Ridley: So, I’m back from my week in Portugal (you’re probably going, ‘eh? I never knew you even left!’) and Latimer is back from her fantastic travels too. If you follow us on twitter, our feed has been packed with pictures. I have to say we’re extremely lucky that we’re both able to do these things, as I know not everyone has the opportunity, and while I didn’t go as far afield as Latimer did on her amazing travels, I still had a brilliant time. We also both had pocket sized travelling Buddhas to keep us company on our separate adventures. He has a little spindle and a giant smile. Latimer gave me mine, she got him in China, you’re not allowed buy the little man you have to be given it, so I was well chuffed to get him!
So with my little Buddha, I was able to step out of my life and into another for a short time. Whenever I go abroad I always come back wishing I could spend my life exploring, to be able to wander to the farthest reaches of the earth, learn new languages, eat unusual foods and experience different cultures. I’m a firm believer in working to live and not living to work. I know on my deathbed I won’t be wishing I’d spent more time at the office. Well maybe I’ll wish I’d once visited an office, as I’ve never worked in one, but you get my meaning!
While in Portugal, I got to listen to people speak a different language, try a few words myself, I tasted octopus, sea bass, swordfish, and I had the best of ice cream (lots of it). There were palm trees, cockroaches, crickets and weird beetles, colourful birds and lots of cats, all things that we don’t really have in Ireland (except for the cats, but these are Portuguese cats, so I’ll count them). The houses were painted bright exciting pinks and blues that were complemented by the sparkling sunshine and the tiles of the roofs were beautiful vibrant terracotta.There was blistering heat during the day, where I burned to a fire engine red, and freckles, that I never knew were lurking just beneath my skin, popped up like uninvited mushrooms. Then night time, it was freezing, the stars were so exceptionally bright, and the darkness came so much earlier than at home. It’s the differences between places, and often times the similarities, that I love and get excited over. I’m certain that there are lots of people out there that feel the same way, right?
I think the one thing I really need to learn to do though, is appreciate what I have in my own country too, to see it through the eyes of a visitor and know that while our houses aren’t bright colours, and we have no palm trees, it’s still a great place to live.Everyone commiserated with me when I returned home on how bad the weather was, that the rain was what greeted me when I stepped off the plane, at first I agreed wholeheartedly, but when I thought about it I decided that there was just a different type of beauty in the dark storm clouds rolling by overhead and the patter of rain, the gurgling of water filled gutters, while I liked being away from it all, I have to say I would miss it if I never had it ever again too.
On that note, I’ll leave you with more pretty pictures!
Latimer: Last weekend, I journeyed north – to the rugged and jagged cliffs of the county Antrim coast (Game of Throne’s country! :)).
I’m just after realising… I thought ALOT of the places I saw as we drove around the coast looked like the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones… and we ended up, having missed a turn, at a tiny, tiny harbour – and!- AND I just looked it up (it’s called Ballintoy) and it was a location for the Iron Islands on Game of Thrones!
It was the back of beyonds. Wow, I’m actually just going ‘damn, I should have gotten out and ran around or something!’ (over his shoulder on the left-hand side facing us! up there near the cove… yep :)!). I even took note of the place, thinking, I must remember this place!
Anyway, going to Antrim was a first for me. It’s not that far from home, nowhere in Ireland is in fairness, but sometimes it takes a few years before we end up going to the places that we’ve always meant to go.
I’ve always meant to go to the Giant’s causeway; it’s one of those ‘on the list, but never seem to go’ sort of places (like Sceilig Mhichíl, the tiny rock monastery out in the Atlantic ocean; but that’s another story!).
As we journeyed to the tip of Northern Ireland, I started thinking back on the story of the causeway, or what I remembered of it. In school I remember that we learned lots of the old Irish stories; children of Lir, Deirdre of the sorrows, Fionn and the Fianna (band of warriors) – I even remember learning about all the tests a young warrior had to do before he could join the Fianna; we had to draw a picture for each task and I think there were 12? I remember one of them was run through the forest while picking a torn out of your foot (and another task was to run through the forest without breaking a single twig!).
We learned a lot of Irish stories; we even did plays ‘as Gaeilge’ (in Irish). Children of Lir was a popular one (I played Fiachra? I think! In the act where the children are turned into swans… I play a child being turned into a swan very well, as it turns out! HA!).
The story of the causeway was a little fuzzy for me. The giant’s name was all I really remembered: Fionn Mac Cumhaill.
When we got to the causeway visitors centre, the story started to come back to me as I watched the CGI Fionn (known as ‘Finn Mac Cool’ in Northern Ireland, but ‘Fionn Mac Cumhaill’ in Irish) on the explanatory video they played.
This story, and the one that I remembered, was where Fionn was mocked by a Scottish giant who he could see beyond the sea in Scotland (jumping up and down and making gestures – the Scottish giant wanted a fight).
Fionn was enraged and threw stones into the sea to build a bridge to get to Scotland (one of the sods of earth became the Isle of Man – that’s a side-story!). He built the causeway, and traveled all the way to Scotland to confront this would-be foe.
Fionn crept along the final steps of the causeway. He started to haul himself up the Scottish cliffs then paused. The Scottish giant, Cuhullin, was far bigger than Fionn. So, like any sensible person (and giant!), Fionn fecked off back home and shut the door. As his wife stared at him, with a ‘what have you gone and done?’ look on her face, the ground beneath them started to tremble! BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! Cuhullin was racing across the causeway to fight Fionn!
Fionn’s wife, proving the clever one, told Fionn to get into their baby’s cot. She dressed him up as their baby and pulled the curtains to hide him from view.
Cuhullin banged on the door and she let him in. Fionn’s wife told Cuhullin that her husband was out. The giant pulled back the curtains and saw Fionn ‘the baby’ in his cot. What a massive baby, he thought, shaking in his boots – how big would his father be?! Fearing for his safety, Cuhullin raced back to Scotland.
I remembered the name Fionn Mac Cumhaill as also being ‘Fionn and the Fianna’, the story of an Irish warrior and the fearsome Fianna warriors. As it turns out this Fionn and the giant share the name, but the two have very different stories.
If you have ever heard the story of Tir na nÓg (the land of the young) and the young Oisín who journeyed there on a white horse with a girl called Niamh; well, Fionn Mac Cumhaill (of Fionn and the Fianna fame) was Oisín’s father.
The causeway was beautiful, despite the typical Irish bad weather (winds that would whistle right through your bones and icy cold rain!). The rocks were a little dangerous, because of the wet and the wind, but never one to care I scrambled across them and out as far as I could go – by law! The rocks of the causeway are made of basalt, which is solidified lava. It was caused, in reality, by a volcanic eruption.
Apparently at one point in its life (around 1901), it was rumoured that the causeway was going to be moved to a Philadelphia park (stone by stone and rebuilt there). Thankfully it wasn’t, but lots of the stones were taken away and can be found all over the world.
This box shows some of the places where you can find some of the Giants causeway! It’s very unlucky to remove stones and you are definitely not allowed anymore (my Mam kept saying; ‘wouldn’t you love some of those stones for your garden?’).
Back at the visitors centre we saw a collection of postcards from years ago, from people who visited the causeway (some would have been from the early 1900s). Very interesting to read voices from the past 🙂
We also saw some lovely jewellery made from buttons by a woman called Jane Walsh (Button Studio) in Athlone Ireland. I couldn’t leave without one!
Also lots of Irish fudge and chocolate, yummers!
We had another site to see while on the Antrim coast, the Carrack-a-Rede rope bridge. It’s a short rope bridge that leads over to an island where fishermen used to cast salmon nets (back in the old days they would cross the, then, one-rope bridge to collect their catch and haul it back over the nauseating cliff gap).
I really, really wanted to cross the bridge (even though I was afraid). But the winds were far too dangerous and the bridge was closed for the day. The sharp, icy winds would have swept you right off the bridge, so no good, we weren’t getting across. It was annoying, but being that close to the cliff, I felt pretty scared anyway. I kept saying I would have done it anyway, and I would have, but it looked really scary.
There were steel steps leading downward to the bridge itself at a very steep angle. If I have a fear of something, it is the sea. I really don’t like it. But heights aren’t great either, and it was high up over the waves crashing violently against the cliffs, so… I’ll put it back on the list for a later date!
We saw a lot of stunning views of the rugged coastline and also stopped by a small ‘village’ (I’m not sure it was a village exactly, maybe a small collection of private houses right on the coast more like?).
(I notice these pictures look like the place was warm… hmm, it was freezing and the wind would cut right through you!)
This was home to what is called (apparently) the smallest church in the world! It was basically in someone’s garden.
They had a gorgeous view of the sea and the loveliest little place to sit and watch the wave’s crash along the pebble-dash shore. It was very beautiful.
This was a great trip – the causeway, the bridge and the Antrim coast should definitely be on the list of places you have to visit if you ever come to Ireland 🙂
The trip really made me think of all the old stories I learned in the past and I had this nice re-connect with my Irish-ness – all in perfect time for Lá Fhéile Pádraig (Paddy’s Day) this week 🙂
Ridley: Old movies. I love them. I have done since I was quite young. In particular, the old black and white, or barely just colour, love stories. To me, they’re infused with barely restrained passion. They adhere to the notion of, less is more. There was no bed hopping or clothes ripping in these films, just fiery declarations of love and desperate kisses, which made your heart swell as you looked on with a box of tissues, clutching a cushion to your chest and hoping everything would all work out for them.
I don’t quite know why this fascination with old films originally started, but I do know where it all began, with one my very favourite black and white films; The Ghost and Mrs Muir. Now Latimer has heard me mention this maybe a time or two…dozen…down through the years, I’ve seen it around four times. Not that many times for a favourite something of mine,( usually it gets worn out) but for some reason I’ve refused to buy a copy, I’ll only watch it when they show it on television, which is something thatrarely happens now.
It is one of the most unconventional love stories- well when it first came out anyway, possibly not now, in a world where vampires and werewolves and fairies and what not are potential love interests. Though I would argue it’s still pretty unique!
It’s a 1947 film, (based on a novel, all the good ones are-teehee…) where a young widow, Lucy Muir, played by Gene Tierney, moves to an English seaside town and rents Gull Cottage, a house haunted by the ghost of it’s former owner, a roguish, irascible, surly (and down right smexy) sea captain, Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison, who I again love in another movie, My Fair Lady, as the Professor!).
They have a rocky, tit-for-tat relationship, she’s the first woman who hasn’t run out of the house screaming at the sight of an apparition appearing in the darkness beside her and who is able to give as good as she gets. (Booyaa for strong female characters everywhere! 😀 )
After her refusal to leave the cottage, they settle into an uneasy living arrangement, slowly beginning to enjoy each other’s company. However, it soon becomes clear to Captain Gregg that Lucy’s finances are drying up and she may have to leave the house anyway, so he decides that he will dictate his memoirs to her, entitled Blood and Swash, and then sell them.
As they write the book together, their friendship deepens into something neither of them ever name as they both begin to realise just how hopeless their situation is.
Lucy Muir: It’s no crime to be alive! Captain Gregg: No, my dear, sometimes it’s a great inconvenience. The living can be hurt.
It is the Captain who begins to insist that Lucy should find a man who can be with her, in all senses of the word, so she doesn’t spend her life alone. (I am at this point shouting at the TV going, ‘Nooo, Captain Gregg, she wants you!! Don’t be a fool! Who cares if you’re a ghost, it could still work….somehow!’)
When they finish writing the book, after some trials and tribulations, it is published and with Captain Gregg’s racy recollections, the novel becomes a bestseller.
Captain Gregg: I’ve lived the life of a man and I’m not ashamed to admit it!
This of course, gives Lucy the money to allow her to stay in the house, with him. (Ridley: *cheesy grin*)
It is on a visit to her publisher in London, though, that Lucy meets and becomes attracted to suave Miles Fairley (George Sanders). (Ridley: ‘Run away from nasty hobbities man, Lucy! Me no trust him!’)
Captain Gregg is jealous of their relationship (swoon!).
Lucy Muir: You, yourself, said I should mix with people, that I should see… men. Captain Gregg: I said men, not perfumed parlour snakes!
Captain Gregg: And the way he was smirking at you, like a cat in the fishmonger’s! You should have slapped his face! Lucy Muir: Why? I found him… rather charming! Captain Gregg: “Rather charming!” Now you’re starting to talk like him! Lucy Muir: How in blazes do you want me to talk? Captain Gregg: That’s better!
Captain Gregg soon begins to realise, though, that he is the main obstacle to her happiness. While he’s around, she won’t truly allow herself to find someone else, and so, while Lucy is asleep, the Captain convinces her that he was nothing but a dream…(cue Ridley’s heart shattering into millions of tiny pieces)
“Oh, Lucia, you are so little and so lovely. How I would have liked to have taken you to Norway and shown you the fiords in the midnight sun, and to China- what you’ve missed, Lucia, by being born too late to travel the Seven Seas with me! And what I’ve missed, too.”
(Ridley: *clasping hands together with a giant sigh*)
Of course, i’m not going to continue to spoil the whole film for you. GO and watch it. Get a nice cup of tea, a good squishy cushion and soft tissues. Sometimes the oldies really are the best!
Of course, it’s not hard to see how my younger self ended up devouring other old films in search of more epic romances such as that one, and down through the years I’ve found many, such as Sabrina (with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart), The Philadelphia Story (Cary Grant), Casablanca (Humphrey again), My Fair Lady (Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison), Gone with the Wind (Clark Gable), Gigi (Latimer put me wise to this about nine years ago!), and quite a few Fred Astaire films, but to name a few!
If you’ve any similar old movie suggestions for me, let me have them, I can set myself up for a long overdue film marathon!! 😀
Latimer: It’s been a very long time since I ventured to the West of Ireland. I put up my hands here and admit it’s been at least ten years.
I don’t ‘Go West’ often, clearly.
Another admission here is that I don’t think I’ve ever been to Galway (I don’t think even Ridley realises this and it’ll probably come as a shock to her, because she goes to Galway pretty often and has lots of childhood memories of the place I’m sure).
I don’t want you thinking though that I haven’t travelled around Ireland much- the Irish childhood, if you were a child in the late eighties and early nineties (and before this), generally involved great family holidaystravelling around Ireland because no one had money to be going abroad.
I have all these vague memories of being in odd places in Ireland; places that have become almost like dreamscapes, because back then I never knew where I was anyway. As a child the places you visit are just backdrops that weave and change without you paying real attention to where or what they are.
I remember being in old manor houses, and stone castles, and forests with waterfalls; and I have this vivid memory of a green valley; standing overlooking massive lakes.
Sometimes it really annoys me, because these are places I would like to visit again.
There’s a massive cave in Ireland; the best way I can think to describe it, is that it appears as if the earth has caved in; you can stand around the edges and look down (WAY down) and this cave opens up beneath you. There are steps than lead down (I remember the walk was a steep decline). And, my memories tell me, that people used to hide down there during Viking raids. The roof of the cave is black from the fires people used to light down there to cook their food when they were hiding. I also have this other memory of someone saying Vikings used to throw people off the edge.
I would love to go back to this cave, but I can’t remember where it is 🙁
Back to the present, I had a ‘fly-by’ visit to Galway this weekend.
Very fly-by; two days, one of which was work related so, really I only had one day to get out and see the small city.
The thing I noticed when I was there was that it was very Irish. I imagine that the image people have of Ireland- the closest thing to it, will be found in the West. There’s this real Irish vibe to the place; which left me feeling weird. I felt like a visitor. I walked the cobbled streets thinking; I don’t know Ireland. It did remind me of when I was young and on holidays. It had been a long while since I had seen the old Ireland. Aran sweaters; the Atlantic… it had been a long time since I stood anywhere looking out at the Atlantic ocean.
I heard people speaking Irish; people just walking along… it’s a sad fact that this doesn’t happen much. I had to turn and think, ‘cad é an scéal!?’ (what’s the story!?). I saw signs in shops written in Irish; I saw the word milseáin written on a sweetshop… It means sweets, but it has been so long since I had said or seen this word.
Galway is known for having more than the average number of Irish speakers. If you were looking for an authentic, old world Ireland, that’d be the place to go.
The taxi drivers are very chatty too; one I had was telling me all about how he had spent 30-odd days last year doing the Camino de Santiago walk in Spain.
He was so happy he had done it; and he said he had spent his days walking with people he didn’t know, even a French woman who didn’t speak English (‘and me not a word of French!’ he laughed). Still, he said they managed to have a great chat. This is the stamp of a friendly Irish person; they somehow just weave and dive around with random people. He seemed really nice; he spent the drive telling me, ‘you should do it, you should’ so much so, by the end of it, I was thinking’ yes! Yes I will!’ Even though, the Camino is not something I have ever considered!
I have mentioned, our friend Orbie before; Orbie told me two places I had to go in Galway- the breakfast place Ard Bia and the tea shop (whose name she had forgotten. It’s Cupán Tae; when I told her she texted me and said ‘how did I forget that!’…. the term means ‘cup of tea’ in Irish, it’s pretty common! Sometimes Irish people will say, ‘do you want a cupán tae?’).
So I had a mission; Ard Bia for breakfast, Cupán Tae for tea. Huzzah.
Ard Bia is located under the Spanish Arch. I’d heard a lot about this Spanish Arch. The image conjured up a massive arch… actually it’s really a tiny innocuous arch.
However, it was built in the 1500s and has links to the Spanish invaders, so actually pretty historic.
Ard Bia is a tiny stone building by the sea.
It’s a bit like the TARDIS (bigger on the inside :)). But it’s sort of hanging off this stone walk-way. I was staring at if from the outside thinking… that building looks like it’s going to erode into the sea! Well, not for a while, I was alright!
It’s a very sweet and pretty place. You open the door and it smells like freshly baked warm cakes; like a country kitchen (I assume a country kitchen might smell like cakes!).
The view from my lovely window-box seat was very special.
I had express instructions to get the veggie breakie (Orbie’s favourite).
It was scrummy and very affordable! Got to recommend this place- if you are ever in Galway!
Then, I slipped across the road to Cupán Tae.
It reminded me of Japan. That sounds strange I know; it was packed with floral stuff- cups, tea pots, napkins and tablecloths. The word that jumps to mind is ‘kawaii’.
I got the ‘bad weather tea’ (haha, it rains in Galway a lot, apparently, if not the locals really go on about it- ah the Irish and talking about the weather, we love it) and a slice of biscuit cake… oh heaven on both counts!
And I don’t often like ‘different’ teas! But I figured it was a proper tea place so I should get something different. It was sort of fruity. Very nice anyway, really was.
It cost me 6euro… that in comparsion to our Tokyo tea adventure- 20euro each! I won’t lie, I really enjoyed that tea place in Ginza…
but Tokyo-high-flyers, you got to visit Cupán Tae… put that price in perspective!
After tea, I took a wander around the city (very easy as it’s quite small and nice). Found some interesting places (Druid Lane).
And The Hall of the Red Earl… the remains of an Earls house from the 1200s (lots of history).
There’s a pub called the King’s Head… it’s 800yrs old and used to belong to the Mayor of Galway- it was seized from him by Col. Peter Stubbers following Galway’s surrender to Cromwell; Stubber was believed to have been responsible for beheading King Charles I in 1649 (ergo the King’s Head pub I guess!).
Then there’s the Saturday market- lots of handmade fudge and fresh food- looked yummy (I really love food!)
I also passed a statue of Oscar Wilde (I think I have a thing about statues now…) he was sitting beside Eduard Vilde, as I walked away a child passed with her parents. In a loud, ‘trying to sound adult’ voice she exclaimed, pointing at Wilde; “WHAT on earth is that!”
A nice weekend trip; I should make more of an effort to go West, more often!
Myself and Ridley will be off to the Bram Stoker festival in Dublin next weekend 🙂 Hope to have a lot to say about it!
Ridley: I’ve been wandering Ireland and I’m back from Yeats country (Yeats country being Sligo, in the West of Ireland!).
Latimer and I have decided we’d like to see more of our own country, we’ve such amazing landscapes and tourist attractions but we really don’t appreciate them. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been to a lot of our most famous spots. So we decided to change the record this year. We’re lining up a few mini-adventures in the coming weeks, which we will, of course, be sharing with you!
Starting this was a solo adventure of my own to my fantastic relatives in Sligo, who put me up for the weekend. We all socialised into the wee hours. They have an absolutely entrancing view of the sea; I caught myself staring out the window quite a number of times at the continuously changing landscape. It’s completely solidified my desire to one day live by the sea!
While we were there we took a detour to Drumcliffe, which is just a ten minute drive from Sligo itself. This beautiful church yard rests within the large shadow of the arresting mountain that can be seen no matter where you are in Sligo. This of course is Ben Bulben, which is immortalised in Yeat’s poem ‘Under Ben Bulben’. At this church site, you will find three things of interest, well four if you count the church! There is a magnificent High Cross, the ruins of a Round Tower and the resting place of W.B. Yeats.
In a grassy cemetery filled with mossy ancient graves is one of the finest examples left in Ireland of an 11th Century High Cross.
It is truly beautiful, magnificent even. I’ve always wanted to visit one. The West shaft of the cross holds scenes from the New Testament, a camel and two unknown figures in high relief. The East side shows Adam and Eve, Cain slaying Abel, Daniel in the Lions’ Den and Christ in Glory.
They are often known as Preaching crosses as they had ‘sermons carved in stone’ on them; these crosses enabled people to tell stories from the bible. Almost like stone books. Even if you aren’t remotely religious, visit it for the pure craftsmanship of these engravings, the intricate designs and also to marvel at its height. It’s 3.38 meters high and it towers over the rest of the graveyard, which once belonged to a former abbey. Couldn’t you imagine the tales that old engraved stone could tell? Of monks gliding by it in their brown habits, with their arms wrapped around precious books filled with ornately decorated manuscripts.
The Round Tower nearby is even older than the cross; it was built in the 10th century.
It would have even more stories to tell; perhaps it could whisper of chaotic Viking attacks as it sheltered the monks safely within its thick walls. It would have witnessed so much as it stood for so long, high above the landscape observing the sea, the mountains and of course Sligo, where it is the only known example of a Round Tower to have existed in the county. Now though it is a ruin, barely half of it is still there, as in 1396 it was struck by lightning (Thor, a god worshipped by the Vikings, exacting his revenge for thwarting his people perhaps!) and then most of the tower was dismantled to build a nearby bridge.
There is a local legend that the last of the tower will fall on top of the wisest person who passes under it- so I kept well clear of it, naturally! 😛
The third thing of interest there is the grave of W.B. Yeats, one of Ireland’s most famous poets. His grandfather was Rector of Drumcliffe and despite Yeats being born in Dublin, his heart belonged to Sligo.
He was buried right next to the stone church, which I might add is beautiful inside. Even the doors to the building are decorated. The bronze swan handles are a nod to Yeat’s poem ‘The Wild Swans at Coole.’ Inside, the back wall over the altar immediately draws the eye.
Though before entering there was this charming poster, they seem to have a problem with pious pigeons! There were a number of stone plaques along the walls, not to mention the arched stone glass windows and the organ up above in the gallery.
Yeats wrote very inspiring poetry and it’s not surprising when he had landscapes, like those found in Sligo, surrounding him.
He also drew a lot of ideas for his works from Irish mythology and folklore, which are filled with rich tales of warrior maidens, Chieftains, druids and ancient magic (another burial place in Sligo is the cairn of Queen Maeve. One day I will walk to the top of that particular ‘hill’ to see it!).
Also a powerful inspiration for his poetry was the Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne. He met her in 1889, and proposed to her four times over a ten year period. He was turned down each time. His unrequited love for Maud has always been a source of fascination for me. She is forever immortalised in his words, made famous by them, however she was never able to return his affections despite his efforts. Rather sad for a man who seemed to have spent his life searching; searching for love, the meaning to his existence, for things ‘not of this world’- Yeats was extremely interested in the occult and the supernatural, something else that can be seen in his writing. In his book ‘The Identity of Yeats’ Richard Ellmann states that Yeats ‘does not offer a fixed set of positions at the end of his life.’ It seemed he was always questioning, always searching and never definite on anything.
Perhaps this is why so many people connect with his poetry, aren’t we all searching for something? Meaning? Love? Happiness?
Perhaps this is why despite his death in 1939, his memory still endures and his words still inspire people?
If you want a thought provoking day out, one filled with beautiful poetry, magnificent crosses and fabulous views, pop on over by way of Sligo and visit Drumcliffe! You’ll feel all the wiser for it but then don’t go strolling passed any Round Towers afterwards!