March 2, 2021 Last Day in Ireland
Well, today is our last full day in Ireland. Happily, we have all tested negative for Covid, so tomorrow morning we head to the airport to being our journey to our next destination. I am ready for hiccups along the way--we couldn't check in online because we need to show our covid tests before we can get boarding passes, so we'll be doing all of that at the airport. Who knows where we'll end up--that's the adventure part of this journey!
Ireland has been amazing, even during these unusual times. We've always had a great time here, and spending almost three months here has been fantastic. I appreciated that we had the opportunity to stay in a very remote area, in some cities and also in a town.
Yesterday we took the bus to the airport to get our Covid tests and the bus went through a lot of interesting Dublin neighborhoods, so today we walked back through some of those areas. Ultimately we ended up at the Botanic Gardens, which is more like a park. And it was open! It's free, and while we couldn't go through the greenhouse areas, everything else was open. Lots was starting to bloom.
Dublin is a great city, very walkable and filled with parks. The Liffey has lovely bridges, each a different design and look, which is fun. And great running and biking paths everywhere. Phoenix Park is one of the biggest parks in Europe. To give you a sense of how large, here are herds of deer in the woods there (and there are multiple wooded areas), and the American Ambassador's residence is in it. We biked all around it on Sunday and we've been doing some runs there.
Now Sara is taking her last online dance class from here, and we're doing the final packing. Then our last Fish and Chips...
Next post will be from wherever we land.
February 28, 2021 Dublin
I woke up yesterday feeling not great--a bit of a cold. But not something you want when you are traveling during a pandemic and getting ready to fly. I stayed in most of the day. Sara and David brought be some soup and cold medicine and I watched a lot of movies. Feeling better today.
We did get out in the afternoon to walk around some. We got caught in the Covid lockdown protest happening. It was a different vibe than protests in the US. It seemed very peaceful and calm where we were, but we saw later that there were some altercations with the police. It's so interesting here to watch the police. They do not have the same power energy that I always feel coming from American police officers. They are quite calm, and always nice, respectful as they interact with people. We've been stopped by them multiple times when driving, and I'm nervous every time, but they are always very friendly and just have a few questions. Watching them with the protesters yesterday, I got that same feeling. I think the lack of weapons all around creates a different energy.
February 24, 2021 Jerusalema Challenge, part 2
So, earlier this month we posted about the Jerusalema Dance Challenge taking the world by storm (although it's unclear to us if it's happening in the US). Well, we've done our Jerusalema Dance, and it's posted on our home page. Check it out, and now we challenge you--learn the dance and post it. Have fun!
February 24, 2021 Potato Accordion Books
I've written some about the series of Potato Books Sara and I have been working on. Well, we finished them! There are 7, each a different type of potato. We made potato prints from the actual potatoes, hand painted paper to mimic the potato skins, and included information on the origin of the type, facts, descriptions, along with a recipe for each. What a fun collaboration to do with Sara, and we actually learned a lot about potatoes in Ireland. Not surprisingly, potatoes are a big deal here--the Irish consumption of potatoes isn't as high as it used to be, but it's still a major part of the diet here. The potato section in the grocery store is a whole wall, and there are always many different kinds on the wall. Interestingly, they don't really sell individual potatoes, just different sizes of bags--I guess they figure you are never going to need just one potato... As a result, trying the different kinds of potatoes for the books meant we bought and ate a lot of potatoes!
February 21, 2021 Bere Island
We just finished another amazing hike, this time around Bere Island, the island we've been looking at across the bay since we arrived in Castletownbere. It was fantastic. We took the ferry across the Bay and walked almost 9 miles around the island. While we know it can't be true, it felt somewhat like 9 miles uphill, so we're pretty wiped out now, but it was sooo worth it! We made it to the lighthouse, saw a standing stone (good story goes with this one--the legend is the stone was thrown on the island by some giants who wanted to get the attention of the Witch of Beara, but it missed. It did, however, end up in the exact center of the island. How the heck did Bronze-Aged humans know where the exact center of the island is?!), the Martello towers, a very large cross, and a lot of sheep.
I can't adequately describe the beauty of the hikes we've been on in the Beara Peninsula. Each one has been incredibly unique, even though they all have included stunning views of cliffs and water and waves and...sheep. I have a gazillion pictures of sheep that I'm starting to weed through. Part of the allure is the color on them at this time of year. It's strange and beautiful to see these electric colors on sheep that are in such remote landscapes. And part of the allure is how calm and peaceful they are, just hanging out, eating grass.
We've really been able to enjoy this area in a special way, in part because we've been here for a month, so we've been able to do so many different walks and hikes, and also because it's so quiet--when we hike, we see only other locals, and not very many at that. So we find ourselves in these areas that feel as though we've landed on a different planet.
February 14, 2021 What I learned about sheep
Today I met the farmer who keeps his sheep right across the road from the house we're renting. He introduced himself and said "I bet you've never heard that name before." He was right, I'm not sure I actually got it even when he said it. Tedsomething. His Irish accent was pretty strong. He was very accommodating of all of my questions and let me watch him feed the sheep. The sheep were so funny. They were way out in the field, we couldn't even see them. He had a bag of Sheep Nuggets. He started shaking it and the ewes all came running. Interestingly, not the ram. He said he must not be interested today.
I've noticed some have tails and some don't. He said they are all born with tails, and some farmers cut the off, but not always. He told me taking care of sheep is a lot of work and there isn't always enough time to do everything...lol.
Most of his sheep aren't painted because he keeps them in his field and doesn't let them go up into the hills. I noticed a few do have the paint, and he said he just bought those from another farmer.
He also said they will start lambing any day, so I'm hoping we get to see some lambs while we're here--he seemed to think it would be possible. But he also shared he keeps the lambs inside some because apparently there are lots of foxes around here, and they go after the lambs. He shared many of his sheep are going to have 2-3 lambs. I asked how he can tell, and he said by how big they are (they all look the same to me--they have so much wool on them right now!).
The sheep won't be shorn until May or June, so we won't get to see that.
I really appreciated his patience with me.
February 13, 2021 Gorse Fires
During one of our drives to a hike this week, we saw fires everywhere. It was really disconcerting. At first, we saw the smoke on a hill and thought uh-oh, forest fire... But as we continued we saw more of them. And no emergency vehicles. So we assumed it was some sort of controlled burn, but it they were so close, we could see the flames from our car, and they were very near homes. I did some research and learned they are called gorse fires. Controlled burns farmers light to promote new growth over the coming months for their livestock. They are only allowed until February 28, as lots of birds and other animals start to nest after that, and the law doesn't want their habitats disturbed. So farmers have to choose times when it's dry enough before that date to do the burns. In some dry years, the fires can get out of control. It was really strange seeing so many fires so close to us and so many homes, particularly coming from Colorado. I tried to get some pictures, but they don't really show it well.
The weather this week has been very erratic. Some beautiful sunny times, but lots of rain and tremendous wind as well. Our routine now includes a lovely peat/wood fire every afternoon into the evening to combat the cold. We continue to enjoy this house and area. The big field/yard in between us and the ocean is filled with daffodils that are just starting to bloom. And Sara and I found some primroses, which we candied based on the method we learned in our Ballymaloe cooking classes.
I've been reading a lot. When we first got ready to leave there was a list of books I was interested in, none of which was available at the library, so I put holds on many of them. They've all come in at the same time... I've delayed some of them, but can't bear to delay all of them, so I'm just trying to keep up. Just finished a great collection of short stories by Stuart Neville. Lots of weird crime/ghost stories, based in Northern Ireland. Now I'm reading The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Catching up on Le Carre.
Also working on my 100 days of artist books. Trying to figure out how to decorate paper to look like potato skins for the accordion book set Sara and I are making on Irish potatoes...
February 9, 2021 Stormy Weather
The weather has been very stormy the past two days. We have a great view of the ocean from the sunroom in our house. The water is very rough. Today we can't see anything across the water, it's so foggy. And there have been occasional gusts of blowing snow/sleet. Definitely the most winter like weather we've seen so far.
Yesterday was a pajama day for me, after our big hike up Hungry Hill on Sunday. David's blog about the hike gives all the details--it was tough and I was sore afterwards. So I worked on my artist books and did some embroidery and read. I've just finished two Irish mysteries, by a relatively new author, Olivia Kiernan. Some of my friends will know that when we travel, I always seek out mysteries set in the places we're traveling as part of my reading. These two mysteries were interesting to me in that they were pretty dark and had quite a few murders each. It was noteworthy, because since we've been here I've noticed in the papers and news that crime is pretty low and any crime anywhere in the Republic is reported all over. So the books really seem very fictional. Still, they were fun reads.
I'm also working my way through various lists of best books of 2020. I just finished Deacon King Kong by James McBride. It was wonderful. It was funny, poignant, had some strong social messages and fantastic character development. And I started Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. The way it's written (almost like a movie script) is very clever and engaging.
Our cooking adventures continue. We signed up for online courses through Ballymaloe Cooking School, a famous cooking school in Co Cork. Each Tuesday we do a live cooking class, making dinner together with the class, then eating it. Lots of interesting recipes and new techniques. The subscription also has demos we can watch, so we've done a few of those as well. Sara and David have been trying all the different bread recipes and approaches.
February 5, 2021 Posset
We've been going on some amazing walks/hikes along the Beara Peninsula. There are marked trails everywhere. Sometimes they go through private land, and there are ladders helping you over the walls and fences. We have found ourselves walking with sheep and scrambling up rocks, following the posts that lead the way, sometimes doubting we really are on a trail until we see the next post. it's so beautiful.
Yesterday I made a Lemon Posset. It's a very simple cream dessert. I'd never heard of it before it came up in an Ballymaloe cooking session we watched. Apparently it is mentioned in Shakespeare--
"Yet be cheerful knight: thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my house;
Where I will desire thee to laugh at my wife."
Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, Scene 5but it didn't ring a bell with me. It's incredibly simple. Just heavy cream simmered with some sugar and then you add lemon juice. The juice doesn't curdle the milk, but as it cools, it becomes a pudding. We had it for dessert last night. Definitely will make it again. I added a picture to the photo page.
February 2, 2021 Jerusalema
This video was released today by the Irish Gardai (police), in response to a dance challenge by the Swiss police, to provide some happiness during Covid. It made us smile so much, we went down a rabbit hole on the Jerusalema dance craze. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj23_Z6UECk
Also, today is St. Brigid's Day. She is the patron saint of bees, cows and all dairy products, which might make her my favorite saint (didn't really have one until now...). People celebrate the day by making a special cross to put over their crops and animals to keep them safe. I figured out how to make one out of paper.
And she's one of the patron saints of Ireland, along with Patrick and Columcille. Nice that they have a female Saint who is so important.
February 1, 2021 Beara Peninsula
We are at the edge of the earth now, staying on the remote Beara Peninsula. The closest town is Castletownbere, about 5 miles away. It's beautiful here and I can completely understand where stories of fairies and leprechauns came from. They are all around here. So much of the landscape in Ireland is around water, which is so very different from Colorado and New Mexico, the only places I've lived. Yesterday Sara and I walked down to the ocean several times throughout the day, watching the tide levels change. Makes me want to learn more about how the tides work--if the tide is rising in Ireland, is it going down on the coast on the other side of the Atlantic? I've come to really enjoy the water. It will be interesting to see what it's like when we end up in a spot not right by a river of the ocean.
We finally found lots of Irish sheep too. On previous trips we'd seen a lot, but this time, we hadn't really seen any until we got to the western part of the country. They are painted blue and red, so the farmers can identify their own sheep and also to note which will have lambs in the spring, so that those ewes can be separated to different fields. Right now they are so incredibly wooly. Lots of good yarn material...
Yesterday the 100 days of art project kicked off. I'm going to try it (I did start yesterday, but every day for 100 days seems long!). 100 days of making artist books. Those pics will be on my Instagram at count_basye.
January 25, 2021
I love the city of Cork. It's got some grit, which always makes a city more interesting to me. With so much shut down, it's not the same experience we would normally have when exploring a new city, and yet I'm still really enjoying it. It's a very walkable city, with the Lee River running through it. The Lee splits at one point, and then rejoins, creating the City Centre on an island, and then the city south of the river as well as to the north. There's great urban art everywhere, which is fulfilling my lack of museums and galleries to check out. There are some really nice public art mural projects and also some that are volunteer/independently done. I've been on the hunt to find as much of it as possible.
The layout of the city is meandering and many streets are very narrow and dark, with small houses built close together. It's in those areas you can really tell it's a very old city. One street has brass plaques in every 20-30 feet apart, marking the original narrow passages that used to be there, and the types of shops one would find down the streets. There are hills everywhere, so lots of staircases to climb, always trying to find a new view from above.
We rented bikes for a few days and went riding in every direction. It's not long before you get out of town and find yourself on some beautiful greenways by the water. And we also pushed our bikes to the top of the longest street in Ireland--Blarney Street, which is at the top of huge hill--and then rode them down. Great fun.
The English Market is one of the oldest open air markets still operating in Europe, and it's here in Cork. It's fantastic. We've been almost every day, one, because it's open, and two, because it's fun to wander through and watch the fishmonger filleting a giant monkfish, or talk to the cheesemonger about what the best local cheese is. There are a myriad of butchers, bakers, veggies, etc. David has wondered how people decide which butcher to buy from. I say we should just try them all.
January 19, 2021
On Sunday we moved from Kinsale to Cork. It's not very far distance wise, but the city is quite different from the seaside town. We spent yesterday exploring, and it's fun to have new things to discover.
The area we're in seems to be in the middle of a lot of schools (universities, colleges), and we're very close to the city center. We're behind the St. Fin Barre Cathedral and Elizabeth Fort, both historic sites in Cork, which I'm learning is actually a very old city. The river has great walking and biking paths along it. And there's a lot of street art--check out photos on our photo page. Also, in keeping with our food theme, there's an English Market here, which is a big indoor open air market that we visited yesterday. Amazing butchers, fish mongers, all sorts of cheeses, veggies, bakeries, chocolate...There's also a great natural food co-op right around the corner from our place. So we will continue with walking and cooking while we're here.
The news here has been dominated by the release of a government report on the tragedies of the mother and baby homes that were run by the Catholic Church for many years. Worth a read.
January 12, 2021
It's been difficult watching what's been going on in the US from here. It's maddening and also makes me very sad. At the same time, it's interesting to watch it through the media here (Irish news, the BBC, Irish Times and the Guardian have been my main sources). For instance, David and I watched the news last night. To give you a sense of where US news falls in importance, the newscaster gave a brief update on the introduction of the Articles of Impeachment in the US and then cut to a story of a pregnant dog who'd been stolen, but was happily reunited with its family. Unfortunately the puppies had already been delivered and sold...
My cohort has already written about our fun zoom dinner with Margie and Alana, so I'll share only that it was so great, we're repeating it this Saturday. And we're trying an online cooking class at the Ballymaloe Cookery School this evening. Potato Soup with Chorizo and Parsley Pesto, Cheddar Herb Scones, Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel are on the menu.
We're continuing our walks--yesterday we went to Old Head, which really does seem like it's at the edge of the earth. The wind was tough, but the. landscape gorgeous. At many points during the walk, we were the only people out, so it really did feel as though we were alone on an alien planet.
We move to our new house in Cork this weekend, so more places to explore (within the restrictions).
And so much reading. I've finished several mysteries (Tara French's The Searcher, Snow, by John Banville, and Even the Dead, Banville writing as Benjamin Black, The Little Drummer Girl, in honor of Le Carre's passing), Hamnet, How the Irish Saved Civilization. Our current family read is The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa Mcinerney, which I'm enjoying. Banville and McInerney are both Irish and use lots of great Irish vocabulary I have to look up. We finished our last family read, City of Bohane, which had great made up vocabulary. I'm also working through Ireland, The Autobiography, which is a collection of writings (letters, articles, advertisements, etc), which tells 100 years of Irish history through the perspective of those living it. It's a wonderful way to learn history, and slow going because I have to do a lot of research on what the writings are referencing. Actually really fun.
And Sara and I are working on our potato art project together. There are more than 20 different types of potatoes in Ireland, and that's just a tiny amount of all the types available worldwide. As a food source, it is the third most important (after rice and wheat) and actually more nutritious on its own than either of rice or wheat). We've made a maquette for our project and are beginning to figure out what the finished collection will share.
January 6, 2021
We got up and out much earlier today than normal--the farmer's market was in town, and we've learned that it's a great way to support the local farmers and small shops, so we wanted to go. We met Margie and Alana (who we've been doing Zoom things with as well as occasional outside events). It was nice--great bread, veggies, and a Black Pudding Burrito from Brendan's Burritos, a food stand there (see pictures). I was skeptical--those of you who know me well know I'm a bit of a Mexican food snob given my New Mexican roots, but it was good. Definitely not traditional, but very tasty.
Today I'm a bit on pins and needles, waiting to hear what happens in the US with the Georgia election and also the electoral college certification. If you're reading all the blogs, then you may have seen on David's that we're trying to read news here (meaning we let our NYTimes subscription go, and we're reading The Irish Times and The Guardian instead). It has been really interesting to see the US political situation through a different lens. We Americans don't always come out looking so good is all I will say on that...
Fingers crossed everyone makes it safely through today in DC and that the Georgia results get wrapped up!
And now for something completely different--
I'm starting a project on Irish potatoes. There are a bunch of different kinds--colors, shapes, what they're used for...I'm learning about how floury certain potatoes are, and why that's a good thing. Some potatoes are marketed as "balls of flour", meaning when you boil them (with skins on), the skins burst and the potatoes start to fluff up. Very different from waxy potatoes. So, I've started buying the different kinds and testing them out to learn about the taste, texture, etc.
January 1, 2021
We made it through 2020! Happy new year to all our friends and family, near and far.
This week we completed our shelter in place time here in Ireland, and now the whole country is in Level 5 lockdown. Yesterday was the last day non-essential shops were open, and gyms, hairdressers, museums, etc, are closed. All food stores are open, and restaurants are open for take-away. So we don't imagine it will be much different than what we've been doing, which has been great.
Yesterday we walked over to the Kinsale dock to visit Margie and Alana. Took the dogs for walk by James Fort, then sat outside and had tea, socially distanced. The weather has been unexpectedly sunny. Sometimes it's cold and windy, but still sunny, which makes getting out each day a pleasure.
Then we walked into town, visited the local butcher, the wine store and the bakery and got supplies for a great dinner--steak, potatoes, beet salad, followed by salted caramel profiteroles. The good eating continues...
Our family read is City of Bohane, a crazy book about gang fights in 2053 Ireland. The author has done a great job of creating a whole new slang vocabulary for the characters and his descriptions of the clothes each character is wearing are really excellent.
We also binge watched Bridgerton on Netflix. Like Downton Abbey, only sexier. Had to fast forward through some parts with Sara, but still fun.
And we've been playing loads of games--Scrabble, Downton Abbey Clue (!), Backgammon, Cribbage, Chinese Checkers, Double Solitaire.
Last night at dinner we talked about our intentions for 2021. I realized I'm so happy to get through 2020, I haven't really spent much time thinking about that.... so, more to come.
December 25, 2020
Happy Christmas! We went on our daily run through town today and its as incredibly quiet, as everyone seems to be settling in for the new Covid restrictions. Yesterday was the last day all shops were open and everyone was out, doing their last minute shopping. Last night we went back through town and down by the water when it was dark to look at all of the lights. We're continuing to settle in to a fairly quiet routine--get up late, have coffee and a snack, go for a run or a walk, come home, get dressed, have lunch, read, do art, play games...
We've been doing a family book club which has been really nice. We just finished John Banville's Snow, which was a pretty dark murder mystery set in 1950s Wexford, Ireland. Really good.
I've relished having the time to cook and experiment with so many new foods. Our friend Margie told us about an online food ordering site called NeighborFood, which allows us to buy from local farmers and shops, with a one stop pick up or delivery. We've been trying lots of different foods on the site, like Cooleeney Cheese, which is this amazing meltable cheese we had over roasted cauliflower, or Smoked Crown of Chicken, which we had with pasta and butternut squash one night and creamed over baked potatoes another. We made traditional Irish breakfast, with Black Pudding. We baked Monkfish with fresh kale and a Bergamot Lemon.
December 20, 2020
Today is winter solstice and it got light late and dark early. But in between it was a glorious day! Very little rain and blue skies. We took advantage of the weather and walked to Charles Fort along the Scilly Path (pronounced 'silly'). What a beautiful path and the water was amazing. The Fort was open. We had a picnic and watched a giant murder of crows flying all around. Apparently there were Jack Sparrows in the area which makes the cross go crazy (according the employee at the Fort).
Then we came home to do some paper marbling. We also made up a new recipe for Irish Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies. Sara will post the recipe soon. They are delicious!
December 18, 2020
The humidity here is amazing. My hands aren't chapped for the first time in months. I've taken to one cup of coffee in the morning and then tea all day. And I think I've figured out the unusual stove and oven. The cooktop is a Siemens Electric, which you can only put things on when you want to cook--putting anything on the surface sets off all sorts off dinging and requires you to press buttons.
The oven is an Electrolux Fan oven, with a grill option (it also defrosts?). I've had to read the manuals for both to figure out how to do anything...But I have plenty of time!
David made it yesterday. Yay!
December 15, 2020, from Kinsale, Ireland
The start to our time away took an unexpected turn when Jack Wexler, David's father, passed away Friday evening. Jack was a great man, and always up for adventure himself. In fact, he and Betty (David's mother) had come to Ireland with us about 15 years ago. He loved Kinsale.
David switched his flight to go to Florida while Sara and I traveled alone to Ireland. With Covid, the service will be very small. And thanks to Zoom, we will be able to join remotely this evening.
We had a moment at the Irish Passport Control where they wanted to know why we were traveling now, and then asked us to step out of the line... but it all worked out, and we made it to our new home last night.
Our friend Margie was just leaving when we arrived--she had come to turn on the lights and leave a lovely welcome package with flowers, wine, and things to do while we settle in for the mandated 14 day self-isolations.
So this this it--I have absolutely nothing I have to do for the first time in ???.
We're packing the house up in preparation to rent it while we're gone.