Big Sur

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Today, we drove to Big Sur, located in the middle of the California coastline. When the Spanish were exploring this area, they referred to the coastal region south of Monterey as el país grande del sur, or the big country of the south. Over time, the Spanish and English terms were combined to create the name “Big Sur,” so Big South, I guess.

The area is sparsely populated. Drivers on California State Route 1 are treated to amazing views, unencumbered by houses or other structures. One notable exception is the Point Sur Naval Facility, most of which is now part of the California State Park system. The lighthouse and facilities are open to tourists on a limited basis. We’ll be gone before the next opportunity comes.

We arrived at our lodge in the late afternoon, where we spent some time getting to know the area, and plan our activities for tomorrow.

Friday, October, 28, 2022

Our lodging, The Big Sur Lodge, shares an entrance with the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. There are two other parks nearby, Andrew Molera State Park and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Stays at the lodge include a pass to any of these parks while we are here. Besides its excellent location, the lodge’s rooms are comfortable and the food is very good. There is a small market too, helpful, since there aren’t many shops in the area.

Keeping things simple, we opted to hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. There are several trails to choose from. Lengths vary from .5 – 23 miles, with elevation gains from 42 – 9583 feet. We opted for a couple of moderate trails, we’re not that young anymore. Valley View & Pfeiffer Falls combines a short walk to the falls, with a hike to the view.

While hiking, we kept our eyes open for the California Condor, which is often sighted along the Big Sur coast. We did see one large bird soaring above, but it was too far for us to determine if it was a condor or just a buzzard. The other large birds in attendance were turkeys, who apparently live on the lodge grounds. A tom took issue with Mark as he was walking by, and harassed him until he was well away.

After an easy walk through the woods, we came to Pfeiffer Falls, a narrow, 60 foot high waterfall that drops into the Pfeiffer-Redwood Creek, a tributary to the Big Sur River.

Then, the hiking began as we headed to the Valley View. It was a bit more strenuous, and the path was less smooth. We watched our step, did a little scrambling, and were well rewarded. From the vantage point at the top of the hike, we could see the Point Sur Naval Facility and the ocean. Did we see a condor? Don’t know.

And so, another lovely trip comes to an end, as we head back home soon, back to the dropping temperatures of the Minnesota fall.

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Pinnacles National Park

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Whenever we have the opportunity, we like to visit our nation’s parks. Pinnacles National Park is only about 75 miles from Paso Robles, east if the Salinas Valley, which made it nice day trip for us. The park is named for the pinnacles that are leftovers of the extinct Neenach Volcano that was originally located about 200 miles southeast of here, on the San Andrea Fault. The pinnacles are formed from andesite and rhyolite, both volcanic types of rock.

There are two entrances to the park, one on the east, and one on the west. It’s not possible to drive across the park from either entrance. The West Entrance is closer to Paso Robles, and gives visitors access to several trails. Normally, there is access to some caves, the Balconies Caves, but they were closed today due to vandalism that occurred in them recently. These are talus caves, formed when large chunks of rock fell and wedged into deep, narrow gorges.

The area, more than 26,000 acres, was first set aside as part of the Pinnacles Forest Reserve in 1906. It was named a National Monument in 1908. It attained National Park status over a century later, in 2013.

The park contains 32 trails of varying length and elevation gain. We hiked a couple of miles on a moderate trail. Our Minnesota legs are not used to hills, so we didn’t last as long as we had hoped to. Still, we were able to enjoy some great views today.

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Hearst Too Much!

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

We signed up for a tour of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. There were several options, ranging from 1 – 2 hours in length. We opted for the Julia Morgan tour, two hours long, because we thought it would focus more on the architect – Julia Morgan. Okay, she was mentioned a few times, but we didn’t learn much about her on the tour.

Julia Morgan initially graduated with a degree from Berkeley in civil engineering in 1894. Civil Engineers generally work on public projects, such as roads, dams, sewer systems and bridges. She became interested in architecture, and was encouraged by a visiting lecture to apply to École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Her application was denied because the École had never admitted a woman before. They relented, and she became the first woman to receive a certificate in architecture.

In 1904, Morgan became the first woman to be licensed as an architect in California. Over the years, Phoebe Hearst had been aware of Morgan’s work, which included libraries, churches, college buildings, and houses. She recommended Morgan to her son, William Randolph Hearst, when he decided to build a mansion in San Simeon. Julia Morgan worked on the project for 28 years, where she supervised nearly every aspect of construction at Hearst Castle, including the purchase of furnishings for the home.

On May 28, 2008, Julia Morgan was inducted into the California Hall of Fame. In 2014, she was awarded, posthumously, the AIA Gold Medal, the highest award of the American Institute of Architects She is the first female architect to receive this honor.

On our way, we stopped at a couple of places on the coast where elephant seals spend a few weeks at a time throughout the year. In the spring, adult seals come to the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon, where the females give birth, raise their pups, then mate again. They return to the sea, where the fertilized eggs begin to develop. After about seven months, the females return to give birth, and start the cycle again. The pups are weaned at one month, then begin traveling north at three months, as far as Alaska. As juveniles, they come back to the rookery in the fall for a few weeks.

The seals we observed today are juveniles of both sexes. They will stay a few weeks before returning to the sea, then come back in the spring as adults. While at sea, the seals are solitary, not even migrating together, but while on land, they socialize, spar with each other, and group together in the water and on the beach. They don’t eat or drink while at the rookery; their food is found far out at sea.

The Hearst Castle is registered as a National Historic Landmark. Built on a 40,000 acre estate purchased by Hearst’s father, George, it was an ongoing work that took 28 years to construct. There are 165 rooms (and we saw most of them), and 123 acres of gardens and pools. At one time, there was a large zoo on the grounds, with deer, antelope, camels, zebras, kangaroos, ostriches, and more. A few zebras are still in residence.

The Castle is decorated with artwork and furnishings from around the world. Hearst wanted the best things that he could secure for the house: paintings, sculptures, tapestries, vases, and much, much more. Truly, it was excessive.

Many famous people were entertained there: Clark Gable, Winston Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge were among the glitterati.

We were overwhelmed and exhausted by the end of the tour.

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A Mellow Day

Monday, October 24, 2022

We are staying at a beautiful resort, Allegretto Vineyard Resort, located on the east edge of Paso Robles. One thing that is unique to Allegretto is that it is actually set next to its own vineyard and fruit orchards. Wanting to know more about this place, we booked a guided tour this morning.

Our guide explained that the owner wanted to create an environment that encourages harmony, love of music and inner growth. The layout and design were inspired by Italian architecture, and certainly it does remind us of Old World elegance. It was one of the most peaceful places we have ever stayed at, plenty of areas to sit and enjoy the surroundings with a book, glass of wine, or one’s own thoughts.

They try to keep the twenty acres orchards and vineyards as natural as possible, watering in accord with the weather, using llamas and goats to tend the weeds and overgrowth as well as provide natural fertilizer.

Artwork from around the world graces the interior and exterior, all placed to encourage serenity. The inner atrium is laid out in the design of a cello, the owner’s favorite instrument.

I was especially delighted by the chandelier in the entryway. Using LED light technology, it morphed from one color to another.

Allegretto grows several varieties of grape here, and at another vineyard on the west side of town, marketing its own wines to the public, such as Pinot Noir, Tannat, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec. Our tour ended with a wine tasting, where we sampled most of these. Then, we spent the afternoon doing what Allegretto was designed for – relaxing and enjoying our environment.

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Exploring the California Coast, and Seeing the Light

Sunday, October 23, 2022

It’s hard for us to sit still. We enjoy exploring the communities wherever we are. This morning, we drove south to San Luis Obispo, home to Bubblegum Alley. The alley, about 5 feet wide, and 15 feet long, is located in downtown San Luis Obispo. No one is sure when the custom started, after WWII, in the 1950’s, but people have been adding their gum to the walls lining the alley for at least 70 years. Needless to say, that’s a large accumulation of gum. Shop owners in the area haven’t been very supported, and attempts have been made a few times to clean it up. However, it continues to attract tourists like us, who add our contributions to the wall.

Of two other attractions we checked was the Mission San Luis Obispo, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. We peeked inside, very respectfully, as Sunday Mass was being celebrated at the time.

The very first motel in the world was built in San Luis Obispo. The Motel Inn was built in 1925, as a convenience for a new type of traveler, the automobile driver. At that time, most drivers could only go about 40 miles per day, and architect/developer named Arthur Heineman saw an opportunity. He envisioned a series of small motor hotels, spaced about 40 miles apart to accommodate those drivers. They would be located near main roads, and included parking spaces and even some garages for the overnight guests. Heineman coined the term, motel, originally Mo-Tel, a portmanteau of the words motor and hotel.

This Motel Inn continued operating until 1991, and most of the buildings were later taken down. The remaining building was used as administrative space for the nearby Apple Farm Inn, but as of today, it is empty. Fencing surrounds the building now, but there has been talk of resurrecting the old motel.

Next, we headed west to Morro Bay, where we enjoyed ice cream and window shopping before driving out to Morro Rock, a volcanic plug that is about 576 feet tall. It’s been used for years as a navigational landmark. The surrounding beach is enjoyed by humans, squirrels, seals, sea lions and several species of birds. The waves were good enough for a few surfers to be out today.

The highlight of the day was back in Paso Robles, just a few miles from our lodging. Sensorio features two light and color installations by Bruce Munro, a British artist who uses the surrounding environment and and fiber optics to create his designs. We had seen one of his exhibits in Minnesota a few years ago, and were excited to see this one, which was much larger.

We arrived shortly before sunset, and watched as the lights came up. Almost 60,000 stemmed spheres covered the 15 acre rolling field. In the main installation, called “The Field of Lights,” the lights continually change color, creating a kind of fairy land. Visitors walk on paths through the lights.

A newer addition, called “Light Towers,” includes 69 towers of wine bottles, filled with lights. The changing colors are accompanied by music, very dramatic when viewed and heard in the dark. The music tonight was from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a South African male acapella singing group. They came to fame after being featured on Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album. We saw them perform live in Minneapolis several years ago, a great show.

There was a small field of what looked like jellyfish near the towers. There were white lights that moved with the wind, similar to the way jellyfish move in the sea.

A beautiful day followed by an even more beautiful evening.

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Santa Cruz to Salinas

Saturday, October 22, 2022

We flew into San Jose last night, planning to head to Paso Robles today. We could have driven the direct route, but decided to go part of the way via the Pacific Coast. Santa Cruz has a Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, and we always enjoy seeing what’s available at these local markets.

There was lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, coffee and pastries, and some very interesting gourds. It’s a fairly small venue, but the displays were very appealing.

Nearby Natural Bridges State Beach is home to a natural preserve for butterflies that overwinter there each year. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore the area today. We did enjoy the natural bridges in the bay, and the waves that broke against the rocks and shore of the bay.

Salinas was home to author John Steinbeck as a boy. He wrote 33 books, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs and poetry. Many were set in the Salinas Valley. Several books were adapted for movies or plays, such as East of Eden, Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. His boyhood home is now a restaurant near the downtown area.

The National Steinbeck Center tells the story of Steinbeck’s life and legacy. There are sculptures of some of the characters that peopled his novels, like the Joads of The Grapes of Wrath, and Woody Guthrie, who wrote a song based on the book: The Ballad of Tom Joad.

The Center is full of quotes from Steinbeck’s books, tributes to others who were influenced by him, and artifacts from his life including the camper/truck he used to travel cross-country with his dog, Travels With Charley.

After being nominated eight times, John Steinbeck received the Pulitzer Prize in 1938 for Grapes of Wrath, and the Nobel Prize in 1962, six years before his death in 1968. There was controversy about the Nobel, with many feeling that his recent works were not as good as what he had written in the past, that his best works were behind him. He, himself, doubted his worthiness, but he was grateful nonetheless. Fifty years after the Nobel was awarded, it was revealed that the committee through he was the best of a bad lot of nominees.

I especially appreciate the following Steinbeck quote:

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Last Day in Dublin

Wednesday, August 11, 2022

This morning was devoted to packing, as we are moving to another hotel tonight, in southwest Dublin, near the Tallaght Stadium. Yes, we’re going to another game tonight, more about that later. We stored our bags with Nannybag Storage, and headed in different directions to take care of some last minute touring and/or shopping.

Sean went to Croke Park, where he took the stadium tour and visited the museum. The tour was about 90 minutes long, and exceeded his expectations.

I had seen a beautiful linen table runner at the National Museum of Ireland, and decided that it needed to go home with me.

On the way, I walked through St. Stephen’s Green, a public park, located in the center of Dublin. Prior to 1663, this was a marshy common, of about 60 acres, used for grazing. The Dublin Corporation (former name of the city government) decided to enclose the center of the common (about 22 acres), and sell land around the perimeter for building. Control of the Green passed to Commissioners for the local homeowners, who redesigned its layout. Access to the park was restricted to local residents until 1877, when Parliament passed an Act to open it to the public.

St. Stephen’s Green played a role in the Easter Rising of 1916, when a group (200-250) of rebels established a position in the park. They used confiscated vehicles to set up roadblocks in the streets that surround the park, and they dug defensive positions in the park. Unfortunately for them, the British Army took up positions in a hotel across from the Green, and used that vantage point to shoot down into the entrenchments.

It’s a beautiful park, and many people were enjoying on this equally beautiful day. I saw at least one teacher conducting a class there. In one section of the park is a garden for the blind with scented plants, labelled in braille and strong enough to withstand holding and feeling. There is a large lake, fed by an artificial waterfall, and home to many ducks and other waterfowl. It was a lovely place to sit and enjoy my iced coffee and lunch.

The park is located by Grafton Street, the major shopping area in Dublin, another place for me to explore today. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, was just across the street from the park. It feels almost festive. The panes of glass that make up the roof let in so much sun that you almost feel like you are outside. The arched openings around the atrium frame the many shops, helping to give each one its own identity. At one end of the atrium is the largest indoor clock in Europe.

Tonight we attended a soccer game at Tallaght Stadium, the third qualifying round in the Europa Conference League, which is an annual football (soccer) club competition for eligible European clubs. The clubs qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues.

St. Patrick’s Athletic was pitted against CSKA Sofia in tonight’s game. St. Patrick’s came to the game one point ahead, but CSKA was able to defeat them by two points tonight, so moves forward to the playoff qualifying round. It was a heated game, with some questionable calls by the referees. We were sitting not far from the CSKA fan section, which was extremely vocal. There was quite a lineup of security in front of them, probably a good thing, since some of them looked like they wouldn’t hesitate to jump onto the field and cause a fight.

Anyway, another fast paced game, with lots of passion on both sides.

Tomorrow, Sean catches a ferry to Wales to continue his trip. I head back home. It’s been a really good trip. Sean is interested in everything, very open to learning about how other cultures live and operate. He makes an excellent traveling companion. Plus, he’s been reviewing my posts, adding and/or correcting my comments in a constructive manner. Thanks, Sean.

I close with some impressions of Ireland. It continues to be one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited so far, with impossibly green fields, gorgeous lakes and rivers. The climate is mild, due to the tempering effect of the ocean.

The Irish are among the friendliest people I’ve had the pleasure to interact with, quick with a smile, a compliment, a story. Many people helped us along the way, answering our questions, offering suggestions for pubs and restaurants, games that Sean might be interested in. Tipping is not expected in Ireland, in fact, one night when Sean told the bartender to “keep the change,” he was told that many consider that to be offensive. They don’t expect to be paid extra just for doing their jobs. They also don’t fawn over the customer, shilling for tips; they serve us and get out of our way. I like that. Of course, waiters and bartenders are paid decent wages, unlike in the US.

Some parts of the country have changed due to tourism. You can find tourist traps in many of the popular towns and villages, as well as in the bigger cities. That was a disappointment to me. I wasn’t looking for trinkets to take home, things I could find anywhere. I was looking for items that I can only get there, and they were harder to find.

The country works hard to preserve its culture and its history. The Irish continue to excel at story telling. I think most of them have kissed the Blarney Stone several times. Gaelic sports are a big part of their culture and identity, helping to tie communities together. Unlike our professional sports at home, these games seem genuine, and the fans are truly engaged without getting angry or violent.

It’s a place where I felt at home.

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Irish Heritage, Irish Lands

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

This was a long day, with many sites to visit. Our first stop was for a photo op at Inch Beach. Inch Strand is a 3-mile sand split that juts into the sea, a favorite recreational spot for swimming, surfing and fishing. It was truly beautiful this morning.

Near lunchtime, we stopped in Kenmare, in time to check out their weekly market, which featured locally grown produce, craft items, cheeses, honey and more. We grabbed sandwiches at the Rookery, really good. Sean bought the sweetest strawberries ever, which we ate for desert on the bus. Seriously, the best strawberries anywhere!

More photo stops outside Killarney and at Ladies View.

Then, a little time at Torc Waterfall, just a short walk from the road. Torc is a 66 foot high, 360 foot long cascade waterfall at the base of Torc Mountain, in Killarney National Park.

Next stop was Killarney City, where we boarded horse drawn wagons for a ride through Killarney National Park, or rather, a small part of the park. This was the first national park in Ireland, created in 1932 when William Bowers Bourn and Arthur Rose Vincent donated the Muckross Estate to the young Republic of Ireland. Since then, the park has been expanded and now covers over 25,000 acres, including the Lakes of Killarney (Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake), oak and yew woodlands, and mountain peaks. The park was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981.

The park is home to two species of deer, the only wild herd of native deer (red deer) in Ireland, and Sika, a Japanese breed introduced to the area in 1865. The red deer is Ireland’s largest mammal, with males weighing up to 485 pounds. The Sika is much smaller, with males usually less than 200 pounds. The red deer proved to be elusive during our ride, but we did spot a Sika.

Ross Castle, built in the 15th century, sits on the edge of Lough Leane, It was the last stronghold in Munster to hold out against Oliver Cromwell, but the castle was eventually overtaken in 1652. It is open to the public in the summer.

Imagine our surprise when we stopped at the Barack Obama Plaza, in Offaly, so Cash could fuel up the bus on our way back to Dublin. Whether or not you appreciated the former President, this was something so kitschy that it would be a shame to not check it out. The plaza has a display on the second level that is devoted to Ireland’s impact on American politics, specifically the Presidency. We all know that Kennedy and Reagan had Irish heritage, but they are joined by at least twenty more US Presidents who had Irish or Scots-Irish ancestry, from Andrew Jackson to Ulysses S Grant, Harry S Truman, Richard Nixon and both Bushes. I already knew about Obama from the EPIC Emigration visit. The Irish value this connection to the US; each year on St. Patrick’s Day, a Waterford Crystal bowl filled with Irish shamrocks is presented to the President of the United States.

We traveled about 300 miles today, arriving back in Dublin in time for a late dinner.

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The Burren and Cliffs of Moher

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

After an excellent breakfast at the B&B, we boarded the bus for another day of beauty. Our first stop was at Dunguaire Castle in Kinvarra, south of Galway city. The castle was built on Galway Bay, in 1520 by the O’Hynes family. The name of the castle derives from the Dun (medieval fort) of King Guaire, the legendary king of Connacht. Richard Martyn, Mayor of Galway lived here in the 1600’s, and his family continued to live here until it was sold in to Oliver St. John Gogarty in 1924. Gogarty repaired the castle and used for literary meetings with writers like W.B Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and Edward Martin. The castle was acquired by Christabel Kady Ampthill who completed the restoration started in 1924. It was later transferred to Shannon Heritage. Tours of the interior are available, but we only had time for a few photos.

According to legend, if you walk around the castle counter-clockwise three times, you will become a virgin again. At least that was a line that King Guaire was supposed to have used. I wonder how well it worked for him. I did walk around the castle, but only once, and in a clockwise direction, no no benefit accrued to me, alas.

There is actually a more interesting story about virginity and a former owner. The Russell Case tells an intriguing story. Lady Christabel Ampthill was married to John Hugo Russell, heir to Ampthill, when she gave birth to a son, Geoffrey. Russell claimed the child could not be his, he must be the son of one of the many men she dined and danced with regularly. He said the marriage had never been consummated; he had made attempts but never completed the deed. She claimed she had never slept with any other man. When her doctors confirmed her pregnancy, they also stated that she was still intact, thus a virgin. After several court cases, her son, Geoffrey was declared the legitimate son of John, thus heir to the title. He held that title from 1973 – 2011, when he died. I can’t help but wonder, did Lady Ampthill visit Dunguaire after getting pregnant, and walk three times counterclockwise around it?

Then on to the Burren, part of the Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark. The name comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place. It is indeed rocky. A few plants are able to take root in this landscape, creating a contrast to the gray limestone that juts into the bay.

After an ice cream break in Doolin, where Cash warned us not to look into the owner’s eyes or we’d fall in love (he was a nice looking young man), we continued on to the Cliffs of Moher. We had opted for a boat ride below the cliffs. This wasn’t a leisurely ride, we sped past the towering cliffs (up to 700 feet in height), with passengers crowding the open areas to get their photos. The approximately 10 mile ride took us out to Hag’s Head, with a sea arch under a signal tower. The cliffs are definitely impressive from this vantage point.

While we were on the boat, Cash, our driver, took a chilly swim off the coast.

After the boat ride, we had time to walk along a short part of the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk, which runs about 11 miles from Doolin to Hag’s Head. The Cliffs have featured in a few movies, like “The Princess Bride” (a personal favorite) and “The Half-Blood Prince” of the Harry Potter series, as well as several music videos. The cliffs formed between 313 and 326 million years ago, from sediment dumped by an ancient river. The sediments were compacted to form the strata we can see in the cliffs. Years of erosion have created the stunning land forms, such as sea caves, sea stacks, and the sea arch seen at Hag’s Head.

O’Brien’s Tower provides views all around through windows at the top.

More time on the bus, then a short ride on the Shannon Ferry, and finally, after about 140 miles of road today, we arrived at our Bed & Breakfast in Annascaul, on the Dingle Peninsula. Dinner was served at the Randy Leprechaun next door. The Randy Leprechaun is owned by Paddywagon Tours, and it aims to give its patrons a genuine pub and craic experience. I didn’t stay for the live music and craic after dinner, but Sean did. He said it was hilarious, watching middle-aged women doing some sort of boat rowing dance. Sorry I missed it (she said sarcastically.)

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The Wild Atlantic Way

Monday, August 8, 2022

Some of the best scenery in Ireland is along the southwest coast, known as The Wild Atlantic Way. Renting a car and driving from Dublin proved to be very expensive, so we looked around for a good tour. is a site that I have used many times, usually with good results. This time was no exception.

We found a three-day tour that would take us to Connemara, Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry and Killarney. The tour was run by Paddywagon Tours.

We headed to the meeting site early this morning, and found lots of people waiting. Several buses were picking up folks here, we just had to wait for ours to show up. It wasn’t long before Cash arrived. He loaded up our bags, and let us know what his expectations were for our group. If we didn’t get back to the bus on time, we would be left behind. Tell him if it was too hot or too cold, and he would adjust the temp accordingly. Let him know if there were any other issues to be dealt with. In other words, don’t wait until the tour is over to complain. I appreciated his forthrightness. I’ve been on tours where people didn’t respect others’ schedules, causing us to be short-changed on other stops. Thank you, Cash! Although his bark was worse than his bite, he actually did start pulling away from one stop when one couple was late. They were careful to be on time from then on!

Cash was an engaged driver, full of useful information and entertaining stories, some of which were even true. Cash is a farmer at heart, but he supplements his income with driving for Paddywagon. He also helped tend bar at one of the pubs we patronized. He told us that he had been an extra in the History TV Series “Vikings,” an action series loosely based on on real events, with lots of fighting, sex and blood. I enjoyed it. The show was filmed mostly in Ireland, and many residents were used for extras. Cash played a Viking horseman. He certainly looks like he’s descended from Vikings, with his fair complexion and sandy colored hair.

After a couple of hours, we stopped in Cong, County Mayo, a town best known as a setting for the much loved 1952 John Wayne movie, “The Quiet Man.” It’s a small town, with a few shops, ruins of the Cong Abbey, which was open from the 7th – 13th centuries, and a Quiet Man Museum, a replica of the cottage in the movie.

We drove through beautiful country on our way to Galway, viewing lakes and farms as we sped past. We saw several buildings with thatch roofs. Thatch is a natural reed and grass which, when properly cut, dried, and installed, forms a waterproof roof that can last as long as 60 years. It is considered an art form, and each artist uses a distinct finishing pattern at the top.

After riding about 200 miles, we arrived in Galway in the late afternoon. Our very comfortable Bed & Breakfast. St. Jude’s Lodge, was located just a few blocks from the downtown area. Nearby Eyre Square (also known as John F Kennedy Memorial Park) was filled withe folks enjoying the beautiful weather. Kennedy had made a speech here during his 1963 trip as US President. The park is named for John Eyre who arrived here with Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1651. He and his brother acquired quite a lot of property that had been seized from Irish Catholics. He was appointed Mayor of Galway in 1661, where he helped to keep them from reclaiming their land.

Across the street from the square is a sculpture of writers Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde. That is not a typo; Vilde was a writer from Estonia, and the bench was a gift from Estonia to the city of Galway when Estonia joined the EU in 2004. Why? There was never any connection or communication between the two men, but it is a nice looking, even welcoming piece.

While I headed to the center of town, Sean paid a visit to the Connacht Rugby headquarters, hoping for a tour of their stadium. They play at the Galway Sportsgrounds, a multi-purpose stadium a short walk from the B&B. Sadly, no tours, but he was able to pick up a shirt, so success of a sort.

Downtown Galway is full of shops and pubs, all designed to attract tourists and their money. I was no exception. Sean and I met at Taaffes Bar, recommended by Cash, where I tried some Irish cider. It’s not like the “hard” cider we have in the US. This cider is less sweet, more refreshing. Taaffes was very busy, we were lucky to get a table outside. People were gathering for the live music on tap for later. It didn’t look like we’d get an inside table for food, so we moved on. We had an excellent meal at the King’s Head Bistro. Since we are so close to the ocean, seafood was a must. While I enjoyed the scallops, Sean had mussels, a lot of mussels, at least 60! He almost ate them all.

After dinner, I walked down to the Spanish Arch, along the waterfront. The Arch was built in 1584, by Wylliam Martin, the 34th mayor of Galway, as an extension of the 12th century town wall. It housed soldiers who kept watch and manned cannons on the roof. It was first known as Ceann an Bhalla (the head of the wall) but later became known as the Spanish Arch, perhaps a reference to the former merchant trade with Spain and Spanish galleons, which often docked here.

Sean stopped at a pub near Eyre Square, where he met an Irish couple who now live in Australia and two Brazilians. They drank cider and pints together and had an absolute blast. By finding the non-tourist pubs, Sean has been able to experience the craic (pronounced crack), the sharing of news, gossip, fun, entertainment and conversation on a night out.

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