Sunday, December 11, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
I knew Steve Jobs. Well, kind of. We have never met, but I know he had heard my name.
A long time ago in a land far away – ok the early 90's in San Francisco and I worked for a big law firm. One of our partners left the firm to go work for Mr. Jobs as in house council at Next. You remember Next, right? Yeah, didn't think so.
Anyway he was gone for about a year when he came back to the corporate fold for whatever reasons. He did bring with him a big black box that he wanted us to make work on our brand new windows network – yeah, didn't happen.
Anytime he (the lawyer) had a computer question, he would ask me and I would answer. A little time would go by and the next time I saw him (the lawyer) he would say something like – hey I ran your answer past Steve and he says....
Sometimes he agreed with me, sometimes he did not.
I finally got to the point where I said to him (the attorney) you know what, why don't you just call up Mr. Jobs first and ask you questions and leave me out of it since you don't seem to believe anything I tell you.
And that is my one degree of separation from the man, the myth the legend.
Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs.
I am constantly amazed at the strength of some people, they seem to be able to take whatever is thrown their way and just deal with it.
I have written of cancer stricken friends before, women I have loved who been handed news that I truly think would cause me to fall down on my knees and weep with dispare, in fact in one case I did fall to my knees and it was not even about me.
I just got home from visiting a friend who got news about a month ago that she was ill, very ill. I wanted to stop by and visit, I had not seen her or her girlfriend in quite some time and I feel in a time of illness if the people in your life don't rally around you, it might just be a sad testament of your life and this is a life far from sad.
Linda is a character, really. She has lived a life that is full of surprises, I will never forget the time she told me about traveling in Nepal in probably the 60's dressed as a man. The stories were great and I loved the courage that must have taken.
I am not sure what I expected to see tonight, but was so happily surprised. I beat her home from work? She is working as much as she can and I thought geez, I want to stay home from work when my hair does not turn out right. But in she came from a job where she is spending the entire day outside – it fucking rained today – getting San Francisco ready for Fleet Week!
On the counter in the kitchen are two big pill containers, you know the kind with a slot for every day. Well these are bigger and badder – am and pm for everyday and then a whole other one with a slot for every day of the month – shit I forget to take my vitamins unless my beloved leaves them out for me – I can't imagine that regime of pill popping.
It all makes me wonder where do these people – Jolie, Martha, Mark, Linda and so many others – find the strength it must take to make it through another day. I am in awe of them, I hope I can be as strong as they are if it is ever required of me.
Linda and Susie Q, live long and prosper because I do, I do, I do believe.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
So, this is what made me stop. Yes, those are marble sink tops. I am picturing portraits in those ovals, but I did wonder about the little holes. Will they be filled in?? Are they going to get little gems put in them?
Well, here is a portrait.
This is what they are doing with the little holes.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Monday, August 1, 2011
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Scotland/Ireland last day – April 23, 2011
So this morning we packed up the car – again – and headed for Stranerer to catch the ferry back to Ireland, where I took my second fall of the trip. Stepped out of the car and tripped and went down on my left knee. Had some really spectacular marks on my knee and the bruise is really starting to look good.
The ferry ride was a little be rougher this time and took a little less time. One thing I noticed was the babies. There were so many babies and little kids, it was fun. There was one little girl that was just barely walking who walked up to me and seemed to carry on a complete conversation with me.
We watched the Scotland coastline slip past, well some of us did, others spent the trip with their eyes closed and hoping to not throw up.
We arrived in Ireland and set course for our Holiday Inn Express near the airport, I wanted to be close the airport at a place that had lots of hot water and would be easy, so I took what I knew.
We checked in and the young woman behind the counter had just moved back to Ireland from San Francisco and was planning to go back to San Francisco in August. The queen behind the counter can't wait to visit her and figure out to stay in the USA. He did ask if I would marry him and I replied if the rock was big enough. My beloved did not think that was the correct answer, I think she was right. Sorry honey.
We had a terrible dinner that night and went to bed early so we could pack up the van one more time and head out.
We arrived at the airport where we complained to the car hire about the tire and were told that they get the story of bad tire a lot, it is a scam. Well, I don't think it was and we will be fighting with Hertz from home.
Our flight from Belfast to Newark was long but uneventful. Customs was no problem and then it was off for a four hour lay-over before our flight.
It was here that we parted ways from Chip and MOC, their gate was at the other end of the terminal from ours. We hugged and went our separate ways.
The trip to SFO was long. How come the last leg of any trip is the longest?
We were met by our driver and taken home.
Now I am sitting on the couch writing the last of these blog entries.
It was a great trip and now off to plan the next one.
Another early start to another long day, my beloved, CMMS, Chip, MOC and I decided that we would drive to Edinbourgh and spend the night there rather than try to drive all the way to the ferry on Saturday morning. So we were up at the crack of dawn to pack, shower and try and get our luggage into the car. It is kind of funny how our suitcases seem to have expanded during our time here. Things like t-shirts and books and other trinkets seem to keep jumping into them and taking up space.
Annski and Suzetteski are staying on one more day here in lovey Aigas cottages. So we let the owners know we were leaving early and Jessie came down to read the meters. Here in Scotland, they cottage was inexpensive, but we had to pay for our electricity usage and for our towels. Now I have been told that not all cottages in Scotland operate like this, so I think next time (yes, I think there will be a next time) I'll look for an all inclusive one.
So we got the car all packed up – who needs to look out the rear view mirrow anyway, and off we went.
We made it to Edinbourgh by early after noon and checked into our hotel. If you are ever in Scotland, take advantage of the Scotland Tourist offices in every city and most towns. You can find them by the i signs on the roads and within the cities and towns. We were able to book a hotel the day before in Aberdeen. We checked into the Apex Hotel on the Grass Market right in the city center.
Now, we wanted to see the Edinbourgh Castle, the Royal Mile and Holyrood Castle. S&A had been the day before and purchased passes as my beloved and me, they would have gotten us into Holyrood for free, if it had not been the Queen's birthday and her Scottish house was closed to the public.
But anyway, we check into our hotel and ask for directions to the castle. The girl at the desk says to go out the door and cross the street, go right and go up Victoria Street and turn left, go thru a round about to the left and up the Royal Mile to the castle.
OK, we step out the door and this guy that works in the hotel, comes up and says wait, excuse me but she just moved here and only knows how to get the castle one way, what you want to do is, go across the street to those steps and go up them and the castle is at the top.
Oh, ok we say. So we will see it at the top of the stairs? He looks at us like we are really stupid, cause he lifts his hand up a little (he had been pointing at the stairs) and there is the fecking castle! It is huge and I feel really stupid, because how could we have not seen it. I guess I need to look up more?
So up we go to the top of the stairs to tour one of the most stunning castles I have ever been in. It is so well preserved and is just steeped in so much history. We were able to see the Honor's of Scotland, the crown, the scepture and the sword. Long history, spirited away to save them from Cromwell, buried for years under a church, locked up for a century and finally on display in a weird room where you get to it in a Disneylandish line complete with manequins and fake hair.
I could picture people here, living their lives. Walking up the cobblestones, looking out over the land and performing the endless tasks that it took to keep them alive. The fog rolled in while we were at the castle and someplace someone was playing the bagpipes the sound floating around us on the fog. It added a dream like factor to the whole tour. Along with the fog came the cold, very cold wind. We decided it might be a good time to shop.
We then got lost in a bottemless pit of a store that had about four or five stories - all of them underground except the first. They had all kinds of stuff for sale, kilts, sweaters, jewelery, etc. There was only one way in or out. You followed the path in and then had to retrace your steps back thru the entire place to get out. We were stuck for what seemed like hours, but it was still daylight when we made our way out for a trip down the royal mile.
The Royal Mile... at one time a very important street. At one end was Edinbourgh Castle – the seat of Scotland and at the other Holyrood Palace, the home of the monarch. I am sure that living on this street at that time was a coup, now it is really just the Fisherman's Wharf of Edinbourgh. Shops full of cheap sweatshirts and woolens, perhaps from Scottish sheep, but I doubt if they were made in Scotland, which is sad.
As I have expressed in this blog, driving in the UK is an experience. Parallel parking is another interesting experience. There was a spot right in front of our hotel and I did not think I could get in it. CMMS stood in it for awhile before I told her my doubts. Then my beloved came out and helped me get into the space, it was tight but I got in. Try it sometime the wrong side of the road and backwards. Did not like it at all.
Endinbourgh was a place that I wished we had more time in, next time, next time, next time.
Day six started with a long drive to Aberdeen where we met Vera and Sheila, two sisters that share the same great, great grandmother as my beloved. They grew up and went to school here and took us for a tour around the city and they were able to show my beloved where the poor house had been where the said great grandmother died and took her to the cemetary where she was buried. It was quite an exciting day and Vera had put together a beautiful book of family history and a piece of the clan tartan.
Vera and Sheila were wonderful tour guides and we hope to keep in touch.
We walked thru Old Aberdeen where there has been a university for hundreds of years. Imagine that. We had lunch at the university and it is still a thriving hot bed of students and teaching.
Then we did the long drive back and stopped in Inverness for dinner and then back to the cottage.
It seems like we did not do much this day, but Aberdeen was a long way, how come nothing looks that far when you are looking on the map?
Today we headed back to Culloden, the battlefield this time. It was a cold and windy day and just a few days after the annivesary of the April 16, 1746 anniversary of the battle.
First you walk thru an interactive museum, which shows the Jacobite story on one side and George II's point of view on the other. They had diary entries from witnesses on both sides. Maps that showed troop movement, guns and other weapons. At the end was an eight minute movie in the round that showed what was in reality a slaughter.
The battlefield today is about half the size it was back then, but you do get the feeling of what went on. They have red flags for the where the government troops stood and blue for where the highlanders stood looking at each other, waiting for the people in charge to say go. I cannot even imagine what must have been going thru their heads.
The kings troops facing what was then the most feared army around.
The highlanders pumped up, but tired. They had been on a forced march the night before to try and surprise the enemy, perhaps the biggest mistake of Charles Stewarts campaign.
Both sides hoping to get this over with quick and they were both right.
In less than an hour over 1000 Scots were dead and during the next few hours the Kings troops made sure that all the wounded were bayonetted so they also died. In all about 1500 men died that day on the moor.
Someone told me a couple of days later that the most errie thing was the lack of birds. No sound from them at all out there.
I found the most disturbing thing to be the thought that all those men were buried under our feet. They did not make it back to the families or to their lands that were so important to them. They are forever buried under that cold and damp moor.
May they rest in peace.
It could be very easy for me to be flip at this point, because for the most part I am very shallow, but here on this battlefield I felt only sadness at what happened that day and at the fact that the worst was yet to come for Scotland.
Next we went to Cardu distillary where they make whiskey!!! Where I finally learned the difference between single malt scotch whiskey, blended whiskey and just whiskey. Not that I tasted any, but it sure does smell good. We took the tour and saw how they make this nector of the gods. I was seduced by the large copper stills, they were so beautiful. Copper is one of my favorite metals. After the tour there was a taste testing where most decided they did not really like whiskey. I thought, it is a good thing I don't drink, because I really liked the smell of it all and I think I could develop a very unhealthy taste for it. I am happy to say that my orders for single malt whiskey were filled.
Then we picked up pizza and Domino's, yes they are everywhere, and headed back to our little cottage.
Today we were a small group, just CMMS, Chip, my beloved and myself. Annski & Suzetteski went off on their own adventure and MOC staying behind at the cottage to relax and make new friends.
We headed down into Beauly to walk around and see the shops. The had a great hardware store, I guess we would call it in the states. They call it an ironmonger. It was a great place full of everthing from hand blown glass perfum bottles (not local or one would be in my luggage right now) to potatoe seeds for planting. Chip and the ever kissing ass CMMS picked up a set of small teaspoons for MOC because she had been admiring them everywhere we went, so now she has her own.
Then we went into the local haberdashier, where they sold beautiful wool cloth for kilts, wraps and hats. They also had sweaters, gloves and scarfs. Unfortunately, I discovered that I actually have a limit on what I am willing to pay for something and 150 pounds (do the math) was a bit more than even I was willing to cough up for a wrap. What is wrong with me???
We took a tour of Beauly Priory. Spooky. We wondered around and while it was beautiful in the way of ruins, it was not very spiritual but we liked it anyway.
We had lunch at a little deli right on the main street in Beauly, we had ordered and were sitting having a lovely lunch and I was facing the street. The place had big windows and I could see everyone walking by. So, I was people watching and this woman stops right in front of me on the outside of the window because her skirt fell down, I mean really fell down. Slipped right off her body to the ground. I froze with my soup spoon halfway up to my mouth as she calmly put down her bags and pulled up her skirt. She pulled her jacket up and tucked the skirt under her belt, it did not seem to be zipped in anyway so I wondered if she did not spend her entire life picking her skirt up off the ground. She came into the deli and she was still pulling and picking at herself, she was one hot mess. She was quite attractive, but just a little off. Her cloths were not the most stylish, but they were good quality and she had big sun glasses on and her hair really needed a hairbrush. She dropped her bags into a basket full of chips and ordered something, she pulled out her cell and called someone and told them “to get down here and join her now” and sat at a table with her glass of wine. I noticed in her bag she had a bottle or two more of wine, so wine at mid day did not seem so out of character.
Then we went off in search of the Black Isle Brewery, which is down a little (what else) road where my travelling companions found a couple of beers that they liked enough to purchase. There was Heather Honey Beer which is recommended to drink with your porridge at breakfast. This has not happened so far, but there is still time. Although the Feckkin makes a daily appearance.
Then off to find the only winery in the area, Highlands Wineries at Moniack Castle, which turned out to be the current home the Fraser clan and has been since 1580. It was the final home of Lord Lovet, the grandfather of Jamie (if you have to ask...). The Fox was one of the last Highlanders to lose his head after the 1745 because he had changed sides a little too often and probably the crown realized they really could not trust him.
Then over to Wardlaw Mausoleum which is the final resting place of many of the Clan Fraser.
We came back to the cottage for a little rest and relaxation before heading out to dinner at Culloden House, yes THE Culloden House where Charles Stewart stayed for a few days before the Battle of Culloden which wiped out the highland life. The guy at Culloden House sounded a little bitter when talking about life after Culloden, it became illegal to wear the tartan or play the bagpipes or show any highland pride, your family could be raped or killed if you violated the laws. It has been a long time for such a young man to sound so bitter, after nearly 250 years (April 16, 1746) there still seems to be so much anomosity regarding this. The current Colloden House is not the house Charles Stewart stayed in, it has been rebuilt, but still exciting.
Dinner was fantastic. We were brought into a sitting room after being gracefully welcomed, we sat in the sitting room and a drink order was taken and we were given menus to order our dinner. We were brought into the dining room when our first course was ready to be served. It was one of those places where you sat down and already had three glasses, a bread plate and two forks and two knives at your plate. Then the little waitress comes by to give you your utensils for your first course, your second and third courses. I ended up with three forks, four knives and a spoon.
This moment was one of those times that I thanked my lucky stars that my sister in law had been to a class that told you the B & D secret and that she shared it with me. Always remember make a “b” with your left hand and a “d” with your right. Your bread plate is on the left and your drink glasses are on the right. You can thank me later.
We spent about two to three hours having a wonderful dinner with service that was sublime. A good time was had by all and I believe my beloved had a nice birthday celebration.
Scotland – Day 3 – April 18 2011
Today dawned another lovely day in Scotland, blue skies and crisp clean air. I started my day about 6:30 am with a walk thru some of the woods that surround our little holiday cottages. I walked across the golf course and thru a gate into a forest path that lead me up and and up and up, finally to a dirt road which I followed for a while. I could not see much because of the trees, but the ground was covered in these black slugs, from little tiny ones to the largest one I saw which had to be about 4 inches long. They gave me the creeps. On my way back down I meet up with Annski and we walked back together.
We left for Fort George in search of dolphins. The guest book in the cottage had entries that mentioned seeing them in the Morey Firth there. So off we went. Fort George is a working army base that was built out in the wilds of Scotland in the 1700, it was about as remote as you could get, still is pretty remote. It has been an army base, a prison, a hosptial and now again the base for famous Black Guard. The museum showed the evolution of the Queens Highland Brigade and Camaron's. Lots of kilts and it was finally nice to see what an actual dirk looks like.
Then we went to Elgin Cathedral, which is a ruin that was orginally built in the 13th centrury. That is the 1200's, for peets sake. In 1390 the cathedral was burned down by Alexander Stewart, otherwise known as the Wolf Of Badenoch, in a dispute about his being excommunicated, this does not sound like a way to get back into the good graces of the church to me, not sure if it worked or not. Since the cathedral was not a parish church after the reformation it was not treated very kindly. It was abandoned by its bishops and left to be cannabalised for its lead roof and bells. In 1637 the remaining roof blew off the choir and then in 1640 the parish minister broke up the rood screen for firewood. The central tower collapsed in 1711 and it was nearly the end for Elgin. In the 1820's pressure mounted to save the cathedral or what was left of it.
What is left is not much. A couple of towers and parts of other walls and the graveyard. You can see were the columns were and I as amazed at how big this place must have been. Surely someone must have been sad when it was left to rot.
Then we drove to Duffus Castle. The original building was started in the 900's!!! The original was also made of wood which weighs a lot less than stone, too bad that the builder of the next building there did not keep that in mind. The original was built on a earthern man made hill and when they put the stone on it after a few years it started to move. This was an upscale castle it had not one but two latrines, one of which is now on the bottom of the hill at an odd angle. I'm assuming these people moved on to somewhere else after their bathrooms ended up on the floor below them.
Then we went to Burgerhead (the smallest streets in the fucking universe) and Hopeland in search of dolphins, only to be told that they had left and were on their way to …. Fort George.
Oh well, sometimes Mother Nature just has a mind of her own. So we headed for a distillery,which was closed by the time we got there. Well, there are many more.
We headed for home and I don't know about you, but I have not seen a whole lot of pheasants in my life. Well, this ride down a country road filled my lifetime quota of pheasant watching. They were everywhere, the colorful male birds and the plain females. There was also a little sign that said “please drive slowly – baby pheasants about - I did not see any of them, but the adults were everywhere. In trees, on the road, in the fields. Picture the most pheasants you can and then multiply it by 10 and you have a picture of Pheasantville.
Then back to our little cottage for dinner and a few games of BannanaGrams where Chip kicked our asses.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Scotland – April 17th – Day 2
Today started early, again. My eyes popped open at 6 ish and I stayed cozy under the sheets until about 6:30 when I got up. I was able to spend some time reading before the day started, of course with so many of us we did not get out on the road until noon, but somedays you just gotta roll with it.
Found out from Annski that there are all kinds of walks to take around the grounds here and I'll be doing that tomorrow morning.
Anyway, we went in search of Nessie the elusive monster of Loch Ness. We took a cruise down the Loch to Castle Urquhart which is a ruin, since the Grants burned it down in 1650, actually they filled the gatehouse with explosives and blew the thing up. Crazy what some people will do to keep others away from their toys.
It was an amazing place. You could imagine in being whole and how beautiful it must have been. I could also imagine how difficult life must have been then. And you just know I would have been a servant of something, not the lady of the keep as I like to think.
The day was crisp and clear and the water of the Loch was dark and looked very very cold. You really can imagine there is something there and you can't help but look for it with every wave.
After that trip it was back into Inverness for a look around and dinner. We ended up at a place called Mustard Seed on Fraser Street. It was discovered by my beleoved in a guide book and it was a fantastic meal, I highly recommend it if you are ever in Inverness.
Tomorrow Dolphins and whiskey. Stayed tuned.
This very long day started really early we were all up and about by 4:30 am, yes, even my beloved. We wanted to be out of the cottage in Ireland by 5:45 and in Belfast to catch a 7:30 am ferry to Scotland. We made it with plenty of time and drove the car onto a huge ferry, I mean really huge. It took not only people and cars, but big trucks and tour buses.
The upper decks of the ferry had many lounges for passengers. Tables and chairs, bars, internet access. That is where I was able to post all my Ireland blog entries. It was an almost 3 hour trip across the Irish Sea arriving in Stranraer in southern Scotland. From there we (and by that I mean me) drove north the the highlands of Scotland. I have to say the countryside is even more beautiful than Ireland. The rock walls? Not so much.
We drove thru the mountains where there was still snow on some of the peaks. I was amazed at the number of hikers, hiking is a really big thing here and Chip and I have decided to come back at some time to do a hiking tour. On our way thru these mountains we saw our first kilted man. He was standing on the side of the road playing the backpipes in full regalia. Standing next to him was a young boy also kilted up playing the bodrun. I believe they were selling cd's of their music but was really travelling too fast to stop.
Driving is becoming easier. When we were in Ireland a woman told me that the roads in Scotland were far narrower than the ones in Ireland. She is correct, the difference being that most of the roads do not have curbs! Hence nothing to bounce off of if you get too close to the left side. Well, except maybe for a rock wall, since the rocks on the hills come right down to the road. I am feeling more comfortable driving except when I have to share the road with a big fecking piece of farm equipment coming down the other side of the road at me. Don't tell anyone in the car with me, but I did close me eyes once when I met a big tractor on the road. SSShhhhhh....
We made it Beauly, actually a few miles outside of Beauly to the Aigas Holiday Cottages. It is really lovely here, the stone buildings we are staying in are beautiful, of course they are colder than a witches tit, but they are pretty.
We met up with Annski and Suzettski here and spent our first hour getting groceries and complaining about the towels. We drove into Inverness for dinner and I will admit to making a couple of wrong turns on the way home, but hey it was verrrry dark.
The word wee does not come out of a lot of folks mouths here in Scotland, or course we are not really sure of what is coming out of their mouths sometimes.
It was off to bed in a cold bedroom but we had a comforter that weighs about 10 pounds to pull up over us and all in all it was very cozy.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Ireland – Day 7 – April 15th
Today is our last full day in Ireland. I guess I could say it is our last day, since we get on a ferry at 7:30 tomorrow morning to go over to Scotland. I am sitting in the kitchen of our little cottage looking out over the green fields, there is low fog and when I first looked out it was a little spooky. Now with the fog lifting it is just another day, the ghosts are gone for now.
Today we are heading into Belfast, where one of the places we will be seeing is the Titanic museum, I am sure there will be ghosts lurking there. I'll let you know.
So we dropped my beloved off at the records office and she was not able to get any information since it did not have much Catholic information. She was directed to another place where she was able to get a birth certificate for her grandmother. The trail might end here due to the fact that they only started keeping records in 1865 and lots of births were not recorded before that.
The rest of us went to the Titanic museum. The Titanic was actually the second in a group of three ships built by the White Star Company. The Olympic, Titanic and Britanic, otherwise known as the Beloved, the Bedamned and the Forgotten.
The Titanic was the largest, she was built about a mile from the pump house and dry dock where she was painted and her propellors installed. The dry dock was huge over 850 feet long and 140 wide, it was a marvel. They would flood the dry dock and float the ship into it and then empty the water out while the ship balanced on its keel and other little things (well not little) to help hold it upright.
It was interesting to learn that the ship was basically just a shell when she was put into the water at first, they loaded her up with engines, smokestacks (one of which was a dummy), furniture, etc once she was in the water.
The men (only men) worked on her for three years and when she was due to be put into the water, they had to take a half a day off without pay to watch it happen. They made about a pound a week, the more skilled workers made a little more and the captain made not even 30 pounds a week.
There were eleven men killed in the making of the Titanic, which is surprising because the working conditions were terrible. They worked from 5:30 in the morning until 5:30 at night all for less than a cup of tea costs today. They also got 7 minutes a day for bathroom breaks, I would be in so much trouble. Belfast became the worlds biggest and best shipyard in the world, that has changed. They now produce wind turbines that are sold around the world.
The ship workers in Belfast have this to say about the sinking of the Titanic.
“The ship was in fine shape when she left here. That's what happens when you give her to an English captain and Scottish navigator.”
Next we headed into Belfast for lunch at Garricks Pub, which was brilliant!
Then my beloved went off the the place where they keep the Catholic records where she found the above birth certificate.
The rest of us took a look at Belfast's City Hall. It reminded me of San Francisco City Hall a little bit. They had an exhibition about the bombing of Belfast during WWII. It took everyone by surprise I guess, everyone thought Belfast was just to far away to worry about being bombed. They were very wrong, over 700 people died in one night and half the city was destroyed.
Then over to St. Anne's Cathedral, which was unfortunately had just closed. Oh well.
Then over to Crown Bar. It was full of cool stained glass and wood, but was so crowed we ended up across the street for a pint before heading back to our little cottage.
Now we are sitting around the kitchen trying to eat up what we can since we hit the road in the early am to catch a ferry to Scotland.
Ireland – Day 6 – April 15th
We started our day down in the little town where our cottages are, Crawsfordsburn. It is a picture from a post card. Large white buildings with thatched roofs and very short doorways. They have very interesting doors here in Ireland, they have a full wooden door and then in front of it a half door that I have been told is to keep the children inside but still let air and light in. I think it is to keep sheep out.
We visited the only traditional crafts store we have been in so far and we all went a little crazy. I got a local hand woven coat, my beloved got a couple of sweaters and we got a bunch of other stuff for some people and the rest of them did not do too badly either.
We had lunch in the Crawsfordsburn Inn. It was a lovely place with lots of dark paneling and glass. It was a combination of old and new. Some of it worked, like the ladies room with the tempered glass stalls and super duper hand dryer. Some of it did not, like the weird 60's light fixture in the dining room we were in. The food was very good and there was a lot of it, which caused us to wonder if Ireland would be far behind the US in the obesity crisis.
Then we went off to meet some new friends, we are meeting them everywhere it seems. There was Harry, Patches, Figaro and Rosie. You might be thinking right about now that those are strange names for people we met in a pub, you would be correct. We met them at an equestian center where Chip and MOC went to ride. The place gave riding lessons and boarded horses and they boarded a lot of horses from what I could see. I was talking to a young girl that was taking care of her horse. The horse was eight years old and in its previous life she had been a race horse. Now she was being retrained to be a riding horse. The young girl had been riding since she was about eight, she was a tiny little thing and the horse was not. I think she told me it was 16.2 hands and it seemed so powerful. I watched another little girl get nipped by her horse and another bring organic oats for hers. I thought of my friend Bead Chick and her family and thought they would love to live here.
Chip and MOC took a ride thru the fields being led by two young girls and it was a dream come true for MOC and we were glad we could be part of it.
Then we went to explore downtown Bangor which has a lovely harbor and lots of pubs. We visited two of them the Rabbit Hole and Jenny Watts. The Rabbit Hole was an interesting place, there was a little girl dancing in the middle of the pub while her auntie snapped photos of her. I ran into a young girl that had hurt her leg running down the street. From what I don't know, but since she was from somewhere else I thought well, that is going to throw a damper on your holiday, not to mention the people with you that right now are ok with walking very slowly with you, but might not be in a couple of days. It had great sayings painted on all the surfaces, I enjoyed it very much.
Then we were off the Jenny Watts, poor Jenny caught up in the Orange uprising and went to hide in a cave near the ocean and was drowned by the incoming tide. The bar keep was fun, the only place she had ever been in the states was the birthplace of moi! Oh the people that travel to discover me.
We had dessert at this pub and I had something called Pavlova, which I think sounds like a virus, but was like a baked Alaska with strawberries. My beloved had something called Banafee, which is a bananna toffee pie like thing. Chip and MOC had apple crumble wih ice cream.
All in all a good day.
Ireland Day 5 – April 13th
Today a tour of the Mourne Coast. We were looking forward to seeing the Mourne Mountains, unfortunately the fog did not cooperate. It was a cold and rainy day (for most of it anyway) but onward we went.
Our first stop was Dundrum where the ruins of a Norman castle overlook the ocean. It was a place where I could imagine the lookouts watching the coast for raiders and invaders. Now it is a place of ghosts and history.
Then up into the mountains where we were amazed at the beauty of the rock wall. One might not think of a rock wall as beautiful, but these up the mountains were stunning. These rock walls are reminisent of the unmortered rock walls of New England that I am used to, except the rocks are different. The colors and shapes are beautiful and if it makes any sense, it was the space between the rocks that I found most amazing. The walls look delicate, but are far from it. MOC had a desire to be photographed in front of one of these spectacular art pieces and we obligied. Maybe I'll get a picture in at some point.
So we drove down a lot of little tiny roads, where thankfully I did not meet much traffic while driving thru the Silent Valley. We maintained our silence during this part of the trip in solidarity of the Valley. Yeah, that last all of about 10 minutes.
When I came to a stop sign and decided to go left I was asked by my beloved why was I going left? I took one had off the steering wheel, pointed in the distance and said “castle”. And off we went to Green Castle. This was also a lovely ruin, unfortunately we could not get very close to it since the gate was locked and we are trying to be polite American's.
I must say that everyone we have met so far has been wonderful, except for those people that don't pull to the right when we are passing on the road, but then again, we have not really met them,I have just been playing chicken with them.
We drove threw Newcastle now a resort town. I remember my mother having a saying of some sort about Newcastle. “Like bringing coal to Newcastle?” I'll have to remember to ask her.
Anyway, after a long day of driving we ended up back in Killyleagh at the Duffern Arms for another pint or maybe an entire bottle of Feckin whiskey where we ran into some of our new friends then back to Bangor for some different tasting Indian food and to learn that the heat had not been on in the cottage the entire time we had been there. It sure is much more comfortable in the mornings with the heat on. Go figure.
Ireland – April 12th – Day four
Day four dawned a little overcast and chilly, we decided to stay a little closer to home today and headed off to Grey Abbey to see Mount Stewart House. We drove into Grey Abbey not expecting an Abbey. But there it was, a ruin of an old abbey on the side of the road with a graveyard full of headstones at odd angles. As I walked thru it I kept saying “sorry” as I stepped on people.
There is something about ruins of spiritual places, I sometimes think I can feel the presence of the people that worshipped there. I do wonder what happened to them and the places. Do they just become too old to maintain? Did they fall out of favor and were just left to rot? As far as ruins go, this place was beautiful.
It did have a creep factor to it as well, due to the crows in the trees that made lots of noise.
There was also a litle church up on the hill above it that was lovely. Locked so we could not go inside, but lovely none the less. Across the road was a field full of what else? Sheep.
OK, we had been wondering why all the sheep had paint on the them. So being a person who strives to get answers to the unknown I asked our hostess Ann. It seems that they paint the rams chest with a certain color and them let them out into the fields with the girl sheep. Once the ram has done its deed the girl sheep he does it with gets marked on their backs from the paint on his front. The farmers then know what ram did what sheep and that lambs will probably result from the union.
Any way back on the road. It was lunch time and since we were already in a town we went to lunch there. First we went to a little tea shop, where in addition to there not being much on the menu that a vegetarian would eat the woman running the place had very dirty fingernails that freaked my beloved out, so we left to find another place. We went into a little coffee/tea/lunch place across the street and had a lovely lunch after CMMS was told that the first two things she selected we no longer available. There was as top at a phramacy where my beloved found a cute little pharmacist.
Then back on the road to our original destination, Mount Stewart House. The original house was built in the 1700's and parts of that house still exists. You can see it in the floors, the wood floors in the oldest part of the house were amazing. Along with the plaster work of the ceilings and the chair rails around some of the rooms. The family has a long history and one of their most lovely was Marie (pronounced Mary). She was the only child of her parents that was raised in the house so her parent's left this house to her. In addition to the house were gardens, beautiful gardens. Daffodils are a big thing here in Ireland, you see them everywhere and Mount Stewart House gardens were no exception. Rhodadendrons and camillias and azalias were everywhere and you could tell that someone put a lot of their own heart and soul into this garden. We did not get up to the lake (yes, they had their own lake) but I am sure it was lovely. Now even though the house is now part of the national trust, Lady Marie's daughter Lady Hope still has private apartments in the house and was in residence while we were there. She did stick her head out of a door and went right back in when she saw us in the hall way. She lives full time in Venice, how sad for her.
We went up and down a beautiful staircase that was designed by an architect in London that never came to the house. He designed the staircase and had it built by local craftsmen, who followed his design to the letter. Unfortunately when they were finished, it was off center from the door at the bottom of the stairs. Just a little reminder to always measure twice and cut once or maybe take the time to come the wilds of Ireland when you are working on a project here. You think????
Chip, CMMS and I were the only ones in our tour and our little tour guide was wonderful and we were very happy we took the time to come to Mount Stewart House.
Then back to our little home away from home for a nice pasta dinner and a wam bed.