Sunday, September 29, 2013

Celtic Highlights

 These ruins dated back to the 12th Century and apparently, the movie Braveheart was filmed here. The name, Trim, came from the Gaelic, Baila Atha Traim, meaning "The place or crossing of the elder tree.

Amazing to walk around these ruins and we tried to imagine what life must have been like way back when.


The castle wasn't open when we arrived so we weren't able to get much history or detail. One could look into the ruins and imagine that x building or space was where storage occurred, or where the weapons were kept.
  This carved piece of oak is called, "A Hunger for Knowledge." Beautifully aged piece of art.

Irish Folk Museum

It was suggested that Judy and I hit the Folk Museum to see what it had been like to live in Ireland a hundred years ago. The facility reminded me of Greenfield Village but there weren't living exhibits throughout the several acre grounds. We saw this sow...the biggest pig I have ever seen and she had several piglets in the stall next to her. One of the workers said this species of pig is the largest...had to be over 400 pounds.
 You have seen my photo with the mummer's head dress on but this guy below was busily making baskets and a horse head. Very informative and interesting.    The young man hammering steel was making a pitchfork...he had an apprentice who must have been 12 years old. Kid didn't want his photo taken! Hmmm...not sure how these photos got stacked on top of each other, but they are NOT separating!
Enjoyed the crofter's cottages. They were small and heated by peat moss bricks that make the most delightful smell. Our new friend, Frances, burned these in her home the night we went over to share hors d'oeuvres and wine with her. Wish we had these bricks here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Titanic Experience

Lots of controversy around the Titanic Experience, a huge several floor building that both celebrates and memorializes the Titanic. Hard to imagine celebrating such a disaster; yet, this ship was innovative. That over 1500 people died when it sank after hitting an iceberg means a huge disaster confronting the country and the shipyard, Harland and Wolff which built her. She launched in 1911 but wasn't completely outfitted until 1912. Days after her first occupied launch, she was on the bottom of the ocean. No one was near to help save the occupants. Many did survive but the disaster is still a source of commentary and revulsion.

Some say that one reason the Titanic went down is that when she was launched on May 31, 1911, no prayers were said. Those prayers were the norm and it is possible that the Gods were NOT amused. She was totally outfitted by March of 1912 and it was only days after she left the dock with passengers that she hit an iceberg. The distress SOS calls from the ship were horrible to see.

Many think that those who died were of the "lower classes." That isn't true...more men died than women and children. They were loaded onto boats first...a greater percentage of women and children survived. And several men are thought to be heroes for helping folks into boats...several giving up their slot so that those who were infirm could survive.

The museum is very advanced and one literally can see, feel and smell the work going on inside the ship as it works. We went into the bowels of the boat through several floors while riding in a cart.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Travelling with a relatively new friend means lots and lots of laughs....fortunately!

Judy and I are relatively new friends...met her when we "moved" to Caseville and we hit it off and somehow, we decided to come to Ireland, a place Judy had never visited. I came here 11 years ago with Heidi but we stayed south of Dublin. This trip, we decided that we would definitely hit the Dublin area but I wanted to go to Northern area that we were told was unsafe 11 years ago.
Travelling with someone you know, but not well, could be a bit risky. So far, we have had a ball. Both of us are comfy laughing at ourselves and each other....and we are doing a lot of both.
Each of us have assigned responsibilities...she is the navigator and I am the driver. She reminds me often to "keep left" so I don't pull into OUR driving lane by accident. I remind her that she has to put the key to our front door in, right side up. For some reason, she likes to put them in upside down. And, it just won't work for Judy to try to show me a map to indicate where next we might stop WHILE I am trying to focus on driving in the wrong side of the car and on the wrong side of the road.
I am not the best at backing cars up and one MUST be an expert here. I literally start every morning trying to back my car across two lanes of traffic to get to the side I must leave our B&B from. Judy is a trooper...she goes out into the road and waves me around and across the seriously narrow and busy road. She hasn't groused once at me...even when I get snarky with her like I did today at the Titanic Experience. She wanted me to back out in one direction and I chose to go another,...amazing how easily we center our cars. Try driving on another side of the car and another side of the road. When you get that under control, add roundabouts, high speed, small cars, rain, and blind spots that we just don't have in these places.
Judy is short and has a small stride....she is perpetually six paces behind me. I stop periodically to let her catch up. Kinda like travelling with a vertically challenged person. Then, there are issues with a lack of places to hit the bathroom. Public facilities in the guise of parks is wonderful. One might encounter picnic tables...but NO potty and NO garbage cans. Unusual. I am here to tell you that when one is laughing when walking briskly in the cool night, with no potty around....something happens!! Laughing loudly!

Bangor, Northern Ireland

Judy and I figure that the Bangor residents knew that we were arriving and set up this sign just down the road from our B&B!

After breakfast this morning, Judy and I were discussing that our stay has been enhanced so much by the people we have met here. The people have made this trip more wonderful than the experience of seeing the sights, which are each unspeakably historic and amazing. I mentioned earlier that we met Frances Burscough our first day here in Bangor. She went out of her way to let us follow her to our B&B. We had been unable to find our street. Later, she saw us on the street and stopped to chat a moment and that happened a couple more times. Last night, because we knew where Frances lived, but still didn't have her last name, I stopped and knocked on her door. I promised I was NOT a stalker but Judy and I discussed that we should find out if she was on Facebook. If so, we would like to keep in touch...she is our kind of people! Not only did we get her last name and contact info...we are going back to continue getting to know her...with wine in hand, of course!  Come to find out...she is a freelance journalist and works with the Belfast Telegraph.  A friendship has begun. Makes me smile!

Another interesting facet of this trip is the fact that we are in an English speaking country. Yet, we often have to ask for definitions. This morning, we were told, "The snib might be on the door because of the dogs.  A snib? That is a lock. And it could be a "wee" snib. We were told yesterday on a bus that the Irish use "wee" more than "oui" is used in Paris."  There is a wee minute, a wee bit, a wee piece, etc. One also might want to order some "champ" along with one's sausage. Champ? That would be potatoes.

This board sailor was out on the water as we exited Frances' home last night. Huge winds.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Generosity, helpfulness and willingness to brea the rules....found daily in Ireland.

When we arrived at the Best Western, Skylon in Dublin, we were several hours too early for our check in. Judy and I were greeted by a young lady named Aoife, pronounced, "E fa."  We allowed as how we were hours early but we wanted to either get an early check in OR store our suitcases until check in time. She quickly indicated she would check to see if we could get into a room early so we could take a nap. We had travelled all night and were exhausted. Aoife got us a quiet room and we were not charged one extra cent despite our being five hours early for check in.

Later that day, she helped us with bus information and helped us navigate the city through specific maps, directions and information about what to do, where and when. At check out this morning, Aoife was there and we were trying to get directions to our rental car company. She and the manager gave us the info and thought it made sense for us to leave our bags there because we would have to travel by the hotel on our way to Bangor. She was right...everything worked out well and when we arrived back she was tickled that we had made it and not got lost, nor had we had an accident. YUP, customer service is expected but how often do we not give or receive it?

We have stopped many a person on the street asking for directions to x,y and z and without exception have been given great directions, warmly and with a generous dollop of brogue, accent and flavor. Me: Do you know where the bus stop is going into the city center? Him: Hmmm....a wee bit over there, no? He was pointing up the street and waving us on in the opposite direction.

When we arrived in Bangor, we had to stop to ask where Donaghadee Street was. We couldn't Map Quest the address while in Dublin. At the grocery store, an elderly man, with no teeth began giving us detailed, incoherent directions. A 35ish woman said she was going in that direction if we wanted to follow her. We did that and she pulled over and waved us on. Later that day, she saw us walking along the beach and she pulled over to ask how long we were staying in her town and told us where she lives. We had been by there and knew her house due to the two barking dogs. She introduced herself as Frances. Later that day, she again pulled over and asked how we were doing? Told her we had been out exploring and we loved her town. Tomorrow, we are going to knock on her door with a bottle of wine...unless we run across her somewhere. She didn't have to pull over and chat with us...but she did. We are being welcomed over and over.

Bought two bottles of wine (yup, that kinda day) and the best chat with the clerks in the wine store. The young man has been to several states in the USA, including Ohio, NY, Texas and Colorado. We discussed with the older woman that we had never seen Weight Watchers wine. She said it wasn't bad but we indicated we would go with the "fat wine" for tonight. Left laughing.

Are we Americans that welcoming and generous? I sadly don't think so. I plan to go out of my way to welcome strangers when I can.

Thoughts from Northern Ireland

Hmmm...not sure why the font has hopped to larger size but hang in with me. We are in Bangor, Northern Ireland and while still Ireland, things are different here. For example, instead of kilometers per hour, which is used in the south of the country (Dublin areas), they use miles per hour. Now, the odometer only has kilometers per hour; so I have NO clue how fast I should be going. Also, in Dublin and the south they use Euros and here, we use pounds, or British Sterling. Both monetary systems are light on bills and heavy on coins....all sizes and all colors.

Parking is a serious issue for my driving. Everything is parallel parking and cars are squeezed in tightly everywhere. What makes the driving horrid is HOW drivers park. They can and do park outside of the marked areas along the if a car is halfway into your lane and parked, you must swerve into oncoming traffic to go around the parked vehicle. This means you are literally driving into oncoming traffic. And, of course, that driver is also swerving towards you because there are parked cars on his/her side also. There is one lane (in good places) for vehicles travelling in both directions. Navigation is scary.

Note the cars on the sidewalk. When cars are parked like this on both sides of narrow streets, it leaves a less than one lane space for two lanes of moving traffic to manage. Traffic parked the wrong way when you turn a sharp corner leaves you a bit disconcerted. There are very few street signs and many one way streets...with little signage indicating what direction one is going. An adventure.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dublin, Ireland

Judy Valentine and I made the decision to come to Ireland...a place she wanted to visit and one that I had explored a bit with Heidi, the year she turned 30. We left Detroit yesterday around 3:00 p.m. and flew to Dublin. We weren't able to sleep on the plane but got to town around 8:30 a.m. We decided to go directly to the hotel and see if we could get an early check-in or at our bags til later in the afternoon. The young lady who waited on us indicated there would be no problem. 15 minutes after arriving at the Skylon Best Western, we had a room key and were getting ready to take a nap. Nap, we did. Got up at 11:00 a.m. and headed out to explore the city. We went to The Four Courts above, maneuvered through the throngs of people on the streets and navigated the car traffic going the wrong way down the streets. We look right for oncoming, one looks left.  

One of our first observations was that there is an awful lot of cigarette smoking going on here...not as much though as we saw in Canada.

The architecture here is wonderfully old and well persevered. Around every corner is a wonderful example of stonework. Apparently, when Heidi and I were here, we rented a car at the airport and went south. This city, I have never experienced and I am loving it. Lots of diversity and am hearing diverse languages being spoken. Many inter-racial couples around also.
Today was a day of walking and exploring...we walked down the River Liffey and across the bridges. Tomorrow, we plan to take the "hop on and hop off" bus to see many of the historical sites that we just walked by this afternoon.

Our room is small but very clean. When we arrived we noticed this closet in the bathroom and figured it was a laundry shoot or something. Come to find out, the handle on the door is how one flushes the toilet!

   Lunch was a granola bar and some water while walking around the city. We managed to take two buses and find our way back to the hotel. Decided to eat at the hotel restaurant and I wanted to hit a pub to hear some live music. However, live music begins around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. and we are totally wiped out tonight. Maybe tomorrow. We both ate, "bangers and mash" for dinner. This is a traditional dish with sausage, mashed potatoes and caramelized onions. Really enjoyed this, although I didn't eat the mashed potatoes.

Went into a grocery store to see what different was on the shelves. Produce is very expensive...rather like in Alaska. They had a "red cheddar cheese" that I might buy to bring home.

Tomorrow, we are meeting the on-off bus at "half eight." How 8:30 is described here. Interesting trying to navigate the English language with words and phrases we just don't use.
As we walked around the city, we saw some interesting and some outrageously talented graffiti artists' work. Had to love this one, which stated, "This ain't NO normal advertising" pasted on a building beyond its prime.
Today was rather warm for this time of year here. We were wearing long pants and a light jacket but some of the women were wearing next to nothing. Sleeveless dresses that barely covered their butts seemed to be the norm. Saw one young lady whose chest was exposed down to the nipples. She was happily sprinting along with her man friend at a rapid rate. You can tell the local city folks from us tourists...they are speed walking and on a mission. We are ambling along...taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the city.