TRAVEL with pat and lew

Archive for the ‘… Ireland’ Category

* a month in Dublin

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 30, 2013

We sold our Collioure apartment on August 27 and had plans to go to the Amalfi Coast and the Isle of Capri on September 19, and were thus “homeless in Europe” in between. So why not go to Dublin. Our friend Valerie told us about the Clarion Hotel along the Liffey River that had corporate apartments and Pat made a deal for 20 nights. So we had a great space with full hotel services.

We left the notaire’s office with the promise that the proceeds would soon be on their way by wire to Key West, took a taxi to the train station in Perpignan (last time there?), and the train to Paris. One night at the Hotel Emile and an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin. Here’s Pat in her Irish tweed jacket on the terrace of our apartment.

Pat on the terrace

I was planning to use the time to work on my new novel (and fight with the bank over the transfer of funds from the property sale) while Pat enjoyed Dublin, especially the National Gallery. She went to see a film about Klimt which was supposed to start at 7:30pm but which started at 7:00 so everybody missed the first half hour. The person running the event said 7:00pm was the right time and refused to re-run the video. The next morning, Pat called the Director’s Office and they could not have been more concerned or accommodating, offering a private showing of the video or a private tour of the museum. Pat chose the latter and I got to go along. Here is Pat with our guide, who was marvelous, and the museum’s prize Caravaggio, the Betrayal of Christ.

at the museum

We spent much of our time in Dublin at the Apple store on Grafton Street, finalizing our (momentous for me) decision to switch from PCs to MACs. The Apple people were terrific, just as they had been at the Louvre during our 3 visits over the summer. We made our purchases in October, in the U.S. so we got an American keyboard.

Checking my Facebook one morning, I learned that our friends John and Patricia Bollinger were going to be in Dublin, and we had another coincidence meeting overseas, like we had outside the Duomo in Florence the year before.

The highlight of our Dublin trip was dinner at Una Ryan’s home, with Con, Valerie and Lorcan. Valerie and Una were vital parts of our going to Collioure in the first place – we bought our apartment from Una – so this was a fitting closure to our 7 years’ marvelous experience.  Even now, looking at the photo brings many memories and warm feelings.

at Una's 2-cropped

If you’re interested in the story of how we found our apartment in Collioure in June 2005, see … https://patandlewtravel.wordpress.com/2007/02/22/finding-our-perfect-apartment-in-collioure/

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* Ireland – 2006 (Dublin and other places)

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 27, 2008

Dublin was our first home exchange

The row home on Sullivan Street, near Phoenix Park, about 2 miles west of the city centre, is larger than our apartment in Collioure. It’s on two floors, linked by a treacherous circular staircase. We carefully heed our host’s warning to walk in bare feet or shoes, but not socks, and have no accidents.

There are always new things to learn when you live in someone else’s home. Like hot water. We were instructed to turn the switch in the press to start the hot water heater. The press? Not only where is it, but what is it?

It’s a closet. We finally find the switch in the closet in the downstairs bathroom.

Once we get the system, the hot water is plentiful. But one day, hurrying home with not much time to make a dinner reservation, we realized we had not left the hot water on. It takes about 20 minutes to get up to temperature. We cancelled our reservation and went another day.

Someone knocks on the door. They’ve heard that the house is for sale, which is true, and they want to take a look around. Should we? We decide that our host, who wants the house sold, will not be upset if we allow the visit, but we watch carefully.

The bedroom is decorated beautifully, and the linens are superb. But we’re learning that most of the world apparently does not read in bed, like we do every night, and the lighting is really not adequate for that purpose.

There are shops nearby, and local pubs, all described in the materials and maps our host has left. It’s fun to shop locally, although we don’t buy much, since we’re not doing any real cooking. In fact, although I like to cook, we didn’t do much cooking on any of our trips all summer. It’s not easy to get used to someone else’s kitchen, and there are so many great restaurants to try.

We left our Dublin home in the same condition we found it, and were pleased to find that our home exchange guests in Collioure did likewise.

All in all, a positive experience.

 

our first day in Dublin

We arrive by taxi, in the dark, on Sullivan Street near Phoenix Park.

It’s a working class neighborhood and the small red brick row homes are not pretentious, but the neat flower boxes and painted doors are charming. One of the reasons to do home exchange is the chance to live in a real neighborhood instead of a hotel, and this is surely a real neighborhood. We’re thrilled.

The next morning, it’s time to reconnoiter.

Our exchange host has left a large pile of maps and instructions, including where to take the bus. We walk a block or so, and find the #10 bus, which of course, but surprisingly at first, is on the left side of the street.

Now the question is how to pay. Exact change is required, and fortunately we have it. This begins two weeks of making sure we always have the change needed to go wherever we’re going, and to get back.

It’s a double decker bus and we go topside for the view. The trip is slow in the morning traffic, but we enjoy the sights of the city as we roll through neighborhoods suggesting a variety of economic levels. In 20 minutes, we’re on O’Connell Street in the center of Dublin.

We get off across from the General Post Office, the place where the 1916 rising began and the bullet holes are still proudly displayed. Pat of course, is Irish, and I have read many books and listened to many Irish ballads. This place is a shrine … to persistence, to failure, and, ultimately, to success.

We walk along O’Connell, past the luxurious Gresham Hotel and across the River Liffey, flowing from 75 miles away in the mountains of County Wicklow (the source also of the clear pure water which makes Guinness beer).  

First on our agenda is the main Tourist Office, located in a magnificent former church on Suffolk Street, the office Samantha Brown featured on her Passport to Europe show about Dublin. It’s a fantastic place, with lots of useful books and merchandise, a very friendly staff, and a charming café. We will return several times in the next two weeks, for information and for reservations.

I purchase another city map. I need a durable map that folds into my camera bag, and that has all the streets. Until I have a map that exactly fits my needs, I can’t be comfortable.

I also buy Fodor’s Ireland, for our out-of-town trips, and we pick up Dublin brochures, tram routes, bus routes, theatre announcements, everything that’s free. Now I have the tools to plan our two weeks.

Grafton Street, the pedestrian shopping street in the center of Dublin, is mobbed. Our first impression is that it’s not quite as elegant as it was before, ten years ago. Street musicians play in front of McDonald’s.  

We buy an Irish Times and head off to St. Stephen’s Green, a 22 acre park at the end of Grafton Street, first enclosed in 1664, a place of peace in the center of the city, except when it too hosted riflemen in 1916. We share a bench in the shade with a young father and his three small sons. A brass band plays at a nearby gazebo.

For lunch, we wander back down Grafton, and one block over to South William Street, to the Georgian mansion built in 1774 for Lord Powerscourt, now an elegant center of galleries, boutique shops and restaurants. We climb to the third level and enjoy panini and penne with Peroli beer at La Corte, watching the action in the atrium below.

Not so Irish, you say. Well, much of Dublin is not so Irish anymore. Dublin has become a sophisticated international city, fully immersed in the European Union, and doing very well, thank you.

For example, over the course of two weeks, we had maybe 15 meals in Dublin, and only once or twice was the waiter or waitress Irish. Even some of the bartenders in the pubs were not of the land. This led to many interesting conversations, and a feeling that, on balance, progress has been very good for the Irish.

The Marks & Spencer food court on Grafton Street provides wine and chocolates for our dinner tonight at Una’s home. Una, you may remember, is the lady from whom we purchased our home in Collioure (see finding our home in Collioure). We haven’t seen her since, and we are excited about our upcoming evening.

We take the spanking new Luas light rail tram to the Heuston train station in West Dublin, a 10 minute walk to our apartment.

 

dinner with Una

One of the really great pleasures of our retirement travel plan, which we hope will continue to expand, is that we have made great new friendships in many wonderful places.

We bought our apartment in Collioure from Una (see finding our perfect apartment ), but it’s been a year since we’ve seen her. As soon as arrangements were set for our home exchange in Dublin, Pat corresponded with Una and she invited us to dinner.

Her friend Con will pick us up at 7:30. We decide to wait outside at 7:25, so he won’t have to find a parking spot, but he’s already there when we emerge, and we’re immediately immersed in his great Irish smile and manner.

I, of course, head for the front right door, the passenger door in the U.S., but the driver’s door throughout most of the present and former British empire. Everyone smiles, and I sheepishly retreat to the other side.

Una’s house is on the outskirts of Dublin, and what a magnificent property it is, the house set in the midst of lush quiet grounds. There’s a large kitchen, formal sitting rooms, and a delightful veranda, where we settle down to eat.

Una’s friend Mary, who was with her when we first met in Collioure, is here as well. The conversation is non-stop, intelligent, and full of laughter. Rosé, white and red wines complement rack of lamb, fruit, cheese, and salad. The evening is cool and the sky is filled with stars. Life is good.

Una is a great reader with an eclectic collection of books in her wood-paneled library. We’ve read many of the same authors. She invites me to choose a book to take with me, and I pick Enduring Love by Ian McEwan, a famous Irish author I have not read.

Coincidences. The following January, at the Key West Literary Seminar, I meet Mr. McEwan and tell him how riveted I was by the opening scenes of Enduring Love, which describe a horrible accident in a helium balloon.

Una tells me how much she enjoyed my novel, The Heretic, but how fearful she was, before she read it, that she wouldn’t like it, since she thought the DaVinci Code was awful.

“How did Dan Brown ever get published?” she asks.

I guess 40 million copies pretty much answers that question. Whatever its flaws, it tells a story that captivated the world. I should write such an awful novel.

A little more wine and a lot more glorious conversation, and Una calls a taxi for us. What a wonderful first 24 hours in Dublin. 

 

organizing our two weeks in Ireland

Pat and I have both been to Ireland before (Pat three times), so we’re using this occasion to explore different parts of the country and other aspects of Dublin.

We plan trips to Wexford (where our new Collioure friends Valerie and Lorcan have a home) and to Cork. We will also re-visit Pat’s family in Westport, County Mayo.

But first we must go to Avoca, the real-life home of the BBC television series Ballykissangel, which became a sort of cult event for Pat and me, and many of our friends, several years ago in New York.

If you like things Irish, and you’ve never seen the show, the DVDs for several seasons are available on amazon.com. It’ll be a great treat. We decide to train to Arklow, from which we’ll either bike or take a cab the seven miles to Avoca.

Bike? What were we thinking?

I spread out my maps and schedules, and we select our travel dates, interspersing one or more days in Dublin between each out-of-town trip. This is the luxury of having two weeks, which is a major benefit of our home exchange approach to travel. We can accomplish a lot without the constant running about that is often so exhausting on a shorter trip.

We prefer trains to driving wherever practical, and from Dublin, we’re linked by excellent train service to just about anywhere in Ireland. The next day, we go to th etrain station and purchase tickets to Wexford (18 euros), Cork (59 euros) and Galway (40 euros), and Arklow (20 euros). There’s some kind of deal which we don’t quite understand, but the ticket clerk says we got a bargain by purchasing all the tickets at the same time.

At the Dublin Tourist Office, we reserve a car in Galway for the several hours drive to Westport. We could have taken the train directly to Westport, but we’ll want the car in Westport so we can drive out to Pat’s family’s country homes.

We also need a room for our one night in Westport, and the Tourist Bureau reservations clerk checks his computer and quickly identifies a vacancy at a B&B. He makes the call, confirms that the room is still available, and then asks, in a perfect, charming, so Irish way, “Might I take that room off your hands?” We smile at a delightful travel moment.

Now we can fill in the Dublin days from a growing list of interesting options, including several days to do what we like best, which is to just walk around the city and enjoy the sights and the people we always meet.

 

it’s a bank holiday

On our last day in Dublin, we go to a movie on O’Connell Street. The line for tickets is long, because it’s a bank holiday.

“Why is it called a bank holiday?”

“Because the banks are closed.”

“Why are the banks closed?”

“Because it’s a holiday.”

I swear to you that was a verbatim conversation held while we were waiting to buy the tickets.  

 

it ‘could be true’ in Galway

We were in Galway twice, each time for a few hours, on our way to Westport, and again on the way back. Time enough to have a delightful experience in the Galway Tourist Office.

We found Tourist Offices in Ireland to be extraordinary, with intelligent, helpful people consistently going the extra distance to be helpful. This is always the case, you say? Go to Budapest and learn differently, from people who haven’t yet got the message about how to help tourists.

The young man in the Galway Tourist Office was the best of the best. We asked a few questions, and then he asked if we had time to hear his 10 minute presentation. We had the time, but he was so enthusiastic, we could not have refused even if we were in a hurry. He gave us an over view of central Galway, and then told two stories …

… There’s a clock tower on Eire Square (renamed Kennedy Square after JFK’s visit in 1963 but still called Eire Square on all the signs), erected by the British centuries ago. There are clocks on two sides, facing the new sections of town where all the Brits lived. The other two sides, facing the older, poorer sections of town to which the local Irish had been relegated, have no clocks. From whence comes the expression, “the Brits won’t even give us the time of day.”

… There used to be a Mayor in Galway named Lynch. He had a son, whose girl friend dallied with a stranger. The son killed the stranger. Now, the penalty for such killing was hanging, but since it was the mayor’s son, none of the townspeople would carry out the punishment. So the mayor marched his son to the public square and saw him hanged, amidst a large group, some urging him to carry on, others not. For ever more, such a group was known as a “Lynch mob.”

Are these stories true?

Well, as the Irish say, they “could be true.”

 

driving too fast on the wrong side of the road

I don’t drive much at all any more, since we have no car. In fact, one of our important criteria in choosing to live in Key West and Collioure is that we don’t need a car in either place.

However, some of our retirement travel does require driving. Including a trip from Galway to Westport.

Unless you want to pay much more for an automatic drive, when you drive in Europe you’re going to be driving stick. Actually, this is fun for me, a throwback to “really driving.”

Pat, who never learned to shift gears, can’t share the driving, but we don’t take long trips anyway, so that doesn’t hinder us much. Maybe some day I’ll try to teach her, since it would be useful for her to know in case of an emergency.

In Ireland (and later in Australia), the stick is on the “wrong” side, so I’m shifting gears left handed. While also driving on the left side of the road. Fortunately, the pedals are the same as in America.

Every initial driving instinct is wrong, and I have to think constantly. It’s not relaxing in the least.

The hardest part for me is judging the space on the left side of the car. It’s even more frightening for the person sitting over there, since on the narrow Irish roads, there’s very little margin for error.

Pat has a tight stomach the entire way, urging me repeatedly to move away from the left edge of the road which is frequently a stone wall. But I can’t move, since there are only inches between the right side of the car and the center line of the two lane roads.

On top of that, Irish road signs share that “uncertain” characteristic of Irish oral directions, so there’s frequent uncertainty as to which road to take and when to turn.

Five minutes into our 2 ½ hour drive to Westport, we agree that we should have taken the train from Dublin to Westport and rented a car there, but it’s too late for that now. We have to tough it out.

Another problem is speed. Irish drivers go way too fast for the roads, often passing on narrow two lane roads, and a head-on collision frequently seems imminent. I’m tempted to look up accident statistics on the web, but I’m afraid it would be too terrifying.

I’m actually thrilled when I get behind a large, slow-moving truck or farm vehicle. Now I can drive more slowly and it’s not my fault.

We do get to Westport, and back, without incident. Except for the damage to our nerves and digestive systems.

 

finding Pat’s family in Westport

We’ve finally completed our harrowing drive from Galway to Westport, despite the lack of good directions and the astonishingly vague road signs. Pat is coming to think that maybe her own often terrible sense of direction may be a tribal heritage.

Pull over,” Pat says at a small convenience store on the outskirts of Westport, “and I’ll call Maggie to let her know we’re here.”

There’s a problem. Maggie’s phone number isn’t listed. Now, to me, it seems ridiculous that we’ve taken a train from Dublin to Galway, and now driven to Westport, with no assurance that we can reach any of Pat’s family or that they’ll be home if we do find where they live. Pat had tried to write or email before we left the States, but had not made contact. She is not concerned in the least.

“Let’s find our B&B,” she says. “Then we’ll look for Mary.”

Dubious, I drive on. We find the B&B without difficulty, based on instructions we got at the Dublin Tourist Office. Our suitcases unloaded, we set off.

“Mary lives on that curved street near the church,” Pat says. We’ve been there before, and Westport is a small town. We find the curved street.

“What’s her address?” I ask.

“Not a clue,” Pat says, as she hops out of the car and walks up to a house she has chosen at random. I watch her in animated conversation with the lady in the house.

Pat returns to the car. “Mary lives in the next block, but she may not be home, because she visits with her daughter on Tuesdays.” Everybody knows everything about everyone in Irish neighborhoods.

Pat walks down the street. Soon, looking in the rear view mirror, I see her waving for me to join her.

“Mary’s here, and so is one of her daughters (who lives in England) we’ve never met. We’ll call Maggie from here.”

To me this is a miracle, but to Pat it’s exactly what she expected all along. The first time she went to visit her relatives in Westport was an even more unlikely story. All she had then was a name. So she went to the Post Office.

“Do you know where Mary Rooney lives?” she asked.

“And who would be asking?” the postal clerk responded.

“I’m her relative from the States.”

“Well, would you know, Mary Rooney is my mother.”

The postal clerk closed the post office, and later all the Rooney children were excused from school to come home and “meet the Yanks.”

Is it any wonder why I love Ireland so much? 

 

family matters in Westport

We leave Mary’s house and drive out about 10 kilometers on the N59 to find the rest of the family. Three of Mary’s children – Liam, Maggie, and Betty – live in adjacent houses on the family land on the N59. All of the houses have spectacular views of Croughpatrick Mountain, the site of annual pilgrimages.

There are 8 children among the three families, ranging from 6 to 15. We have a pleasant visit, including shooting baskets with the kids. I make two long shots in a row and turn around to receive the plaudits due me, but no one has seen the great event.

Noel (Maggie’s husband), who has been at work, arrives just before we leave.

“Are you still working at the Connemara marble factory?” Pat asks.

“No, I’m selling cars now,” Noel says. Noel talks fast, and he’s funny.

“I finally got a job where they pay me to talk rubbish. I’ve been talking rubbish all my life, and now I get paid for it. It’s brilliant!”

After an hour or so of wonderful conversation and laughter, we promise to return next year with some of Pat’s children. Before the dusk turns to dark, not wanting to drive at night, we head back into Westport, park the car, and walk to dinner.

Westport is an unspoiled gem, a beautiful, absolutely clean little town that is being discovered, but hasn’t yet changed. Everything about it has the flavor of an earlier age. We eat in a charming informal restaurant in the Wyatt Hotel.

Then it’s Henahan’s Bar.

Pat’s maiden name is Hanahan, but it was Henahan in Westport, and her family is related somehow to the family that owns the bar. I tell the bartender that he has a special customer, and he introduces us to the current owner, the seventh generation of first sons named Michael Jack Henahan.

Another half pint of Guinness, and a walk up the steep hill to the B&B, where we collapse into bed after a long and tiring and wonderful day. In the morning, we enjoy a full Irish B&B breakfast – one fried egg, sausages, bacon, tomato, toast, cereal, orange juice, coffee and tea – and head back to Galway. 

 

a small absurdity on the train to Dublin

Sometimes little things happen which are so absurd they leave you absolutely dumbfounded, and whenever you recall the incident later, you can’t help but shake your head and smile. One of these episodes happens on the train from Cork to Dublin.

We’re in the latter stages of a long day … up early, train to Cork, walk around town, bus to the seaside village of Kinsale, then reverse the process. It’s been a nice day, but we’re tired and I’m thirsty. There was a vending machine at the station, but then we got in line to board the train and it was too late.

I perk up when I see a railroad employee pushing a small food cart down the aisle of the train. My thirst will soon be quenched.

“Do you have anything cold to drink?” I ask.

“No,” he says, without looking up or stopping.

I guess he’s at the end of a long day, too. Anyway, I give up on the idea of a cold drink. Just then, however, another passenger comes walking down the aisle carrying two cold beers. “Pardon me,” I ask, “do they have cold sodas wherever you bought those beers?”

“Yes, they do. There’s a counter in the next car.”

I look around for the guy with the cart, but he’s in the next car, and besides, what would I say to him anyway?

I get up and get my soda.

 

Dublin days

The countryside still retains the old charm that most of us associate with Ireland, although thatched roof houses are few and far between. Dublin, on the other hand, is a cosmopolitan European city, with sophisticated restaurants, transportation, and shopping.

Not to worry, there are still plenty of Irish pubs.

At its center, Dublin encourages walking. Turn any corner for a fresh view of captivating architecture, shops and people.

I take far too many photos of colorful wooden doors. I also take photos of faces, Irish mainly, but others too, as the population is now quite mixed. The character of the doors and the faces, related in some unfathomable way, speaks of Ireland to me.

Early one morning, we sit on a street corner bench near the Connally station, sip coffee (me) and tea (Pat), and watch Dublin come to life. Swarms of people are going to work. Young people. The kind of young people who didn’t use to stay in Ireland. Now they not only stay, but more come from other countries, creating an immigration problem for the first time in Ireland’s long history.

If you don’t count the British.

The Temple Bar area is a magnet for the young. Bars and music, and more bars, opportunities to meet, street entertainment, some quite excellent. An old man sits on a stone seat, a living statue. Clusters of flowers decorate entryways and balustrades.

At Parnell Square is the Dublin Writer’s Museum. Does any other city have a writer’s museum? Tributes to W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce.

An actor provides 45 minutes of literary quotes, Irish humor, and political commentary. “Ireland is now wealthy,” he says. “The EU gives us money. I don’t know why, but we take it.”

Arbour Hill cemetery holds the remains of 14 martyrs from 1916, buried in a single mass grave where the over-confident Brits callously threw them. A tour guide describes the 1920s conflict between those who would compromise (Eamon DeValera) and those who wouldn’t (Michael Collins). He’s still indignant that there’s nothing to mark the spot in County Cork where Collins was murdered, some say at DeValera’s order.

There’s a wedding at a Greek Church near the cemetery. We talk quietly about the modernization of Ireland with the elderly driver who waits in a black limousine for the bride and groom to emerge. He thinks, on balance, the changes are good.

We stop for the obligatory tea and scones at Bewley’s on Grafton Street, for Guinness at O’Donohues, and on Dawson Street we stumble into the opulent Café en Seine, an early 1900s Art Nouveau Paris interior reminiscent of the New York Café in Budapest where we visited the previous month.

On another day, we return to Café en Seine for a late afternoon snack, and a couple from Northern Ireland urges us to visit. “It’s different now,” they say. “Much better. If you’re still leery of Belfast, try Donegal.” Pat, however, was in Belfast during the “Troubles” and has no desire to return.

At the National Gallery of Art near Merrion Square, I’m moved by the simplicity and compassion of paintings of every day Irish life by John Butler Yeats (1839-1922). 

Mr. Yeats had quite a family. Two sons. One, known as J.B. Yeats to distinguish him from his father, is generally recognized as the most famous Irish artist. The other, W.B. Yeats, reigns uncontested as the most famous Irish poet. There was also a daughter, Anne Butler Yeats, a painter sufficiently talented to warrant restrospectives at the Royal Hibernian Academy and the National Gallery.

The Irish Jewish Museum is in an old synagogue, no longer used since the congregants have moved to the suburbs. The museum was opened in 1985 by a former President of Israel, Dr. Chaim Herzog, who was born in Ireland. We learn that the first Jews arrived in Ireland in 1079, and many more came after the expulsions from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century. The Jewish population of Ireland peaked at 5,500 in the 1940s as Jews fled from Nazi Germany, and is now approximately 1800.

The most famous Jew in the history of Ireland is Leopold Bloom, whose long walk one day in 1904 is the basis of James Joyce’s epic novel Ulysses. The story is that Joyce was saved from a beating by a passing Jew and subsequently felt indebted to the Jewish race. His repayment is one of the greatest works in world literature. Some day I’ll read it.

Contrasts abound. One gallery features photos of the new Ireland by a returning son, while an archive next door displays photos of Dublin from the early 20th century.

At the Brown Thomas department store on Grafton Street, Pat shops while I speak with the formally attired doorman who was featured in a Samantha Brown’s Passport to Europe program on Dublin, robustly singing the tale of sweet Molly Malone. He is less sanguine about the changes in Ireland that the limo driver. “Too much money for some,” he says, “not enough for others.”

Something called the Street Performance World Championship is held on Merrion Square, one of Dublin’s largest and grandest Georgian spaces, surrounded on 3 sides by elegant town houses and on the fourth by gardens and museums. Four performance venues are organized in the park, and through a steady rain, the acts go on.

The crowds are deep, but we manage to get close enough to see someone who calls himself That Man. At the conclusion of his act, he points out that, without speaking a single word, he has kept his audience smiling and laughing, in the rain, for 35 minutes. He asks the crowd to grade this remarkable performance, from 1 to 20, to put a euro sign before the grade, and to make a corresponding deposit into the hat he suddenly flourishes.  The languages most spoken in Ireland are English, Chinese, Polish, Irish, in that order. We understand the Polish, since 130,000 Poles have recently emigrated to Ireland. But Chinese?

 

running in Phoenix Park

Pat is a runner, having completed 10 marathons, so she’s thrilled that our Dublin home exchange is located near the sprawling Phoenix Park, which at 1750 acres is the largest enclosed park in Europe.

On the first morning, we go out together. There are two reasons for this. It’s a nice day and I’d like to have my coffee outside. And, Pat has a history of getting lost.

So I buy coffee and a paper at the corner store, and sit on a bench waving goodbye as Pat runs off. Before I can finish the coffee, she’s back.

“Did you get lost?” I ask.

“No. I couldn’t find the park. I ran out and around, and here I am. Where’s the 1750 acres?”

I’m of course skeptical. I have a map and it shows where the park is, so why can’t she find it. I never say that, but Pat knows what I’m thinking when, later that morning, we march out together to find the missing park.

Same result. A brief circuit and we’re back where we started. Pat can hardly stop grinning. “You believe me now?”

We try again the next day and ask directions.

“Just go to the Garda station.”

“Where is it?”

Directions in Ireland are always lacking just a bit in precise specificity. “Just go along, turn after a while, and you’ll see it for sure.”

We don’t.

The next morning, Pat goes out by herself, and returns triumphant, having conquered the park, run six miles, and found her way back. It turns out, contrary to what shows on the map, that we had been in a small side section of the park when we thought we were in the main section.

Later, Pat takes me on a guided tour of the broad meadows, tree lined avenues, and quiet ponds.

 

the Guinness factory at St. James’s Gate

It is said that the famous black beer contains all of the food groups, and that one can survive quite well on a diet of Guinness alone. Many of the Irish are alleged to have put this theory to the test, with varying results.

From the Guinness web site:

… Arthur Guinness was born in 1725 near Dublin in the town of Celbridge, County Kildare where his father was a Land Steward whose duties included brewing beer for the workers on the estate. Thus young Arthur learnt the art of brewing at an early age.

… Arthur acquired a small, disused and ill-equipped brewery at St James’s Gate, still today the site of the Guinness brewery. The lease, signed on 31 December 1759, was for 9000 years (that’s not a typo) at an annual rent of £45.

… Arthur initially brewed ale, but by the 1770s a new drink, a strong black beer called porter was being exported from London. Arthur made the wise decision to brew this new beer himself, and the rest is history.

… Arthur also had the wisdom to marry an heiress. They had 21 children, 10 of whom survived into adulthood, thus establishing the family hierarchy which ran the brewery for many generations.

The Guinness factory is a 15 minute walk from our Dublin home. As we approach the grounds, we see a wonderful juxtaposition of huge shiny brewing tanks and the grey stones of a Catholic church, standing proudly side by side, dual pillars of Irish life.

The tour includes more Guinness history, enlightening descriptions of each stage in the brewing process, a lesson in how to get full enjoyment from every sip, and a voucher for a pint with lunch at one of the several restaurants.

But the highlight is clearly the opportunity to “pull” your own pint, a time honored process you can see repeated in any bar in Ireland and many in Manhattan. I already knew that you don’t just fill the glass.

I’m instructed to pull the tap and fill just to the designated line on the pint glass. The partial pint is then placed on the bar to settle, and for everyone to anticipate the cool taste that awaits. After a suitable wait, I finish the pull, with the tap in the opposite direction (no gas) to achieve a perfect creamy head.

If you’re really good, you can carve a replica of the Guinness logo into the head. I wasn’t that good.

We take our pint to the rooftop bar, where the 360 degree view of Dublin is stunning, including, far off in the distance, the mountains of Wicklow from which the cool water flowed to make the beer we’re now drinking.

 

Ballykissangel (actually Avoca)

The village of Avoca is a magical destination for us, because it is the real-life location of Ballykissangel, the BBC television show from some years ago that we adored. I’ve been looking forward to this visit for months.

We take an 7:30 am train from Dublin to Arklow, arriving before 9:00. It takes 15 only minutes to walk through the entire town, and still the tourist office hasn’t opened. We have another breakfast.

We had thought we might rent bikes and pedal the 7 miles to Avoca, but we learn that the nearest bike rental is in Wicklow, 20 miles away. Plan B is the cab, which the lovely ladies at the tourist office promise will be here in 5 minutes. It is.

Driving to Avoca, we realize how fortunate we are not to be on bikes. The road is one big rolling hill after another, of surpassing green beauty to be sure, but with no bike path or even shoulder of the road to protect bicyclists from the speeding cars, trucks and buses. In Ireland, the roads are very narrow and the traffic moves very fast.

The taxi driver turns out to be the cousin of the owner of Fitzgerald’s Bar in Avoca, the prime location for everyBallykissangel show. When we arrive at 10:00 am, the village looks just like it did on TV. We take the driver’s card for the return, and emerge onto a movie set.

Assumpta, the sensual and charmingly feisty BallyK tavern owner, is of course not behind the bar, but there’s a regular customer already ensconced, pint in hand. Across the street is Kathleen’s store and not far down the street we find Father Peter Clifford’s church. We enter each location with a warm reverence reflecting how much we enjoyed the show.

The other tourist attraction is the Avoca Hand Weavers outlet, which, dating from 1723, is the oldest surviving working mill in Ireland. The colors in the soft woolen blankets and scarves are vibrant, and it’s mesmerizing to watch the manually operated weaving machines create such beauty right before our eyes.

We lift some colorful scraps from the discard bins, and buy a beautiful scarf for a Christmas gift. We always like to buy things when we travel as reminders of where we’ve been, although luggage weight restrictions are now limiting our ability to do so.

When we get back to Fitzgerald’s at 12:30, the same guy is there, although I suspect it’s not the same pint. I drink a half pint of Guinness, mostly so I can say I did, and the bartender graciously calls the taxi to take us back to Arklow. It’s the same driver, and we share with him what was for us an adventure that met every one of our high expectations.

When we get back to Key West, we buy another season of Ballykissangel on DVD. Every scene in every show will now remind us of our wonderful trip to Avoca.

 

 

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* Ireland with the kids – July 2007

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 2, 2007

 

There is surely something magical about Ireland, a feeling I had even before marrying my wife of Irish descent. There is such a connection between the Irish and the U.S., and Ireland has had such a long history of mostly futile revolt against the oppression of the British – the history alone is a powerful draw.  

The glorious beauty of the country, all those shades of green (44), are enchanting. Or at least so I’m told, since my partial color-blindness may be limiting what I actually see.  

The Irish people are friendly, charming, and always helpful, although I’ve learned never to take the always vague travel directions offered by an Irish person. And now, prosperity has arrived for the first time in Ireland’s long history. Young people actually come to Ireland instead of leaving.

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 A major attraction of Ireland for us is “the cousins,” Pat’s relatives in Westport, and we’re looking forward to that visit at the end of the trip.

The only drawback is the weather. All that green comes from all that rain. It rains every day, usually a gentle rain that doesn’t last too long, but rain all the same. Never go to Ireland without a rain jacket and an umbrella.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Driven by Ryanair’s ever declining luggage allowance, we’re getting better at taking less on our travels. This time we each pack one of our new Delsey four-wheel spinner suitcases, not nearly full, and each weighing slightly under the 15 kilo (33 pound) limit. I have my camera bag, Pat her handbag, and no carryons. 

Karen and Joe come up for some lessons regarding our apartment. We give them my “home exchange thesis” and everyone laughs. Then we spend a careful half hour explaining how to use the computer we are leaving for them. They know the basics but have never used Skype, and never heard of Slingbox. We instruct them and wish them well.

Lunch and a long walk in town, then up to our apartment for final preparations. I try to call my daughter Missy, who has just delivered her second child (my 4th grandson) two months early, but all I can do is leave messages. I talk to my son Jon, however, and learn that all seems to be going quite well, with less complications than her first son, also born two months early. 

We train to Port Bou, expecting an hour’s wait for the connecting train to Girona. But a woman runs out and tells us there is a train about to depart, and we rush across to the other platform and board.

In Girona, we take the bus from the gare to the airport. The Novotel shuttle has stopped for the night, but we take a taxi which Novotel pays for. A very comfortable room, a glass of red wine, and we are asleep. 

Friday, July 6, 2007

We breakfast at Novotel, shuttle to the airport, check in at Ryanair. We are expecting to pay 12 euros for each of our checked bags, but are not charged anything, unless it’s being added to our credit card. Something to check when we return to Collioure. (There was no separate charge on flight day, and I think the luggage charge was included when we bought the tickets on line) 

I’m reading Leon Uris’ mighty novel, Trinity, both to establish the mood for our stay in Ireland and as part of my study of novels, especially historical novels. There is much to learn from Mr. Uris, and I’ve decided to apply my method of listing scenes (on a spreadsheet) to Trinity. So after I read each section, first for the pure enjoyment, I am numbering each scene, identifying the characters and major topics, and entering all of this into my spreadsheet.  

Uris has done something very interesting with “point of view” in this book, alternating between Conor Larkin’s best friend Seamus O’Neill and an omniscient narrator for all of the scenes where Seamus is not present. This enables him to present all of the background history, and the inner thoughts of the other (mostly Protestant) characters, while still retaining the immediacy of Seamus’ first person point of view. 

The flight is properly uneventful, but the car rental from Hertz is not.

Again the problem is the Collision Damage Waiver insurance. I am informed when we pick up the car that Hertz is charging me an additional 25 euros, above the fixed price which I pre-paid and thought included everything but local taxes, for not taking their insurance. This is absurd, and I’m afraid that I lost my temper and made a scene, for which I was properly reprimanded later in the day.

I’ll call Hertz when we get back to Collioure, but for now I am thinking this is a royal rip-off. I think the car rental companies make a lot of money by grossly overcharging for collision insurance, and they don’t like it that Citibank and others provide the coverage at no cost to their cardholders. 

NOTE: Hertz is not much interested in my complaint and see nothing wrong with not telling me in advance that they will be charging me for something I didn’t get. Ridiculous!

Driving from Shannon to Adare has the expected confusions induced by the ridiculous Michelin directions, but we are better now at extracting the truth from the nonsense and we get there without major incident. 

Our B&B in Adare, the Berkeley Lodge, is lovely, and so is the town. We enjoy the church, where a wedding is taking place, and the shops, where Pat finds running pants and we buy a fly-swatter at the local hardware store. When you live in a village of no real stores, you buy what you can wherever you may be. We also find Listerine, not sold anywhere in France, and are delighted.  

Then we check out Lena’s corner pub, where we find the entire wedding party (minus bride and groom) occupying the time between ceremony and reception in the company of Mr. Guinness and his companions. There’s also a group from a local company doing a team-building project by figuring out the riddles of The DaVinci Code. It is incomprehensible, and probably a surprise even to Dan Brown, how much that book has invaded our society. In Paris, there are DaVinci Code tours, including at the Louvre. 

We dine at another local pub, enjoying the interaction between the proprietor and his guests, many of whom he seems to know quite well. The food is … well the food is Irish pub food. Enough said. Nobody goes to Ireland for the culinary experience. The potato salad is of course excellent, as is the beer.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Pat finds a marvelous place to run, on the grounds of Adare Manor, which hosts a marvelous golf course, the home this year of the recently completed Irish Open. Gorgeous scenery and long flat roads. She returns exhilarated by her best run in months.

Meanwhile, I took a walk, photos of the church, and a brief conversation with the gentleman who was removing the very few pieces of trash from the main streets and sidewalks. 

Breakfast is wonderful. We’re given a choice of a variety of eggs, sides, and other dishes, and I believe we could have had them all if we had asked. Our waitress, who both cooks and serves us, thought my poached eggs on toast looked a little “small,” and convinced me to add a rasher of sausage.  

We’re the only ones dining at 8:00 am, although the B&B is full, so we have time to have a delightful chat. Ireland is changing, especially in the fact that immigrants are now coming to Ireland for the first time in its history, if we don’t count the invasions. Most are Polish, and they seem to be hardworking and well-liked. But still the mix of languages and cultures present new problems. 

Before we leave Adare, we drive through the Adare Manor grounds, so I can see the ruined castle and abbey. Then south for about an hour to Killarney. No problem until we actually enter Killarney, where the right turn we have to make to get to our rented home was eliminated last Christmas.

I take this personally, since I pride myself on being able to interpret the directions and maps and get us where we need to get. Pat points out that I have established an impossible standard, and that we need to just accept the fact that entering cities, any city, is going to be a mess.  

We find the Tourist Office, get a more complete map and better directions, and find the Texaco station where we are supposed to meet John King and Pat’s children at 3:00 pm. Now, however, Pat is worried that her kids will have the same, or worse, difficulties than we had, and that we will not get together as planned, an eventuality made more tense by the fact that none of us has a cell phone. 

However, that problem is for 3:00 pm, and it’s now just 12:30, so we drive back to the Tourist Office, find a parking space, and begin to explore the wonderful town of Killarney. Even though it’s not raining, we buy two small umbrellas.

At 2:45 we return to the Texaco station to begin worrying.  At 2:58, we spot Kerry waving from the passenger window, right where they are supposed to be at precisely the proper time. They had some difficulties, but Kerry apparently was a better navigator following the directions I had sent her than I was. John King shows up a few minutes later, and we’re soon in our home for the week on Ross Road. 

The house is part of a group of perhaps 20 homes, built as duplexes for “letting.” But now they are mostly owner occupied, just our two unit duplex still rented. We meet our neighbors. Kevin begins by kicking a soccer ball with a curly-haired girl of maybe 4 years old. Her parents arrive and introductions follow. They are from Glasgow, Scotland, having ferried and driven all the way. We expect to see them during our stay, but it turns out we don’t, except to give them our leftover (unopened) food when we leave. 

Kerry unloads all of the goodies she is bringing for us … outdoor food covers which Pat ordered from Lillian Vernon, the Sony laptop on which I am now typing this journal, and a digital voice recorder I want to use in Florence in October (a technique highly recommended by Elizabeth George for capturing the nuances of settings).

The four “kids” — Kevin and Dawn, Kerry and Susan — who have flown all night and then driven all day, sack out for a couple of hours. 

When they awaken, we all walk into town – it is, as advertised, about a 10 minute walk – and search for a restaurant. Our choice is Danny Mann, which promises live music. The food was ok, and the music was lively.

We’re joined at our table by a lady from Melbourne, Australia, visiting friends in Ireland. One of the great joys of traveling is meeting people from places all over the world and sharing experiences.  More and more, we see women traveling alone, like the lady. Her friend from Australia came to Ireland, met a guy and married. They started an internet company of some sort, and have made a ton of money. Now she’s off to Nice, to the home of a guy she met at a party. At least that was her story. 

Sunday, July 8, 2007

No trips today, just hanging out in Killarney. First thing, Pat and I drive to the supermarket and load up on basics for the week – paper goods, cereal, milk, coffee. There are two coffee machines. One is an American style drip machine, which takes forever to make two cups of coffee. There’s also a coffee press, but the filter is missing.

The next day, Pat finds the filter, I re-assemble the press, and we forget about Mr. Coffee. Much better. Now that I’ve learned to use a coffee press, I feel so European. 

Well, we don’t exactly hang out. We walk into town, rent 6 bikes at 12.50 euros each for half a day. As soon as we get the bikes, it begins to pour, and we pour into an alley for protection. The rain abates in a few minutes, and we head out into the national forest, the entrance being just 3 blocks from the middle of town. It drizzles, but it never really pours again, so we just continue.

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There’s one large hill. Kerry, who rides 150 miles on a weekend, goes right up. The rest of us struggle. Dawn and I walk the last 100 yards.  From the top of the hill, the broad vista across the countryside is well worth it.

Next we ride to Ross Castle. When we see it, Pat and I realize we’ve been there before, by boat across the lake. Outside the castle, we meet a group of junior high school students from Maryland and Pennsylvania, on a “People to People” trip. We talk to one of the teachers. It sounds like a fantastic program, exposing young people to other places and cultures and what is described as a life-changing experience.  

I’m thinking how much better off the world would be if our President had been exposed to other countries before he invaded them. 

Now it’s raining a little harder, but we have no choice. We take the wrong road and repeat a loop, but then get oriented and find the back exit to the park which is on the road back to our rental house. We’ll return the bikes tomorrow morning. 

We decide to cook in, so Pat and I return to the supermarket and buy pasta, sauce, hamburger, garlic bread and wine. I cook my pasta with meat sauce, at triple the usual quantity, and everyone eats and eats and we still have too much left over. 

Monday, July 9, 2007

The kids drive the Ring of Kerry, which they’ve all done before, except Kevin. But this trip is his graduation present, so off they go. Pat’s daughter Kerry is, of course, named after County Kerry, and her name is all over everything.

Pat and I head south to the third peninsula, the Ring of Beara. We take the wrong way out of Killarney and go the long way to Kenmare, then head around the northern edge of the peninsular. For the first several miles, we don’t see more than an occasional glimpse of the bay, our view more often blocked by trees. 

At our first stop, there’s a group of very young and very small children, about to head out onto the choppy water, in a stiff wind, in tiny sail boats. We ask their instructor if he expects them to capsize, and he says, “They’ll all be in the water in 15 minutes. It’s the best way to learn.”

The kids are wearing wet suits, but the water looks cold. They all get wet pushing the boats into the water, but we watch for several minutes and nobody capsizes. The two boats “manned” by girls do great, and the two boys (one very small and one very large) in the other boat have a hard time, but they get it going.

We follow the narrow road and the driving is difficult when cars come the other way. It’s even more frightening when trucks and buses come the other way. We reach a cove of surpassing beauty, alternating sun and clouds, and pause to enjoy, reflect, take photos.

At our lunch stop in Castletownbere, there’s a group of kids from Belgium, wearing Santa hats. They serenade us with “we wish you a merry Christmas,” and are excited to pose for pictures.

We work our way around the Beara loop. The hills, sometimes green and filled with sheep, other times a barren landscape of huge rocks, are spectacular. 

The “big” town on this loop is Glengarriff, and we stop to shop. I get a sweater and a Guinness coffee cup with a lid, just what I had been looking for. 

We complete the loop on the road we should have taken to get to Kenmare, and find that the route we did take, although longer in kilometers, was much easier driving and no longer in time. 

Pat and I are first back to the house, and wait for the kids to return from the Ring of Kerry. They arrive, excited by their trip, and we head into town for dinner. Another restaurant, not terrific, but the Guinness is fine.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Dingle peninsula has perhaps the most spectacular scenery in all of Ireland. We drive in caravan, pass through Castlemaine, and stop at the overlook of the a spectacular beach, a long wide expanse of sand, with blue water and crashing waves, and the mountains of the Ring of Kerry across the other side. Other views include hillsides filled with sheep, and some cattle, ancient graveyards with Celtic crosses. 

We’re looking for signs to Dingle, but instead see signs to An Daingean. Most road signs in Ireland include place names in English and Gaelic, but here on the Dingle peninsula, the English has been eliminated, which is very confusing for tourists.

We begin to notice, however, several road signs where the word “DINGLE” has been spray-painted on. What’s going on? In the town, we see large posters proclaiming Dingle as a place “without democracy.”  

                   dscn1440-democracy.jpg     lew-and-jack.jpg

While the others shop, I take a seat on a bench. I’m joined by an elderly gentleman with a cane who I learn is named Jack Farrell. I welcome him to my bench, which we soon decide is far more his bench, since he spends part of every day on it.

Jack explains that there was an election, and 95% of the people voted to have both names on the signs, but the powers that be decided otherwise, and one dark night the word “Dingle” was eliminated from all the road signs, starting the battle royal.  

This war of the signs and spray paint has been going on for almost a year, a local skirmish in the larger, nationwide effort to resuscitate the Gaelic language (forbidden centuries ago by the British), and Jack at least made no predictions as to how it would end. 

Dingle Town (or An Daingean – go ahead, pronounce it, I dare you) is as delightful as we remember it, with green hills peaking through between the old buildings, good shopping, and great pubs. 

The kids go off to complete the ring, including the Connor Pass, while Pat and I take the road back to Killarney. I’m not used to so much driving, it’s hard driving requiring constant intense concentration, and, quite frankly, I’m tired. 

We check our email at an excellent internet center in Killarney, where we receive daily updates from Karen and Joe, who seem to be enjoying Collioure. They’re playing with all our toys, making calls on Skype (they report that they owe us $0.38), watching TV on Slingbox, and using mlb.com to watch a Phillies game.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kevin, Dawn and Susan drive off to Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone, Kerry gets a bike for an extended ride in the national park, and Pat and I spend a quiet day in Killarney before our long drive to Westport tomorrow. 

We explore options for cell phones in Europe. Our Cingular cell phones would work here, but the per minute charges are fierce, and we have set our service to a reduced rate, no use for the summer. Vodaphone offers phones for 40 euros or so, with more than that in call credits, and a rate of 0.19 euro/minute for calls. However, calls in France and elsewhere have a 0.79 euro connect fee per call, and if we call each other, we pay the connect fee twice. When we get back to Collioure, we’ll go to Perpignan and see if we can make similar arrangements based in France. 

The book store.

I have been waiting all week to look at the selection on Irish history, and today is the day.  So far on this trip, I finished Trinity and read Brian Moore’s Lies of Silence about the more recent IRA in Belfast. Now I’m ready to read the history that underlies these and other works of fiction.

First, I want an overview of Irish history from the first invasions to the present, and I select The Course of Irish History, a book produced in conjunction with a 1966 TV series. Each chapter is written by an eminent historian, including several chapters to bring the work up to date. What I’ve read so far is excellent, much more than an outline but not too overloaded with detail.  

Later in the week, in Westport, I buy Tim Pat Coogan’s Ireland in the 20th Century, and decide that I will later purchase Robert Kee’s The Green Flag, A History of Irish Nationalism. Kevin, however, buys the Kee book and loans it to me, so with the three, I think I’ll get a very solid understanding of the long and tortuous Irish national experience.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Our original plan was to drive from Killarney to Westport, about 5 hours drive time. Then we decided to detour in the middle of that trip to see the cliffs of Moher. The kids stick to the revised plan, but I revert to the straight drive.

We’re all on the road before 8:30 am. Pat and I arrive in Westport by 3:00 pm, having stopped for lunch in Tuam, the largest town between Galway and Westport.

We find our B&B on the South Mall in the very center of town, and wait for the kids, who arrive at 7:30 pm. They’ve seen the cliffs and made other discoveries, including a ruined castle that I think is the sightseeing highlight of the trip for them, since it was not a tourist spot and they were there all alone, as if they had discovered it. 

We have a terrific dinner at the bar adjacent to Wyatt’s Hotel, where we toast Pat’s father, John Hanahan, whose ancestors emigrated to the U.S. from Westport. This trip was funded in part by the inheritance left to Pat by her father. She thought that bringing his grandchildren to the home of his ancestors was a wonderful use of the money and surely would have made him very happy. 

Friday, July 13, 2007

Our B&B breakfasts are excellent, after which all 6 of us walk around Westport in the on again-off again drizzle. I stay too long at the bookstore, as I often do, and the others move on. When I go to look for them, they are nowhere to be found. But Susan comes to find me.

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They’re all assembled on a side street, at the shop of Pat’s cousin Betty, who, together with her husband Michael, manufacture and sell individually cut wood puzzles. They also sell Michael’s photographs. Among us, we purchase three puzzles and three photographs.  

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We have lunch at Henehan’s Bar. Which somewhere in the dark and musty past, had something to do with Pat’s Hanahan ancestors. The food is excellent, and Mike Henehan, son of the current owner, who Pat and I met last year, comes over to say hello. 

By the time lunch is over, it’s just about time for the purpose of our trip to Westport, a visit with the Irish cousins. We walk to Mary Carroll’s house on the Crescent adjacent to the church, but she does not answer Pat’s knock.  

We drive south on C59 approximately 9 kilometers to the cousin’s family compound. On land that we believe used to be Henahan owned, three of Mary’s children have built homes adjacent to each other. So there’s son Liam and his wife Anita, and their four children, daughter Maggie and her husband Noel, with their two children, and daughter Betty and her husband Michael with their two children. 

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Kerry, Susan, and Kevin had each ordered one of Michael’s photographs in Betty’s shop that morning, and now they’re ready. But first, Michael shows us his album, and explains how he took some of the pictures. He is an excellent photographer, with the patience and skill to wait for the proper light.

There’s one photo of an old building, a place Michael knew when he was a child. When he re-visited, it had not been entered for many years, and he was careful not to disturb even the dust. I bought the photo, and when we returned to Collioure, realized how wonderfully it reflects, in a way that is different but similar, the stunning photo of an entryway in one of the Greek Islands by Georges Meis hanging on our wall. 

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 Back downstairs, Dawn sits on the floor with the four youngest children. She starts out with animal noises, seal noises, complete with flapping flippers, and they are captivated. None will try it, until Owen suddenly erupts with a great imitation. As the afternoon goes on, we come to think Owen is in love with Dawn. 

We make our obligatory trek to the Henehan homestead, just up the road, with Liam and Noel to guide us. The ancient huts, once with thatched roofs, are a reminder of Ireland’s poor history. Liam says the road to Westport, 8 km away, used to run right in front of the old cottages. We climb through the mud and take our pictures. 

Our lovely visit finally concludes, and we drive back to Westport. Pat wants to visit Mary, the mother of those we just left, so we return to the Crescent and she’s there. It turns out she has two new hips, and is much spryer than we remember from last year. The captivating smile has returned to her face, and she claims to be “on top of the world” now that she can walk to the store or anywhere else she wants to go. 

The kids didn’t follow us to Mary’s, and when we get back to the B&B, they’ve already gone to dinner, having expected that our visit would be much longer than it was. We go back to the Wyatt and have Irish coffee and dessert. Perfect.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The kids are ready to leave at 5:00 am, off to Shannon to catch their flights home. We say goodbye and agree it’s been a great trip.

At breakfast, we learn that Anita’s sister is engaged to the son of the woman serving us at the B&B. 

Pat and I drive to Bunratty, a tiny town just past Shannon. Actually, we’re not in the town, but on an isolated farm house with beautiful views of the meadows and the Shannon River. There’s also internet connection at a computer in the hall provided for guests. 

We go out for an early dinner in the little shopping area that surrounds Bunratty Castle, eat at Durty Nellies, and buy two CDs of Irish ballads and drinking songs. The kinds of things you buy at the end of a trip.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Breakfast at the Bunratty B&B, fill the tank and drive 10 minutes to the airport, return the car to Hertz, and fly Ryanair to Carcassonne, where we taxi from the airport to the train station. 

We think we have time for pizza, and walk two blocks, with our luggage, to a small restaurant. Then I suddenly realize there’s an hour time change, and we have but 20 minutes to get back to the train station and catch our train.

We change trains at Narbonne, and then on to Collioure. It’s great to be back, having completed one of those surreal travel days, where you end up in a different world from where you started.

Both good worlds, and we appreciate every minute of it.  

 

 

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it’s a bank holiday

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 22, 2007

                  

On our last day in Dublin, we go to a movie on O’Connell Street. The line for tickets is long, because it’s a bank holiday.

“Why is it called a bank holiday?”

“Because the banks are closed.”

“Why are the banks closed?”

“Because it’s a holiday.”

I swear to you that was a verbatim conversation held while we were waiting to buy the tickets.  

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it ‘could be true’ in Galway

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 12, 2007

                      

We were in Galway twice, each time for a few hours, on our way to Westport, and again on the way back. Time enough to have a delightful experience in the Galway Tourist Office.

We found Tourist Offices in Ireland to be extraordinary, with intelligent, helpful people consistently going the extra distance to be helpful. This is always the case, you say? Go to Budapest and learn differently, from people who haven’t yet got the message about how to help tourists.

The young man in the Galway Tourist Office was the best of the best. We asked a few questions, and then he asked if we had time to hear his 10 minute presentation. We had the time, but he was so enthusiastic, we could not have refused even if we were in a hurry. He gave us an over view of central Galway, and then told two stories …

… There’s a clock tower on Eire Square (renamed Kennedy Square after JFK’s visit in 1963 but still called Eire Square on all the signs), erected by the British centuries ago. There are clocks on two sides, facing the new sections of town where all the Brits lived. The other two sides, facing the older, poorer sections of town to which the local Irish had been relegated, have no clocks. From whence comes the expression, “the Brits won’t even give us the time of day.”

… There used to be a Mayor in Galway named Lynch. He had a son, whose girl friend dallied with a stranger. The son killed the stranger. Now, the penalty for such killing was hanging, but since it was the mayor’s son, none of the townspeople would carry out the punishment. So the mayor marched his son to the public square and saw him hanged, amidst a large group, some urging him to carry on, others not. For ever more, such a group was known as a “Lynch mob.”

Are these stories true?

Well, as the Irish say, they “could be true.”

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family matters in Westport

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 12, 2007

We leave Mary’s house and drive out about 10 kilometers on the N59 to find the rest of the family. Three of Mary’s children – Liam, Maggie, and Betty – live in adjacent houses on the family land on the N59. All of the houses have spectacular views of Croughpatrick Mountain, the site of annual pilgrimages.

There are 8 children among the three families, ranging from 6 to 15. We have a pleasant visit, including shooting baskets with the kids. I make two long shots in a row and turn around to receive the plaudits due me, but no one has seen the great event.

Noel (Maggie’s husband), who has been at work, arrives just before we leave.

“Are you still working at the Connemara marble factory?” Pat asks.

“No, I’m selling cars now,” Noel says. Noel talks fast, and he’s funny.

“I finally got a job where they pay me to talk rubbish. I’ve been talking rubbish all my life, and now I get paid for it. It’s brilliant!”

After an hour or so of wonderful conversation and laughter, we promise to return next year with some of Pat’s children. Before the dusk turns to dark, not wanting to drive at night, we head back into Westport, park the car, and walk to dinner.

Westport is an unspoiled gem, a beautiful, absolutely clean little town that is being discovered, but hasn’t yet changed. Everything about it has the flavor of an earlier age. We eat in a charming informal restaurant in the Wyatt Hotel.

Then it’s Henahan’s Bar.

Pat’s maiden name is Hanahan, but it was Henahan in Westport, and her family is related somehow to the family that owns the bar. I tell the bartender that he has a special customer, and he introduces us to the current owner, the seventh generation of first sons named Michael Jack Henahan.

Another half pint of Guinness, and a walk up the steep hill to the B&B, where we collapse into bed after a long and tiring and wonderful day. In the morning, we enjoy a full Irish B&B breakfast – one fried egg, sausages, bacon, tomato, toast, cereal, orange juice, coffee and tea – and head back to Galway. 

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finding Pat’s family in Westport

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 9, 2007

                                   

We’ve finally completed our harrowing drive from Galway to Westport, despite the lack of good directions and the astonishingly vague road signs. Pat is coming to think that maybe her own often terrible sense of direction may be a tribal heritage.

Pull over,” Pat says at a small convenience store on the outskirts of Westport, “and I’ll call Maggie to let her know we’re here.”

There’s a problem. Maggie’s phone number isn’t listed. Now, to me, it seems ridiculous that we’ve taken a train from Dublin to Galway, and now driven to Westport, with no assurance that we can reach any of Pat’s family or that they’ll be home if we do find where they live. Pat had tried to write or email before we left the States, but had not made contact. She is not concerned in the least.

“Let’s find our B&B,” she says. “Then we’ll look for Mary.”

Dubious, I drive on. We find the B&B without difficulty, based on instructions we got at the Dublin Tourist Office. Our suitcases unloaded, we set off.

“Mary lives on that curved street near the church,” Pat says. We’ve been there before, and Westport is a small town. We find the curved street.

“What’s her address?” I ask.

“Not a clue,” Pat says, as she hops out of the car and walks up to a house she has chosen at random. I watch her in animated conversation with the lady in the house.

Pat returns to the car. “Mary lives in the next block, but she may not be home, because she visits with her daughter on Tuesdays.” Everybody knows everything about everyone in Irish neighborhoods.

Pat walks down the street. Soon, looking in the rear view mirror, I see her waving for me to join her.

“Mary’s here, and so is one of her daughters (who lives in England) we’ve never met. We’ll call Maggie from here.”

To me this is a miracle, but to Pat it’s exactly what she expected all along. The first time she went to visit her relatives in Westport was an even more unlikely story. All she had then was a name. So she went to the Post Office.

“Do you know where Mary Rooney lives?” she asked.

“And who would be asking?” the postal clerk responded.

“I’m her relative from the States.”

“Well, would you know, Mary Rooney is my mother.”

The postal clerk closed the post office, and later all the Rooney children were excused from school to come home and “meet the Yanks.”

Is it any wonder why I love Ireland so much? If this is all new to you, get the BallyK DVDs and enjoy. See our posting …  Ballykissangel (actually Avoca).

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Dublin days

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 3, 2007

The countryside still retains the old charm that most of us associate with Ireland, although thatched roof houses are few and far between. Dublin, on the other hand, is a cosmopolitan European city, with sophisticated restaurants, transportation, and shopping.

Not to worry, there are still plenty of Irish pubs.

At its center, Dublin encourages walking. Turn any corner for a fresh view of captivating architecture, shops and people.

I take far too many photos of colorful wooden doors. I also take photos of faces, Irish mainly, but others too, as the population is now quite mixed. The character of the doors and the faces, related in some unfathomable way, speaks of Ireland to me.

Early one morning, we sit on a street corner bench near the Connally station, sip coffee (me) and tea (Pat), and watch Dublin come to life. Swarms of people are going to work. Young people. The kind of young people who didn’t use to stay in Ireland. Now they not only stay, but more come from other countries, creating an immigration problem for the first time in Ireland’s long history.

If you don’t count the British.

The Temple Bar area is a magnet for the young. Bars and music, and more bars, opportunities to meet, street entertainment, some quite excellent. An old man sits on a stone seat, a living statue. Clusters of flowers decorate entryways and balustrades.

At Parnell Square is the Dublin Writer’s Museum. Does any other city have a writer’s museum? Tributes to W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce.

An actor provides 45 minutes of literary quotes, Irish humor, and political commentary. “Ireland is now wealthy,” he says. “The EU gives us money. I don’t know why, but we take it.”

Arbour Hill cemetery holds the remains of 14 martyrs from 1916, buried in a single mass grave where the over-confident Brits callously threw them. A tour guide describes the 1920s conflict between those who would compromise (Eamon DeValera) and those who wouldn’t (Michael Collins). He’s still indignant that there’s nothing to mark the spot in County Cork where Collins was murdered, some say at DeValera’s order.

There’s a wedding at a Greek Church near the cemetery. We talk quietly about the modernization of Ireland with the elderly driver who waits in a black limousine for the bride and groom to emerge. He thinks, on balance, the changes are good.

We stop for the obligatory tea and scones at Bewley’s on Grafton Street, for Guinness at O’Donohues, and on Dawson Street we stumble into the opulent Café en Seine, an early 1900s Art Nouveau Paris interior reminiscent of the New York Café in Budapest where we visited the previous month.

On another day, we return to Café en Seine for a late afternoon snack, and a couple from Northern Ireland urges us to visit. “It’s different now,” they say. “Much better. If you’re still leery of Belfast, try Donegal.” Pat, however, was in Belfast during the “Troubles” and has no desire to return.

At the National Gallery of Art near Merrion Square, I’m moved by the simplicity and compassion of paintings of every day Irish life by John Butler Yeats (1839-1922). 

Mr. Yeats had quite a family. Two sons. One, known as J.B. Yeats to distinguish him from his father, is generally recognized as the most famous Irish artist. The other, W.B. Yeats, reigns uncontested as the most famous Irish poet. There was also a daughter, Anne Butler Yeats, a painter sufficiently talented to warrant restrospectives at the Royal Hibernian Academy and the National Gallery.

The Irish Jewish Museum is in an old synagogue, no longer used since the congregants have moved to the suburbs. The museum was opened in 1985 by a former President of Israel, Dr. Chaim Herzog, who was born in Ireland. We learn that the first Jews arrived in Ireland in 1079, and many more came after the expulsions from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century. The Jewish population of Ireland peaked at 5,500 in the 1940s as Jews fled from Nazi Germany, and is now approximately 1800.

The most famous Jew in the history of Ireland is Leopold Bloom, whose long walk one day in 1904 is the basis of James Joyce’s epic novel Ulysses. The story is that Joyce was saved from a beating by a passing Jew and subsequently felt indebted to the Jewish race. His repayment is one of the greatest works in world literature. Some day I’ll read it.

Contrasts abound. One gallery features photos of the new Ireland by a returning son, while an archive next door displays photos of Dublin from the early 20th century.

At the Brown Thomas department store on Grafton Street, Pat shops while I speak with the formally attired doorman who was featured in a Samantha Brown’s Passport to Europe program on Dublin, robustly singing the tale of sweet Molly Malone. He is less sanguine about the changes in Ireland that the limo driver. “Too much money for some,” he says, “not enough for others.”

Something called the Street Performance World Championship is held on Merrion Square, one of Dublin’s largest and grandest Georgian spaces, surrounded on 3 sides by elegant town houses and on the fourth by gardens and museums. Four performance venues are organized in the park, and through a steady rain, the acts go on.

The crowds are deep, but we manage to get close enough to see someone who calls himself That Man. At the conclusion of his act, he points out that, without speaking a single word, he has kept his audience smiling and laughing, in the rain, for 35 minutes. He asks the crowd to grade this remarkable performance, from 1 to 20, to put a euro sign before the grade, and to make a corresponding deposit into the hat he suddenly flourishes.  The languages most spoken in Ireland are English, Chinese, Polish, Irish, in that order. We understand the Polish, since 130,000 Poles have recently emigrated to Ireland. But Chinese?

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running in Phoenix Park

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 3, 2007

Pat is a runner, having completed 10 marathons, so she’s thrilled that our Dublin home exchange is located near the sprawling Phoenix Park, which at 1750 acres is the largest enclosed park in Europe.

On the first morning, we go out together. There are two reasons for this. It’s a nice day and I’d like to have my coffee outside. And, Pat has a history of getting lost.

So I buy coffee and a paper at the corner store, and sit on a bench waving goodbye as Pat runs off. Before I can finish the coffee, she’s back.

“Did you get lost?” I ask.

“No. I couldn’t find the park. I ran out and around, and here I am. Where’s the 1750 acres?”

I’m of course skeptical. I have a map and it shows where the park is, so why can’t she find it. I never say that, but Pat knows what I’m thinking when, later that morning, we march out together to find the missing park.

Same result. A brief circuit and we’re back where we started. Pat can hardly stop grinning. “You believe me now?”

We try again the next day and ask directions.

“Just go to the Garda station.”

“Where is it?”

Directions in Ireland are always lacking just a bit in precise specificity. “Just go along, turn after a while, and you’ll see it for sure.”

We don’t.

The next morning, Pat goes out by herself, and returns triumphant, having conquered the park, run six miles, and found her way back. It turns out, contrary to what shows on the map, that we had been in a small side section of the park when we thought we were in the main section.

Later, Pat takes me on a guided tour of the broad meadows, tree lined avenues, and quiet ponds.

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* the Guinness factory at St. James’s Gate

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 2, 2007

It is said that the famous black beer contains all of the food groups, and that one can survive quite well on a diet of Guinness alone. Many of the Irish are alleged to have put this theory to the test, with varying results.

From the Guinness web site:

… Arthur Guinness was born in 1725 near Dublin in the town of Celbridge, County Kildare where his father was a Land Steward whose duties included brewing beer for the workers on the estate. Thus young Arthur learnt the art of brewing at an early age.

… Arthur acquired a small, disused and ill-equipped brewery at St James’s Gate, still today the site of the Guinness brewery. The lease, signed on 31 December 1759, was for 9000 years (that’s not a typo) at an annual rent of £45.

… Arthur initially brewed ale, but by the 1770s a new drink, a strong black beer called porter was being exported from London. Arthur made the wise decision to brew this new beer himself, and the rest is history.

… Arthur also had the wisdom to marry an heiress. They had 21 children, 10 of whom survived into adulthood, thus establishing the family hierarchy which ran the brewery for many generations.

The Guinness factory is a 15 minute walk from our Dublin home. As we approach the grounds, we see a wonderful juxtaposition of huge shiny brewing tanks and the grey stones of a Catholic church, standing proudly side by side, dual pillars of Irish life.

The tour includes more Guinness history, enlightening descriptions of each stage in the brewing process, a lesson in how to get full enjoyment from every sip, and a voucher for a pint with lunch at one of the several restaurants.

But the highlight is clearly the opportunity to “pull” your own pint, a time honored process you can see repeated in any bar in Ireland and many in Manhattan. I already knew that you don’t just fill the glass.

I’m instructed to pull the tap and fill just to the designated line on the pint glass. The partial pint is then placed on the bar to settle, and for everyone to anticipate the cool taste that awaits. After a suitable wait, I finish the pull, with the tap in the opposite direction (no gas) to achieve a perfect creamy head.

If you’re really good, you can carve a replica of the Guinness logo into the head. I wasn’t that good.

We take our pint to the rooftop bar, where the 360 degree view of Dublin is stunning, including, far off in the distance, the mountains of Wicklow from which the cool water flowed to make the beer we’re now drinking.

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* Ballykissangel (actually Avoca)

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 2, 2007

The village of Avoca is a magical destination for us, because it is the real-life location of Ballykissangel, the BBC television show from some years ago that we adored. I’ve been looking forward to this visit for months.

We take an 7:30 am train from Dublin to Arklow, arriving before 9:00. It takes 15 only minutes to walk through the entire town, and still the tourist office hasn’t opened. We have another breakfast.

We had thought we might rent bikes and pedal the 7 miles to Avoca, but we learn that the nearest bike rental is in Wicklow, 20 miles away. Plan B is the cab, which the lovely ladies at the tourist office promise will be here in 5 minutes. It is.

Driving to Avoca, we realize how fortunate we are not to be on bikes. The road is one big rolling hill after another, of surpassing green beauty to be sure, but with no bike path or even shoulder of the road to protect bicyclists from the speeding cars, trucks and buses. In Ireland, the roads are very narrow and the traffic moves very fast.

The taxi driver turns out to be the cousin of the owner of Fitzgerald’s Bar in Avoca, the prime location for every Ballykissangel show. When we arrive at 10:00 am, the village looks just like it did on TV. We take the driver’s card for the return, and emerge onto a movie set.

Assumpta, the sensual and charmingly feisty BallyK tavern owner, is of course not behind the bar, but there’s a regular customer already ensconced, pint in hand. Across the street is Kathleen’s store and not far down the street we find Father Peter Clifford’s church. We enter each location with a warm reverence reflecting how much we enjoyed the show.

The other tourist attraction is the Avoca Hand Weavers outlet, which, dating from 1723, is the oldest surviving working mill in Ireland. The colors in the soft woolen blankets and scarves are vibrant, and it’s mesmerizing to watch the manually operated weaving machines create such beauty right before our eyes.

We lift some colorful scraps from the discard bins, and buy a beautiful scarf for a Christmas gift. We always like to buy things when we travel as reminders of where we’ve been, although luggage weight restrictions are now limiting our ability to do so.

When we get back to Fitzgerald’s at 12:30, the same guy is there, although I suspect it’s not the same pint. I drink a half pint of Guinness, mostly so I can say I did, and the bartender graciously calls the taxi to take us back to Arklow. It’s the same driver, and we share with him what was for us an adventure that met every one of our high expectations.

When we get back to Key West, we buy another season of Ballykissangel on DVD. Every scene in every show will now remind us of our wonderful trip to Avoca.

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organizing our two weeks in Ireland

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 2, 2007

     

Pat and I have both been to Ireland before (Pat three times), so we’re using this occasion to explore different parts of the country and other aspects of Dublin.

We plan trips to Wexford (where our new Collioure friends Valerie and Lorcan have a home) and to Cork. We will also re-visit Pat’s family in Westport, County Mayo.

But first we must go to Avoca, the real-life home of the BBC television series Ballykissangel, which became a sort of cult event for Pat and me, and many of our friends, several years ago in New York.

If you like things Irish, and you’ve never seen the show, the DVDs for several seasons are available on amazon.com. It’ll be a great treat. We decide to train to Arklow, from which we’ll either bike or take a cab the seven miles to Avoca.

Bike? What were we thinking?

I spread out my maps and schedules, and we select our travel dates, interspersing one or more days in Dublin between each out-of-town trip. This is the luxury of having two weeks, which is a major benefit of our home exchange approach to travel. We can accomplish a lot without the constant running about that is often so exhausting on a shorter trip.

We prefer trains to driving wherever practical, and from Dublin, we’re linked by excellent train service to just about anywhere in Ireland. The next day, we go to th etrain station and purchase tickets to Wexford (18 euros), Cork (59 euros) and Galway (40 euros), and Arklow (20 euros). There’s some kind of deal which we don’t quite understand, but the ticket clerk says we got a bargain by purchasing all the tickets at the same time.

At the Dublin Tourist Office, we reserve a car in Galway for the several hours drive to Westport. We could have taken the train directly to Westport, but we’ll want the car in Westport so we can drive out to Pat’s family’s country homes.

We also need a room for our one night in Westport, and the Tourist Bureau reservations clerk checks his computer and quickly identifies a vacancy at a B&B. He makes the call, confirms that the room is still available, and then asks, in a perfect, charming, so Irish way, “Might I take that room off your hands?” We smile at a delightful travel moment.

Now we can fill in the Dublin days from a growing list of interesting options, including several days to do what we like best, which is to just walk around the city and enjoy the sights and the people we always meet.

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our first day in Dublin

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 28, 2007

 

We arrive by taxi, in the dark, on Sullivan Street near Phoenix Park.

It’s a working class neighborhood and the small red brick row homes are not pretentious, but the neat flower boxes and painted doors are charming. One of the reasons to do home exchange is the chance to live in a real neighborhood instead of a hotel, and this is surely a real neighborhood. We’re thrilled.

The next morning, it’s time to reconnoiter.

Our exchange host has left a large pile of maps and instructions, including where to take the bus. We walk a block or so, and find the #10 bus, which of course, but surprisingly at first, is on the left side of the street.

Now the question is how to pay. Exact change is required, and fortunately we have it. This begins two weeks of making sure we always have the change needed to go wherever we’re going, and to get back.

It’s a double decker bus and we go topside for the view. The trip is slow in the morning traffic, but we enjoy the sights of the city as we roll through neighborhoods suggesting a variety of economic levels. In 20 minutes, we’re on O’Connell Street in the center of Dublin.

We get off across from the General Post Office, the place where the 1916 rising began and the bullet holes are still proudly displayed. Pat of course, is Irish, and I have read many books and listened to many Irish ballads. This place is a shrine … to persistence, to failure, and, ultimately, to success.

We walk along O’Connell, past the luxurious Gresham Hotel and across the River Liffey, flowing from 75 miles away in the mountains of County Wicklow (the source also of the clear pure water which makes Guinness beer).  

First on our agenda is the main Tourist Office, located in a magnificent former church on Suffolk Street, the office Samantha Brown featured on her Passport to Europe show about Dublin. It’s a fantastic place, with lots of useful books and merchandise, a very friendly staff, and a charming café. We will return several times in the next two weeks, for information and for reservations.

I purchase another city map. I need a durable map that folds into my camera bag, and that has all the streets. Until I have a map that exactly fits my needs, I can’t be comfortable.

I also buy Fodor’s Ireland, for our out-of-town trips, and we pick up Dublin brochures, tram routes, bus routes, theatre announcements, everything that’s free. Now I have the tools to plan our two weeks.

Grafton Street, the pedestrian shopping street in the center of Dublin, is mobbed. Our first impression is that it’s not quite as elegant as it was before, ten years ago. Street musicians play in front of McDonald’s.  

We buy an Irish Times and head off to St. Stephen’s Green, a 22 acre park at the end of Grafton Street, first enclosed in 1664, a place of peace in the center of the city, except when it too hosted riflemen in 1916. We share a bench in the shade with a young father and his three small sons. A brass band plays at a nearby gazebo.

For lunch, we wander back down Grafton, and one block over to South William Street, to the Georgian mansion built in 1774 for Lord Powerscourt, now an elegant center of galleries, boutique shops and restaurants. We climb to the third level and enjoy panini and penne with Peroli beer at La Corte, watching the action in the atrium below.

Not so Irish, you say. Well, much of Dublin is not so Irish anymore. Dublin has become a sophisticated international city, fully immersed in the European Union, and doing very well, thank you.

For example, over the course of two weeks, we had maybe 15 meals in Dublin, and only once or twice was the waiter or waitress Irish. Even some of the bartenders in the pubs were not of the land. This led to many interesting conversations, and a feeling that, on balance, progress has been very good for the Irish.

The Marks & Spencer food court on Grafton Street provides wine and chocolates for our dinner tonight at Una’s home. Una, you may remember, is the lady from whom we purchased our home in Collioure (see finding our home in Collioure). We haven’t seen her since, and we are excited about our upcoming evening.

We take the spanking new Luas light rail tram to the Heuston train station in West Dublin, a 10 minute walk to our apartment.

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