Category Archives: Travels

Belfast Day 2

Day 2 was a day of 11789 paces around Belfast. First it was off to the Titanic Experience and then to The Crumlin Street Gaol.

Another cheesy photo

Our cab guide from the day before told us that no Catholic will go to the exhibit because there was a sign at the gates when it was being built “No Dogs, No Blacks and No Catholics.”

I must say that although it was interesting it wasn’t what I expected. There wasn’t really much about the actual sinking but a lot about Belfast life while it was being built and the actual building of it.

I think this is the actual height of the ship that was above the water.

I also think this is the site/slip where it was built and launched from.

A little self-explanatory

From the exhibit it was off to the gaol.

From here to there to there to here

Belfast its called the city of murals. Most are related to The Troubles but there are a few others as well.

This chef looks a little ticked for some reason

Then there was the giant salmon. Have no reason why.

Some cool buildings

And some not so cool buildings

Real “quality” buildings – check out the sign on the chimney

The Crumlin Street Gaol was built across the street from the Justice Building and they were joined by a tunnel.

The Hall of “Justice”

A walk to hell

Stairs to/from the tunnel. It was a very depressing walk

The jail was built to house between 500 and 550 prisoners in single cell accommodation, each cell measuring 12 by 7 feet, and 10 feet in height. In later years, depending on the influx there would be up to 1900 people, with up to 4 prisoners often occupying a single cell, as was the case during the early 1970s with the internment of a significantly disproportionate number of republicans.

Up to 4 prisoners shared this size cell at times

The punishment cell was used to – obviously – punish prisoners. They had only a mattress on the floor and a pot. Could not have been very comfortable and clearly there was a little more punishing that went on. Just sayin…

The punishment cell

and the padded cell

There was also the painting cell where therapy went on. Weird I do say.

Time for art

Then we went in to the condemned man cell. It was quite large and contained a bed, desk, bookshelves. The guide explained that the last hangman got the process down to a fine art. The warden, priest and a couple of guards would come in at the appointed time. Apparently what the condemned man didn’t realize was that the bookshelves just slid aside and there were the gallows. Other than the warders no one else knew since the condemned man wasn’t going to tell anyone. From the time the bookshelves were slid aside until the man died it took eight seconds.

It did seem a little incongruous to come around the corner in “the yard” to see

Like a pint?

On the walk back

Who has one of these in their front yard? And why?

Next – “If you’re brave enough.”

Belfast Day 1

Thus far we have seen or travelled through 15 of the Republic of Ireland’s 26 counties (6 more in Northern Ireland) and have met some wonderful people, seen some incredible scenery, enjoyed many many fine meals and had a pint or two of Ireland’s finest.

The 15 so far: Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Laois

After a quiet weekend in Skerries however, it was time to take off on our own, leaving Lynne and Martin to get ready for their next guests. Through the pouring rain (Ed. note: Who knows what song that is a line from?) we headed off to Belfast. Now I have certainly driven on “the other side” of the road before, but it has been quite awhile and even then it was an automatic and not a standard. Plus I rented a car (Skoda Superb – think  Chex Malibu but 3 inches wider) that in retrospect might have been a little bigger than we needed. Should be interesting.

We arrived in Belfast with no big to do – clearly motorways aren’t going to be an issue as long as I don’t try to keep up with the traffic going past me at 140+ km/hr. It had been suggested to us that a “Black Cab” tour of Belfast would provide a fascinating look at “The Troubles” and we did that the first afternoon.

Now the driver Chris (“Now folks…”) was quite upfront about the fact that he was Catholic but that that would in no way influence what he told us, that he would provide a very balanced perspective of both sides. Well, that sounded only reasonable. Our first stop was just off the rather well know Shankill Road, in the Protestant area of Belfast.

William of Orange, the man who started it all way back 1690

Chris informed us that William III (Ed. note: more on him in a couple of posts from now) was the fellow who started the Troubles when he defeated James II at the Battle of Boyne, ensuring Protestant control in Ireland and the beginning of discrimination of the Catholics. From there he took us to see the mural of Stephen “Top Gun” McKeag. He was given the nickname because he murdered at least 30 people, many of them innocent individuals. His “signature” was to shoot them in the face so to deny them an open-casket. Now I have checked online and this information is indeed accurate. Chris also talked about the fact that generally speaking the outside world only heard from the media about how the IRA were terrorists and that the British army and Belfast police committed no violent acts except in self-defense. He also pointed out that the Protestants seemed to glorify the “killers” while the Catholics remembered the victims.

Stevie “Top Gun” McKeag

More honoring of “The Murderers” – to quote Chris.  The guns appear to follow your movements.

He continued on with the discrimination theme by pointing out that in order to have a vote in the elections, you had to own a house but if you were Protestant and owned your home, all adults living in the house could vote but if you were Catholic and owned a house, only you could vote. In this way the minority Protestant population ensured they maintained control over the Catholic majority since the judiciary and government controlled everything. It did seem to me that that was a fairly significant level of discrimination.

From there it was off to the Peace Line which divide the two.

Terry looking a little pensive

The wall is forty-five feet high but doesn’t actually split the entire city but rather just some neighborhoods. At one time there was apparently 45 kms of wall but I think that has changed somewhat.

Just some neighborhoods

If you look at the photos above the map you will see the street. These photos were taken on the Protestant side of the wall. All along the street runs a park which further separates the homes from the wall by a further 75 – 100 feet.

There are three gates in the major sections of the wall. Two of them close every night and the third has many security cameras around it. If it looks like some trouble might be brewing, they can be automatically be shut.

One of the gates

This is the opposite side of the wall – in the Catholic neighborhood. They back up right to the fence and have put up these cages to protect themselves from thing, possibly bricks, being thrown over the wall. Compare it to the Protestant side. Perhaps a little more discrimination? 

Nice way to live

He also took us to a memorial garden which listed all the names of the Republican soldiers
and civilians who died and showed us one of the plastic bullets the police and soldiers used. There are several documented cases of the soldiers shooting the bullets directly at civilian’s heads, resulting in their deaths. It was 5 or so inches long with a diameter of about 1 and a half inches.

Did not look anything like what I thought a plastic bullet would look like

Remember how Chris talked about the Protestant murals proudly showing their heroes?

Here are the Catholic heroes.

Perhaps the most famous

Following Sands’s election win in 1980, the British government introduced the Representation of the People Act 1981 which prevents prisoners serving jail terms of more than one year in either the UK or the Republic of Ireland from being nominated as candidates in British elections. The enactment of the law, as a direct response to the election of Sands, consequently prevented other hunger strikers from being elected to the House of Commons. The Catholic perspective is that the government did this because Margaret Thatcher refused to sit in Parliament with Sands. When she died, apparently there was dancing in the streets to the tune of The Witch is dead!

Not as to Chris’s balance perspective. I would have to agree that it was very balanced – every time he told us something good about the Catholics, he told us something bad about the Protestant.

And now for something a little less maudlin and, frankly, depressing.

Just how would this work?

Kelly’s Cellar – this place could never be painted – there is just too much stuff. The ceiling is about 7 feet high.

The Crowne – a rather famous Belfast pub with overpriced wine and not a particularly good pint.

Just stopping in for a pint – on Monday afternoon.

The story about The Crowne is that a married couple – he Irish, she English wanted to open the pub. She wanted to call it The Crowne and his response was that the only way that would happen was if he could put a mosaic of the crown in the floor. She agreed and now everytime an Irishman walks in, he walks all over the crown.

Ha!

The Shining Light leads us home

The Shoe Blog

And finally – not from Ireland, but from our good friend Peter. I hope he asked!

Belong to a grade 12 student at University Hill Secondary

 

 

 

The Beauty of Ireland – Part 2

After our hearty breakfast we were off. Jackie, our B and B host, told us we should do the Bray Head loop, that it held fantastic vistas. When we got there the signage indicated that the loop was 5k which wouldn’t be a problem for four fit hikers like us.

We crossed over the stile to the unfenced pasture and came face to face with several of the inhabitants.

Just grazing away

Further up

More of the inhabitants

and

Hope that pink is just paint… and not that, as Martin suggested, there may be a Kerryman in the area.

Now the path up was just a little rocky but not too bad.

Martin on the way up

Looking back dow the trail all you could see was the gorse on the bog.

Looking out just before we start to climb. Skellig Michael (home to the final scene in the last Star Wars movie) in the distance

More cattle – they were bored by the view I guess since they never really looked up.

Remember Where’s Waldo? Well, spot Bessie

Can you find me?

The gorse is quite attractive, unless of course you are looking for a golf ball.

Looking out from the viewpoint.

Skellig Michael

I take Terry taking me taking Lynne and Martin

Terry takes me taking Lynne and Martin

Okay so it looks like a pleasant enough jaunt, doesn’t it. Well it wasn’t. The path to viewpoint was fine as the picture showed. That was about 2200 paces. After that however, there was no gravel path just a frequently walked path through the gorse and heather – and that was covering the wet bog which lay just beneath. If we had known then what we know now I am 100% confident we would have just walked back down the way we came up, but being the intrepid hikers we are, we set out to complete the loop. Terry and Lynne had shoes on while Martin and I were in sandals/flip flops. Have you ever walked through gorse in sandals? It is an experience I would highly recommend if you want to get the feeling of walking over broken glass without actually breaking glass. It was also another 4000 or so paces to get back down and was quite the adventure. We had to wander all over the place looking for the driest way down. Add to that the fact that ever since we had left the car I had needed the facilities and – well, let’s just say that it was a little tight coming down.

Looking back it doesn’t look that bad, does it. That dark green strip in the middle is kind of like Chinese traffic lights – just suggestions since it was often very muddy where that “path” went.

From above you can see the distance but you can’t see the elevation or the vegetation. Even the cows and sheep didn’t bother going up there.

I can’t wait to get back to the KVR trail!

From there it was off to Sneem via a very twisty turn narrow road along the south coast for a spot of lunch.

Beautiful river

Bars, bars and more bars – both the gray and yellow buildings are also bars.

This guy looks about how I felt.

I’ll just have a wee nap…

If you saw this photo on Facebook, I think I mentioned that it had been a loooooonnnnnggggg day. It started with the trek, then took 5 hours of driving time to cover the distance that says it should take 3 hours and 8 minutes to cover.

It never tasted so good!

How does it take so long to get anywhere?

We were also exhausted because we could not find a hotel for the evening – everything was booked for some bizarre reason. We finally found the Hiberian Hotel in Mallow.

If you are going to use the toilet in this hotel, you need a game plan since once you sit down and fully reach out, you are still 18-20 inches away from the roll.

Reach out and I’ll be there

Until next time.

The Beauty of Ireland

Well we reached the south of Ireland.

Here we are – all the way down to Knightstown on Valentia Island an island of 800 people- just across from Cahersiveen.

We’re going to divide this post into Variety and Views. We lead off with variety.

Despite having a somewhat mediocre pint in Castleisland – aptly named since it is land locked we came upon these two signs. The first was in a pub and the second – well, you figure it out.

You Go Mouse!

Just what does that mean?

Not sure how this would even happen. It was on an SUV which had a rear door that opened.

 

Dyslexic maybe?

These were on the ferry wharf. Pretty sure they caught the lobster that morning that became my dinner that evening -see below – which I had in the cream building just beyond them.

Dinner traps

Nothing fancy – just pure lobster – and fresh crab to replace the bits you don’t eat.

This sign was above the door inside the restaurant. Laughed like a madman…

Politically Correct?

I wanted to sing The Loadout by Jackson Browne to these guys.

Like the supervisor on the left – he was directing them.

Our ferry to Knightstown.

We had five cars on our voyage

Which weed do you think they meant?

I was then confused about the spelling of Knightstown – or is it Knights Town?

Sell pretty much everything, I guess

Anchors away, Terry, anchors away.

Somebody got something wrong

Go right – no left, no…

I quit!

I’m not digging another damn hole.

We stayed at the Atlantic Villa B and B where everything came from their garden – eggs, edible nasturtium garnish, and the wild boar sausage. Not sure how they came from the garden but far be it from me to comment. I will say that I have never eaten sausages so hot. I cut them up into little pieces and still the steam came off them. Left one because it was just too hot.

Fresh eggs for the Atlantic Villa B and B

The obligatory arty photo

See caption below

No words except that Terry found this a little disturbing. How about you?

And now, well almost now, the views.

Terry on the way to the top of the island.

The Three Amigos

Young (ish) love

And NOW the views

Dingle Peninsula

Controversial Skellig Michael – home to the final scene in Star Wars – The Last Jedi



Terry thinks this looks exactly like a breast with the nipple standing – perhaps it is cold?

Really Terry, a breast?

View from the restaurant at dinnertime.

The Sporadic Shoe Blog 

We had a long chat with the owner, Bridie. I told her about the shoe blog and she very graciously allowed me to take the picture

Flashy

And now, just wait for the next post. The photos are – wait for it –

spectacular!

 

 

Too Stupid to Live

Our travels so far

After 7 days in and around Skerries. First two nights were in and around Westport and then we headed off to the south.

One of the first interesting photos we came across was a truck. No on said anything for a while and then the obvious comment came and we all agreed we had been thinking exactly the same thing…

Who needs an entire truck load of Syphilis? and why?

Overlooking County Mayo

More spectacular County Mayo area.

Somewhere along the coast

Terry has taken to collecting signs for redecorating the laundry room at home. Unfortunately none of these were available for sale.

In Ballyvaughan “Cows by the Harbor” – kind of like Dogs Playing Poker

For lunch we stopped at Moran’s On The Weir (Ed. note: Can you figure out where the preposition comes from?). Since we were still in August, we asked the server about the “don’t eat oysters in months without an ‘r’ in them” rule. We were told: “Oh yes, that is true and we don’t serve the local oysters in those months. However, we bring sprats over from BC and plant them in our beds across the the road (literally) and then serve those ones. They develop the same taste and flavour as the ones in the bay outside.” ??? What??? Does this make any sense? By the way, did you know that 3 Pacific salmon have been caught lately in the Thames? Due to global warming they have swimming in via the Bering Sea. They are either really really lost, or have amazing memories!

Fantastic mussels, fish and chips to feed an army and potato fish cakes to feed a nation – oh and Terry had 5 fresh oysters.

From there it was off to the Cliffs of Moher, an absolutely spectacular portion of the Irish coast. (Ed. note: If you have other words for “spectacular” please either send them to me or substitute them when reading this.)

The Stack – well named don’t you think?

Look closely, those little knobs in the distance are people.

Wow – they are about 500 feet high.

More cliffs, more people

The inset in the rather large white square is the ledge to the right.

Up until 5 or 6 years ago, people would sit on the edge…Lynne saw some young people playing cards there once.

More people, more cliff

Terry and friends

No Terry did not break the fence – it was an arty moment.

I heard a woman (not Lynne) ask her partner if her hair was okay. What do you think?

No, that’s not product.

Are you getting the idea that they are amazing?

Looking north

Looking south

And so we move on. This is a view of Lahinch, to the south of the cliffs. They have a spectacular (Ed. note: There’s that word again) golf course I would have loved to play. Besides the $300 price tag, Terry’s shoulder isn’t allowing us any golf this trip. Maybe next time.

Lahinch. The golf course is to the left of the houses.

This is a screenshot of the course from above. I would likely need more than one ball.

Lahinch golf course – I did get a shirt however.

Off to Ennis to visit with Martin’s sister – an absolutely delightful woman. So cute, so funny! Thanks for a great time Anne. Before we got there, however, we passed by these figures as we entered the town..

Just a bad idea!

For Lynne

The Arran Islands

For Martin

To end our “spectacular” day, we went off to Brogan’s for dinner. Lynne opted for the ribs (since the fish and chips which would have fed an army at lunch had well worn off).

First the look as they arrived.

Hmmm.

Now a closer look.

The rack is wider than she is!

Finally, we were disappointed she didn’t finish the chips, slaw and salad.

They were damn good! If you ever find yourself in Ennis, you MUST go here. All our meals (I couldn’t finish my steak) were incredible.

Here’s the kicker though. The young girl sitting next to us finished her entire plate AND had a wedge of chocolate cake.

And now the reason  for the title. All along the cliffs are these signs:

Kind of clear, don’t you think

There are also many many signs to sty away from the edge – behind the wall. However

And why wouldn’t you

Until next time.

 

 

 

Irish History – Part One of ?

(Ed.note: The title of this post is specifically designed to give me free rein with whatever the next few days/weeks will transpire.)

We are into the third week of our Irish experience and it has been fantastic. So fantastic that I have not been able to keep up with regular posts. That has now been rectified as we have left Lynne, Martin, Ann, Mal, Mary, Des, Valerie, Evelyn, Dermot, Annette, Noel, The Gladstone, The Snug and Joe May’s well behind us and have ventured out on our own! No more pints, pints and more pints. Just Terry, Geoff, one pint, one glass, dinner and a quiet night ahead of us to reflect and ponder the ways of the world.

Anyway, when last we wrote we were in Westport and had just recovered 200 Euros. In addition to that experience, we also learned the following day that Lynne, after spending some quality time in the Porter House, had injured her tailbone she the taxi she was trying to get into moved. Just can’t trust those taxis. Sadly she was unable to accompany Terry, Martin and Geoff on their travels around the Connamara Loop – an absolutely fantastic road trip.

The day before we had visited the memorial of the “Ghost Ship”. It was a memorial to the thousands of people who had lost their lives as a result of the Great Famine of the 1840s. The memorial  (poorly photographed I know) is of skeletons lost at sea. It is truly an amazing piece of sculpture and very, very moving. If you look very very closely, you can make out the figures.

Ghost Ship

Croagh Patrick

The photo above is of Croagh Patrick – which is dubbed “Ireland’s Holy Mountain”. On the last Sunday in July, thousands of pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick in honour of Saint Patrick who, according to tradition, fasted and prayed on the summit for forty days in the year 441. It has approximately the same vertical feet as the climb to Kilimanjaro’s base camp. It is a weird looking mountain, insofar as thee slate grey looks quite eerie to me. We wanted to climb it but the weather did not want to cooperate.

From there it was on to the Doolough Valley. It really was an spooky place.

Our photo

The explanation

What people can do to other people continues to amaze us.

The Map

On our three hour trip, we were never alone.

Baaaaa

On the road we can across Aasleagh Falls – a more Bucolic, pristine, make me a jigsaw puzzle spot I never seen!

If only I was a fly fisher person…

On our sojourn we can across this spectacular abbey – the Kylemore Abbey. This held a shake your head kind of thing. Just before we left home, a friend from Vancouver (Ed. note: You shall remain nameless, J.H.) told us that her sister had decided to become a nun – at the age of 64 – and had decided that she would join the Benedictine nuns at – wait for it – Kylemore. What a coincidence! Sadly, she couldn’t fulfill this dream because they wouldn’t let her dog live on the grounds. Who knew, you could could keep your worldly possessions as long as they didn’t include a dog and become a servant of God.

What a spectacular spot.

Upon our return to “civilization”, we entered the Super Valu parking lot in order to acquire wine for the evening meal (Ed. note: Thank you so much to Linn and Andrew for the hospitality and Andrew for the incredible seafood pasta dinner – it was spectacular!) and watched a woman park her car.

Look carefully – there is the white line under her right front tire.

And here is the rest of the bag’s car.

“I’m important – I can take up as many parking spots as I want!” I mean, it is a Toyota!

Then we went in and

16 euros or $23.00 for 20 as opposed to $30. for 18 in Canada. Just sayin’

Okay off to bed – no shoe blog but way more to come folks now that “Lynne, Martin, Ann, Mal, Mary, Des, Valerie, Evelyn, Dermot, Annette, Noel, The Gladstone, The Snug and Joe May’s are well behind us and have ventured out on our own!”

 

Stoop Your Head and Pick Up Your Money

When last we wrote it was about being rejected and scolded. Much has happened since and all of it good.

On Friday evening we went to “Stoop You Head” for dinner with friends and family of Lynne and Martin. Stoop Your Head is a restaurant/bar which specializes in seafood. They don’t take reservations but suggested that if we came for 5pm, it shouldn’t be a problem seating the 10 of us, and it wasn’t. The only problem was that we were to head off after dinner to The Gladstone Pub where music would be playing – starting at 10pm. Now that’s a) a long time in between the two and b) much later than we are used to going out. Apparently, though, it is quite common for stuff to start at that time of the evening – who knew?

Skerries harbor on Friday evening – not a bad shot for a phone.

We had a lovely meal with a lot of laughter and conversation. The Irish certainly know how to have a great time. By the time we got to the bar our numbers were down to 8 and then others had to go so by 10pm there were just six of us. Music is played every second Friday and our Friday was supposed to be the off Friday. However Dermott, one of Lynne’s best friends – in fact best man at their wedding talked to a couple “of the lads” and they came along anyway. It was just fantastic – exactly as one would imagine an Irish pub to be like. We didn’t leave until just past 2:00 – an hour and a half after the bar closed. There were a lot of traditional Irish songs but also an awful lot that we knew. People just sat, sang, listened, chatted and drank. One of those magical nights.

There were three of them – the fellow in pink, the one with the guitar and the fellow on his left. It was very interesting to watch how they each sang a song or two and then just played while one of the others sang and so on. The one in pink is a professional musician and fairly well known from what I understand but he was just “one of the lads” on Friday. Eventually Dermott was convinced to sing and he joined is as well. He has a fabulous voice as well.

Dermott getting into it.

Saturday was a short day since none of us stirred until just after 11:00 and eventually it was off to Anne and Mal’s beautiful home for a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef, cabbage with bacon, parsnip/carrot puree and Irish potatoes. I want you all to know that I ate all the vegetables and they were fabulous. I might even ask Anne for the recipes – except that the cabbages likely came from the field next door and what we get might be have the same flavor. I’ll have to see.

Cabbage – just over the side fence

Anne and Mal live on an acre and have spent the last thirteen years working on their garden. It is spectacular. Both their home and the garden have been featured in Irish magazines.

Monty and Douglas rule the house – and the yard.

Anne tells Terry something which requires hand gestures

The cabbage is just over the fence with Lambay Island – home to wallabies in the distance.

What’s a garden without a water feature…

…or a Maori head for the Easter Islands

The English garden look

Who knew this is what a hazel tree looks like?

Monday we were off to the west coast. Westport is a beautiful town. It is clearly a tourist destination but even so it has a fantastic charm. I will write more about it later, but let me tell you how fantastic it is. We go into the Porter House pub for a pint before we go off to dinner – which is an incredible experience in itself. After dinner we go back to the Porter House for another pint or two and for the music – which is also great. The place is packed. Our host Andrew says “The barman wants to know if any of our group lost any money earlier.” I had looked in my pockets and thought I had – but then there was wine and Guinness involved so I wasn’t sure. Andrew says go up and tell the barman. I say I think I may have lost 200 Euros ($300.00). He turns around goes to the till and brings back my 200 Euros. How amazing – first that someone would have turned it in and then that he would have pursued it. Again – thank you to the barman at The Porter House and some other kind and honest soul!

The almost missing 200 Euros

And finally, to recap week one…

There are no words