Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ireland again

Well since I have a few minutes I'll upload some of the pictures from the trip onto my blog. They are pictures from the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland, about nine miles from the Irish coast. The really nice thing about the islands is that they have a sort of micro climate, so even when it is raining and nasty on the mainland, there it is sunny and mild. We spent two days there on Inismore, the biggest of the three islands, and both days it was more sunny than not. We also saw a show of local music put on by the islanders that was fun to watch, even though we could see that they were not professionals. But they seemed to be really enjoying themselves and we could do nothing else but tap along to the music.
Here are a couple of interesting factoids. There are motor vehicules on the island but they are all diesel, the reason being that diesel fuel is less explosive than gasoline and since everything must be brought by boat to the island the insurance would be just too expensive for the boats because of the danger of a gasoline fire. On the islands all the farmland is "made". The foundation of the islands is bare limestone, like the Burrens and pretty much nothing grows, so using sand and seaweed as well as plant debris found inthe cracks and fissures of the limestone the islanders have been "land-making" for millenia. All the fields you see on the island, such as the ones in the picture below are man-made. If you look at the picture of the cliffs you can see what the ground looked like before it was remade.
Also the Aran islands are renowned for their beef cattle, but when the cattle are brought to the mainland they must be provided with a salt lick since they are used to salt in their fodder and will not eat if it is not there.

The roads of the islands

The cliffs on the western side of the island beside Dùn Aonghasa

Dùn Aonghasa is s semi-circular ring fort right on the edge of the cliffs.

The eastern part of the island is lower and less rocky than the western part which faces the Atlantic

The shore line on the other side of the island

Dùn Duchathair (Black Fort) is another ring fort on the edge of the cliffs. This one is off the beaten path so when I hiked up to it from the hotel I was completely alone, only the sea, the cliffs, the wind and the ghosts of the Dùn kept me company. I found it more awe inspiring than the more well preserved Dùn Aonghasa where there were too many tourists.

The cliffs as seen from Dùn Duchathair

A window

The hotel where we stayed. Our room was the second window from the right just below the chimney.

Goodbye to the islands

Monday, July 28, 2008

Home again

Well we've been back for a week now and my body is finally back to Eastern daylight Saving Time... the spirit is willing but the body is weak. Everything is pretty well back to normal now, baggage put away, things cleaned up, mail sorted and bills paid (a trip like that makes for plenty of bills, but worth every penny. LOL) I've also been working on my photos but with 600+ it makes for a lot of time to sort them out and correct them.

So here are some of the pictures, there are many more and I'll put some up as I go along.

High cross of Clomacnoise

Clomacnoise, one of the oldest monastic sites in Ireland

The town of Rosscrea

A butcher of Rosscrea

A bridge on Birr Castle Estates


Gargoyle on Townhall


Quay Street Galway

In the next post I'll continue with the trip. ;o)

Monday, July 21, 2008

In limbo again, home from Ireland

Well we're on the way home and I am writing this sitting in limbo (again) at Halifax Airport...(free WiFi... we brought out 12" Mac G4 with us, small but adequate.) We have been travelling for more than 12 hours and it isn't over yet. Dublin to Heathrow, Heathrow to Halifax and finally Halifax to Montreal. The layovers are long so it makes for long delays between flights but at least we didn't have to run between terminals at Heathrow. That is one huge airport, when we got our boarding passes at Dublin, there was a warning that it would take us 1/2 hour to get to our connecting flight. The gates are always advertised with the amount of time it takes you to get there, 10min, 20 min, etc.
The last couple of days we have been packing our baggage, bringing back the rental car (They upgraded us to a Ford Mondeo, a car that is way too big for Irish backroads. It had the turning radius of a tank and it was often a very tight fit ;o( ) We also took two days to visit Dublin town, we would take the bus in the morning and take the bus back late afternoon. (We sure weren't going to risk the tank on Dublin's streets. )
Dublin is not a huge city, but it is a very pretty one, with it's Georgian Squares, its Georgian doors, its pubs, songs, museums, the River Liffey, with its multiple bridges and parks; Stephen's Green, Phoenix park (biggest city park in the world 2,5 times Central park). We saw the statue of Molly Mallone, famed fishmonger and supposedly part time harlot, immortalized in song. The Dubliners, having a good sense of humour, have baptised the statue "the Tart with the Cart". We visited the Irish National Museum of History, a really well done museum that houses the treasures of Ireland. The museum covers Irish history from pre-history to modern times. Since much of Ireland is bogland and bogs preserve all kinds of things both organic and non-organic, they have a huge collection. There is an exhibition of "the hoards" discovered, the gold work is stunning, especially when you realise that it dates from between, 3500 and 2000 years ago. The torcs, braclets, pectorals and chains are truly magnificent and the delicacy of the work is mind boggling. Almost as awe inspiring are the organic things that have been preserved in the bogs. There is a 23 foot dugout canoe, made from a single log of oak that dates from the late neolithique over 4500 years ago. There is clothing, food, shoes, weapons and finally human remains that are perfectly preserved. The "bog men" are so well preserved that you can easily make out their faces, and how they died. One has so well preserved hands and arms that you can see his nails and the lines on his palms. He is also wearing a leather armband that would not be out of place today. On another, you can make out his hairstyle, short on the sides and back with longer hair on the top of his head tied in a topnot. They were probably sacrifices, and they were probably nobility (no callouses on their hands and well manicured nails, good clothing and not suffering from malnutrition.)
What is even better, is that like the British Museum this museum is completely free. Yes, in Dublin, the state museums are all free of charge. The Irish are proud of their heritage, and are not afraid of showing it.
So that's about it, I'll try to download my photos as soon as possible. So from Halifax Airport, "slán a fhágáil ag duine"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hello from Ireland

Well I've finally found time to write a bit from Ireland. We've been travelling around the country for the last 2 weeks and we've seen some beautiful sites. We started the trip at Roscrea, where we visited a castle, an 8th century abbey, Clonmacnoise, a the largest 19th centurey telescope in Birr castle (6 ft mirror). The next step was the Connemara, a beautifully wild section of western Irreland. Beautiful mountains, great cliffs and mountain ringed bays. Spectuacular.
Then we went on to Galway, then the Aran islands with the cliffs and Dùn Aonhasa and the Black Dun (a prehistoric ring fort on the edge of the cliffs) as well as many other sights.
Going around Galway bay we were in the Burrens. The Burrens is a really special limestone landscape. During the last iceage, the glaciers scaped off the soil leaving only the limestone bedrock. This bedrock has eroded giving a landscape with grykes, hole and pavements. It makes walking rather interesting since you must always watch where you are putting your feet. In the Burrens we also visited Poulnabrone Dolmen, one of the most famous prehistoric burial site in the world. We also walked across the top of the Cliffs of Moher, the highest cliffs in Europe. Definately not for the faint of heart. (This isn't my picture, but it'll give you and idea of the size of the Cliffs of Moher)
Finally we have been visiting the south-east of Ireland. Waterford, a medieval viking town, Wexford and Rosslare. In Waterford we visited a great museum and in Wexford a Hertitage site that explained human habitation in Ireland from the prehistoric to the Anglo-Normand invasion.
Today we moved up the coast and visited Jerpoint abbey with beautiful sculptures and Dunmore cave, one of the biggest caves in Ireland and the site of the massacre of 1000 Irish by a Viking army in the 10th century.
As for the weather, well let's say that we now know why Ireland is so green. The first week it rained, and rained, and rained with no let up. In the 2,5 weeks, we have only had 2 full days of nice weather. The rest of the time it was cloudy, cold, humid and rainy. We were planning on camping for the three weeks bu we finally gave up because we were tired of being always rained on... Everyone here says that it has been an really extraordinarily bad summer and when we where here 4 years ago the weather was way better.
Anyhow I'll try to find the time to write, if not I'll write next week and then I'll post the best of my pictures (500 and counting, Vive the digital camera)...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

From Dublin town

Did you ever notice that when you are flying somewhere, you seem to be in a kind of limbo. You eat, sleep, read but your life is on hold. Even when you are in the airport waiting you are in a world apart. Anyhow, after 15 hours of airports and planes, (Montréal-Ottawa, Ottawa-Heathrow, Heathrow-Dublin) we finally arrived, completely zonked, but we have landed, have our rented car and are at the hotel (that's why I'm writing, they have free WIFI, check out the site if ever you travel and have a laptop). Tonight, a very simple plan... sleep, sleep, sleep. Tomorrow we are off with all of our gear, a detailed road map and no worries. Goodnight all