|Meeting an old friend in Galway Cathedral.|
In August my family spent three weeks in Ireland, the ancestral home of one-eighth of my genes. I wish I could tie it to mysteries or writing, but I really can't (except for the ending of this piece, as you will see). I suppose I should just be grateful I have no crimes to report. But, in any case, here are my random observations from the Rocky Road to Dublin.
* Speaking of crime, we were warned in advance that "People there are so friendly you will think they are trying to get something from you." We found that to be an exaggeration, but in Galway, where we spent the first week, some people did go above and beyond. The same woman helped us in two different neighborhoods, making me wonder if she was following us.
* In Galway (but not Dublin) every supermarket sold packages of pancakes, just like you might buy tortillas or naans here. They often said "American style!" although I have never seen them sold that way in America.
* And speaking of food oddities, This photo shows a combination I never expected to see:
*One more food thing! Pizzerias in Dublin don't seem to believe that basil goes on a Margherita pizza. It was invented to honor the queen of Italy and has the colors of the national flag. Red (tomato sauce), white (mozzarella), and green (basil). You guys are apparently honoring Switzerland.
* Every shop in Dublin bragged of "Ireland's Best Coffee!" or "Dublin's Favorite Burger!" or "Best Ice Cream!" If someone had promised "Temple Bar's Third-Best Tea!" I would have purchased some just out of gratitude for the change.
* By coincidence we arrived the week of the Galway Races, which is a Big Thing in the horsey world. Every day one of the main streets was stuffed with buses taking people off to the track. Thursday was Ladies Day and it looked like prom night, with the city full of young women in fancy dresses, wobbling along on five inch heels.
* One of the highlights of our trip was taking the ferry to Inis Mor, largest of the Aran Islands off the west coast. They say there are three thousand miles of stone walls on the three islands, and I believe them. We rented bikes and peddled our way to Dun Aonghasa, a fort that is at least 2,500 years old. When I put this photo up on Facebook one my friends asked: "Is that blood on the gateposts?" Could be, could be.
* My favorite living Irish non-mystery author is Roddy Doyle. (You may have seen The Commtments, based on his first novel.) A few years ago he created a Twitter account as research for a novel. Doyle filled it with conversations between two imaginary friends in a pub and this proved so popular that he turned it into a play, which has been performed in pubs in the British Isles for a few years. Two Pints just premiered at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. We got to see it, and it is hilarious. I hear it is coming to America next year, so be on the look-out.
* Being archaeology nuts we made a special trip to Newgrange, a 5,000-old-passage tomb in County Meath. What you see in this photo is a man-made hill. On the winter solstice the sunrise shines straight through the passage into the tomb. You can enter a raffle to be one of the lucky people inside to watch it happen, but be warned that, this being Ireland in December, you may see nothing but fog and rain.
*We also visited Tara, the famed home of Celtic history. Unfortunately, it is much more interesting from the air. On the ground you see mostly rolling hills and can't detect much of the ancient patterns. Not surprisingly, there are signs warning that drones are not permitted.
* If you know your Irish history you know that the General Post Office in Dublin was the center of the Easter uprising in 1916. (So legendary did it become it that the joke goes that "thirty brave men marched into the post office and ten thousand heroes marched out.") You can visit the GPO now and see a terrific exhibit that tries to explain the whole event with its bloody background and bloody aftermath.
* The National Library of Ireland currently has an excellent exhibit on W.B. Yeats. It is definitely worth an hour of your time featuring recordings of his poetry, rare copies of his books, and art connected to his life. (His brother and the unrequited love who was his muse were both fine painters.) What struck me as weird was I did not see a single mention of what I think of as his most famous poem.
Also on display was a survey Yeats received from some university on the subject of creativity. One question asked: what did he do in the fallow periods when he was waiting for inspiration to strike? His answer: read detective stories. Good man!
The reason we scheduled our trip for August was to coincide with the World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Dublin. Some of you may remember that I reported here about an earlier Worldcon. This one was also plenty interesting and I'll tell you about it in two weeks. In the mean time have a cup of third-best tea, or something..