Friday, July 29, 2011

Ireland, Part 11

Then we all packed up our things, went to the airport early, and went home.
The End

thought this was going to go on forever, didn't you?

Part 10b, Dublin photos

There are some spots with really great graffiti around town.

A nice little park, with peices of art all around the edges. The colorful buildings are part of Dublin Castle.

A different side of the castle. Much more dignified and castle-like, but I prefer the colorful version.

A Tax Museum! The only museum we went to in Dublin, and then just because it sounded so unusual. It was pretty neat. There was a tax on bachelors. And one on dogs.

Winding around the city center there's some kind of self-guided historical tour. These panels in the sidewalk tell you where to stop, and there's always a pointy item showing where to go next. We were apparently going backwards along the route, but found five or six panels just at random.

The old market hall still handles fruit&veg. Only now with forklifts and trucks.

A long, long graffiti.

The front end of the same, with character.

You never know what you'll find enshrined in bronze.

The Hogeye Navvy concert audience at the library started out with pretty much just the groupies on our tour, but eventually filled out to contain just as many locals.

Carole and Ken took advantage of a last opportunity to dance on the trip.

At last, Ken got to call a contra dance!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Part 10, Dublin

In the morning I’m up much earlier than PubGuy, intending to do the stuff he’s not interested in on my own, then meeting up for lunch before a tour of Dubalin together and the Hogeye concert at 6. The phone book and the internet agree on the existence of three yarn shops in town. Not very many for a knitting sort of country. I’m sure I can hit two before lunch, and the third is really not very far, not far at all I swear, from the medieval quarter we’ll tour together.

The first one is a real knitters shop (that means a big shop with both high-end and more affordable yarns, lots of patterns and books, tables and chairs you’re welcome to occupy for ages, and a schedule of classes posted). Springwools is out in the suburbs, which online kind of scared me because I couldn’t figure out how far it was - could be all the way to Wexford, you never know. But it mentions bus service from three of the Dubin city lines, so how far can it be ?
I take one of those nifty double-deckers. When I have time that’s one way I go see a city - just hop on a bus and go where it goes. I’d love to sit upstairs, but I don’t know what my stop is going to look like and there’s no map. No list of stops. And if nobody is getting off and there’s nobody waiting, the driver just whips on by before you realize there was ever a stop there. The driver promises to give me a yell.
Which he does, and after only ten minutes, and he even asks me just what I’m looking for. How lucky can I get : he actually knows the very place, and I would never have found it without his direction. It’s tucked away in a light industry/warehouse area, way at the back of a shared parking lot. Easy to miss. Once inside I understand the choice of neighborhood, because the retail area must take up just a small part of the business. Mostly they do mail order and stuff.

Ohhh, I could take half their stock home with me !

Must.....exercise.....restraint......The luggage is only so large.
They’ll ship.
Don’t tell me that !
Here’s our brochure of summer sales. Our website in on there ; you can order from anywhere.
This is dangerous. In fact, I’ve found their website before but I don’t like to buy yarn I’ve never seen and touched in person. The colors are never quite right, and to knit a thing I have to touch every inch of it. And now I’ve seen it, and touched it, and it’s all good.

Escaping Springwools with only moderate damage to my wallet and space still in my luggage, I take the bus back to town, sitting upstairs this time, and spend an hour strollling about the high-end shopping district. My second target doesn’t open until 11:15 (boutique-yarn indeed !)
They have some nice things, but nothing from Ireland. It’s more the Italian-Japanese-American fare you’d find in the States. What interests me most here is the collection of books of shawl patterns (plenty of patterns at Springwools, but in fact there were so many it would take ages to decide on anything). I’m keen to knit a huge wrap of some kind, a project that will take me all winter to make and result in a really special warm wearable. I’ve got just the yarn for it now I’ve been to the other shop.
So from here I leave with a pattern book, just full of things I’m eager to get started on.

It’s noon : time to meet the Brotherman. He’s « not hungry », having closed down the Irish breakfast buffet at the hotel just an hour ago. I’m ready to eat, and our street is full of small fast-food and takeout places. Indian ? Fish&chips ? Burritos ?
Burritos ?
I haven’t had a good burrito in ages. So we do. And it’s quite good, with tortilla chips made right there, and an array of fresh salsas. Funny how many nachos one can eat without being hungry.
I don’t feel too bad about my eat-local rule - this is still food I can’t get where I live.

Now for Dubalin town. We figure we’ll wander up through the medieval quarter, around the castle, across the river to the third yarn shop, down around Trinity College, and eventually to the library where Hogeye is playing at 6. I’ll just give you the photo-tour of most of that.
In fact, I'll give you the photo tour tomorrow because I just found out I wrote this post on the wrong blog, and all the uploads have to be done again. RRRRRRR

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Part 9, Back to Dublin

If it’s Tuesday, it must be time to head back to Dublin. Or Dubalin, as it is in all the songs.
Checkout time at the cottages is early, because Francis has to go somewhere this morning. It’s not a bad thing ; it gets us on the road at a decent hour with lots of time for stops and sightseeing along the way.

Between here and there is a freeway that’ll get us there in 2 hours. But there’s a green spot on the map just off our route, nearer the coast. Let’s go ! Wicklow Mountains National Park it is.
It’s a different kind of territory up here on the heights of the pass between the coast and the interior. Not a tree for a mile around on the windswept hills. One thing we haven’t gotten used to yet in Ireland is the smaller scale of everything, and the first van blows right past the parking area at the top of the pass, thinking it was kind of full and not that pretty and we could stop farther on. No, that’s it. Going down the eastern slope you’re quickly back into the forested lowland.
Near the end of the rapid descent there’s a beautiful monks’ tower in view. Let’s stop let’s stop. Of course.

We think we’ve found a little-known treasure, but discover that Glendalough is one of the biggest tourist attractions around. There’s a huge parking lot (only a handful of busses at the moment, thank goodness), a large hotel and restaurant, and plenty of bathrooms.
(overheard at the women’s room, the sound of several children’s voices : Missus Jones ! there’s no paper ! No paper !
Missus Jones : Sorry luvs, just do your best.
Passerby : There’s paper over here.
Missus Jones : ssh ! keep quiet or they’ll all want some.)

What have we here at Glendalough ? Beyond the hotel complex are the ruins of a small chapel, the monks’ tower, and a beautiful but much-trampled graveyard. An active graveyard, too : along the back are polished stones from just last year.

There’s a stream and a wooded valley and a trail to the lower and upper lakes. The walkway to the nearby lower lake is more a pedestrian highway than a trail, but D and I are bad, naturally, and leave the trail to spend a Maurice Moment in the humid calm. It would be lovely to spend a few hours here, time enough to reach the upper lake and beyond.

It’s unclear how long a stop we’re making. Some said 30 minutes because they were hungry and wanted to get to Dublin for lunch. Others found it terrible to stop in such a lovely spot, one we’ll never come back to, and leave without spending an hour. These people passed packages of cookies and apples purchased at the morning’s pit-stop around to the famished. That was all before we dispersed and discovered the size of the site and the qualities of the gigantic hotel restaurant.
Thinking the hour was up, and we will not be last to the vans, D and I get back ti find we have 40 minutes or so more, and look, plenty of tables on the patio. I’ll have a plate of chips and Darrell the root vegetable soup of the day. Soup and fries, how long can that take ? A very long time if your waitress brings your drinks and is then called away and neglects to tell the relief to place your food order. By the time we track her down, it’s to say Forget It.
Dublin. Delighting us tonight at the Unitarian Church are a fiddler and a guitarman whose names I forget but they’re favorites of Mac. The fiddler I really like, but alas he’s forgotten to bring his satchel of cd’s.
It’s very different hearing this music in the clean and uncluttered acoustics of the church. You can really hear it all without the distractions of people moving around, the clink of glasses, doors closing, bits of conversation. But while that distracting clutter is gone, so too is part of the ambiance. It would be nice to have a cider to sip, and to get more comfortable than this creaky church pew allows. It would be neat for other musicians and singers in the room to join in on a favorite old chorus. On the other hand, it is cool to have a good view of the artists and to be able to hear all they’re giving us, without losing any.

After the concert I opt for a last long soak in a tub, while D goes out with the die-hard Session seekers. Only one more evening left, after all - better get the pubbing in while we can.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Part 8, Bumming Around

Is it Monday ? Yes. An open day on the schedule. One van is going to Wexford and the Heritage Museum there. Another is going to see a stone circle near Limerick, a full day’s outing. Joe and Joanne in the Limerick van say they plan to find a Session for the evening, and so plan not to come back to the cottages until very late. No dropping people off here between the day outing and the evening music event.
The stone circles sound fascinating, but it’s too long a day. D and I have dinner ordered again, and we intend to be here for it. There’s no serving it tomorrow : this is our last night here.

Cottage pie on Wednesday was actually out third choice. Second was lamb chops (which have to be ordered from the butcher and thus take more than one day’s warning). First choice was rabbit pie.
We’re fans of rabbit, and haven’t seen it on any restaurant menu so far in Ireland. Yes, rabbit is in season at Croan Cottages, but it takes even more planning than ringing up the butcher. It has to be shot. That can’t take long - there’s a good half dozen plump & lazy buns in the side yard every morning. Then it has to be dressed, and hung for the rigor mortis to pass. And then it has to be cooked.

The planning is tight - our hosts are not only attending the Tall Ships, they’re spending a day on one, sailing around. So when Darrell and I received our cottage pie the other day and immediately said, how about rabbit on Monday, a whole thing got going. You can’t order fewer than 6 servings, for starters, so we started asking around, who wanted a little culinary adventure. Some said yes ! That will be different !. Some recoiled in horrer. Some declared there was Nothing on the house menu of interest (on the menu : cottage pie, venison, rabbit, lamb chops, your basic country food). Alright, stick to your sandwiches and chips.
Anyway, we had about 8 people interested and decided to order for 6 because some were just wanting a taste.
On our host’s side, wheels were put in motion. Wildlife was shot (Francis told me - there are plenty out there wherever you walk, but take a gun with you and suddenly, none.). Plans were arranged.

When this morning Joe said the van off to the stone circles wouldn’t be back for dinner, we saw all of our fellow bunny-eaters raise their hands for a spot in the van. It was tempting to join them, but we have this uncancellable plan... D and I will just have our rabbit on our own, and the others for breakfast or not at all. Two people assure me they’ll pay for their portions regardless.

It’ll be a nice, relaxing day hanging around. We’ve not been to the nearby Famine Garden, after all, and that Viewpoint Tower sign near Delaney’s Pub sounded worth a look.
So, what about this Famine Garden ? How to plant to prevent famine ? What to plant if you’re having one (plants to eat very quickly) ? A planting of edibles you’ll find all over the place, you just don’t normally think to eat them ?
None of the above. It’s a little memorial garden still not quite finished. Very calm and serene, tucked away in the middle of nowhere, County Kilkenny.

The turnoff to the lookout takes us to a neat hamlet, just a handful of houses near the foot of some hills. We don’t find the famous tower, somehow, but do find something better : a parking area and a trail head for a 2-hour walk up to the summit of the hills, complete with « megalithic tomb ». There’s even a guide for us ! The dog knows the way and every time we’re at a loss to find the next trail marker there he is, waiting. No sheep to herd today ; he’s got tourists.
It’s a pretty little hike between farms and meadows. When we get up to the crest we can see for miles. And what’s up here ? An altitude marker, of course. And the megalithic tomb. They must mean this beautiful circle of stones on the hillside looking northwest.
The others are driving for hours and hours to see a circle. We have one right here.
Satisfied with our outing, we spend the rest of the afternoon hanging around relaxing. Some knitting, some reading, some writing, some napping.
To top it off, the most wonderful rabbit stew. I go out to the garden to gather salad about 7:30, and Francis is out there uprooting a potato plant for our dinner. Now that’s some fresh food.
And wow, is it good !
Darrell has seconds, thirds, nibbles...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Poetry Jam: Temptation

It's about time I got back in the Jam and posted a poem. Mark's theme of temptation suggested a lot of different options, and last night I finally came up with this:

The chocolate cake with sour cherry sauce
Seconds on barbequed ribs
That gorgeous red silk blouse not on sale

These things I resist

Leaving early when the boss is out
Another sackful of cashmere yarn for another shawl I'll never knit
Six books that will gather dust

These too I tell myself No

Sleeping way, way in on a Monday morning
Ice cream with jam for dinner
Tickets to Venice just for the weekend

All thoughts that must be thunk again.

The digital SLR
that shoots 7 frames a second
and is ready for my macro lens and the long long zoom

This, well, it's for the good of posterity, right?
One must be prepared to document birthdays and travels and stupid cat tricks, right?

I'll take it.

Click here for other tempting morsels at the Poetry Jam!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Part 7b, The Session at Delaney's

Back at the Cottages there’s time for a rest before heading to Delaney’s pub for music. We’ve been told to get there ‘early’ for the Sunday session, and at first Mac thought this might mean mid-afternoon which is why we made sure to not stay at Cashel longer. But apparently it’s more like 7 or 8 ; just earlier than the usual 9. We go for 8, and get there about 8:30.
Locked up tight.
Errrr Is there really a Session tonight ?
Yes, surely ; just give it time. A while later a couple shows up in a 1920’s roadster that we all ohhh and ahhh over, and they assure us the Session is on. It always is.
Around 9 the door opens and the locals start to trickle in. Inside is a sort of bar & store. In the front room there’s nowhere to sit - you just get your drink at the bar while leaning against it, perusing the canned goods, toothpaste, and dog treats on the shelves. There are little packets of peanuts for those who want a nibble with their pint.

Through a doorway there’s a double room where the Sessions take place. Tuesdays and Sundays. In the first part there’s a large round table in front of a long L-shaped booth to the left, a padded bench under the window to the right, and some chairs scattered around. In the second part there’s more seating under the windows, an upright piano, a drum set, and doors to the bathrooms.

We acquire beverages and make ourselves at home. I have a first whiskey, I forget which (the idea is to taste as many as possible, to see if I like any, and it doesn’t help to forget which I’ve set aside already), but it’s an Irish one. Most people have pints of Guinness, or Bulmers cider, a drink you can hang on to for a while.
Mac forbids us to sit in certain spots. When some of the group was here Tuesday for that session I begged off of, she saw a painting of a session that had just the same people as were playing that night, in the very same spots and sometimes the same clothes. It will surely be the same tonight. You don’t mess with somebody else’s Session.

Slowly the place fills up. Eventually it becomes so crowded I hear later that people were giving up and going home without coming in. By one count there are 52 of us in here, and more at the bar. The door to the bar is supposed to stay shut, but we never once get through a song without it opening at least once. There are two tiny windows, and even with them both open onto the chilly night, it’s hot in here.
We have fiddlers, a gentle bodhrain player, a drummer, guitars, mandolins, harmonica, banjo, a dulcimer, and singers. The barman is the pianist and I hear he dearly loves to play at a Session, but he’s so busy at the bar he never even makes it into the music rooms. There is some pointing, and it seems this one fiddler made his instrument by hand, as well as one of the others. The dulcimer man made his own, too. Now these are musicians !

The old men play first.
Favorite tunes. They are favorites, even the new ones. They are delicious.
In a pause where the regulars ask among themselves -what to play ?- I nudge Darrell that our own musicians have yet to contribute, and he says to Ken Play something.
Oh No !
No, no. You don’t just up and play at a Session. We’re strangers here, and we’ll wait until we’re invited.
Ah. Didn’t know there was such an etiquette to it.
A while later, we are introduced and invited to play, and a fine thing it is. Hogeye does a song, though half the band is still next door in the bar. Then Dean, who is 14 and Ken’s grandson, gets to lead a song on his mandolin. A song I heard him learning just this morning. The cheers are thunderous, and I’m sure he’ll cherish this moment all his life.
The evening goes on. New musicians arrive, some take their leave. People make their way through the thick of the crowd, stepping over guitar cases and around stools to get to the restrooms.

I try another whiskey. Black & White. I like the scotty dogs on the label, even if it isn’t an Irish beverage.
That’s interesting.
« Burnt », Darrell says.
Like drinking a bit of bog.

More music, more. Eventually we say our goodnight and go out into the refreshing night. Everybody follows us and for a minute I think our leaving poured cold water on the whole affair. But in fact, the pub should have been closed for a good half hour already.

There was much derision earlier, when it took us just 15 minutes to get here from the cottages, because the other night it took Mac’s van an hour to find their way back. But whaddyaknow, at the first opportunity our van goes left when we should go right. The van following has learned its lesson about following Johnandrew, so they get home first.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Part, what, 7 ? Cashel

Sunday’s plan is Wexford and the big emigration museum there. We’ve had a certain amount of Emigration already, and the thought that the possibility of Shopping might be off today in a catholic country leads us to switch Sunday with Monday - a free day.

Even so, almost nobody wants to stick around the cottages for long (cute as they are). We hear tell of Cashel, adored by some who have been there before. Others who have been there found it interesting but over-rated, and the rest of us now want to find out. In the end, two vans decide to go there.

I’m in the lead van with Darrell, Johnandrew driving. The jumpseats in the back have become our regular place, and we wedge Maurice between the seats so that the second van can see him and know they’re following the right van.

We’re laughing and having and having a great time, and after an hour or two (stopping for a stroll around historic but boring Fethard) we come to yet another roundabout. Great things, roundabouts. An oddity to many an American, too, and some in the group are amused every single time. Our exit from this one is the first left, barely a quarter turn around, so we decide to go wild and go a turn and a quarter. The van behind us must think - what the heck ?? One full turn was so fun, we decide to go around a second time. Wheeeeee !!!!!

I guess you gotta be there for some things.

The following van calls us up on the walkie-talkie to order us to Cut it the Hell Out. Sandy is about to be sick back there. Not Funny.

Duly chastized we drive gently to the next exit, a large gas-station-fast-food thing, where we proceed to have a snack lunch. A shame, really, to have fast food crap for lunch when we’re 1 km outside the town of Cashel, which is having a sort of festival today and everything is open. But we don’t realize we’re so close until we get on the road again. At any rate, D and I stick to splitting an order of chips, hoping for better later. When we’re hungry.

The ruin of the Rock of Cashel is truly impressive. It’s a big church/abbey/priory thing built on top of a huge rock, with a commanding view all around. Patrick was here, and other prominent figures of Ireland’s religious and political past, and now it’s one of the most-visited sites in the country.

On the downside, being one of the most-visited sites means it’s crawling with tourists like us, but you can learn some interesting bits by hanging around the guided groups.

Down on the plain is another of those Cistercian abbeys, much more ruined than the one we toured at Jerpoint. Indeed, they do all have exactly the same layout. In the same orientation. There’s a bit of topless sunbathing going on this afternoon, but that wraps up just as Darrell approaches (we’re not in Italy, after all).

This same kind of ruin from the same period makes me appreciate just how extremely well preserved the Jerpoint Abbey is. Everything is erased here. No carving remains. No details. The stone arcade of the cloister is just a row of blocks ankle-high. It’s all been carted off as ready-cut building stone or as decoration or to museums, and the rest has just eroded away.

It’s a beautiful day for a walk around, and we walk back toward the town, thinking to score a snack at the festival, and hopefully some interesting bread for our breakfast toast. When we get there, we think - surely the main festival must be somewhere near, but where ? In a wide spot in the main road, where it splits to go around a monument, is a cluster of booths selling international wares. The French bread guy gets my business right away, and the kebabs have been recommended to us, but there’s nothing else selling real food.

D isn’t in a kebab-on-the-hoof mood, and happily we spy an eat-in deli open just up the street.

Sandwiches ! Our first sandwiches in Ireland. Thick cut ham & cheese. Baked brie and bacon ciabatta. It’s okay stuff. By the register there’s lime curd and tangerine marmalade. I do love unusual jams, so I get those for souvenirs.

By now it’s high time we got back to the vans. I hate being last to the vans. I don’t much like being first, either, because you waste more time waiting. The ideal is for everyone to be exactly on time.

In wandering around different towns I’ve been keeping an eye out for yarn, and am pleased with the good deal scored on that deep red merino wool found in Waterford. All these sheep in the fields, all these wonderful knitted goods in the shops : somebody must be making yarn. At the foot of the Rock of Cashel there’s a local-products souvenir shop. I’ll just duck in and see what’s on offer. Do I have time ?

Two minutes, D says.
Oh. I can do a 2-minute peek. I don’t have much hope of finding yarn not already knit up anyway.
But they have a whole section !
And it’s classed by county !
What feels best to my fingers is the mohair bouclé from right around here. Good to touch, but the colors are very strange. Bizzarre shades of pink, blus, pruple, lime green... I hear the cashier ask an incoming customer if she can help, and hear D say No, just waiting.
Are my two minutes up ? Already ?

She can barely keep from laughing out loud (not that we would have minded). So I pick two balls of medium silver-grey, and two of grey-green, and that’s it for yarn. And I am the last one back to the vans.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Third part of Part 6, Saturday Night.

Back up the road, back past Duncannon, up to Ballyhack again. The road along the waterfront gives a great view of the bay and the village across the way. The ferry is just on its way in for a load of cars, and we’re very glad that the line is now much shorter than previously.
Perfect timing, and perfect positioning too. My van gets the first spot in the third lane, so we get the best view all the way across. Getting out of your vehicle is discouraged, because it’s such a short trip and herding everyone back to their places delays the orderly drive off.. But we get out anyway, and in again in plenty of seconds to spare before it’s our turn to file off.
As we near the dock, two middle-aged women knock on our door and ask if they can get a lift to the Tall Ships. Why, certainly ; we’re going just there. Lucy and Margaret are Dubliners on holiday* (unless they’re not : I’ve completely forgotten their names and town of origin), staying at a B&B near Ballyhack, and they were certain of finding a lift into Waterford to see the festival.
Indeed, the road to Waterford is one long line of cars and vans and busses, thankfully moving at a good clip. Signs for the festival point one way and signs for viewing the Great Departure point the other at every side road. What may be a little more tricky for our hitchhikers is getting back in the evening. All cars go to Waterford now : what percentage will be heading to Ballyhack late tonight ? This 40-minute drive would cost quite a lot by taxi.
Our guests aren’t worried. They’ll tackle that problem when they come to it.

On the shuttle from the car park I spy Phil & Carla and Joe & Joanne getting ice cream from a vendor with a cart. Good idea ! Who knew it would be so warm and sunny out in Ireland ? There’s time before the gig - let’s get some. Once we track the cart down, there’s no chocolate left. And no way this is Ben&Jerry’s as advertised ! But it is refreshing. Gone in three minutes.
Today there are a lot more people pausing to listen to Hogeye’s set. There are more people altogether, in fact. Saturday is the real festival day, and I’m glad we saw it Friday when things were not yet elbow to elbow. Imagine waiting to visit the ships today - standing in line would be all you did for most of the afternoon.

After Hogeye Navvy’s bit it’s question of what to do with the evening. The more delicate of us are heading back to the cottages now. It has been a long day of exploring. The others are split between staying in Waterford for food and music (but where, for traditional tunes and not the modern stuff blaring from the other bandstands ?), or heading back to the towns near the cottages where we’ve vaguely heard there will be stuff going on. I take the middle choice and get in the van headed for Thomastown, just a few minutes from my bed.
We’ve heard there’s a big place on the edge of town featuring live music every Saturday, so we go find it. At 9 when we pull into the enormous parking lot we can hear electric guitars tuning. Somebody goes on a scouting mission inside and finds lots of amps, three electric keyboards... this is not our kind of place.

Back to the pubs in town, if nobody’s playing anything we should at least be able to get directions to where they are. And we’re hungry. Famished. The first pub with a lot of cars in the lot has a sign Food served All day. And another sign, Food until 9.
The day ends at 9 around here.
On the good side, the barkeep says they’ll be having live music right next door.

Off we go next door, cleverly named the Next Door. Yes, they are setting up to play, out on the spacious back patio. No, they are no longer serving food.
Music being more important than food, we figure we’ll just drink our dinner. Somebody said Liquid Bread, right ?
First up is a truly amateur trio doing a sort of pop. The kid they’ve got is going to be a really good vocalist some day, when his voice settles, but so far Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues should not be his song.
It’s quite noisy, and trips are made to the van for all the jackets and sweaters at hand. D and I volunteer to scout out the rest of Tommytown, as they call it, for more suitable music.

The first thing we spy is a takeout place still serving food-like substances. We’re sceptical, because of the ancient, mummified sausages proudly displayed in the warming case. The menu lists a hundred items but really boils down to chips, burgers, pizza and sausages, available with any combination of sauce. I figure they must sell enough chips to have to make new ones frequently, so we go for an order of garlic chips and consume it on our stroll about town. They’re not too bad, if you like mayo-based garlic sauce. I wonder - if we had ordered a sausage, would she really have served one of the disgusting things on view ?

On our tour of the two-street town, we find more late-night takeout and a handful of pubs. The pubs with large TVs are packed to bursting with people cheering a football match. Those without are ghost pubs. No music anywhere.

Back at the Next Door the looks are crestfallen when I deliver the no music news. But everyone perks right up when I pass around a note (it’s too loud to converse) saying the takeout place is open. Joe takes orders and off he and Fred go to save us from certain starvation.
After the garage guys finish the opening set, the real attraction of the evening starts up. It’s an Elvis Presley cover band, and they’re quite good. If only they would back off on the decibels, they’d be great. But no. Darrell has taken refuge inside, at a table with a view of an old thriller movie with the sound off, and I join him for noise-breaks now and then.
Joe and Fred come back laden with chips, both plan and drenched in various flavors or mayo. When everybody has finished eating it’s time to go. Elvis sounds okay from the street, but it’s cold out, and now we’re not hungry it’s not worth it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Part 6 photos

Ballyhack Castle

Boats at Ballyhack wait for the tide

Duncannon Fort

Duncannon Jellyfish

Hook Head Lighthouse

View from the ferry

Our hitchikers

And back to the Tall Ships

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Part 6, Hook Head

Today we have a 7 pm gig at the Festival, but people are really done seeing the festival itself. One turn around and you’ve pretty much seen the whole thing, unless you’re hoping to get on another ship. One van goes to Waterford early with a group that wants to see the town (covered in festival tents and visitors) and some bits around there.

My idea is to make our way down the far side of the bay, all the way to Hook Head, where there’s a lighthouse and long views over the sea. Along the way are two castles to admire and most of the drive is marked as a scenic route. We can catch a ferry across the water to get to the festival in time, just for extra fun.

This idea turns out to be so popular that most everybody else wants to go, so it’s another caravan trip. And it’s great. We don’t get going very quickly, which eats seriously into our visiting time once down there, but what can you do. It’s not possible with this group for vans going the same place not to go together. Even later, when time gets pretty short and we don’t know how much traffic has accumulated at the ferry, they still won’t put all the musicians and instruments together and get them safely across while the rest of us kick around the gorgeous countryside and risk missing the gig.

Down the road a bit it is quickly agreed that this is definitely the day to visit Hooks Head. We could have done this tomorrow, when the ships throw off their hawsers and head out to sea. All along our route are signs for the Tall Ships. Tall Ships viewing, This Way. New Ross is clogged with cars going into Waterford. Along the bay coast people are camped already, and more are pouring in every minute. The traffic isn’t too bad now on the narrow roads, but tomorrow it will be an absolute zoo. Want to see anything (except a Tall Ship under glorious sail, admittedly), come today.

Our first castle is at the village of Ballyhack, where the ferry stops. The line for the car ferry stretches up the road half a mile, but happily they’ve made the place a one-way loop for the weekend, and we can drive on the right (for once ! yea !) to go around. Here’s the castle, a discrete, pocket-castle in the middle of the one-street town. It’s so cute ! And exactly like the other tower-castles we’ve passed and will pass. They’ve got one pocket-castle plan, and one abbey plan.

Oh, I know ; castles are not meant to be cute. But it is. This one has been turned into a museum, and you can go up almost to the roof. Like in the other ones we’ve only seen from the outside, there’s a spiral staircase up one corner and a great room on each floor with its fireplace, and very small rooms along one or two of the sides. The first floor has been whitewashed and sparsely furnished to give the feel of the place. The bedrooms along the sides aren’t large enough for a double bed. Up on the roof there’s probably a terrific view of this part of the bay, and this hill with its village.

I’m hoping to see Slade castle, on the other side of this peninsula, but time will eventually not permit this (split the vans, guys !). Thanks to Ballyhack castle and its museum and the great photos on the walls, at least I know what it looks like. Same castle, different setting.

The next sight on the road south is Duncannon. This turns out to be a fort that was used as one right up into the early 20th century, so most of the construction is quite modern. The group decides not to stop, but on the way out of town some people notice that there’s probably not much opportunity for lunch down there at Hook Head, and no significant towns on the way. They’re right, so we find a wide spot to double back to the several open eateries spied in Duncannon.

The vans let us off in the center of the one-street town and go find parking while the rest of us disperse to find sustenance. D and I look into a fish&chips takeout, and decide nahhhh. Around the corner is the main pub of the village, where we find Mac has already obtained a table and ordered. I’ll have just some tomato soup with bread, and a glass of Smithwicks, please, and Darrell gets a sandwich. The service is slow, in spite of the tavern being surprisingly empty. The three tables outside are taken, and two more in here, and that might be a lot for this small a town. But I mean surprisingly empty taking into account the numerous tour busses we saw searching for parking just before us. Any minute the deluge will start.

Once it arrives, the tomato soup is excellent. Well, Darrell says it’s only good. Mac’s fish and chips are nice and light, so we’ve scored a good lunch. Others are not so lucky - I hear « barely edible » repeated many times later. At any rate I eat quickly to have time for walking around, and up the beach a ways before it’s time to pile back into the vans.

It’s now midafternoon, and the smart thing to do for people who want to hear the shantymen on at 5 would be to gather those people and the band in one van that will head for the ferry now, while the other takes its time seeing Hooks Head and various sights before arriving in Waterford just in time.

No, no, we’re all going on south.

South, straight past a fabulously ruined old abbey at the side of the road. On, on we go, down the narrow, winding road between the hedgerows. The hedges aren’t so thick here, and often there’s none at all and we get a great view of the windswept peninsula. None of those tree-tunnels down here.

Soon there are signs for beaches and lots of cars turn off our road there. Nearing the Head we finally can see the sea to our left as well as the bay to our right.. Campers start to be common, and in the final stretches whole tent cities are going up, staking out the best views of tomorrow’s grand sail out to sea.

Indeed, this poor little road will be quite impracticable tomorrow.

Here we are. Lighthouse. Giftshop & restaurant. Museum. Hiking trails ( !! let’s go !!), a car park, and on the green bounded by the shops and lighthouse and a wall a tiny RenFaire, with booths of vendors of local crafts and a place for kids to play at swordfighting.

30 minutes !

Thirty minutes and we really must be back of the vans, and that’s already giving up on hearing the Shantymen. Ah, but the rocky layers down to the water’s edge must be explored ! And the hiking trail along the rough sea coast beckons ! only 3km to Slade castle.

Never mind the castle. Some rockhopping will do, and a view of the sea.

Darrell gets down right to the edge and lets a wave soak his shod feet. Cold ! he says. I’ll bet. The seawater takes the shine right off his shoes, too, leaving a salt crust even after he washes them.

The surface of the earth is so neat here. I can see what’s under the grass - these flat rocks here, jutting out into the sea, covered with limpets and snails. But up on the grassy part, the grass must be a foot deep. It’s like walking on a mattress. Those campers will sleep comfortably in their tents tonight.

Time to turn around.

(must run. photos for this post, and the rest of the day, tomorrow.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Part 5b, Waterford evening and yesterday's photos

Kells Priory

Working on Kells Priory

Old cemetery at Kells

One of the Mills

Not my way of making a Black Russian.

Lounging at the Tall Ships

Inspecting the Maybe

Random Street Music

The Colombian ship

Hogeye Navvy in concert

Carole and Ken show us how it's done.
Waterford is laid out in a nice, straight grid, like a proper city. Finding the Inn should be easy. We come to Parnell first, way, way at the end of the town where the river turns right toward the long bay and the sea. Looking at a handy map we see there is no Johnson that crosses it. There’s a John’s Town, and a Saint John. Enquiring of a pair of guarda directing traffic where Parnell changes names we’re directed back to John’s Town, turn right, and it’ll be on the left. The guy knows it exactly.

And so it is.

The pub people are expecting us : straight to the back room with you pirates, no lingering up here with normal people. You’ve got your own bar down there.

In spite of our much longer than necessary route, we are still the first Hogeye shirts to arrive. Two other bands are here, each occupying a cluster of prime corner couches and tables. They’re making tentative musical forays, each testing the others, but nothing’s started yet. I try to colonize a booth, but the empty tables between me and the Vagrants Crew are not to their liking and I’m coaxed up to a table within conversation distance.

Alright. Some wine in hand, a Bushmills for brotherman, and we can do conversation. The Vagrants are from Wales. They carpooled over just this morning, took the ferry, and here they are.

The place fills up. Some more tuning occurs, and a few tunes between the talk. The Hooks and Crookes captains arrive and grab the tables closest to the bar. Hogeye Navvy then occupies the very booths I envied at first, and two or three more groups fill out the whole meeting space. Around 8:45, catering vans pull up to an entrance we hadn’t really noticed and start filling the next room with food.

Now that is good food, and courtesy of the festival organizers to boot. The broiled chicken with gravy is delicious. Baked potatos, salad, cole slaw, and what’s this ? Drink tickets ! Why, yes, I just might have that Drambuie for dessert. Right after this here pint.

There’s enough of us that we don’t all have our plates full at once. Somebody starts something and others join in and the whole room gets into it. Or a solo stays a savored solo, unless a secret signal is given allowing ganging in on a chorus, or a finger indicates a lone instrument may join. By 9:30 there’s a bit of a formal introduction and it’s decided that we’ll go around the room, each band doing two songs ‘typical’ of their style, followed by a general free-for-all.

Mac explains to the room that we have to leave early ( ?? what happened to 12:30 ?), so we get to go first. That we’re going so far, far, very far away to neighboring Kilkenny county generates much ribbing and laughter. The Exmouth Shantymen are next, and I really like their second song, which uses only their voices and the sound of the chains they hold being rattled and dropped. They line up in three rows of three for it, nine chained rowers, plus the captain ? master ? off to the side, and different guys each do the verse of their life. Really neat.

Once we get around the room, Mac gets up and announces we’ll do our farewell song, as we really must go. So we do the song - and I hear comments that this is one they’ll definitely be looking up - Johnandrew announces that, er, we missed the last early shuttle back to the vans some minutes ago and thus we really don’t have to hurry away after all. To much general amusement.

But Mac is set on an early night. We have another set tomorrow, after all. A few songs later it’s announced that our taxis are here for us. Huh ?? Everybody drink up and get out.


It’s only 11. The evening is just getting going. There are still drink tickets on the table.

But we pack up and go, and while we’re downing a last swallow and having a last pee, the room starts in on a farewell song of their own, and they all stand and wave us goodbye as we file out into the night.

Almost worth leaving first for.

The best part : while I’m in the bathroom Darrell scores two different cds from the chain gang shantymen. I get one ; we’ll trade at Christmas.