Al and Marsha's Journal
 

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Week 3

July 28th.

So, here we are at the beginning of our third week in Ireland, and now without the use of the car.

We had planned to spend this last week exploring in and around Dublin, carless. The reason we can do this is because there is a very effective rapid transit system, of a variety of kinds in the area. The most useful one for us is the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) light rail system. There is a station just a five minute walk from here which goes South from here to a variety of places, and North through central Dublin and beyond to areas North and East.

The DART runs along the waterfront to almost into central Dublin and for most of the way to the South so it is a pretty trip as well. Not only that, it is pretty inexpensive. I was particularly interested to see that you have to have a purchased ticket (which is printed with a magnetic strip on the back) to get to the train. You just stick your ticket into a slot on the front of the machine just like the slot on an ATM and it reads your ticket in a split second and spits it out on tip for you to retrieve. Just as importantly, as the fares are based on how far away your destination is, in most stations, and more each day, as you leave you have to put your ticket through the same process as coming in. This, of course, ensures that you have paid what you are supposed to. This whole system, from buying the ticket to getting on and off is totally automatic, and takes no time whatsoever. At no station, including the ones in Central Dublin was there ever a line-up for tickets, or for the gates, even at rush hour.

This system is virtually  identical  to the one used by the London Underground. My point in all of this is that the Skytrain folks in Vancouver claim to be losing (and probably are) many millions each year by cheating riders not paying. They also claim that machines are too expensive and cause line-ups. In our experience here in Dublin, and several times in London this is pure cow turd. It is incomprehensible to me why those jerks at Skytrain can't learn from other Cities around the world.

This brings me to think about another issue. The advent of carbon taxing on gasoline in BC recently has caused much gnashing of teeth and ignorant claims about "tax grabs", etc. This is common in our lives, bitching and shouting about matters about which we know nothing.

Well, how about this one.... In at least Ireland (if not other countries around here) when you buy a car it is rated by some agency by the amount of  pollution its engine produces. This is stated in grams of CO2 per litre of gas. When you pay for the car there are two different taxes imposed, one fairly small, and one VERY large, the amounts of which  are scaled by the CO2 rating of your car. The larger tax... are you ready for this... range from a LOW of 10% of the car's value, up to about 40% for the big gas guzzlers. Cars over here are VERY expensive to start with, about 50% higher than ours taking the exchange rate into account, and then you have to add the tax. Amazing!!!!!

I have no idea how people can afford cars in the first place, and then to run them gas is about 60% higher than we are currently paying. Gasoline in this part of the world has always been much more expensive than in North America., and still is.

While there are not as many SUVs on Irish roads as we have, there are still more than enough, especially considering the roads they careen down.

So, having gotten all of  that out of the way...on to our first Dublin walking tour.

We took the DART to one of the bigger stations, which by the way was originally built as a railway  station in 1938, very near the heart of Dublin, just behind the Trinity College campus. This station is named after one of the heroes of the 1922 rebellion.

I used the GPS system built into my iPhone which I acquired the day before we left Vancouver. I turned on the GPS feature and in a few seconds it had placed a map pin on a map of Dublin showing where we were. Our  first target was the Tourist Information Office nearby so that we could pick up our "Dublin Tours" passes which Marsha had purchased on the net. I entered the address of the office into the iPhone and it immediately showed us the route to the office. We began to walk and the map pin of our  location moved along the streets we were traversing as we went. Having this capability on your cel phone is like magic as far as I am concerned and as you may have figured out, I am no novice at this stuff. I love my iPhone!.

After picking up our passes and getting some advice from the exceedingly helpful young man behind the counter we turned a corner and found ourselves back on familiar ground: Grafton Street. This is a pedestrian only street, and we  had been here on our  last time in Dublin in 2003. Now, as then, it was jam packed with locals and tourists all cruising the street and the dozens of high and low end stores arrayed up and down. Grafton street is about three blocks long, and hidden in behind it are several narrow Irish lanes and streets all bustling with folks looking at the stores and restaurants.

Last time we were here it was a miserable rainy day, but still  full  of people. Today was a beautiful warm, sunny day and everyone looked as if they were having a great time. There were street musicians, a very talented young violinist accompanied by four more violins, a viola, and a bass. The music was very pleasant, and a large crowd had gathered to listen.

One of the first stores we saw was one where we had purchased a large suitcase on our last trip because we had bought so much stuff  we had  nowhere to pack it. The purchase of that suitcase brought our total luggage count to eight pieces. This time we are travelling lighter and don't expect to need to purchase more luggage.

We walked to the end of Grafton Street and crossed over to St. Stephen's Green. This park is very pretty, in usual European style,  with lakes, much open grassy space and a couple of bandstands. There is live music in the bandstand in the summer, except on Monday which is when we were there.

Last time we were here we stayed in a small hotel nearby and walked through St. Stephens Green more than once, but then it was nearly deserted. This time it was packed with people strolling, sitting, picnicking and taking in the Sun. It was amazing to see how well it is used. There was a group of businessmen in their white shirts and ties seated on the grass for a lunch of sushi... chopsticks and all.

In the 17th Century St. Stephens Green was the center of life in Dublin and many of the more wealthy residence built homes around it, and also around a smaller but similar park a few blocks away, Merrion Square.

We walked through St. Stephens Green taking it all in, and then decided to walk to the little hotel we had stayed in during our  last visit in 2003. It was just a couple of long blocks and it had not changed a bit, except for maybe the ivy had grown longer. The picture on this section includes one of the door into this place, because it is so weird. It's the only part you can see from here. The hotel is actually mostly in a coach house at the rear of the lot of a large Georgian house facing the street beyond, but this is the entrance, in the back lane.

We then hiked back, made a brief stop at the St. Stephens Green department store, where we had to pay 20p to pee. By the way,  there are no euphemisms here for toilets. They are not washrooms, nor bathrooms, they are what they are: toilets. Takes some getting used to. Marsha still asks for the washrooms and is always faced with a blank stare until she asks for the toilet.

Then we walked back down Grafton street to spend some time in the grounds of Trinity College which was founded in 1592. Canada didn't even exist yet and they founded this venerable Protestant college in 1592!  According to common belief it was not the case that Catholics were not permitted to enrol at Trinity College. More than one book I have read makes a different point. While the college was indeed founded by Protestants for their community, they did not specifically exclude Catholics. The thing was, Catholics would not enrol their children there because the teachings, which always had a strong religious element, were totally Protestant in nature. Even more telling was the fact that at the time Catholics were not allowed to practice any of the professions nor hold seats in government so what was the point of getting an education.

Now, of course, with Catholics being about 93% of the population, and Trinity College thriving, the tides have changed, and it is now an open institution. We wandered around the grounds for a while looking at all of the centuries old buildings and then, having traipsed around for over four hours headed back to the Pearse station to grab the DART for home.

We decided to get off a stop early at Blackrock so that we could visit a Pub and Marsha could have a Smithwicks (pronounced "Smithicks") beer. We found early in our trip that Marsha's favourite beer, Harp, which is made in Ireland is rarely sold here as the Irish don't like it. The pub we went to near Dingle (you remember, the one before Boston) was where Marsha was educated about Smithwicks. So we relaxed for a bit sipping our drinks in a typical pub and then walked home.

After a rest we decided to walk to Monkstown to have dinner at the very nice restaurant/pub we had been to last week, so we did and had another nice meal, and another walk home, and to bed.

A really great start to the exploring Dublin part of our trip.

July 29th.

This was our second day of exploring Dublin, and this time we took the DART one station further to be closer to the things we wanted to see today.

From the station we headed for Christ Church Cathedral (finished in 1030), and a history museum attached to it called Dublinia. When we arrive we found that the church was not open to the public this week as they are filming part of the TV series "The Tudors" here. So we went through the Dublinia exhibit, which is essentially a depiction of what life was like in Dublin in the 11th and 12th centuries during the time of the Viking invasions, up to the 17th century. It was very well presented in static displays and information, but it was very clear about what daily life was like. It did not look like much fun....but somehow people were born, lived and died here and the city grew in size and stature during all this time. One set of interesting statistics which sort of bring it home.... the average life span was 30 years, 15% of children did not live past age 10, 10% of women died in childbirth. It must have been a scary time to live.

After Dublinia we found our way to St. Patrick's Cathedral (finished in 1192) about six blocks away, and spent quite some time exploring its interior and looking at the tombs and plaques arrayed around the sides. It is a most impressive building and I still marvel at how the tradesmen of the time were able to build such monumental structures with such skill and beauty. Of course, given the tools available at the time these structures took three, and sometimes more, generations to build.

Across the street is a building with a plaque on the door labelling it as the home of the St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir School, founded in 1432 A.D. - sixty years before Columbus "discovered" North America..... this stuff always astounds me.....

Our next goal was to wander around the Temple Bar district, which is a section of Dublin near Trinity College which is full of bars, pubs restaurants, tattoo parlours, new age clothes stores and at least one Head Store..... it has, probably with good reason, a reputation for being a very rowdy place at night with drunks careening around shouting and generally making asses of themselves. During the day its crowded with voyeurs like us, but no sign of drunken folks.

We found a nice little restaurant for lunch, and then headed for Dublin Castle, which had been the seat of Government for hundreds of years. In 1739 across the street from Trinity College's entrance was built what is now the headquarters of the Bank of Ireland, but was originally the House of Lords. This was the first purpose built house of Parliament ever built in Europe. Part of the original meeting room for the Lords is still intact.

When we got to Dublin Castle there was a couple in the courtyard and some folks with a commercial type video camera. The couple were performing Irish dance bits for the camera, but we never found out what it was to be used for.

We went inside to find that the next tour was a wait of ninety minutes, so we left and walked toward our DART station, by way or Merrion Square, the little park we mentioned earlier. Just inside the entrance to the park is a memorial to Oscar Wilde, with a terrific statue of him sitting atop a rock.

A local lady told us that locally the memorial is known as "The Fag on the Crag". It must have been really tough being gay in the late 19th century.

 There were two black pieces of granite nearby containing quotes of his, and I photographed a few of them.

We then trouped over to the DART station and made a bee line for home. Rest time, dinner time, and that is the day.

July 30th.

Today Marsha went into Dublin on her own to visit the National Art Gallery which I had a less than zero interest in. I stayed at our "home" to make some revised travel arrangements. For reasons not needing to be detailed here we have decided to return home almost a week early. By the internet and telephone I was able to get our flight home changed to August 5th, and I was able to easily make some other arrangements for our abbreviated time in England.

About 1:00 Marsha called to say that she was done at the gallery so I took the DART to central Dublin and met up with her at the gallery. We  walked to the front of Trinity College and boarded a "hop-on-hop-off" tour bus. We wanted to see Dublin from this vantage point, and  to get some more info because of the narration which goes along with the ride.

When the bus got to its most Westerly point we got off because we wanted to tour the Kilmainhan Gaol, which is a notorious prison built around 1796 and which remained in use until 1924. For most of its life the jail was a horror story of miserable conditions and even more miserable treatment. Men, women and children were all kept together sharing vastly overcrowded cells and hallways. The place was built for about 450 prisoners (one per cell) but at its worst there were over 9,000 in the place at one time. It is easy to imagine the conditions which prevailed in that prison during that time......not a pretty image...

Over the front entrance is a small balcony with a  door leading from the interior. Above this door, on either side of it are now two white rectangles in the stonework. When the prison was in use there were beams sticking out from where these white stones now are which were used for public hangings. For many years the hangings did not kill the prisoner outright as the drop was too short. After these hangings the prisoner, not quite dead, was taken down and his head chopped off to finish the job. Later the "long drop" method of hanging was put in place so that the prisoner died instantly... very humane.

Eventually the women and girls were separated from the men and the boys (even in the chapel) so, for them this was an  improvement.

This prison was to be one of the most important places to hasten the creation of  the Republic of Ireland, which finally became a republic, and no longer a member of the British Empire in the 1940's.

In the decades leading up to the 20th century many Irish, but not all by any means, formed a variety of quasi-military organizations to fight the English. In 1916 they finally took action but were poorly organized and the rebellion was soon  crushed.

After the rebellion the British had fifteen of the rebellion's leaders executed by firing squad at Kilmainhan Gaol. The last one was transported to the jail  to be executed from a local hospital where he was already dying from a gangrenous wound. He was strapped into a chair so that he could be shot to death.

These executions outraged all Irish and suddenly the political situation changed. Even the King of  England was so upset about this that he outlawed any further executions.

They tried again in 1922, but this time  instead of attacking in the usual way they used guerrilla tactics. The English soon realized the futility of trying to defeat them under these conditions and offered a very significant treaty which gave the Irish, Catholic and others,  almost complete autonomy. Six of the counties in the North were not included in the treaty, forming Northern Ireland, with a predominantly Protestant population, and 26 counties of mostly Catholic Irish and "Old English" formed the new Republic.

The "almost" part of that offer caused a split amongst the Irish. There were two factions, one led by Eamon De Valera, and the other by Michael Collins. Michael Collins led the group supporting the acceptance of the treaty. England demanded that the differences be settled and that Collins must fight his  fellow countrymen or the treaty would be withdrawn. Thus began the Irish Civil War which lasted eleven years. Both Collins and De Valera spent time in Kilmainhan Gaol.

Eventually Collins' group won, although Collins had been killed in battle (one book I read said that he had been assassinated). De Valera's side lost though he became the first Prime Minister of the newly "free" Ireland. Ironic isn't it. As I mentioned earlier this "almost" autonomous condition continued until the 1940s when Ireland unilaterally declared herself a Republic. Ireland had been ruled by England on and off since the 10th century - almost 1,000 years.

After this chilling lesson in brutality and Irish  history we hopped on a bus and rode it back to the central Dublin area. It was about 5:30 and the streets were a total zoo filled from gutter to building with Dubliners and tourists all rushing to wherever they were going.

We headed for the DART station and went as far as the Blackrock station where we had dinner at a local pub, after which we walked home to enjoy a quiet time before the end of the day.

July 31st.

We woke up today to the first truly rainy miserable day since we got here. I went to work on this journal and Marsha did some shopping..

In the afternoon, given that it was still raining Irish style (which means torrential downpours lasting ten or fifteen minutes followed by indeterminate periods of just rain), we decided to give in and go to a movie, then dinner, and if the weather had improved a walk to a town South of Dun Loghaire. More of this walk later.

So we took the DART the two stations South to Dun Loghaire and found the cinema. We were seeing WALL-E, which was as good as touted. We went to an early movie (thinking we were being clever and avoiding the crowds). One thing we had not even considered about the audience, as I am pretty sure this would never happen at home, was the number of moms who brought four or five of their kids to the movie, most of which were very young, and bored within five minutes. They then proceeded, with no input from the their mothers to talk and roam about during the whole movie. Nonetheless we enjoyed it.

We then went into a bar near the DART (and the ferry terminal we are to use on Sunday) called the Gastrobar. This term apparently  refers to places which are both a restaurant and a pub.  We had a pretty  good meal, and then decided that the weather was good enough for a walk about 2km South along the waterfront to Sandypoint.

The reason Marsha wanted to go there was because she is reading a book the story of which is centered on a swimming hole in Sandypoint called "Forty Foot". (note - not The Forty Foot - just Forty Foot). We started to walk in  a light drizzle and in fairly short order arrived in Sandypoint, which is another of those very Irish villages stretched along the sea shore. There was a playland type of fair going on in a seaside park, but because of the rain, it was sparsely attended. After dealing with another bathroom emergency we continued on past the center of town and along the shore to a point of land where we knew Forty Foot was.

We came across a pretty little sandy beach and at first thought that this was our destination, but inquiry of a local getting out of his scuba gear told us that our goal was further along at the end of the road. On we went, and noticed an old stone tower on our right. This tower would prove to be of interest for a couple of reasons.

Just across the road from the tower was our destination, Forty Foot. This is a very old swimming hole which, while it opens directly to the waves and wind of the Irish Sea, is a little cove much used by local swimmers. The night was cool, rainy and windy but all of the time we were visiting their were swimmers coming and going. They all looked like they were freezing to death, but in they went. Several had wet suits on to lessen the effect of the cold water.  As the pictures will show, this is not a neatly organized place but a shoreline of rocks leading directly to the water. There are signs warning that diving was very dangerous as there are unseen rocks all about the cove, but people were diving in anyway.

The point of this place in the book was central to its plot... It takes  place in 1916 and is the story of two Irish lads who are friends, one of whom is a swimmer, and one who is not.  These two used Forty Foot and it was the intent of the swimmer to teach the non-swimmer to swim well enough in a year to be able to reach a small rocky island with a lighthouse located a mile or so South of Forty Foot.

At that time Forty Foot was reserved for men, who swam in the nude. Eventually women began to insist on  being able to use Forty Foot and at first they also swam in the nude. After a time that was not acceptable so a compromise was reached: before 9:00 am Forty Foot was reserved for the "gentlemen" and after that "Togs must be Worn" and a sign which is there to this day was erected to say this.

One question which we both had was how this place got its name. It turns out that the tower we mentioned, which was one of a series of fifteen erected along the coast to protect Dublin was garrisoned by a contingent of the Fortieth Foot Soldiers, commonly known as the Forty Foot, and that these soldiers used the little cove for swimming while they were at the nearby tower.

The tower is now a museum about James Joyce who once stayed there for a week.

After that we began walking back to the town center to find the Dart station, which did not take long. We did not have to wait long for our train and were soon back at our Seapoint station and on the walk home.

While it had been drizzling throughout our walking tour to and from Sandypoint, it was not unpleasant. Within a few seconds of arriving home, one of  the typical torrential rainstorms started. We were certainly glad we had missed it. These sudden and violent rainstorms can soak through rain jackets in minutes. The ones we have seen, and been caught in have been of short duration, about five to ten minutes followed by a light drizzle, followed by no rain until the next one arrives. It appears that to be prepared in Ireland one needs to carry both a jacket and an umbrella  at all times. If the sun is shining now, this is no guarantee that it will be in an hour, nor at the other end  of a trip on the DART.

The end of another unexpected adventure, and another glimpse into seldom seen Irish gems. We enjoyed it thoroughly

August 1st.

Today dawned cloudy and wet looking. Our plans for today called for an early trip South to a town called Dalkey. Dalkey has two things of interest: It is rated in the big guide books as one of the top three most picture postcard towns in Ireland, and the only one we had not been to, and there was a castle and other ruins in the center of town which are reputed to be of special interest. Both turned out to be true.

We hopped on to the DART as usual at our local station (we are beginning to be old hands at this) and just a few minutes later were at Dalky.

As promised it is the very image of a typical Irish village. Everything is old, but totally kept up (at least the part we could see) and is nestled between a fairly high hill and the Irish Sea. The streets, as always meander in gentle curves throughout the town. All of the store fronts, of buildings which have clearly been around for a while (read "centuries") looked as if they had just been built but we guessed that few of them contained the original businesses.

We walked slowly along the main street toward the castle clearly visible a few blocks away. At the castle a farmers' market was taking place on the ground floor and it was a busy place. The guided tour we were to take of the castle was a twenty minute wait, so we wandered around the adjacent grounds which contain the remains of several churches and an extensive graveyard of very old graves and gravestones.

At the appointed time we went to the start place for the tour. At this point we were the only ones taking part. This tour proved to be the most unique of any we had taken as it was led by actors, playing the part of characters from the time the castle was actually in use.

They were dressed in the clothes of the time, and spoke in the style of the time. There were three folks: the first was the castle head guard who took us on a tour of the defences and up the spiral staircase to the battlements at the top where he showed us where the local tribesmen lived who were always trying to take the castle, the O'Neills.

The purpose of this castle was a little different than most. At the time it was built Sandypoint was the main port on the East Coast and was where shiploads of goods would  arrive. The ships goods were unloaded into the castle's two  ground floors awaiting transfer to other places inland. The castle was built to protect these goods from the marauding O'Neills and others.

The top  two floors were where the local Lord and his family lived. The next person who acted the part of the head cook showed us how she prepared for a  feast for the friends of the Lord which would be occurring that night.

Two interesting terms came out of that:

The guests (having provided their own knife and spoon) would eat from pewter plates provided by the household. The lesser folks would eat from a wooden plate. At this point the lady made a joke, but I am not sure whether it was a  factoid or made up. Given their attempt to be true to the time, I think it was accurate. Even though the wooden plate she showed us was rectangular she referred to it as square. She said that is where the term "a square meal" came from.

She then showed us a thick piece of stale bread which she said served as a plate for the servants. This, she said, was referred to as a "trencher", which is where the term "trencherman" came from.

Finally she introduced us to the local barber/surgeon, who was a most enthusiastic gentleman. By that time we had grown from our original twosome to six tour takers.

The fellow then proceeded to demonstrate in gruesome detail the methods used to do such things as pulling teeth, including actual examples of the implements used. Such as a pliers like device for pulling the tooth, a little knife "for digging out the bits left in the gum", if the tooth broke off and worst of all, a little brass ball at the end of a rod, which was heated red hot in a fire and used to cauterize the resulting hole in the gum. He said after two or three months you would feel as good as new. Yikes!!!!!

He then proceeded to describe bloodletting, and most gruesome of all, amputation.... Of course none of these activities were in any  way relieved by the use of anaesthetics because none existed. Nor did hygiene in any form, he often spit on instruments to clean them.

The amputation procedure was particularly horrifying. The method involved first slicing a "tab" of skin to be used later to close the end of the stub.  He then would  cut through all of the muscles, and then saw through the bones. After all of this torture he would use the pre-cut flap of skin to wrap the wound and sew it up.  Before that however. "to aid the healing" he would stuff the stub end with horse or cow dung, as "everyone knows that puss aids healing", and then he would sew it up.

I have no idea how anyone survived this treatment, but some did. I am very grateful not to have lived in that time (that I know of).

After this bit of history we had lunch next door, toured the town a bit more, and then headed back  to the DART station and back to Seapoint. This time we were not so lucky with the rain. When we got to the Seapoint station one of the torrential downpours had just started. We had not brought our umbrella as the weather did not look bad when we left.  I should not have listened to Marsha on this, but I did.

By the time we got to the house our jackets were soaked through so we hung them to dry in the airing cupboard to be ready for our next outing this evening.

In the late afternoon we went into Dublin again to have dinner at a restaurant across the street from Christ Church Cathedral. We arrived a little early so we sat at an outside table (amongst the smokers) of a pub and had a cold one.

A while ago Ireland pulled off a major coup by actually succeeding in having smoking banned in any public building, the same as in BC. When I first heard that they were going to do this I was absolutely certain that it would fail. Our previous experience in Ireland was such that smoking and beer drinking everywhere is built into Irish genes.... no chance!!!  Well I was wrong, they actually pulled it off.

There was an unintended consequence however.... now every second place, being a pub, had people out front sucking on a beer and puffing away on a fag (cigarette!! get your mind out of the gutter!).  The result is that instead of having to endure cigarette smoke if you wanted to experience an Irish pub, you get to smell cigarette smoke everywhere you walk in central Dublin. There is no escaping it.

I'm not sure that moving the smokers outside was the result expected.  Anyway, I digress.. again.

There was a bunch of girls with humongous backpacks (and front packs) there who had labelled themselves and their backpacks as Canadian and who were working their way to the next hostel. We wondered if they were ever able to leave their packs anywhere safe to explore without fear of theft. Our understanding is that hostels do not qualify as that type of place.

Just before we were to cross the street to the restaurant, which advertised itself as the oldest seafood restaurant in Dublin, a red faced, grey haired gentleman sat himself down at our table and announced: "I am a drunk.... well I'm drunk at the minute." and then proceeded to give us advice about where to go for the best bar and music in Dublin. He actually  told us the same story twice about the place and his experience there in his youth. Thinking we were Americans he then told us (twice) a story which after careful listening we figured out was about the time his daughter had been in Boston and how  terrified he was while she was in "America".  A very "interesting" and amiable gent.

During the whole time we were sitting there, and in fact, the whole time we were near Christ Church Cathedral the church bells were ringing. After asking we were told that Friday night was practice night for the six or so teams of bell ringers. It was to go on from about 7:00 till 9:30.

We adjourned to the restaurant and climbed up the stairs to the third floor and were seated. It was a small room with about ten tables and very well furnished and decorated. There were two waiters and the service, at least at the beginning was quick.

Marsha was very pleased with her fish stew, and I with my prawn dish. While it did not seem rushed at first the whole exercise lasted less than an hour. This would have been shorter had our dishes not being left untouched for over ten minutes after we had finished. The waiter was a little chap who seemed to be on the verge of running at all times. He irritated Marsha because it gave her the feeling of being rushed. We couldn't figure out why he felt compelled to dash about at all times.

One  strange thing, at a table for five behind us the other waiter had set it up with five open bottles of sparkling water, one open bottle of red wine, and a starter serving of what looked like kippers at one place setting. We kept expecting the guests to arrive any second, but by the time we had left about twenty minutes later, they still had not shown up.

Our next target was a pub across the Liffy just a couple of blocks away which Marsha had read was one of the best for live music. We got there just before nine and there was no one in the bar. This was not for us so we retraced our steps across the bridge over the Liffy.

Just as we got to the middle of the bridge a sunset scene presented itself to the West so I stopped to photograph it. A few seconds later it started to drizzle, and a rainbow scene presented itself to the East. I stopped to photograph it as well. Both of these pictures turned out well and are in the pictures attached of our time in Dublin.

Mere seconds after that we were, again umbrella-less thanks to Marsha's perpetual optimism, hit by a major deluge of rain. We hurried with dozens of others to the other side of the river and found shelter in the entrance to a pub to wait out the rain. In five or so minutes, as usual the rain had abated enough for us to walk again. We turned the next corner and about two blocks away was Temple Bar.

This is the place reputed to be awash with young folks drinking and carousing every evening. This being Friday night it was even more so..... the streets were alight with bright lights from the buildings, covered with folks in all directions and aloud with music blasting from the doorway of every club and pub.

We might have stayed longer to observe and wander around but it was still raining so we headed for the DART station. My iPhone GPS led us to the Tara Station and we were soon on the way back to Seapoint and the five minute walk home. When we got to Seapoint there was no sign at all of recent rain, so what we got in Dublin was pretty local.

We got home a little earlier than we had planned due to the disappointing Pub experience, and the weather, so we read and caught up on email before bed.

August 2nd.

As we are leaving Ireland tomorrow via the Fast Ferry from Dun Loaghaire we spent the early part of the day cleaning, doing laundry and doing as much packing as we could. The ferry leaves at 11:30 in the morning so we won't have a lot of time before departing.

There is a traditional Irish music festival all this week in Dun Loaghaire so we decided to go to one of the free events to be held at the Gastropub we had been to for dinner a few days ago. Off to the DART and soon we had our table right next to where the music was to be. The Gastropub is typical of the places in Ireland with hidden historical connections. For example:

All the wood in the Gastropub is recycled. The floorboards were made from the 300 year old wooden beams which supported the warehouses on Dublin docks until steel came along to replace them. The mahogany bar top came from a girls' school laboratory and you can still see in some places where the Bunsen burners were, and the occasional scratched initials of the students. The mirrored bar in the back came from a refurbished very old bar in Dublin, and the tables and chairs are originals from various old houses around Ireland and the UK.

At the appointed time (sort of) a group of assorted folks began setting up to play. There were two Irish flutes, a finger flute/teaspoon player, and a borhan player (a drum similar to those used by First Nation drummers and capable of a wide range of sounds).

They played a very lively set of Irish trad music which we enjoyed. A few minutes after they started a family joined us at our table to listen to the music. They had a young girl of about nine years who was entranced by the music. She watched standing up right beside us and very soon her whole body was twitching to the music.

After a while she began to dance in the traditional Irish Step Dancing style. She was a little reserved at first but soon was dancing away in full flight. We asked her mother where she had learned to dance and she said that her daughter is totally self taught. Apparently she repeatedly watched a video of the "Raindance" group and learned the steps that way. She was bouncing and dancing the rest of the time we were there. Several young children were standing around and doing a variety of jiggles to the music.

After about an hour and a half we decided to walk back to Monkstown and have a final dinner at the restaurant/pub which we had been to a couple of times, and we did.

The server who was there was the same young lady who had served us the first time we had been there and she was very interesting to talk to. She is the one I may have mentioned earlier who is from Poland.  At one point she came to our table to tell us, with a whisper, that Sinaid O'Connor, the eccentric singer, was sitting a few tables away. Marsha got all excited and invented a trip to the loo so that she could ogle her.

We had another great dinner and then walked the rest of the way back to our domicile. Because this time we had brought the umbrella it didn't rain.

We puttered around with some more packing and cleaning and then called it a day.

For pictures of our days touring in and around Dublin click here.

August 3rd.

Up early, finished packing and did a final inspection. We had weighed all of the options for getting from here to the ferry terminal at Dun Loaghaire: taxi, begging a ride, the bus, and the DART.

We finally settled on the DART option which meant trundling down the street with all of our luggage to the station, and then at the other end an elevator ride and short walk from the Dun Loaghaire station to the ferry terminal next door. So, having gotten ready more quickly than we expected we left a little earlier than planned and had no problem getting to the ferry terminal.

Getting on a ferry here is a lot like taking an airplane except the the security measures regarding luggage were even more ridiculous and ineffective. The foot passengers, like us, had to pass all of our luggage through a scanner and then check them. When we checked them we were given a boarding pass which no one asked for at any time. We were pretty certain that the cars, and the luggage in them did not have to go through any scanners.

The ferry is a very large ship, and is a catamaran style which means that it can slice through waves at a high rate of speed so that the trip from Dun Loaghaire to Holyhead in Wales only takes about one and one half hours. The ferry is broken up into many different places to eat, drink, play and relax so that all the passengers are spread around and it felt less crowded than it really was. We were one of the first to board and found a good spot near the front.

We had an uneventful and relaxing crossing and got to Holyhead right on time. As soon as we got to the baggage area the bags were already coming through and before long we had all of the bits, so off we went to pick up our car and head to our destination about 135 miles away.

We had reservations at a hotel called "The Hundred House" located in Shropshire about an hour North East of Birmingham. More about the hotel later.

After a few minutes of careening around the roundabouts and narrow streets of the town where we landed, trying to figure out what Elizabeth was telling us, we found our way to the correct road and headed off. The first ten miles were a wide dual carriageway road and we covered that ground pretty quickly. The car we had rented was a sensible small car with some very European features which we took a little while to get used to. It was an automatic so there was one less thing to think about.

After the first ten miles we were suddenly on a two lane, very twisty road for the next fifty miles. While this was a difficult road to drive because of its narrowness and twistiness sometimes with steep drops on one side and a rock wall on the other, it was through a most beautiful countryside. The geography in this part of the UK (which at this point is Northwest Wales) is stunningly beautiful, but in a slightly different way than in Ireland.

It's really hard to explain in words, but the scenery is very similar but not quite the same. The green is a different one than in Ireland, not as emerald in depth, and not as "translucent" (that's the best word I can come up with). While the countryside is rolling hills, beautiful valleys and low mountains, it is all on a broader scale. The hills and meadows are lower and therefore stretch further into the distance, the valleys are wider and the "mountains" are taller and much more rugged than in Ireland. The farmers' pastures are almost all separated by stone walls, as they are in much of Ireland, and also often climb part way up the sides of the mountains.

Many of these fields were populated with sheep, almost always head down grazing on the grass.

As we drove further Southeast we began to come across many more cars and suddenly came to a place, which wasn't a town (except for a gas station and "convenience" store). It did have a relatively large parking lot packed with cars and people milling about.

The more we drove along this section of road, which was quite high up into the mountains the more cars and people we saw. The cars were parked in small lots alongside the road and the people were walking. This continued for many miles through this valley. It soon became apparent that these folks were hikers and that this valley was a favourite place for short and long hikes...

The driving on this road was mostly at a very slow pace, partly because of its twisty character, and partly because of the line-ups behind a car or a caravan creeping along at a snail's pace... nowhere to pass, and who would want to anyway. The exception to the passing bit were the multitude of motorcycles passing everyone in sight, corners and hills notwithstanding. This scared the hell out of Marsha, even more than she already was because of the road.

We finally got out of that fifty miles of mountain trails passing as a road, and got onto a more normal situation, at which point we began to make more progress. We were instructed by Elizabeth to enter and leave about thirty roundabouts before we eventually found our way to our goal, The Hundred House Hotel. The hotel is located in Shropshire just a few miles East of the Welsh border, near a town called Telford.

It is right next to a very historical area, which is known for being the birthplace of the Industrial Age. This claim is made because a local man invented a new way to make iron, from coke, instead of charcoal. This change made iron both stronger and much less expensive.

One of the oldest iron structures made with materials from this invention is an iron bridge, crossing the Severan river, in a town called, naturally enough  Ironbridge. Within a few miles of the hotel there are nine museums and places of interest to visit. Ironbridge, and the iron bridge were on our agenda for our day of touristing tomorrow.

The trip from the ferry terminal at Holyhead to the hotel took 4.25 hours and was estimated by the GPS as being 2.45 hours..... slow drivers do make a difference.

The hotel is an absolute gem, located outside of a town, just at a crossroads. There is nothing much around it except farms and horse barns.

Here is an excerpt from their web site describing the history of the hotel and the meaning of its name.

In medieval England the shires were subdivided into administrative areas called "hundreds." Communal hundredal obligations included suit to the hundred court (possibly the earliest ordinary criminal court); muster of the local defence force or militia. Justices of the peace (magistrates) first appointed in the 14th century, met at the hundred house. The earliest hundreds met in open air sites - distinguished by some prominent landmark such as a large tree, a hill or standing stone, with little more than temporary shelter from the weather.

The oldest part of this Hundred House still standing is the 14th century half timbered and thatched courthouse barn in the courtyard of the hotel. In this barn the local court was held for centuries and opposite the courthouse are the remains of the old stocks and whipping post for the punishment of offenders convicted in the court. Further along Village Road is an old ducking pond. At one time the landlord of the Hundred House was responsible for feeding the ducks on the pond and keeping the keys to the stocks, but the ducks have long gone to the fox and the keys have been lost.

By the 17th century a convenient alehouse was probably the usual meeting place for most hundreds, hence the frequency of the name Hundred House for public houses. The hundred courts survived until the 1840s when the new county court districts superseded them.

The reason we are at this particular hotel is that it is owned by an aunt and uncle of our son Mark's lady friend. When she found out that we were planning this trip, and that we would be arriving in the UK via Holyhead she told us about the hotel and suggested we stay there. Her mother made all of the arrangements for us.

We were to spend two nights here, and the new plan for returning home early left us able to stay for both nights.

We parked in the courtyard between the centuries old buildings and went into the "lobby" which was actually a small space adjacent to the bar. A very nice young lady, who was obviously aware that we were "connected" escorted us to our room on the top floor. We loved the room as soon as we saw it. It had a large four poster bed, and next to it, a swing hung from the ceiling beam. Everything had the touch of care to it, nothing was "new" in character.

It is really hard to describe this place, so I am going to rely on the pictures attached to this section.

Behind the house is an enormous garden, created by Sylvia one of the owners of the place. It must be an acre in size, but its hard to tell because it is divided into numerous themed areas, with hidden pathways and seating places. About one half is devoted to herbs, vegetables and fruit, and the other half to perennials of all kinds. While it appears to be "haphazard" in layout it is anything but. Sylvia has been creating this garden since she and Henry first bought the place twenty-two years ago. When they bought it there was no garden, no hotel rooms, just a pool hall and some sort of restaurant with formica topped tables. How things have changed!

Having arrived late in the afternoon, we had a rest and then headed down to the dining room for a great dinner, and then to bed.

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