Category Archives: Ireland

Much better Aer Lingus but mystified by the Dublin airport

What a difference a modern aircraft and entertainment system can make on a trans Atlantic flight. My outbound flight had a near-nonfunctional entertainment system. Today’s aircraft has touch screens! Oh joy.

In flight entertainment recommendation

I stumbled upon some surprisingly good viewing options. First up, a two part documentary picturing the Obamas (about the two dazzling Obama portraits) that had me teary at times. I remember going to see them at the National Portrait Gallery and spending most of my time watching people looking at them, taking photos of themselves beside them, crying. It was profoundly moving.

This doc followed the portraits as they went on tour in five cities (including my new home in Chicago). It was fascinating to see how the five different museums created educational , cultural and marketing efforts around the portraits visit, coming up with so many interesting ways to entice people who often don’t feel welcome in high art institutions to visit and better yet, to feel comfortable and connect with the place and its art. I particularly loved watching the kids look at the portraits.

There were also illuminating interviews with Amy sherod and Kehinde Wiley, the two portrait painters whose work I have sought out ever since seeing those portraits. And of course there were fond images and footage from the hope and change Obama years.

All I saw of Ireland this trip 😕

I also found a good Austin city lights type show, I guess the Irish version called Other Voices and watched one episode filmed in a tiny church in isolated dingle peninsula with St. Vincent doing acoustic and in Austin with Margo Price. Both excellent. Another episode had a very young amy winehouse in 2006 singing to maybe 30 people. Cannot imagine!Even the food was a step up from the previous flight. Not stellar but edible.

I was confused by the layover in the Dublin airport because it seemed like a completely different place from the airport I passed though on my outbound trip and in January when I connected thru Dublin en route to Paris and Madrid. This time I had 4 hours to kill. And we had to go though security twice (pulling out our toiletries and electronics again) when we arrived and when we left, which seemed odd. We’d already sent our stuff through the conveyor belt in Frankfurt. Why did we need to do it before entering the Dublin airport and before leaving it? I don’t remember that from our previous trip and considering how tight those connecting flights were we might have been in trouble making our next flight. I talked with the security guys at the second check point snd they said something about this being new and a trial run for two months. I don’t get the thinking.

I did understand this time, unlike the past trip, that we were going though u.s. immigration/customs in Dublin, which is fabulous because it means when we land in Chicago, no long lines. (And there was NO line in Dublin.) It’s like leaving the airport after a domestic flight. Apparently Ireland is one of the few airports with this (ore- clearance, I think it’s called) and I’m I curious how it came about.

Stocking up for next flight

During the layover, I also was in one of those shopping mall/food hall type spaces to wait which was completely different from the previous trips where we were in a relatively bare bones gate area with few amenities (shops, restaurants). So it was confusing. Not the airport I remembered from just 4 days ago, let alone two months ago.

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Highlights of County Cork (Ireland)…Ballydehob, Schull, Mizen Head and beyond!

Happy Birthday Myra! This  is for you! (But others are welcome to enjoy!)

My friend Myra and her family are traveling to County Cork, Ireland (and beyond) this summer so, as promised, here are highlights from our 2004 trip there, culled from entries hastily scribbled in my journal (journal #44 to be precise.) Please excuse any misspellings – chalk it up to tricky Gaelic spelling and my hard-to-decipher handwriting!

Another good resource:, (complete with a sound track of fiddlely-dee music – as our English friend Francine refers to Irish music).


  • We rented a 200-year-old stone house in the countryside with a tiny pond, outside the small village of Ballydehob. (I wish I knew exactly where.  Below are some family photos. We shared the house with friends from London.)

The kids (Morgan, Lily, emma, Noah) and Russ after a run, outside "our house" in Ballydehob, 2004

The kids (Morgan, Lily, Kate, Noah) and Russ after a run, outside “our house” in Ballydehob, 2004

Noah and Morgan outside "our house" in Ballydehob. 2004

Noah and Morgan outside “our house” in Ballydehob. 2004

  • We spent much of our time in the larger village of Schull (pronounced “Skull”) where we visited the Sunday morning farmers market. (Of course!)  We bought some  locally-made Gubbeen cheese (my favorite on this trip; the mature, non-smoked version is best!),  sausages and bread for a picnic by the water; visited the ruins of a church with a famine (?) graveyard; and had a drink at The Courtyard, which we ended up visiting several times. We watched local musicians play during a traditional sing-along. We also ate one of our better meals at the pub – which, oddly, was Thai food. At the Sunday market,  I also bought  a hand-knit sweater (which I still wear). Here’s a photo of the kids exploring the ruins by the water in Schull.

The kids exploring the ruins along the bay in Schull

In Scull, we also went to a ceilidh (pronounced kaylee) at the village hall – which is not to be missed. It was a cross between a square dance and a talent show, where locals and visitors (from all over including Germany, France and, oddly, the Canary Islands) danced reels and line dances to live accordion music, as well as performed ad hoc. (Francine got up and sang a song. So did a weather-beaten  old man sitting beside us who didn’t say a word otherwise. He sang beautifully; Some young girls did Irish stepdancing, a la Riverdance.  A little boy played a tin whistle. ) Then we all broke for tea and biscuits (of course!

In Schull the kids also went sea kayaking. One of our best meals was home-cooked – we brought back fresh mussels and salmon that we bought along the water in Schull.


#1) We drove about 45 minutes southwest to Mizen Head, a very dramatic slab of sculpted rock jutting out into the ocean (or so I wrote). We toured the lighthouse station, stood on a suspension bridge above a deep slash in the rock   (shades of Ithaca!) and saw several seals. From there we drove to the small fishing village of Crookhaven (see photo at top), where we ate  crab sandwiches and seafood chowder at O’Sullivans Bar, sitting at an outdoor  picnic table overlooking a narrow channel full of sailboats.  A few brave souls (not me among them) tried swimming in the ice cold sea (or “paddling” as the Brits call taking a dip.)

Mizen Head: the most south-westerly point of Ireland.

#2) We took a day trip via ferry to “Clear Island”  (see photo below; AKA Cape Clear or Cléire), a wild, largely uninhabited small slab of craggy land which we will forever refer to as “UnClear Island” since the little isle was shrouded in dense fog. But it was a fun trip. During a long hike in the fog, mist and “soft rain,”  I completely lost sight of Emma – who I was pretty sure was ahead of me – but when I called out to her, she answered back. Phew!Clear Island.jpg  I also had my first ever Irish coffee in the pub by North Harbor, where we caught the ferry back. (see photo below). It really hit the spot since we were chilled from our long slog  in the fog. The ferry ride aboard the Karycraft took about 45 minutes and was very amusing, thanks to our skipper, Kiernan Malley, who not only told stories about the area but sang a song or two while playing the accordion and ,presumably, steering the boat (We later spotted him working in a car garage in Schull. A man of many talents!)

Betsy drinking her first Irish Coffee in a pub with Noah on "Unclear Island" outside Schull

Church at Gougane Barra – built on island near monastery/well site at end of 19th century.

#3) Another great day trip:  Bantry Bay to the seaside villages of Glengarriff and Castletownbarre (where we ate seafood chowder at MacCarthy’s Pub), around the Beara Peninsula and stunning Cod’s Head cape.


The junction of Main Street, North Road and the pier in Castletownbere


Picture for category Romantic Gifts


We stayed in the pretty and welcoming  Oldtown Farmhouse b&b  in the village of Stoneyford, outside Thomastown.  We really liked the city of Kilkenny, with its medieval castle and cool Kilkenny Design Centre with great crafts (where I bought celtic-design earrings that I also continue to wear!) The Centre has a collection of work by the now world-famous Dublin-born designer Orla Kiely (who has had a recent gig in the U.S. with Target stores). We also visited an amazing 12th century monastic ruin outside Stoneyford (where we stayed at a farm b&b).
By the water in Schull
Emma in Co. Kilkenny at a monastic ruin

Mountain view from Oldtown Farmhouse


We stayed in Howth, a small village outside Dublin (we commuted into the city) with a cool cliff walk over looking the ocean. We stayed at a very low-key  b&B called Gleann-na-smol B&B (where we found some other visitors from….Iowa). Very nice host family.

  • Gleann-na-Smol B&B
  •  In Dublin we did the typical stuff – walked around Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street, at pizza at the Badass Cafe at Temple Bar, walked over the Ha’Penny bridge.Image

the Ha’penny Bridge


Go dté tú slán (which means safe journey in gaelic – but who knows how to pronounce it!)

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Tips from a friend who just returned from Scotland and Ireland!! Bring your rain gear

Glenfarg Green

Our friends Kathy, Doug and  Conor just returned from a two week trip to Scotland and Ireland and kindly sent along their highlights/recommendations to share!

Kathy adds: If anyone is planning to go this summer, I’d be sure to bring layers of clothes and rain gear, since they’ve been having torrential rain and predicting it is going to be a “summer without a summer.” So saying, even though the weather was generally cool and rainy, we had some nice days and the weather was never so bad that it prevented us from doing what we wanted.) 



Bed and breakfast: We stayed at Priestville Guest House [10 Priestfield Road, Edinburgh EH16 5HJ], a nice bed and breakfast with a friendly host, near the University of Edinburgh about a 20-minute walk from the Royal Mile and a short walk to Holyrood Park, which has plenty of walking and hiking trails.

* Salisbury Arms, a classy but casual restaurant and bar near the guest house with a nice patio area. 
* Anna Purna, a vegetarian Indian restaurant that was one of the best meals we had on the trip.
* Ciao Roma, a nice Italian restaurant downtown. Had a great pizza for lunch.


* Leslie’s, a “real ale” bar and traditional Victorian pub. 


* National Museum of Scotland: Highly recommended, huge and free. Everything from mummies to dinosaurs and quirky timepieces. You could spend all day here, especially if it is raining.

Glenfarg: A tiny village about an hour north of Edinburgh and Glasgow. “The gateway to the Highlands.” There isn’t much in town but the Glenfarg Hotel, a small (16-room) private hotel with a restaurant and several bars that is obviously the place to be in the area. The Saturday night we stayed there the local soccer team was having their annual “disco night” in the basement bar, another group of locals was watching European championship soccer in the first-floor bar, some senior citizens were having dinner in the dining room, and we camped out in the lobby bar to watch the action. 

Drymen: About an hour north of Glasgow in the beautiful Loch Lomond national park area. A nice little village with several pubs and restaurants that would make a low-key base for several days of hiking, walking and touring. We stayed at the Winnock Hotel on the town square, a nice old hotel that catered to tourists (it hosted a traditional music “céilidh” one night we were there), and had a restaurant and a busy bar. We also had drinks and dinner in several restaurants and bars on the square.

Within driving distance:

* Doune Castle: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” was shot in this well-preserved 14th-century castle. A fun, funny self-guided audio tour narrated by Python Terry Jones addresses both the actual history and the filming. We agreed that it was one of the best castle tours we’ve taken. 


Howth: Scenic fishing village a nice day trip north of Dublin on the transit system. After wandering all over town, we ended up eating fish and chips at a tiny pierside seafood tapas bar called Octopussy, where we had literally the best meal of the trip. We are still talking about the light, flaky smoked fish.
Waterford: We stated at Dooley’s, an old hotel on the waterfront, which had large rooms, a nice bar and the best buffet breakfast we have ever had. Waterford crystal is made here, and there is a display room and tours available. 

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