Saturday, March 27, 2010

The final day of the tour began with me meeting a lady from InishMaan, the "middle" island of ther Aran Islands group, whom I knew from thirty five years ago. What a coincidence, she was sitting at the next breakfast table and we exchanged numbers and email. It is nice to renew an old aquaintance and have a connection with the island. I would very much like to visit there again. There are only 147 people on the island and it has not changed for decades, unlike the other two islands.
We drove through Oranmore, "The Galway Shawl" township, on our way down to Co. Clare. We stopped at the famous "Burren", an almost lunar landscape of volcanic limestone. There are flowers and other plants here that do not grow anywhere else in Europe. We travelled on to the Cliffs of Moher, eight hundred feet above sea level. It's Ireland's number 2 spot behind Guiness's Brewry and there were plenty of people to prove it. It was once again, a glorious day. I'm just amazed at the weather we've had. Our final leg took us on down past Lahinch golf links, one of Ireland's most famous courses. I was quite jealous as I watched the golfers having a go in such fine weather. Our driver John snook us into Dromoland Castle, a site for every Yank's sore eyes. Truly a splendid example of a medieval castle, turned hotel on beautiful grounds. We actually saw a wedding group arrive with bagpiper leading the couple who arrived in a vintage car. Everyone was "dressed to the nines", looking more like a day at the races....

We had our final dinner together in our lovely hotel tonight, to me, our finest meal so far. We hugged and said goodbye 'til the next tour in the Fall of 2011, which will cover the lower half of Ireland.

Thanks for staying with the blog. For me, another week and a half in Dublin and London. I'll be back to business as usual on the eighth of April....'til then..."Slan agaibh go leir".....

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where was the weather? It was supposed to be raining and dark clouds this whole week. We rose this morning to blue skies and warm sunshine. Following a mostly continental breakfast (no fry up), 16 of us headed for the Aran Islands Ferry. I think most of the others who remained behind were too hung over to make the ocean voyage anyway. We took the bus from our hotel about 15 miles north to Rossaveel and embarked on the ferry to Inish Mor (Big Island). We docked at Kilronan Village and were met by our driver, who took us on a tour of the Island where we visited a 6th century church, possibly the oldest and smallest in Ireland. We were dropped off at the base of the hill on the top of which stands Dun Aongusa, the Fort of Angus, 2,500 years old. The fort stands in a semi-circle with its rear being the edge of 400 ft cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean. Absolutely awesome to behold. This was the top of the island and the view in all directions was breath-taking.

With an hour and a half to kill following our descent back to the village, we all repared to "The American Bar". I found myself singing in my native Gaelic language by request, much to the amusement of the locals, who turned out to be very friendly and thought my dialect sounded more Donegal. When I told them I had learned most of my Irish on Inish Maan, right next door, they were very impressed and welcoming, suggesting I return to live there. With sad farewells, we headed for the ferry and returned to Galway.

Our whole group dined together in the hotel and I followed with an impromptu performance for one and all. As the sing-song wound down, those who weren't too exhausted from the day's events headed off out for the last night's imbibing in the city's trad music pubs. The rest of us retired for the evening.

Early start in the morning for our final day... later. K

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Woke up to light rain and low clouds this morning which was a pity as we could not see Croagh Patrick, the mountain just outside Westport where St. P fasted for forty days in 435AD. We did, however visit Murrisk Abbey, 12 century Augustinians where Grace O'Malley would have been baptised and married. Right next to it is an eerie copper sculpture of a coffin ship representing the National Famine Memorial, the soft day that was in it lent a quiet moment to all of us.
We travelled out towards Ashleigh falls and in to Leenane where "The Field" was filmed. We drove on both sides of Killery Harbour, an eleven mile long fjiord...the only one in Ireland, which cuts between Mayo and Galway.

Down further south, we stopped at Kylemore Abbey, a Sistercian order of nuns since 1920 but built in the mid 19th century. Still a high school for wealthy young ladies today, this maybe it's last year as a school. We had hot soup and good brown bread for lunch.

We stopped into a Connemara marble factory and got a quick lecture followed by more spending. Then in to Galway City and our hotel, The Imperial on Ayre Square in the town center.
Straight out for fish and chips on Quay Street, followed by a night of trad music, no I took a break tonight, and just got to be up early for our boat trip to Inish Mor in the Aran islands, really looking forward to it...catch up later...
It's been so busy with travel and performing that I had no time to catch up on Tues night. We had a great night in the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran. We drove further north into Donegal to the village of Ardara and visited a local tweed weaver. Much money was dropped there by all and I was presented with a nice local wool sweater by the owners. We headed back south, passing through Co.Leitrim into Co.Sligo. We visited W.B Yeats's grave in the old churchyard of Drumcliffe before lunch in Sligo town. On into Westport and our Castlecourt Hotel, which is quite nice. Westport, like many places this time of year, is very quiet. Some pubs are closed during the week and our hotel seems to be the only game in town.
After dinner my show started at 10PM and the venue was mostly senior citizens on vacation, many looking pinchfaced and arms crossed waiting for the music. There was a mixup with the PA system and the sound was woeful. It was very difficult to perform and by the end albeit I did a good job, I was quite disgruntled. The venue was very happy as everyone stuck around.

We drove down to Achill island as the sun was splitting the Co.Mayo rocks, a glorious day. Breathtaking scenery and history unfolded before us and all had a truly exellent experience. Ocean vistas, deserted famine villages and Irish coffees, what a great day.
Back to Westport for a bit of shopping late afternoon, Christine and I bought some terrific local food, including my own sister Sandra's Inishturkbeg island smoked salmon, and dined in our suite. Very quiet and a nice pleasant repast before my evening show.
With the same PA system I battled through the evening, this time I was prepared for both the sound and the pinched faces which for some personal efforts to overcome the sound obstacles there were lots of smiles and dancing. A truly great night was had by all and we hit the sack after a long day.
This morning we are off to Connemara and the city of Galway...Later...K

Monday, March 22, 2010

Woke up to soft rain and following a full Irish breakfast headed up north to Donegal. On the way we stopped to visit the Beleek China factory in Co. Fermanagh in the Six Counties of the "wee " North.

We had lunch in Enniskillen and had a walkabout. We reached Bundoran at about 4PM and are staying in the beautiful Great Northeren Hotel on the beach. Very old world and we had a lovely dinner, all together.

Following dessert, we retired to the bar where I gave a two hour unplugged concert. We had a new friend Chris from Port Stewart, Co. Antrim in the North who joined in with his fine tenor voice on several songs. Once again, a terrific impromptu show for our group. Great craic and a lot of laughs. Our driver John regaled us with "Dublin in the Rare Auld Times".....
Once again, we're all tired out and we are off to bed for a 7AM wake up and off further north into Donegal to see a weaving facility and perhaps buy a tweed cap or two...then a long drive southwest to Westport....will catch up tomorrow night...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hello everyone,

What a start.....Got home from the Auld Dubliner at 3AM Sat morn and left for the airport at 5AM. Nice flight to Logan in Boston where the three of us were entertained by a flaming camp waiter named Carmine,who was least that's the word he kept using. We enjoyed a dinner of crabcakes and Margerita pizza and set off on Aer Lingus for Dublin.
Chris, Christine and I landed at 4.30AM, three hours before the main group landed from Chicago and we drank Starbuck's, yes, not my favourite thing to do....but it was all that was open.
Meeting the group at 8AM and joined by our driver Dublin John Costello, we followed initial instructions and, it being Sunday morning, we trekked back in after loading our luggage on the bus and had O'Brian's coffee for breakfast, which was less expensive than the other place....
John then drove us all over the city of Dublin where we saw my old home in Upper Mount Street, all my teenage stomping grounds and eventually ended up in Guinness's brewry where almost everyone drank the "Mother's Milk".
On to the hotel by 2Pm for check-in and a lie down. Picked up my guitar from my sister Brenda and we had dinner with her and returned to the hotel where all were assembled for my show tonight at "The Cusack Stand ", a true Irish watering hole just a couple of blocks from the hotel.
What a night, my brothers Arthur and Raymond showed up and sang and played harmonica, several other musicians including Paul O'Tool ex Young Dubliner and Tony O'Keefe ex Dublin Four gave their best and by the end we were all truly ready for bed which is where I'm going right now. We're up first thing in the morning and will be on the road for Donegal before 9Am...

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's Friday morning and we are gathering ourselves for takeoff tomorrow morning. have to be up at 5AM after we play at the Auld Dubliner in Long Beach. Hope to catch an hour nap in between. What a couple of days over St.Patrick's Day. Performing for the City of Los Angeles at LA Live was a blast but the heat was searing. I'm going home with a tan...

I'll try to keep this a daily journal, I'm sure manager Chris will keep me on my toes to keep it up. Should be fun reporting on the day to day adventures of the group. I'll be back.....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Well, we are almost off on our exiting tour of the old country. Buying coats and sweaters and walking shoes, if you don't have them that is....Meeting new friends on the tour and new friends to be made in Ireland along the way.

For those of you on the tour that have never been to ireland you are in for an experience of a lifetime, only to be repeated when you return there another day. The weather looks Irish for the first part of the trip. Bring a small umbrella, looks like rain. Time for a sing song and a few hot toddies.

Looking forward to a great trip with everyone....