Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Irish plays, Irish coffee, and Irish musician

Last night was a night for Irish-ness. At 8:30 the group went to Siamsa Tire (a theater) to see a play all in Irish called Oisean (literally, the Island). It was about how life once was on the Blasket Islands, where will we be going next Friday. The Islands were abandoned in 1953 due to the difficulty of being cut off from the main land. As I said, the show was completely in Irish, but we treated it like an opera and with the synopsis, we all had a pretty good idea of what was going on. The dancing and the music were fabulous, and I was tempted to buy a CD. I would have, too, if it didn’t cost 20 euro.

When the play was over, a bunch of us went one of our favorite hangouts: Sean Og’s pub. A musician we’ve seen several times was playing again, and we stayed for his whole set. It was there that I finally had my first authentic Irish coffee.

To celebrate, I will now post a recipe for traditional Irish coffee. This one is taken from I have added my own editorializing in italics:

Irish Coffee Recipe

When you are looking for a change in your usual coffee recipe, try an Irish coffee recipe. This will give you exactly the quick (the what?) you need to start off the day or to wind down at night. These recipes are elegant and sophisticated. They are great for when you have a lot of people over or when you are in the mood to make something special for yourself. There are hundreds of coffee recipes including the Buena vista Irish coffee recipe, an Irish cream coffee recipe and a Bailey’s Irish coffee recipe among others.

For starters, you will need irish coffee mugs (these are basically clear glass mugs with handles),
heavy cream, and for each coffee:
six ounces of hot, fresh brewed coffee,
1 teaspoon of brown sugar for sweetness and
1 ½ ounces of your favorite Irish whiskey (I like Paddy's Irish Whiskey, myself).

Here is a basic Irish coffee recipe: Using the heavy cream, whip it until it becomes whipped cream. You can add sugar and confectioner's sugar to sweeten. Place into the refrigerator to chill. Once your fresh coffee is brewed, combine it with the whiskey and sugar. Mix it well until the sugar dissolves. Take the whipped cream out and place it on top of the Irish coffee mixture. And voilá, you have in your hands your first homemade Irish coffee recipe.

Some helpful tips include the following:

• Make sure that the whipped cream does not break the surface of the coffee. This may take some time to accomplish but with practice, you will get there.
• Try using a warm spoon to add the whipped cream.
• Try pouring the whip cream over the back of a spoon to help the cream float rather sink into the coffee mixture.

After my first drink, Elizabeth and Catherine bought me a pint of Carlsberg in honor of my finishing my thesis. I should finish a thesis every day!

The musician was great, as always. He played covers of both Enrique Iglesias and Nickelback, both of which were better than the originals. He also played “Country Roads,” “Galway Girl,” and a bunch of Garth Brooks. I think he was pandering to us a bit, but I’m ok with that if he is.

This is him:

And this is Eleanor, Sarah, and me enjoying his music:

Iveragh Peninsula!!

I spent most of Monday sitting my computer proofing my thesis, so I probably did see as much of the beautiful Iveragh Peninsula as I should have. But I can still report on this lovely left arm of the Ring of Kerry (the Dingle Peninsula being the right arm). Together they form a hug!

You can kind of see said arms in this video:

If I were to list the other places we went on Monday, it would look something like this:

Daniel O’Connell Memorial Park

Cahergall Stone Fort

Daniel O’Connell Cathedral (supposedly the only cathedral not named for a saint*)

Derrynane, Daniel O’Connell’s country home

We exchanged hoods! Yeah, I didn't get a great picture of the house.

Ruined Abbey, where Daniel O’Connell buried his beloved Mary (after she died, of course)

As you can see, it was Daniel O’Connell Day here on the Ireland Study Abroad. He was pretty great. He got Catholic Emancipation for Ireland while he was in Parliament. He was also famously pacifist after he killed a man in a duel that he was forced into. O’Connell was once arrested for “sedition,” and while he was in prison, he wrote to his supporters asking them to “be perfectly peaceable,” lest the English have further reason to be angry with them.

At the Abbey, I had the distinction of being the one to find Mary’s tomb. It was the big one in the corner.

Marc bought lunch on this day. Thanks, Marc! My burger was delicious. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of that.

* A pious old lady in Lexington, VA once said “There are only two Episcopal churches not named after saints. Robert E. Lee Episcopal is not one of them.” I wonder if the Irish feel the same way about Daniel O’Connell Cathedral.

Killarney is the best tourist town ever!

Last Thursday we were in Killarney, and we loved it so much, we went back on Saturday. Killarney is a bit of a tourist town (as this post's title suggests), but why shouldn't it be? It's a great place to visit! It is home to Lough Leane, Ross Castle, Mucros House, and the Killarney National Park, Ireland’s first national park.

Lough Leane is not like the lakes you see in Lakeland, Florida (sorry, Lake Hollingsworth). This thing is huge. It even has its own islands! One of which, Innisfallen, houses the abbey that gives the lake its name: Lake of Learning.

Here is a pretty good picture followed by a video of just one part of this massive body of water. Seriously, I didn't know they made lakes this big!

Should one choose to visit Innisfallen, she would catch a boat just outside Ross Castle. I did not take said boat ride, but I did get a lovely tour of the castle.

Here is a video of more of Lough Leane and the outside of the castle.

On another bank of the river you will find the enormous, beautiful Mucros (alternately spelled Muckross) Estate. Mucros House and Estate have a very interesting history. The house was designed by the Scottish architect William Burn and was built in 1843 for Henry Herbert, an English politician living in Ireland. One of the most important events of the house’s history was when the Herberts hosted Queen Victoria for two nights, an event they spent six years planning. Sadly, the visit cost them an outrageous amount of money and is part of the reason they went bankrupt a few years later.

The house was eventually bought by Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn of San Francisco as a wedding present for their daughter, Maud Bourn, when she married an Irishman named Arthur Vincent. When she died, her family gave the house and the estate to the Irish government to be made into a national park. Photographs aren’t allowed inside the house, but true me when I tell you that it is amazing. I could take pictures on the grounds, however. These pictures don’t really do it justice because the Mucros Estate is one of the most magnificent places I’ve ever been.

How big's Kimber?

Not as big as that tree!

Oh, we also visited Mucros Abbey. It was pretty cool. They are doing some kind of restoration on it right now, hence the scaffolding, but we still got to look around at bit. The graveyard was one of the nicest I've seen.

When we returned to Killarney on Saturday, we spent a lot of time walking through the National Park, even trekking the 2 kilometers up to Torc Waterfall.

All-in-all, I probably walked 10 km that day. I felt very sporty. It was fantastic!

We also took a jaunting car, which is a major tourist attraction in Killarney. Catherine, Dorothy, Sarah, and I paid 10 euro each to be driven less than four miles, which sounds like a major rip-off, but you’re paying for an experience. Our experience was being told a series of slightly-incorrect stories by our jarvey* Martin.

*A jarvey is a jaunting car driver.

Blogging is now short for “backlogging”

Hello, Internet. It’s been a crazy week. I turned in my thesis Monday evening, which limited my blogging abilities until that point. Then when I finally got my free time back, hooray, the internet is broken! Thank you, Vodafone.

Anyone who is considering getting a Vodafone modem in Tralee, don’t. The coverage is terrible, and their customer service is worse. Hence, I have resorted to sabotaging them via their own product. Mwahahaha!

Ok, now on the more important things. To follow are a series of catch-up posts. I’ve got a lot to tell you, Internet, so hold on tight!

This face captures how I feel about Vodafone.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pun on the word "Coole"

I promised to talk a bit about Yeats and Gregory, so here I go.

Saturday last we visited Thoor Ballylee and Coole Park, the homes of W.B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, respectively. For those of you who don't know much about Yeats and Gregory, follow the Wikipedia links I have attached to their names, and let me just say briefly that they were two of the most important figures of the Irish Literary Revival at the beginning of the 20th century. I could go on because, well, that's what this whole class is about, but I will keep it short so I can expound on my visit to these historic sites.

Thoor Ballylee, the tower and cottage that Yeats restored, was his home for about ten years from 1919 to 1929. At the moment the tower is flooded from the uncommon rains that racked the country last winter, but the magic of the place is still alive.

As we stood in the shadow of the tower, reading some of Yeats's tower poems, the sky turned dark and the rain started, just as Yeats would have wanted.

From there, we headed just up the road to Coole Park, the family estate of Lady Gregory, a meeting place of great minds during her day. Yeats wrote of Coole house, "This house has enriched my soul out of measure because here life moves without restraint through spacious forms." Everyone important from back then was invited and came to Coole Park, with one notable exception: James Joyce. He was the bad boy of Irish Literature, so he refused to come. The house itself was demolished in 1941, nine years after Gregory's death, so today, a large empty lot and stairs that lead to nowhere are all that remain.

Our class sat in the sun a stone's throw from the Autograph Tree to read Yeats's poetry about Coole Park. The Autograph Tree bears the initials of lots of great figures, including W. B. Yeats, G. B. Shaw, and J. M. Synge. Back then, you knew you were a lesser poet if Lady Gregory didn't ask you out to the tree.

We finished the afternoon by wandering the grounds, strolling through woods that felt like the late home of fairies, before electricity came to the West and they all vanished.

All day, I was struck with the wonder of reading Yeats's work in the places where it was composed and inspired. It's easy as you walk through the woods or stand by the tower to see how Yeats found such poetic creativity here. He was lucky to have such a generous and caring patron as Lady Gregory and the places she made available to him.

The Adventures of the First Weekend

So last week I mentioned that we were heading to the Aran Islands, but I never really followed up on that. Well bad news, lads. That leg of our journey was canceled when the ferry that was supposed to take us at 1 p.m. on Thursday decided it wasn't going to sail then. Never fear, though. We saw sites that were even better (I assume, having never seen Aran).

First on the magical mystery tour was St. Senan's Church.

St. Senan's is known for its lovely stained glass, which is best exemplified in the glass behind the alter:

After a brief stop for lunch at the Corner Stone,

we made our way to Cliffs of Moher:

These cliffs may or may not have been used in the sixth Harry Potter movie. Any verification of that would be greatly appreciated. Regardless, they are really amazing. Nowadays the edge of the cliff is walled off and lots of warning signs are posted about not climbing over the wall, but time was a body could just stroll up to the edge, defying death itself. Those were the days.

On Friday we visited the Burren - a sweeping expanse of rocks that was created thousands of years ago and where now grow very few trees and almost all species of Irish flower, including some very rare ones. Here I am, looking appropriately angsty in this setting:

And here are some presumably rare flowers that I photographed but did not pick!

Friday night we stayed in Kinvara at the famous Doorus House - the place where the Irish National Theater was first conceived - and we attended the Cuckoo Music Festival that takes place in Kinvara. I tried to record the band we saw, but the sound did not work, so here is a silent film of them playing (with a bit of a surprise from Dorothy, who thought I was taking a picture). It's kind of long for a silent video, but I hope you like it nonetheless.

Next time on Kimber Goes to Ireland, I will expound a bit on our trip to Thoor Ballylee and Coole Park, with appropriate meditations on Yeats and Gregory. Good night!

Monday, May 3, 2010

I'm being put to shame.

My fellow bloggers Dorothy and Catherine are putting me to shame with their great blogs, so I really need to kick it up a notch.

In the spirit of kicking it up, here is a 360 view of a spot on the Dingle Peninsula:

And here is a really quick shot of the westernmost point in Europe:

These are both from last Tuesday, my first full day in this lovely country. It rained pretty much all day, which really only added to the wonder of the Dingle Peninsula. Especially in that latter video, you can see how the wind and rain were buffeting us nonstop, threatening to cast us from the side of that precarious peak. Here is an excerpt from my travel journal to describe how amazing it was:

Amid ever-increasing wind and rain, we climbed this point [the westernmost in Europe] and looked off toward the new world; we may as well have been looking off the edge of the earth. Around us gale forces threatened to knock us down or push us to our deaths in the water below. Rain pelted our sides, soaking everything not protected by a raincoat. The climbs up and back were equally harrowing, every placement of a foot hugely important, let we slip. By the time we returned to the bus, we were cold, windblown, and wet, wearing jeans that would not dry until they were given a few hours with the radiator. I have never been so exhilarated in my life.

As I said, by the time we descended the mount, our jeans were soaked and remained that way for the remainder of the day. Only when I got my hands on a coffee with good Irish whiskey at around 6PM did I finally warm up. But let me tell you, that trip was totally worth it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gorse is a flower

Hello, lads! In my last post, I mentioned the gorse that covers the Irish landscape. Today I would like to expound on this lovely little plant a bit.

Gorse is a yellow flower that is native to western Europe and northwest Africa. It grows in large bushes that look like this:

I'm told that it can be made into wine, though I have yet to try it. But for those of you interested, feel free to try out the following recipe. If you start now, you can have it ready by the time I get back.

Gorseflower Wine Recipe

Makes about 15 liters

10 pints fresh gorse flowers (measure them with a pint glass)
15 litres water
1.7kg golden granulated cane sugar
Juice of 6 lemons
Brewer's yeast

1. Put the flowers with the water in a large pan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Keeping the heat very low, add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved.
2. Pour into a bucket and add the lemon juice. Allow to cool to blood temperature, then add the yeast (follow the packet instructions for quantity).
3. Cover with a clean cloth or piece of muslin and leave to stand for three days, then strain the liquid and transfer to a demi john with an airlock. Make sure all the yeast goes through. Leave to ferment. When fermentation has ceased (about 2 weeks), syphon into sterilised bottles and seal.

Thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for the recipe.