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 :(

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Clifden, County Galway

I am falling so far behind in this blog that I may never catch up.  Here is the photo of the front door I tried to post a few nights ago. I don't remember if I tried to post it here or on Facebook - but here it is.

We are off to dinner. I will try to post again later.


Hello from Pittsfield's Sister City - Ballina (pronounced BA-lee-nah)

I know I have not been keeping up out here but internet is hard to come by in some places.

Now, I have internet but no time to write.

I just wanted to check in and let you all know that we are having a wonderful time and I will catch up out here as soon as possible.

I hope you are having a great day wherever you are.

Monday, January 21, 2013

I think we are up to Saturday.  Let's see if I can remember where we have been...

We left Ashbourne at noon on Saturday and headed to Galway.  We spent the afternoon shopping and wandering around.  We had a quick bite at The Cellar which was very good and then were on our way again.  We decided to spend the night closer to Belfast so we didn't have as far to go before the Van Morrison show on Sunday night.

We found The St Anne's B&B in Sligo.  It was interesting in that it was more of a boarding house than a Bed and Breakfast.  The first thing we were told is that we could have the first B but not the second B.  We were told that it was difficult to find anyone to come in early in the morning so there was no breakfast.  Since I am not a huge fan of breakfast and we had to get on the road early, that worked for us.  The room was incredibly PURPLE!  There was purple everywhere you looked.  The bedspreads, the curtains, even the toilet seat!  Out back was a beautiful pool but it was a bit nippy for a dip this time of year.

The room had three beds - a double and two singles.  It was a large room but not particularly 'inviting'.  There was a communal room with a TV and a balcony for smoking.  The above mentioned purple striped toilet seat was cracked and held together with tape.  I just saw a review from October commenting on the taped toilet seat.

There were two other people that we met while we were there and neither of them was 'on holiday' and staying at the B&B which is why I think it is more of a boarding house at this point in time.  It was almost as if the lady of the house ran it and passed away and now her family is trying to carry on.  I have no idea what the real story is but that is as good a guess as any.

I will say that the room was clean and the bed was comfortable enough to get a decent night's sleep.  In the end, that is what mattered to us most that night so no complaints here.  Well - one....the internet didn't work upstairs and I had to sit outside in the cold or downstairs on the steps between the first and second floor to have a signal that would last about three minutes before I had to shut down and then reconnect to get it reestablished.  So much for St. Annes...

I think that about sums up Saturday.  More next time...

Good night!

The set list - as promised!

Arlo Guthrie at The Venue Theatre in Ratoath, Co. Meath, Ireland  -  January 18, 2013

Jess Klein was the opening act - I do not have that set list.

It was one long set with one encore...

Oklahoma Hills
Pretty Boy Floyd
St. James Infirmary
Haleiwa Farewell
When a Soldier Makes it Home
1913 Massacre
I Hear You Sing Again
Do Re Mi
Alabama Bound
City of New Orleans
In Times Like These
This Land Is Your Land

Encore:  My Peace

Did I mention that it was a wonderful show?!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day 3 - Friday aka January 18th, 2013

I am being specific with the day/date because I am rapidly losing track!

We started the day in Dublin and ended the day in Ratoath, County Meath.  Well, actually we ended the day in Ashbourne because there are no hotels in Ratoath.

We left Dublin in the morning and headed north to Ratoath.  The weather was awful.  Rain, sleet, hail and snow.  Fun enough driving weather when you are in your own car, on familiar roads on the right side of the street.  Now try it in a rent-a-put, in a foreign country and on the wrong side of the road.  It was less than ideal but we didn't let it stop us.

We had a bit of a time trying to find a place to stay.  We discovered that there are no hotels in Ratoath and the 2 B&Bs are not operational in the winter.  One looked really lovely - at a farm out in the middle of nowhere.  The other looked kind of like the house from The Brady Bunch but with the weather I was hoping they would just give us a place to crash.  No such luck.

We drove into the next town and found a very Neuvo-European-Chic looking hotel - The Residents Hotel.  The lobby was all white and glass with marble tiles floors (very slippery in bad weather) and funky looking furniture.  We got a decent room rate but we were 'warned' about the 'club' attached to the hotel and the noise that we might experience because of the patrons.  Apparently they got a lot of bad reviews online due to the noise and we had to sign a waiver that we were told and would not get a refund etc.  I guess the bad weather helped because we didn't have any issues - thank goodness.  The room was huge with a king size bed so that was very nice.

We stayed in the room for the afternoon because the weather was so ugly we didn't want to go out until we had to.  There was no way to go sightseeing and we definitely weren't going walking around.  At about 5 PM we headed out to dinner and had a wonderful meal at La Bucca.  It is another restaurant with an open kitchen and so we got to watch them prepare our food.  It was pretty quiet when we got there but got busier and pretty crowded before we left.  It was fun to watch them making food while we ate. We had a really nice waiter too, and that always adds to the enjoyment of a good meal.

After dinner we headed to The Venue Theatre at the Ratoath Community Centre for the first of the two Arlo shows on our schedule.  We saw Arlo briefly before the show - said hello, caught up etc.  The theatre is very intimate so although our seats were in the way back - they were still good seats.  We had a nice chat with the sound guy - who was wearing a Ramones t-shirt.

I'll post a set list tomorrow - I'm too lazy to go up and get it and if I bring the laptop upstairs, I am likely to lose my signal.  The show was very nice.  Jess Klein opened and Arlo did one long set before heading off the stage.  He came out and did one encore.  I think Arlo has some new fans in County Meath.

We headed back to the Residents Hotel and called it a night but not before becoming a statistic in Ireland - we lost a hub cap on the car.  Sadly, we didn't notice in time to go back and look for it.  I wonder how this will work out with our insurance....that should be worth at least a post or two when the time comes!

Ok - that's it....end of day three.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 2 or Talking in My Sleep

A new day dawns...or does it?

Yesterday started with Ken having a conversation with me that I have NO recollection of whatsoever.  It seems that he was up and watching me sleep for about an hour.

Ken:  Are you getting up today?
Me:  I don't think so.
Ken:  I'm going for a walk.

An hour later Ken returned to the room.  I was still out cold.  I had no idea that he left and no idea that he woke me earlier.  I don't have any sense of having spoken with him at all.  Anyone who knows me 'in the morning' will know that the language I speak at that time of day often does not resemble English.  The fact that my response to him was intelligible speaks volumes (pun intended).  Apparently, I was in another universe entirely.  Needless to say - I did get up and we had a lovely day.

We walked around Dublin taking photos and heading in the direction of the Guinness Storehouse.  The beer itself hasn't been fermented there since 1988 but it is a nicely designed attraction that gives you the history of Guinness and it's importance and place in the history of Dublin and Ireland.  They have, of course, a gift shop with everything Guinness you can possibly think of.

We had a pint at the Gravity Bar.  This is the top floor of the building (7 stories if memory serves) and 360 degree views from the glass windows.  It reminded me of Windows on the World.  I also learned how to pour the perfect pint.  I have my certificate to prove it! 

What I don't have is any other photos as I have discovered that my very old laptop is not compatible with my very new (large) memory cards.  I guess most of the photos will have to wait until I return home and can upload then to my new laptop.  Originally, we weren't going to bring a laptop at all so I bought lots of memory.  It's good I didn't return said memory when we decided to bring the old laptop.  I will try to take some photos on my old, small memory cards so I can post a few.

Anyway - back to yesterday...

At one point in our walk over to St. James' Gate Ken stopped me from taking a picture of a church.  Apparently there were three guys who, as Ken put it, were either diabetic or shooting heroin.  I was oblivious. All I was interested in was taking a picture of the building!  Sometimes oblivious is a good thing.

We did get hit up 3 times in 5 blocks for money our first night in town.  Luckily, I put my 'New York' on and just (sing it with me) walked on by...

Ken tried to post our photo taken at the Storehouse on Facebook but it posted a photo of the people before us.  I tried to send it to myself as an e mail so I would have it and it doesn't appear to have made it into my in box.  I guess there isn't supposed to be any damaging evidence of our visit to Guinness.

When we left St. James' Gate, it was drizzling and misty and cold and damp.  All the things Ireland is famous for.  It was dark and we were hungry.  We had a 15 - 20 minute walk back to our hotel and to the restaurant where we planned to eat dinner.  Enter the magic of tourism.  Lined up outside the Guinness Storehouse was a row of horse and carriages.  We took a lovely, albeit, blustery ride back to the Temple Bar area where we were staying and got out of the carriage a block from our hotel.  We regrouped and headed on out to dinner at Eden Restaurant.

The service was lovely, the food excellent, and we had the added fun of being able to watch the kitchen from our table.  From there, we headed back to O'Neill's for another evening of Irish music.  We only wish they'd play longer and later.  The music doesn't start until 9 PM and ends at 11:30.  We wound up talking with a couple who had been to see Arlo (Guthrie) that night in Dublin.  We knew about the show but decided to pass on it.  It was nice to hear that it was a good show and just to hear folks talking about Woody and Arlo.

We walked back to our hotel and that is the end of Day Two.  Dublin was quieter on Thursday night than it had been on Wednesday.  That is a good thing as I wasn't nearly as tired!

Day One in Dublin (aka 3 days later but I finally have internet)

Welcome to Ireland!

We have been here a few days but this is the first time I have had reliable and usable internet.

I'll give you the short version - we left Massachusetts on time, we got to the airport on time, our flight left about half an hour late and still got in early.  I don't remember airplane seats being quite so uncomfortable but I did get to watch my choice of a movie.  I chose Bernie with Jack Black and Shirley MacClaine because someone (I can't remember who) just told me I should see it. Oh by they way - airplane food is as bad as I remember.

We got through customs quite quickly and our luggage was on the belt, undamaged and with nothing missing.  Always a plus!

We upgraded our rental car (I could have packed more stuff!). It is diesel so it will get much better mileage and is less expensive to fill up.  The car has a bigger trunk so all of our stuff in concealed, and I feel a little less vulnerable riding in it overall.  It is silver so I am happy - I am not a fan of red cars.

I would post a photo but my card reader does not appear to be working.  I don't know if it is the computer, the card reader or the card but I am trying not to panic.  I assume all will be well when I get the card into my new laptop back home.  This machine is pretty old and the card may just be too big for it to handle.  I know I had that problem with my old camera.

Onwards and upwards...

We got in our rent-a-put and drove into Dublin proper.  Actually, we sat in the car in the rental lot for half an hour looking at maps that made no sense.  We finally decided to just drive and see where we wound up.  Luckily, we wound up in Dublin!  We parked on the street, found a place to stay and left our luggage at the hotel until our room was ready.  Ken re-parked the car in a lot for the 2 days we'd be there and we walked everywhere we went.  Dublin sort of reminded me of New York.  It has pockets of neighborhoods, no parking and accommodations run the gamut from cheap to expensive.  We chose a place that doesn't make it into the guild books but suited our needs perfectly.

After the car was parked, we went in search of our first pint of Guinness.  We found ourselves at O'Neill's Bar and Restaurant.  The food was okay, the pint was good and we had a nice walk around the area.

We went back to our hotel - the River House Hotel in the Temple Bar district.  We decided a nap was in order.  We set the alarm for 5PM local time.  We'd been up for about 24 hours at this point and thought 5 hours of sleep was a good plan.  We both got up when the alarm went off though I don't think either of us was very happy about it at the time.  We took showers - and were human again!

We went out wandering and had dinner at Les Freres Jacques - a lovely French restaurant near our hotel.  After dinner, we strolled around looking for (listening for?) live music and found ourselves back at O'Neill's.  They had wonderful live music and a rowdy crowd on a pub crawl.  I was sitting next to two young guys - one from Australia and the other from 'back home'.  He was from near Saratoga in Glens Falls.  Small world.  On the way out we discovered the name of the band (just two guys on guitar and banjo) were called All Folked Up!  Gotta love it!

The music ended around 11:30 and we headed back to our room.  It was a noisy night out on the streets of Dublin but we didn't hear a thing.  We were out cold and enjoying dreamland.  End of Day 1.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I know I said I'd 'fill you in' but that will have to wait.  I just wanted to pop on to let you know that I am officially freaking out and overwhelmed with the 'stuff that's left to do before I leave' piece of going on vacation.

My check book is 50 dollars off...
I have checks to deposit and I need to withdraw cash for the trip...and I have bills to pay before we leave town.

I have a book that has to go back to the library but I still need to get some information out of it for the trip.

I can't decide if I want to bring an umbrella or just get wet. (Feel free to weigh in on this one!)

I have paperwork I must drop off in town before we leave.

I can't decide what knitting project(s) to bring with me.

And the list goes on.....

On the up side -

All my camera batteries are charged and all my memory cards are empty.  (Must find my card reader if I am bringing the laptop).

I finished weaving in the ends to my new shawl - I will post photos eventually.

The whites are in the dryer and the rest of the clothes are in the wash.

I bought a pair of pjs and matching slippers on sale for 10 bucks and they will be the first things I put in the suitcase.  Oh yah - it's a new suitcase, too!

Norton (the 5 pound Yorkie) got a bath and he looks beautiful brushed.  He smells good, too!

Ok - sitting here typing at you guys isn't going to make my 'to do' list any shorter.  I feel better just having shared my panic with you.  Thanks, as always, for being there for me :)

Until next time.....

Friday, January 11, 2013

Long time no blog

And so it goes...time marches on and blogs fall by the wayside.  I started this blog when I took my trip and stopped blogging when I got home.  Well - it's time to take a trip again and someone asked if I'd be blogging.  I guess this post answers that question.

My husband and I are leaving on Tuesday for Ireland and Scotland.  Three weeks out of the country and so much to see and do while we are there!

I have been planning this trip for about 2 months and it they say...crunch time.

I will fill you in a bit more when I have a little more time...but for now.....let's just say....

I'm baa-aaak!