July 15th, We are alive and well. This is what we have been doing the last week.
Wednesday, July 8. The weather continues poor with heavy clouds and some rain every day but tends to improve in late afternoon. We’ve been caught in some rain storms but have been able to take cover, get our rain gear on and proceed. There are a couple of places we should have left notes thanking them for the cover in various sheds and garages. The countryside is beautiful and very green.
Stayed overnight in a beautiful B & B built in 1902, furnished in period furniture in the town of Dundalk.
The next morning we took the train into the center of Dublin, and found the Airbnb guys we will stay with for the next 4 days. Upon our arrival, our hosts made coffee for us. One is from Croatia and the other from Italy.
Dublin is the largest city in Ireland with a population of 1.2 million. The old city is quite compact. The apartment we are staying in is within a 10 min. walk to about everything.
We put our bikes and gear away, then walked across the street to the oldest continuously used church in Ireland. Only one wall is left of the original church and it is incorporated onto the church that has been built around it.
We took an historic walking tour of the old city with a PhD historian from Trinity College. He spoke in great detail about the evolution of Ireland from a Viking, then Norman, then British satellite then Republic. After the tour we briefly visited one of Dublin’s many enclosed markets.
Thursday, July 9 Out of the house early to avoid the lines at Kilmainham Goal(jail), the site of the execution of the leaders of the 1916 Easter uprising against the British government.
The purpose of this insurrection was not to win independence (the leaders knew that they would be defeated by Britain’s overwhelming numbers of troops and arsenal), but to sacrifice themselves in hopes of gaining support for their cause. That’s exactly what their execution did. The jail is historic in another respect as it exemplified the different theories in penology from its early days at the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century. At best it is a gruesome place with a lot of history. After the jail we took an abbreviated self guided tour of O’Connell Street with its statues of famous Irish citizens. Lunch at a bagel shop and then more walking around some of the many shopping/pub areas of Dublin. Our hosts made dinner of pesto lasagna for us, washed down with wine and carrot cake!!!! We were their first Airbnb guests and they wanted to get to know us better. It was a great evening.
Friday, July 10 We again got moving early and took the guided tour of the Dublin Castle which is actually a Palace since it was not meant to be a fortification.
The state rooms are ornate as was typical of all palaces of that era. After lunch, Maggie did some window shopping. Ed visited the National Archiological Museum which has a permanent exhibit that includes some bodies or more accurately parts of bodies that date from the middle ages which were uncovered in excellent condition (for dead people) in various peat bogs and construction sites around Ireland.
The museum collection included artifacts dating back 300,000 years ago. The building housing the museum isabout 100 years old and is itself something worth seeing.
Ed also visited the National Gallery which houses a number of paintings of very famous artists, Rembrandt, Picasso, Monet, Pissaro, etc. After dinner we did the Pub Crawl, an evening of Irish music and song with education on Irish musical instruments and music. The two musicians were very good teachers as well as musician.
The tour moved from pub to pub with about an hour in each Pub. Very enjoyable.
Saturday, May 11 We took a half hour tour of Trinity College led by a soon to be graduated student which ended at the Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells….four gospels of the Christian Bible beautifully illustrated by the monks who made them over a period of 80 years 1200 years ago.
The library also houses many other illustrated holy books. Only a couple of pages of the original book are on display and they are rotated so as not to be damaged by exposure. All of the illustrated manuscripts are unique, and painstakingly drawn by extremely talented and patient monks who had a lot of time on and talent in their hands.
We walked around a bit and visited walking streets with many, many high end stores and a damsel made famous in song:
before taking a bike ride to Phoenix Park, the largest park in Europe. It’s twice the size of Central Park in NY.
We stopped for a few minutes and watch a polo match, where the ponies were beautiful and we understood the game, then watched a cricket match which is painfully slow, and we did not understand at all.
After a quick dinner we went to the Cobblestone Pub which is a locals watering hole and recommended by the guide books as well as the musicians who led the Pub Crawl. There were 2 women playing the fiddle who were joined by flautist about half way into the night.
The pub was fairly noisy and although the musicians were very talented, the music got a bit repetative after an hour.
Sunday, July 12
We said good bye to our hosts. The time with them was more like a Warmshower’s stay for us as well as them,. A great stay which all four of us really enjoyed.
We rode to the train station to buy tickets and catch the 11:35 train west out of the city to Tullamore. The train only has dedicated space for 2 or 3 bikes and the spaces were already sold so we had to wait for the 1:35 train. To while away the time we went back to Phoenix Park and rode around some more. We visited the giant cross that was erected to commemorate Pope John Pauls’s visit to Ireland in 1978 where he attracted a crowd of 1.2 million people.
We toured the small Visitor Center and then headed back to the train station to do battle once again with the elevators that are just a bit smaller than the bikes.
Monday, July 13 Tullamore
Very overcast and rainy. Despite the weather we had a very full day.
Rode about 16 miles to Lough Boora parklands which is an old peat bog no longer productive that has been made into a park with 30 plus miles of cycling and walking paths. Unfortunately there was virtually no information about the bog and the peat it produced. Instead this park is a wildlife habitat and outdoor sculpture garden. It has retained some of the elements of the bog including some of the tracks and trains that were loaded with peat and taken to trucks or trains for distribution. The bogs started about 7,000 years ago in the last ice age and then grew from there. When it is harvested, it is dried and then burned for the heat it produces.
After riding back to Tullamore we took a tour of the Tullamore D.E.W. distillery, the oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland . Tullamore D.E.W. is the largest selling Irish whiskey in the world with the U.S. leading in consumption. One coffee shop in California sells more Irish Coffee using their whiskey than all of the European countries combined. Our guide was terrific and sounded / looked the part of an Irish whiskey drinker. He gave us better explanations of the process than we got in the distillery in Scotland. There were also a couple of brief videos which were helpful. Although the three samples we tasted were smooth, we will not become whiskey drinkers.
From there we took a tour of the Charleville Castle on the outskirts of Tullamore. It was built in the very early 1800’s, but was abandoned for 40 years when the last owner died without any relatives or a will. About 20 years ago efforts were begun to rehabilitate the castle. Very little has been done. It is sparsely furnished with a hoge-poge of non-period furniture. It is not heated and is, in all rooms that are open to the public,
in horrible condition. The sole exception is the ceilings which are neo gothic almost bordering on the baroque. Our tour guide was a 20 something from Lithuania who lives in the castle in exchange for giving tours and helping to work on the restoration….yes, Ireland with heat!!
Tuesday, July 14
Raining when we got up but stopped before we hit the road. Our first stop was a small interpretive center in the town of Clara explaining the evolution of peat bogs. Peat has been harvested for hundreds of years. It is still the major source of heat for the Irish midlands. The government owns the 2 power plants that use peat to make electricity.. Peat is environmentally unfriendly as it is more polluting then coal and less efficient. Although it is technically renewable, it only grows 1 mm. per year in a good year. The people in the midlands are not in favor of curtailing the burning of pea as they have been using it for centuries to heat their homes.. It was an enlightening and a bit depressing explanation. We stopped for lunch and cappuccino at a tea house in Ballymore which is a very small and charming artist village. Most of the buildings have story boards near the street describing the history and architecture.
The ride to Athlone, pronounced Atlone, was mostly on small back roads. Athlone is a lovely, small town on the Shannon river. We got there in time to take the self guided tour of the castle. It has a history representative of the struggles between the various and ever changing factions in various parts of Ireland and Scotland. Some of the battles for land had armies of 20,000 battling armies of 30,000. The stakes were high, for if you lost, you lost everything and were likely killed or became a slave. The 1600’s were very combative in the cause of religion or one’s alliance to a particular monarch. Both the soldiers and their generals may have been mercenaries who were rewarded if their side won and killed if it didn’t.
Wed. July 15
Now in Galway which is at the Wild Atlantic Sea on the very western shore of Ireland. The day is beautiful and sunny. We found our 4 room apt. where we’ll stay for the next couple of days and met our host. What a great place. She has it stocked with basic breakfast and cooking supplies including eggs, jam, coffee, milk, cookies, etc. After making a few plans we headed into town by bike to check out the music and festival scene. A 2 week arts and music festival is going on right now with loads of people in the walking streets. We viewed the cathedral, built after the Second World War and already refurbished in the last 15 years,
rode the river path,
got Ed’s hair cut, and settled into a Pub for some live music.
Part way into the third song 2 young girls came up front to dance in the Irish fashion. Very cute.
Dinner and laundry at home before Skyping with Max in New Jersey who turned 4 today.
Thurs. July 16
We took off heading east with plans for a ride in the countryside. Along the way we stopped at a terrific bike shop named Nigel’s which was recommended by a store in Dublin. The weather turned cold, dark, and windy. One of the gals in the bike shop made us cappuccinos and we sat down for a while to watch the Tour de France on their TV. Go T.J. Van Garderin!!! Colorado cycling rocks! After the coffee we got back on our steeds and went down the road. Within a short while it began to rain hard. We donned our waterproof rain gear and went back to the apartment for lunch. The afternoon was spent in our living room watching the tour and listening to the rain.