Dublin again

Two days in Dublin’s fair city and yes, the girls are pretty. The city itself though will look a lot prettier once the referendum is over and the big ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ posters are taken down. At Heuston Station, we apologised for not being able to vote as we were just visiting, but we assured the ‘Yes’ campaigners that we were on their side, for what it’s worth.

When we first went to buy tickets for Kilmainham Gaol Museum, the only timeslot available was for 5pm, so we decided to buy tickets for the next day instead. Managing the queues to get inside to join the queue to buy tickets was a tough job. Dave coped quite well, though, even turning a group of six away who would not get in this day.

It would be easier to get into this gaol by committing a criminal offence, I thought.

No? Dave the queue handler wasn’t too impressed by this throwaway line either.

Today we retuned and after a quick coffee (but no cake) in the café, we joined a group of about 40 in the holding cells. Pat was the guide’s name. He showed us around the old gaol, telling us about its history and indeed the struggle for Irish independence. There was a lot of history here that I certainly didn’t learn at school. Sometime it’s hard to be English when you learn how we treated peoples from pretty much everywhere else on the planet. Plenty of tragic stories to be told, here.

The museum, as is often the case, had too much to digest in one visit. Lots of documents and photos.

Just down the road and through the park is the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Its design is based on Les Invalides in Paris. I noticed a sundial and the following dialogue took place:

Mick: Looking at the sundial, I reckon it’s about ten past twelve.

Liesel: But the Sun’s not even out.

Mick: So? Not bad, though, my Fitbit says is 12:02.

Sundial at IMMA

Temple Bar is a famous name and we spent some time in this pub two days running. On the first occasion, there was a small band playing Irish folk songs and other songs. Today, there was a solo performer, also singing Irish folk songs as well as songs by Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash and George Harrison. On both occasions, we heard about Molly Malone and about The Belle of Belfast City.

Cornucopia was a good find, a veggie restaurant on Wicklow Street. So good, we went there twice, too. The weather was OK both days, not a lot of sunshine, not much of the predicted rain either, but today was very close, very humid, and we were flagging by mid-afternoon.

Our main mode of transport has been the Luas Tram network. The signs and announcements are all in two languages, and after a while, you get a feel for the Irish words. Some are similar to English, some are similar to French and other langauges, but nearly always, by English standards, there are far too many letters in Irish Gaelic words! It’s easy to love the Luas Tram Rad Line with colourful station/stop names such as Blackhorse, Goldenbridge, Bluebell and Red Cow.

It’s usually taken us to and from our b&b in Tallaght, to the south of Dublin, but I don’t know if we would have chosen to stay here if we’d known its etymology: plague pit.

But today, after our meal at Cornucopia, we caught a 49 bus, knowing it would cross a tram line at some point, where we could change. But, fortuitously, it took us all the way to Tallaght, and a ten-minute walk later found us back in our room, preparing for our early departure tomorrow, listening to the radio and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

Emerald from the bus
Emerald from the bus

Ring of Kerry and Gap of Dunloe

Two very different days in terms of our experience, but equally rewarding in terms of natural beauty. Yesterday we drove a long way and walked a bit, and today we drove a much shorter distance and walked a lot further.

The Ring of Kerry is a circular route to the west of Killarney. The book says we should spend four days or more exploring the area, and the author, our friend Fionn, is right. We should have spent a lot more time here. At Ross Behy, there’s a small beach by the jetty, and some very brave little girls were swimming in the sea.

We drove through Kells but somehow missed the Priory: proof that we should have taken our time. But some of the roads, off the main road, were very narrow. Narrow and steep. Narrow, steep and right on the edge of a precipitous drop. I was driving and when Liesel advised me to change gear, I told her there was no way I was going to let go of the steering wheel just to change gear. That was a scary experience, palm-sweatingly so.

We took a ferry over to Valentia Island and visited the lighthouse at Cromwell Point. Cromwell Point as a place name intrigued me since Oliver Cromwell wasn’t much of a hero around these parts, I thought. Again, the views over the water were stunning: too many islands to visit, including one they named after me, Skellig Michael, even though I’m not much of a hero around here either.

We stopped at several viewpoints, but photos can’t do the view justice. Liesel suggested that painting a picture might be a better way of capturing the awesomeness of the landscape. Sadly, neither of us had the skills, time nor paints with us.

Too much about food here, I know but I’ll say just a couple of things. When you ask for a slice of cake in a café or restaurant, you’re offered or just given some cream to go with it, squirty cream from a can, mostly. And when you order a meal, the response is ‘perfect’. Like you’ve chosen the best possible meal on this occasion.

I remember hearing the name MacGillycuddy’s Reeks when I was very small, maybe my Mum mentioned it, or it was a lyric in a folk song. But how exciting to find that it’s a real place, a group of mountains within the Ring of Kerry.

We drove to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, parked up and then walked a further four miles through the Gap of Dunloe. We were offered a ride several times by drivers of ponies and traps, but we persevered by foot. There was one falter when it rained quite hard for a few minutes, but after that eased off, we continued our hike along the narrow road, mainly upwards.

MacGillycuddy’s Reeks are composed of 60% rocks, 25% water, 10% horse manure and the rest is sheep, people, grass and gorse. The waterfalls were too numerous to count, and if we’d tried to count the sheep, we would have been fast asleep at the top.

The wind was cold but when it stopped, the heat of the Sun on our backs was very welcome. Visitors are advised not to drive along this narrow road, but quite a few people thought they knew better.

The water in the streams was brown, possibly peat, possibly very dilute Guinness. The sound of rushing water meant that it was very hard to hear vehicles approaching from behind. The clip-clop of ponies’ hooves was much easier to hear.

Note: the photos need to be edited, yes, but that’ll need more practice on the phone. Also, I will upload many more pictures to Flickr (maybe) but I can’t now as I don’t have the password with me. All things to bear in mind when we go travelling much further afield.

Lead, Foam and Ice Cream

On Saturday, before returning home, we had breakfast with our family in Chorlton. The drive from our Airbnb took a long time as we’d been advised to avoid the M60 motorway.

But slowly, slowly, all these little places, towns, villages, suburbs around Manchester and Stockport are coming together in our mental map. I think today for the first time, I learnt for sure that Chorlton is the same place as Chorlton-cum-Hardy. And we realised that we weren’t all that far from Northenden where we will soon be living.

We’d planned to meet up at The Lead Station for a late breakfast, or brunch, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the food. We’ll definitely be back! It was a warm day and I regretted listening to my wife and not bringing my shorts: she’d said it was supposed to be cold all weekend. On the contrary, we might be having the warmest May Bank Holiday weekend, ever!

Liesel and I parked the car and as we were a bit early, we stopped off for a coffee just down the road at the Foam Coffee House. The coffee was lovely and I’m sure we’ll go back for cake or toast or something one day. We might even go along and play the board games. They had one that I’d never seen before: Subbuteo Table Rugby. I’m intrigued, how does that handle throwing the ball, drop-kicks, scrummages?

There’s a nice little park just down the road too. Very small, is Beech Road Park. Bijou.

Beech Road Park, Chorlton
Beech Road Park, Chorlton

The previous day, we’d taken the children to The Ice Cream Farm, a bit further afield, towards Chester. Martha had a whale of a time in the indoor water play area, Europe’s biggest, apparently.

And I had a whale of a time too, playing with my new Samsung phone, learning how to use the super slow-mo feature, which requires some dexterity with the aged fingers. It was a gorgeous day, and I wish I’d been wearing my shorts… have I said that already?

Here’s the first go:

It’s been edited for duration but the picture is too big for this page. Things can only get better.

Salisbury and Ireland

Salisbury has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. A Russian migrant, his daughter and a police officer were affected by Novochok, a nerve agent that can only be made in Russsia. They’re still cleaning up the town, but not everyone wears a biological protection suit. So when Liesel and I went to meet a friend there, we chose to wear ordinary clothes.

A lot of ordinary clothes, as it happens, because it was one of the coldest days of the month. None of us walked as far as we would have liked, from the car park to a coffee bar to the Boston Tea Party for lunch, a quick visit to the bookshop and then back to the car park.

The car park was free of charge for up to three hours, in an effort to attract visitors to the town again.

Today, we drove to Reddish to see Jenny, Liam, Martha and William. We’re staying in an Airbnb place because their house is in a state of flux right now, and probably will be until they can move to their new house.

In a first for Liesel, she asked our Airbnb host to sign her book. Our host happens to be Fionn Davenport, a travel writer who wrote the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland that Liesel was reading on the drive today, as we’re off to Ireland next week.

Small world, innit?

RHS Wisley

Another hot, sunny day invited us out. We drove to Clandon Park but we didn’t go in because we’d left the National Trust cards at home. There’s nothing like great planning. And this was nothing like great planning.

So we continued on to the horticultural gardens at Wisley, just by the A3. There, we had a lovely, long walk, a coffee and carrot cake.

The beds were of course very pretty, and the grass was mostly in top condition. One area of lawn was being cut by a robot, a little mower that was moving autonomously or had been programmed to follow a certain route.

Other areas were a bit more wild. Lots of dandelions in some places. Dandelions, named after the French for lion’s teeth, dents de lion. Because as we all know, lions have bright yellow teeth. Here’s a great work of art:Dandelion sculpture

And here’s today’s rubbish selfie. Trying to get the waterfall in the background. We discussed getting a selfie stick but decided against it: it’s just more rubbish to leave at home when we go out because it’s too cumbersome.

Rubbsih selfie

If you’re taking notes, we walked about six miles today.

I went to the GP this morning (never mind why). While sitting in the waiting room, I saw a sign saying “Are you having problems with your memory? If so, discuss it with your doctor.” I thought I might as well, since I do sometimes forget names and words.

I forgot.

 

#thehottestdayoftheyear

Yes, it was the hottest day of the year so far. This usually occurs in April of course, only to be surpassed later on in the year. But the main topic of conversation on a few of the radio stations we briefly tuned into on the way home was the fact that the top trending hashtag today on Twitter is #thehottestdayoftheyear. Other hashtags are available too, such as #hottestdayoftheyear and #warmestdayoftheyear. And capitalised versions. But after such a long Winter that didn’t really want to finish, it’s fabulous to see blue skies, see the Sun and feel its heat.

We went for a walk in Richmond Park, the biggest and our favourite royal park in London. We saw a couple of single deer, several dogs, some even on leads, loads of birds and many, many muddy puddles. One day, we’ll take our grandchildren there to jump in them.

We enjoyed a picnic under a tree, listening to the birdsong. The occasional aeroplane was seen and heard as it flew towrads Heathrow Airport. A group of young men  were listening to music on their ‘device’: radio, ghetto blaster, phone? We’ll never know.

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Mick and Liesel

I am no good at taking selfies. At least we’re both in this one, but I usually miss. And of course, the horizon is horizontal in real life.

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A tree

This is the dead tree that we didn’t climb, despite the temptation.

We walked over five miles today, not bad since it’s the first time in the park for ages. Other firsts for the year today include me wearing shorts, we both had an ice cream and it was the first application of sunblock (one of us, not me).

 

Another Museum and a Zoo

Liesel and Mick spent a lovely long weekend in the company of granddaughter Martha as she celebrated her second birthday. She, her Mummy, Daddy and baby brother William are also in the throes of moving house. No date for moving yet, but such is the uncertainty, we weren’t sure that Martha would be having her birthday at the proper time (but don’t tell her).

We grandparents took Martha to Chester Zoo one day which was good fun. No, we didn’t tick many animals off the mental list because most of them seemed to be taking shelter from the cold weather. It’s April, and it should be warming up a bit but the cold spell is going on a bit.

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester is probably too old for Martha, really, but there is an area where she can play with things: move magnets, turn whees, press buttons, interact with the exhibits. She can also hide in the lockers which may have been a highlight.

Back home, Martha was having fun chalking on her blackboard.

Oma, Liesel, drew this:

Oma fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What’s that, Martha?”

“A fishy!”

Rounds of applause.

Grandad, Mick, drew this:

Grandad fish

“What’s that, Martha?”

“Horsey!”

Howls of laughter, and a whip-round so Mick can go back to art school.