April 17, 2007
So it seems that the first of March kicked off tourist season here at the Deery getaway in Ireland. Our first visitors were friends Mark and Shaun Pelton from Reedsburg, Wisconsin. We’ve learned from our own experience, and that of visitors, that when folks arrive first thing in the morning, it’s best if we can keep them up most of the day. With that in mind, we ran some errands in Dublin before heading out to take the long way home to Tramore. Along the way we made a couple of stops to get out of the car and stretch the legs a bit. Finally, we made a stop to tour the Dunbrody famine ship in New Ross (earlier the subject of one of my best-ever photos). On arriving in Tramore, Mark managed a little snooze, so after dinner he had enough energy so the boys could head out to the St. Leger Pub for the Wednesday evening trad session. I’d not been to this one before, though we have been to the St. Leger many evenings for other music. While our local favorite O’Neill’s Bar trad session is equally good for both singers and musicians, the St. Leger session seemed to be more focused on musicians, with 8 folks playing. There was some singing, good and bad, but there was more focus on just instrumental songs, and the pub seemed to be noisier overall than we’ve been used to at O’Neill’s.
On Thursday we had a low-key day touring the Copper Coast around Tramore, hitting the standards like Kilfarassy Beach, Dunhill Castle and Mahon Falls in the Comeragh Mountains. Thursday night we went to the Dunhill Multi-Education Centre (where Kathleen works) to listen to a lecture on local history by Julian Walton. Julian is a historian who’s well-known in this area for his daily history tidbits on the local radio station, and he’s been doing a series of lectures for the education centre, which I’ve been enjoying greatly.
After the history lecture, it was off to O’Neill’s for the weekly trad session. It was a sparse crowd this night, with only two musicians playing and very few folks watching. Kath and I were a little worried that Mark and Shaun wouldn’t get the whole energy that we usually see at O’Neill’s, but we needn’t have worried. We got a custom-tailored show since we were the bulk of the crowd, with only a few of the regulars there. Jimmy and Shaun, the two musicians, even did a fair number of American songs after learning that Mark and Shaun were visiting from the States. After much prodding from us and pretty much everyone else in the bar, Mark joined in the singing, offering up a great rendition of “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. Everyone here seems to know American country music of that era, so he had accompaniment on the chorus. Shaun and Kathleen pooped out and called it a night before things wrapped up, but Mark and I hung in until the very end with Jimmy and Shaun and an older married couple, Dan and Anne, who are at O’Neill’s every week. They can always be counted on for a couple of songs, and are usually called to sing first among the crowd. This night was no exception. When things were winding down, Jimmy and Shaun came over to chat with Dan and Anne, and as we sat talking Shaun asked Dan and Anne how long they’d been married. I didn’t hear what their reply was, but amongst the kidding with Shaun, they launched into a duet about young love that was a joy to behold.
Friday was another low-key day recovering from jet lag. We took in the tour of Waterford Crystal so Mark and Shaun could make the requisite contribution to Waterford’s economy. Friday evening, with visitors from Wisconsin, we came as close as we could to a fish fry, getting some take-away from Cunningham’s Fish & Chips, a Tramore institution in business since 1938. I’m not big on fish, but you should taste the battered sausages!
Saturday morning found Kathleen feeling under the weather, so Mark, Shaun and I headed off for the weekend without her. Mark and Shaun had honeymooned in Ireland years ago, visiting some cousins of Shaun’s in Killarney. We headed down to spend the weekend with Mary and Michael and their family. We were greeted like long-lost family, even those of us who weren’t family, arriving just in time for lunch complete with fresh homemade bread. After lunch, while Shaun caught up with Mary, Michael took Mark and I for a tour around the Killarney area. We got some great backroad scenery, saw Ross Castle and Muckross House, then went a ways into Killarney National Park. Michael has done quite a bit of exploring in the park, and currently works part-time as a boatman in the park, so we got to hear lots of good stories in his Kerry accent. Returning to the house in Killarney, we got to meet most of Michael and Mary’s family. After dinner, we headed for downtown Killarney to catch some live music.
Sunday morning it was up and out early for the drive back to Tramore. We took a swing through Cork while Mark and Shaun looked searched their memories of the honeymoon trip for recognizable landmarks. We stopped in Kinsale for lunch and a brief wander, then found our way home to a mostly-recovered Kathleen.
It was off to work for Kathleen Monday morning, so while she had a meeting in Enniscorthy, the rest of us headed for Wexford to do some exploring. After you check out the pictures, ask Mark what he was doing laying in that crypt! When Kathleen finished her meeting we headed for Dublin. We spent some time wandering Grafton Street and Temple Bar, then stopped for a tasty Lebanese dinner. The touristy shops of Grafton Street provided some great props for yet more pictures of Mark.
Mark had gotten the idea that since they’d come so far to Ireland, we should make the most of it by squeezing in a trip to England - that’s the way those Englishmen think. So, Tuesday morning we were off to London on an early flight. We flew into Gatwick Airport, hopped a train and arrived in downtown London by late morning. We lucked out with the weather, having mostly sunny skies for our couple of days in London. We started our visit off by getting on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour to hit most of the major sights, speeding through some of London’s swankier neighborhoods, including a spin past a $10,000/night hotel. This included checking out Buckingham Palace, then a stop at the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Cathedral. After another short rest on the bus, we headed for the hotel for a little well-earned relaxation before dinner out at an Indian restaurant.
After dinner the ladies headed out to wander the neighborhood shops. Mark and I (geek alert) headed for the Houses of Parliament to take in a late-evening debate. We had to wait in line for probably 10 minutes and go through a couple of security checkpoints, but without appointments or any sponsorship you’re still able to show up and walk into the seat of the British government (Mark and I tried that at the U.S. Capitol in D.C. just a few years ago, and no luck!). We started out in the House of Commons, where we spent about an hour watching them debate changing the structure of the House of Lords. We were quite surprised, and a little chagrined, to find a debate of this magnitude going on. To put it in U.S. terms, this would be something like our House of Representatives debating whether to abolish or restructure the Senate - pretty big stuff. It was really quite interesting to watch, and much more entertaining than you might imagine, with the heckling and cheering that goes on. Very spirited and seemingly pretty cordial debate about a tough issue. Next we headed for the House of Lords, on the opposite side of the building. The difference between the two houses is incredibly stark, with the House of Commons being very plain, while the House of Lords is incredibly opulent. Even the visitor’s gallery was nicer in the House of Lords, and there was no bulletproof glass separating the gallery from the floor of the House. The difference in debate was also quite stark, as the Lords were handling some housekeeping issues on some sort of tax legislation. It was incredibly dull, so we spent only a few minutes watching before heading out to the pub.
We started the day Wednesday back on the bus, then a walking tour including the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The ladies insisted on a stop at Harrod’s, where we mostly saw a lot of stuff we couldn’t afford (ask Mark about his cigars!). We ended the afternoon with a tour of the Tower of London, then it was back to the airport and back to Dublin so Mark and Shaun could fly home to the States Thursday morning. Let it never be said that we don’t pack a lot into our visitors’ trips!