Slideshow

Ireland: 50 Shades of Green

Dia Duit!
That's right, travel fans... we're back and this time we're in Ireland (that phrase is Irish for "hello").  No jet lag, traditional food which you'd rather not sample, difficulty understanding English,  inordinate amounts of rain, cool temps, or gray skies for you; just read along.  Welcome to our new readers! (By the way, Barack and Michelle Obama, with the girls, are also here this week; but their adventures will be different from ours.)  More important, we are accompanied by Pauline (Paulie) Baron--Wendy's mom; so she will attest to the validity of our reports.

We arrived Saturday and are finishing up the first leg of our journey.Our home away from home was the stately Dromoland Castle just outside of Shannon in County Clare (just realized they say "county" in front of the name, not after it like we do. And, of course, they also drive on the "wrong" side of the street.).  Though it is located on the western side of Ireland (as you can see in the map), this area is called the "midwest" by the locals. So we feel right at home!

This beautifully renovated castle has been the ancestral home of the O'Briens since the mid-1500s.
Here is the view from our room (which is in the new wing, built about 15 years ago).


The tour started on Monday, but we arrived a day early, so on Sunday we hired a car / guide to take us to places not on the tour's itinerary. This is what we did last year in Poland, though this time we were not looking for the ancestral home of the MacRhodes's or the O'Barons. First, he took us to Limerick where we saw (English) King John's castle (built by him though he never actually stayed there) and St. John's Cathedral (built in 1861 and having the tallest church spire in Ireland).   Then on to Adare, a charming town with actual thatched roof cottages, and a one-time winner of Ireland's Tidy Town Award

But the highlight of the morning was lunch at "Durty Nellie's Pub" (operating since 1620!). There we had our first taste of real Irish Guinness (our driver told us it tastes different everywhere else outside of Ireland), and our first authentic fish and chips. The fish was quite light and airy and the portions were rather plentiful.  (And the presentation, even in a pub, was rather formal).  Very delicious! By the way, we loved the Guinness!  We may change the name of this blog to "Paulie's Guiness Tour of Ireland".


Finally, we drove to Bunratty Castle. Built in the 1300s, it has been attacked, destroyed, and rebuilt many times over the centuries. For a long time it was the home of the MacNamaras (in this part of Ireland, if you have a castle you're either an O'Brien or a MacNamara). It was somewhat restored for public access in the 1950s after having been vacant for over 150 years!

It is mid-June and the temps have been about normal: upper-50s!  During the day it alternated between a light rain (which our driver said was just "Irish mist"), to a harder rain (umbrellas up!). But the driver just shrugged and said it made things more refreshing. This is why Ireland is so green!!!  But it seems that the people have the same mindset as those of Oregon and Washington: the rain is just a part of daily life, so they don't even notice it.

Monday was our first day of touring with the group. Wendy started it off with a traditional Irish breakfast: eggs, Irish bacon (more like ham), grilled vegetables, sausage, and black and white pudding.  Usually, our criteria for "blog worthy" meals is that they were memorably good.  We are making an exception here because this one was memorably traditional but by no means good.  Indeed, after three bites, she basically "ran for the hills" or at least to the buffet for a piece of brown bread.

What is black and white pudding, you ask? Well, first of all, it has no relationship whatsoever to the black and white cookies of Wendy's youth.  No way.  It is the  Irish version of Haggis--Pig's blood in a casing mixed with oats, flour, barley, and beef fat. The "white" pudding has less blood, hence the lighter color. This was one of those "we're here so we have to try it, but we'll never eat it again" foods. Ugh! (And the sausage was pretty nasty, too!).  In Wendy's own words:  "Ok, truth be told, after a sampling of the b&w pudding, I decided to frontload all the traditional foods on the trip--so I can quickly eliminate whatever doesn't work!" Read the lunch report for more details.

After that memorable breakfast, the first stop of the day was the Cliff's of Moher, about an hour north of our castle. 

These sheer cliffs rise upwards of 390 ft. above the Atlantic and stretch for about 5 miles. It is Ireland's most visited nature area, a home to many species of birds and other wildlife. They were used as the "Cliffs of Insanity" in "The Princess Bride"!  We were incredibly fortunate to have a rain-free day for our viewing.

The cliffs are the beginning of an area called the Burren (meaning "great rock" in Irish, but might as well be pronounced as "barren"). This 250 sq. kilometer area is mostly exposed limestone. It rises from the ocean in a series of plateaus and mountains all up the coast of Clare.

Obviously, very little farming can be done here (though there was some cattle grazing), so most of the area is desolate and empty.

Later in the day, we visited the famed Poulnabrone dolmen.

According to the experts, this is a doorway to a Neolithic period (4,200 - 2,900 BC) tomb. This makes it several thousand years older than the Egyptian Pyramids. Does it indicate a belief in an afterlife? Or was it just an elaborate "gravestone" for someone of great rank? Who knows.

Before we leave you with some general thoughts, back to traditional food that we wished we hadn't tasted.  We had lunch at a traditional spot in the Burren and Wendy and Paulie (on the advice of two tour guides) opted for the bacon and cabbage--which is supposed to be divine.  The Irish in Ireland never did corned beef and cabbage--that's American.  In the day, pork was the least expensive meat here, so bacon and cabbage was "de riguer" for comfort food meals.  Well, we had it and again, another checkmark on our list of "ok, thank goodness that's over with meals."  Check out this photo and decide for yourself.

Extending benefit of the doubt to Irish cuisine, we have had some wonderful meals so far--Irish smoked salmon on brown bread--extraordinarily delicate and delicious--

and fish chowder.  The brown bread is great and so is the butter.  Indeed, so is all the fish we've had so far. We're heard that the cuisine overall is much enhanced from days of yore and we believe that is indeed possible.... so stay tuned for more truly memorable meals over the week to come!

Notes:
An example of Irish sensibility: There is no thermostat or heat control in our room at Dromoland Castle. When we asked how to change the temperature, the bellman replied, "If you're too hot, open the window."!!!

The Irish language may be at risk. Though it is still a required part of the el-hi curriculum, it is the second language spoken (if at all) everywhere except in County Kerry. And, as our guide informed us, unlike French or Spanish, knowing it has zero value anywhere outside of Ireland.

Prior to the trip everyone told us about how the beer here is served warm (or at least, not cold). Thankfully, those rumors were completely false!



Tomorrow...on to Cork.

Love to all,
w&w

The Irish Skies Are Smiling


Dia dhuit friends and family,      

La brea buiochas Le Dia. (Translation: It’s a nice day!)  It was a nice day in Cork when we left Thursday morning heading to Dublin via Waterford (ah, yes, retail therapy occurred); but we had toured extensively and eaten heartily and blog-worthily since our last post. And, oh yes, the weather had cooperated beyond belief. It had been sunny and pleasant (lower 70s)--so we have definitely not needed our multiple layers or rain gear. Even the locals had been commenting on their good fortune.

Our second day of touring consisted of a long bus ride from Dromoland Castle down to Cork. It was punctuated with a series of wonderful stops.

The first was at Molanna Dairy Farm, home of Paddy and Margaret Fenton. The farm has been in their family for many generations. They welcomed us into their home with warm and wonderful strawberry scones with creme fraiche, slices of spicy Guinness cake, tea, and coffee. Paddy and Margaret were delightful and exactly the prototype of how you would expect proper Irish people to look and act.

In fact Margaret is the spitting image of Paulie’s friend Peggy (Margaret!) who is first generation American via Counties Clare and Kerry!  The house was lovingly decorated with family pictures. Once we'd enjoyed our morning snack (delectable-- why didn't we take seconds?), Paddy took us into the “old” house where he gave us an oral history of the farm. He showed us the room where he was born!...as was his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather!  One of his sons, who now runs the farm, was also born there.  He told us about raising cattle in the old days (they actually only grow grass since it is primarily a dairy farm). He asked if we had seen any of the little people (leprechauns), and said he is always on the lookout, because if he finds one he will get a pot of gold and be able to go on a Tauck tour!!!!!!  Paddy also recited a poem about life that he learned as a child in school. You can actually see/hear him recite it here. He was an Irish mensch, a true kibbitzer and a real charmer and reminded us a little bit of Wendy's dad Austin-- so sweet. It was a poignant visit in many ways.

Farther along the road, we stopped in the charming town of Kenmare. We had lunch at a traditional pub, Foley's, which was fine but unremarkable. Then we walked around the town. Here is a sampling of some of the shop signs on just one block:



Next, back on the bus, we continued south. Along the way we went over the Caha Pass.  Now many of you know we have been to New Zealand, Hawaii and many other places famed for outstanding vistas. Well, this one was arguably the best we have seen. The road was high up from the valley floor and each bend in the road gave an amazing view of the pastures below and the mountains beyond.  At one point the bus was able to pull over so we could get out and scramble up a ledge of rocks to get a 360 degree view. Truly incredible, and unfortunately, the pictures do not do it justice (which is why we borrowed this one off the internet). 



Next, we stopped in Ballylickey at Manning’s Emporium….a very nice deli. There (as if we needed more food!) they laid out platters of several kinds of cheese (including Queen Elizabeth’s favorite, Milleen), salami, and chorizo (!), all locally made. There was also homemade bread and a sweet red pepper relish. They even poured wine! 

The sun was shining as the group happily munched away on the patio. Paulie really enjoyed it, and ate her fair share, but, truth be told, neither of us had any as we are well into vacation-food-coma status. Yes, you read that correctly…even Wendy passed up some free food!  By the way, “Bally” (and the derivative “ballin”) means town, so Ballylickey is like “Libertyville”. We are also in the area of Ballincolig, Ballinclasher, Ballinascarty, Ballineen, and the ever popular Ballinspittle.


Back in the bus the tour guide put on her favorite CD of Enya. For those who don’t know, Enya, besides being a fan-favorite crossword puzzle answer, is a New Age Irish songstress. Well….the music was interesting and authentic, but either it was one really looooong song or there were a bunch of songs that all sounded the same.


Finally we pulled into Cork, home of University College of Cork, one of the largest colleges in the country.  Our home for these two days is Hayfield Manor…not a castle like Dromoland, but more Downton Abbey-esque. We kept looking for Robert and Cora.  Before we knew it, dinner time was here in the manor's Orchid Room-- festooned with crystal chandeliers at every turn and freshly- scrubbed properly Irish servers anticipating our every culinary wish.  The meal was truly blog-worthy. Paulie began with a contemporary deconstructed Caesar salad-- bite-sized (for a leprechaun) pieces of the individual salad components geometrically arrayed on a slab of slate. 

Wayne and Wendy shared West Cork scallops nestled in foam -- outstanding. On to the mains: Wendy and Wayne ordered the grilled lemon sole-- lovingly accompanied by purple sprouting broccoli, rhubarb jelly, watercress pomme purée, and fennel salad with lemon verbena cream. Paulie enjoyed pan seared trout with dill and butter Rossi, curly kale, samphire (a water plant), Irish seafood broth, and trout caviar. Now, this is dining! All of our pre-conceived notions of Irish dining disappeared in a puff of leprechaun magic with this meal.  Our desserts continued this extraordinary upward trend. Wayne enjoyed a deconstructed pineapple cheesecake-- again presented in bite-sized pieces. 


A mere 8 hours later on Wednesday morning we were once again chowing down another fabulous breakfast.  Think: porridge = oatmeal. Then, on to Blarney Castle!  


No visit to Ireland would be complete without kissing the Blarney Stone (or, in Irish: Cloch na Blarnan).  Paulie and Wayne had had enough narrow-circular-stair climbing at Bunratty, so Wendy went as their proxy (she promised to kiss each of us afterward to share the stone’s magic powers!). Once again we were blessed with fantastic weather….going through this ritual on a cold and/or windy day would be uncomfortable to say the least.  Wendy was a true champ and fulfilled her mission beautifully so she can cross off  “kiss Blarney Stone” (as well as “Visit Galapagos” and “climb to Machu Picchu”) from the “100 things to do before you die" list.  A word about the actual kissing process: Once you reach the site of the stone (after the long spiraled staircase), the "kiss master"  directs you to lie down on a blanket with your head toward the wall. Next, you are directed to grab two poles and arch your head backwards (think an inverted downward facing dog), look way backwards and down and smack away (the kiss master thankfully holds you in place).  While you are getting in position and then kissing the stone (which bestows upon you the gift of gab), the built-in camera is snapping away.  

They offer you the photos (for a price of course) after your descent.  The tour guides do not mention that if you have some height issues, you truly need to be prepared here. One other thing.  Wendy was so fixated on the height she couldn't give much thought to (what should have been) the real "issue" behind kissing the stone.  Let's just say there was no Purel in sight! Yuk!!! All in all, an adventure and worth every second (and the two pictures plus T-shirt).  The castle grounds, with river and gardens were simply beautiful by the way-- and especially beautiful from waaaay up there.  There was even a “Poison Garden”, which featured all kinds of poison plants and an explanation of each (like foxglove, juniper, etc.). The sign at the entrance warned “Do not touch or smell any of these plants”! After descending, you must of course stop in at the self-billed "Largest Ireland Store” in the country. Yes indeed…they had everything Irish.


Then we headed all the way south to the coast and the picturesque town of Kinsale. It looked a little like a Cape Cod town. 

Today we were lucky that the farmer’s market was open.  There were not many vegetables, but lots of stalls selling all kinds of other local and homemade goodies. We had a wonderful lunch at a restaurant called “Fishy Fishy"-- superb fish chowder and Wendy and Paulie shared a delectably lightly pan- fried sea bream with beets, crispy potatoes and zucchini tempura. Yum.   

Then it was a short ride to Charles Fort (ok we would call it “Fort Charles”). This state-of-the-art star-shaped fort was built in the late 1600s to protect the entrance to the harbor from the Spanish and French fleets.  A smaller fort, James Fort, was built on the other side of the harbor entrance. In some places the walls are 16 feet thick! And it was surrounded by a deep, wide moat (factual note: moats were not filled with water, despite what Hollywood has taught us). Here is a mozaic representation of the fort.....
...and a portion of the ruins of the fort itself.


Ironically, it was the British themselves who actually attacked and took the fort from its vulnerable land side. After that it was used as an army barracks until the 1920s.

The last stop of the day was back in Cork, at the English Market. This covered market has been on its present site since the mid-1800s. It was the model for the Boqueria Market in Barcelona (which, in our opinion, is much better). The market did not have a lot of colorful vegetables, but it did have the usual assortment of bizarre (to us) fish and cuts of meat. 


From the market we walked about a mile back to the Hayfield. Here is a picture of a typical street sign, with the name of the street in both English and Irish.



A little later, the group bussed over to a nearby cathedral for a private concert given by Nancy Long

and three of her six children. 
They alternately played as a group and in smaller combinations, and Nancy also sang a number of songs in a beautiful voice. The setting of the huge cathedral made it even more ethereal. And the topper was when they asked for requests and Wayne asked for (and was rewarded with) the most beautiful song ever written, "Clare de Lune", played on the most beautiful instrument.

Dinner was back at Hayfield Manor, but this time in the casual dining room. The menu had many of the same dishes as the previous night, but this time they were more fully constructed. For example, the Caesar salad was more recognizable and substantial. 

Wendy had the seared halibut with coconut-infused risotto. Wayne had pan-fried duck with bok choy and potatoes Dauphinoise.  

Early Thursday we walked along the empty streets and into Cork College. This was a fantastic end to two wonderful days of touring.

During this time, we have passed by green field after green field, all separated by greener hedgerows. So many hues of green!  And we have even seen a few gloriously golden fields of flax.

Next we head toward our final stop in Ireland, the capital of Dublin.

Notes:

In the last installment we mentioned the Irish language. To clear up any confusion, “Irish” and Gaelic” are the same thing, but, legally, the term “Irish” is used. Though the alphabet is the same as ours, they use accent signs and the pronunciation rules are obviously different in many cases. For example, at the Fishy Fishy restaurant our server's name tag read "Caoilfhionn". How to pronounce that? Queelin!!!  She told us the “fh” is silent.  So we don’t want to hear any more complaints about how hard English is! (Can’t even imagine tackling Welsh!)



The Irish (as a rule) don’t eat veal. Why? As Paddy Fenton explained, the bigger a cow was when it was sold, the more money the farmer got. So they kept them and fed them as long as possible. Hence, it is rare to see veal in an Irish home or restaurant.

So for now, Slan agus beannacht (Goodbye and blessings on you) and love from
w&w..............

Dabblin' in Dublin


Dia dhuit everyone:

Thursday morning we bade farewell to Cork and headed east and then north.

Our first stop was Waterford....yes, that Waterford...home of the famed crystal.  The guided tour was one of the best and most interesting we have ever been on. We actually walked through the factory and could stop and talk to the workers! However, we must note here that this is just a small factory; the majority of the production is done at a larger factory in town. And we were surprised to learn that they are now owned by a conglomerate which also owns Wedgewood and Royal Doulton!  The first stop was a time line showing the history of the brand. It also included information about what it takes to become a crystal cutter: 5 years as an apprentice. Then the person has to successfully cut a test bowl. If it does not meet the required standards, they have to do another 3 year apprenticeship! Yikes! When we got to the area where these cutters worked, our guide said all 6 of them had at least 30 years experience.

Of course the tour ended at the mother of all gift shops: Waterford, Waterford everywhere!!!! (yes, we did.) 

Then a short trip to the Waterford train station for our 2 1/2 hour train ride to Dublin. The train was labeled:

Irishrail.ie homepage
which, when translated into English, obviously means "iron road (railway!) of Ireland". Maggie, our tour guide, had provided each of us with a sack lunch consisting of a turkey rollup, a bag of Taytos ("The original Irish crisp"), an apple and an orange, juice, and a brownie. Tasty! 

The ride was great: very smooth and comfortable, and there were only about 4 stops along the way. We enjoyed seeing the names of the towns written in Irish and English.

We got into Dublin about 3:15 and got a quick overview as the bus went from the station to our hotel. Dublin is built on the banks of the River Liffey. The capital of Ireland, and home of Trinity College, it has a population of about 500,000 (1.2 million for the metro area). If anyplace could be said to be the birthplace of great authors, it would be Dublin, having produced many prominent literary figures, including Nobel laureates William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. Other influential writers and playwrights include Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, and the creator of Dracula, Bram Stoker.  The city also seems to have, by our estimation, the most pubs and restaurants per square meter of any city we've seen.


 
Our Thursday night activity was a visit to the Jameson's (Irish whiskey) factory-- except it was a tourist center not a factory. We had the requisite tour and tasting, and a not-so-memorable dinner. (Wendy had a Hewitt partner who would only drink Jameson, in the day...so she was quite curious about all the fuss. OK, that partner was brilliant-- but the fuss about Jameson remains a mystery; although it certainly was smoother than the Scotch or Jack Daniels they served us.). Anyway, the highlight of the evening was a performance by two singers and three dancers. Excellent -- and we learned that When Irish Eyes Are Smiling isn't now nor never was Irish. We also learned that Irish coffee is amazing and has NO calories! (ahem). 


Friday morning, we had another sumptuous breakfast (this buffet gets an "A"; first time we ever saw one with mini quiches!).  Then we did another (!) bus tour of the city, including Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park in Europe (it has an 11 km perimeter wall). The English name is somewhat of a misnomer; it comes from the Irish fionn uisce meaning "clear water".  Ooops!
Here is an obelisk dedicated to Lord Wellington (yes! That Lord Wellington!) who was born in Ireland.


Then we stopped at St. Patrick's Cathedral. This classic prototype Gothic church was built in 1220 on the site where St. Patrick purportedly performed baptisms

It is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, which is an Anglican denomination. Jonathan Swift (yes, that Jonathan Swift!) served as the Dean here (i.e., the top guy), from 1713 until his death in 1745. He is also recognized as the creator of the genre of satire. Swift is entombed here under his self-penned epitaph.

Next we went over to the Trinity College Library to see the Book of Kells, a world-famous illuminated manuscript produced by Celtic Monks in AD 800. It is actually several books; they rotate them for public viewing. However, since they are very small (about the size of a hard-cover book), the first part of the exhibit features poster-sized replicas of some of the pages, along with excellent descriptions of why they were written and what (especially the illustrations) they mean. Here is a sample of one of them.

While it was very impressive, it reminded us a lot of how the Jewish Torah was (and still is) produced: on treated sheepskin, with guide lines marked, and very fine, precise lettering (although without illustrations).

At that point the organized touring was over for the day, so the three of us went across the street to Kilkenny's, a recommended cafeteria-type restaurant. We had a quick light lunch and then headed out to explore on foot. Paulie has been on a mission to find a James Joyce t-shirt. While hunting one down we learned that Bloomsday was last weekend. This celebrates Leopold Bloom, the main character of Joyce's Ulysses. So we probably could have found one then, but, alas, now our search was in vain. But our hunt took us all over the main part of the city. We first headed toward the river, where we saw the statue of  Daniel O'Connell, a 19th century nationalist leader, and, behind it, the Monument of Light (also known as The Spire of Dublin, but it looked like a gigantic lightning rod to us).
We walked along the river and crossed over at the Ha'penny Bridge.
This is the most popular pedestrian bridge over the Liffey. It is also the "official" spot for love padlocks in Dublin:
Then we walked through the Temple Bar section. Unlike the areas surrounding it, Temple Bar has preserved its medieval street pattern, with many narrow cobbled streets. It is promoted as "Dublin's cultural quarter" (translation: more pubs) and has a lively nightlife that is popular with tourists. In other words, if you're over 30, avoid this area.

Finally, we walked over to St. Stephen's Green, a beautiful, lush city park, with ponds and blooming flowers, and walking paths with benches. It was gloriously sunny and warm, and many people were there soaking it up.

Click here for other (internet) pictures of the park.

It would have been wonderful to visit one of the synagogues on Friday for Shabbat but we didn't have our act together in getting the proper clearances. So, we decided to do something altogether different. Seeing that Evensong is a choral service, we decided to check that out instead. Apparently, St. Patrick's Boys' Choir is second in renown only to the Vienna Boys' Choir (according to our local guide). The choir school was founded in 1432. (By the way, the St. Patrick's girls' choir was founded in 2000 "to provide girls with an opportunity provided to boys for many centuries" - taken directly from the cathedral's website).  The music was stirring; to imagine such soaring, angelic voices from such little boys was awe inspiring. The singer among us was VERY glad we went. However, since it was a service, we were not able to take any photos.

Knowing we had only one free night in Dublin, we decided on OnePico for our "over the top" foodie delight. (We should note that hotel meals on prior trips were not always good and we went out of our way to miss them.  On this particular trip, the dinners have been superb, as noted in our last post). This contemporary beautiful restaurant has merited Michelin stars in the past. It doesn't have any currently but met the "one eyebrow up" evaluation from both our tour guide and the concierge. One Pico did not disappoint.

Paulie decided that a smaller meal would suit her better so we made the sacrifice without her.  Wayne started with delicately delectable langoustine risotto--garnished with Dublin Bay prawns, truffle, bisque, sweet peas and sorrel. In a veritably un-Waynely-manner, he licked the plate clean.



Wendy had the succulent seared scallops artfully arranged on the plate with carrot purée, sesame caramel ( doesn't everyone?), and hazelnut jus.  Need we say more?



For mains, we did a flip-flop from our normal food preferences with Wayne ordering fish and Wendy ordering meat (yessiree). They serve a lot of turbot here and that was Wayne's choice with fennel purée, shellfish ravioli, braised chicken wing, and vanilla clam sauce. Again, his plate cleaning skills were exceptional.


Lamb is a ubiquitous dish here in Ireland (and hillside sheep seem as plentiful as in New Zealand). Wendy felt it would just not be right to forego the lamb here when it had been so delicious Down Under.  And it did not disappoint. The roast lamb loin was pink and delicious--wrapped in bacon to keep it moist and flavorful. It was served with courgette and basil purée, rosemary terrine, crisp belly (we assume lamb) and fine ratatouille. Wendy said the lamb belly was the best she’d ever had. The dish was very special.




For dessert, we chose to share a raspberry Mille-feuille with berriolette (mixed berry) sorbet. It was light and lively and would have rounded out the meal perfectly. 



But, alas, just as we were ready to push back our chairs, the petit-fours arrived. A wonderfully memorable meal. We should mention though that while the chef was Irish, the entire wait staff was East European!

Saturday was our last day of the tour, and last in Ireland.We started out with a 1 hour ride to Glendalough, the word's best preserved monastic site. It was founded by Saint Kevin in the 6th century.
This settlement was located in a valley near two lakes. Hence the name "Glendalough". The day alternated between sunny and cloudy (with a few sprinkles, and at 13 Celsius, it was the coldest day of our trip), but that did not stop us from walking among the ruins and learning about their history

Next, back to Dublin, another quick light lunch, and then (off-tour) we went to "Jig", a very kitschy place dedicated to Irish dancing. There is a small theater off of the "museum" area. First, there is a video of "man on the street interviews" asking people in Dublin what they know about Irish dancing. It appears from this video that most Irish children (boys and girls) learned some of the dances (in school?) at an early age.  Then, the owner, Sean (who is a former Champion) and Megan do a series of Riverdance-type dances. Next, everyone in the audience is asked to come up on stage and learn to dance! There were 12 other people there besides us, and all went up, but Paulie and Wayne decided to stay firmly planted in their seats. After all....someone had to take pictures and be the audience!  Right?  Sean and Megan led the group through a number of step combinations. Some people picked it up quicker than others, but all were having a great time. After about 15 minutes of learning and practicing, here's what they were able to do:

Pretty impressive, huh?  And a fabulous way to end our time in Ireland.

Notes:
"Kil" means "church" in Irish. In the old days, there were often not real "towns"; rather there was a cluster of people who lived around the focal point of their community, the church. Thus, these communities eventually did become towns with such familiar names as Kilkenny, Killarney, Kildare, Kilcullen, etc.

In Dublin, we have seen many anti-abortion signs. For such a strongly Catholic nation, abortion is still illegal (except in extreme circumstances). However, over the last few decades attempts have been made to legalize it. Another such attempt is being hotly debated in the national legislature right now; hence the signs.
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So we leave our quick spin around the Republic of Ireland Sunday morning.  Our impressions?  The people are warm and family-oriented with little pretense. As a culture, the Irish are wise and witty with a wonderful sense of sarcasm.  The scenery is spectacular -- we opened this trip's blog with "fifty shades of green" partially tongue in cheek (without having truly experienced the scenery). But that description wasn't far off -- they talk about 40 shades here -- but who's counting? The scenery was breath-taking and particularly wonderful given that we had unexpectedly great weather.  The history is fascinating and the castles and monasteries captivating. The food (once we got past several traditional items) was great. The literary, dance, and musical talent is impressive. Lots more to do and see here but that is always the best way to leave a new destination. So glad we came.

On to London!

Love, w&w.............