If you are just starting to read our about adventures in Ireland, this is best read from the first post (5/10) to the last (5/16). Or you can read it in reverse. It’s up to you.
Click on any of the pictures to see the entire gallery.
On our last day in Ireland, we took it pretty easy. Bruce, Alan’s brother, took us out to lunch with his family and we were treated to a tour of his garden.
He is a student of horticulture and takes his gardening seriously. I constantly wished that I could share the highlights of the trip with Margie, but never more than when we were looking at this beautiful Irish garden. While I appreciated the beauty, she would have loved to hear about the technical details that went into it’s making.
You can’t capture it with a single picture. Click on the one and see the many if you are interested.
The next day was a travel day. It was raining and the trams didn’t run early enough so we ended up taking a cab to the airport.
Returning to Dublin
We had a great Irish breakfast at Kenny’s then were off to drive around county Mayo.
We stopped and did the Foxford Mill Tour and bought a few things. I picked up a scarf and set of knives for Margie.
That afternoon we had lunch in Newport and then slogged back to Dublin.
On the Way to Castlebar
The morning after our sailing adventure, we were loath to get up and still more loath to leave the wonderful hospitality of Dave and El. We had a wonderful breakfast followed in too short a time to digest, another wonderful lunch. In between, we packed our gear and El found a little work for us to do in her garden.
Eventually, we were off to Castlebar for our next event. On the way we saw Killery Harbor with mussell farms and some fancy fly fishing lodges along the way. It’s really beautiful country.
On the Way to Castlebar
When we arrived, we had a pint at Magno’s to check out that night’s show and get a recommendation for a place to stay. Throughout the trip, Alan, the true Irishman drank Guinness, Cal, drank Bulmers (cider) and I drank Smithwicks, the best of the Irish ales. These three drinks are almost ubiquitous in Irish pubs although I found that in Dublin, some of the pubs have dumped Smithwicks for Carlsburg. This is somewhat sacrilegious to me but some of the city Irish prefer the lighter pilsner to the sturdy ale.
We checked in at Kenny’s guesthouse that afternoon and then had some great pizza and wine. There was a large party of young Irish women with their mothers at the table next to us and we enjoyed watching them.
That night we saw Freddie White, a really fine Irish songwriter and singer, perform in a very small venue. The show was opened by young woman who sang and played guitar. She was quite good despite a few mistakes. I remember in particular her black patterned stockings with a run in them.
Freddie White came on and did a great show. We sat just a few feet from him and were able to see him play guitar. Like Eric Clapton, he makes the almost impossible look easy. It was a great contrast to watch him perform after the young woman before him. She was good, but he was on a higher plane.
After the show, I got an autographed CD and chatted with him a bit. He has a daughter in Korea teaching English and a son in Boston. I am now one of his fans.
Nick's Boat Under Sail
We spent this day on Nick’s great sailboat. Nick bought the boat a few years ago from a Danish man who built the boat himself and then passed away so that Nick could buy it for a song. The outside is nice and the inside is stunning. The woodwork and attention to detail is really amazing.
Nick was a little nervous about taking us out and at first we thought that the adventure might be canceled. The boat needs at least two experienced sailors and Cal and I certainly didn’t qualify. It turned out that Alan had sufficient experience and he convinced Nick that he could operate the wheel while Nick handled the sails.
Arriving from Dave's Boat
Our first step was launching Dave’s (Alan’s Dad) boat. It had been out of the water for the season so we trailered it down to the launch and with a little effort got it into the water. Then it was an inflatable dingy to Dave’s boat which shuttled us to Nick’s sailboat at anchor a half mile away.
We started with tea and cookies in the cabin which I found very civilized and appropriate. Dave then decamped for home and we were off. The seas where fairly calm, but the wind was steady and strong coming from the land. We ran before the wind out of Clifden Bay at a pretty good clip. When we reached the open sea, we turned toward a lighthouse that until recently was manned and then back toward Clifden Bay.
The return into the bay was great fun for the sailors and pretty cold for us landlubbers. We were sailing upwind and had to tack a bazillion times with the wind in our face. It was a far cry from running with the wind behind us in terms of comfort. Nick is a purest and we sailed until we anchored, never turning on the motor except to set the anchor.
Some Jameson to Warm Our Bones
We sailed for six hours and traveled around 18 miles. By the time we arrived we were all pretty cold and ready for the bottle of Jameson we opened when Dave returned to pick us up. This day was a highlight of the trip and something that I’ll always remember.
That night Cal and I took Nick, Suzanne, Dave, Eleanor, and Alan to dinner at Mitchell’s Restaurant in Clifden. They have great seafood there. After dinner, we moved the party to a local pub and listened to some music there and had a few pints to polish off a very nice evening.
Alan's Parent's House in the Distance
Today we drove to Alan’s parent’s place outside Clifden Bay in the West of Ireland. On the way I bought my first Irish hat. I asked Alan’s mother what they called this quintessential Irish headgear and she informed me it was called a ‘cap’. Somehow, I was disappointed that it didn’t have a more exotic, perhaps hard to pronounce, Irish name.
Dave and Eleanor, Alan’s parents, have a beautiful little home with large bay windows that faces the rugged coast. These windows entitle the views to some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen.
Sunset from the Johnson's Home
On our first night, the fixed us the first of a number of feasts. Each meal was complete with Irish Brown Bread.
Nick and Suzanne joined us for dinner. Nick is a neighbor of the Johnson’s and Suzanne is a friend. Both were great company.
This is a recipe for Irish brown bread dictated to us by El Johnson. I love brown bread, and El’s was really exceptional. I’m not sure her secret is below, but with a little practice you might get really close.
(M)easure= 3/4 pint
1m pinhead oatmeal
1m rolled oats
3m coarse brown flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 heaping teaspoons baking soda
Optional: pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts
1 quart buttermilk (room temp)
Pre-heat oven to 400f. 2 small bread pans (1 lb. Pans) oiled lightly. Mix dry ingredients with hand in mixing bowl or pan. Add buttermilk to desired texture mixing with large spoon. Spoon into pans. Bake at 400f for 45 min. then check for texture and remove when outside done.
Bewley's Oriental Cafe
We started the day with an early lunch at Bewley’s, a cool cafe on Grafton Street. It was originally owned by ancestor’s of Alan’s (his Grandmother used to work there). The new owners have done a great job with the place and we heartily endorse the food.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon on a bus tour of Dublin that culminated with a tour of Kilmanhiam Jail. A number of movies have been filmed in the jail including “In the Name of the Father”. It’s rich in history for it’s role in the imprisonments of the potato famine and finally for the part it played in the execution of the leaders of the Easter Rising which ultimately lead to Irish independence.
Inside Kilmanhiam Jail
That evening was the main event for the trip, the Eric Clapton concert. I’ve always been an Eric Clapton fan and on the way over I read his autobiography. He spent a little too much time apologizing for himself in the book (he had a lot to apologize for), but it was interesting none-the-less.
The concert itself was awesome. The seats were good and Eric put on a really quality show. It’s one thing to hear him play guitar and quite another to see it live. The beauty for me is to see how easy he makes it look. He is a master of his craft.
View from Gavin's Place
Dinner on the 10th was spent at Alan’s brother Gavin’s place. While Cal and I sat in the local pub, Alan, Gavin and his wife Naomi fixed a chicken feast for us. It was wonderful. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to reciprocate.
The New with the Old
It’s been eight years since I visited Ireland and a lot has changed in that time. They’ve had a dramatic economic boom that is only recently faltered. Dublin is now reputed to be the most expensive city in Europe. There are cranes everywhere. A pint of Smithwicks is now US$5.00 (or more) instead of $2.50. Pretty much everything has doubled in price.
This trip was originally organized by my Brother-Cousin Cal Closson and our good Irish Brother-Friend Alan Johnson. Alan got a passel of tickets for the Eric Clapton concert in Dublin for his family and for Cal and had one to spare. How could I resist? I tagged along.
Cal and I arrived in Dublin in the morning of May 10th and began our adventure. We traveled by bus to Donnybrook where Alan picked us up and drove us to his parents apartment. Alan is Irish, but he lives with his lovely wife in Lyon where he is working on becoming Dr. Johnson, PhD. His parents keep an apartment in Dublin and have a house on the coast in the west of Ireland.
After dropping our stuff in the apartment, we took a stroll in Dublin Harbor. It was a glorious day, something that is not taken lightly in Ireland.
Dalky Castle Churchyard
In the afternoon, we went to see Dalkey Castle (the Goat Castle). They have a great tour where the guides dress and act in character, alternately entertaining and harassing the tourists.