Brigid Travels

Updates from The Road

Dublin, ancient stuff, brawl [2000]


I have just a few more hours in Dublin! The last time I wrote was Monday. On Monday, I was not feeling so hot, so instead of heading out on a train, I decided to hang around Dublin. I did some souvenier shopping, had some yummy Italian food for lunch, then went on the Jameson distillery tour. It's similar to the Guiness 'tour' - they have some dioramas (spelling?) set up and don't actually make the stuff there anymore. That evening I went to what was advertised as the "home of Bailey's", which was a short movie and a drink at a bar in a shopping plaza connected to a racetrack (!). I don't recommend that one. Also Monday I took my first malaria tablet (whoohoo!!). The first of 8.

Tuesday I wasn't feeling worse, so I went on an all-day bus tour, stopping at the Hill of Tara (ancient sacred spot), saw the castle that was the centerpiece of the movie 'Braveheart' (no, Mel was nowhere to be found), stopped at Slane for lunch. There are rock concerts on the lawns around Slane Castle - Springsteen was there in the mid-80's. That night I decided it was about time for more Irish music. It is so handy to have that bar with nightly music just downstairs! I found out that about 50 Irishmen will be descending on San Diego next spring, for a wedding. Also, I heard of a good San Diego Irish bar - the Old Sod (or maybe it's Auld Sod). I'll have to check it out when I get home.

Wednedsay I was feeling much worse, so I spent most of the day in bed watching the Olympics - mostly swimming. In the afternoon, I shipped a huge box of stuff home (I didn't realize I had accumulated so much!). It'll get there in 6 weeks, when I get home. That night I went to the Olympia Theater and saw Trisha Yearwood. I was in about the 10th row, so it was a great show.

Thursday I was feeling better and took the train to Athlone, checked out the castle on the Shannon River there, and took a bus to Clonmacnoise, an ancient Christian site. It was inundated with American tour bus patrons, so I slipped out the back cemetery and checked out the Nun's Chapel which was just as dramatic as any of the other 7 church ruins in the complex. I knew about it thanks to my wonderful Lonely Planet guidebook!

My next stop was Kildare, where St Brigid started her abbey. I got there just in time to climb the tower (I hadn't realized I could climb the tower! It's the 2nd highest round tower in Ireland and the tallest that you can actually climb (of the 2). Then I wandered around the grounds, and the caretaker snuck me into the church though it was officially closed. Very beautiful church. My next destination was the Irish National Stud Farm, so I hustled the few miles out of town to try to get there before they closed at 6, arriving at 5:45 (yay!) but their last tour was at 5, so they were effectively closed at 5 (boo). Walking around, the only animals in the fields were cows. On my way back to town, I followed the signs to St Brigid's Holy Well - it took me down a serene secluded country road. Birds chirping, breeze blowing, sun waning but still shining. It was wonderful. Unfortunately, by the time I sojourned to the train station, I had missed it by 5 minutes and was starting to rain. I spent the 1-1/2 hours to the next train having dinner at a pub (Silken Thomas) and hanging out on the platform in the rain because I thought the train came 1/2 hour before it actually arrived!

On Friday, much of center city Dublin was blocked off as a pedestrian zone and the local trains were free - a few other cities in Europe did the same thing at the same time to try to encourage public transportation. I took the DART to Dalkey and walked to Killiney along the sea. Stunningly beautiful, green water, sandy/rocky beach (though much of it was covered in aromatic kelp). This is the most expensive houses in Ireland - it was a bit like wandering around Bel Air. But I didn't see Bono. I cut off the road on a path that appeared to lead down to the beach. It went over a railroad and there was a bit of graffiti on it - 'the Beatles Rule', 'clothing optional beach',... I thought it was just graffiti, but as I rounded the last turn in the path I realized the clothing optional statement was true, and it appeared to be some sort of organized thing. So I went back up, and took the next path down to the beach!

I took it to the other end of its track and had dinner in the seaside town Howth. Last night I went to the Celt Pub to get my last night of Irish music - 5 or so girls who were very good. People keep talking about the Irish group the Corrs, who is apparently enjoying some success in the States right now - everyone is very proud of them! Afterwards I went to the Zanzibar night club and walking home, the guy I was walking with had a freak (who we later learned just finished a 7 year jail term) land a flying kick on his back, for no reason, after we had watched him chase after a car and rip off the rear windshield wiper. This was quickly followed by a brawl in the fast food joint that he dove into. So I got to meet some of Dublin's finest Garda (police). Interesting last night in Ireland.

Today I'm off for Nairobi. I'm not sure when I'll be able to write again, but worst case scenario, I'll write it all up when I get home at the end of October (I'm keeping a pretty detailed journal).

Hope all is going well for you - bye from Dublin! Brigid

more Dublin and Northern Ireland [2000]


I guess the last time I wrote was a little over a week ago - when Cindy went home. Lots of stuff to report. I spent Fri and Sat mostly recovering from our whirlwind week, plus doing laundry (required quite a bit of effort), grocery shopping and I took a bus tour - one of those open top, double deck ones. It only rained a little :) I had been to most places, but I it was a good overview, and I'll make sure I get back to Kilmainham Jail to do the tour.

Sunday I went to mass in Latin and there was a boys choir - really beautiful and interesting. Then I headed to the National Library and the National Museum. The library isn't normally open on Sunday, so I didn't have my geneological stuff with me, but found a record of an ancestor, John Wilkinson, in 1861 (might have been 1833) that rented land near a lighthouse on Rathlin Island and had to pay £6 in taxes. After that, I caught some of the All-Ireland National Hurling Championship (I think it was Kilkenney-orange/black stripes- and Omagh-green/white/orange). The ones in orange/black won. The town was not nearly as wild as I expected for that. That night, I went to a sing-along screening of the Sound of Music. Very cute.

Monday I spent most of the day at the National Library looking for ancestors, with not much luck. Almost all of their records are from 1861 forward, and I already have at least that much for the 4 branches of my ancestrors I was looking for. I did find a few books on Rathlin Island, though, which I skimmed to get familiar with my next destination.

Tuesday I got on the train at 7:30am, and 3 train changes and 2 buses later I arrived in Ballycastle at about 6pm for the night. On the way, between connections, I wandered around Lisburn and then Portrush, and took a tour of the Old Bushmills distillery in, oddly enough, Bushmills. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous - rolling lush green fields separated by crumbling stone walls, with cows and sheep. It reminds me alot of where I grew up in rural PA (plus sheep, and more rain). The coast is very dramatic with lots of cliffs, similar to San Diego, but rocky instead of sandy cliffs (and less sunshine and colder). Supposedly Portrush is a surfing town, but you would have to pay me alot to get in that freezing water. Listened to some local Irish music (led by a Scotsman) and had a pint or 2 in the Angler's Arms.

Wednesday I caught the ferry to Rathlin Island at 'half 10' (10:30). Once there, I took a mini-tour over to the north end of the island, where there is a bird sanctuary. Apparently in the summer there are thousands of puffins nesting. But they left at the end of August so I only saw a few seagulls. A guy on the bus was a shipwreck diver, and he said there are hundreds of wrecks around this tiny island, because the sea can be so incredibly rough. The rest of my birthday I spent wandering around the SE section and much of the afternoon and evening with a very distant relative - Dolores Kyle. That night I caught a pint and played some pool at the pub, and stayed at the lone guest house on the island.

Thursday I rented a bike and went to the SE end - Rue Point. I interrupted the sunbathing of many seals, and again saw lots of sheep and a few cows. Then I decided to head to the lighthouse, but turned down the wrong road - seems incredible because there are only 2 roads to that side of the island! But I'm glad I did. I followed what I thought was the path after the road ended, but then that ended. So I just headed to the coast and pushed my bike along the edge. It was absolutely amazing - lots of little coves, some tumbeld-down abandoned farmhouses and again the lush green hills rolling to the sea. Tons and tons of pheasants - a sporting group sponsors a pheasant hunt a few times a year and drops a huge amount on the island. I also came upon the Bruce castle ruins, on top of a tiny piece of land jutting into the sea. I didn't see the cave where Robert the Bruce hid out for awhile, but I believe it was below the castle (sheer cliffs). Eventually I got to the lighthouse, hoisted my bike over the wall and rode back to town. That was a much less spectacular route, but still very pretty. I spent the rest of the day with Dolores, walking a bit, at the pub - met a few very colorful characters - and stayed that night at Dolores' brother Patrick's place.

Friday I caught the half 8 ferry back to Ballycastle, and had a lazy day walking around that little coast town and taking it easy.

Saturday I went driving around the whole area with someone who was working on Rathlin - Geard - a wonderful tour guide. We went to the Giant's Causeway and to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. I'm running out of synonyms for 'beautiful', but you get the idea. Then we drove all around the coast and inland. Again, it reminded me alot of eastern rural PA. That night I stayed at a hotel in Cookstown, and went to an amazing huge club called The Opera - all the decor inspired by Phantom of the Opera.

Sunday morning I tried to catch a bus back to Dublin but much to my (temporary) extreme chagrin, very few buses run on Sunday - one to Dublin at 9:30a (which I missed) and one at 7:30p to Belfast. After calming down, I took a taxi to the closest reasonably big town, Dungannon. Amazingly, a bus was just leaving for Belfast so I got on. As I walked around, it reaffirmed that my favorite city so far is Belfast - I'm not sure exactly why.

The place I stayed Saturday night, Cookstown, is in the heart of the 'Troubles' area. In the surrounding towns as well, there were some seriously high fences and barbed wire, multiple layers of gates and lots of cameras around all the police stations and RUC headquarters. In Cookstown itself, there is an Army depot with blast walls in addition to the police station measures. I saw many British flags flying, and one Irish -which I was told should not be flying. In Belfast the courthouse was protected in this way, but otherwise everything was normal. There were 4 high schools in the Cookstown area - 1 each of 'normal' public/protestant and Catholic(St Pius X!) across and down the street from each other and then 1 each of gifted public/protestant and Catholic. There is a new very well funded integrated primary school which has some pretty ominous high fences. In one small town at a stop, Geard pointed out 4 major buildings that had been blown up by bombs a few years ago. But pretty much everything is rebuilt. There were some signs saying 'Disband the RUC' - apparently they are a pseudo-police arm and are very one-sided (I'm not sure which side). Also, I saw a bit of 'IRA' graffiti but it was all few and far between. All that said, I felt very safe and would definitely come back.

So I caught the train from Belfast to Dublin yesterday and cannot believe I only have 6 more days here! I have so much more to do!!!


pub crawl (stumble), Inishmaan, Galway, Cliffs of Moher [2000]

The musical pub crawl went really well - I highly recommend it. There were 2 musicians that played, told stories and talked about Irish instrument history, while we hit 3 pubs. The next morning we ran for an early train to Galway (3 hrs away). Some women on the train told us that we should definitely hit the Aran Islands if possible, so as soon as we got there, we were able to get directly on a boat (10:30). The boat is connected to a shipping company so it looked like a fishing vessel and there was cargo in the lower part of the deck. It was about 2-1/2 hours to get to Inishmaan - the middle-sized and least visited isle of the three. We arrived around 1 and the boat home left at 5. It is a very small island (8km long x 3km wide I think - pop about 100) but we managed to get lost abs harassed by the local village idiot. Eventually we got our bearings, and climbed on top of a few ancient fort ruins - very impressive. The while island was criss-crossed by those intricate stone walls, often penning in belligerent cows as Cindy discovered when she tried to photograph one. It was the 'typical' quaint Ireland I have heard about. That night we explored Galway a bit - a very nice city much like a ski town. It is a college town definitely geared for tourists but still retains the 'village' feel. The next morning (Thurs) we rented a car and drove down the coast to the Cliffs of Moher. I only drove on the wrong side of the street once! It was interesting not only because of driving on the other side of the road, and being in such a tiny car, but also because they have tons of traffic circles instead of stoplights. Some of the roads were insanely narrow, too, with those picturesque stone walls about 3 inches from the road's edge and the road barely wide enough for 2 cars. I did alot of trimming of overgrown foliage - and Cindy felt like she was being pelted by it. On our way down to the cliffs, we came upon a castle on a lake and climbed up to the top. It was spit-raining and blustery, much like you would imagine in the middle ages. Very cool :)

By the way, the only rain we have gotten so far was a few drops one or two mornings, full rain in Scotland, and Thurs morning and early afternoon. So it has not been the stereotypical dreariness.

The Cliffs of Moher were beautiful - sheer moss-covered dropoffs falling down into the turbulent sea. We also stopped by the holy well of St Brigid which was very close by. One things that amused us was the kegs stacked behind the fence that surrounded the area. Supposedly the well has healing powers. The kegs tie into the story told at the Guinness factory that up to a few years ago, they were recommending that pregnant women drink a Guinness a day for the vitamin and mineral benefits - their ad slogan - 'Guinness for Strength'.

So we drove back to Galway, had a pint at Fibber Magee's and got on the train back to Dublin - dinner and some more traditional music at the Celt Pub.

This morning I sent Cindy home (luckily the French transportation embargo hasn't made it to Ireland yet).

It was great to have her here so we could explore enough for me to get my bearings. I think we hit all the big ticket tourist items, so over the next few days I'm going to have to figure out what to do for the next 2 weeks!

This weekend should be wild - the All-Ireland Hurling Finals are Sunday and the airport cabbie said they will start taking over the town tomorrow. I believe it is Kildare and Offaly I think ... I don't remember but I'm sure I will know by Sunday. The thing last weekend was Kerry and Armagh in a Gaelic Football semi-final - Kerry won.

Next week - Giant's Causeway and Rathlin Island...


Dublin, Belfast and Scotland [2000]


Since we last left our heroes.... we hit the rest of the Dublin top tourist sights - St Patrick's, Guiness factory, Book of Kells. All were very good, though not amazing. And a few more nights of authentic Irish music.

Yesterday we took a train up to Belfast - lots of beautiful farmland, sheep and cows. We wandered around Belfast for a few hours - it is really bustling, and reminded us of Pittsburgh in the 70s. No evidence that we could see of the troubles. Then we got on a ferry to Troon Scotland. It is a quaint little village on the Irish Sea. Good pizza. The traditional Scottish breakfast is much like the traditional Irish breakfast - plus a very dark unidentifiable patty. We believe it to be meat since Cindy got it and I didn't, but who knows. We took the train to Ayr to shop and wander around, and had lunch in a pub that is a renovated church. This afternoon we took a plane from there to Dublin, so tonight - musical pub crawl...

Brigid and Cindy

Ireland diary [2000]

9/1 - 10:16pm - Well, we got here! We got to the LA airport a few hours early and we went to Manhattan Beach and walked on the pier. We had a meal at the airport and played a game of yahtzee. Then Cindy and I got on the plane. The flight was ok – we had middle seats – but then we couldn’t sleep so we went to the back alley between bathrooms and chatted and played another game of yahtzee. We got ~1-1/2 hours of sleep, and got into Heathrow at 2:30pm local time. We got our passports stamped (yay!) and then strolled around the shopping area. We got on the flight to Dublin and arrived ~6:30. There was no customs check and minimal passport check (no stamp!) and we took a taxi to our abode for the night. We unpacked and cleaned up (minimally) and went to the Celt Pub. We found a table in the back and Cindy got the first round, while the musicians were setting up. It cost 5 punts, including a tip. We learned later that you don’t tip bartenders. We listened to the music – 5 women with a tin whistle, drum, guitar, fiddle and flute – and chatted. After I got the second round (I was pretty nervous), Cindy struck up a conversation with the guy next to us about what denomination coins are. Afterwards he talked about growing up in County Donegal and how bad Dublin is. Meanwhile, we noticed a young bloke that had all of Carl’s mannerisms – smoking, tapping off ashes, facial expressions, all but the laugh. It was pretty interesting to notice. Gotta go to sleep… tomorrow we decide what to do the rest of the time Cindy is here. We’ll probably hang out in Dublin (& wander around) tomorrow. Yay! I’m on sabbatical. But it still hasn’t really hit me.

9/2 – 11:15am – More comments about yesterday – the cab ride from the airport was 12 punts and when I got the beers and didn’t tip, I got a 20 pence piece back. I’m so glad Cindy is here so I can work through my insecurities with her! We just figured out how to work the shower. Breakfast was 8-10 so we’ll have to find a place to eat, but it is lunchtime anyway. I’m really glad we were able to get a good night’s sleep!

9/2 – 11:50am – Also, yesterday at the airport we saw Tom Jones! And today Cindy’s curling iron fried though we used the converter – I thought it conditioned the line as well, but I guess not. Last note – it did rain yesterday, but not while we were out. Off to lunch – 

9/2 – 11:05pm – Just got back from the Celt Pub – again good music but different from last night. Last night they did ‘Foggy Dew’ and a bunch like that, tonight they did quite a few ‘traditional’ tunes as well as Van Morrison (‘Have I Toild You Lately that I Love You’). The group tonite was acoustic guitar (older woman) + vocals, fiddler (very good, and made eye contact), bongo player, electric guitarist, mini-bongo player that you couldn’t really hear. Good music, though. Today, after we figured ut how to use the shower, we walked to lunch (Irish stew + veg lasagne + 3 diet cokes + 1 orange sparkling soda + broccoli soup – all very good). We walked to the Connolly station, thinking we were going to O’Connell St, and then went to O’Connell St and walked across the River Liffey to Dublin Castle, pausing at the Bank of Ireland. On the walk, probably 60-70% were dressed in colors that were probably due to a soccer game – orange/white of Morgan/Armagh and green/yellow of Kerry. We think Morgan won because they were more voluminous and were more drunk. When we were near the train station a young guy puked as we were walking. Interesting. Then he kept walking. When we went the other direction there were some orange folks singing . So we walked down very crowded streets to Dublin Castle. We took the tour, which was very interesting. We went through the Victorian section (lots of gilding, chandeliers, etc) and the Norman section that had been underwater. Pretty cool, and very old (1100’s). Dublin’s name is derived from ‘Black Pool’ – then we went to Christchurch, toured Dublinia (1100-1500 Dublin multi-media show – diorama type stuff). Then we climbed St Michael’s Tower for a bird’s eye view of Dublin. We then walked to a cyber café right across the street from Christchurch, and Cindy wrote Scott & I wrote the list. It was 1.50 punts for 15 minutes. We were hungry and went to Forum Lounge from ~4-5 (cheese sandwich, tuna sandwich, fried mushrooms, 2 H2O, 2 Guinness). We walked home and changed into pants and went to the Celt Pub. I talked with a guy who was a Springsteen fan who found a bunch of bootlegs in Temple Bar record stores. Random notes: when you ask for water, they ask if you wan it still or sparkling. Also, the signs say ‘mind your step/head’ instead of ‘watch’. All women seem to either have short hair or have it up. When we walked past the post office (and 1 other building) there were graphic posters illustrating aborted bablies – a pro-life petition. Tomorrow we will try to go to church at St Patrick’s and plan going to Scotland Mon & Tues.

9/3 – 10:31pm – In a nutshell today was: eat Irish breakfast, deserted walk to St Audeon’s, St Patrick’s, church at St Augustine & St John’s, Guinness Visitor’s Center, lunch at O’D… across from Christchurch (by the way, the place we did emails was Net House). Then stopped at a souvenir shop and to Trinity College and the Book of Kells – lots of pushy tourists. We walked all around Trinity and to the train station. Then back to the Celtic Lodge, tried to make a call about Belfast-Scotland ferries (to no avail) and went down the street to RR’s (Robert Read) for dinner (chicken stirfry & veggie pannini) and Guinness. Met a drunk woman from ~ Kildare & Darren from Australia who is living in Wales for a few months. More details later. Darren on tipping: “I’m not a canoe, I don’t tip”.

9/4 – 7:30am – On the train from Dublin to Belfast, waiting to go. I should fill in yesterday’s activities. We had breakfast in the B&B – navy beans, fried eggs and Cindy had sausage and fried ham. A little greasy, but fine. Oh – plus white bread. I haven’t eaten so much white bread since I was little. We were trying to get to church but didn’t know what time mass was. So we walked down O’Connell, across the Liffey. We walked to Christchurch because we had seen a Catholic church nearby from looking down on St Michael’s Tower. We went into the Church of Ireland one and saw a girl climb up the ‘bell pullers only’ hole. It was a Norman church – very short archways and very castle-like. The Catholic one next door only had mass at 11:45 (and it was ~10) so we decided to walk to St. Patrick’s. It was full of memorials, and very pretty, but a little disappointing. As we were leaving, they were zipping up the souvenirs and rolling the post card stand into a closet. We walked around the garden as well. By the way, the garden behind Dublin Castle was really beautiful, and had snakes made of pavers running through it. After St Patrick’s we still had time so headed toward the Guinness center. On the way we spotted a Catholic church that was just abut to start a mass – Sts Augustine & John. Very pretty – light green ceiling and very ornate. Afterwards we went to Guinness, took the tour and had a pint. And bought a bunch of stuff at the souvenir place. By this time we were hungry and finally found a place to eat. Cindy rated the bathroom as a 1 and I said more like a 5. We walked down to Trinity College and into the Book of Kells exhibit. Lots of tourists and one in particular (with a hat) kept getting in Cindy’s way. Expensive gift shop. Then we tried to get out on the west side but ended up being able to leave only by the southeast corner. We walked across the river to the train station to pick up schedules to Belfast & Galway (they were out of Galway) and went home. We were hungry so we changed quickly and went to find a bite, ending up at RR’s which seems very nice, so I’ll probably go back there by myself. There were 2 girls that were giggling and making faces. Luckily they took off relatively quickly. A woman sat with us and told us the story of her friend who, the night before, had thrown a brick through her own window because her key didn’t work. Her husband’s response was ‘did ya have to make such a big hole?’! The bartender asked her to leave. She was very drunk, but hung out for a few minutes longer. During this, I had made eye contact with a lone guy at the bar that was reading a book, so we struck up a conversation and I asked him to join us. He, as I said last night, was an Australian living in Wales for 4-6 mo. His name was Darren and he just came to Dublin for the weekend. We had a good time chatting about Australia, the S Pacific and tourists in general. Fun night. This morning we got up at 6, walked to the train station and now we are at Dundalk.

9/6 – In brief: Mon we took the train to Belfast, checked out boat schedules, wandered around, caught ferry across the Irish Sea to Troon, Scotland. It was dismal and we were going to catch a train for Ayr, but at the last minute decided to stay in Troon. Got the cabbie to recommend a place to stay, checked in at the Anchorage – definitely the best in town. Troon is a golfing mecca so we saw some obnoxious American golfers. Ate dinner at a pub – pizza & soup - & hung out at our hotel’s bar. Decided to try to fly out of Prestwick instead of boat-train so firmed that up in the morning. Took train to Ayr and searched unsuccessfully for a kilt for Scott. We found places, but you had to be measured & it was ~$400. I bought a post card & mailed it, and a Dublin one. We had lunch in a renovated church that is now a pub. Then we went to the train to Prestwick, and plane to Dublin. At the airport we looked out over the runway. The flight was on Ryan Air, which operates like Southwest – no seat assignments, and the seats seemed small. So we got a taxi home, rested for a bit and went to a cyber café – Global Internet Café – and had dinner in Temple Bar. Then we found the place for the musical pub crawl. That was a lot of fun – starting at Oliver St John Gogherty, then to Ha’Penny Bridge Inn and ending near the Viking Experience place. We walked home and stopped in the Celt bar for one last pint. There were some Brits that were kind of annoying. So this morning we got up just after 6 and walked fast, and ran, to the train station. It took 35 minutes to get to Heuston at a fast clip, so next time I will allow 45 minutes. We got on the train with one minute to spare. We were very afraid that we would miss it. So we were all sweaty and sat by accident in a car reserved for a school.

Thurs 9/7 – 7:20pm – On the train back to Dublin (from Galway). Yesterday arrived, got on O’Brien Shipping boat to Inishmaan. Hiked around all day, boat back, stayed at Spanish Arches Hotel, renter car & drove to the Cliffs of Moher, wandered around – ate, drank at Fibber Magee’s, now on train home. Details later.

Fri 9/8 – 12:50p – To finish yesterday – got home after 9:30, we were both grouchy, got cab home, were going to go to McDonald’s because we were told it was the only palce open – but found 101 Parnell on the way. Also had a pint in the Celt Pub. I’ll fill in details later. Right now I’m at the Laundromat – for future reference, they are open M-F 8a-7p, Sa 9a-6p. Small machines are 2.70 punts, soap is 60 pence (called powder). To have them do it, a small load is 6 punts. I will be very glad to have clean clothes. The washers are interesting – they are front loading and churn, then stop and sit, then churn some more. Now it’s spinning dry. I started at 12:50 so we’ll see how long it takes. The guest house people are not very helpful. They said no restaurants  would be open last night (we found one) and they said there were laundry places on O’Connell. There weren’t. I went down to Parnell where the Lonely Planet book said there was one. It is so great that I have that. Anyway, this morning we got up and both of us packed. I thought I was going to move rooms today, but apparently I don’t until Saturday. We had breakfast – same as before – fried eggs, beans plus sausage and ham for Cindy. She didn’t like it and I’m none too fond, either. From now on I’ll probably go for cereal. Then we caught a cab to the airport, wandered around, and she left. Boo hoo. I am going to miss her a lot. We did so much! So then I took a cab home, reorganized all my stuff and set out for this laundromat. My plans for the rest of the day are food, email/web stuff and food shopping, probably in that order. Tonite I’ll probably stay in and watch tv & get to sleep early. Tomorrow I’ll probably plan my Rathlin Island trip. I also want (probably) to buy some more clothes, but I’m not positive. A pair of jeans might be good. Also tonite/tomorrow I’ll try to make a list of stuff I want to do for the rest of the trip. I think the wash part is about half done. It’s 1:20. I think I’ll drop it off next time. I just noticed some schoolkids – odd that they would be wandering around at 1:30 in the afternoon. Wash just ended – 1:30 – and my clothes are now in the spinner for a few minutes. Then they go into the dryer. I’m hungry. There was a pizza place on O’Connell St. So I think I’ll go there. The other 3 people here work here – they got a big plastic bag full of butcher’s smocks (I hope) all covered in blood.

Sat 9/9 – 10am – I’m on the bus for the Grand Dublin tour – I will be carted around for almost 3 hours. I decided to do this one instead of the hop on/off because I’ve hit most of the hot spots. This one should give me a view to more of the city. Yesterday after finishing laundry, I ate at ‘La Pizza’ – fast food pizza. Then I picked up a few groceries at the Icehouse. I didn’t realize before I went in there that it would be 90% frozen food (I should have figured that out!) So today on my way home I’ll get a few proper groceries. All I could get there was some junk food and a pasta salad with corn that wasn’t good. Then I just hung out in my room – watched the British versions for ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ and in between watched the National Geographic channel. Very interesting. The game shows do have slightly different rules from their American counterparts. Then I read through the L.P. book and picked out the remaining stuff I want to see. Also, I totally reorganized and thought I lost $860. I found it later (yay!) ooh the tout people just gave me a very nice Dublin map. Tour guide is Bill Smith. I’ll write notes on his commentary. We just passed the Sein Feinn bookstore but he didn’t mention it. We’re now in front of the art museum/Garden of Remembrance – with the ‘Children of Lir’ sculpture. Definitely worth another look. I’ll have to see if there is anything at the Abbey/Peacock Theater. Irish coat of arms – lion & unicorn. Blarney Woolen Mills on Nassu St just south of Trinity College. Merrion Square is very lush, and across the street is the National Gallery of Art (free!). I should get back here, and take a picture of the doors. Example of Georgian Leeson/Pembroke end of Georgian stuff. St Stephen’s Green. Church across from it used for socialite weddings. Tourism center looks like it us an old church off Grafton. Liberties area – just past St Augustine/John – street market. Beautiful gardens in front of the Museum of Modern Art, next to the jail (Kilmainham). Trisha Yearwood at Olympia 20,21. We just went through Phoenix Park. Saw a number of people running. Cruke’s Acre 3500-5000 mass burial ground 1780? rebellion. Oldest street – Fishamble. Over – masses ar St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral Sat 6pm, St Kev. Oratory 8pm; Sunday 10a, 11a(Latin sung by Palestrina Choir), 12:30, 6:30p. Weekdays 8:30, 10, 11, 12:45, 5:45.

Sun 9/10 – 1:45p – Dan & Laura’s wedding anniversary. I’m sitting outside the National Library, waiting for it to open. It is usually not open on Sunday so I might be able to get a head start on the genealogical stuff. But I don’t have my sheets so hopefully I can get on the internet to retrieve some. In any case, I’ll find out how to do it tomorrow. And then I’ll go to the National Museum, next door. The game starts at ‘half three’ so hopefully I’ll find a bar to watch it in. Then dinner and I’ll try to do the Sing-Along Sound of Music – box office opens at 6:30. Yesterday after the bus ride I tried to find a place to buy a box – I’ll have to ship multiple small boxes. I have to figure out a way to pack the bodhrain, too. Otherwise I could try to get a box from a grocery store. Multiple small boxes is probably better anyway. I have accumulated a bunch of stuff – I’ll have to ship a lot home. Yesterday I got back to the guesthouse ~2:30 (after food shopping) and slept, then watched some tv. This morning I packed up a bit and went to church at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral. Beautiful. The mass was in Latin with lots of incense and a boys choir (plus a few men and one woman). I have to write Mom & Aunt Gert about that. Most of the days Cindy was here were sunny, but it has been pretty cloudy the last few.

Tue 9/12 – 7:40a – I’m on the train to Belfast – but I’m getting off in 1 more hour at Portadown to head to the Giant’s Causeway and Ballycastle. We’re at our first stop of Drogheda a bunch of schoolkids just got on. On Sunday I did get a little bite on the John Wilkinson geneology stuff – I found that there was one in the Ballycarry area in either 1861 or 1833 (the 2 dates on the document). It shows that they were tenants of Robert Gage. Then I found a book written by his wife, and hopefully I’ll be able to buy a few copies on the island – for Mom and Gert. I didn’t read too much of it, but it seems like the best historical reference. Ooh just passed an intensely green pasture with black/white cows. Very pretty. I’m eating Bolands Cream Crackers and St Bernard Hi Fruit Orange Soda for breakfast. I found a place that sells Nutri-Grain bars – the convenience store at the cornet of Talbot & O’Connell. I’ll have to stock up before heading to Kenya. Oooh sheep Too bad pictures wouldn’t come out. Sunday after being at the library, I tried to catch the All Ireland Hurling Final between Kilkenney and Offaly. I had watched a replay of an old game Saturday – it really is a fascinating game. But the only bars I came upon were tourist bars so I got some food upstairs at the Auld Dubliner (veggie stir fry) and walked home and watched the rest on tv. Then I went to see ‘The Sound of Music’. It was being shown at the Gaiety Theatre as a sing-a-long. It was pretty fun, but took a lot longer than I expected. It was supposed to start at 7:30 but didn’t get underway until after 8:30. Then they had a costume competition and other silliness. It was pretty fun, but finished after midnight. I was assuming I’d be home by 10. So Monday I packed up (I was to move rooms) and went down to Grafton St and over to the National Library to do more genealogical research, armed with my research. There was a fire alarm ~1:30 so we all had to stand outside for about a half hour. I didn’t find anything new. All the major records are from 1861 and on. And I have details for most of the branches at that point. Now I see what they mean when they talk about the lush emerald of Ireland. We just passed some intensely green fields. For the most part, Ireland seems a lot like Pennsylvania – rural PA with the rolling hills. Just like home. So yesterday after I gave up on finding any new info, I decided to see if they had books on Rathlin. There were a few, and I picked the 3 most promising to look at. The best was one by Catherine Gate, written in 1851, published in 1995. The one I read most was an archaeology study done my Ulster Commission to see which, if any, buildings are worth preserving. Very interesting. With the 2 books and the other stuff, I figured out that the Wilkinsons lived at the elbow of the island, at Ballycarry, right near the lighthouse and the Bruce Castle. I’m assuming it’s Robert the Bruce’s as it is also near the Bruce Cave. After all of that yesterday I walked home, moved my stuff up to my new room (209), organized, watched some tv and slept. I toyed with going to the Celt Pub but instead just opened my window to listen to the music coming out the back door, into the alley and echoing up to my room. I should fill in the details from my last trip north – we got off the train and found the Seacat dock, but I wanted to check out the other carrier. It was a very long walk, and decided to take Seacat. For some reason I wanted to take that one. So we bought tickets to Troon and then walked around Belfast. I expected to see military checkpoints and some blown out buildings and generally a city locked down, but there was none of that. It’s pretty small; and I think I might like the atmosphere better than Dublin, for a day trip. I don’t think there is much to do so staying for a few days might not be that much fun, but it was very nice for a few hours. The architecture reminded us of Pittsburgh, which seems reasonable since they are both industrial towns. I should stop – I need to get off at the next stop – Portadown.  I believe I successfully got on the right train. It’s cold and rainy, my coat is perfect . This train is considerably less plush than the other one. Next time I’m alone in a car I will take a picture. There is one other person init with me now. Yes, this one is much creakier. The Union Jack is flying next to the Ulster Carpet Mills. So according to my schedule, I should get into Lisburn at 9:52 after stops at Lurgan & Moira. More about Belfast – there is a gorgeous city hall, with statues to Queen Victoria, Titanic victims and 3 or 4 city fathers. And there was a guy in a kilt blowing away on his bagpipes right in front of it. The town just seems very pleasant and comfortable. There were some pretty hefty fences around the courthouse, though. When I took a cab back from the airport, my cabbie, in addition to ranting almost the whole time about having to work 14 hours/day because his wife didn’t want to refinance/extend the mortgage and missing out on his 3 daughters growing up, said he would recommend against going north. He said it was calm up until a month ago. But I figure the chances of me being involved are probably smaller than a car accident or a train/plane wreck so it is worth seeing these places. Already I feel like the people are nicer. I don’t know why. But from my experience the whole thing about the Irish being really friendly is way overrated. In Dublin nobody has been overly welcoming. On Inishmaan people seemed downright hostile. In Galway people were fine, but it is definitely a tourist town, and they weren’t overly friendly. So I’ll have to see about the north. I’ve got 5 minutes to my stop. Then I think I have almost an hour. I’m so glad I platted the route/times last night. It definitely pays to get a schedule! Interesting note about hay – mostly I’ve seen rolls of it, but just now I saw bales stacked in little pyramids. I’ve never seen that before.

11:10a – Sitting at Crumlin. I spent my time in Lisburn walking to find an ATM (found one!). Then I went into a used bookstore on my way back to the train station. I bought ‘Uncrowned Queens’ supposedly about strong women who shaped their time. It is actually a condescending French point of view glamorizing the old salons and ‘ladies who lunch’. I guess I’ll read the last chapter on Gertrude Stein. I don’t know much about her. Then I’ll drop it at the next used bookstore I find. Lisburn reminded me of Phoenixville – it has a nice main street but off 1 block it is kind of grungy. Not bad, but not too much attention has been paid. Plus they have a mall. If I have time on my way back, I’ll stop in their linen museum – looks interesting. All the towns so far have looked pretty industrial. Ooh – I just had an idea. As soon as I get to Rathlin I will try to buy the Gate book -> actually I should do that in Ballycastle, and try to read it tonight.

12:30 – Dhu Varren train stop – there are tons of mobile homes right before this seaside town. Very pretty beach, but looks a bit too chilly.
1:00 – I may need to do some creative travel planning. There are only a few buses – I’ll have to hit Dunluce Castle when I come back this way. But it does look like I can do both Bushmills and Giant’s Causeway today. I just have to be careful with hitting the buses. Portrush-Bushmills takes 20 min with a stop, Bushmills-Giant’s Causeway takes 5 min (I may end up walking that) Giant’s Causeway-Ballycastle is 35 min with a stop. The last bus leaves GC at 18:15 – I should be able to get everything in.

2:00 – Well, I missed the 1:10 bus – I think I was at the wrong bus stop. It was at the end of the playground/field in front of the tourism center and the real station is on the side.

8:30pm – Just got back from walking around Ballycastle, dinner at ___ and a pint at the Angler’s Arms. There will be live msic starting at 10, but there was nobody to talk to so I thought I should come back to my abode – the Hillsea B&B for the low low price of 15 pounds! It is a tiny room but it has a partial sea view, partial Rathlin Island view. I have to use a shared bathroom, but the other occupied rooms have their own, so I’m good. The bus trips from Portrush to Bushmills, and Bushmills to Ballycastle were amazing. This is definitely my favorite part of the country. It has it all – rolling hills criss-crossed with stone walls, sheer cliffs, beaches, little creeks… and lots of adorable sheep! I need to get more pictures of the sheep. I would love to rent a car here, but I didn’t see anywhere I could. I’m not sure how else I’ll be able to go to the Carrick… rope bridge. In any case, I need to end my pants and I’m going to light my candle. I’m not sure if I’m allowed so I’m going to do it in the window (the candle, not the mending). It’s done. It’s the first time I’ve lit the candle on this trip, and the first time I used my lighter. On to the pants. Well the calming scent isn’t really working since it is wafting out the window, but it will do. I’m glad I left the pub – I can feel the 2 Guinnesses and if I was having more I know I’d be crying right now. I was tearing up in there before. I am just so alone. They say Ireland is so friendly but I haven’t really experienced it. I expected that at every pub I went to, I would be involved in conversation. Not so. At this place tonite, there were 3 or 4 locals chatting, 2 couples chatting, 3 Germans (I think). All involved in their own conversations. What am I supposed to do – barge in on their conversations? Oh well. It’s not like it is anything new. So anyway, I got to the Bushmills distillery at 3 and the tour started at 3:30. Pretty mild on the interest factor as tour stuff goes. But the visuals were amazing. They showed a beautiful video at the start, and then we went through the distillery plant – in action, then saw the aging warehouse (one of them) – very impressive with ~8000 barrels. We also saw the boiling plant in action. It really is a pretty small enterprise – they only have ~250 people in the high tourist season with half of that being management and hospitality. After the tour I tasted the 10 year old whiskey, which was hard to drink. I guess I’m not a connoisseur. I found out the (one of) difference between bourbon, scotch and whiskey – bourbon is normally aged for 1 year (American), Scotch 2 years (Scotland) and whiskey 3 years (Irish). This country is so gorgeous. And I love this town. While walking around I saw some older folks ‘bowling’ – bocce ball. The field was amazing – right near the sea with the cliffs of Ireland on the right, A hazy view of Scotland in the center and Rathlin on the left, mostly obstructed by the harbor – seawall and marina. I also saw some kids playing hurling. It really is a very cool sport. I’m going to look into it when I get home. I think I remember seeing that the San Diego chapter of an Irish club had something to do with local hurling. And their old folks home is right across from the lawn bowling fields. By the way, the bus I caught from Bushmills doubled as a school bus. What an amazing drive. Everywhere I looked, I thought wow – this is where I feel at home. Well, it’s 9:20p, I think I’ll play a few games of solitaire and head back to the pub. By the way, the bartender said he knows all the McCurdy’s and that the population is around 65, now that this is the off season. It probably would be better to go before Sept as the puffins are no longer nesting. Next time I’ll see them—

9/13 – 11pm – I’m tired so I won’t write much, but it has been a pretty good birthday. Last nite I chatted with a few older gents, this morning got on the ferry after a good, quick breakfast. Chatted with a British couple. Very nice. Took the bus around and chatted with a guy who is into shipwreck diving and one into history, as well as the bus driver. Bought the bus driver’s book on Rathlin. He pointed out 4 houses to go check out McQuilcan. I decided to go to Dolores Kyle’s after a confidence-building walk out to the donkey. She was very nice but I’m really not so good at ‘visiting’ more later on that…Then I went to the pub and decided to boldly chat with the guys playing pool. It worked out well. I’ll go back there tomorrow nite. It was starting to get a bunch more people when I left just before 11. G’nite.

Ireland [2000]



Celtic Guesthouse

– 81-82 Talbot St, Dublin 1

Flight In

LAX-LHR 8/31 8:25pm-2:45pm (British Airways 268); LHR-DUB 9/1 5:25pm-6:40pm (British Midland 131)

Flight Out

DUB-LHR 9/23 5:10pm-6:25pm (British Midland 130); LGW-NBO 9/23 10:15pm-8:40am (British Airways 2069)

To See

Dublin + musical pub crawl, Book of Kells, Guinness Brewery, Dublin Castle, Old Jameson Distillery, Phoenix Park, Kilmainham Jail, Kildare, Clonmacnoise, Tara Belfast + Ballycastle, Rathlin Island, Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills Distillery Galway + Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands, Inaishmaan, Liscannor’s Holy Well of St Brigid