By noon, we’d gone from the metropolitan east coast of Ireland to the rural west. We stopped at Westport, for lunch at a place I imagine is your typical Irish-style diner. I ordered a chilli chicken sandwich (I was going for spice). I don’t really know why I keep doing this in Ireland when I should EMBRACE THE POTATO. Mr. T fared better with this shepherd’s pie thing.
We found a Fall Festival going in Westport.
After admiring their livestock, we moved right along to the coast. Mr. T’s (Irish) colleague strongly recommended we take the N59 from Westport to Clifden to Ballynahinch. Conveniently, this specific drive is also Rick Steves recommended so we had a handy Kindle guide to provide more context en coastal route. The whole shebang loops you through The Connemara, so you get a scenic drive past lakes and Kylemore Abbey and the bogs and a national park.
Our first stop out of town was the National Famine Memorial, situated near Croagh Patrick. This Croagh (mountain, not pictured) is the site where St. Patrick expelled those snakes which is very near where many Irish left for other lands to escape dire poverty. We took a photo break at the famine ship sculpture before continuing onto the boglands.
At Connemara National Park (pictured above), we got out for a brief hike to see what a bog is all about. It is this precious energy resource that looks like it could easily be taken for granted but is now protected from over-development.
I kept asking Mr. T, so is that bog? What about over there? What do you think?
We rolled on through the wilderness, past sheep and the coast and lakes and farmland.
Before nightfall, we arrived at our evening’s destination, Ballynahinch Castle, in time for an early meander around the grounds and dinner at a pub.
Pictures on the castle tomorrow.
I reached the point I always get to in our travels, where I paid a quality solo visit to a grocery near where we’re staying. The Fresh market I found is bigger than a EuroSpar, but smaller than your average American cousin. Inside, my favorite find today were the Haggis chips from Scotland. Options seemed global in scope, I presume for all of the transplanted tech workers living in the D4.
Tonight, we visited Dublin’s Crackbird out with an old friend — Sasha — and her partner. She’s lead me to all of my favorite Dublin restaurants. This one will be worked into my regular rotation for they specialize in my favorite addiction: fried chicken.
On this evening, they also happened (unexpectedly) to have a DJ…whose mixing made it practically impossible to carry on a dinner conversation but seemed popular with a hipster crowd. I took to calling the joint a Fried Chicken Disco.
Once we polished off our birds, we retired to a quite civilized watering hole, where our ancient ears could recover and we could catch up on life since our last dinner together.
Late this afternoon, I met up with a Seattle friend who just relocated to Dublin. We headed over to the Dublin Oktoberfest at St. George’s Dock. They channeled Munich well — the entire festival smelled like sausage and beer and sauerkraut and pretzels.
For the first time this week, the sun broke out from behind clouds as we walked home along the Liffey.
That little island in front of my favorite Dublin bridge (the Samuel Beckett) with the orange tent is an art installation for the 2011 Fringe Festival — No Man’s Land/No Man is an Island. An artist is supposedly living there during the entire Fringe Fest. Later, a cabbie told me the conspiracy was that he had a trap-door to a warm room below. Conspiracy!
When I signed up for “That About the Size of It” as part of Fringe Fest, I was expecting an entertaining but nerdy 40 minutes of science talk by Niamh Shaw. Actually, I don’t really know what I was anticipating based on this festival sheet, but what I watched was better.
Yes, she started about CERN, the search for the God Particle, atoms, neutrinos, but quickly moved into very autobiographical stories about trying to find her calling, about lives she didn’t pursue and where those paths live on now. We imagined the co-existence with her as she talked, while videos projected behind her of those possible alternate lives, running along at their present courses in a 10th dimension.
It was absorbing and gave me a whole new way of re-imagining my past and present, for the next time I go wandering down those paths of my own.
One of the things you should know about Dublin is that as a matter of course, it punches well above its weight class with its (frequently free) museums, special libraries, and cultural activities. We are especially lucky to be visiting during September for Dublin’s Festival Season. During our two week visit, there’s the GAA All Ireland Finals, Dublin Fringe Fest, Dublin Theatre Festival, Arthur’s Day, Culture Night 2011, Dublin Contemporary 2011, and even an Oktoberfest on the Liffey. That’s just in the city.
Today at lunch, I checked out “All Things Considered, It’s a Nice Place to Start”, a play for Dublin’s Fringe Festival. These playwrights wrote letters to 300 strangers, targeted amongst all the counties and social classes, thanking them for the good things they’d done. Then they wrote a play about the response of their attempt to combat a grim climate in a dark time, fighting cynicism with quirky Irish optimism. It was a good hour.
I also made a quick stop at the National Photographic Archive, to check out their “Irish Children through the Ages” exhibit. It’s a small space, and this year, I enjoyed the 10 minute stop more than last year.
For dinner, we discovered Dublin’s Smoked Haddock Fish and Chips, at Leo Burdock’s. We’ll be making a regular place for this in our Dublin restaurant rotation. Does anyone in Seattle make smoked haddock? They should.
We then visited The Longstone Pub, whose backroom reminded me very much of Return to Oz.
One of the city’s Fringe outdoor art installations was next door — the “I am afraid” wall.
I awoke this AM, fearful of a looming cold. My 2nd thought: find pho. Between that and Emergen-C, it is my anti-illness voodoo. The internet turned up zed Vietnamese options in the Dublin metro area, so a Chowhound post suggesting Wagamama‘s chilli chicken ramen was my best bet. I doctored it up with extra chilli. It worked well enough, for I was cured of the cloudy head and my fear.
I made a quick detour to Boots to stock up on Berocca Boost. Then, I walked all the way home to Grand Canal Quay, looking for changes of the last 18 months.
After dark, Mr. T & I walked over to South Great Georges St to hit up our favorite restaurant in Dublin: L’Gueuleton. Very French and remarkably good — we ate there twice on last year’s visit. The menu’s totally changed (I presume for Fall), but tonight, I had maybe the best french onion soup I’ve ever had.
I awoke as we descended into Ireland. My transcontinental sleep routine had been foiled by flight attendants who left the cabin lights on 2 hours longer than normal, so I wasn’t exactly bright eyed nor bushy-tailed at Customs.
We gave awake-ness a fair shot on this blustery (and very Seattle-gray day), starting off at our beloved Junior‘s for brunch, then continuing along the Liffey towards the new Dublin Wheel, near the ferries to England and Wales.
Funny story: while out walking, I spotted a Seattle friend on her Sunday run. She moved here two weeks ago, but I hadn’t yet emailed her I’d arrived. This kind of random thing happens to me, more often than you would expect. It’s a small world.
Later, after an unintentional 3-hour slumber, we checked out the new Ely at Grand Canal Quay. Skip it if you’re in the hood — it’s not worth going out of your way to visit.
We cut our dinner losses and returned to the hotel for the thrilling Season 2 Premiere of Downtown Abbey! Huzzah! I can’t remember the last time I watched something on the night of broadcast, on its originally intended channel.
On our way to say Hello to Dublin, 2011-style.
I’ll be away soon, and when I return I suspect my precious basil won’t have made it through the Fall rains. I’ve had the good fella since June, and it’s kept me in Caprese salads at least 3 times a week ever since.
We discussed Napoleon’s Privates which seemed a promising series of vignettes when we picked it, but turned out to be surprisingly lacking in the compelling department. Someone described it as perfect for a bathroom book. Yes!
After giving book content discussion a good honest try, we spent a long time chatting about life. I was long overdue in catching up with these kindred spirits of mine, so mission accomplished for this month’s book club.
I worked from Fruit, making Peach Melba. Yes, it was remarkably easy (technique-wise) just peeling and slicing up those peaches, if time consuming. Others found prep time similarly lengthy, but I have to say in the end that this was one of the better group meals I’ve encountered. So: glad we all sacrificed to make this so worth it.
After this month’s meeting, we were immortalized in this entry with Maggi on Tea’s site: How to Start A Cookbook Club. Recommended reading!
Maggi had us assign a smug factor to our dish as we each spoke about how we acquired ingredients or completed our assignments, which I rather enjoyed. My smugness came from using “white peaches” from a CSA box, but someone else actually grew her own zucchini blossoms before deep frying them with cheese. I think she wins. Oh, wait, someone else churned her own butter! Let’s overlook that I did not make my own vanilla ice cream, but rather went for Haagen-Dazs’ Five – Vanilla Bean.
Mr. T’s parents belong to the Swedish Cultural Center and tonight, we went with them for the
Crawfish Crayfish dinner the Center holds every year. (Note: the word crayfish sticks in my craw, almost irrationally and I believe unjustifiably as who is a transplant to tell these folks what to call it? I’m trying to get beyond myself. This irritation lingers despite my knowing that these are a different kind of crustacean and so they are completely justified in calling them whatever they like. Or at least that’s how I can handle it. Also, these come from a nearby lake, not a bayou!)
The Swedish prep them with dill and lemon. The claws were several times the size of their southern cousins, making them more akin to baby lobsters. Aunt Mary Joyce was with us, still visiting from the South, and when asked by a Swede which she preferred, she quietly said, “I think I prefer a little cayenne with mine.” Amen, sister. I believe it has a lot to do with what you were raised with. Trying new things is what it’s all about though (at least in my life), so I’m pleased I finally made it to this dinner.
Let it be known that their hospitality was top-notch at the SCC. The hostesses running the show were very chatty and welcoming. I learned more than just the Swedish drinking songs! Also, I’d like to visit their country sometime but that should be a given at this point in my story.
My favorite moment of the evening: the lady peeling off her Crawfish costume to demonstrate how you eat them, pictured above. Now, I never saw that at any backyard crawfish boil in Louisiana.
LUPEC was without an official gathering this month, but a few rebels met at The Gastrognome’s new basement bar. Courtney tended bar (expertly) for most of us.
Tonight was a Sous Vide Dinner at Seattle Bon Vivants, with Sharone Hakman.
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