Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dublin - Ireland

The Place: Toured Dublin on the hop-on hop-off bus, starting at the large spike, which replaces an old statue of Nelson (Battle of Trafalgar) - removed after Ireland gained independence from England because he had no real links with Ireland. We passed the statue of local Irish political hero Daniel O'Connel, which happens to be Liz' great great grandfather. A bullet hole from 1916 can be seen in the breast of one of the surrounding statues, see 3rd from top. We passed  some impressive old buildings including Trinity College and St Patricks Cathedral, a park which celebrated Oscar Wilde with a statue, and a statue of Molly Malone, a peasant woman well known in Irish folk songs for selling her 'Cockles and Muscles' from a wheelbarrow. A good end to the tour was arriving at the Guiness factory which takes you up 7 floors explaining the unique brewing method and family history, and finishes with a free Guiness on the top floor with a panoramic view of Dublin from above. An interesting fact is that the harp, which is the Irish political symbol, is used as the Guiness logo, except it faces the opposite direction so as not to infringe on trademarks (see 3rd & 4th pic).
We were lucky to be in Dublin on a day when the 'Tall Ships' had arrived in Dublins harbour. There were numerous stalls and small festivities along the row of these olden day sailing ships, which were all competitors in a race from A Caruna (Spain) to Dublin.
Following the recommendation of our cab driver from the airport,  we ate lunch at a great spot called the Brazenhead. In the evening we wondered around the area of Temple Bar and, avoiding the really busy bars, stopped in at an old pub where we were lucky enough to get some real traditional Irish music played by Bill and Shaky (Padraig O'Neill) on guitar and fiddle. Their album 'Cobblestones and Brittle Bones' became the theme music on our River Shannon boat trip beginning the following day. 

The River Shannon - Ireland

The Place: Together with Tim, Karen, Jamie, and Andy, Liz and I spent the best part of 4 days on houseboat on the Lough Derg (River Shannon) in Ireland. We boarded at Portumna and cruised at a leisurely pace stopping at little towns along the way.
Some features: The lake becomes quite broad in the middle and then in parts tapers off into narrow streams. On the lake we passed a lot of great scenery of green hills, cattle and sheep, old castles and historic churches built on little islands.
Tim and I, along with Liz who accompanied us in the row boat, found two great spots for a swim, where the river narrowed into long tributories. The first swim twisted for about a mile and the second was about 800m but half being upstream with a bit of a current, and then a swim back to the boat which took about half the time as going out.
Jamie did a bit of fishing and finally on day three managed to catch a small perch.
While heading to the last night's stop we needed to pass through a lock which was an interesting experience, having not done it before. Stopping in the lock at the lower end, the gate closed behind us and the water was then let in from the the front gate, allowing us to rise to the height of the river ahead and continue onwards once the front gate reopened.

County Tipperary - Ireland

The Place: Along the River Shannon, we stopped at various towns including GaryKennedy, Terry Glass, and Banagher all of which fall within or on the outskirts of Co. Tipperary, Ireland.
Some features: GaryKennedy had a great restaurant called Larkins, pictured at the top, where they screened the Irish sport hurling. We all sat down to hearty Irish meals and could barely move afterwards due to the size of the portions.
In the marina where Jamie skillfully mastered getting the boat into its tight mooring there are still ruins of an old castle that used to stand watch over the Lough Derg.
In Banagher, where we stopped for our third and last night on the river, the main street leading from the dock seemed to be mainly run by the Flynn's, with a gastro pub, supermarket and house all bearing the name as well as a flyer advertising a music performance by Kate Flynn coming soon! We enjoyed the evening in a pub which played live Irish music, with piano and accordian. Particularly interesting was an old painted portrait on the wall of a young lady at her piano with black bun in hair. Lo and behold the pictured lady was the actual piano player that eve, still wearing a black bun in her hair, only aged by about 50 years.
It was sad to see that in the town, many of the shops and even the Royal Shannon, built in an old bow-fronted Georgian style from 18th century (pictured at the bottom) are no longer in business due to the recession in Ireland.