Friday, July 6, 2012

In Ireland - you're welcome

hello friends!
so … we arrived in Dublin after the usual long and uncomfortable flights, and transiting in the giant shopping malls crossed with bureaucratic nightmares that are airports, but managed to catch up on a few good movies so it wasn't all bad (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a hoot). But please Lord, may I never have to transit at Heathrow again.

Now we are just about to leave Ireland after some magical days driving around the west coast. Crab claws and langoustines in Dingle - heaven! the first week of a holiday always lasts the longest, and it seems we have been in Ireland for aeons, among friendly and chatty locals, who always assure us "You're welcome".

Lobby of Buswells Hotel, Dublin
Dublin was work (the conference) and play (pubs and music). Our hotel was a touch of luxury in a great location halfway between Trinity College and St Stephen's Green, and we explored galleries museum old bookshops pubs parks and restaurants. Favourite restaurant? Carluccio's on Dawson St. Favourite bar? Whelan's, where we saw the 'Ukeristic Congress' (it seems the ukelele contagion is here as well). Favourite art? small but impressive European collection in the National Gallery, Marcel Duchamp at the Museum of Modern Art. (For anyone interested in the conference … you can read more here).
Breakfast at Carluccios
Chris drinking Sicilian sangiovese
What church is that?
Whelan's Bar
Roundstone village
Then a few days of driving, walking and (of course) photographing and eating on the wonderful west coast - Connemara, the Burren and Dingle peninsula, with a brief dip into the Ring of Kerry. What is wonderful at this time of year is the endless light - the sun doesn't set until almost 10pm, which makes for some late dinners, and the weird feeling of sometimes going to bed when it's still light. The landscapes are of course amazing, endless stone walls and rocky outcrops, ruined cottages and castles among the green green grass that is dotted with sheep. A surprising amount of new development, much of which is built to match older architecture, so you only see close up how the charming village you are approaching is actually a vast new suburban housing estate. Some rather scarily touristy towns, yet others are still charming and authentic with minimal tourism. 
Roundstone cemetery
The Burren coast

Galway is clogged with tourists and traffic detours, so we end up at Roundstone - recommended by our Dublin taxi driver - and it is perfect, a gem of a little fishing village perched on the Connemara coast. We eat salmon and hake in the bar of our hotel overlooking the main street and harbour. Next day we explore the Burren Coast, wild and craggy, down to the Cliffs of Moher, then head inland to avoid the hordes and end up late in Ennis, an attractive medium sized town with a rather upmarket heritage hotel. Chris orders the duckling for dinner, and it comes with three kinds of potato (deep fried threads, mash, chats in cream and butter). Luckily I have ordered only a soup - the ubiquitous chowder - so we manage to demolish it all.

Ennis main street in the evening
Dingle main street
Ruin on the Dingle peninsula
Dingle crab claws, mmmm

Next day - the Dingle peninsula. We check in to our room over Ashe's pub in Dingle and head out for exploration of picturesque coast and prehistoric ruins. Dinner at the hotel is possibly the best seafood meal EVER - freshly shucked oysters with home made bread, steamed langoustines with garlic oil, crab claws in ginger lime butter. Then to O'Sullivans bar for some music  - it is literally packed to the rafters (the ceiling is probably under 2 metres).
Back in Dublin we book into the Ferryman Hotel - a pub situated on the river between the city and the wharves. Nice room with view of the Liffey, breakfast and wifi included - it's a bargain. First thing in the morning we find ourselves once again eating eggs, bacon, black pudding - the whole disaster (I am becoming accustomed to skipping lunch altogether). Off we go again - ferry to Wales, then train via Bangor to Glasgow, Saucy-hall St and Gallowgate ;)

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