

This was kinda neat. It’s a forced perspective room that lets you recreate one of the iconic Guinness advertisements.

There's a great view from the Gravity Bar at the top of the tour, but really, not worth it.

There’s a great view from the Gravity Bar at the top of the tour, but really, not worth it.

And then we caught the bus back to Temple Bar, wandered a bit until we found someplace to eat, had dinner, and then I walked everyone back to Merrion Square for them to catch the bus back to where they’re staying.

Have to say, it was a wonderful day. It was great to spend some time with the family, and lots of fun with the kids.

So, thanks to Al, Daph, Ryan, and Keira for meeting me in Dublin, and hanging out with me for the day. I had an awesome time.

Tomorrow is my last day. I’m getting back on the Hop On Hop Off bus, and I’ll try to squeeze in one or two other places I want to see.

Then I’m back on the plane on Sunday.

  1. Spoiler: We didn’t get back for the Viking Splash. We were having dinner around that time, and then it was time for folks to get back to Leixhill. []
  2. Adult admission is 16.50. So, that’s a pretty pricey free pint. []
Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Rocks Everywhere

It was raining when I got up yesterday morning. And it rained as I hurried down to the tourist office where the tour bus was leaving at ten to seven. And it rained all the way to Cashel. Joseph, our driver, was awesome, keeping up a fun running commentary, peppered with singing songs1 and telling jokes and stories.

By the time we got off the bus near Cashel, the rain had stopped.

Our first view of the Rock of Cashel from the road. I had an almost overwhelming urge to say, "It's only a model."

Our first view of the Rock of Cashel from the road. I had an almost overwhelming urge to say, “It’s only a model.”

You can see that there’s some restoration work being done on one section of the chapel, but the majority of the site was open. We didn’t have time for a guided tour, but it was enough time to see pretty much everything there.

It's not a huge site, but it is imposing. With the number of folks on our tour, it was a bit of a challenge getting a wide shot with only a couple of people in it.

It’s not a huge site, but it is imposing. With the number of folks on our tour, it was a bit of a challenge getting a wide shot with only a couple of people in it.

Like a lot of old churches, abbeys, etc., the site was in use as a graveyard long after the buildings fell into ruin.

Like a lot of old churches, abbeys, etc., the site was in use as a graveyard long after the buildings fell into ruin.

Looking through the doors in the main chapel.

Looking through the doors in the main chapel.

In the main chapel.

In the main chapel.

Some of the tombs and markers date back to the 10th century.

Some of the tombs and markers date back to the 10th century.

The round tower is in pretty good repair - at least on the outside - but we're still not allowed to climb it.

The round tower is in pretty good repair – at least on the outside – but we’re still not allowed to climb it. See that little bit of blue in the sky? It’s turning out to be a nice day.

This is a big piece of wall - part of one corner - that has fallen off the front tower. Not recently, though. It's been there a long time.

This is a big piece of wall – part of one corner – that has fallen off the front tower. Not recently, though. It’s been there a long time.

A little ruined church down the hill from the Rock. No time to go see it closer, though.

A little ruined church down the hill from the Rock. No time to go see it closer, though.

The tower above me does not look as if it's pleased that I'm there.

The tower above me does not look as if it’s pleased that I’m there.

In the gatehouse that makes up the official entryway to the site, they've restored a couple of rooms to give you an idea of what the inside of the various buildings would have looked like. This is the kitchen.

In the gatehouse that makes up the official entryway to the site, they’ve restored a couple of rooms to give you an idea of what the inside of the various buildings would have looked like. This is the kitchen.

The high table, with a nice tapestry hanging behind it.

The high table, with a nice tapestry hanging behind it.

The loft facing the high table, and the decorative roof.

The loft facing the high table, and the decorative roof.

Then it was back on the bus and down to Blarney Castle. It was far more busy there than at Cashel, and much busier than the last time I visited. I had been trying to decide if I was going to climb to the top and kiss the stone again, but by the time I got to the castle, there was a line-up of about twenty people waiting just to get in to the castle, never mind waiting at the top to kiss the stone. I decided I didn’t need to wait in that line, so I went to see other stuff on the grounds.

But I did need to take a picture or two of the castle.

But I did need to take a picture or two of the castle.

You can see that the weather has really lightened up.

You can see that the weather has really lightened up.

But yeah, very crowded.

But yeah, very crowded.

It being summer, rather than fall like last visit, things are far more colourful. Except the poison garden, which was not at all colourful so I didn't take a new picture of it.

It being summer, rather than fall like last visit, things are far more colourful. Except the poison garden, which was not at all colourful so I didn’t take a new picture of it.

The Rock Close in summer has a lot of little waterfalls coming out of cracks in the rocks.

The Rock Close in summer has a lot of little waterfalls coming out of cracks in the rocks.

The woven tunnel of willows is also far more impressive when its green, rather than just bare branches.

The woven tunnel of willows is also far more impressive when its green, rather than just bare branches.

People have started leaving coins on the Witch's Stone. Last time I was here, there was just a red berry in her mouth.

People have started leaving coins on the Witch’s Stone. Last time I was here, there was just a red berry in her mouth.

After Blarney2, we headed back towards Cork City.

I have a number of pictures of Cork from my last visit, but I never did get a good picture of this monument. So I did this time.

I have a number of pictures of Cork from my last visit, but I never did get a good picture of this monument. So I did this time.

I never made it to the English Market on my last trip. It's a huge enclosed market that runs every day. Lots of fresh meat, fresh fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh bread, fresh (and aged) cheese, and so on. Had lunch in a little cafe upstairs - a couple of slices of roast pork loin with applesauce and lettuce on a fresh roll.

I never made it to the English Market on my last trip. It’s a huge enclosed market that runs every day. Lots of fresh meat, fresh fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh bread, fresh (and aged) cheese, and so on. Had lunch in a little cafe upstairs – a couple of slices of roast pork loin with applesauce and lettuce on a fresh roll.

The market was pretty bustling. Lots of locals, lots of tourists.

The market was pretty bustling. Lots of locals, lots of tourists.

This was the point where I got a call from my brother and we arranged a meeting place in Dublin to go do some sightseeing together. That’s what today’s agenda is.

And then we were on the road back to Dublin. We had a brief rest stop in Cahir, where there was another castle. Because there are close to 3000 castles in Ireland, so you’re never far from one.

Not much time here. Just enough to get a picture or two of the castle...

Not much time here. Just enough to get a picture or two of the castle…

...the Abounding Fish statue...

…the Abounding Fish statue…

...and the very cool cenotaph in the garden of remembrance. The cenotaph is made of locally found stone - you can even see carvings on some of the pieces.

…and the very cool cenotaph in the garden of remembrance. The cenotaph is made of locally found stone – you can even see carvings on some of the pieces.

And then straight back to Dublin.

Now, time for breakfast, and then go meet Al, Daph, and the kids.

  1. As he was carefully maneuvering the little tour bus through the narrow, windy streets around the tourist office, he started humming the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. []
  2. And a bit of an adventure trying to track down the seven people who didn’t make it back to the bus at the appointed time. []
Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | 2 Comments

Postponement

Okay, folks, I’m back from my 12-hour tour today, and I’ve processed all the pictures. But I am very tired. I was out of the B&B by 6:10 this morning, and didn’t get back until after 8:00 this evening. I am wiped.

Thus, I am going to bed. I’ll get up early to do a real post tomorrow. Sorry about that.

Why am I bothering to post? Mainly to reassure my parents that I’m not dead in a ditch over here. I’m alive and well, Mom and Dad, just tired.

Here’s a little something to tide you over.

I was lamenting the other day that, instead of swans, the ponds in St. Stephen's Green were full of gulls. Walking home this evening, I passed the pool and saw not only swans, but cygnets, as well. I am relieved.

I was lamenting the other day that, instead of swans, the ponds in St. Stephen’s Green were full of gulls. Walking home this evening, I passed the pool and saw not only swans, but cygnets, as well. I am relieved.

Tomorrow, after I get the post up and have breakfast, I’m meeting Al, Daphne, Ryan, and Keira at St. Stephen’s Green, and we’re going to do some sightseeing together. That’ll be fun.

But bed now.

Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013, Planning | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Terrible Beauty

Today was a pretty unplanned day. The tour I had booked was canceled1, so I was on my own with nothing scheduled. I slept in a bit, had a nice breakfast at Kilronan House, and then walked down to the big tourist information office on Suffolk Street to see if there was an interesting walking tour I could take.

It was pretty grey when I left the B&B, but the sky was nice and blue by the time I made it down to Grafton Street. I got overly optimistic at that point, and decided it was going to be another beautiful day.

It was pretty grey when I left the B&B, but the sky was nice and blue by the time I made it down to Grafton Street. I got overly optimistic at that point, and decided it was going to be another beautiful day.

At the tourist office, I found a flyer for the 1916 Easter Uprising Walking Tour. That looked interesting, so I decided that would be my morning. The tour started at 11:30, so I had about an hour to kill, which I spent wandering the streets.

The tour guide turned out to be the same fellow who conducted the first guided tour I took in Ireland last trip. I told him that, and he said, “Yeah, I moved on from there. No promotion, and I was looking for something better. I was there five years; longer than some of the prisoners’ sentences.”

The original parliament house of Ireland. Voted itself out of existence in 1801 when it voted to become part of the United Kingdom. To remove it as a symbol for the Republicans, the British government sold it off to the Bank of Ireland, on the condition that the bank eliminate any trace of the building's former function. The bank defied that, preserving the House of Lords, and keeping it open for the public.

The original parliament house of Ireland. Voted itself out of existence in 1801 when it voted to become part of the United Kingdom. To remove it as a symbol for the Republicans, the British government sold it off to the Bank of Ireland, on the condition that the bank eliminate any trace of the building’s former function. The bank defied that, preserving the House of Lords, and keeping it open for the public.

1801 was the first time that Ireland was officially governed by England, and it spurred a lot of Republican sentiment. The trail leading up to the 1916 Easter Uprising was a tangled mess involving promises, scandal, lies, dirty tricks, compromise, conspiracy, and the co-opting of different groups and movements on both sides of the issue.

The actual uprising was poorly organized and rushed, with sixty men riding the tram in from Cork armed to the teeth, paying for their tickets as a matter of principle. Noon on the Easter Monday, they stormed the GPO and set up their command centre.

Trinity College was the staging ground for the British troops. The roof was set up with snipers from the ANZACs.

Trinity College was the staging ground for the British troops. The roof was set up with snipers from the ANZACs. One of the best was on the top of the tower you can see in the upper right corner.

The ANZAC sniper was engaged in a one-on-one battle with an Irish Volunteer sniper on the second green dome you see in the picture. They apparently ignored pretty much everything else and just worked on killing each other. They both survived, and the ANZAC brought the Volunteer sniper tea and biscuits "For auld lang syne." They had tea together, discussing technique and experiences in various engagements.

The ANZAC sniper was engaged in a one-on-one battle with an Irish Volunteer sniper on the second green dome you see in the picture. They apparently ignored pretty much everything else and just worked on killing each other. They both survived, and the ANZAC brought the Volunteer sniper tea and biscuits “For auld lang syne.” They had tea together, discussing technique and experiences in various engagements.

It was exam time at Trinity. The central lawn was filled with grazing horses and drilling soldiers, students had to show ID and submit to a search before being allowed to sit the exams. On the second day, they decided to suspend the exams indefinitely.

It was exam time at Trinity. The central lawn was filled with grazing horses and drilling soldiers, students had to show ID and submit to a search before being allowed to sit the exams. On the second day, they decided to suspend the exams indefinitely.

The statue of Daniel O'Connell took a fair number of bullets from the Lewis gun emplacements on the other side of the Liffey. The British had also set up a mortar beside Trinity College. They couldn't see the GPO, so they aimed "just to the left of Nelson's Column" which was where the spire stands now.

The statue of Daniel O’Connell took a fair number of bullets from the Lewis gun emplacements on the other side of the Liffey. The British had also set up a mortar beside Trinity College. They couldn’t see the GPO, so they aimed “just to the left of Nelson’s Column” which was where the spire stands now.

The GPO was the command centre. There's a statue of Cuchullain in the window that used to be the main door. The mortar was not a very accurate weapon, so most of the entire street was in ruins, especially when the Helga, a British warship, pulled into the harbour and started using it's heavy guns as artillery.

The GPO was the command centre. There’s a statue of Cuchullain in the window that used to be the main door. The mortar was not a very accurate weapon, so most of the entire street was in ruins, especially when the Helga, a British warship, pulled into the harbour and started using it’s heavy guns as artillery.

When things started falling apart and burning (not euphemisms), the surviving men tried to make a run out the side of the GPO onto Henry Street. There was a sniper in a tower down near the docks that had complete coverage of this street, so the survivors had to dash across to Moore Lane. The O'Rahilly, one of the leaders, took a small party onto Moore Street, but that street was covered by a Lewis gun at the end, and they were shredded and pinned down.

When things started falling apart and burning (not euphemisms), the surviving men tried to make a run out the side of the GPO onto Henry Street. There was a sniper in a tower down near the docks that had complete coverage of this street, so the survivors had to dash across to Moore Lane. The O’Rahilly, one of the leaders, took a small party onto Moore Street, but that street was covered by a Lewis gun at the end, and they were shredded and pinned down.

Moore Lane led from Henry Street in an L-shape and connected to Moore Street. The 350 survivors of the GPO, including Michael Collins, were trapped when they got up to Moore Street.

Moore Lane led from Henry Street in an L-shape and connected to Moore Street. The 350 survivors of the GPO, including Michael Collins, were trapped when they got up to Moore Street.

Unable to progress down Moore Street, the survivors started mouse tunnelling, blasting through the walls of these houses to move down towards the hospital at the top of Moore Street.

Unable to progress down Moore Street, the survivors started mouse tunnelling, blasting through the walls of these houses to move down towards the hospital at the top of Moore Street.

The sign is not from the period, but the Plunket sign marks Joseph Plunket's house, where the surviving leaders of the rebellion held their final war council and made their surrender.

The sign is not from the period, but the Plunket sign marks Joseph Plunket’s house, where the surviving leaders of the rebellion held their final war council and made their surrender.

The O’Rahilly, who led the advance party to try and clear Moore Street, was shot several times, and crawled into a pub’s doorway, where he slowly died over 19 hours. A local man tried to go to O’Rahilly’s aid, but the British commander ordered the Lewis gun to fire at his feet to chase him away. When some British troopers protested that they had to help O’Rahilly and not leave him to bleed to death painfully on the street, they were ordered to make sure no one did anything to help the man.

As he died, he wrote a letter to his wife, which was found by a sympathetic British trooper, and hand delivered to Nancy O'Rahilly after the uprising.

As he died, he wrote a letter to his wife, which was found by a sympathetic British trooper, and hand delivered to Nancy O’Rahilly after the uprising. It’s reproduced, including the handwriting, on a plaque near the place he died.

This made our guide a little grumpy. The plaques here show the seven signatories of the Easter Proclamation, the document that first declared the Irish Republic. They're attached to the gates of a car park with nothing to direct people there.

This made our guide a little grumpy. The plaques here show the seven signatories of the Easter Proclamation, the document that first declared the Irish Republic. They’re attached to the gates of a car park with nothing to direct people there.

Not far from where this happened, at the top of Parnell Street (which used to be Great Britain Street), there is the Garden of Remembrance. It's there as a memorial for all who died in defence of Ireland, in whatever conflict.

Not far from where this happened, at the top of Parnell Street (which used to be Great Britain Street), there is the Garden of Remembrance. It’s there as a memorial for all who died in defence of Ireland, in whatever conflict.

The reflecting pool is cross-shaped to honour Christianity. The mosaic in the pool honours the pre-Christian heritage of the island, showing Celtic weapons tossed down in honour of fallen warriors. There are numerous benches here, and it's a popular picnic spot.

The reflecting pool is cross-shaped to honour Christianity. The mosaic in the pool honours the pre-Christian heritage of the island, showing Celtic weapons tossed down in honour of fallen warriors. There are numerous benches here, and it’s a popular picnic spot.

The statue at the end of the garden is the Children of Lir. These are from a story of children turned into swans for 900 years, and finally returned to humanity. It's meant to represent the emergence of a peaceful nation from 900 years of conflict.

The statue at the end of the garden is the Children of Lir. These are from a story of children turned into swans for 900 years, and finally returned to humanity. It’s meant to represent the emergence of a peaceful nation from 900 years of conflict.

That’s where the tour ended. I wandered back down O’Connell Street, stopped for some lunch, and came out to find that it was raining. Across the street was a theatre, so I went in to watch After Earth2. It was still raining when I came out, so I walked back to the B&B, stopping along the way to grab some sausage rolls and stuff for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow morning.

Yeah, tomorrow is my tour out to Blarney, Cork, and Cashel. It leaves at 6:50 from the tourist office on Suffolk Street, so I’ll have to leave the B&B by 6:15, well before breakfast is served. So, yeah, that means some picnic stuff.

Thanks to the rain, though, I was able to get a picture of the statue of Wolfe Tone at St. Stephen's Green without a whole bunch of people around it.

Thanks to the rain, though, I was able to get a picture of the statue of Wolfe Tone at St. Stephen’s Green without a whole bunch of people around it.

Bed time now.

  1. The let me know well in advance, so I appreciate that. []
  2. It’s got some good moments, but the movie is mainly full of dumb. []
Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Castles, Churches, Loughs, and Rain

Up early this morning for another tour, this one of Trim Castle, Glendalough, and Lough Tay. It started raining last night, and continued through much of the day. Sometimes the rain faded back for a bit, and once or twice it picked up a fair bit, but the day was very like a lot of days on my last trip.

I am very impressed with our tour guide, Damien O’Reilly. He was very good at imparting the information of the tour in an entertaining manner, but that was the least of the good things about him. He was excellent at putting things in context, and forming connections between historical and modern events, and generally giving us a bit of understanding about where Ireland is and how it got there. I found it fascinating.

The early part of the tour went north of Dublin, to Trim Castle. There were only five people on the bus, so it felt like a private tour, and that was great. We picked up more in the afternoon, for the Glendalough part of the tour, but Damien was great at making everyone in the larger crowd feel included, as well.

Trim Castle was one of two castles used in the filming of Braveheart. It was the stand-in for York, and the grounds were used for London in the execution scene.

Trim Castle was one of two castles used in the filming of Braveheart. It was the stand-in for York, and the grounds were used for London in the execution scene.

There were donkeys in a nearby field. Apparently, there's a donkey sanctuary nearby.

There were donkeys in a nearby field. Apparently, there’s a donkey sanctuary nearby.

Damien was kind enough to take a picture of me at Trim.

Damien was kind enough to take a picture of me at Trim.

The gatehouse led into the town, and contained the dungeon. It even had an oubliette.

The gatehouse led into the town, and contained the dungeon. It even had an oubliette.

The keep is unusual - it's a square central building, with four (now three) smaller square towers, one attached to each central face. The northern tower, thought to have contained the food stores, has collapsed.

The keep is unusual – it’s a square central building, with four (now three) smaller square towers, one attached to each central face. The northern tower, thought to have contained the food stores, has collapsed.

The outside of the barbican was spruced up to be the gates of York in Braveheart.

The outside of the barbican was spruced up to be the gates of York in Braveheart.

Inside the barbican, you can see where wooden floors have long since rotted away.

Inside the barbican, you can see where wooden floors have long since rotted away.

The river gate opens onto the banks of the Boyne River. The lower sections, where the gate out was, are mostly buried.

The river gate opens onto the banks of the Boyne River. The lower sections, where the gate out was, are mostly buried.

Most of the floors are gone inside the castle. A few have been replaced, and some walkways built.

Most of the floors are gone inside the castle. A few have been replaced, and some walkways built.

The original great hall on the entry level has models of the castle in each of its three phases of construction. The models are white, because the castle was originally finished with plaster and whitewash.

The original great hall on the entry level has models of the castle in each of its three phases of construction. The models are white, because the castle was originally finished with plaster and whitewash.

As is true of almost every castle I've been in, the stairs are narrow, uneven spirals.

As is true of almost every castle I’ve been in, the stairs are narrow, uneven spirals.

This was the solar. At least, during the middle stage of construction, before the third floor was added.

This was the solar. At least, during the middle stage of construction, before the third floor was added.

The little cubbyhole in the chapel wall had a little depression in it that filled with rainwater from the water collection system of the castle. The water would be blessed, and any leftover would be let out a drain in the bottom to return to the earth.

The little cubbyhole in the chapel wall had a little depression in it that filled with rainwater from the water collection system of the castle. The water would be blessed, and any leftover would be let out a drain in the bottom to return to the earth.

Up on the roof, there's a great view of everything. This is the town gate from the roof.

Up on the roof, there’s a great view of everything. This is the town gate from the roof.

From the roof, you can see a bridge across the Boyne and the Yellow Steeple, one of the tallest surviving medieval structures. To the left of that is a house where Jonathan Swift used to live.

From the roof, you can see a bridge across the Boyne and the Yellow Steeple, one of the tallest surviving medieval structures. To the left of that is a house where Jonathan Swift used to live.

The Sheep Gate is the last surviving gate into the walled city of Trim.

The Sheep Gate is the last surviving gate into the walled city of Trim.

One of the river god statues so prevalent in the southeast of Ireland. This is the Boyne.

One of the river god statues so prevalent in the southeast of Ireland. This is the Boyne.

A bog-oak statue called Hunger for Knowledge. It features the salmon of knowledge, and is carved with various mathematical and scientific formulae. Obviously a modern work, but very cool.

A bog-oak statue called Hunger for Knowledge. It features the salmon of knowledge, and is carved with various mathematical and scientific formulae. Obviously a modern work, but very cool.

After Trim Castle, we went back through Dublin, picked up the folks who had just signed up for the Glendalough leg of the tour, and then headed out south of the city into the Wicklow Mountains.

Glendalough had a thriving monastic community from about the 6th century up to the 13th century. These are the gates leading into the monastic city.

Glendalough had a thriving monastic community from about the 6th century up to the 13th century. These are the gates leading into the monastic city.

Just inside the gates is a stone inscribed with a cross. This is the Sanctuary Stone. In medieval times, if you were in trouble, and you could get to the monastery and touch the stone, you were granted sanctuary for up to 90 days.

Just inside the gates is a stone inscribed with a cross. This is the Sanctuary Stone. In medieval times, if you were in trouble, and you could get to the monastery and touch the stone, you were granted sanctuary for up to 90 days.

There are a number of Celtic crosses in the cemetery. This Victorian one is particularly nice.

There are a number of Celtic crosses in the cemetery. This Victorian one is particularly nice.

The main feature of the surviving monastic structures is the 10th century round tower.

The main feature of the surviving monastic structures is the 10th century round tower.

This cemetery, like many in Ireland, contains a lot of yew trees. These were planted here because they are toxic to wildlife, and it kept the shallow graves from being dug up by scavengers. There are few other yew trees in the country - they were depleted by the Anglo-Normans who wanted them for longbows.

This cemetery, like many in Ireland, contains a lot of yew trees. These were planted here because they are toxic to wildlife, and it kept the shallow graves from being dug up by scavengers. There are few other yew trees in the country – they were depleted by the Anglo-Normans who wanted them for longbows.

This church was built around the 10th or 11th century. The windowsill on this wall served as the altar.

This church was built around the 10th or 11th century. The windowsill on this wall served as the altar.

This stone was probably used as a mortar by the pre-Christians who lived in this area before the arrival of St. Kevin. Such a stone would be used primarily for grinding herbs for medicine by the holy men/women of the clan. It was taken to be the cornerstone of the new church here.

This stone was probably used as a mortar by the pre-Christians who lived in this area before the arrival of St. Kevin. Such a stone would be used primarily for grinding herbs for medicine by the holy men/women of the clan. It was taken to be the cornerstone of the new church here.

This is the view of the Glendalough site from across the little river, as I start up the trail towards the two loughs.

This is the view of the Glendalough site from across the little river, as I start up the trail towards the two loughs.

The valley runs a long way down. The name Glendalough means Valley of Two Lakes.

The valley runs a long way down. The name Glendalough means Valley of Two Lakes.

I'm walking the other direction up the valley towards the loughs. There are a few houses on the far side of the valley, despite the fact that this area can get isolated pretty quickly by either snow or flooding.

I’m walking the other direction up the valley towards the loughs. There are a few houses on the far side of the valley, despite the fact that this area can get isolated pretty quickly by either snow or flooding.

The trail up the valley is very picturesque, with the occasional whitethorn tree.

The trail up the valley is very picturesque, with the occasional whitethorn tree.

The bus was waiting for us between the first and second loughs. By the time I got there, it was raining hard enough that I didn't walk up to the upper lough.

The bus was waiting for us between the first and second loughs. By the time I got there, it was raining hard enough that I didn’t walk up to the upper lough.

Damien took us one other place, though he was worried that the clouds and rain would keep us from seeing what he wanted to show us. He needn’t have worried.

Lough Tay is owned by the Guinness family. As a wedding present for one of the women marrying into the family, they bought an estate at the edge of this lough, and imported sand to make the dark lough water look like a pint of Guinness with a head.

Lough Tay is owned by the Guinness family. As a wedding present for one of the women marrying into the family, they bought an estate at the edge of this lough, and imported sand to make the dark lough water look like a pint of Guinness with a head.

This is the Guinness estate. You can kind of see the house in the trees. Apparently, a movie company is getting ready to film something in the area - there were signs of construction down by the edge of the lough.

This is the Guinness estate. You can kind of see the house in the trees. Apparently, a movie company is getting ready to film something in the area – there were signs of construction down by the edge of the lough.

The cloudy day had some benefits. The clouds trailing down the side of the mountain were pretty cool.

The cloudy day had some benefits. The clouds trailing down the side of the mountain were pretty cool.

Then it was back to Dublin. I wandered around Grafton Street and O’Connell Street for a while, having some dinner and trying to decide if I still had the energy to go hear some music or something, and decided that I didn’t, so I came back to the guest house.

Tomorrow, my tour has been canceled. What I do instead is going to depend on the weather. If it’s dry, there are a couple of walking tours I can take. If it’s raining, I can hit some museums or maybe a movie. Either way, I’ll find something to do.

But first, I’m gonna sleep in a bit. Probably until 8:00. That’ll be nice.

Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Road Wasn’t All That Rocky

My initial plan was the catch the 8:28 train from Kilkenny to Dublin, but it occurred to me that this initial plan involved me getting to Dublin four hours before I could check in to Kilronan house. So, I decided to sleep in a bit, have a leisurely breakfast, and take the 11:41 train.

The weather turned this morning in Kilkenny. The sky clouded over, and the temperature dropped.  I have to say, I found the coolness very welcome after the last couple of days.

The weather turned this morning in Kilkenny. The sky clouded over, and the temperature dropped. I have to say, I found the coolness very welcome after the last couple of days.

Train travel in Ireland is very nice. The coaches are large, the seats are comfortable, there’s wifi on the train, and it’s just a very relaxing way to travel. What it isn’t is punctual. I don’t think I’ve been on a train that arrived or left on time. They’re never very late – only train that was more than ten minutes late was the one that broke down before leaving the station.

So, I got in to Heuston Station around 1:201, got a cab in to Kilronan House, and checked in a  few minutes before 2:00.

I've got a nice, comfy little room at the top of the house. There's a lot of steps - 59 of them - plus five more up from my bedroom to the bathroom. It's a great room, but I'm gonna hate those steps by the time I leave on Sunday.

I’ve got a nice, comfy little room at the top of the house. There’s a lot of steps – 59 of them – plus five more up from my bedroom to the bathroom. It’s a great room, but I’m gonna hate those steps by the time I leave on Sunday.

I dropped my luggage in my room, cleaned up a bit, then went waling for a few hours. My goal was to get a little exercise, scope out where I have to meet the tours I’ve got scheduled, and refamiliarize myself with the city centre.

I made it back to Grafton Street. It was very busy - the weather in Dublin was nicer than it had been in Kilkenny, and everyone was taking advantage of it.

I made it back to Grafton Street. It was very busy – the weather in Dublin was nicer than it had been in Kilkenny, and everyone was taking advantage of it.

Among the buskers and performers, there was one man doing these sand sculptures of dogs. Beautiful work.

Among the buskers and performers, there was one man doing these sand sculptures of dogs. Beautiful work.

I wandered across the street into St. Stephen's Green under the Fusilier's Arch. The park was packed with people today. Again, nice weather that everyone was taking advantage of.

I wandered across the street into St. Stephen’s Green under the Fusilier’s Arch. The park was packed with people today. Again, nice weather that everyone was taking advantage of.

Another picture of the Three Fates fountain for Sandy.

Another picture of the Three Fates fountain for Sandy.

The Famine Memorial at one of the entrances to the park. On the other side is the Wolfe Tone statue - it was crowded with skateboarders, so I didn't get a picture. Next time.

The Famine Memorial at one of the entrances to the park. On the other side is the Wolfe Tone statue – it was crowded with skateboarders, so I didn’t get a picture. Next time.

The central lawn of the park. Nice flower beds, a couple of fountains, and people everywhere. I am astonished that I got so few of them in the picture.

The central lawn of the park. Nice flower beds, a couple of fountains, and people everywhere. I am astonished that I got so few of them in the picture.

Last time, I got a picture of swans in the water here. This time, there were one or two ducks, and they were being crowded out by the dozens of gulls in the park.

Anyway, I grabbed some food, and came back to my room, up the 59 steps, and am going to bed soon. I’ve got to be up before 7:00 in the morning to make it to my tour on time.

Goodnight, folks.

  1. Ten minutes late. []
Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013, Kilkenny | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments