So, since my last post, I’ve left southern Ireland, whipped through Dublin (3 days, not counting travel), and have now been in Glasgow for 11 days. I’m staying here, in Glasgow’s West End near the university, which I was advised was the best part of town to be in for the money, and it seems to be true so far. I’ve got this post, of miscellaneous southern Ireland things, then the Dublin post, and then I can talk about Glasgow, so I shall say no more about it for now.
So in the last post, a couple of weeks ago, I talked about my nearly 3 months in southern Ireland: the place, the room, the folks I stayed with, and such, giving details of the place and an overview of everything else. This time, I’m going to plug in some selected details, largely guided by the photos I took.
First, here’s a couple of the map pictures from last time, to remind you where everything is:
Kinsale, the nearest town of any substance, is this little port town of (normally) about 2500 people, with a prior history of fortification and battles and now mostly a tourist stop. The Wikipedia entry notes that the population swells “during the summer months when the tourist season is at its peak and when the boating fraternity arrive in large numbers”. The “boating fraternity” sounds like a great reason to avoid the place, but I found it pleasant enough. A tiny downtown of a handful of streets, clearly catering to the tourist industry, including a handful of grocery places and one largish upscale supermarket. It’s the town Liz picked me up from, we went back to it once or twice a week for groceries — she went more often, to visit friends or do business — and she dropped me off there at the bus stop when seeing me off.
The picture I posted last time, from my arrival by bus, is a good one; it’s the main intersection, looking north:
Here’s a map of the town and the local area, from one of the signboards outside the tourist center:
Kinsale is built around this inlet, Kinsale Harbour, into a fold in the hills, so there’s a little level bit right around water level and pushing back a few blocks northwest at the “You Are Here” mark above, but it’s all fairly insulated from the wind. The Kinsale Harbour lets in from the English Channel to the south, between the Charles and James Forts. I visited the Charles Fort not long after I arrived — it’s about a 45 minutes walk away, up and down a hilly road — and I’ll have pictures below. The James Fort is a ruin, and I didn’t make it there, but you can see pictures here.
The town had a bunch of little shops and restaurants, and the Town Park with a carousel, and a church — and a “French Prison” that I walked to several times (it had a Pokemon Gym “in” it), but I never attempted to visit. First, on general principles. But, second, I know what old prisons look like, and I always had something in town that I’d rather be doing than looking at small, slightly unpleasant, stone rooms. Kinsale is a boating center, and apparently there are yacht races and such that center around there, but most of my experience of those comes from Liz complaining about the town traffic when they happened.
One of the grocery stores was super nice, though. Pricier, but like an upscale US store (like a Vons Pavilions store), and that’s where I invariably shopped. Particularly after discovering this:
They also stocked really nice, premade meat pies and pasties.
There were several pubs in Kinsale, but I didn’t eat at any of them, mindful of my Aunt Florida’s (perhaps unintentional) suggestion that if I were eating at Irish pubs in Italy I should be eating at non-Irish places in Ireland. So, I had fish and chips at “Fishy Fish”, a slightly pricey seafood restaurant (it was Ok, but overpriced), and I had a pretty good pizza at Vista Bistro, and I had ice cream at the same ice cream shop (one of several in this tourist town) pretty much every time I was in town.
At one of those earlier town visits, Liz pointed out that the Charles Fort was not too far along the coastline (you can see it as the orange bit in the lower right corner of the town map, above). She was going to be in town for a few hours, so I decided to make the trek.
The Charles Fort
You know that thing where you take some pictures of a place, and then you want to write about it, so you look for an aerial overview, find great ones, and wonder, “What’s the point of my pictures, then?” That.
(BTW, I can just hear people saying, “You said there’s a plaque in ‘Irish’. You do know it’s called ‘Gaelic’, right?” Yeah. And German is really “Deutsch”, Croatian is Hrvatski, and Chinese is Hànyǔ or Zhōngwén. Any other objections?)
The fort is maybe 25% worn down towards ruin; there are some rooms that are still used as rooms, for a ticket office, cafe, a small museum with “army life through the ages” type displays and video presentations, and the like.
But most of the fort is unused or unusable. Like, here’s a view looking southwest from the middle:
The museum exhibit on the fort’s construction talked about how the “star” fortress structure had become the new technological development in Europe during the dawning age of canons, and how a premiere fort-architect had been hired for the job here. But, unfortunately, the location was terrible, with nearby higher land rendering the fort vulnerable. The architect tried to compensate by designing a paired fort nearby, but the government never funded that part. So this place limped along for a while, and eventually was used to garrison British troops, and then was burned during an Irish Civil War in 1922 (Wikipedia has some of these details). It continued on the slow path to ruin until the 1970s, when it became a national landmark and some effort was put into fixing it up, and that effort is still going today. From the look of it, the journey back into function is as slow as the journey towards ruin was.
BTW, I noticed a lot of semi-ruined structures in southern Ireland. You’d have a perfectly functional farm, and then one building on it that was literally a wreck, like this:
Anyway, at least they’re fixing the fort now. Me, I’d be turning it into something dual purpose: a fort museum *plus* a garden center, or a music school, or a retirement home (a museum with built-in docents!), but it’s not me, is it? It never is. Sigh.
I should note that it was quite the walk to get here, up and down steep hills along the bay and the same long walk back — but in reverse (the route reversed, that is; I walked forward). I passed a bunch of clearly expensive (though not terribly notable otherwise) homes, and weirdly fuzzy stone walls:
The street signs, here and elsewhere, make the Irish weird names a little more sensible. You see them on maps, funny names like “Ballinspittle” and “Shanballymore” and “Knockalisheen”, and you think, “Ha ha, how quaint those Irish with their silly names.” Then you see this:
The Lusitania Memorial
Moving on to other tourist spot topics, the Old Head Peninsula that I was on is notable for a few things: the nearby beaches at the base, that I mentioned last post; a lighthouse at the tip; a gated golf course occupying the very end, surrounded by a very old wall and blocking access to said lighthouse; and a memorial to the Lusitania.
On that Google Maps stitch-together I made, above, you can see where I’ve marked the memorial and the wall. The golf course is that whole end knob that’s south of the wall, and the light house is on the end of that knob. I think they very occasionally organize tourist trips in through the golf course to see the light house, but I made no attempt to join the only one I was aware of, which happened right at the end of my stay. My general response to “We don’t admit the plebs” is “Well, this pleb is happy you’re self-segregating. Thank you!”
I went to the Lusitania memorial nearly every day; it was right on my walking loop around the peninsula, and had no less than 3 Pokestops and a Pokemon Gym! For those unfamiliar with the Lusitania, it was a British passenger ship sunk by a German submarine early in World War I. That sinking, which cost 128 American lives, was a significant factor in America becoming involved in World War I, a European war that American public sentiment had not supported getting involved with before this. (It’s a fairly big deal, historically, and Wikipedia has rather exhaustive detail about it, if you’re interested.) It was sunk fairly near here, and so here is where the memorial is.
Of course, the memorial does not consist merely of Pokemon stops, those being a very recent addition. It had several physical-world components, also:
I often thought of paying the £3 or so to visit the museum, but I never did. At first, I thought it would be amusing not to, while staying a 20 minute walk from it for nearly 3 months. (Besides, you go to enough of these sorts of things and you know what’s in them. Lots of explainers, some props from similar ships, newspapers clippings from the sinking, maps, etc. It’s not a large building.) Then, right at the end, I thought, “Oh, why not? The joke can be how long I waited.” But then I got busy with the blog, and then the weather was lousy for a few days, and then suddenly I was leaving and hadn’t done it. Oh well. 🙂
(I’d point you to their website, but I can’t find one for them. I did find this article about the museum, which explains that the ground floor is all about the “restoration” of the tower, and only the 2nd floor is about the Lusitania itself. So, only half of this tiny museum is about the thing it’s a museum for? And the other half just talks about how they came to do such a crap job creating it? That might be amusing in itself, but it’s probably cheaper and more rewarding to just imagine how amusing it might be.)
I did end up in this area for easily an hour a day, or more, after the Pokemon game came out. I needed the daily walk around the peninsula for exercise, and the field between the memorial and the golf course was about the only place nearby to catch pokemon, so I’d wander around it for ages, usually in the mornings.
Of course, sometimes the fog rolled in, and you had to be a little more careful while catching them all:
But, for non Pokemon players, this area was still plenty scenic.
Time and Tide
You’ll doubtless have noticed that pretty much every picture I take of anything more than an arms length away is chock full of green and big skies. It was like that all over. I’ve got, like, 50 photos sorted into the “BigViews” folder alone. Mind you, the weather was often terrible, overcast or drizzly, sometimes the wind just howled past — and was almost always blowing at some level. Like this day, when I had to get out of the house and did my walk when the wind was in a lull, at about half it’s former level:
But there were unusually many warmish, sunny days this summer, so I had plenty of scenic photos too. I included a few views that I liked last time, but there’s just no way to include them all. So here’s a scant handful more:
Here’s that tide, just recently turned and coming in:
This was sometimes a source of frustration: the further beach where the surfing classes were taught would vanish almost entirely under the tide. Which I wouldn’t have cared about, but there were two Pokestops out there under the waves at high tide, like this one!
Where I’m standing in that picture is on a bridge where, at high tide and with a decent wind, the tops of waves would blow over the road. Don’t know if that was always true, or if it’s a recent thing due to the fact that global warming’s predicted ocean rise is literally already starting. If anybody reading this has oceanside property, sell it now, while there are still people stupid enough to buy it. (This is totally fair, because stupid people are the reason we didn’t fix this problem 30+ years ago when it was already obvious it was going to happen.) And, btw, if you were considering living on an island (like, say, Hawaii, or Fiji) — don’t. Just, don’t. Big islands will still have places above sea level, but they’re going to loose a *lot* of land area, and beachfront property and resorts, and the disruption is going to be massive.
Anyway, the tidal inaccessibility of those Pokestops was responsible for my making the north walk past the memorial far more often than I made the walk south and back. The north one I could do any time. The south one was much less useful except when I was going out near low tide.
And low tide was just generally better. Then I got to check out more cool geology.
This has pretty much become The Nature Channel, so I might as well include plants and animals. Here is what many of the fields looked like when I arrived:
I’d include a lot more pictures of flowers, but I think I pretty much exhausted that topic in my Zagreb post. But this one is worth including:
Wait, one more:
There were also animals. You’ve seen cows in my last post, and cats. But there were dogs too! And spiders and bugs and snails and slugs. And there were foxes:
And whatever this is:
There was a lot of odd and end stuff that happened over the summer, and notes that I jotted down so that I’d be sure to mention them. Here are a few:
- Gnats like beer. At the start of my stay, I’d regularly take a sip from a glass or bottle and find a bug in my mouth. I quickly learned keep my beer in the bottle, so that I could to keep its cap resting on the mouth to close it off (or, if it really needed a glass, to keep a napkin over the top). I almost always remembered to do that.
- There was no lock on the bathroom door. Liz’s son had a knack for showing up to use the downstairs bathroom just when I was seated there. I soon learned that if I heard the nearby house door open, to reach over and grab the door handle. About 2/3 of those times, sure enough, he’d try to open it without knocking.
- Breakfast marmalade
- I’d had the idea that I’d get to see a rich night sky, out there on a peninsula on the English channel. This largely failed because (a) when I arrived, the night sky was still lit from sunset until nearly midnight, and was brightening by about 4:30, (b) it was cloudy at night surprisingly regularly, (c) even if you could see the sky, there was often enough haze to catch nearby community lights and smear them all over the background, (d) if you cleared all those hurdles, your odds of having a bright moon out were surprisingly good. I tried to watch the Perseiid shower in August, gave up thanks to the moon at a little after midnight, woke up early in the morning a day later to try again, and ended up seeing maybe 3 meteors as the haze rolled in. Ah well.
- Liz often had the radio on in the kitchen, 24/7. It was homey, and alternated between NPR-style news and music, showtunes, and what if the Lucky Charms leprechaun had a morning rush hour show? With comedy like, “What’s smaller than a pigeon? A smidgen.” It was cute.
- Speaking of the kitchen: I’m used to seeing where my hosts put things, and then being super careful to always put stuff back in the same place. Even if it’s the “wrong” place. (You know what I mean. Like everyone has their preferences, and ways of doing things, and that’s fine. But if you toss sharp kitchen knives randomly into a big drawer with everything else (as my current Glasgow hosts do), you’re just asking for trouble. If you put cups and mugs away with the mouth up, so that they collect dust and don’t stack as firmly… Hey, do whatever makes you happy. I love you, you know I do.) But this wasn’t an issue with Liz, because there really wasn’t a “same place”. Sometimes the dish towels hung on the oven door handle, sometimes on the backs of the chairs. Sometimes the pots stacked one way, sometimes another. Sometimes the tiny kitchen knives were if one drawer compartment, sometimes a different one, lined up one way or maybe the other. Finding where the salt was, this time, was a daily adventure. You might think that would be the sort of thing that would drive Charles mad, but it’s really very freeing. I never had to worry about doing it wrong, because there was no right. So, hey, whatever! 🙂
- I did get out to Cork twice, while I was there, on a brief errand run with Liz and on a visit to a Farmer’s Market (so much great cheese, and so cheap!). And we went to a nearby town of Bandon, where I wandered around the picturesque shopping town (Liz said it was expensive to live there), catching marveling at all the Pokemon available to city folk and taking only one picture I think is really much worth keeping:
- Towards the end of my stay, I tossed my warm knit cap (that I just use for sleeping because it’s not been that cold) into the wash with my other laundry, forgetting that the water temperature was hot and the cap was wool. Sigh. It occurs to me now that maybe I should have looked online to see if there’s a way to stretch out shrunken wool garments, but I didn’t know of one and simply threw it out. (I replaced it in Dublin, but I’ll discuss that in a later post.)
- You were pretty free to go traipsing across fields and over fence wires — usually a single wire strung from post-to-post around the edges of the field to keep the cattle in. But it was worth noting that some of those wires were electrified, to really discourage the cattle from crossing them.
- You may recall, that I deliberately left my French Press and Croatian coffee grinder in Zagreb. I saw a cheap French Press in the local supermarket and bought it, and it was decent, but the pre-ground coffee in the supermarket was not that great, and the grind was too fine for a French Press. After putting up with that for a while, I decided I was buying a US grinder I could take with me, and Lifehacker had a review of the best ones — including manual grinders! This was the perfect solution: without the motor, they’re compact, lightweight, and quieter in shared spaces. So, I ordered one from their list, the Hario Coffee Mill Slim Grinder, and it’s been great. Filling the grinding bowl with beans generates exactly the right amount of grinds for my French Press to make the amount that fills my thermos mug, and it’s only 11 oz in weight! Very happy. I’m alternating between cold brew and hot brew preparations, and I’m still not sure I really notice a difference. Maybe a taste test with friends, once I’m back in LA?
- The Hoka hiking boots I bought at REI in December started to fall apart the last couple of weeks of my stay, with the thick rubber sole just peeling away from both boots, starting at the toe at nearly the same time on both. Only 8-9 months old — such a nuisance — and I was worried about how to replace them. Thankfully, I found a repair place in Dublin that fixed them right up (more on that next post).
- I don’t normally pick up souvenirs in places, but Kinsale had just what I’d been looking for for ages:
And, with that, I think I’m done. As usual, there were a bunch more pictures, but I don’t think I’m leaving out anything significant. Since I left, I’ve exchanged e-mails with Liz and Lia; they say they miss me, and it’s weird not having me there, and the cats look confused. And Liz has moved downstairs and taken over my room; it’s got a better WiFi signal and she wants that for the online job she’s lining up. So, it’s like I’ve left home and gone to college and the folks converted my old room. Weird. Who knows when I’ll make it back there, and even when I do, it won’t be the same. The place will seem smaller, and I’ll be in a guest room, and none of my posters will be on the walls anymore. I can’t believe it was only 2 weeks ago that I left. The wheel turns.
So, that’s that. I’ll write up my days in Dublin next time, which should be in the next week or so.