Monday, September 28, 2015

Glendalough

Tuesday, our second-last day in Ireland, we took a day trip out of Dublin to Glendalough, in County Wicklow.  We decided on this excursion based on the recommendation of some people we met in a pub in Galway, and I'm really glad we went, because it was stunning.

But first, it turns out, the hotel I'd selected at random was only a five-minute walk to number seven Eccles St, Leopold and Molly Bloom's address in James Joyce's Ulysses.  (The house number is now number 78, and the actual door to the house is on display at the James Joyce Centre, but it's still worth it to take a look.)

Leopold Bloom House

It was also a coincidence that the walk to the bus stop to Glendalough retraced much of Leopold Bloom's route through Dublin on June 16, 1904.  Indeed, the Leopold Bloom walk took us right down Gardiner Place, the street of our hotel and down to the Liffey and over the river and down to Nassau Street, where we stopped to look in the shops, and then gave up on Bloom in order to catch the bus from Dawson Street.

The St. Kevin's bus service is an odd hybrid of tourist coach and local bus service.  It goes directly from Dublin to Glendalough every day.  You don't book ahead, but just wait on Dawson St at the appointed time (11:30 am) and buy tickets from the driver.  The bus makes several stops along the way that seemed to be mostly of use to the locals on the bus. (Our driver also made random stops on demand and even pulled over to let one of the passengers get off and use the bathroom.) He dropped us all off at the Glendalough visitors center, with the warning that he'd be leaving at promptly at 4:30, "with our without you." Altogether, it's an hour and a half-long drive.  Once you get out of Dublin, you cross the Wicklow Mountains and the scenery is stunning. 

What is the big attraction at Glendalough?  It contains the ruins of the medieval monastic city founded by St. Kevin (498 - 618).  The monastery survived for hundreds of years, despite being repeatedly sacked by the vikings.  The site is unbelievably gorgeous.  You can't imagine a more perfect spot to site a monastery.  I was practically ready to give up the world and join a convent myself. We checked out the lower ruins first, with the famous round tower, cathedral, and "St. Kevin's Kitchen," which is actually a church, but got its nickname because its short tower looks like a chimney.  We hiked to the upper lake to view St. Kevin's Cell, St. Kevin's Bed, (a cave in the cliff face) and other ruins.  To fill the last half hour before the bus arrived, we stopped at the collection of food trucks parked near the entrance to the monastic city and ordered tea and scones, which we ate at a tiny table beside a pretty little river.  The hot tea was welcome because the wind had become quite cold. Because of the brilliant sunshine, this was the one day I elected not to wear a wool sweater, which was a mistake. (Another thing about Ireland, always pack your umbrella, no matter how sunny it is.)

The bus dropped us back in Dublin at 6:00 pm and it was quite a long walk back to our hotel from Dawson Street, so we pub-hopped our way to the north side of the city.  We made dinner reservations at The Woolen Mills on Ormond Quay and the meal we had there was excellent.  Plus, the bartender had heard of the Buffalo Bills and was a Dallas Cowboys fan, which amused us greatly.  Jon gave him the bottle of Mad Hatter that we'd been lugging and photographing all over Ireland.

Double-arched gate into the monastic city


Round tower

Inside the cathedral ruins--most of the buildings date from the 10th-12th centuries


Ruins of the "priests' house"  (Not actually a house, but a crypt.)


St. Kevin's Kitchen


Hiking to St. Kevin's Cell


Wicklow Mountains


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Galway to Dublin

Day ten of our whirlwind tour of Ireland, we took a train from Galway to Dublin. This was Monday, September 21, if you're following along. It's about two and a half hours by train from Galway to Dublin.  It was a sunny day and the hot train car made me feel a little sleepy, so I missed some of the scenery, but what I did see of it was intensely green and lovely.

Our hotel was in a Georgian building in central Dublin on a "doors of Dublin" street, close to the Dublin Writers' Museum and the James Joyce Center.  Many museums are closed on Mondays, so we spent the afternoon walking around, trying to get a feel for Dublin. Geographically, it seems huge, and we walked what felt like forever without really getting anywhere.  To get a sense of Dublin, you need to find a vista with a long view--such as one of the many bridges over the river Liffey.  Pause and see the long avenues of Georgian buildings and their colorful doors.

Eventually we ended up at the Jameson distillery, but the fifteen euro per person admission fee put us off.  We did stop in the bar and shared an expensive but delicious whiskey sour.  Truth be told, we were exhausted. The go-go-go nature of the trip had caught up with us and Jon hurt his back on our hike through Dingle and walking on the hard Dublin pavements wasn't helping.  After dinner, we went to bed early with hopes of getting back enough energy to enjoy our last two days.

As I publish this, we're back in the US, at JFK, waiting to board our flight to Washington.  I still have two more days to write about, plus share any photos on my "good" camera, since while we were traveling, I could only put photos taken with my tablet into my posts.  You can see other photos (if you're interested) by clicking on the instagram button on my home page.

A Dublin street

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Galway

Sunday was rainy, and I was tempted to stay curled up on the comfy couch with my coffee and book all day. But it wouldn't do to go to Galway and not see Galway.  Since we no longer had a car and our Airbnb rental was somewhat further from the city center than I realized, we took the bus into town, which was very easy.

Galway is much smaller than Dublin or Cork-- about 75,000 people, according to Wikepedia. It has a large pedestrianized area crammed with shops, pubs, and cafes. We wandered aimlessly for a bit, poking into the shops, and then looked at Lynch's Castle, an imposing medieval building right in the center of town.  We also saw St. Nicholas' Church, the Galway Cathedral, and walked to Nora Barnacle's house, which was closed.  (Nora Barnacle was James Joyce's wife.)  We walked for awhile along the Corrib River, which seemed very high and has a rushing current.  Some people we met in a pub assured us that if we kept walking up the river, the current would slow and we'd get to the spot where the rowing crews were out for practice.  As former rowers, Jon and I were both keen to see this, but a lashing rain started up and Jon's back was killing him so we turned back and stopped into a cafe for a late lunch and coffee and caught the bus back to Salthill.

We didn't see as much of Galway as I'd wanted to, partly because of the weather, but also because I accidentally booked only two nights here, rather than three as I'd originally intended.  We really only had one full day to explore.

After resting at home for a bit, we walked back to the Salthill promenade and walked along Galway Bay.  There's a beach and a forbidding-looking diving tower.  The temperature was in the fifties, with a brisk wind, but there were some swimmers at the tower.  I saw a woman in a bikini climb down the steps and go out for a brief swim.  There's a sheltered wall near the tower, where people change clothes.  It seems to be a thing to take a quick dip from the tower and then get dressed and go home.  It must be exhilarating!  Jon stuck his feet in the water and estimated that the water temperature was in the fifties.

Me in front of Nora Barnacle's house


A Galway streetscape


Blackrock diving tower--do you see the swimmer to the left?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Dingle to Galway

Saturday was our big drive to Galway, where we planned to return the rental car and rely on public transportation for the duration of our stay. I was nervous about the drive because of the distance and the high probability of getting lost and because I'd rashly promised to have the car returned by noon, which didn't give us any margin of error, considering our B&B's breakfast schedule and the fact that it's a 3.5 hour drive.  We could have just skipped breakfast, but I was afraid of offending our hostess. And I'd become addicted to the Irish breakfast, with its bountiful selection of toast and jam. (I'll insert here a tip about Irish B&Bs--many do not accept credit cards, so you must be prepared to pay cash for your room.)



We got on the road a bit later than I wanted to, but we made good progress for a while.  By this time, I was a confident driver and was even overtaking the slower cars on the road.  "Americans," I'd say to Jon every time we passed someone. We got a bit lost in Tralee, which cost us about fifteen minutes, but otherwise the route was easy to follow.  Roads in Ireland are very clearly marked and it seemed we were on track for arriving only half an hour late, which by Irish reckoning, isn't late at all.

I had arranged to drop the car in the Galway city center, thinking that we'd want to leave the car where we wanted to be.  This was a mistake because once we got into the city center, we became horribly lost.  There don't seem to be street signs in Galway, or if there are, I didn't know where to look for them.  We knew which roads we needed, but we had no idea which road was which.  In addition to this, it was a Saturday afternoon, close to the start of the Rugby World Cup Ireland vs Canada game, so the streets were thronged with people.  Jon had to ask for directions three times.  Yes, there were tears (mine), but we finally found the correct car park.

The Budget rental guy came to meet us and he was so kind.  The car was due at noon, which meant it was actually due at 12:30, and now it was 1:30 (shocking to me, because it felt like we'd been driving around the city for hours) so since we were only an hour late, they didn't charge us any extra.  "You're grand!" the man said.  "No bother!"  What I learned is that I should have arranged to return the car to the airport, which would have been easier to find.  Then we could have taken a taxi into the city with far less stress.

The whole experience was so deeply unnerving, we didn't have much enthusiasm for Galway and trudged out into Eyre Square and immediately hailed a cab to our Airbnb rental in Salthill, a Galway suburb on Galway Bay.

Our rental apartment was deliciously cozy, with a peat-burning fireplace and a big comfy couch-- just the retreat we needed after such a difficult morning. We were both quite angry with each other and matters weren't helped by the fact that Jon's back was hurting.  We had some tearful, shouty moments, but then I remembered that I had some Starbucks instant pumpkin spice latte packets that I'd bought at Dulles.  So I made myself a yummy, sugary, processed-pumpkin coffee drink and it was as good as a prozac.

We headed out to the Salthill Promenade, which is spread out along Galway Bay, and stopped in a pub to watch the rugby.  We had wanted to watch the Ireland vs. Canada game, but with all the tears and getting lost, we were too late, but we did see Japan beat South Africa.  Everyone in the pub was rooting for Japan.  I gather they're a big underdog, but I really don't know anything about rugby.

We ended the night with a delicious dinner at an Indian restaurant in Salthill and walked home to go to bed early.


A terrible picture of Salthill
D'Arcy Roundabout in Salthill--Jon's grandmother was a D' Arcy.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Slea Head and the Dingle Dolphin

Our hostess at our B&B in Dingle (St. Joseph's) strongly resembled my mother's aunts and cousins, and the genteel atmosphere,--linen cut work tablecloths, classical music playing in the dining room, doilies wherever a doily could be placed, impeccable cleanliness, and a sense of things being done correctly-- was a bittersweet reminder of my life when I was growing up. A life I have entirely lost.

Our plan for our full day in Dingle was to explore Slea Head Drive, which is a 50 km ring around the edge of the Dingle Penninsula, and which takes you into close proximity to some ancient Irish sites.  When I was first planning this trip, I thought we'd rely entirely on public transportation, and there IS bus service to every town we have visited on this trip, but really, to explore rural Ireland, it's best to have a car.  Alternatively, you could go with a group in a hired coach tour, but if you want to rely 100% on the Irish bus system, you'd need to allow a lot of extra time.  Also, while we're talking about driving in Ireland, it's pretty much essential that you know how to drive a stick shift.  You can request an automatic transmission when you book your car, but I overheard that there's no guarantee you'll actually get one and automatics are more expensive.



Anyway, we were on the road early in the morning and our first stop was Dunbeg Fort, an ancient promontory fort.  The fort itself is located on private farmland and you pay the farmer three Euros per person to see the fort.  Can you imagine discovering a major archaeological site on your farm?

A little further up the road (on a different farmer's land) were ancient beehive dwellings.  These were up a steep hill, with amazing views. We continued our way around the peninsula, stopping at various spots along the way to take pictures and enjoy the view.  Eventually, we parked at the Blasket Centre in Dún Chaoin and found the trailhead for the Siúlóid Na Cille loop and walked for quite a while along the cliffs. The paths are grass-covered and the turf underneath is strangely springy.  It's almost like walking on a mini trampoline. I felt a bit melancholy, as I knew I would.  I have resisted going to Ireland for a long time specifically because I knew it would make me unbearably sad to be back in the land of my ancestors. Particularly poignant was the sound of the wind in the grass on the hillside by the beehive huts.  My distant ancestors would have lived in something similar, probably.

 I was in two minds about taking the ferry out to the Blasket Islands--inhabited until 1953 after which the residents agreed to move to the mainland.  The Secret of Roan Inish (one of my all-time favorite movies) is loosely based on the story of the Blasket Islands, and they looked so gloriously isolated. I longed to hike to the top of the mountain on Great Blasket Island.  However, the ferry was expensive and a trip to the islands would have eaten up a lot of our time.  Instead, we got back in the car, drove a bit farther on, and had lunch at Tig Áine, an excellent cafe near the sea. I overheard one of the other customers tell our server that their cappuccino was the best he'd ever had, so I had to order one for myself and it was superb--dare I say, the best cappuccino of my life.

We completed the loop and got back into Dingle just in time for the last boat out to see Fungie, the "Dingle Dolphin."  I know what you're thinking, and I was thinking the same things myself, but who can resist the DINGLE DOLPHIN?  Fungie was a wild dolphin who swam into Dingle Bay on his own in 1983 and has stayed ever since.  The fisherman noticed how friendly he was and at some point, boats started taking tourists out to see him.  He seems to be attracted to boats--particularly small dinghies--and will cavort and jump alongside boats in the bay,  The trick is, no one knows where he is at any given moment so you spend a lot of time circling the bay, keeping an eye out, but for that you're rewarded with views of Dingle from the water, as well as cliffs and caves you wouldn't be able to see otherwise, and Skelling Michael, tantalizingly off in the distance.  The trip is free if Fungie doesn't make an appearance.

After nearly an hour of cruising around, we spotted him. He swam alongside the boat, leaping out of the water every few minutes.  It was so exciting to see him!  I tried to get a picture--difficult because he moves so fast-- but then I realized that I was looking at my camera, rather than Fungie himself, so I put the camera away and enjoyed the ride.  How do we know it's the same dolphin all this time?  Because of his markings and the distinctive notch in his dorsal fin--which I could clearly see.  Dolphins in the wild can live for as long as fifty years.

Later, we had an excellent dinner at the Boatyard Restaurant and afterwards, walked around the harbor and watched a Spanish trawler unloading its catch into a waiting truck. Dingle is a major fishing port, and since Ireland is part of the European Union, fishing boats from other countries in the EU may fish there.  Seafood is the main attraction on the menus of local restaurants (as in Castletownbere) and we ate a lot of really good fish during our stay on the Beara and Dingle peninsulas.
Dunbeg Fort


Beehive Dwellings


A view on Slea Head Drive


Blasket Islands--the distant cone-shaped hump is Skellig Michael,
where they are currently filming Star Wars


Waiting for Fungie


My only Fungie pic--see the fin on the left?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Healy Pass - Killarney National Park - Dingle Town

We are comfortably lodged in a B&B on the harbor in Dingle.  After leaving Castletownbere, we drove to the north side of the Beara Penninsula via the spectacular Healy Pass. We drove on to Killarney National Park, a very large park encompassing mountains and lakes with stunning scenery.  Originally, I thought we'd stay the night in Killarney and head toward Dingle the next day, but our B&B hostess in Castletownbere recommended that we avoid Killarney, as it is expensive and touristy, and head straight to Dingle.

In the end, I was glad enough to escape Killarney, which was congested.  Without too much difficulty, we found the road to the Dingle Peninsula.  We stopped for a late lunch at the very friendly Strand Hotel in Inch Beach.  Dingle is a very popular destination and was crowded with visitors but miraculously, we found a parking space on the street right in front of our B&B.  (Recommended to us by our hostess in Castletownbere.  We called from Killarney to book the room.)  The weather was switching rapidly back and forth between sun and a misty rain, but we set out to explore the charming town and its brightly-painted shops and pubs.

Dingle is in the Gaeltacht, one of several regions of Ireland in which Gaelic is the first language, rather than English.  Throughout Ireland, road signs and official announcements (such as those on trains) are in both English and Irish.  Here, some signs are in Irish only, or if English appears, it is less prominently displayed than the Gaelic.  We had already picked up the most essential Irish words needed for the traveler (leithris = toilets, geill sli = yield ,go mal = slow, bialann = restaurant).
The road over Healy Pass
Inch Beach, Dingle Penninsula

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dzogchen Beara and Allihies.

For years, Jon has been talking about a Buddhist retreat center in Ireland that he'd heard of, so of course we included it in our itinerary.  When we left Cork on Tuesday, we headed for the village of Castletownbere, on the Beara Penninsula, in the southwest corner of Ireland.


Castletownbere is a working fishing village (with a very pretty main street, lined with pubs and shops) and the Dzogchen Beara center is located about five miles away.  We had two nights booked in a B&B and we treated ourselves to a nice dinner out, to celebrate surviving the harrowing drive.

Wednesday morning, we dropped all our dirty clothes at the laundry service in the village and headed for Dzogchen Beara. It was stunning!  The buildings are situated on a hill, high over the Atlantic.  I was expecting something rocky and forbidding, but the grounds are made of a series of beautiful gardens with intensely colorful flowers. The loud humming of bees was the overpowering sound here.  We visited the meditation rooms and gardens, and  wandered down a path, where fat, friendly ponies grazed. It was so refreshing to be able to sit quietly in such a peaceful and beautiful place.


We left Dzogchen Beara and headed for Allihies, about nine km further west. This is a pretty little village that appeared to be deserted.  There wasn't a soul around.  It was as if the entire village had gone off to attend a wake.  

We walked through the village and up a path that led to an old, abandoned copper mine, high up in the hills.  We hiked all the way up to the mine, enjoying the breathtaking views along the way.  The mine itself was fenced off--they don't want people (or sheep) falling into the abandoned mine shafts--but you could see deeply blue-stained rocks, which I think were the copper.  We were told that the beach, which we didn't visit, has sand made of copper.
Approaching the mine

We walked back down to the village and had an excellent lunch at the Copper Mines Museum Cafe.  Then we headed back to Dzogchen Beara to attend their 3:00 pm mediation class.

View from the hike


Dzogchen Beara

As I write now, it is Thursday morning, and we are about to leave Castletownbere and wander. We have no accommodations booked for the next two nights and we will stay wherever we happen to end up.  (Hopefully not in the car!)  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Driving in Ireland

Our stay in Cork was really just a jumping off point to get a car and explore the west.  It was a lovely sunny day when we got up, and since we weren't planning to pick up the car until noon, we spent the morning exploring Cork, which has so many tantalizing streets. We walked to the spectacular St. Fin Barre's church and took loads of pictures and then went back to the hotel to pick up our bags and take a taxi to the airport, where our car was waiting for us.

I'd been dreading this.  I really don't like to drive in unfamiliar areas,and the added stress of simultaneously adjusting to driving on the left was freaking me out. But we couldn't just stay in Cork, so off to the airport we went.  Our cab driver (who looked exactly like Jon's uncle) gave me the most helpful advice: to just be conscious of keeping the white line on my RIGHT, especially at roundabouts.

I told Jon that we would take a few laps around the parking lot just to get used to the car, but then, inexplicably, I drove straight out the exit and got sucked into a maelstrom of roundabouts, incomprehensible road signs, and then a dual carriageway, aimed at Tralee.  Did we want to head toward Tralee?  Who the fuck knows? We had a route planned, but in those first moments of panic, all we could think about was not dying. No, we didn't have GPS. Talk about Jesus take the wheel!

I stalled the car two or three times.  I KNOW how to drive stick shift, but I had difficulty shifting with the left hand at first. MIRACULOUSLY, we ended up on the right road and actually arrived at our destination on time and without getting lost. The scenery on the two hour drive was spectacular, but we were too busy trying to not shit our pants to take any pictures, although I took the one below today.  It pretty much sums up how I felt while driving yesterday

Irish road sign in Castletownbere

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A trip to Cork

We planned to get up very early Monday, in order to catch a train to Cork.  My alarm didn't go off, so we overslept by nearly two hours.  This, followed by the tragic discovery that we'd accidentally bought paper towels instead of toilet paper, was a pretty bad start to the day. Because I am such a nice wife,  I didn't even point out to Jon that HE was the one who'd put the paper towels in our basket on Saturday. So there I was on a Monday morning at rush hour, carrying a four-pack of toilet paper down a busy Dublin street.

Anyway, because I am so anal about getting up extra extra early, it seemed we still could catch a train if we rushed and took a cab, rather than walking to the station.  It's a two-hour train ride to Cork from Dublin and on our arrival we walked about half a mile to our hotel.  We were a bit early for check-in, so we stored our bags and headed out to explore.

Cork is a lovely city with a lively city center absolutely crammed with shops, restaurants, and pubs.  I especially liked the English Market, a network of independent grocers and butchers. It was really extraordinary.  No food shop that I've ever seen in the US comes close to what we saw at the English Market for quality and variety.

We headed to St. Anne's Shandon, a church perched high on a hill overlooking the city, with a distinctive salmon weather vane. We ascended a teeny stone circular staircase into the bell tower.  On the first level are the bell ropes, which you can pull and ring the bells.  You then ascend two more levels, past the workings of the tower clock.  Then you must put on the heavy-duty headphones that you're given at the entrance and you climb into the belfry itself.  This was kind of terrifying. At the top of the stairs, you're confronted with a dark hole in the wall and once your eyes adjust, you see all the bells, which may or may not be ringing, depending on whether or not there's a tourist yanking away on the ropes three levels below.  You climb over a little half wall--the nearest bell is close enough to hit you on the head if you're not careful--and climb a wooden ladder to get out of the belfry and into the next staircase.  St. Anne's Shandon is definitely not for those with a fear of heights!  At the top of these stairs is a balcony around the outside of the tower, with great views of Cork.  This experience made me want to reread Dorothy Sayers' superb mystery, The Nine Tailors.

After St. Anne's, we went next door to the Butter Museum.  Now I know everything there is to know about the export of butter and other dairy products out of Ireland.

Later, we stopped for a pint our two at The Franciscan Wells, a local brewery, and ate dinner at a restaurant next door to the Butter Museum.


Inside the English Market


Ringing the bells of St. Anne's.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Domestic trials

I am absolute rubbish when it comes to European appliances.  I could NOT figure out how to get the soap tray to open on the washing machine in our Dublin airbnb rental.  It seemed to be stuck, but I didn't want to force it and break the thing.  So I consulted google, my instruction manual for life, and google presented me with youtube videos of people opening the soap trays on washers that were the exact make and model as mine.  And yet I still couldn't get the tray to open.  Do you want to know why?  BECAUSE IT WASN'T A WASHING MACHINE.  It was a dryer. The real washing machine, I mistook for the dryer.  In the end, we didn't use either because of scary European electricity, but there's a laundromat in one of the villages we're visiting.  Anyway, we hadn't accumulated much laundry after just one day in Dublin.

We are staying in a working class neighborhood in Dublin.  It's like a scene out of Coronation Street. It's a bit of a walk to the city center, but we like being able to escape from the tourist hustle and bustle.  Our house is very cozy and comfortable, with a flagged kitchen floor, a teeny wood stove in the living room, a couch squeezed under the stairs and a tiny, walled garden in back.

Sunday, our first full day in Dublin, we walked to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells and the Old Library, which is gorgeous and has a really interesting display of children's literature, including first editions of The Hobbit and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Then we walked through Georgian Dublin and saw the buildings from which all those "Doors of Dublin" posters come from, and visited the National Gallery.  

It was raining steadily and Jon didn't have a rain coat.  Of course we knew it was likely to be rainy, but Jon never got around to buying a coat at home and we thought we would just buy one in Ireland. It will be easy, we said.  Ireland is sure to be full of men's raincoats, we said.  In the end, we devoted a fair chunk of Sunday to the search for a raincoat.  We started at a nice men's shop on Clare St, and then began a downward spiral to Marks and Spencer, Zara, and finally H&M, where we found something suitable that didn't cost buckets of Euros.  After that ordeal, we fortified ourselves at a pub and then walked through the Temple Bar and stopped at Tesco's for supplies for a dinner in.  Today (Monday) we're planning to take a train to Cork. There's lots more to see in Dublin, but we will be returning for a few days at the end of our trip.

I'm sorry about the lack of photos.  I'm having technical difficulties, but I'll probably do a photo post after we get home.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Honeymoon in Ireland

One of the great tragedies (hyperbole) of my life is that Jon and I never took a honeymoon.  We got married on a Friday night in New York, and spent Saturday hanging out with our families, hearing about the wedding aftermath (half of our wedding party came down with the flu and one of my bridesmaids actually had to be hospitalized). Jon was in grad school, and had to be back in class so our "honeymoon" consisted of one night at the Holiday Inn in Niagara Falls (our wedding night) and a night at a hotel in Sarnia, Ontario on our way back to Michigan for school.

Now, nearly twenty-four years later, we are taking our first vacation without kids.  It was Jon's idea to go to Ireland, which has also been high on my list of places to visit.  Our itinerary is a bit ambitious.  Ireland is a small country, but when you're trying to see as much of it as possible in under two weeks, it seems incredibly vast.

This was our plane

We spent our time in Dulles, drinking with two Irish brothers who sat next to us at the bar, so it was like our holiday started before we'd left the US.  I was excited to see that we were going to fly on one of these huge double-decker planes.  

We were established in our airbnb rental in Dublin by midday Saturday and spent our jet lag day walking around, trying to get oriented.  We ate an early dinner at a restaurant near Grafton St, and collapsed into bed.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Minnow on the Say

Sometimes I like to read children's books.  I'm currently plowing through The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell, and I read The Minnow on the Say by Philippa Pearce as something to fall back on when I wanted to rest my brain.



This is a British children's book, written in the 1950s.  David Moss lives with his family by the river Say, and one day he discovers an escaped canoe, bumping against his landing stage.  Once he finds Adam, the canoe's owner, the adventure begins.  Adam has the clue to a treasure, hidden by an ancestor four hundred years ago.  Adam's parents are dead.  He lives with his aunt and his demented grandfather.  They are poor and unless he finds the treasure by the end of the summer holidays, he will be sent to live with cousins in Birmingham because his aunt can no longer afford to care for him. There is another reason to hurry and find the treasure, because someone else is looking for it too.

The clue is a cryptic riddle and as David and Adam get closer to deciphering it, they find themselves further from the treasure than ever.  Meanwhile, their rival gets an unexpected advantage that makes the situation even more desperate for Adam.  Philippa Pearce is a masterful storyteller and I was rigid with suspense toward the end of the novel.

This book would be a great choice for read-aloud, if you have a child you're currently reading to, or just read it yourself for the entertainment.