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Bushmills, Dunluce and Donegal, Ireland

Our day started with Kinbane, then Carrick-a-Rede, Giants Causeway and somehow we went on to Bushmills (the town & factory) for a tour. Why? I don’t care for whiskey (Scotch is different), my sister’s a celiac and can’t touch any wheat product. A momentary leave of senses perhaps?

Although Bushmills has been making whiskey since 1675 and it was interesting on how they use bourbon, port and errr, one other type of barrel to age the stuff, and although we got a shot at the end of the tour (I also got my sister’s) it was still kind of a waste of time. There really was nothing to take a picture of unless I wanted to do an article on whiskey making (and maybe I should have taken more). But I took no pictures and had my sister shoot this only picture (and bad one) of me in Ireland with the mega bottle of booze.

Ireland 2007–Bushmills, Dunluce Castle and Donegal

So we did the tour, and then it was getting late in the day, about 4:00 and we found our way to Dunluce Castle… to see them locking it up. It was perhaps our biggest regret. If we’d missed the Bushmills tour that we weren’t that enthused about we would have had time to explore the castle. And this castle had a cave. How cool is that? Alas we could only peer from the locked gates.

Dunluce castle was held by the MacDonnells of Ballymargy fame and was destroyed by a fire in 1641. There was a cave beneath the castle besides the passage under the bridge. I would have loved to explore that are.

Our last stop was driving on to Donegal town. The pictures of Donegal and the castle are actually from the next day as we arrived with enough time to do our usual. We popped into the Reel Inn, had a drink and asked the bartender to suggest some B&Bs. It also turned out they had live music that night. So we crossed the bridge right outside the door and not believing everything was so close, continued driving up the road, to realize we’d gone too far. We turned around and then found several B&Bs just down the road. We stayed at the Bridges.

These B&Bs are nothing fancy on the outside but quite large houses inside with usually 3-5 bedrooms and a large dining room. Bernie, our host, had two cute little kids (never met the husband) and there was only a common bathroom though many B&Bs have ensuites. My sister and I each had our own room, which gave me a reprieve from her snoring. (It’s funny that whenever I had to wake her in the middle of the night to try and get her to stop snoring, the first thing out of her mouth, even half asleep, was “I am not.” Like I had nothing better to do in the dark of night.)Bernie also washed our clothes for a few Euros each. A very nice place to stay.

So that night we went off to find dinner (quiet on a Monday). Many pubs have dining rooms upstairs. We began to notice that service in Ireland is different than Canada. They’ll serve you but never come back and you have to hunt down the waiter to get your bill or they’ll literally let you sit forever. I don’t remember the name of the place but I had a mediocre chicken curry with not a speck of vegetables. but true to form it was a huge portion on rice. I ate it all and then they brought me a megasize bowl of French fries! I didn’t eat any, being quite full. But there was that Irish thing for potatoes again.

We then wandered back to the Reel Inn for the music though we never got farther than a few feet inside the door. I won’t relate the tale here again as you’ll find it if you go back to the Oct. 2 entry. We staggered into bed, a short walk of a couple minutes from pub to B&B, at 3 am.

The next day we went off to Donegal castle. We couldn’t find it at first and our biggest problem was getting in the car. Being used to larges cities and maps of BC, we tended to misinterpret distances in Ireland. We drove back and forth trying to find the castle, expecting something like Dunluce. Donegal castle was comparatively small, tucked behind a store that sold garden ornaments  and a parking lot. In fact the parking lot was on one side of the Eske River, which is not very wide but I presume was a lot wider during medieval times. From our B&B it was no more than a five-minute walk to the castle.

Originally built in the 1500s by the O’Donnells (probably related to the MacDonnells) they partially destroyed it when they left (were routed?) so that it couldn’t be used against the Gaelic clans. Then the flight of the earls happened and a British captain was given the castle. Basil Brooke added the Jacobean wing which are the kitchen and hall. Some of these castles were so small it was hard to imagine them being seats of power. We’re used to these Hollywood movies that show massive grounds yet we drove by the castle three times without realizing that’s what it was.

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Eating Quirks

I was talking yesterday with a couple of people and we were discussing our odd eating habits. One woman, when she was a child, started pushing her food into separate piles so that nothing would touch. She thinks that it began because she’d have salad and there would be a pile of dressing left over on which her mother would place the other food.

Makes sense. My brother was one of those. His meat could not touch his potatoes could not touch his other vegetables. Me, I was of the other end. I didn’t exactly swirl all of my food into one mosaic. But I was very big on getting the different combos of taste sensations. I’m still that way. If I have turkey (keeping it seasonal for the US Thanksgiving), potatoes, stuffing and carrots, I will eat each one separately but then I’ll combine the potatoes and stuffing, the potatoes and turkey, the potatoes and carrots, the potatoes and carrots and stuffing, etc. You get the picture: as many combos as possible.

When I was a kid and I ate those super nutritious sandwiches of two slabs of white bread, a smear of radioactive yellow mustard and a micro thin slice of a ham/luncheon meat product, I still had to make deviations from the food norm. You’reprobably thinking, well there’s three: ham, bread, and ham and bread. As far as taste went that was true but I also ate in design combos or patterns. First, bite off the top piece of bread, leaving the ham and the lower bread slice. Then eat that. Next bite: eat the meat out of the middle, then eat the bread together. Next bite: eat the bread on the top, then the one on the bottom, then the meat. Next bite: eat the bottom slice, then the meat, then the top slice. Order mattered. Not as many variations, but a way to make a pretty bland sandwich more interesting. Of course, if you added lettuce or tomato, it gave more permutations. Some food was just too messy to do this with though.

I don’t really eat sandwiches much anymore but I don’t tend to go through the patterned bitefest either. Though if I’m eating cake, it would be cake, icing, cake with icing, cake with ice cream, etc. Or lemon meringue pie: meringue, then meringue and crust, then meringue and lemon curd, then lemon curd and crust… I do in fact still do that. I guess when I look at it this way, I was always playing with my food.

I have to say though, those meals of baked potato, roast with frozen peas and carrots (cooked of course) did not meet with my patterning standards. Then it was a case of eating the marrow of the potato and hiding the disgusting mushy veggies in its shell. Or taking bread and butter, putting the veggies on the bread and covering it in gravy to disguise the taste. I actually got in trouble for that last one but frozen vegetables were so putrid to me that they made me gag.

I wonder if studies could be done to determine people’s careers by how they ate their food. Who is more analytical though, the person who separates their food or the person that mixes the flavors together? My brother, one of the food separators, was a politician and likes to work at solving the world’s ills. The woman mentioned above is studying to be a doctor. My other brother, I don’t know if he was a mixer or a separator but he would eat the same food (hot dogs or BLT or…) for weeks on end, ad nauseum. He’s a teacher.

The same food for a week would bore me. I’m a writer but I’m sure there are as many food separators who are writers as the patterners. Or are there? Food for thought on a rainy day in Vancouver. Happy Thanksgiving weekend to those in the US.

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Donegal and Slieve League

FIrst posted on 10/02/07 on Blogspot.
Yesterday was big hike day. We went to Kinbane Castle, a ruin, down many steps to a crag and a rock in the ocean. It was fine gong down but definitely a sweaty hike up the steep steps. My sister couldn’t make it so stayed above.

Then we drove (driving is fine now…mostly, except those traffic circles, which are literally every five blocks when you drive through a city. Very confusing when there are five names on each sign and you’re trying to find one.) to the Carrick a Rede rope bridge. Randi is afraid of heights so I went on and over the bridge (short) to the hummocky island. It’s like it’s covered with peat and then grasses and little field flowers here and there. A beautiful view of the North Sea in its blues and turquoises with the white cliffs, the black rocks and the little green sharp cliffed islands called Carrick Island (where the rope bridge leads to) and Sheep Island. That trip to the bridge was the second, easier hike but with some steep steps to climb back up.

We then went to the Giants Causeway where there were hundreds of people. This is where the land coughed up great hexagonal (six sided) columns of stone everywhere to the water. These columns form natural seats and steps and are very cool. Managed to get some good pics but the haze stopped me from getting good ones of the chimneys farther out and I was a bit tired to walk that far.

We went on to the Bushmills whiskey factory. Why we did this tour I’m not sure. It wasn’t on our itinerary (made up daily) and it wasn’t very exciting or interesting. No old architecture, a bit on the making of whiskey(which was kinda interesting). Bushmills is named for the old Bush river from which they pump the water and the milling of the barley. But because we did this we missed getting into Dunluce castle. October hours means many things close at 5 instead of 6. It would have been the most impressive castle with a bridge, large environs and a cave beneath the castle. All these castles today were coastal castles. All we could do was take pics from the gates.

We then drove and drove through many a roundabout, through Portrush and Portstewart, Strabane, various little towns to Donegal. We stopped in a pub, the Reel Inn, had a drink and got some idea for B&Bs. This was a nice change. A small town center and our B&B just over the bridge, less than five minutes from the town. The pub is just one side of the little bridge. We ate in some restaurant which was okay. I had chicken curry (13.50€) which was only chicken, no veggies. Lots of chicken and rice though and then I was given a huge bowl of fries, which I didn’t even touch. The Irish do love their taters.

We went back to the Reel Inn which was supposed to have live music. We barely set foot in the door when we were mobbed by drunk Irish men. There was a very drunk, bleary eyed, mostly incoherent Liam and his friend who we called Harry Potter, of barely legal drinking age. Enda was a nice guy who looked like he used to play rugby (on the TVs everywhere here) who had his own pub but goes for drinks with the boys on Mondays because one of them is banned from his pub. The banned one, the older Liam (40-ish) with a front tooth missing, regaled us with many a story of his fishing forays, true or not. Liam McGurdy holds the world record for fish whacking and gutting. Supposedly this is true though some of the other tales were not (though we googled this and found no mention of famous fish whackers–more blarney). There was an equally drunk, red-haired Eric. They were all bleary-eyed when we arrived and just stayed the same.

Randi and I had been told that the men buy your drinks everywhere. We hadn’t found this yet or even that people talked to you that much. But it was true here. They all wanted to shake or hold our hands but we never bought a drink all night. Each guy would try to up the other in blarney.

There was also a Pete or Finnbar but it was hard to tell as he was not always on the up and up either, who kept telling me I was a fine woman and asked, if I was there alone would I fancy him. I didn’t want to say outright no and offend him, but I did say no and he asked why. I said because I like to get to know people there and that the gold wedding claddagh (Irish ring with two hands holding a heart) with the hands turned in told me he had a wife. “Oh you know too much,” he said when I caught him at his blarney.

A younger Pete came in and all the guys in the bar started calling old Pete “Daddy.” Younger Pete, Pete Cannon was kind of like a leprechaun, not that tall, pretty eyes, lots of character in his face and brown hair with blond and light red streaks. Turns out he’s a musician and he also contributed to the blarney in his way. But overall the lads were friendly and harmless, if half of them completely inebriated. I got to try Adam’s cider which came in a larger 1.5 pint bottle.

Now we’re off to Slieve League and the western coast. More as the internet allows.

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