Saturday, May 31, 2008

Northern Ireland, The Antrim Coast

On our second day in Ireland we took a full day Railtours trip to Northern Ireland to Belfast, where we then boarded a tour bus that took us, along with other tourists, along the Glens of Antrim, the wild Atlantic coast and The Giant's Causeway.

Railtours is a wonderful way to see Ireland, as it is fully escorted by charming older guides who were raconteur's as entertaining as the beautiful landscape we passed along the way, by both comfortable train and coach bus. Railtours has many different tour packages available for half, one day, and multiple days tours, and I think they are the best bargain for travel in Ireland if you do not wish to travel by car. I highly recommend them!


The train from Connolly Station in Dublin to the city of Belfast, was about two hours and 20 minutes long, and we passed many interesting seaside towns and counties.
Belfast is Ireland's second largest city after Dublin, and is the capital of Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom.


We didn't see much of Belfast, as we headed immediately for the coast where we stopped at the town of Carrickfergus, County Antrim's oldest town, where we saw Carrickfergus Castle, one of the best preserved medieval structures in the whole of Ireland.



This magnificent structure, built in the 12th century by John de Courcy, commanded access to Belfast Lough, and the land approaches into the walled town that developed beneath its shadow.



The tour guide told us to look up at the ceiling in the entrance. If an invader had made it past the moat, and then the fortified castle door, they would have hot oil poured down upon them from a hole in the ceiling in the entrance. You can see the bucket ready to do that horrible deed in the photo below.

We then drove through the towns of Glenariff, Cushendall, and Cushendun and saw the mountain Glens of Antrim. The scenery was spectacular even though it was a rather misty morning.



Tomorrow I will take you on our adventure crossing the "Carrick-a-Rede" rope bridge! I can't believe I actually did it both ways, and in a strong wind no less! The sun shone brightly when we were there, and the photos of that beautiful area are not to be missed.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Some Delicious Irish Meals

Dublin is a very cosmopolitan city, and most Irish that we met were well traveled and enjoyed the cuisines of different cultures as much as Americans do. On almost every corner there was a Thai restaurant, and yes, even Burger King and Little Cesar's Pizza and "All You Can Eat" Chinese buffet restaurants. Espresso and cappuccino are new favorite drinks, and wine is as popular as beer.

My cappuccino came to me one day with a face drawn in chocolate syrup at an Italian restaurant in Dublin!


But, since we were tourists in Ireland, we desired trying traditional Irish foods more than anything else. Honestly, I don't think I've ever taken photos of my meals in the past, but because of this blog I thought it would be fun to record some of the traditional dishes that we enjoyed.

The traditional Irish breakfast is very hearty and suitable for a long day of hard work .... or tourist travels. It usually consists of a fired egg or two, three kinds of sausages, baked beans, a grilled tomato, potatoes and a thick ham bacon called "rashers," toast, and juice, coffee or tea.

I also enjoyed having just porridge some mornings. It is a creamy version of oatmeal and our hotel served it with lavender honey, which made it taste divine!

An Irish breakfast and porridge:

After such a big breakfast we usually skipped lunch, but we had a wonderful cream of vegetable soup in a pub one afternoon. Soup is always served with bread, and the traditional brown bread is thick and flavourful and the rolls were large and soft.

Sometimes we'd just have tea and a scone for lunch, or teatime. I love scones of all flavors and I indulged in quite a few! I figured I could do some extra miles on the treadmill when I got back home to burn them off. I omitted using the clotted cream which is sometimes served with them, but couldn't resist using the strawberry preserves as a garnish.

Look at the size of the scones we had in Brewley's Cafe on Grafton Street!

Having lunch or dinner in a local pub is very popular in Ireland. Most have a hot selection and a carvery of roasted meats with which they will make as a sandwich or serve with vegetables. Many families, workers, tourists come in and the atmosphere is very casual and cozy.

Some good pub meals:

Shepard Pie -- a mixture of ground meat and onions, carrots and celery in a gravy sauce and smothered with mashed potatoes.

Fish and Chips -- fried fish fillet, french fries and minted peas. This dish also came along with a small salad. The traditional dressing for the chips is vinegar, but ketchup was readily available everywhere we went, too.

Beef or lamb stews are delicious, and rich and hearty.

Ireland has rich pastureland, and lamb, beef and pork dishes are plentiful on the menus. Here is a mixed grill dinner that had a little of each:

I'm sure you've noticed all the Guinness accompanying our meals. How could we resist when we are in the city where Guinness is brewed? It was the perfect accent beverage to drink along with the meat and potato meals. We even had a dish that incorporated the stout into the sauce a very delicious Guinness steak pie, that was served roasted garlic potatoes on the side.

I found some online videos from the United Kingdom on how to make Beef in Guinness, Irish Stew and Dumplings, Shepherd's Pie, Scones, Fish and Chips.

I hope you enjoyed this culinary peek of our favorite meals in Ireland!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back from Ireland! Some Dublin Doors




Hello everyone! I am back from our combination vacation and husband's three day business audit in Dublin, Ireland!

We had a wonderful time and great weather. Most days were between 55 to 68 degrees, with some misty mornings that burned off to sunny afternoons.

The scenery and lore of Ireland is so beautiful, and the people are friendly and delightful. It really is a wonderful place to visit, and I'm so happy we were able to go back again so soon after our last vacation.


The only present "drawback" right now is that the American dollar is very weak in exchange with the European Union Euro currency, as it takes approximately 1.58 U.S. dollars to equal one Euro, which makes everything, all goods and services, more expensive as they are a half more in cost! Prices in Ireland and especially Dublin, are not low to begin with as they are comparable with prices for hotels and restaurants in New York City, so that fact made us a little mindful of budgeting as much as we were able to this time.


Dublin is a fascinating city full of history, art and culture. It is very walkable and there is the wonderful "hop on and hop off buses" that I described last time I visited, which makes sight seeing very easy.

We stayed in a few different hotels in the city center, so we were able to walk to our destinations most of the time, and I enjoyed snapping photos of all the colorful Georgian doors that are prolific in that area. The 18 century was called Dublin's "Age of Elegance," a time of prosperity where elegant town homes were built by Irish gentry. Luckily, many of these buildings still survive, especially around Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square.


They have become quite popular as tourist attractions, and there are posters and post cards available everywhere in Dublin that depict the most colorful ones.

I thought it would be fun to show you some of my favorites! I think they would make pretty note cards, so feel free to print my photos if you'd like to make some.












I tried to find as many different colors as I could!



One very ornately painted door:






This door, which is located on Fitzwilliam Square, is a favorite for the tour buses to stop in front of to allow the tourists to take photos of it. We were told it is one of the few double doors and was made this way as the King of England once visited and there was a rule at the time that he would not enter through a single door.








There were also many pretty window boxes full of flowers attached to many of the Georgian homes. I thought this one was particularly pretty:



We took rail/bus day tours from Dublin to Northern Ireland and South Eastern Ireland, and west to Newgrange. I'll show some of my photos from all our excursions in the next few blogs, and more from Dublin too!

Now to catch up on as many blogs as I can .... glad to be home! I missed you all!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Going On Vacation to see "Forty Shades of Green"!

I have been walking on sunshine this week not only in anticipation about becoming a grandmother for the first time by the end of this year, but also because I am going back to Ireland, with my husband, for a combination business and pleasure trip tomorrow!

We will be in Dublin most of the time and making some side trips to the Giant's Causeway, Glens of Antrim and the wild Atlantic coast of Northern Ireland, Counties Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny, and also to County Meath and the Valley of the Kings to see Newgrange, a tomb about 500 years older than the great pyramids!


A Dublin door

We visited Ireland two years ago and toured mainly on the west coast, and only spent two days on the east coast in Dublin, so we'll be visiting many new places this trip.


The Port of Cobh where many Irish emigrated by ship to America in the middle 1800's

I have labeled archived blog posts listed in my right sidebar under "Ireland" if you are interested in reading about our prior trip. It is such a beautiful country, and we had so many wonderful memories that I wanted to share around St. Patrick's Day of this year.


The Blarney Castle, County Cork


Gap of Dunloe, Killarney, County Kerry

I will not have Internet access while I am away, so I'll have quite a bit of catching up to do when
I return.

I will be very close to my 100 blog post, so I'm going to be looking for some Irish treats to bring back with me as a blog "giveaway" when I reach that milestone!

Until then ..... SLAINTE! (Gaelic for "cheers!")


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Surprise!

Yesterday, I introduced my son and daughter-in-law who live in beautiful Denver, Colorado.

Master Degree graduation ceremony at The University of Colorado, Boulder, May 2007


They gave my husband and I a very happy surprise recently, just in time for Mother's Day!



Above is a sonogram photo of our first grand baby-to-be! Just the size of a kidney bean when this picture was taken, but already loved and cherished more than words can say!


My daughter-in-law's due date is very early December, so we have quite a wait ahead of us, but we're so excited we can't wait any longer to share our happy news!

Please keep my daughter-in-law in your prayers that she has a happy, healthy pregnancy, and that my son, "soon to be an aunt" daughter, husband and I, will be able to be patient as we await the arrival of our bundle of joy!

You can be sure that my husband will be a:


And that he and my son will have grand baby-to-be, whether a boy or girl, become a Yankee baseball fanatic like they are!


And, this I know for sure:

That saying is on a pretty apron I received as a gift from my son and daughter-in-law!

I am so excited!


A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.
~ Carl Sandburg