Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Half Birthday to me!

Hello again,

I just realized that today is my half birthday.  Six months from today I will be turning 50.  I can't believe it, but it's true.  How did that happen?  Where did the time go?  I am so glad that I am celebrating life and honoring my Mom by doing what she loved as well. Traveling, enjoying good food, and most importantly - always trying to make the best of things.

The weather has been against us most of this trip but today is sunny and bright.  It is warm and comfortable - probably in the 50's. I am off to spend the rest of the morning shopping and walking around town. This afternoon we are headed for Blarney!

I am about week behind (still) in my posts but I will persevere!

I hope wherever you are, you are having a wonderful day.

Now that I have had my half birthday in Ireland, I am open to ideas to celebrate my 50th birthday in style back in the States with my friends.  Comment away!

Post Van the Man and the next day....

We got back to Ennislare House after the Van Morrison show without incident.  I even managed not to fall in the slush or get my feet soaked in the puddles.

We got up on Monday, had breakfast and planned our day with Ann's help.  She offered to drive us up the hill and suggested we take the train into Belfast from there.  She recommended that we take the bus tour of the city.  So that is exactly what we did.  Like New York, the tour bus was a double decker.  Unlike New York, the train was clean, beautiful, on a schedule, and on time.  It was a other cold and wet day so the bus had plastic up where the 'open' part would normally be. It was impossible to take photos but I took some anyway through the too thick plastic and the rain drops.

The tour guide on the bus excursion presented a balanced view of  the issues that plagued Belfast.  He did not 'lean' in either direction.  Mostly he described all the steps that are being taken to create a lasting peace. One of the solutions to getting everyone on the same team was to a tally create a team - a hockey team. The plan was to have players from all over forge ahead as a united front with fans  routing them on. It was a good idea in theory but it seems that 80% of the team is Canadian and 10% is American. Hopefully that last 10% are creating the bond that was the original intent.

At the end of the bus tour we went into The Crown Bar and shared a 'Stew and Stout' before getting on the train back to Ennislare House.  We spent some time enjoying the house and eventually went back up the hill and back to Ava for dinner.  We really are creatures of habit.  Actually, the food was really good and we just wanted more!  We went back up the hill, hung out in the common room for awhile and called it a night.

Northern Ireland is beautiful.  The signpost when we crossed into Northern Ireland had the Northern part crossed out in black magic marker, which I found interesting. 

The Irish do have a way with words.  All the hostilities and fighting and bombings and killings are referred to as 'The Troubles'.   World War II is referred to as 'The Emergency'. You have to love their gift for turning a phrase.

We didn't spend as much time as I would have liked in the North, but I do hope to come back again. I would also like to learn a bit more of the history so I am better informed when I return.

P.S. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors and/or auto-correct. I usually preview my posts and read through them but I am having Internet issues so it is posting as is.

I hope you are having a great day! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Van Morrison Set List

Hello again!

Trying to play catch up and failing miserably.

Here is the set list from the Van Morrison show.  It was a wonderful evening and I am so glad we decided to be crazy and go to this show.  I am happy to know that it was a benefit and that the exorbitant price we paid for tickets were for a good cause.  LOL

Enjoy the music.....I know we did!

Celtic Swing
Only a Dream
Beauty of Days Gone By
Going Down to Monte Carlo
End of the Rainbow
Have I Told You Lately
Can't Stop Loving You
Unchained Melody
Philosopher's Stone
Pagan Heart
Dead or Alive
Drumshambo Hustle
Jackie Wilson Said
Bright Side of the Road
Brown Eyed Girl
Help Me


Dinner at Van Morrison

Here is the four course dinner menu from the evening at Culloden Estate and Spa.

A Trio of Irish Seafood
     Organic Glenarm Salmon
     Spiced Crab
     Beech-smoked Mackerel Pâté
with Marie Rose Dressing

Cream of Leek and Potato Soup

Daube of Northern Irish Dexter Beef
from Jason Hamilton of Carnbrooke,
Dorm area, County Down

Slow cooked in a Red Wine and Thyme Jus,
Scallion Mash, Roast Honey Carrots
and Cauliflower Mornay

Steamed Chocolate Pudding
with Chocolate Sauce and
Glastry Farm Chocolate Heaven Cream

Bewley's Resort Blend Coffee and
Thompsons's Family Finest Teas

Petits Fours

I hope you all enjoyed dinner!

My next post will be the set list.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Is there anybody out there?

I am curious if anyone is reading these posts?

Just checking...


Van Morrison

What can I say?  What a magical day!

We left Sligo in the morning and made our way to Northern Ireland.  The weather was cruddy – slush on the roads, rain, sleet and hail again.  It was grey and overcast when it wasn’t wet.  The further north we went the better the weather got but from we heard everywhere the cities and towns were shut down by the two inches of snow that everyone got. 

We got to Bangor in the early afternoon but then we couldn’t find our way to the B&B.  We drove around awhile trying to go where Google told us the building should be and then we saw someone to ask.  It was raining and cold and so I followed him upstairs and his girlfriend (wife?) came out in the hall with her device of choice (Kindle? Nook?) and looked up Ennislare House and found the same misrepresented map as I did.  They told us where to look for it and we headed on down the road again.  We still couldn’t find it – but they were very nice!

We finally went to a gas station and Ken called and got directions.  Unfortunately, it was Sunday and we hadn’t planned ahead and gotten local currency.  While the Republic of Ireland uses euros, Northern Ireland does not.  They use British pounds.  We didn’t have any change in euros either so he had no choice but to use the credit card.  The call cost 8 dollars and 10 cents plus the 3% our credit card will charge us for the international fee.  That was one expensive phone call.  On the upside – we did finally find the B&B.  There was a large van parked right in front and it was blocking the sign from the street.

Our room was absolutely gorgeous and it had a fabulous view of Bangor Bay from a big bay window.  We met Ann who was incredibly helpful and friendly and fun.  She offered to loan us money until we could get to a bank the next day.  We said no thank you but I loved the fact that she offered.  As it turns out we should have said yes – but that story is for later in the narrative.

We knew we needed to get a bite to eat because the first thing that was going to happen at 6PM was the champagne hour at the Van Morrison ‘event’.  Ann told us about a lovely restaurant that was open on Sundays.  Almost every town we drove through was shut down completely because it was Sunday.  We were concerned we wouldn’t find anywhere to eat.  Ann offered to drive us up to the top of the hill where the restaurant was on her way to town.  We accepted gratefully, and went to The Ava Restaurant.  We tried to eat light but the food was too good.  It was tapas style and we ordered one dish too many.  They had the most delicious assortment of breads!

We walked back down to Ennislare House and I took a shower and got ready for the show.  Ken took a shower and soon we were on our way.  I was all dressed up in my sparkly jacket over my black tank top and black pants.  Ken was wearing what he calls his ‘puke’ shirt.  He loves this shirt but jokes that it looks like someone threw up.  I was so excited about this event that I even put on some makeup. 

We headed down the road to Culloden Estate and Spa.  The parking lot was slush and I was wearing dress clothes – not a good combination.  We parked the car and found our way inside.  We were looking for the Stuart Suite and we followed signs through the whole building to find the Suite.  It was pretty obvious, pretty quickly just how swanky this place was.  It was equally obvious that the people who were there for the show were in a whole different league.  I joked to Ken that they weren’t going to let riff raff like us stay for the show.

We checked out coats and got some champagne.  There was a HUGE champagne fountain just for show in the center of the room.  No one was taking pictures of it because I guess to them it was no big deal but I was blown away by it.  I decided to ‘behave’ and not be a ‘gauche American’ – so I didn’t take any pictures of it…on the way in!  I did finally break down and take pictures on the way out but it wasn’t as impressive then.  They had started taking stuff out of the room by then.

We were escorted to our table and sat down opposite a couple who were from the area.  Eventually, two young (everyone seems young to me these days) women from North Carolina sat to Ken’s right, and to my left was a guy from Canada.  I think he was from the Vancouver area but I could be wrong.  Between Ken and the two ‘girls’ (they really were women) were two guys from Germany.  Our table for 10 had nine people at it.  Of those nine, seven had come from overseas to see the show.  Of those seven, five had come just for the weekend specifically to be there for the show.  All 5 of those folks stayed at the hotel.  We were the ‘poor’ people at the table and boy did we feel it.  There was networking going on all over the place and we were just sitting there minding our own business. 

We found out that the event was a fundraiser and there was a silent auction.   It was a bid what you will pay silent auction, not an outbid the last person’s bid kind of silent auction.  I think the lowest opening bid amount was 250 BPS (British Pounds Sterling) which is equivalent to almost 500 dollars US.  The couple across from me asked if I had pen so they could fill out the paperwork to bid.  The won a great John Cleese piece.  I can’t imagine what they must have bid.  And then we found out they got it to give to their son for his 13th birthday!  I can’t even imagine cash flow like that! But I digress.

[Is this post long enough yet?]

Dinner started at 7 PM and went until 9 PM when the show started.  I will fill you in on dinner and the show in my next post.  I didn’t mean to make this one as long as it is and if you are still reading – thank you for putting up with this diatribe!

So much for the front door...

I don't know why the photo of the front door isn't showing up in my last post.  It didn't show up on Facebook either :(