Eileen and I just returned from our first trip to Ireland...and certainly not our last one. For both of our families, we were the first to return to the ol' sod. Our distant ancestors came over in the 19th century, taking different routes to get to America. Mine came via ship to New York City in the late 1800's. Eileen's came via Canada to Montana. We both have O'Sullivans in our ancestry. I was named after my great-uncle, Patrick Francis O'Sullivan, since I was born on his birthday.
While both of us had our separate thoughts, emotions, and desires about Ireland, neither of us really knew what to expect. Eileen certainly was looking for the music and musicians to learn from at sessions and to the festival of traditional Irish music, Feile Chois Cuan, in Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, Ireland. My goals were simpler, I think. I wanted to see Ireland where a good deal of my gene pool originated. At least half my gene pool anyways, since my Mom was 100% Irish. While my last name is English and we know more about the Lyford ancestry than the Irish side of our family, we certainly were raised with a predominantly Irish slant.
In Ireland, we went to Dublin, Galway, Inis Oirr (Inisheer), Clifden, Louisburgh, and Ennis over a course of 14 days, not counting travel days. Dublin is, well, a big city. Much like any other big city. People were hesitant to say hello or look anyone else in the eye and pretty much kept about their own business. It has it's very large tourist element, particularly in the Temple Bar District near city center. A place to avoid unless reliving college party revelry is on your bucket list. Trinity College was very much worth the visit. Saw the Book of Kells, which was impressive, but I thoroughly enjoyed the architecture of the building and the "long room", as it's called, which houses thousands of volumes of rare books.
|Upper rooms in The Long Room at Trinity College|
While in Dublin, we stayed at the Ariel House, a Victorian house built in 1850 that's still in the process of being restored to its original beauty, on Lansdowne Road, in Ballsbridge, which is adjacent to a train station that made getting into city center a breeze, once I figured out how to get the required tickets for us and which station we wanted to get off at. The ticket is needed to get to the loading platform to board the train and to get out of the station once you exit. There's no notice to inform you of this. Unfortunately for the rest of the B&Bs we stayed at, Ariel House set the bar too high for them to match. Breakfast at this place was absolutely delicious. I would have eaten all of our meals there even if they were only serving the breakfast all day. The staff were excellent and the rooms were quite comfortable and quiet. I booked this through Booking.com and got a very good price for our two nights there. As I said, Dublin is a big city with all the things that go with that. One of the main reasons I'd return would be to stay at Ariel House again. The staff in the dining room could work at any 4 or 5 star restaurant. We felt at home here. Here's a short video of Eileen at The Ariel House with the Donald Duck voice. WTF!
The Cobblestone Pub, where Eileen was asked by Rus Bradburd to say hello to Tom, the owner. Rus is a musician and friend of ours from Las Cruces, NM. He was in Belfast most recently with his wife, Connie, and he sat in on some sessions at The Cobblestone and met some of the players there. After ordering our Guinness, the barman asked us where we were from. Eileen told him about Rus asking her to say hello to Tom, the owner of The Cobblestone for him. The barman told Tom about Eileen and me when Tom arrived. He promptly introduced himself, insisted Eileen join the session, and gave both of us a pint. How good is that? We both had fun this night in Dublin. I got to drink a cask conditioned pale ale from an Irish microbrewery and Eileen got to play fiddle. She didn't bring her fiddle with her that night but Tom had a fiddle behind the bar. Only in Ireland. So, she couldn't say no. Tom also gave Eileen a t-shirt and a CD of sessions from The Cobblestone Pub. Here's a video of Eileen at The Cobblestone. Tom is the guy playing the flute near the end of the video.
The Stags Head Pub, where we all had dinner and more brews. Had the best fish and chips in Ireland there. Like Ariel House, the chef there set the bar too high for all the other places where I ordered fish and chips. Noel headed home after dinner since he'd been out the night before entertaining visiting family. We headed to an outdoor market. Picked up some smoked cheddar to bring home. Next on our list was The Cobblestone again. Eileen had her fiddle with her this time, but the session there was too fast, so we listened and had some Guinness. Do you sense a theme here? Once again, we had a good time in Dublin, but it was getting dark and we needed to head back to the Ariel House, so Jesper walked with us to the train station. Dublin is, after all, a big city. Crime does happen there. Eileen and I fun time meeting "the boys" and sincerely appreciated the hospitality they showed us. And the stories that Jim Kolb has to tell us now because Jesper told us about them. I don't have any photos of Jesper and Noel that came out...all out of focus. Here's a video of Jesper and Eileen walking through the Temple Bar area of Dublin. Not great, but it's all that I have.
On Sunday, April 28th, Eileen and I took a Citylink bus to Galway where we then took a shuttle to the ferry that brought us to Inis Oirr island, one of the Aran Islands, where we spent the next two nights and one day at the Radharc an Chlair (View of Claire) B&B. More on that later or else this will turn into a book, fer Christ's sake.
Ok, a tune to exit with....this is Antoin Mac Gabhann and his two daughters, Bernadette (who we met in Louisburgh, Ireland, at the 4 day traditional Irish music festival we went to). Antoin is playing some reels and his daughters are dancing. Antoin is a friend of Eileen's and we hung out with him in Louisburgh, as well. He's a well known traditional Irish fiddler and teaches all around the world. Eileen met him at Friday Harbor, a traditional Irish music camp she attended for a few years. He was teaching fiddle. Enjoy...and more on our trip in another post. I'll try not to bore y'all to death...