Da Weekend

Jul. 9th, 2017 09:18 pm
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So Friday evening we flew to Roanoke, VA, the nearest airport to the farm where my brother [profile] mankoeponymous was getting married. The wedding had a "burning" theme: part Burning Man, part fire-dancers (which has been a good deal of my brother's social circle for the past ten years or more), and since [personal profile] shalmestere and I are old fuddy-duddies who have never been to Burning Man OR (intentionally) danced while carrying or wearing anything that was on fire, we were a little dubious. But everybody was very welcoming, and it was a good chance to see a bunch of my family: my mother, two aunts, an uncle, my step-sister, a step-nephew, my half-brother, and my father. My mother and father, I gather, were halfway through introductions before they recognized one another; I guess they hadn't seen one another since my wedding, exactly 22 years before.

The bride had been in a pep band in college, so a marching band playing Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" accompanied the bride and groom to the space where the ceremony was to take place. (I played pipe-and-tabor, while [personal profile] shalmestere played sopranino recorder; I don't think anybody heard either of us. There was some confusion over what key to play the piece in: my brother sent out sheet music, but it was band score in which all the instruments are in different transpositions. Anyway, it was very spirited and peppy.) The vows were largely about recognizing that both parties are fallible human beings, that it's better to argue fairly and constructively than to not argue at all, that the only certainty in life is that things won't go exactly according to plan, etc. etc. During dinner, about a dozen twenty-and-thirty-somethings testified, passionately, in alternation about how wonderful the bride and the groom are. After dinner, we bid farewell to a bunch of relatives, watched a slide show of alternating kiddie pictures of the bride and the groom, and returned to our hotel before it got dark enough for fire-dancing (see "old fuddy-duddies", above).

Between Saturday morning and Sunday morning, we got to drink some good milkshakes, eat some good barbecue and Southern biscuits-and-gravy, and visit the Roanoke city zoo, which is on top of the mountain in the middle of the city (nice views of the other mountains that surround the city on all sides). It's a small zoo, where one can see pretty much everything in an hour, so it fit nicely between brunch with my mother, step-sister, and step-nephew and our afternoon flight home.

A bizarre but enjoyable weekend.
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Well, a mommy staircase and a daddy staircase love one another very much, and...
hudebnik: (devil duck)

Roses, in more or less full bloom.  On January 3 in New York.

hudebnik: (devil duck)
Cut for pictures )

I hope that was enlightening and entertaining....
hudebnik: (devil duck)

Last week a large parking lot on campus was closed off for the construction of a new academic building. Today was the first time I noticed any visible progress.

Cut for pictures )
hudebnik: (devil duck)
The Greenmarket has ramps, and asparagus, and lilacs, and potted chervil, and....
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When we woke this morning, the snow had already stopped falling. There was about a foot on the front sidewalk, so I shoveled it off, saw [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere off to her gamba class, and took the Things to the park.

After [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere got back, we went to the local art theater to see "Life of Pi", which was gorgeous and surreal and disturbing and all that. Walked home amid melting snow.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

hudebnik: (devil duck)
Last week I called one of our regular dog-sitters to ask about her availability for some upcoming weekend dates. When I finally got her on the phone, she said "I haven't gotten back into my house yet. When I came back after the evacuation, there was a forty-foot boat in my front yard. I had four feet of sea water in my [one-story] house. Everything was destroyed: furniture, clothing, appliances, everything. I've been living in a hotel for seven weeks, and my own dogs are still in boarding. They say there's some chance of me getting back into the house in February."

There are still thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people in her situation.

One of my department colleagues, who lives much farther from the ocean, got back into his house only around Christmas, and the last time I spoke to him he still had power in only half the outlets in the house.
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Well, the good news is that we don't have to worry about the 100-year-old maple on the corner falling on our house. The bad news is that it fell the other way, blocking both streets at the aforementioned corner. And, of course, that we've lost another 100-year-old tree -- this makes at least four within a block of our house in the past five years.

Added after sunrise...

The view from our bedroom window:
tree from window

From ground level:
tree roots

tree across road

And another tree a block away:
tree pulling up sidewalk
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No, we're not building this; it's at our neighborhood train station.

picture of sidewalk renovation )

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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We had breakfast at the B&B in Kilronan, talked to the very friendly horse next door (there are a lot of horse-drawn taxis on the island), and set off by bicycle to see the Black Fort, another stone fortification (reportedly not as large, but nearly as impressive, as Dun Aonghasa). Different guidebooks offered different opinions on how long it takes to get there, and we had a noon ferry to catch, so we weren't sure we would get there. As it turned out, our bicycling muscles were so sore from the previous day's exertions that we didn't even get to the trailhead, but came back to the village, returned our rental bikes, and bought some sweaters (to be delivered in two weeks or so) before checking out and walking to the ferry terminal.

The boat ride was considerably rockier than the trip to Innishmore the previous morning, but we got to Rossaveel without incident. It was raining. Got back in the car and drove past Galway to Dunghaoire Castle, a 16th-century tower house renovated in the 20th century and now hosting a nightly "medieval banquet" involving potato-leek soup, chicken supreme, and other dishes with no obvious connection to the middle ages; entertainment is a mix of 17th-20th-century Irish poetry and music. We passed on the banquet and drove west into the Burren.

The Burren, in northern County Clare, makes most of the bare, rocky, windswept ridges in Ireland look lush by comparison. The hilltops are almost completely grey limestone, with only the occasional vein of grass. According to the guidebooks, the resulting ecosystem is the most varied in Ireland, if not Europe, with Arctic and Mediterranean flowers growing side by side, but (between the time of day, the rain, and exhaustion) we didn't get far enough into the countryside to see this up close. The valleys are somewhat greener, largely due to human intervention -- according to a TV documentary we saw, most of the Burren was rock until people quarried it, piled it into walls and houses and cairns and whatever, and persuaded grass to grow in the few inches of soil remaining. (I had been wondering why there are SO MANY stone walls separating tiny little sheep pastures. It turns out it's not that there are that many farmers, each fiercely defensive of his flock, although that may be true at times too; they needed someplace to put all the rock, and the walls provide shelter from the wind for grass and cattle. One old-timer on the documentary described walking the land with his father and picking up any stone that had fallen from the walls: "that stone eats as much as a donkey." He also listed at least a dozen different kinds of shaped stones, each serving a different role in the complex construction of a proper stone wall.)

We drove on through Doolin and Lisdoonvarna to the famous Cliffs of Moher. It was intermittently rainy and foggy, and we weren't sure we'd be able to see any of the much-vaunted scenery, but we had enough of a break for a few minutes' worth of dramatic views before the rain and fog returned and we drove on to Ennis, our scheduled stop for the night.


Jun. 29th, 2012 08:14 am
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So we had an early breakfast and hit the road towards Rossaveel (Ros a Mhoile?), the port town west of Galway where the ferries stop. It was raining on and off for the 45-minute drive, but we got to the ferry terminal on time, picked up our tickets (reserved online the night before), and got on the boat without mishap. The 45-minute ferry trip was uneventful: no especially dramatic scenery or wildlife sightings, under heavily overcast skies. The rain held off until we got off the boat, but by the time we reached the B&B 200 meters away it was definitely raining. We checked into our room and ran next door for lunch (at the Aran Fisherman restaurant, very tasty and imaginative), and by the time we had finished eating, the rain had stopped and there were signs of blue in the sky.

Innishmore (Inis Mor) is less than ten miles long, and the standard way for tourists to explore it is by bicycle -- there are at least three bike-rental places between the pier and our B&B -- so we rented a pair of bicycles, applied some sunscreen (!), and headed off under increasingly sunny skies. The first attraction was St Benen's Church, which was built in the 10th century on top of a windswept bare ridge and is still in excellent condition (except, as usual, for the lack of a roof). The interior dimensions are 6 feet by 12 feet, so it's not the sort of place you would hold a large service -- but then, the location makes pretty clear that it wasn't intended for gregarious types. In fact, [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere said "This is the perfect introvert's vacation spot." Pictures to come.

We cycled on past the island airport and a cemetery, stopping on occasion to see the seabirds picking through the tidepools, looking for St Enda's Church. After passing the spot on the map where it should have been, we turned around and found it hidden in the middle of the cemetery (the guidebook didn't mention that detail). St Enda (Einne) founded a monastic community here in the 5th century where one of the students was St Columba (Colmcille), the patron saint of Ireland. The church was actually built in the 8th century, and is only slightly larger than St Benen's up the hill. Most distinctively, the ground has risen by three or four feet since it was built, so the church is set into a hollow, and if you're more than ten meters away you can only see the upper half of it. It has some amazing stone-carvings on the altar and internal walls.

By this time the sky was mostly clear, the sun blazing down, and it was hot (by Irish standards, i.e. maybe 70F). We returned to the B&B, reapplied sunscreen, dropped off the rainwear, and headed off in the other direction towards Dun Aonghasa, the main tourist attraction of the island (the tour book had recommended saving this for late afternoon or early morning to avoid the mid-day tourist crowds).

Like an idiot, I had failed to pick up a detailed map of the island before setting off, so we got a little lost, but it's not that big an island, and there aren't that many roads to get lost on, so that probably added only a mile to the trip. We took the less-hilly "coastal road" past the seal colony, and saw two or three seals in the shallows. Even the coastal road has some substantial hills and a lot of wind, so we were pretty tired by the time we reached the cluster of tourist shops at the Dun Aonghasa trailhead. But we parked our bikes and took the twenty-minute walk up the hill to Dun Aonghasa, a truly awe-inspiring Bronze Age stone fort built on the edge of a 500-foot sheer vertical cliff into the sea. Pictures to come.

As the astute reader will have predicted on reading the words "dropped off the rainwear" two paragraphs back, the clouds returned while we were exploring the fort, and it started to drizzle before we got back to the bikes. But that didn't last long, and the ride back to the B&B was mostly under overcast but non-precipatory skies. The tide had gone out, so there were now at least a dozen seals, each basking on its own tide-exposed rock. The ride was physically tough, since neither of us is really in bicycling shape, so we got to the B&B and lay down for a few minutes before walking a few hundred meters away to a restaurant (the Ostann Arann is described ion the guidebook as having "the best restaurant on the island", but we found it much less interesting than the Aran Fisherman where we had lunch), then back and crashing on the bed again.

It's Friday morning now. Two days from now we'll be on a plane back to the U.S. Today's itinerary calls for (possibly) walking to the Black Fort, another prehistoric stone fortification, taking the ferry back to Rossaveel, and driving around the Bay to County Clare.
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Rick Steves's guide book suggests a 200-mile driving circuit of Connemara and Mayo, with Galway as a home base. That seemed like rather a lot to us, since much shorter driving circuits of the Dingle and Iveragh Peninsulas had each taken us most of a day, and since many of the attractions on his loop don't particularly interest us. So we decided to drive up to Cong, see the medieval Cong Abbey, then head west into Connemara and turn back towards Galway whenever time and weather suggested it. On the way to Cong, we passed a variety of little brown road signs telling us about such-and-such church or such-and-such castle down such-and-such country road, and since we didn't have any particular destinations or deadlines for the day, we took pretty much every such opportunity.

The first such was Cargin Church and Castle. The church was originally built in the 12th century on the site of an older cemetery, and was already in ruins by the 16th century. The interior of the church has been completely overtaken with weeds and flowers, so it looks rather like The Secret Garden; it feels magical. The castle a few hundred yards away was built in the 13th century, abandoned in the 1940's, and renovated to modern livability standards in the 1970's; it is now used as a summer cottage and available for group rentals.

A mile farther on was another country road leading to the Ross Errily Friary, an extensive and well-preserved complex dating from the 13th-15th centuries (with some 17th-18th-century fireplaces and the like), surrounded by cow pastures. At the far side of the elaborate residential wing was a kitchen with a circular tank for storing live fish, and a walk-in medieval cooking fireplace. A hole in the wall at the back of the fireplace leads to the baking oven in the room next door. And of course a lot of people have been buried inside the building since it was abandoned in the 18th century. Fascinating stuff.

After all that, Cong Abbey was rather disappointing. It's your generic 13th-century church building with adjacent cloister, now filled with tombstones -- not particularly old, not particularly large, not particularly well-preserved. The most interesting feature is the fishing hut that the monks built on a platform over the river: apparently they hung nets through a hole in the floor, tied to a bell so the cook up in the abbey would know when his ingredients were ready. Anyway, we walked around the adjacent park, and into the grounds of the adjacent Ashford Castle, which after being built in the 13th century was extensively expanded in the 17th century and again in the 19th century; it's now a luxury hotel.

[livejournal.com profile] shalmestere remembered seeing another castle along the way which we hadn't turned aside to investigate, so we got back in the car and retraced our path for some miles without success. Although we did see a little brown sign leading down a country road to Ballymagibbon Cairn, a large (30 meters across?) mound of stones with a cylindrical stone platform on top, so we clambered up that and looked around. By this time it was mid-afternoon, we were tired, and we were halfway back to Galway, so we cancelled the wander-west-into-Connemara plan and returned to Galway to rest before dinner.

Along the way we did find the castle she was thinking of, just on the outskirts of Galway and only about six feet off the road. It turns out to have been extensively renovated in the past fifty years, and is currently occupied and not open to the public. (Now I don't remember its name -- I'll add that later.)

We walked a few hundred meters from our B&B into downtown Galway and had some tasty Thai-inspired food while watching a bunch of the local University juggling club practice on the riverbank. The pedestrian-only High Street was hopping, colorful, and crowded with (largely) twenty-somethings. We walked around the outside of the 13th-century church (considerably expanded and renovated; nothing particularly notable) but didn't go in because there was a concert with a mandatory 15-euro ticket price and we were sleepy. I don't think there's anything else medieval in downtown Galway, but there are a number of 16th-17th-century buildings that now house banks, restaurants, and the like. Back to the B&B, reserved tickets for the ferry to Innishmore tomorrow, and went to bed.

Today... Innishmore.
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The itinerary for this trip is not what anyone would consider efficient. We flew into Cork in the south, took a bus and a train the next day to Dublin in the east, then rented a car and drove to Dingle in the southwest, then the Iveragh Peninsula slightly farther south, then to Galway in the northwest, and will then drive back to Shannon airport in the west, passing through the Kilkenny Killarney area three times in all, and the greater Limerick area three times too. This is because I was unable to find decent air fares flying into Dublin (but flying into Cork was OK), and unable to find decent room rates in Dublin the middle weekend of the trip (but staying in Dublin the first week was OK). Yesterday involved a lot of driving (by European standards).

We started on little country roads from Kenmare (south of Kilkenny), stopping for half an hour or so to see the medieval sights of Kilmallock, to the Lough Gur site, which has been inhabited more or less continuously for 6000 years and has a range of archaeological sites from neolithic to early-modern. All of this was discovered in the 19th century when they lowered the lake and found vast quantities of artifacts, which were promptly shipped to museums and private collectors all over the world (except the ones that were melted down); very little remains at Lough Gur itself. Some of the archaeological sites are basically invisible, while others are on private land. "On private land" doesn't mean "you can't get there," as it generally would in the U.S.; it means you may need to pick your way over cow-patties to get there, and you may be asked to drop a few Euros into an honor-system coinbox. But some of them really are inaccessible. The visitor centre (modeled on some of the neolithic round huts the archaeologists found) includes a small museum with a video and the few artifacts that are still at Lough Gur, but the people behind the desk didn't seem to think we needed to pay for that, and invited us to just take the free self-guided walking tour. Shortly into this tour, it became evident that there was information about the various stops that wasn't in the one-page glossy brochure, so I stopped back at the visitor centre to ask if there was an audio-guide or something. The ladies behind the desk explained that it's an "i-Tour", i.e. you're supposed to download the audio-guide to your smart phone. Unfortunately, (a) there's little or no cell phone reception at the site, so it's difficult to download anything if you didn't do it in advance, (b) I couldn't find the audio-guide on the Web site, and (c) it's very difficult to even find the stops on the tour without the audio-guide telling you where to turn. A potentially good idea with some serious flaws in implementation.

Anyway, we did get to two early-Christian stone ring forts, a Bronze Age megalithic tomb, and a Bronze Age megalithic circle-temple, all of which were not only visible and reachable but impressive.

We then drove around Limerick and up to Galway, which is a long distance (by European standards), but it's mostly high-speed divided highway so it went fairly easily. We arrived in Galway to find the city socked in with fog, which I gather is par for the course. We were pretty hungry (it was almost 9 PM), so the B&B proprietor dropped us at a nearby restaurant he recommended, we had dinner (I had a tasty hake, [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere had a beef-and-Guinness stew to die for) and walked back to the B&B along the waterfront.
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OK, let's see. Saturday morning we packed and left the lovely Clonunion B&B and spent maybe two hours visiting the lovely village of Adare, outside Limerick, including a guided tour of Desmond Castle. Then we drove from County Limerick into County Kerry, stopping to visit the remains of Ardfert Cathedral, through Tralee and some lovely mountain scenery (i.e. twisty narrow mountain roads) to the town of Dingle, halfway out the Dingle Peninsula.
pictures from Saturday )

We arrived at our B&B to find there had been a misunderstanding, we didn't have a reservation after all, and the B&B was full. The proprietor called her friend up the road, who had a room in her B&B, but that one was well outside town and not convenient for pedestrian exploration. Fortunately, one of the other B&B's I had contacted in advance had had a cancellation, so we stayed at the "Last Cottage". Tiny room, but awesome harbor-and-hills view out the bedroom window, and two cute dogs.
view from B&B

Dingle was apparently unknown to most of the world until the 1970 film "Ryan's Daughter" made it a tourist attraction, and now every store that isn't a pub is a souvenir shop. Still a reasonably cute village, but one feels somewhat under assault. Dingle also has a reputation for great live music in the pubs, and we did what by our standards could be called a "pub crawl": we ate in one pub, stepped into another for a few minutes to listen to a quartet of aging hippies, then went to a third, sat down, and ordered dessert while listening to three guys with instruments -- one (I think the proprietor of the pub) playing accordion, another playing a variety of guitars and ukeleles (he also did an unaccompanied-voice number of his own composition), and a young fellow playing some fascinating and complex stuff on the banjo.

Sunday we drove a loop trip around the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, visiting a variety of prehistoric stone forts and awesome seaside scenery. It was only thirty miles around the loop, but it took us about six hours.
Pictures )
At the end of that, we were too tired to take the "scenic but twisty and narrow" Conor Pass route from Dingle back to Tralee, so we took the still-fairly-scenic, still-somewhat-twisty-and-narrow N86 road, then turned south from Tralee, through Killarney to our B&B in Kenmare.

Monday we had scheduled a similar loop trip around the Iveragh Peninsula (aka "the Ring of Kerry"). Since this is four times as long as the Dingle loop, which had taken us six hours, we were a little worried about timing, but it appeared that the attractions on this loop were fewer and farther between, and as it turned out, it took us about eight hours, including visits to several more stone ring-forts (c. 10th-11th centuries), the beautifully-preserved 7th-10th-century Gallarus Oratory, a 15th-16th-century castle, more awe-inspiring coastal scenery, and a 20th-21st-century chocolate factory. Pictures to follow. Spent another night in the same B&B in Kenmare, where the proprietor had done a load of laundry for us. Clean undies -- yay! Will tip well.

Today we're driving to Limerick, visiting the Lough Gur archaeological and historical site, then hopping on the motorway to Galway.
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Last night we had dinner at a sort of gastropub in Kilkenny. Decent food, and it's the first place we've been yet with an evening live-music show. It was three or four guys playing (variously) guitar, mandolin, harmonica, tin whistle, etc. and singing a mix of trad and trad-sounding songs.

Woke in the B&B in Kilkenny, had breakfast, checked out of the room, and walked a block away to Kilkenny Castle. Originally a wooden fort built by Strongbow, it was inherited by William Marshal (through his wife, Strongbow's heir), who replaced it with a trapezoidal stone castle. It abruptly became a U-shaped castle when Oliver Cromwell's artillery knocked down one of the four sides. The resident noble family finally abandoned it in 1935, then sold what remained of the building to the landmarks commission in 1995. A multi-million-pound restoration project aimed at restoring it to its Victorian glory, and much of the castle is now furnished in 19th-century style (although one can still see some of the medieval foundations).

Down the road is St Canice's Cathedral, which was built (IIRC) in the 12th or 13th century, except for the adjacent round tower which dates to the 9th century. St Canice's is among other things the final resting place of Bishop Richard Ledrede, compiler of the Red Book of Ossory (a 14th-century "filk book", full of sacred lyrics "to be sung to the tune of" various well-known pop tunes, only one of which survives). I got a photo of his tomb effigy, as well as of several other tomb effigies which are consistently dressed at least a hundred years behind the fashions: double-pointed hennins and V-necked gowns in the late 16th century? We also climbed the round tower and took a few photos from the top.
pictures from Kilkenny )

Then drove on to the Rock of Cashel, which was the seat of a series of feuding Kings of Munster until 1101, when the guy who had just grabbed it from his rivals donated it to the Church, thus effectively keeping it out of his rivals' hands and ingratiating himself with the Church. What had been chosen as a highly defensible castle became a highly defensible cathedral for several hundred years, until a 17th-century bishop got tired of living in a castle with six-foot-thick walls and one fireplace in the whole building, on top of a rock that catches every wind in Ireland, so he moved first his residence, and then the Cathedral, down the hill and abandoned the old cathedral site.
Pictures from Cashel )

Lunch somewhere in County Tipperary )

Enough of that. We're in a B&B in Adare, just outside Limerick.
Pictures of B&B )


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