Sunday, July 6, 2014

Everybody's a Wee Bit Irish

June 6th - June 20th. After a tearful goodbye to Mary in Paris, our next leg took us to Ireland. As we started our decent into Dublin we could see that most every part of this country truly was emerald green.
The must have look for the Irish Lass under 30. I've never seen so much long, twisted and twirled hair in my life!
We were in Ireland for two weeks so that we could watch the group stages of the World Cup with English commentary. We have become committed fans due to a family pool called The Grandpa Cup that Michael put together. We divided the family into eight teams and each team received four randomly selected countries to follow from the group stage to the finals. The last team standing and the runner-up get the honor of making a donation to a favorite charity from our Seattle Foundation Grandpa Fund. It has been great fun so far - and a good geography lesson for the youngest team, Spencer and Lucy.

Spencer takes the World Cup seriously!
Opening match of the World Cup at O'Neill's Sports Pub in Dublin
Meanwhile we found our way to our apartment in the center of Dublin's Temple Bar neighborhood.  Perhaps we should have paid more attention to the word "Bar" when we made the reservation. We met our host Alan who owned the building and runs an old-fashioned barbershop on the ground floor that even offered hot towel shaves! We knew we landed a gem as far as accommodations go - lots of light, a big deck, fast Internet and a serviceable kitchen with a well stocked fridge. Temple Bar, centre of Dublin City What we didn't know was that starting around 4:00 in the afternoon and not ending until the wee hours of the morning, we would experience the equivalent of camping on Bourbon Street. On St. Patrick's Day!

 Our landlord Alan giving Michael a trim
Seriously, we could have tossed beads off the deck to all the wandering, often stumbling tourists, students, boisterous stag and hen parties, and other characters drifting from pubs and whiskey bars and off into alleyways. We were also in the cross hairs between two of the most popular live music venues and buskers on each corner. Since we were only there for a week, we made the best of it - and wisely decided against the old "if you can't fight 'em, join 'em" adage.

The pub just below us was full from open to close
We found our Dublin neighborhood a much calmer place in the light of day! There was an intriguing used book market outside our door and a nearby farmer's market. And lots of galleries and second-hand stores. Most days were sunny, and we were told many times over that we were experiencing unusually nice weather. We took our standard (and always enjoyable) free walking tour and got a well informed overview of the city and it's history. The number one reason Americans come to Ireland is to trace family history! In 2012, the Irish tourism board invited the world to The Year of The Gathering - a "come to Ireland and we will help you find your people" sort of thing. Dozens of pop-up genealogy resource centers were staffed with experts and banks of computers. Apparently it was a success.

Walking along the cliffs above Bray in a bracing breeze
A day trip to Bray was a breath of fresh air. We took an hour long train ride that hugs the coast to this popular seaside resort town and took in the cool sea breezes, lunched on hot tea and toasted cheese sandwiches, and took a long walk on the cliffs overlooking the sea.

Another day out took us to Belfast. We booked a Black Cab Tour - basically two hours spent in a cab with a knowledgeable driver who takes you to see the murals and the peace wall and some of the sites where "The Troubles" took place. It was eye-opening and very interesting. On July 12th the city will be bracing for potential new outbreaks of violence during the Orange Walk.

A stop across from the Mural wall controlled by the Sinn Fein party. The dozen or so hand-painted messages
are constantly changing.
On July 12th  huge bonfires made of wooden pallets and tires are lit in Protestant parts of town to celebrate William of Orange's conquest over James the II in 1690. It is an aggressive act by the Protestants disguised as a celebration.This photo shows a pyre ready to be lit draped with the Irish flag and a statue of the Virgin Mary on top.
Part of the 22 mile long wall that divides Belfast's Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods
One of the many murals in the Shankill neighborhood - a rough Protestant area.
Signing  the Peace wall
For our second week in Ireland, we traded city life for a tranquil stay in the countryside at a farmhouse in Wexford. - We drove two hours south from Dublin along the picturesque southeast coastline.  Here's a look at our new digs: Traditional Irish Farmhouse. For only the second time in a year of travel we rented a car... so why not challenge ourselves with the steering wheel on the right side - and driving on the left? Left. Left. Stay left. Good thing we had all that practice when we lived in London. Mr. Campbell did an excellent job and we arrived at the front gates safe and sound.

Welcome to Hillbrook Farmhouse!
Hillbrook Farmhouse was the perfect antidote to life in Temple Bar. Within minutes of arrival our matronly neighbor and farm caretaker, Mrs. Mary Doyle, brought us a welcoming platter of freshly baked scones and all the neighborhood news.

Famous Wexford Strawberries for breakfast in our courtyard.
The farm was in a gentrified part of the country. Lovely homes and farms rolled away on all sides. The village of Wexford was a short drive away and offered every amenity... so we weren't in the middle of nowhere, but it felt that way once we were up the drive and tucked in.

Our nosy neighbor Victor looking for carrots.
A picture perfect church just down the lane was designed by the same architect that created Big Ben. The interior was sedate, but really stunning in its detail. The Sunday Mass was short and sweet and afterward we wandered in the cemetery. That afternoon we took a long walk on the nearby Three Rocks trail to a quarry that has been turned into a lake. I was in charge of directions so we took a more 'scenic' route due to some directional dyslexia. But we had the time and it was a crystal clear afternoon.
The view of the Quarry and the valley below was worth the trek.
Michael was able to attend two new sporting events! Gaelic Football and Hurling. Both are played by amatuers and are the two most popular sports in Ireland - even topping soccer. He enjoyed both outings very much. He has been writing great recounts of his sporting adventures to our sons and a few friends. When we get back we'll put them all in blog form so you can read his stories first hand. His opportunities to attend sports events in most every country have been a big part of the trip.

After a Hurling match it is tradition for the fans to run onto the field.
Mr. Campbell was also able to dust off his jacket and attend Rotary in Wexford. Not only was it enjoyable, but he made some new friends - a couple of whom lived near the farmhouse and invited us over to their homes. The first stop was dinner at Heike and Tom's house. Theirs was a large rose colored ranch house set back from the road and surrounded by manicured lawns and abundant gardens. We were joined by two other couples and sat in the shade for a barbecue and thoroughly enjoyed the company!

Next stop was a coffee at fireman Ray's house. He and wife Michelle and two wee bairns live in a 'house-in-progress - set on a rambling lot overlooking the Wexford valley. The reason for our visit was to learn about their nomad travels through South America where they spent a year, ten years ago. They took a more backpacks and "whatever bus looked good on the day" approach. As Senior Nomads, if we decided to give that part of the world a try, we would do it a bit differently... but it was good to hear about their adventures and learn more about traveling there.

A traditional house along the narrow roads near our farmhouse
We had some lovely days driving through rolling hills and on coastal roads. So much of Ireland is rural and often times the main roads squeeze down to a single lane barely wide enough for two cars. Just around any corner we were likely to find herds of sheep, a crumbling castle, a convoy of tractors, or a thatched roof pub. I felt like we were in a travel brochure much of the time!

As we near the end of our travels we could use a pot of gold right about now!
Rested and refreshed and with a new fondness for porridge in the morning we headed to the airport for our next stop. A week in Edinburgh. See you there!

Debbie and Michael
Senior Nomads

1 comment :

  1. Oops, think my comment got lost as I signed in. Just found your blog and love it! This is how I hope to be traveling someday.