Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ireland: Post Card Trip

I'm finally getting around to posting again about our Ireland trip. I figure since it's been more than a month since we got back, I better just post what I'm going to post and have done with it.

We saw so many different sights. Part of the allure of the Emerald Isle is its dramatic landscapes. While each of these images, even if captured by someone who hasn't quite figured out his new camera yet, can tell a story without words. Don't worry though, I'll throw some in so you know what you're looking at but mostly because I can't help myself (or is it meself, and then I say lassie? Oh well).
It's amazing how much the time you see something affects the way you see it. Look at a mountain side in the spring and it may be covered with flowers. Look at it in the winter, perhaps it's covered with snow. High tide, and there's a beautiful reflection, low tide and its more wild than majestic. The clouds roll by and cast their shadows, the wind dies down and leaves the water like mirror. The sun bursts out. All of these moments can change the way we see things, but the thing itself hasn't really changed, just the what we perceive and the way we are perceiving it.
Dunguaire Castle at low tide.
Dunguaire Castle at high tide. See? Wild or majestic. Time is the only difference.
This is taken from Dunguaire Castle. If you look carefully you can see a stone archway. That used to be a castle right across from Dunguaire. We stopped here briefly on our trip to see the Cliffs of Moher (see previous post).

Ballyalban Fairy Fort
This ancient earthen ring fort with tree all around it. In the center was an ancient well. Local legend has it that its inhabited by fairies. That leprechauns will catch you there and spin you 'round and 'round. The more they spin you, the drunker you get. Do you suppose that's where the phrase, drunk enough to make the room spin comes from?

Burren green. An island of green amidst a sea of rock. I wonder what it looks like with a storm rolling in?

Poulnabrone Dolmen
It's amazing that this ancient tomb, more ancient than the pyramids in fact, looks larger in pictures. It probably only is about five feet high. I could be off though. Google it if you really want to know. The rocks all around it, pretty nasty stuff.

Poulnabrone Dolmen
From another angle, when a tourist wasn't in it ruining my shot.

Burren, at Poulnabrone Dolmen
See what I mean? Crazy rock. It was kind of slippery, very uneven and sharp. And it covers the entire burren. Most of its rockier in fact.

Cemetary outside the High Crosses
Apparently the circle is some sort of Celtic symbol, the cross of course is a Christian symbol. So as Christianity was spreading to Ireland they began making these celtic crosses so they wouldn't offend either religion (and get their monuments torn down).

The picture speaks for itself, doesn't it? Apparently if you couldn't find yourself a wife/husband by a certain age, then your parents found somebody to do it for you.

Atlantic Coast, Looking at the Cliffs of Moher on the Horizon
The layers fascinate me here. That and the fierce rocks give you no idea of how windy it was there at the edge of Europe.

North of Galway and on the way to Connemara and the Kylemore Abbey.

Standing Stones
If you look carefully, those things behind the fence that look like tombstones? Those are ancient standing stones, set in a ring and once protected by a ring of trees as well. Now they're guarded by fierce man eating sheep. Not true, but a better story than saying they're just sheep.

Ross Errily Friary, Courtyard Cemetery
Check out the link to see the wide shot. I didn't take any that turned out.

Ross Errily Friary
Lean in and you have a clean shot of a courtyard and some monks' rooms. Lean back a bit and a ruined window frames it for you. I really enjoyed going in and out the friary. It was enormous. I can't imagine how large it must have been in its original state.

Ross Errily Friary
Carved arches contrast the rougher stone of the wall.

Heaven? Lough Nafooey Valley?
Hundreds of islands decorate the large lake in the Connemara area. The picture doesn't do the steep rolling hills justice.

Ruined Stone House
The superstitious Irish won't touch the ruined stone houses. That'd be some major bad luck. The large room was for cooking. The small one is where all 10 members of the family would sleep.

Can't see the grin, but the eyes say it all.

If you can spot any white specs, those would be sheep. The green area, potato farms according to the guide. The brownish tint on the mountain side is apparently heather. I bet it looks amazing when the heather's blooming. Like an emerald and purple island.

Kylemore Abbey
This is one of the places on my Ireland wish list. Back in the day some rich guy built it for his wife out in the middle of nowhere. When she died he sold it to some nuns fleeing Germany during one of the world wars.

Kylemore Abbey

Inside The Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Mausoleum
When the rich guy's wife died (she was sickly folk) he had an elaborate mausoleum built for her. This is how intricately the place was carved. They used four different colors of marble, a rose, green, black and cream.

Kylemore Abbey
Lots of pictures of this place, but this isn't even half of what I took. Be glad I'm only showing my favorites.

Kylemore Abbey
The wind dies down, the sun peaks out of the sky and then magic happens.
I can't wait to go back to Ireland someday. There are so many beautiful things and places in the world. If we can just alternate out way of seeing things, have a little patience, then we won't miss out on those amazing experiences with out loved ones that let us savor the deep, rich flavor of life.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ireland: The Food

As Carrie and I were looking for places to stay we would often see the line “Serves a full Irish Breakfast”. What in the world is a Full Irish Breakfast? We certainly had no idea, but I’m so glad we found out.

Your Irish Breakfast consists of sausage, grilled tomato, fried eggs, mushrooms, white and black pudding, and a potato pancake (not sure if that is its official name). It typically comes served with brown bread and scones with marmalade. Now the bacon isn’t like bacon we have here, it’s more of a cross between ham and bacon that basically means its more meat than fat, which you know, is always a good thing. The white pudding is alright, not really a fan of oatmeal in something sausage like. The black pudding, it’s probably an acquired taste, one I have yet to acquire. I’m not sure I want to know how to make black pudding …
While on one of our day tour trips, we stopped in a pub and ate.

They were serving this stew that looked amazing. Beef and Guiness stew is what it’s called. We were worried about the alcohol in it, so we didn’t order. Turns out the little extra ingredient cooks out. Problem was, when we found that out we had already ordered something else. Then when we went looking for it we could never find it again. Oh well, something to save for the next trip. Aside from the breakfasts, the pubs definitely had the best tasting food.

While we didn’t get the stew, we did order some chowder that tasted really good.

Atlantic Chowder is what they called it. It had salmon, potatoes, some assortment of other kinds of fish and tasted really good, once you added a bit more salt and pepper to the mix. Oh, the bread on the left, that’s brown bread. Imagine the taste of a typical bread with more of a texture of zucchini bread, that’d be brown bread. Really quite good.
In Galway one of the nights we were there, we had fish and chips (fries) and got an icecream cone. We specifically went to a place because we saw these chocolate sticks and wanted one of those to go with our icecream, well turns out the place we ate at didn't have the chocolate sticks. Carrie was really disappointed and was being too shy to try going into a different restauran to ask for some. I figured we didn't travel all this way only to miss out on something one of us REALLY wanted and had the chance to do, so I found a place that sold icecream and bought us some chocolate sticks, even then Carrie was telling me I didn't have to. 35 euro a piece in case you were wondering. They were good too, but it was really worth it to make Carrie happy, so she took a "My Hero" picture.

At the Kylemore Abbey I had lamb and potatoes.

It looked impressive, smelled impressive but didn't tase impressive. It tasted like a roast that had entirely too little seasoning and wasn't nearly as fun as it looked like it'd be.
In Dublin while we were walking around, we stopped into this cafĂ© that offered a sandwich and hot drink for 5 euro. We both ordered hot chocolate. I wish I had taken a picture of that. They made it with REAL European chocolate, melted down and mixed with milk. It was so thick and rich. Then they sprinkled cinnamon on top and topped it all off with some whip cream. If I woke up every morning to a cup full of that, I could die a very happy man. If I did though, I’d probably die sooner rather than later because it tasted too good to be anywhere near good for you.
All in all, the breakfasts, those were amazing. Filled me right up and took care of me for most of the day. Since we've been back I've been craving a good Irish Breakfast. I'd love to have one topped off by a cup of hot chocalte.