**My personal opinion only, and I live and let live*** Today is Norwegian Day, or something like that, and here in Ballard we have some big Norwegian Day parade that has been in existence as far back as I remember (1970s). I am half Norwegian, so you’d think I’d like this day, but in all honesty I don’t. When I think of Italians, I think of shouting and hugging and good food and family, when I think of Irish I think pubs and stories and green, but when I think of Norway I remember all the depressed, cranky, sarcastic Norwegians in my childhood and the cranky Norwegians I encountered on my one day trip to Oslo. Maybe it was the neighborhood, or maybe it was just the Norwegians I knew, but the Norwegian Day Parade does not conjure fond memories for me — I am much more proud of my Scottish and Irish blood (albiet it is a very small percentage of my heritage).
We boarded a bus at the port in Belfast and rode towards Donaghadee (Ireland). The countryside was, of course, green, and we passed through a number of small villages along the way. We learned that farming and agriculture are still important in this part of Ireland, which is part of Northern Ireland and so still part of England. We passed the Coonswater(?) River, and were told a clan used to live in the hills and would attack ships sailing by for their booty. We also learned that George Best was a famous soccer player here but died young because of his love of wine and women. We also learned many places in the area are named Victoria in honor of Queen Victoria.
We stopped at Gray Abbott, which was built by the daughter of a Norse King to fulfill a promise to God after she survived a storm at Sea. I loved this Abbott, which was essentially a towering ruin. It was built in the 12th Century, but was abandoned following wars in the 15th Century and destroyed (burned) in the 15th Century to avoid it being used as a fort/shelter by enemies.
We rode into Donaghadee, a seaside village. I had amazing chocolate fudge ice cream at Maud’s ice cream, mailed postcards to my son R and stopped at the local inn for an Irish Coffee. The ice cream, coffee and fries were delicious, but my favorite part about this village was how exceptionally friendly the people were. I was also teased by daughter L for saying it was the best ice cream I’ve ever had, which I am told is an oft repeated phrase when I am eating ice cream in Europe.
We also passed through Bangor Bay, where 200 ships were housed the day before D-Day in World War 2.
Other notes: salt mines are in Belfast and go several miles out into the sea, a rock quarry was closed because it did too much damage to the land, C.S. Lewis was born to a minister father in Belfast, a fjord’s name here is translated as “Strange Noise Fjord” because the incoming tide makes a strange noise, there are some palm trees in Ireland since the land had palm trees prior to the last land mass breaking apart millions of years ago, spring is beatiful here because of the wild flowers and blue bells, #1 crop is not potatoes but grass (for livestock), and a nickname is Jewish Farm since originally children fleeing Hitler were taken in (after being declined by the US and Cuba) and distributed to local farms before many immigrated to Israel (many as orphans since there parents were killed by the Nazis) after the war. Finally, if I remember correctly Saving Private Ryan’s Omaha Beach scene was filmed in Ireland and after seeing the beaches I can see why (the grassy hills leading to long beaches are not unlike Omaha).
This was a wonderful day.
Spent today in Dublin. It was gloomy with a light to moderate rain all day, which we are told is quite normal for Ireland. But I loved the city. It was a mixture of Medevial and cosmopolitan. It was conquered by Vikings in the 9th century, but taken over by the Normans, who helped establish the city. We saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is 350 majestical feet long, Dublin Castle, the black spot where the Vikings landed (which was at the time a river, which is now underground), and Trinity College, which was founded nearly 500 years ago and is the oldest college in Ireland. What I love about the city, is to me it had the feeling of a smaller and more quaint London, with its gray stone buildings mixed in with Victorian era buildings, new buildings and narrow streets. While family shopped, I found a small cafe where I sat and had a double espresso (I might be crazy, but I feel like I am better treated once it is discovered I am American yet order an espresso without all the fluffy milk and flavorings 🙂 ).
We had a crazy tour guide. She was fine for the first half, but I think fell behind and raced our group through the streets of Dublin, not looking back and not waiting for people. A few times we were given the choice of dodging traffic to keep up with her or risk losing her in a foreign city; she rarely stopped to count the group or wait for stragglers, despite the fact my sister is pregnant. Honestly, it was quite stressful and more than a little dangerous.
I was told by a man who lived in Dublin for a few years that Guinness tastes different in Ireland, since it’s not pasturized. So while in Cove we ducked into a small pub to order a Guinness. But we noticed the locals were drinking Murphy’s, so decided to try both. In our group, 4 liked Guiness better than Murphy’s, but I liked Murphy’s better. Why? I think for the same reason I like ice water over flavored water – Guinness had a flavor too it, whereas Murphy’s seemed cleaner. I loved the pub we were in – 4 men stood at a tiny pub mid-afternoon on a Tuesday drinking Murphy’s ales, much like I’d imagine in a small Irish pub. And the proprietor/keeper was friendly, but not genuine.
Two days later, I can’t stop thinking about Kinsella Ireland. The narrow back street that led to the ancient cathedral and graveyard. The friendly woman who’d lived for half her life in the town, and the nice cafe where they had delicious scones, the ridiculously good ice cream. I liked that town.
We took a bus through and beyond Cork City. In short, Ireland was exactly how I imagined it to be: green, green and more green, with rivers and rolling hills. It was beautiful, and I can see why so many Irish felt pride over their homeland after immigrating from Ireland. In a small seaside village, I walked through narrow ancient streets surrounded by stone and wooden homes, all well-tended. On a hill over the village, was a 1000 year old churh, with a mixture of new marble headstones intermingling with stone markers so old the engravings were long gone. I wandered into a local cafe, where several tables of Irish talked amongst themselves. I ordered a coffee to go, and a scone with cranberries, and I learned later that scones are traditional but usually mixed with raisins. The cost was 3 Euros, and when I gave him 5 and told him to keep the change the keeper put in an extra scone for me. Needless to say, the scones were fabulous. I also got an ice cream cone, and learned the traditional cones are 99 cones, which are soft served ice cream with a stick of chocolate atop. Needless to say, this was also delicious 🙂
We rode into the port town, where a towering cathedral lorded over a small village. I’d learned Guinness was not pasteurized in Ireland, so we tried both Guinness and Murphys. In both pubs we went into, the locals were very friendly and genuine. As we drank a guinness, a man came o ut to check his cell phone, stating his lady frequently called in him to make sure he wasn’t in the pub.
I loved Ireland. I loved the people, the land and the tales. It honestly was everything I expected it to be — and I loved it.
Later this year, we are heading to Dublin to visit. Some of our ancestors hail from Ireland, so I am looking forward to the trip. Here is my research on the history – I don’t dare to to think anyone reads my posts, but if anyone has anything interesting they know about Dublin, I’m all ears…
It is Ireland’s capital and largest city. It was first settled in pre-historic days but the known allusion to it in writing is in 140 AD. It originally was a pair of Settlements, and was a Viking settlement starting in 841, although the Irish government officially recognizes Dublin’s founding date as 988 AD.
It remained a Viking settlement until a Norman invasion in 1169 and in the midst of a few years of political turmoil. Finally, King Henry II invaded it in 1171 and dubbed himself King of Ireland. Dublin Castle was built in 1204 by King John, and it flourished with trade before Robert I (of Scotland fame), invaded it in 1317 as part of his efforts to free Ireland from England while opening a second front in his wars with England.
In the 16th Century, Ireland was taken over by the Tudor Dynasty in England, and Dublin became the administrative center for England in Ireland. Dublin prospered in the 18th century, and most of the area’s historical architecture comes from this time, and Guinness Brewerey (which would be Dublin’s largest employer for most of its existence) was founded in 1759.
Dublin was part of the Irish fight for independence, and sustained a lot of damage during this fight.
Note: Much of this research was condensed from Wikipedia, with a few tidbits clarified and/or added from additional Google Searches. I will add to this from other sources as a I learn more…