Tag Archives: Ireland

Vrai Vert

The star of a sheepdog demonstration. In Ireland, which is unfailingly and intensely green.

Think anyone will see through my cleverly disguised title? Surely nobody who reads this will know any French? Oh, what? Well, I’m not picking on TruGreen in particular, but they’ve been bugging me lately. Actually, the rest of this post applies to any lawn care company, so far as I know.

Know what a truly healthy lawn looks like? It ain’t a greensward, I’ll tell you that. A healthy lawn includes a wide variety of types of grass and other plants, probably has fungus growing in it, and will also probably be full of worms and insects, and it will never look like a “Lawn Care” lawn. Look at the picture above of that Irish pasture (there were sheep in the demonstration also.) The grass, green and lush, is lumpy, and, if you could look closely enough, contains several species of grass, clovers, dandelions, and who knows what all else? The farmer doesn’t care for perfection in the appearance of grass; he doesn’t need a lawn. He needs a productive meadow so that he can raise healthy sheep, and that means that he needs a healthy crop of grass for the sheep to eat. And healthy grass is messy, and not at all like what so many people talk themselves into wanting.

A “Lawn Care” lawn is a monoculture. What happens when a pathogen for whatever plant species is used comes along? Well, it will all die, which is why those companies spend so much time adding ever more chemicals to “keep the grass healthy.” Not sure it does much for people or pets, but what the heck, the lawn looks great, right?

Well, maybe to someone who has no idea how grass is supposed to look. I walk our dogs around the neighborhood every day. Most properties in Vegas don’t have grass at all, but of those who do, there is a split between the perfectly manicured, unhealthy types, and the messy but healthy types. The thing is, both are equally green, if that’s what you’re after. Ireland is the greenest place you could imagine, and nobody tends the meadows at all. They’re diverse, messy, healthy, and won’t poison sheep, dog, or human. So, I come to my final point, which is, please, if you insist on raising a lawn, make it a healthy, diverse and messy one. Don’t use some service that only promotes the further use of its own dangerous chemicals. In the long run, you, your pets, your kids, and the world will be a lot happier if you do.

From Avengers to Vegas

Acquired this Bootleg Photo of a Portrait of Graham Norton from the National Gallery of Ireland - Photographer Unknown.
Acquired this Bootleg Photo of a Portrait of Graham Norton from the National Gallery of Ireland – Photographer Unknown.

We visited the National Gallery on our first day. It is, in fact, next door to the Prime Minister’s office (see earlier post Into the Tame Yonder.) Oddly, it was okay to photograph most of the artworks, but we had to go all “back alley” to get this pic. Hope that isn’t Mr. Norton’s idea, because we are fans of his programme on the BBC. He is, as you might have guessed, Irish.

After the bus ride I more or less ran back to the hotel to drop off our packages of souvenirs, then walked back to the Savoy to rejoin Tami. We bought tickets to the Avengers movie later that evening, then went a few doors down to Murray’s, a bar and grill a few doors away from the Savoy Theatre where the movie was showing. As Murray’s says on their website, they feature Good Craic on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Craic is pronounced like “crack,” and it means fun. Now you know as much Gaelic as I do. Hope it helps somehow. We ate light, for one thing we’d had lunch in mid-afternoon, for another, it was a movie and popcorn is almost mandatory.

The Savoy is a multiplex in an older building, so there are stairs. Lots of them. It’s up three to the ticket office/concession area, then up about twenty or more to the floor where the Avengers movie was playing, and then up some more steps to get into the theatre, and of course, up to the back, where we like to sit. Then Tami sent me down for some Popcorn and Coke. I ended up eating about half of the corn, and none of the Coke. And we watched Avengers: Infinity War. At this time, nothing to say. Either you’ve seen it, or you probably never will. And, yes, a rather abrupt ending.

The next morning after breakfast we went to the Dublin Writers’ Museum, which was only about half a block (2/5 of a metric block, I’m sure) up the street. They don’t seem to have a website of their own, so the link takes you to one of several Dublin tourism sites. There are, in case you didn’t know, a plethora of famous, and very talented, Irish writers in print. In the museum you learn of their personal lives, see some of their personal possessions, and maybe, if you’re like me, decide  you’ll download a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, after reading the description of the work on display. Haven’t started it yet, but it’s in the lineup, waiting it’s turn. After seeing the museum, we walked back to our hotel, packed, and met our car to the airport just before noon.

As for the trip, well, the food was a bit better on the return flight, we were ready to kill each other in LAX, then there were only 57 people on the 48 minute Southwest flight to Vegas, and we were home before 9:30 pm. Can’t just drop off to sleep at a time like that, so by the time I got to bed, I’d been up for 23 hours straight. (Got up at 11PM Friday evening PDT.) Whew!

And there’s my extended report on our recent trip to Ireland and Portugal. Oh, yes, we were also checking out places to retire. Verdicts? Nothing solid. Either country would be an excellent base for seeing Europe. Ireland, of course, is English Speaking by nature, which does give it a leg up. Of course, they drive on the left side of the road, but then, nobody’s perfect.

Goodbye, and Adeus!

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Feeling a Bit Sheepish

This is Bruce, a Border Collie in Training, Doing Rather Well
This is Bruce, a Border Collie in Training, Doing Rather Well – Photo by Tami Cowden

Bruce was one of two dogs we saw training to be shepherds. I once knew a border collie (Sparkplug by name) who could not stop chasing and herding. It was really great to see a trained (mostly) one doing his job. My video didn’t come out too well, but I’ll post it anyway. I did trim out all of the boring parts.

We also saw another dog, one much earlier in the training process, who still needed a lot of practice. It was not a border collie, but another breed of shepherd. The farmer and his wife and one of their sons helped with the demonstration. They told about taking the sheep up into the mountains in the spring, and about bringing them down again in the fall. On January 12th of every year a vet visits to determine the pregnancy situation amongst his ewes (which they pronounce “yos.”) At birthing time, starting in March, the females carrying multiples are brought to a barn where they can give birth in a warmer, more protected environment. The only predator is the fox, but, as we all know, they can be sly. Mom can defend one lamb, but two or more may be lost. They keep several hundred adult sheep, and a group of younger animals as replacements.

Move 'em Out, Bruce!
Move ’em Out, Bruce!
Ever alert. Literally en garde.
Ever alert. Literally en garde.
This man is definitely outstanding in his field.
This man is definitely outstanding in his field.

Sorry. I cannot resist puns.

But Wait, as I seem to be fond of writing lately, there’s more!

We visited the sheep farm in spring, before the sheep were moved up the mountain. That meant that there were new lambs in the barn. And new lambs in the barn mean new lambs that may be held. Of course, the bus interior smelled like sheep after, but for Tami, it was worth it.

Tami Had a Little Lamb. For a few minutes, at least.
Tami Had a Little Lamb. For a few minutes, at least.

Well, that’s pretty cute. I scratched the lamb’s ears a bit, but didn’t hold one. Several were offered for holding, and they were passed around for about ten minutes. Times like this I completely ignore the facts of what goes into a lamb stew.

Take it all around, I learned a lot on this bus tour. I learned that Braveheart wasn’t filmed anywhere near Scotland. I learned about the Irish sheep industry. And, most important of all, I learned that Shawn the Sheep is Irish!!!

Well, at least it looks that way.

The next post will wrap up this series. I’ll return with something about writing itself next Wednesday.

It’s Shawn the Sheep, It’s Shawn the Sheep,
He even mucks about with those who cannot bleat.
Keep it in mind, he’s one of a kind!
Oh, life is sweet with Shawn the Sheep!

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Bus, Sheep Dog, and Lunch

This is a Plate of Irish Stew. Of Course, Bought as it was in an Irish Village, it could be Gumbo and still Qualify
This is a Plate of Irish Stew. Of Course, Bought as it was in an Irish Village, it could be Gumbo and still Qualify

This is the day we saw Avengers: Infinity War, but before that, we did this. The evening before we stopped in a storefront close by the Savoy Theatre and bought tickets from Wild Rover Tours for a bus to take us to Kilkenny, Wicklow, and Glendalough. We were to meet the bus at 08:00 in front of a hotel not far from our own, and also close by the Savoy, for what that’s worth. It was threatening rain. Our tour guide, one Peter, explained that it rains 270 days a year in Ireland, so that was no big deal. It’s cloudy 65 days a year in Las Vegas, so I get what he’s saying. It had been sunny for our entire visit to Ireland up to now, but reality was setting in. Fair enough. The bus took off promptly at 08:20. On the way out of Dublin, Tami was able to photograph a few curiosities. (Curiosities for an American, at any rate.)

Who this is, I know not. But it is somewhere in Dublin. Photo by Tami Cowden
Who this is, I know not. But it is somewhere in Dublin. Photo by Tami Cowden
Dinosaurs. In Dublin. What is the world coming to? Photo by Tami Cowden
Dinosaurs. In Dublin. What is the world coming to? Photo by Tami Cowden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rain was relentless all that morning as we made our way along a motorway (think freeway) to Kilkenny. (Or Cill Chainnigh in Gaelic) The photo at the top of yesterday’s post was taken as we pulled into Kilkenny. We had a set amount of time there, about 2.5 hours as I recall, which Tami and I used to tour Kilkenny Castle, and to shop for souvenirs. The castle looks eminently un-defensible, but that is due to the nineteenth century wings added on to it.

This is Kilkenny Castle, in Kilkenny (duh) Ireland Kilkenny Castle Photos by Tami Cowden
This is Kilkenny Castle, in Kilkenny (duh) Ireland

Inside the castle is mostly décor and other remains of nineteenth century English occupation. Of course, it was always English, but originally much older. The tour includes a section of the oldest portion where you can see what remains of the very first construction, done many centuries ago.

Some photographs in (and through the windows of) Kilkenny Castle:

A Fireplace Screen in the Library. Used by an Individual to Block the Fiercest Heat
A Fireplace Screen in the Library. Used by an Individual to Block the Fiercest Heat
The Front Lawn, Complete With Optional Tour Group Gathering for the Tour
The Front Lawn, Complete With Optional Tour Group Gathering for the Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

Sure, seeing an old castle is fun and all, and walking through rain is more enjoyable to a Las Vegas desert rat than you might imagine. But, the tour went on. Back in the bus and off to Wicklow Gap. Ireland is called the “Emerald Isle.” Here are some pictures to show you why.

Green? We Have Green!
Green? We Have Green!

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, the Cows are Brown and Tan (and Black and White, not shown)
Okay, the Cows are Brown and Tan (and Black and White, not shown)
Here Are Some Black and White Cows. But Look at the Field and Forest, Will You?
Here Are Some Black and White Cows. But Look at the Field and Forest, Will You?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took those three pix on the way to Kilkenny. Not exactly random, but not specially chosen, either. I tell you, the place is green as green can be!

But, on to Wicklow Gap. If you saw Braveheart, you saw Wicklow Gap. Scotland? I think not! It is pretty up there. And, when we were there, cold and rainy, too!

Wicklow Gap. FREEDOM!!!
Wicklow Gap. FREEDOM!!!

IMG_20180427_134943048_HDR IMG_20180427_135104317_HDR

All three of these photos are of Wicklow Gap. The middle one, looking far over the mountains, is my favorite. The top pic is of some interesting rocks, and the bottom is of a tarn. (You can look that up if you’re not familiar with the term.)

So, Mel Gibson was here and his cast of thousands. The road is full of switchbacks, and my seat in the back of the bus was the subject of much reconsideration until we got down to the village of Wicklow. Wicklow has an abandoned monastery, a round tower, two lakes, a waterfall, and a restaurant/gift shop. Also, people live there.

It is where I photographed my lunch, as seen above. We took so long at lunch that we made it only to within sight of the first lake, never mind the waterfall or second lake. We didn’t even have time to visit the ruins of the monastery, but Tami did take some pictures of it.

The Round Tower of the Monastery at Wicklow
The Round Tower of the Monastery at Wicklow

 

No idea what that tower was used for by the monks. Keeping watch for marauding Norsemen, maybe. We were disappointed that lunch took so long, but the next leg of the trip was the best part, amazingly enough.

So good, in fact, that I’m saving a separate post for the sheep dog trials we got to witness. Great dogs, and Tami got to hold a little lamb!

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Irish

This is in Kilkenny, which is covered in the next post.
This is in Kilkenny, which is covered in the next post.

After sleeping on the plane from Lisbon, getting to our hotel, and going to bed at 3 or 3:30, I woke up before Tami and got in a quick shower. Breakfast was, well, let’s describe the hotel first, okay? We stayed at the Castle Hotel, which is in a very convenient location. It isn’t in a castle, but it’s close to one. The hotel consists of nine houses which have been connected to create a hotel, breakfast area, and basement restaurant. As a result of combining all those houses, the elevators (lifts,) while they work perfectly well, don’t exactly get you to the level on which you’ll find your room. You do have the option, in each house I suppose, of taking the stairway, but with loaded baggage at three in the morning, that wasn’t all that attractive. The breakfast area, which also had a door directly onto the street, I suppose should anyone want to drop in and buy some food, was, from our room, down two flights of stairs, 180 degrees to the left, down eight stairs, across a landing, up eight stairs, and across a sort of parlor. There was a buffet with servers behind it, where you could get all sorts of delicious food. And they had toast (hot toast if you can believe it,) a complete Irish selection (as I said, skip the puddings,) sausages, bacon (ham,) and some really tasty little croissants. By about ten, we were ready to head out into Dublin once again.

A week earlier we had walked past the EPIC Irish History Centre. My family history includes one James McDaniel, who, the story goes, came to Tiffin, Ohio from Ireland in 1848. A not unreasonable thing, given conditions in Ireland at that time. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten with that branch of the family, and I wanted to see if I could use this place to get further. As it happens, most of the building is devoted to the Irish Emigration Museum. If that sounds dull, let me assure you that we spent at least three hours going through the various exhibits, and were surprised to learn how long we’d been at it. I learned many things about Irish history, which is mine, to a large extent (I know, I look German.) The relations between England, then Britain, and Ireland were not the Brit’s finest hours, to say the least. The number of people in the world with Irish ancestry is staggering. The extent of Irish influence beyond Ireland is even more so. Take US Presidents. This picture of a plaque from inside the museum tells the story.

There are several things in Ireland named after President Obama.
There are several things in Ireland named after President Obama.

For another example, consider this guy:

Doctor Guevara? Irish? Who knew?
Doctor Guevara? Irish? Who knew?

Some of the exhibits brought tears to my eyes. It’s no wonder Irish people tend to be creative, because life has, in many cases, been pretty difficult for so many of them.

Inside the gift shop (much smaller than the one in Lisbon’s airport) is the Irish Family History Centre. We bought access to their research facilities, and by golly, I did learn something about old James McDaniel. Namely, that he was born in (drum roll) Pennsylvania! I’ve done further research since I got home, but at this time, that’s all I can say. What I really want is to find James’s father. I have half a dozen candidates, gleaned from the 1830 census. I’ll get him, by gosh!

By the time we left the afternoon was moving on, and we hadn’t had lunch. I believe that this is the day that we ate in a place on Temple Bar. Touristy, pricey, and probably obligatory. The Irish duet playing did manage to play some of my favorite Irish tunes. Erin go Bragh! We tried to get tickets to Avengers: Infinity War, but they were all sold out. So much for our plan to see it a day before the North American release. (We saw it the next evening.) The next day was, in fact, a big one. We bought tickets on an actual tour bus to Kilkenny and points South. It made for a great day, and you’ll learn all about it in my next post!

To your health!
That is, Sláinte!

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Burgers and Beer

Maybe you've seen the meme about Queue? The Irish take it seriously.
Maybe you’ve seen the meme about Queue? The Irish take it seriously.

On our first afternoon in Dubllin, we walked out from our hotel to check out the surroundings. A couple of first impressions follow. First, Dublin is not a tall city. London has those pointy things a thousand feet (more or less, I think) in the air. New York is famous for height. Even Las Vegas, where we live, has some damned tall buildings. Not Dublin.

Sunset Over the River Liffey.
Sunset Over the River Liffey.

The Liffey runs through the heart of Dublin. It appears to be estuarial by this point. If this were the Chicago River, you’d see some of the world’s tallest buildings along it. This is Dublin, and that tower next to the sun may be the tallest structure in town, for all I know. It’s about as tall as things get, at any rate.

Second, if London were a reasonable place to exist, it would be Dublin. An extremely comfortable feeling World Capital.

The riverfront is, no surprise, a trendy area with lovely views and many attractions. One of the views that is also a bit of an attraction is the Samuel Beckett bridge. As a friend told me, don’t wait for Godot there, he won’t show. The cables holding it together form the shape of an Irish harp. It does not produce sounds in a wind, however, unlike Celtic harps of yore.

Whilst walking, we found a bistro bar called Foley’s. Foley’s serves many dishes, including cheeseburgers. It is on Baggot Street at Merrion Row, not far from the Gaelic sign posted in my last post. You’d think Irish cheeseburgers maybe weren’t up to fine American standards, but you’d be wrong. I have, all my life, been testing cheeseburgers in various locations. My best, and I’m sticking with this, (I guess I should call it my favorite ’cause I don’t make it) is at Annie’s Parlor in Minneapolis. My second-favorite is at Foley’s. Irish beef, it turns out, is just as famed as Nebraska beef, and it really does make for an excellent cheeseburger. The toppings they use, of course, contribute as well.

We continued our walk, but didn’t stop in anywhere else. The first day eight time zones east isn’t the best time to buy souvenirs. We did see the EPIC museum of the Irish diaspora, but didn’t go in. Tami and I both have Irish connections in our family histories. Me, I go back to a certain Mister McDaniel. I’ll have more about that fact, and the EPIC experience later. After an evening tiring ourselves out, we walked back to our quaint room and treated ourselves to a good night’s sleep.

Aaaaaahhhh.

The Samuel Beckett bridge (The Harp Bridge) in Dublin, Ireland.
The Samuel Beckett bridge (The Harp Bridge) in Dublin, Ireland.

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Into the Tame Yonder

The Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland
The Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland

Click Here to see where Merrion Square is within Dublin.

A literary note to begin this series of posts. The statue pictured also features four small steles with quotes from this famous author. We did discover a lot of literary connections in Ireland, but we didn’t go there for the arts. We went looking for a retirement home.

No, not a place to play shuffleboard and argue about kids on the lawn. I mean a European country which we can use as a base to tour Europe in much the same way that we’ve toured the United States over the years. In fact, Ireland wasn’t even the primary target of this trip; we actually were checking out Portugal. I’m going to go chronologically in these posts, so let’s begin with getting to Dublin.

As it happens, you can’t get to Lisbon from Las Vegas. You can fly to obscure little airports where they have to mow the grass before the plane lands, but you can’t fly to anywhere in Portugal. Shopping around, we discovered a truly incredibly low price using Aer Lingus, via Dublin. We did a 28-hour stopover on the way to Lisbon, and a three-day stopover on the way home. And, I’m glad we did, because Dublin, and Ireland, is a wonderful place to stay a while.

I'll tell you what this means shortly. Keep reading.
I’ll tell you what this means shortly. Keep reading.

We had a smooth flight in Coach. Aer Lingus does a good job, but don’t ever fly them for the food. Some of it’s decent, but seriously, don’t. We arrived in our first hotel, the Fitzwilliam Townhousein mid-afternoon. Fitzwilliam Townhouse is close to Merrion Park, Trinity College, and Stephen’s Green. It is, as Tami said, quaint. We had a room right by the door, the room where once visitors awaited their hosts’ attention. We had what looked like a skeleton key, the bathroom was new but small, but a full Irish breakfast was included. Not unlike the Full English, but with white and black pudding in addition to the beans. Skip the puddings.

We walked out into the late afternoon sun and very shortly passed the sign pictured above. Erse Gaelic is used all over Ireland, officially, by all public officials, and by about 24,000 people as their first language. In all other respects Ireland is, linguistically, totally committed to English. That sign is on a government building, and it intended as a slap against the British who rule Northern Ireland, as the official, the Taoiseach, has a Gaelic name. In English, the Taoiseach is the Prime Minister (technically equivalent to our Secretary of State, but the Irish President is less powerful than the Irish PM, so more like our President) and in this one instance, Gaelic is mandatory. Take that, you Brits, you!

Actually, the Irish have many excellent reasons to be upset with the British, but that’s for another day. For now, having introduced my topic and gotten us to the Emerald Isle, I shall pause.

Sláinte!

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