Exploring Ireland

Trip Start Jun 27, 2010
Trip End Aug 19, 2010

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Flag of Ireland  , Dublin,
Saturday, July 24, 2010

7/25/2010 Saturday
   We arrived at 1:30ish on Saturday.  We went to the taxi stand and got in cab with Mathew McDonald who pointed out landmarks on the way into Dublin.   He told us he was avoiding traffic on the carriageway because there was a football game at a local stadium.  We asked if it was soccer and he no it was Gaelic Football.   Of course, we had never heard of it and he explained that it was sort of a combination of soccer and rugby - the ball is kicked and thrown.  Plus, the players are very aggressive and they wear no protection like they don't in rugby.  So, the Irish call soccer soccer and football means Gaelic Football.  All and all, he was an hospitable and energetic tour guide who happened to drive a cab.  It was a wonderful introduction to genuine Irish hospitality thanks to Matthew.   
   We arrived at the house at about 3:00 p.m. and James, the son oft he exchangers, let us in and explained some of the things we needed to know about the house.  After he left, Skip walked to the nearby grocery store to buy a few items and at 5:00 we watched the Gaelic Football.  It is the oldest sport still played in the world.   After that, we watched some more TV and went to bed.  The master bedroom does not have a bathroom attached like we are used to; it is down 7 steps, then 3 or 3 steps across a landing then up 3 more steps.  Honestly, in the middle of the night it is a pain!  Anyway the house is nice; it always takes us, or at least me (Sheila), a day or two to feel comfortable in someone else's home and then I am fine. 
    Donnybrook was once the location of Donnybrook Fair, a fair held from the time of King John onwards, which became notorious for drunkenness and violent disorder. This gave rise to the term a donnybrook, meaning a brawl or fracas. The fair was banned in 1855, but a supermarket called Donnybrook Fair is on the main street. Parts of the lands on which Donnybrook Fair took place are occupied by Donnybrook Rugby Ground and Herbert Park.  It is also one of the more affluent areas of Dublin.

7/25/2010 Sunday
    We went to the kitchen for breakfast.  I (Skip) found an espresso coffee maker and took it apart to figure how to make his morning coffee.  I loaded it and put it on the gas burner and put the lid down, after a while I heard it steam and then suddenly it erupted spraying coffee all over the small kitchen area.  It was an early morning cleaning session complete with locating the ladder for the ceiling.  Following a long delay we had eggs, toast, Sheila had tea and I had orange juice.  What an experience.  Later in the afternoon we went on line to find the express pot with an explanation of how it operates.  It was also time to get caught up on the laundry which is located in the out house behind the kitchen.  Adjustment to other systems is always a little difficult, as the washing machine also serves as the dryer and the tub is not very large, and the drying takes forever.
We made a reservation at the Restaurant Donnybrook Fair for 3:00pm for their Sunday Brunch.  The Malone's left us a two for one coupon for the meal.  I decided I would drive to the Tesco and checked out the location and took off, with the comment, " I hope to be back in time for our reservation, if I get lost....!"  Well a few hours later I returned after seeing a great deal of the surrounding towns and some parts of the city.  Let me help to explain this, I started out with simple directions, however, there were no simple right or left turns that completed an east/west or north/south direction, but there were many roads that veered this way and that and one way roads that did not allow me to go in a direction that made sense.  I saw some beautiful sights including a golf course that I could not possibly find again, and finally stopped at a petrol station after having avoided a bridge that would have directed me to Waterford.  The young women at the counter must have been totally amused as I told her I was lost and needed a map to get back to Donnybrook.  She pointed out the map and I got one, she showed me approximately where I was and told me to turn left and go to the end of the road and I would connect to the road that goes through Donnybrook.  I was at the door when I turned and said I had better pay for the map, she had a kind smile as I walked back to pay 9.90 euros for the map!  I drove out in the direction she had pointed only to find it difficult to find the street names as they are sometimes on buildings but not always.  I made what I realize was a circle as I pasted some familiar spots for a third time and finally pulled off the road to ask a gentleman for directions, his wife and children continued to unload the groceries from their car and we discussed the direction with the map.  Now I had a general direction in mind, but still could not find street signs in time enough to make the right turns.  I turned down a street which had significant parking, pulled out the map found where I was and realized that I had to turn around and go back in the direction I came.  Finally heading in the right direction I stumbled on to a familiar road and realized it was the one that lead to the house.  Arriving home, I opened the door and informed Sheila that I did not make it to the store which was eight minutes from the house, but I did make it back in time for our brunch.
   Our 3:00 lunch consisted of a three course meal, starters of Shrimp (Sheila) and Parma Ham (Skip). The Parma Ham had an olive tapenade with cut fresh figs which was quite tasty.  Both of us had the Mains of Irish sirloin of beef and the fixings, along with deserts of Trio Chocolate cake and Baked Alaska (Whipped Cream on a little dab of ice cream on a small crumb cake).  A good meal, but not one that was outstanding.
   When we returned home we decided to see if we could find the elusive market, Tesco.  We found it in 6 minutes using Gertie the Garmin.  Color me embarrassed.  Two outlandish experiences in one day which I will simply caulk up to the transition of travel and an new location.

7/26/2010  Monday
    We took the bus into City Center to the Grafton Street shopping area.  We looked in a few book stores and department stores and there were lots of people.     There are a number of Hop On Hop Off buses including one that goes into the River LIffey with the passengers wearing Viking helmets!  We took a cab to the National Archives because I (Sheila) is looking to see if she can find where her great-great-grandfather came from in Ireland.  The information I have is his name, Patrick J. Harrington, and the year he was born.  No information about where he was born or when he came to the U.S.  He was married in Holly Springs, Mississippi and died there, but that is it.  We entered the building and were told to put my purse and our coats into a little locker and went to the 5th floor where we were given temporary passes.  Then we went through a large library with many people reviewing documents into a small room where we waited for someone to help us.  After a 20 minute or so wait, we met with a woman who gave me some advice on how to try to discover where Patrick came from - she was very helpful.  I have a third cousin who has done lots of research on the Harrington family and I will email her to find out if she has a copy of the documents I was advised to try to find.  I have been lucky in that I have relatives on both sides of my family that have done lots of research on various families so I have not had to do much research.
    We left the Archives and went into St. Patrick's Cathedral, which is the Church of Ireland a part of the Anglican communion.  It was not very impressive and, again, we felt a little jaded and may not have given the cathedral its due.....  Here are a few photos.  
    We drove north 30 miles to the Valley of the Boyne to look at some neolithic burial mounds.  We had some choices and decided that we would only go to one, Newgrange.  Newgrange was built between circa 3100 and 2900 BC, during the Neolithic period, in order to house the remains of the dead. Newgrange is very similar to the famous Maeshowe tomb in Orkney, Scotland and Bryn Celli Ddu site in Wales, both of which point to the midwinter solstice. It has also been suggested that a feature similar to the 'lightbox' at Newgrange may be matched at Bryn Celli Ddu.. It has also been speculated that it had some form of religious significance, particularly in regards to an afterlife, because it is aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice, which floods the tomb with light. It is in fact just one monument within the Neolithic Brú na Bóinne complex, pronounced Brew nah Boyne alongside the similar passage tomb mounds of Knowth, rhymes with south.      We were told that if anyone has any claustrophobic tendencies that he/she should go last.  Skip decided he would go last and I went in before him and after about 60 feet of walking in stooped over and squeezing in between large boulders and I looked back and Skip was not there.  We gathered in a room that was shaped in sort of an oval with 20 feet or more one way and 15 feet in the other direction and 20 feet high, more or less.  The huge rocks inside were stacked like an igloo but not smooth inside.  She (our guide) gave us a demonstration of how the solstice sun shines in and had to turn off the lights to do this.  It was so dark I couldn't take tell the difference between shutting my eyes and opening them.   To get there and back, you ride a shuttle and we went back to the Tourist Center and had lunch in the cafeteria.      Do you see the black sheep in the photo?  The River Boyne runs right near Newgrange. 
    From there we drove to the Hill of Tara.  The most familiar role played by the Hill of Tara in Irish history is as the seat of the kings of Ireland until the 6th century. This role extended until the 12th century, albeit without its earlier splendor. Regardless, the significance of the Hill of Tara predates Celtic times, although it has not been shown that Tara was continuously important from the Neolithic to the 12th century. The central part of the site could not have housed a large permanent retinue, suggesting that it was used as an occasional meeting place. There were no large defensive works. Certainly the earliest records attest that high kings were inaugurated there, and the "Seanchas Mor" legal text (written down after 600AD) specified that they had to drink ale and symbolically marry the goddess Maeve (Medb) to acquire the high-kingship.    St. Patrick challenged the king's authority by explaining the Holy Trinity using the a three leaf clover and one stem. He won the right to preach Christianity throughout Ireland.  There is a small church at Tara and a statue of St. Patrick.
We drove back to the house through Dublin which was a little hairy and Skip did well.  He dropped me off and went to Tesco for a few groceries.  We updated our travel blog, watched some TV and went to bed.

7/28/2010 Wednesday
    I went off to play golf early.  I played a local golf course, Elm Park, a parkland type course which means trees and water barriers.  I was able to go out earlier than the arranged t-time and told to pay when I returned.  The course was maintained well and I got to witness the work on the grounds on almost every hole of the eighteen.  The narrow holes provided a serious challenge for me as I have been playing a lot of tree lines in the last few rounds of golf.  When I came in to pay I was greeted by Seamus, the manager of the golf shop.  As in Scotland, the game of golf seems to allow for a sense of connection and fellowship.  He immediately wanted to know where I lived and how my holiday was going.  He introduced me to all that were entetring the golf shop and warned me after introducing me to Paddie to be sure to not get too caught up by what he said.  He hospitality and genuine interest in knowing more about me was striking and he offered to assist in any further rounds by giving me access to the pull carts so I could go out as early as I wanted.  The Irish are know for being friendly and Seamus was certainly one of Ireland best ambassadors.
I got up an hour later and started working on the blog.  When Skip returned we took the bus into City Center to the Trinity College and went on a guided tour.    Our cute guide  had just gradutated in French and German and is returning this fall for a graduate degree.  He was very funny, bright and knowledgeable.  At the end of the tour, we saw the Book of Keels which was amazing. One of the four books of gospels was very small and the printing incredible small.  I was thinking of the monks and how cramped their hands must have been from printing so small.   
    Then we went to find an ATM and found ourselves on Grafton Street.    We found an ATM and went into the TI (tourist information office) and purchased the Ireland's Visitor Attraction Guide for 6 Euros which has lots of discounts in it for historical sites.  We looked in Rick Steves' book and found a place for an early bird dinner called The Shack in the Temple Bar Area, which was pretty good, but not great.  Temple Bar used to be where the tall ships offloaded their goods and when slowly the city moved eastward the area fell on hard times.  Eventually, with help from the government and time, the area has become Dublin's "Left Bank".  We found a bus and went home.  We were peacefully watching TV when the knocker on the front door went bam, bam, bam!  It was 9:30 and we sure were not expecting anyone - I went to the door and asked who it was and this loud voice said that she was a friend of Moyra's and came to water the plants!  I let her in and she was a large woman with a wimpy man with her and she promptly walked straight down the hallway and into the kitchen chatting the whole time with Ship about the plants and Moyra being a messy housekeeper.  She filled the watering can and went into the back area tish tishing the whole way.  She then asked if we wanted our sheets washed (huh?) and, because we were caught off guard as this was the last thinig we expected her to ask, we said no, thanks.  She told Skip that if we needed anything to let her know that she was a doctor, family practioner, and wrote down her phone number, and left with the little man following her.  We looked at each other and started laughing!

7/29/2010 Thursday
    We got up, had breakfast and took off for Wexford and Waterford.  We drove into Wexford and looked around and left.  Rick Steves doesn't think much of Wexford but does point out that in a nearby town of New Ross, there is the Dunbrody Famine Ship.  It is an exact replica of the ship Dunbrody built in 1845 and is an impressive three-masted ship which took thousands of Irish people from the Great Famine.  Along with offering a tour of the ship, they offered a database for emigrants that sailed from Ireland and Britan in the 19th century and that is why I wanted to go there.  We were told that their computer was down but I could access their database online.  So, we left New Ross and drove to Waterford, parked in a typical car park where there is very little space to turn corners and to park.  I get totally freaked and have to close my eyes.  Skip did well, not dents and we went off to find the Bodega restaurant which was great.  I had cream of vegatable soup with goat cheese and a Ceasar salad and Skip had a Quiche with chiorzo which was so delicate and the crust flaky and delicious.  We had a nice chat with our waitress who said that she had spent a year in LA after she graduated from school and her brother who gave us a recommendation for lunch in Kinsale where we are going Sunday.  We walked around for a little while and then went home on a mortorway which was so much faster than our trip down.  Unfortunately, Gertie the Garmin wasn't up to date and was lost because there was a more Motorway than was on her maps.  This means we will have to spend more money to update her before we come back to Europe.

7/30/2010 Friday
    Skip got up and out early to play golf at Elm Park,   I rose at almost 8 to see that it was raining!  I wasn't surprised because it had been cloudy every day and hadn't rained yet but......  So, I decided to update the blog and see if might stop raining to take my walk.  Of course it didn't and Skip came home about 11:00. We decided it wasn't a day to go to Dublin and ride the Hop On Hop Off bus.  The more we waited the more the rain came down.  We decieded that a day of reading and relaxing was in order.  In the early afternoon we decided to find a movie theater and found the Dundrum Shopping center which had a theater complex.  We hopped in the car and went to explore a new area and get a sense of what Dublin offers in terms of such centers.  When we found the center it looked more like a business complex.  We entered the parking garage under the complex and we we got to the map the center was four stories of shops.  Skip mentioned that it reminded him of a mall outside of Washington D.C. which was equally huge.  We found our way to the movie theater complex which was crowded with others avoiding the rain and weather, and we saw the "A-Team".  Outside of the outrageous explosions and near death experiences of the A-Team members, it was quite funny and was very close to the original TV series, only it had better casting.  Following the movie we went to the cafe Milano for a snack.  There were about 8 to 10 restaurants outside the mall with at least 6 to 10 eateries in the mall.
We explored a few stores in the mall and headed home for a quiet evening.

7/31/2010  Saturday
    It turned out to be another gray and rainy morning so we decided we would have a breakfast and get packed for our trip to Kinsale and Dingle, do laundry, read and relax.  We  decided to go out on a neighborhood walk to check out places for lunch.  The pub across from us was called Madigan's.  It had sort of a dark appearance from the outside and we saw that they were having a carvery lunch.  Inside it was much larger than it appeared and actually quite bright.  We went to the line for the carvery and took in what was offered.  Sheila had lasagna (more Irish than Italian with cedar cheese on top) and I had the beef and mushroom in peppercorn sauce.  Alimost all of the sides were starch with a few vegatibles, with cheese.  I was surprised at how good my beef was, at it surpassed the lasagna.  Our lunch actually qualified as a larger than necessary meal.
  We went to the store for some supplies on our way home and relaxed and got ready for our drive on Sunday.
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