Enjoyed a short weekend in Baltimore thanks to our friends Bill and Ann Tidball. Baltimore is a great sports city, especially the Orioles. Baltimore has long had a baseball club named the Orioles, but it is not the same one that sports the name today. In fact, in the 1890s, a club named the Baltimore Orioles was a National League team. Then it became a AAA team during the early part of the 20th century. It was this team that Baltimore’s own Babe Ruth pitched for before being sold to the rival Boston Red Sox. The beginning of the current Baltimore Orioles actually began in 1954 with the move of the then St. Louis Browns to Baltimore. While it took awhile for the Orioles to begin winning on a regular basis, they eventually replaced the Yankees as the leaders of the pack in the American League winning six American League titles and three World Series between 1966 and 1983 with such players as Frank Robinson, Cal Ripkin, Jr., Boog Powell, and a bevy of pitchers who won Cy Young awards during that time including Mike Cuellar, Jim Palmer, Steve Stone, and Mike Flanagan. Those were the years of big success for the franchise. After playing in Memorial Stadium for many years, in 1992 the O’s began their season in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which is celebrating 25 years this year. The park is one of the most iconic and recognized ball parks in the U.S., right up there with Wrigley Field and Fenway in Boston. It was at Camden Yards that Cal Ripkin, Jr. broke the consecutive game streak of Lou Gehrig. Ripkin finally missed a game after 2,632 games, a span of over 16 years, a feat that most likely will never be broken. Here are some pictures of the stadium and our friends.
Baltimore as most are aware is home of the Inner Harbor, one of the most successful downtown redevelopment efforts in history. The success of the Inner Harbor spurred redevelopment in other downtown areas across the world. Today the Inner Harbor is a major tourist attraction with an Aquarium, the USS Constitution (only Civil War vessel still afloat-pictured with some more recent vessels), multitude of restaurants and shops, USS Torsk (the last ship to sink an enemy vessel in WWII), an iconic Barnes & Noble Bookstore (pictured here from inside), and a tribute to those from Baltimore who died in the 9/11 attack (Pictured here next to the Baltimore World Trade Center).
Barnes & Noble
9-11 Memorial at World Trade Center Baltimore
USS Constitution and a few friends
If you’re visiting Baltimore, you must make a stop at Miss Shirley’s Café. Mis Shirley serves up award winning breakfast, lunch, and Brunch. If you can believe it, Brenda ordered a Southern Slammer Sandwich (AND ATE THE WHOLE THING!!). Here is the description – “Fried Green Tomato, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Avocado Mash, Cheddar Cheese & Fried Egg on Pumpernickel.” She did spare a bite for me, poor thing.
On this trip we didn’t dine out (other than hotdogs, crab cakes, popcorn, beer, “peanuts and Cracker Jacks” at the game). However, if you decide to visit Baltimore you will have a great choice of dining options. But the one that stands out presently is Charleston by Cindy Wolf. Ms. Wolf has been nominated for the James Beard outstanding chef award and the restaurant is listed as one of the best by Forbes, AAA, and Wine Enthusiast. This is definitely on my short list of places to visit in the future.
Of course, a trip to Maryland would not be complete without crabs. So, here to whet your appetite is the legendary Phillips with their new crab deck in the Inner Harbor.
For many years, I traveled to Reading, PA on business regularly to visit a supplier to the company for whom I worked. At that time, the Vanity Fair factories were closed but the VF Outlets were still going strong. They were true outlets, not like the present ones that are basic company stores. The business I called upon was Arrow International which was formed from Rockwell International’s subsidiary, Arrow Products Division . Arrow had made knitting needles/accessories for the garment industry in town but they were going to close when VF was downsizing. Fortunately, four horsemen, in the form of management, came to the rescue and formed Arrow International. Their goal was to transform the company into a medical device supplier focused on catheters. They were wildly successful. One of the owners was my friend, Jerry Holleran. This was a true American success story of people taking a risk and becoming successful.
Recently Brenda and I travelled to Reading, PA to visit our friends whom we had not seen in many years — Jerry and Carolyn Holleran. We discovered that their newish home was a work of art in and of itself. In addition to being beautiful, it was awarded LEAD Gold designation. It includes a cistern for capturing and using rain water, solar panels, floors and counters that are renewable, and multiple energy saving concepts including the landscaping which Carolyn referred to during the winter as her Moonscape. Here is a picture of their beautiful home.
Many years ago we had visited with Jerry and Carolyn to attend the Berks Jazz Fest which now covers two full weeks in April. What a wonderful event! This year we were treated to Keiko Matsui, classic jazz pianist,
According to the Reading Eagle, this year’s program brought in more than 40,000 attendees. The hotels were full and restaurants packed with visitors. The Eagle reported that the festival began in 1991 as a way to draw tourists into the region during a typically slow period for local hotels. It started as just a weekend, but in 2000 organizers decided to extend the event over 10 days in celebration of the 10th anniversary.
A local was quoted in the paper as saying, “People talk negatively about Reading, but visitors come here and they love it. They love how they’re treated — the spirit of this area, the people here and the real positive vibes they experience.”” We definitely agree!
So, for those of you who love all forms of jazz, mark you calendar for the 28th annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest to be held April 6-15, 2018. The lineup and schedule will be announced in November. Be sure to save the dates and plan ahead.
For those of you who love art, you must be sure to check out Goggle Works (goggleworks.org) during your Reading stay.
The facility is a 145,000 sq.ft former industrial center in downtown Reading that has been converted into an artist center complete with a café bistro, artist store, exhibition galleries, demonstration studios, rental space for artists, etc. Reportedly, there are occasions when you can witness a piece of art glass being formed while bidding on it during the process. The name Goggle Works comes from the facility’s former use as a manufacturing site for goggles, lens, and other safety equipment.
Reading is also home to some very nice dining options, including one of my old favorites in Green Hills — Dans. On business trips to Reading, I always enjoyed dining at what was then called Green Hills. It is now relocated, but is still know for its quality.
Their website points to the long-standing history of this establishment. “Opened in 1989, Dans Restaurant has been well know as one of thebest restaurants in Reading, PA. Now located at 2444 Morgantown Road, Dans at Green Hills serves a contemporary American cuisine with a French influence.”
So, when you visit Reading, enjoy the jazz, the art, and the good food and tell them that Russell sent you.
In the past, I have not been particularly impressed with Richmond. Just did not find the restaurants and culture there very attractive. But, over the past couple of years my views have changed thanks to a more expansive dining scene and visits to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), which was first to alter my impression of the city.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The VMFA is open year round and I cannot begin to tell you about all the exhibits and collections. However, I can tell you that it has the largest collection of Faberge’ outside of Russia. This is from the website:
Since 1947, when Lillian Thomas Pratt donated a large selection of Fabergé objects to the museum, they have continued to enchant visitors. This spectacular Fabergé collection…….includes five of the 52 Russian imperial Easter eggs created by the St. Petersburg firm led by jeweler Karl Fabergé (1846–1920).
The other collection that Brenda and I enjoy visiting is the American & European Decorative Arts. This collection includes works by Wright, Mackintosh, Stickley, Tiffany, and many, many others. I first became truly interested in Art Nouveau and Art Deco during visits to Brussels when I visited the amazing Victor Horta house. So, visiting the VMFA is especially fulfilling for me because of my deep appreciation of this period of decorative arts.
And, after visiting the exhibits and collections at the VMFA, you can rest and relax at the Amuse Cafe’ which I regard as one of the best museum restaurants around.
As I said before, Richmond had never been a destination for creative food in the past, seemingly because of steaks, seafood, touristy, etc. etc. But that has changed. In the past few years, Brenda and I have enjoyed a couple of interesting restaurants and we look forward to trying more. Brenda has been to Julep’s twice and myself once. Each time the food and service have been outstanding. The creative southern fare is worth experiencing.
We have also enjoyed Kuba, Kuba (Cuban cuisine), Can-Can (casual French bistro in Carytown), Bistro Bobette (French comfort food), Kitchen on Cary, and Sine’ (Irish pub with Guinness on tap). Of course if you want to do the tourist thing, go to the Tobacco Company – everyone does. My goal for our next trip is to get a reservation at L’Opossum where David Shannon was named Best Chef Mid-Atlantic Semifinalist in 2016.(http://www.lopossum.com/).
Of course a visit to Richmond would not be complete without exploring the history of the area being that it was highly important during the Colonial period of the United States and, obviously, during the Civil War. First, the State Capitol. The Virginia State Capitol is home of “the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, the Virginia General Assembly, first established as the House of Burgesses in 1619. The Capitol was conceived of by Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis Clérisseau in France.” (Wikipedia). But here are some other highlights if you would like to visit and learn more (Note: most of this comes from Wikipedia):
1607: The Christopher Newport Cross monument on the canal, commemorating the cross he erected at the current site of Richmond in 1607. Powhatan Tribe has its Capitol on the hill overlooking the James River.
1785: the James River Company was formed with George Washington as its honorary president. Development of the James River and the Kanawha Canal, designed by Washington, ensued. Originally envisioned to connect the Chesapeake Bay (and thus the Atlantic Ocean) with the Gulf of Mexico, it was to connect to the Ohio River and on to the Mississippi. Alas, it was only constructed to Buchanan near Roanoke, but still a distance of 197 miles. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad bought the right of way eventually. It is now CSX Railroad.
The first bridge across the James River, named Mayo’s Bridge after the founder of the city, was built in 1787.
1861: Civil War commences, Richmond becomes the Capitol of the Confederacy
1865: 13th Amendment abolishes slavery, Richmond’s Theological School for Freedmen, later becoming Virginia Union University, was established that year. My Aunt Dean is a proud graduate of Virginia Union.
Around 1880: Richmond had the first successful electrically powered trolley system in the United States.
Gardens to explore
Richmond is blessed with numerous gardens to explore if you are in the mood for smelling flowers or participating in seasonal events. These would include the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Agecroft Hall, and the most famous, Maymont. All very much worth exploring.
So, dear friends, I hope that I have whetted your appetite to visit my state Capitol. It is truly a lovely place with exciting history to explore, enjoyable dining opportunities, and all kinds of outdoor activities for all ages. Enjoy!
Brenda and I have not been on any extensive excursions of late, but that does not mean we have not been traveling. We have visited our daughter Charity and family in Portland, our friends in Philly, Doug and Claire, and my nephew in Greensboro, NC. All were really enjoyable trips so I thought I would tell you a little about each to whet your appetite for travel.
Portland with Family
We visited our family in Portland over Christmas for a few days leaving Zeus in the caring hands of our house/Zeus sitter Ren LeVally (in case you need a house sitter, Ren is very good and mindful). What a whirlwind of a trip! We enjoyed the Community Ballet Company’s production of the Nutcracker, Pete treated me to a Portland Trailblazers game vs. San Antonio (alas the Blazers lost) along with dinner at Altbier (pictured above) which has a beautiful view of downtown Portland. Another day I went with my girls to see Sing (the movie) and had homemade Helen Tanner soup courtesy of my daughter. Of course, Christmas morning would not have been complete without oyster stew (a tradition between Brenda’s father Jones and myself). One year I decided to make the stew to share with Jones, then served it to him with one lonely oyster in his bowl while mine was brimming. He was calm, as usual, not acknowledging anything was amiss. We ended with a good laugh once he caught onto the fun. Here are some pics of our time in West Linn. I promise that I will blog this summer about Portland because it is one of the more unique and weird cities in the US. Wonderful restaurants, the BEST Japanese garden in the US, the world Rose test garden (over 400 varieties of roses – now you know why Portland is called the Rose city), wonderful wine in Willamette Valley, great hiking and scenery, etc., etc.
Our silly Hudnut Family
B and the girls at the Nutcracker
Santa and his Elf
B and Juji
Philly in Winter
A couple of weeks ago, Brenda and I decided to visit our friends Doug and Claire who presently reside in Philly. Claire is from Australia and they are headed there for a little while – and who knows, they may just stay. One never knows. We arrived in time (actually earlier than they expected) for a little wine before heading out to enjoy one of Jose Garces’ restaurants in town. We had previously dined with Doug and Claire at Mercat de la Planxa in Chicago and Amada in Philly. This time we dined at Olde Bar which took over part of the famous Bookbinders location. It was a lovely evening being that it was Restaurant Week. We enjoyed a shrimp cocktail, oysters, crawfish croquettes, mussels in broth, chips (fries), fish, and strawberry shortcake. Highlight of the evening was definitely the oysters from Maryland — Yum! So, if in Philly, check out one of the Graces Group restaurants (garcesgroup.com).
Our second evening we enjoyed dining at Abe Fisher. According to their website, “Abe Fisher is inspired by the journey of the Jewish people from their ancestral homeland to the Diaspora. Making their way across Europe through the Middle Ages, to Germany and Poland, France and Spain and beyond, Jews developed a cuisine that balanced local customs and ingredients with biblical laws and traditions.” This was totally unique and interesting. The food is brought out tapas style but the portions are a little larger than typical tapas. Here is a sampling of the menu we enjoyed: Brussels sprout ceasar, sweet potato (boursin cheese, smoked walnuts), Borscht tartare, Veal schnitzel tacos, Paprika roasted chicken (sausage, swiss chard, schmaltzy potatoes). Delicious meal!
But, I must admit that the highlight of the weekend was coffee at La Colombe. Great coffee, atmosphere, and breakfast treats. If you are in Philly, do NOT go to Starbucks, go to La Colombe for some of the best coffee you will find anywhere.
Traveled to Greensboro this week to visit our nephew Stephen. Stephen is a EMT in Greensboro. Great guy that takes after his Dad and Mom; loves food, lacrosse, Ireland and Grand Marnier – not necessarily in that order. He has two goals, open a pub in Ireland serving southern cuisine and/or playing and coaching lacrosse. Presently pursuing goal number 2. After we put the TV together that I delivered, we headed out to eat. But, dear friends we didn’t go to Ruby Tuesday, Chili’s, or even Carrabbas. Oh, no. We headed to a very nice little Sushi restaurant called Akashi where we dined on sushi prepared by a Japanese chef/owner who immigrated to the US in 1980. It was really, really good. Who would have thunk, sushi in Greensboro. Trust me — it was very good.
Afterwards, Stephen wanted to show me where he would be attending college in the Summer and playing lacrosse — Greensboro College. We headed to downtown Greensboro that has really changed since I was there many years ago. Lots of great places to eat, beer halls, and a cute little coffee shop, wine bar, book shop. We browsed the book store with a glass of Pinot Noir. So, if you find yourself with a little time when visiting Greensboro, check out Scuppernong Books.
Over the past few months, my lovely wife and I have enjoyed the opportunity to travel to our Nation’s capitol on a few occasions. This was not in conjunction with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution, or anything like that. It had nothing to do with the Presidential Election. Well, the good news. DC is not a swamp, and it will not be drained anytime soon. When in DC we noticed a lot of busy people, going about their work, minding their own business, and trying the make the country prosper. But, we enjoyed attending a couple of events at The Kennedy Center and dining in the area on a few occasions celebrating our Anniversary and Brenda’s Birthday. Our first dining experience was at Rasika West End. I have not reviewed it but others have including Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post. Here is what he says in giving Rasika Four Stars.
“Ashok Bajaj runs the two best modern Indian restaurants in the country, so where to go from there? Up, up and away in the case of Rasika in Penn Quarter and the younger Rasika West End. Poised to turn 10 in December, the original went under the knife in July and emerged $500,000 later with a plusher lounge and a better chance to eavesdrop, thanks to subtle soundproofing in its main dining room.
In a contest, Rasika in Penn Quarter wins my appetite and my affection, possibly because we’ve known each other for ages, but definitely because the food, by the masterful Vikram Sunderam, never fails to dazzle me. His duck vindaloo with red coconut rice resonates with vinegar and masala. Broccoli with mustard seeds, ginger and shaved coconut makes for a novel way to eat your greens, and who knew that quinoa, tapioca, cumin and pine nuts could add up to such a rousing appetizer? Rasika’s breads are the flakiest; its Indian desserts, the most delightful. Kulfi rolled in candied pistachios and served on a stick is ice cream that brings out the kid in us all.
The restaurant, which takes its name from Sanskrit (“flavors”) and counts a dedicated sommelier, is so trusted by the powers that be that it won the honor of cooking lunch for India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, during a state visit last year. A bridge between two cultures, the tower of chickpea-gold lasagna layered with ratatouille and circled with spiced yogurt was designed with a vegetarian dignitary in mind. Now it can be yours, for $16, at one of Washington’s all-stars.”
So, dear friends, if you truly want outstanding Indian food, head to D.C. and go to Raskia or Rasika West End. You will not be disappointed, surprised perhaps, but not disappointed.
For our Anniversary, I chose to go to Fiola Mare, the seafood sister of the Michelin One Star restaurant in D.C., Fiola by Fabio Trabocchi. We have been to Fiola twice and absolutely enjoyed the experience each time. Tom Sietsema had raved about Fiola Mare. Alas, we were disappointed, not with the food or the service, but with our table in Siberia. Here is my review on TripAdvisor:
“My wife and I were truly anticipating our anniversary dinner at Fiola Mare. I had made reservations well in advance but upon arrival were escorted to a side room off the bar, we complained and were then taken to another table, again close to another bar. That being said, the food was outstanding and the service impeccable. You could not ask for better dining options for seafood lovers. The under the sea crudo, the gnocchi, and our entree choices were superb. Just make sure when you make your reservations you request the main dining room, otherwise you will not be pleased.” Note, the picture below was not our table.
Bottom line, if you enjoy excellent Italian food, try Fiola. If you go to Fiola Mare, go during the daylight savings hour months so that you can enjoy the food and the views of the Potomac – but make sure you request a table not in Siberia.
So, for Brenda’s birthday in November we headed to the Kennedy Center to see the Cincinnati Ballet’s Nutcracker performance. After researching places that were within walking distance, I chose to take here to brunch at Blue Duck Tavern which recently received one star from Michelin. Here is my review on Open Table:
“This was our first venture to Blue Duck Tavern but it will definitely not be our last. BDT contacted me to inquire if the Brunch was a special occasion. It was my wife’s birthday. So, when we arrived they had menus printed with Happy Birthday. Our waiter, Andres was absolutely fantastic in his service and efficiency. I started with the bone marrow which was superb followed by the BDT benedict (smoked trout rillet, horseradish cream, brussel slaw, pumpernickel bread, with perfectly poached eggs). My wife had the house cured salmon with a side of crispy brussel sprouts. The BDT benedict was the best I’ve ever had and my wife’s salmon was the best since we traveled to Ireland this past year. So, food, wonderful; Service, outstanding; ambiance, very nice.”
Having spent so much time in D.C. over the past few months, we decided to go to a couple of places we had not explored including the Eastern Market and the Craft Show at The Armory. Eastern Market is THE open air (and indoor) market for Washington. There you can find produce, meats, fish, crafts, cheese, and fun. Each time we went we were able to find adequate parking nearby and then an abundance of products from which to choose. You can even enjoy lunch while you shop. Here is a picture of the indoor pavilion.
Here are some pictures from the American Fine Craft Show in 2016. It will be held this coming year, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City sometime in the middle of October. Will advise later.
So, while we have not traveled to Europe or the Far East recently, we have been busy with birthdays, attending shows, and eating well.
Hope that you all have a blessed Holiday, whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or however you celebrate your faith.
Hello friends. It has been awhile since I last posted one of my scintillating blog posts. Problem is that I have not been traveling very much to locales that may be of interest to the masses. But, much has happened during the timeframe from July until this post so I will give you a quick update and inform you about a momentous event in my life. So, here goes.
Russell’s 70th Birthday
Yes, you read that right. I have now entered the age of the elderly. Or, as I prefer to say, I am now an elder. But I really do not feel like it. The golf ball does not travel as far, it sometimes takes me a few moments to remember what I thought about saying, but most bodily functions are normal. So, how did I get here one may ask. Many years ago on a cool fall evening, I was born. I don’t really remember it well. But the location was Birmingham, Alabama. My parents were all of 20 years old at the time — babes in the woods. A few years after I was born we moved to Jacksonville, Florida where I grew up – camping, water skiing, scouting (I achieved Eagle), serving as senior class President (graduating class of 650 or so) and enjoying life. After graduating from Terry Parker High, I now needed to decide what to do with my life. So, off to Auburn University thanks to my Uncle Jerry who had attend Auburn when it was Alabama Polytechnic Institute. I wanted to be an astronaut but that was set aside due to my eyesight. One thing lead to another, graduated from Auburn with an Industrial Engineering degree, had a beautiful daughter in Florence, SC, still could not figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up but then…Once I was nearing 30, I found the true love of my life, Dr. Brenda Marie Tanner to who I have been with for nearly 40 years. True happiness. We moved around a bit, but mostly in Virginia except for a short stint in Myrtle Beach. We are now settled in our Dragonfly Ridge home in Madison, Virginia.
My lovely lady surprised me for my 70th birthday. I had only requested that I go hiking and to dinner with our friends Bill and Annabelle Dietrich with whom we travelled to Scotland. But Brenda managed to have our friends from Philadelphia (Doug Campbell and Claire Beaumont) drive down for the evening, and our friends from Charlottesville, the Duke’s and Dewitz’ join us for dinner a Pomme Restaurant in Gordonsville – a great restaurant by the way. Notice the ruddy cheeks on yours truly in shots from the evening.
My birthday celebration happened to be the weekend of the Montpelier Races where everywhere I went people were telling me Happy Birthday. What a day!
But that is not all dear friends, before my official celebration, Brenda, my brother, and my daughter conspired to host a celebration in August at my brother’s farm in Alabama. We had an absolutely fabulous time! All of my brothers immediate family and mine were there for the long weekend. Words cannot express the good times that were had so here are the pictures.
Birthday Bash in Bama!
I have been truly blessed in my life to have so many wonderful friends and a family that truly love each other. Here’s to 70 more wonderful years!
Dublin is a lovely town full of history, pubs, and plenty of liquid refreshments. We stayed at The Morrison which is quite convenient on the River Liffey (River of Life). However, most may not know that it is not the only river in Dublin. The River Poodle runs beneath many of the streets in Dublin including Trinity College. To quote Wiki: “A large, dark pool once existed at the confluence of the Rivers Poddle and Liffey; this pool was described in Irish as dubh linn, which means dark pool or black pool. The city name, Dublin, is an anglicisation of this Irish phrase. This historic pool existed under the present site of the Coach House and Castle Gardens of Dublin Castle.”
Dublin is truly a walking city, with a proper map! However, do not be dismayed if you get lost. We found the people of Dublin to be extremely helpful giving directions. One lady even stopped what she was doing to walk us to the Teeling Distillery. Very friendly people. Of course, if you don’t want to walk, there is plenty of public transportation including hop on/hop off buses everywhere.
Our three days in Dublin were spent walking, visiting public parks, and the typical tourist sites including Trinity College and the Book of Kells (housed in the Library),
Guinness Storehouse, Teeling Distillery, Temple Bar (pub scene hangout), Marsh’s Library (where Bram Stoker researched for Dracula, and James Joyce studied!
But, those are the things that you can read about in any Travel Guide. The interesting thing about Temple Bar, besides all the folks hanging around drinking in the streets, was the street musicians. We especially like one group called Mutefish. They are an Irish rock/folk group from Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Lithuania, and Ukraine. Here they are playing in Dublin. Want to hear some, go to http://www.mutefish.ie.
Now, of course a visit to Dublin would not be complete without some liquid refreshments, so we obligingly made our way to The Guinness Storehouse. So, is all Guinness brewed in Dublin? They short answer is no. Does it taste better in Ireland at its source? The short answer is an unqualified yes – unfiltered, right at the brewery on St. James. Here are some pics from the brewery. By, the way, Guinness Storehouse is the most visited place in Dublin, go figure.
But, Dublin in not only Guinness, they also now have a Distillery. Teeling Distillery is the first distillery opened in Dublin in 125 years. Teeling, however, has been making Irish Whiskey since 1782. It is now the Spirit of Dublin, to which I can attest. They make an exceptional whiskey. The tour is great and not far from Guinness. One story we learned during the tour was about the great Dublin fire of 1875. No one died from the fire, but 12 people died from drinking the whiskey running through the streets that had to be stopped by horse dung – quite a poisonous mixture to be sure. Since that fire, no whiskey distillery can store their wares for aging in Dublin.
While in Dublin, we did find one outstanding restaurants that I must mention, The Winding Stair (http://winding-stair.com/). It is part bookstore and part restaurant. The food is definitely Irish but fresh and modern focusing on local purveyors. Naturally, Brenda had Salmon and little did we know, but it was Burren Smokehouse salmon. More on that later. And, in case you are wondering, Ireland is not just Guinness and whiskey. There are plenty of places serving excellent wines from around the world.
Doolin and Cliffs of Moher
Alas, our time in Dublin had to come to an end. Time to drive to the Wild West (of Ireland). So we gathered our car and drove toward our next destination, Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. But, on the way we decided a short hike in The Burren would be good.
The Burren hosts 75% of all of Ireland’s wildflowers. When you see it, you would wonder how in the world that is possible, given the fact that the limestone is all you see when you come upon the Burren. But, look more closely and you see the cracks holding water for the vegetation. An amazing geologic formation. And, since the wildflowers are so prevalent, some industrious person decided a Perfumery would be a good idea. However, getting there is challenging, but fun, as you are driving a good bit of the time on winding, sometimes one lane roads with rock walls on either side. The products are all organic, inspired by the landscape of the Burren.
And now on to Doolin where we stayed at Daly’s House. Very lovely home within walking distance of the best pub, Gus O’Connor’s, and convenient to starting our hike up the Cliffs of Moher.
Upon arrival at Daly’s House, our host, Charles, graciously asked what we would like to do for the evening, of course after offering us refreshments. He told us about the Doolin Music House (doolinmusichouse.com) where you learn about the history of Doolin music, hear music in Christy Barry’s home, and are served smoked salmon and local cheeses by his partner in life, Sheila. What a great experience!
The next day we joined Pat Sweeney’s guide Tony for our guided hike from Doolin up to the Cliffs of Moher. This was one of the greatest hikes of our life. You hike literally right along the cliff face. You get to see waterfalls, puffins and kittiwakes nesting on the cliff wall, and gorgeous views. My words cannot adequately convey the beauty and grandeur. So, I will humbly try to let the pictures speak for me.
So, what do you do after such a gorgeous hike? Cool our heels at the Sea Salt Cafe with some homemade brown bread and seafood stew. Rest a bit and then get ready to head to Gus O’Connor’s pub for the evening entertainment. What a wonderful evening! Christy Barry again joined by no less than 3 or 4 fiddles, a whistle player, our Daly’s house host Charles on the concertina, two accordion players. And to top it off, a grandmother of Irish decent from Chicago played the spoons with her whole family watching on. What a grand evening.
Dingle and Ballyferriter
Our two days in Doolin ended way too soon. We could have hiked a good bit more but we headed south to the beautiful Dingle Peninsula to visit with our friends Tom and Betty Mar Little.
But, before we left, we decided to visit the Burren Smokehouse.
Are we so glad we did. Some of the best smoke salmon we have ever had.
Before we settled in with Tom and Betty Mar, Brenda and I took a tour of the Ring of Kerry accompanied by our intrepid guide Diermud of Dingle Shuttle Bus (dingleshuttlebus.com). He was a wonderful guide and we learned so much about the Ring of Kerry from him. It is beautiful! Here are some pics we took along the way.
Following the tour, we arrived back at Eagle’s Nest with Tom and Betty Mar, retired to a local pub where I enjoyed some Red Brest Whiskey whilst listening to a small French group play Irish music. Lovely evening.
The next morning, Tom and I attacked the Links of Ceann Sibeal Golf Links. The course won, naturally. But what an experience. Lots of wind, no trees, fast greens (putting from off the green), deep bunkers.
Then Tom and Betty Mar gave us a tour of the Slea Head drive with all the history of beehive huts, oratory, and ring forts. The huts and oratory’s were built most likely around 1000 AD but a precise dating has not been possible. We toured Gallarus Oratory, Reask Monastic Site, and a small compound of beehive huts. It was very interesting despite my bump on the head from not ducking.
That evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Ashe’s Restaurant (www.ashesbar.ie) where Tom and I had local lamb shank – delicious! Tom and Betty Mar treated us to a wonderful concert of Irish music in Dingle. No pub, just music and Irish coffee. It was at the Dingle Music Shop (http://www.siopaceoil.ie/). Great time listening to the three musicians, and on one tune seeing a young lass doing an Irish dance.
Alas, the next morning we had to return to Dublin before our flight the following day. On the way we discovered a lovely town called Dungarven which has a beautifully restored fort and waterfront restaurants.
This was a wonderful trip! Great hikes, friendly people, good friends, really good food, and beautiful scenery. What more can you ask for. Until next time.