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.