Category Archives: Architecture

Slipping off to Sligo

June 5, 2017:

Sadly, we packed up this morning and left our lush accommodations at Ashford Castle to head even further to the northwest (after eating another epic Ashford breakfast).  Once again, rain greeted our departure, but as we have learned, the weather in Ireland is “mixed”, meaning it can be just about anything at just about anytime, so we are content to let things play out.

This is a momentous day, as it is Dermott’s birthday, and Shellie has drawn him a beautiful card from all of us!


We had planned to go to the Museum of Folk Life as our first stop, but we had failed to take into account that today is a “Bank Holiday” in Ireland, meaning mostly all museums are closed. Oh, well, it was off to Sligo Town in County Sligo. On the way, we passed the tomb of Maeve (Medbh), the warrior Queen of the Connaught, at Knocknarea. She was an Iron Age queen, who was supposed buried standing up in her full battle regalia. The tomb is an immense stone cairn (or dolmen) situated on top of a hill where it dominates the surrounding country side.

Queen Maeve’s Tomb

Sligo is best known (outside of Ireland, at least) as the birthplace of the poet W. B. Yeats. Several of his poems recall life in Sligo, and he penned several odes to the surrounding lakes and hills.  We stopped for a coffee, and were relieved to find that even if the museums were closed this bank holiday, the liquor stores were not, so we were able to slip off and buy Dermott a bottle of his favorite tipple, Jameson’s Green Spot whiskey. Jim and I walked around the town a bit, and managed not to find to find the Sligo Abbey which dates back to the 13th Century.  But we did gaze on the River Garavogue, which divides the town and is quite scenic. There is also a whimsical bronze statue of Yeats in the town center.

Sligo, on the river Garavogue


W. B. Yeats
Another notable poet, Chuck Cascio, poses with Yeats

We drove on a short way to the town of Drumcliffe, which was once the site of a monastery established by St. Colmcille, dating back to about 500 A.D. The only parts remaining of it are a really well-preserved stone High Cross (probably erected about the 11th Century) and a round tower house built between 900 and 1200 A.D.). But the real purpose for our visit was to see the tomb of W.B. Yeats, which is inscribed with part of an epitaph he wrote for himself. Dermott demonstrated his oratory skills by reciting the whole poem, and we figured this was a fitting time to deliver his birthday present.  Yeats’ final resting place is very scenic, and has a direct view to the rocky outcrop known as Ben Bulben, which was a frequent topic of Yeats’ poems. His grave lies in the graveyard of St. Columba’s Catholic church, and we took the opportunity to take a peek inside to see what an Irish country church looks like.


Walking towards St. Columba
Ben Bulben
Dermott’s oratory

Dermott's birthday gift

Entrance to St. Columba


Then we had to beat feet to get further to the northwest, to Donegal, where Chuck, Mark & Jeff had another date with the gods of golf.  When we arrived, it was POURING down rain at the Donegal Golf Club (hence no pictures).  I think all of us who weren’t playing golf secretly blessed our good fortune in not having to venture out in the muck. On the way out of the club, I spied this quaint road sign (one of many in Ireland), and wondered why anyone would want to save squirrels??!


Dermott drove us on to Donegal Town for some sightseeing.  The rest of us viewed the town, with its quaint parish church, and Donegal Castle, the ancestral home of the O’Donnell family, dating back to the time when the O’Donnells were the royal family who ruled one of Ireland’s kingdoms; in this case, the Kingdom of Tyrconnellp (Tir Chonaill) from about 1200 until 1601.  The O’Donnells took their name from Dómhniall, who was  descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages (d. 901), one of the High Kings of Ireland. Notably, the Castle was last home to the legendary Red Hugh O’Donnell, who led the rebellion against the English starting in 1595. Although O’Donnell and the rest of the earls of Ireland were initially successful in their battles against the British (the Nine Years’ War), they finally lost the war, and fled Ireland in 1602 (the so-called Flight of the Earls). After that, ownership of Donegal Castle was granted to an Englishman, Captain Basil Brooke.  He and his family were responsible for adding onto the Castle, building first Barbican turrets, and then a Manor House starting in 1623.  The Castle also features an underground storeroom with barreled ceilings dating back to the 9th Century.

Entering Donegal on the River Eske
parish church
Outside Donegal Castle
Donegal Castle


The Garderobe; a “modern” convenience
The Banquet Hall
Model of Donegal Castle from the 1600s
Underground storeroom
View of the Castle from the River Eske

After walking about the Castle, we indulged ourselves with a little shopping in the town’s main downtown area, known as the Diamond. Jim lasted about 10 minutes, and then went off to find a typical Irish pub, where he was kindly schooled in the intricacies of Irish football by the regulars there. I checked out the the woven offerings, since this is the home of the famous Harris tweed.

The Diamond in central Donegal
Loom set up to weave Harris Tweed
Wall hanging made out of patches of Harris Tweed
Fun tweeds for sale

Then we drove a short distance to tonight’s hotel, the Solis Lough Eske, about 10 miles out in the Donegal countryside.  It was still a chilly day, so we were grateful for all the fires blazing in the hotel’s common areas.  After we settled in, Jim and I, Shellie & Paula retired to the lounge to try a few more Irish whiskies (and to blog).  Dinner in the hotel tonight, and then tomorrow, on to Northern Ireland.

Living the Castle Life

June 4, 2017:

Today we opted to spend all day just enjoying the amenities at Ashford Castle.  Accordingly, we slept in late (to sleep off the effects of our feast at the George V restaurant last night) before we tackled the legendary breakfast spread at Ashford Castle. OMG!  If you can dream it, you can have it; from hand carved fresh baked ham leg to smoked salmon, all the way to Irish whiskey to add to your oatmeal, and the best scones we have eaten on this trip!

On the way back to our room, we got to see the Castle dogs, two gorgeous Irish wolfhounds who were visiting the lobby after their daily walk through the grounds.  Gosh, these dogs are huge!

After breakfast, we walked around the Castle grounds a bit, and then headed off for our first activity of the day; a “Hawk Walk” at Ireland’s School of Falconry, located on the grounds of Ashford Castle.

We met our falconer, Joe, at the school, and he introduced us to two of the Harris Hawks we would be flying today. Their names are Geimhreadh (which sounds something like Giffer) and Airic (Eiric?).  In any event, the birds are gorgeous, but a little smaller than I had imagined.

Our falconer, Joe


There are a total of about 38 birds at the Falconry school, but they are carefully paired because, just like in junior high, some won’t fly with other, and some attack others, and still others have problems with raging hormones.  While most of the hawks are Harris hawks, there was also a peregrine falcon, an owl, and a set of 4 baby hawks.

Joe told us about the basic signals for how to control the hawks, gave big leather gauntlets to Jeff & Chuck as the first ones to fly the hawks, and we set off into the parkland. First off the bat, we gave the hawks a little “test flight” to make sure they would return to Chuck & Jeff. Mission accomplished. Then they let them fly a little further afield. The hawks fly so fast, you can barely track them with your eyes, much less the camera!


When the hawks return to you, they get a little treat of raw hamburger, and Heaven help you if you don’t have the treat ready for them every time they return!  Jim quickly mastered the art of flying the hawks, and looked like a real natural. So much so that he started talking about getting a pet hawk to take care of our squirrel problem!

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Finally, it was my turn, and words can’t describe how absolutely cool this was!  The hawks are such fierce little predators, and yet, when one is on your hand, you feel like a team.

We all took turns flying the hawks in the open, and then it was time for something a little more difficult: flying them in the surrounding forest!  Because the forest is so much more crowded, it is hard to follow them visually, and I think they had some problems, too!  One ran into Faye, and somehow, Jim ended up with two of them on his arm at once.

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Sadly, the hour went all too fast, and then we had to return to the school.  We got to go into hawk enclosure with Joe as he put Geimhreadh away.  Geimhreadh celebrated by immediately taking a bath in his water bowl.  All of the hawks are really beautiful, and it was nice to be able to photograph them more closely.  We also got to see the Peregrine Falcon, and the four new hawk chicks.  Even though our trip is far from over, I think this experience will likely rank as one of the best of this trip!

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Peregrine Falcon
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Baby Hawks

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For a day of “rest”, we have quite a few things on our agenda today.  After walking back to the main castle, we walked through the Ashford grounds, on our way to the nearby town of Cong.  In addition to all the sites used in the Quiet man movie (including a statue of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara replicating a scene from the movie), there are the ruins of a royal abbey,  with grave stones dating back to 1200, and at the edge of the river, the ruins of a “monk’s fishing house”.  This weekend, there is also a regional food fair in town, so we spent a few minutes checking in on that.


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The Monks’ Fishing House
Ruins of the Royal Abbey


Walking the streets of Cong


Statue of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara
Cong Food Festival
The judging of the cabbages
Fishing on the Cong Canal
A family of swans


Shortly, however, it was time to walk back to Ashford Castle to catch a boat ride out onto Lough Corrib, with a visit to Inchagoill Island, which for a time, was the home to exiled St. Patrick (when he was just a priest).  There is a fabulous old church called St. Patrick’s church (“Teampull Phadraig”) built about the 6th or 7th century, as well as the remains of a later church (The Temple of the Saints) on the island.  Between the two churches is an ancient graveyard, with a stone pillar called the Lugnaedon Stone, which says it marks the burial place of St. Patrick’s nephew.  There are also the remains of some simple stone houses where the last of the island’s residents’ lived.  Overall, the island is very peaceful, and it was nice just to walk among the ruins.

View of Ashford Castle from the Cong Canal
Shelly, Mark, Steve, Paula & Dermott sending us off on our “three hour tour”


Ashford Castle from Lough Corrib
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Landing at Inchagoill IslandEnter a caption

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Wild orchids?

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St. Patrick’s Temple

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Jim in front of the Temple of the Saints

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the Lugnaedon Stone
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Islanders’ homesteads

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On the way back, we were serenaded by Irish music, courtesy of the talented accordion player, Martin Noone, who was an extra in The Quiet Man.  People even got up and danced! Of course, it helped that there was a bar on board.

We finished up our incredible day with a great dinner at another restaurant on the Ashford Castle property, called Cullen’s at the Cottage. This was much more casual than our dinner last night, but the cottage is very cozy, and we all really enjoyed our dinner.

Tomorrow, it’s off to the further north, to the city of Donegal.

A Glorious Catch of the Cliffs of Moher

June 3, 2017:

Today had us journeying from Killarney, in County Kerry, up to County Mayo via the west coast in County Clare to take in the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, on our way to Ashford Castle.  We rose to a gray drizzly day, but hope the weather will clear by the time we reach the Cliffs.

Our first stop is in the small town of Adare, located in County Limerick, which bills itself as the prettiest village in Ireland.  I’m not sure it deserves this credit, but it does feature a few worthy sights to see, most notably, the classic Irish country-style cottages with thatched roofs.  It was still raining by the time we got here, but we braved the weather to snap a few pictures of the cottages and the Trinitarian Abbey which anchors the town.  the Abbey, which is now the town’s Catholic church, has a cool stone dove cote at the back. Right outside of town is Desmond Castle, ancestral home to the earls of Dunraven.


Trinitarian Church-Adare


Irish Cottages of Adare



Dove Cote
Desmond Castle


We continued our  drive through the countryside, passing more abbeys, castles and Norman manor houses than I could count (or remember). Sadly, I didn’t ask Dermott to help me label those flyby pictures!  I think these pictures were of Bunratty Castle (but I’m not 100% certain). UPDATE: Dermott weighed in and provided the missing names of these structures. Thanks, again, Dermott!

Cratloe Castle, County Limerick
Bun ratty Castle
Clare Abbey in Ennis, County Clare
Dunguaire castle in Kinvara, County Galway

We also passed by Dromoland, which was a great estate, now a hotel,once frequented by George Bush.

Our next brief stop was at the Monument to the Great Hunger, a memorial dedicated to the nearly 1 million Irish people who died from starvation in the Great Famine from 1845-1852.  Most Irish people feel that the famine deaths were greatly elevated due to English landlords throwing Irish tenant farmers off their lands when their crops failed in the potato blight, and during which time, the English government continued to import wheat and the other grains raised by the Irish to England.  From 1840 to 1922 when Ireland gained its independence from England, the population of Ireland was cut in half by both the Great Hunger and the mass emigration caused by the potato blight.  Today, the Irish population still has not achieved its numbers before the potato blight, and more people of Irish descent live in the U.S. than in Ireland.

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Famine Memorial

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Fortunately, as we drove on, the weather gods smiled on us again, and the day cleared. As we drove, we noticed the growing prevalence of stone walls in the fields, that seem to be laid out with no rhyme or reason.  Dermott tells us that the use of dry-set stone walls has been in use in this part of Ireland for over 6,000 years.  They sure make for charming scenery, with all the new lambs frolicking in their pastures.

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Then we came to the Cliffs of Moher, and it was ever bit as awe-inspiring as advertised.  Although it is a huge tourist attraction, the entire site is so large, it didn’t really feel crowded.  From the car park, you hike up to the headlands, from where you can see the rugged coastline fall away below you nearly 700 feet straight to the ocean.  We watched the sea birds reeling around the cliffs and then hiked up a bit further to O’Brien’s Tower, from where you have the best views of the coastline. The Cliffs stretch for about 5 miles along the coast and are made mostly of black shale, which made me really glad this morning’s rains had stopped so we didn’t have a slippery walk.  Hopefully, these photos show you why it’s worth the trek to see the Cliffs!

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Entrance to the Cliffs of Moher park

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O’Brien Tower


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After leaving the Cliffs of Moher, we drove through a unique area called the Burren, which is home to a very bio-diverse ecosystem, which largely lives in the fissured limestone surfaces and shallow pools called turloughs.  Sadly, we had no time to stop here, but this would be a top destination on a return visit.  Reputedly, not only is the flora and fauna really interesting, but there are also some amazing rock formations, including a great cave called Doolin Cave, and a stone dolmen (tomb) called Poulnabrone which dates back to 2500-2000 B.C.

On the way, we passed through the quixotic town of Lisdoonvarna, which is known as the Matchmakers’ Town.  In olden days in Ireland, towns which stood at the crossroads became centers for courting, and dances were held in the town squares of those crossroads to meet prospective mates.   Apparently, this was somewhat threatening to the Catholic Church (with its goal of controlling most aspects of Irish life), so they prevailed upon the government to pass a law banning these dances. Instead, the town of Lisdoonvarna sought to establish itself as a tourist destination by hosting a yearly “Matchmakers’ Festival”.  As you can see from the sign, this year the festival will last for a “full six weeks” during the month of September.  Obviously, someone else has paid a visit to Blarney Castle!

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Our next stop was in the seaport city of Galway, which looked lovely. There were even swans floating on the river Corrib, which leads to the sea from Lough Corrib.  Just months before his assassination, John F. Kennedy visited Galway, and was pronounced a Free Citizen of Galway by its residents who were much taken with our American President, despite the fact that the Kennedy family hailed from the town of Dunbrodie in County Wexford in southeastern Ireland.  We stopped long enough to visit Eyre Square , where there is a monument to President Kennedy.  Amazing, there is even a pub nearby which changed its name to “Kennedy’s” for his visit, and then never changed it back. I also walked around the corner for a quick visit to Shop Street in the heart of old Galway, and then it was off for our final destination: Ashford Castle.


Eyre Park


Kennedy Memorial
Kennedy’s Pub
Eyre Square
Shop Street


All is can say is Wow! Wow! Wow!  The Castle sits in the middle of a woodland park with its own golf course and forest, right next to the small town of Cong, which was the setting for the movie, The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.  You even approach the Castle by passing over a river and through a turreted stone gatehouse.

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The Ashford Castle Gatehouse

The Castle was originally built in 1228 as a Norman castle, and was owned for decades By the Guinness family. In 1939, it passed to the Irish state, but was again returned to private ownership in the 1950s and turned into a hotel. Today it is part of the Red Carnation hospitality company and is part of the Leading Hotels of the World group.  As Jim and I were shown to our room, we could see a bride out on the great lawn being photographed before her wedding. I take this as an auspicious sign of our visit!

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Tomorrow, we plan to hang out at this glorious resort and check out the town of Cong. I’m kind of looking forward to a day without any bus travel involved!


Kissing the Blarney Stone

June 1, 2017:

We awoke this morning to pretty hard rain as we boarded our coach and set out for Blarney Castle down in County Cork. For most of the day, our route was the same as we had taken yesterday.

Sadly, when we arrived in Blarney, it was still raining steadily. Nonetheless, we suited up in our rain gear and set out.  Blarney Castle was built in 1446 as a typical medieval tower house by Dermott McCarthy. Today, the interior of the Castle is mostly in ruins but for the outer walls and the winding stone staircase.

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The Blarney Stone is set into the arch of one of the outer battlement walls of the Castle. To kiss it, you first have to brave the long lines of tourists, then climb up a stone tower (about 130 steps), but that is so narrow, about half of those who had braved the line bailed out. Once you get to the top (which was open and blowing rain), you lie down on your back and a burly guy helps slide you backwards so you can bend down and kiss the Stone. For achieving this contortionist feat, you are supposedly granted the gift of magical eloquence.  If you don’t notice any increase in our eloquence, these pictures will at least prove we did the deed!

After a lunch in the tourist center of Blarney, we headed to our new home in Killarney, in the southwestern part of Ireland.  On our way home, we stopped briefly in Cahir.  There we viewed Cahir Castle, where you can still see a cannon ball imbedded in the wall of the castle. The castle was built in the 13th Century as a Norman fortress,  It then came under the control of the powerful Butler family, was expanded during the Renaissance period and stayed in their family until 1964.  The site of the Castle is lovely, sitting on an island in the middle of the River Suir.


Cannonball embedded in wall


We checked into our very comfortable hotel (the Killarney Park) in the town, and left immediately for dinner at a local restaurant in the High Street called Gaby’s.  The need for speed was dictated by the fact that Dermott had gotten tickets for us at tonight’s performance of Celtic Steps, so we had to finish dinner in time for the show. In my opinion, this might have been the best thing we did all day! The music was fabulous, and the dancers were extraordinary!Celtic Steps-2Celtic Steps-6Celtic Steps-8Celtic Steps-12Celtic Steps-15Celtic Steps-16Celtic Steps-21Celtic Steps-23Celtic Steps-27Celtic Steps-29

Stud Finding

May 30, 2017:

Today we left Dublin, headed south for our ultimate destination of Kilkenny.  Along the way, we enjoyed many stops along the way.  The first of those was at the National Stud Farm, where many of the premier racehorses in the world are bred.  These horses compete in both flat races and in steeple jumping.  Me; I was just there to see all the new colts!

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Our Studs
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The Japanese Gardens

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We continued to drive through the Irish countryside, admiring all the green. Every so often, we’d pass by a Norman tower house, built sometime in the medieval ages. In any other country, each of these would be its own tourist attraction. But here in Ireland, they’re just part of the scenery because they are so common.

Our driver guide, Dermott, next took us to Mount Juliet golf course so the guys could a round of golf. Jim has been practicing for a couple of months so he didn’t embarrass himself.  We all ate lunch at the golf club, and then left the boys to their torture.Kilkenny Golf and Lyrath Estate-1

For the rest of us,  we went sightseeing in the Kilkenny area, and stopped first at Jerpoint Abbey, which is the ruins of a Cistercian monastery founded in 1160.  The cloister in the middle has fallen into ruins, but you can still see the intricate carvings in the interior. Sadly. most of the front of the Abbey was undergoing renovations, which somewhat messed with the moody look of the church. Damn scaffolding anyway!

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We got into Kilkenny proper about 4:30, which gave us just enough time to dash into the Castle of Kilkenny, which was built in the 1190s. Kilkenny was a very important city from medieval times onward. The Butler family (of Anglo Norman descent) came to power in the late 14th century, and the Butlers lived in Kilkenny Castle from then until 1935. Kilkenny was the medieval capital of Ireland.  The castle is very large and well-maintained, and has a lovely location on the River Nore.

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We then checked in to our hotel, the Lyrath Estate Hotel.  The girls and I enjoyed some wine on the lovely patio, and then we enjoyed an Asian dinner at the restaurant in the hotel after Jim got home from golf, and we got ready for another day of exploring Ireland.

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 Iconic Ireland

May 29, 2017:

Yesterday we arrived late afternoon in Dublin, and reunited with our friends literally on Grafton Street here in theTemple Bar area of Dublin,  it was really too late to do any sightseeing.

Well, we survived Day One with our intrepid travel group in Dublin, the Terrific Ten!  True to form, it was a day of aggressive schedules!  We’re staying in the Brooks Hotel, which has a fabulous location, right off Drury Street.

Our first activity of the day was a tour of the Kilmainham Gaol.  The Gaol was completed in 1796, and was originally intended to house only 400 inmates, but ultimately came to house over 8,000 inmates. This happened largely as a result of the Potato Famine from 1844-50, because as the crops failed, tenant farmers were thrown off their farms, and winded up in the cities.  So many people came to the cities that the Parliament passed so-called “vagrancy” laws, and started throwing people in jail just because they were on the street.  However, the most infamous use of the Gaol came after the Easter Rising in April, 1916, when the Irish Republicans rose up and tried to throw off British rule.  In all, 14 leaders of the rebellion were housed in Kilmainham Gaol, sentenced to death and shot before a firing squad.  While many of those in southern Ireland initially were against the rebellion, the cruelty with which the executions were carried out ultimately turned the tide in favor of the independence movement, and Ireland was granted limited “Home Rule” in the Irish Anglo Treaty of 1921, which partitioned Ireland into the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland, which remains a British dependency. Sadly, although the war against the English ended with the treaty, Ireland itself devolved into a civil war between those who supported the treaty with limited independence from England, and those who still wanted complete autonomy.


Kilmainham Gaol
From left; Faye, Chuck, Jeff & Lauretta
Mark & Shelly

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Two people who probably should be in jail


Interior courtyard
The Gaol Chapel
Cell block


View into a cell
Stonebreakers’ Yard


The last prisoner was released from Kilmainham Gaol in 1924, and the Gaol was allowed to go to ruin as an emblem of English oppression. However, a group of private Dublin citizens pitched in to restore it in the 1960s, and its care was subsequently taken over by the Irish state as an important site of the history of Ireland.

After that uplifting visit, we walked a short distance to take the tour of the Guinness Brewery, established in 1759 by Arthur Guinness. We dutifully propelled ourselves through the self-guided tour, and hopefully, learned something about brewing beer. Then we stopped for lunch in one of the restaurants, and collected our complimentary pints of the good stuff!  One other cool thing about the Brewery tour is that the top floor of the main (former) storehouse building has been turned into a bar with a 360 degree view of Dublin.

Entering the Guinness tour
The 9,000 Year Lease Signed by Arthur Guinness for the Brewery Site


Sampling Our Guinness
View from the Vertigo Bar
Our Terrific Ten

Dublin, like many cities these days, has its own set of “Hop On, Hop Off” double decker busses with open viewing on top.  Not only does the Guinness Storehouse have its own stop on the circuit, but there’s even an express bus that goes there directly.  Jim and I have found that these bus tours are an excellent introduction to any city, particularly when you don’t have a lot of time in town (as we didn’t on this trip).  We availed ourselves of the red bus system, and were able to ride it directly to another main sight on our hit list: the Trinity College and its Book of Kells exhibit.  Trinity College was originally established as an Augustinian monastery in the 1200s. After the purge of the monasteries by Henry VIII, Trinity College was founded by Elizabeth I in 1592.  it was originally started as a Protestant university, and the first Catholics were not admitted for over 200 years (in 1793). Still, they fared better than women, who were not admitted until the early 20th century.

Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College Courtyard


We took the brief college tour, and admired the disparate architectural styles while learning about some famous Trinity graduates, including the playwrights, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, writers Jonathan Swift and Bram Stoker and politicians Edmund Burke, Conor Cruise O’Brien and and  John Redmond.  Without a doubt, though, the most outstanding feature of the college is its Book of Kells, an exquisite illustrated manuscript of the gospels of Matthew, Mark Luke, and John, which were written/illustrated by monks about the year 800 A.D. (possibly on a monastery on the island of Iona).  Words cannot describe how beautifully written and painted these pages are!  However, no pictures were allowed, so you’ll have to use your imaginations (or Google).

We finished up our visit to Trinity College with a tour of the Long Hall, home to \Trinity’s fabulous old library. If you’ve ever imagined a traditional European library, this would be it; complete with a single hall with coves of books reaching up to the ceiling , some thirty feet above.  It was magnificent!

The Long Hall
The Stacks

Then we jumped back on the double decker bus and toured as much of Dublin as we could until it stopped running at 6:00 p.m.

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Christ Church Cathedral


Wellington Memorial
Four Courts
Collins Barracks
Ha’Penny Bridge

We finished our day with a fabulous meal at an Italian restaurant in the Temple Bar area called Il Vincoletti!  Tomorrow, into the countryside of Ireland.


Pirates and Portobelo

April 9, 2017:

This morning, we woke up in the harbor of Portobelo, which means beautiful port in Spanish.  Immediately, it was like waking up on the set of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, which was set here during the sack of the city by the pirate, Henry Morgan.  You have the sense that nothing much has happened here in the last 400 plus years.


Jim and I had visited here about five years ago, with our friends, Mark & Kathy Costanti.  It immediately appeared that nothing had happened in that time except the advent of a new satellite provider, which was apparent only by the blue satellite dishes on some of the roofs in town, as opposed to them all being red when we last visited.


This is the only port in which we will use tenders on this trip.  In this case, we are supporting the local economy by taking the small outboard boats driven by local captains. These boats are called pangas.  Shawn, Sylvia, Jim and I are among the first passengers off the boat to take a panga for the short ride to town.

We arrive at a dock and walk a block to the Santiago Battery, which was largely destroyed in Captain Morgan’s attack.  There are several cannons still scattered about the site, but you don’t get the feeling that they would be very successful protecting the village. Nonetheless, we wandered about the ramparts and looked out on this beautiful bay. Check and done!Portobelo-14









Then we walked down to the main fortress of Portobelo, which is right next to the old customs building. If you squint your eyes a bit, you can imagine yourself on the Disney ride with the ladies of the town being chased by pirates in and out on the balconies!

Portobelo town
Customs House
Detail on the cannon on the ground floor of the customs building
The remains of the fortress grounds




View back towards the customs house from the fortress ramparts


Classic Rojo Diabolico bus