Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday April 17

The morning started with a smoked salmon and cheddar cheese omelet and all the usual trimmings. I'm writing these blogs since I woke up at 3:30am this morning and could not go back to sleep. I'm downstairs in the quiet of the breakfast room, it's now 6am...the birds are chirping outside but all around this 280 year old house house, nothing is stirring, not even a mouse...only the almost silent tapping of my keyboard.

After our breakfast we headed off again at 9:30 for another very long driving day. I know I pushed Paul, our driver, but he was cool...our first stop was the town of Kinsale, a two hour drive east and south to the coast. Today one of the culinary gems of Ireland but well known for its historic Battle of Kinsale in 1601, the defeat of the Irish clans by the English army ended the old Gaelic era, and began the complete colonization of Ireland by England for the next three hundred or so years. After a very pleasant walkabout we drove to Skibbereen and I shared the sad moments at the Famine graveyard just outside town where there are 9-10,000 unidentified bodies of the Irish dead buried in a space half the size of a football field...or smaller. A saying is written nearby, " Never was the price of bread so cheap, and the price of human life so dear". This Irish holocaust took place between 1845 and 1850, when 1,000,000 people did and 1,000,000 + emigrated because of the Great Hunger, the potato blighted famine, the greatest human disaster of the 19th C.

We drove on to the most south westerly point of Ireland, the Mizen Lighthouse Station, a two hour drive from Skibbereen. I must say, so far, our group has been great for the duration of these last two days' drives... My cousin Stephen O'Sullivan is the manager of the Visitor Center and he was actually one of the last Irish Lights Lighhouse Keepers who worked on the Mizen Lighthouse. His mother's family, the O'Donovans, had worked as lighthouse keepers for generations, and though Stephen was born and raised in London, he got the job as a very young man in the early 70's.

Unfortunately, Stephen was unable to meet our group but much to my amazement his twin sister Anne, flagged down our bus outside the village of Goleen nearby, where their family have lived for generations, I didn't even know she was visiting her own home for Easter, and she boarded the bus asking for me...we have not seen each other in over ten years and our reunion was magic. She and her husband Chris got to meet Rory and they invited us back to stay with them anytime...what a treat.

Now for the real information ... I can only tell you all that the scenery down around the Mizen Lighthouse , Goleen, Barleycove and Glengarrif has got to be the most breath taking in all of Ireland....and I had never ever been there before. Karen, from Long Beach, who initiated the tour as a trip to her immediate family, and welcomed anyone else who wished to join us, had specifically asked to visit Kinsale...this prompted me to visit a lifelong wish, Mizen Head and my God was it worth it...a very long drive down the Bantry Bay peninsula beyond my imagination. Everybody, despite the ten hour day tour were so impressed.

We returned to Kenmare in less than two hours and headed into town to grab a bite. Many of us assembled in McCarthy's Pub for a bite...Rory had a delicious local wild salmon dish in a veloute sauce, I had the stuffed leg of pork, unfortunately I think it was probably prepared on Holy Thursday last and reheated last evening. I could have used it to resolve my shoes but you win a few etc...

We came back to the Lodge and I sang for about an hour again by he fire in the parlor and we all retired once again around midnight. As it is now 6:20 am on Tuesday, I'm signing off and will go upstairs to his Lordship's room and see if I can't grab 40 winks ! It's a moving day today, we are packing up and driving north west to the Cliffs of Moher in Clare and on up o Westport for the next three days....catch you all later...
Sunday April 16

Breakfast, prepared by our hostess Maura and her staff, can only be described as a little bit of Heaven to start the day. Besides the usual hearty Irish fry up breakfast, Maura provides many delicious treats and options. We started with local yogurt, local honey and shaved almonds, followed by, for myself Dover sole on the bone....OMG...Rory had a huge plate of bangers, rashers, puddings and eggs..terrific breads and toast with lashings of tea and coffee...what a start to our day, to be repeated daily..

We left the house at 9:30am and drove to Killarney for Easter Sunday mass at the cathedral, built in the mid 19th C. Less than an hour later the non-believers and heathens joined us back on the bus and we headed off for the Ring of Kerry. No rain at all and the sun broke through several times as the day itself was very mild, about 52 degrees. As always the scenery is splendid and we stopped regularly for photos. Lunch in the charming village of Sneem, pronounced "Schneem" was the best chowder ever...Rory had bought two baguettes with two lovely cheeses for sampling later, at a bakery, and left the bloody stuff in the restaurant behind us...too bad, local cheeses...the food here in Ireland is amazing...a long way from the bacon and cabbage days.. It was a long day and an hour later we were back in Kenmare about 6pm. We had a dinner reservation for everyone at Packy's Restaurant in town, and though a bit pricey was fantastic by everyone's account. Rory had the roasted cod in lemon butter and I had the halibut special, it was as tender as anything and perfectly cooked.
I regaled everyone later with an impromptu concert back at the Lodge for about an hour and all headed for bed just about midnight. I slept the sleep of the Gods...

Saturday April 15

My trip this year started out with a minor heart attack when I left my very expensive 1919 Gibson A4 mandolin on the sidewalk out side the Aer Lingus terminal at LAX in Los Angeles. My manager Chris had just dropped one of my fellow travelers, Eva, who had flown in the day before from Phoenix, and I at the airport and after hugs and good byes, I walked in to the check in only to receive a phone call and instantly panic realizing my mandolin was not with me. I rushed out and thre was Chris frantically trying or reach me...I thought what a possible nightmare start to the trip...all is well.

Everybody showed up, all fifteen who were flying with me, eight more were making their own way to Dublin from scrawl other different parts of the US. After a long but not too arduous flight, ten hours direct to Dublin everybody met up in Dublin Airport, we met our new driver Paul and off we went. We picked up my son Rory in the city, he had flown over days earlier and had retrieved my Martin guitar which I leave with one of my brothers in Dublin.

We drove south west for four hours to the beautiful town of Kenmare, Co. Kerry for the first three days of our tour and arrived about 7:30pm at our two side by side guest houses. Our principal guesthouse here is the Shelburne Lodge, built in the 1730's for Lord Shelburne who built the town of Kenmare to support his vast estates, he signed the Treaty of Paris ending the US British Revolutionary War and went on to become Prime Minister of England in the 1780's... I believe I have his Lordship's room, naturally....the house is extremely charming and took six years to completely restore by the present owners. Due to our number, several are staying at the equally lovely "The Lodge" next door.

We went up to the nearby Lansdowne Hotel to the the Poets's Bar for a lovely dinner at about 9pm. Rory and I both had incredible "locally raised" lamb shanks... We listened to a bit of traditional music and all retired for the evening.