Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ice Road Truckers In Ireland

Day 3- Part 2
That afternoon we continued around the Ring of Kerry, seeing the spectacular Cliffs of Mohr. Basically it was so foggy and windy I took a picture of a picture inside the museum restaurant. Still, leaving the Mrs. shopping (what else) I ventured up and along the narrow path, above the cliffs. Although there had to be near gale force winds, I tried to follow another couple of adventurers, who were about a hundred yards ahead of me, on the path. As you can see on the third picture, there was a plume of water streaming up and over the cliff. Kind of like a firemans hose. Getting wet from the rain was one thing. Getting doused by a blast of seawater was another. I turned back.
From there it was back to Killarney by going up and over the coastal mountains. The rain continued abated very, briefly then resumed. Then as we gained in elevation a dense fog set it in . Not good.
Now let’s cut to the chase here. The roads in Ireland are, by Minnesota frost heaved standards and pothole abundant, very well maintained. They are, however, very very narrow with no shoulders at all. They also seemed characterized by an inordinate amount of curves.

On the point of mountain roads, Mrs. T is not too fond of looking over the edge, thousands of feet down as occasionally happens when were are in the Rocky Mountain West. Panic attacks are a problem. Thus, on this day, I had the window seat and she was working a Sudoko with careful attention.
As I looked out the window, searching thru the fog for a lake far below, I noticed a "safety barrier"consisting of rocks piled about 6 inches high. No shoulder. No real safety barrier, a rain slicked highway in the fog and what seemed to be an excessive speed given the conditions. We were about two feet from the edge. Then it hit me. I’d seen the like of this before. It was watching the so-called "History Channel," whose newest hit, among all its recent non- historical "reality shows" and schlock was "IRT: Deadliest Roads." The Ice Roads Truckers were now driving over the Himalaya Mountains on a road which kills about 400 people per year!. No, I don't have any pictures of my views out the window of the bus. I was too busy praying. And NOT thinking of Lisa who is allegedly the sexiest trucker alive.
Well, perhaps it was the combination of our prayers and our drivers 36 years of driving experience but we obviously made it safely back to our hotel. The Irish adventure would continue.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ring Of Kerry

Day Three - On a rainy windy morning we headed off from Killarney to tour the fabled Ring Of Kerry. This mountainous peninsula faces the stormy North Atlantic on Ireland's western coast. Until recently peat had been Ireland’s major source of heating and cooking fuel. Peat is essentially, given a few million more years, future coal. We stopped that morning at Kerry Peat Bog Village to see a reconstruction of a long past lifestyle. The village centered around the hand digging of peat and the other attendant occupations associated with it. The dark piles, next to the cottages, are peat.
Later we stopped at one of the many local inns, where good food and the inevitable shopping venue were located.
The "mountains" here are low, perhaps two to three thousand feet, largely denuded of trees. They do, however, offer spectacular views of lake and seascapes.

Our first stop at sea level provided, for us Midwestern landlubbers, a rude awakening. The rollers coming in had to be around fifteen feet high. Except for a possible winter storm on Lake Superior, it was more ferocious than anything I’d ever seen.
The wind was..... well take a look.

The Ring Of Kerry - a scenic Irish highlight.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No! I didn't kiss the Blarney Stone

Day 2 Continued.
After our visit to Waterford Crystal we wound our way to Cork, Blarney and on to Killarney for a two night stay. Blarney is a small village dominated by a castle and the famous stone. The kissing procedure involves a long climb to the castle venue, laying on your back while a burly Irish gentleman, holding your ankles, lowers you into a hole in the ground, where now upside down, you may kiss the fabled rock. Wearing skirts is not recommended for the ladies. Mrs T, to my surprise recommended we skip this event on two grounds: (1) it was too long and too wet a climb up the castle , and (2) I was way too loquacious and full of bull as it was and didn't need any further encouragement. I accepted her reasoning, knowing full well that the alternate two hour shopping spree at the woolen mill in the village was where her heart was really at. So went shopping.
Her mission was to find scarves for gifts to friends. My secret mission was to find her a sweater.
Ignorance in action on my part. I quickly discovered that machine made woolen in Ireland or father afield is considerably less quality (and price) than handknit in Ireland. I went for the later. Paid for and shipped to the States, it hasn’t arrived yet but she was more than a little pleased. The heck with the Blarney stone!
A quick lunch and we were on our way to Killarney. The tomato bisque soup was scrumcious

Monday, November 15, 2010

Waterford Crystal

Day 2 - The next morning we found ourselves winding thru small towns and villages, back down to the coastal highway, heading south along the Irish Sea. Our bus driver ,Joe, doubled as tour guide, entertaining us with numerous stories and jokes, as well as current and historical background. We were on our way to the city and county of Waterford.
President Kennedy had visited his ancestral home at Dungastown, New Ross near here. A statue of him in the harbor and a reconstructed "famine ship", the Dunbrody, mark the place where millions of Irish emigrants tried to escape the ravages of the potato famine.
We quickly arrived at the world famous Waterford Crystal Factory for our first tour of the day.
It would be a big understatement to say I’m not very knowledgeable in area of the "home decorating arts" Several visits to the Chicago Art Museum's floor on that subject often found me quickly bored. Still, there was hope, because "artists tours" thru small towns in southwestern Wisconsin often left me enthralled watching glassblowers do their thing. As we began our tour of Waterford Crystal, I quickly realized this was my place......

The new high-tech facility exclusively produces 40,000 luxury hand-crafted crystal pieces using traditional artisan methods in addition to serving as a laboratory for innovation and modern design. Unfortunately, the ups and down of the business cycle have left much of Waterford Crystal production in other venues such as Germany and the Czech Republic. Still, here we would see a wonderful retail showcase and how each individual piece of crystal is created by highly skilled craftsmen using unique and traditional methods.
Waiting for our guided tour to begain Mrs. T and I wandered about thru the combination history/retail showcase. I was looking for that something special to buy the Mrs. Ah there it was. A crystal harp. Just perfect to go with our imaginary grand piano. The price tag is.... 64,000 Euros. At about $1.40 America for a Euro....just a little out of our price range. "Would you settle for a new table setting?" I asked the Queen. "You think we can afford one these teacups?," was the instant reply.
Then they called for us to join the guided tour. Whew! Come on along!

As the tour ended we returned to the retail area. Perhaps a Waterford Crystal Beer Stein would be in order, I thought. Not a chance!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Land of Saints and Scholars

Day 1. Arriving in early morning, after an overnight flight from the Twin Cities, we went south along the coastal expressway towards Glendalough in County Wexford. Leaving the four laner, we headed up into a beautiful hill and valley country. The narrow but well maintained highway passed small scattered woodlands, and rock walled fields teeming with flocks of sheep.

Our destination was the famous St. Kevin's monastary revealing the early origins of Christianity on the island. It dated back to the 6th century. The monastery sat on a hill overlooking a beautiful valley. Take a look.....
The monastery at Glendalough was enclosed within a circular wall. Unlike Benedictine monasteries, Celtic monasteries embraced entire families; men, women, their children and animals lived in the outer walls, while the celibates lived within the inner walls. In these worlds within the walls, they prayed and worked together in unity with all creation. The cathedral was destroyed by the English in the 14th century.

This very early Christian history of Ireland was a revelation to me. From hence came the saints and scholars, who traveled to England, France, Germany and beyond to help Christianize and bring learning to much of Western Europe.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Emerald Isle

We have just returned from an exhilirating, as well as exhausting, first time visit to Ireland. In every respect it lived up to and even exceeded our high expectations. We made new friends from among the congenial group we toured with. That group was led by Fathers Steve Peterson & Thomas Loomis from southeastern Minnesota parishes.

The wit and wisdom behind all those smiling Irish eyes was, indeed, a joy to behold. Now, as time allows in the weeks ahead, I'll sit down and catalogue those hundreds of pictures Mrs T and I took and share some of our journey with you.