10 Questions About…

Celebrating Handel’s Messiah by Ann Treacy
April 25, 2010, 7:45 am
Filed under: Dublin, Dun Laoghaire

So here’s a little quiz. Where was Handel’s Messiah first played? If you said Dublin, you’re right. If you knew it happened in 1742, you get bonus points. For the anniversary there are activities all around Temple Bar in Dublin. We went to hear music at St Audeon’s, which was kind of fun. I won’t pretend that any of us are classical music buffs – or even classical/traditional Irish music buffs but it was nice. The biggest treat through was going into the St Audeon’s visitor center.

I used to live behind St Audeon’s, which is near Christ Church is a very old part of Dublin, but I had never been in the old or new church. So it was kind of cool.

The other pictures were taken either from a day we spent in Dun Laoghaire or a day in town on Thomas Street (that’s the picture with the modern art heads).

Glasgow, Ayr, Stanraer by Ann Treacy
April 13, 2010, 1:46 pm
Filed under: Glasgow, Uncategorized

Toady we’re making on our way back to Dublin. First I have to give props to some of the best traveling kids in the world. It’s one thing to travel in a car all day (which I fully admit is where we would fall down) it’s another to go from town to town via trains, boats and buses. We started the day in Edinburgh; we were sad to leave but all felt like it was a great vacation.

We took a morning train to Glasgow (about an hour) and had lunch in Glasgow. We had lunch, went to the Museum of Modern Art, saw the Firth of Clyde, saw some great pipes and bags buskers and got back on the train a little earlier than necessary. Glasgow is a very different city from Edinburgh. Now part of it may be the areas we visited but I don’t really think so. As Lily said it’s like Glasgow is the evil city and Edinburgh is the good city. That doesn’t mean we didn’t like it. It was just a very astute observation.

So we left Glasgow and headed to Ayr – where we found our we’d have 2 hours before the next train to Stanraer, where we could get the boat. So we got to see a little of Ayr. We walked through the town and ended up on the beach, which was really the place where the River Ayr enters the sea. So it’s very sandy, shallow beach. Patrick sat by the bags – I forgot to mention that each of us had a carry on type bag, mostly carrying our favorite electronics – and we had one genuine e suitcase for the 5-day visit. (Not bad – but gets heavy when you’re walking aimlessly through the third city of the day.) The girls and I walked on the beach. It was a beautiful day. The girls were barefoot. They found a live hermit crab in the water and several dead crabs on the beach.

We hung out there just long enough to have to walking very quickly back to the train. Then a quick (90 minute) train, (2 hour) boat, (3 hour) bus and taxi later we got home at 2:00 am! But if I had to do it all over again I would – I would just pack less!

I nearly forgot – the last picture is of the wake from the boat as we launched. I thought it was amazing to see.

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Loch Ness Tour by Ann Treacy
April 13, 2010, 1:39 pm
Filed under: Loch Ness

Want to know what’s not a good start to a 12-hour bus tour? Aine throwing up on me. But I’ve included a picture of me in my new shirt. I was thinking that we had kind of aired out when we got onto the boat at Loch Ness and they starting spraying air freshener around us – thinking it was remnants of previous guests. They were kind enough to then spray down Aine and me like we had just arrived from some quarantined island. But we’re tough so we tried not to let it bother us…

To start, the girls and I were on time for our 7:30 pick. (Patrick didn’t go. Don’t even ask!) Anyways, we don’t lead the earliest life in Dublin so I was relived! We headed out of town to open road. We drove through the Scottish Highlands. It’s a pretty windy tour – but it was fun to get more Scottish history as we drove. We learned about the kilt. Traditional the beauty of the kilt was that soldier could wear it (and animal skin shows) and run fairly easily through the heather as opposed to the over dressed English. The kilt used to be 5 meters by 2 meters. The wearer would pleat it each morning. In the rain half could be pulled up to cover you. At night you could unfurl it to use as a sleeping bag. The trick was to bundle up into the heather and wiggle a bit until you sunk in. The heather is apparently pliable enough to kind of envelope you – but too tough to let you slip unto the ground. So the branches of the heather would protect you from above and you’d be kept off the wet ground.

Another interesting fact – sometimes the kilts were difficult on the battlefield so often they’d fight in shirts online. SO I guess you want to be careful about “no shirts, no service” signs here. (I made that up – it wasn’t from the guide by the way.) We got to learn more about Braveheart and the parts that were less true than others. Of course it was all a little beyond me since I haven’t seen it. We learned about Mary Queen of Scots, which is more my speed since I’ve seen a play about her and read several of the Other Boelyn Girl series. We drove by a lot of things that would be pretty cool to see – I suppose that’s the down side of a coach tour.

The Highlands are beautiful and we got a great, dry day for traveling, not sunny, which is nearly better when you’re going on a marathon bus ride. We stopped in Spean Bridge for lunch. Then off to Loch Ness.

We took a boat tour of Loch Ness. I think you’ll be very impressed with what we saw if you watch our video. All I’ll say is that it was created on the boat in Loch Ness.

After Loch Ness we headed back to Edinburgh. It was a pretty , yet long, drive. We drove through the Cairngorms mountains – reaching Britain’s highest point at about 1500 feet. There was plenty of snow in the mountains. It was beautiful. We drove by some distilleries and learned a little bit about whisky. Almost made me wish that I liked whiskey as then the occasional to show off my new knowledge might come up. We drove by – where Macbeth actually lived and learned that Shakespeare wrote the play for Henvy VIII in hopes of getting on his good side. Shakespeare took some liberties and if I got it right one was making Macbeth out to be the bad guy when really Duncan and XX were just as bad except that they weren’t related to the king. But then I guess if you’re wirting it for a king I guess you can understand the spin.

The nicest thing about the tour – we were picked up at the door of our apartment and dropped off at the same. OK maybe that wasn’t the nicest but when you’re sightseeing with three kids it’s going to at least come in at a close second.

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Ghosts, optical illusions, steps, more hills by Ann Treacy
April 13, 2010, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh

Day two in Edinburgh was more ups and downs. (Remember, built on 7 hills.) We started at the Camera Obscura. It’s kind of a museum of optical illusions. My favorite part was the telescope on top you could work remotely from inside . You could zoom in on things all over town. I loved that. There was a giant version the guides could use to give us a lazy man’s tour of the city. We loved it. Here’s a definition of Camera Obscura from Wikipedia. I thought it was interesting…

The camera obscura (Latin for “dark room”; “darkened chamber”) is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen. It is used in drawing and for entertainment, and was one of the inventions that led to photography. The device consists of a box or room with a hole in one side. Light from an external scene passes through the hole and strikes a surface inside where it is reproduced, upside-down, but with colour and perspective preserved. The image can be projected onto paper, and can then be traced to produce a highly accurate representation.

After Camera Obscura we went on a underground ghost tour. Soon after the tour began we realize why there weren’t more kids in the tour. The tour takes place in a vault underground – it’s part of Edinburgh’s underground city. The vaults were originally built by merchants for storage but they soon learned that the caves we too porous to be useful. So there were abandoned. In the 1700s Edinburgh became over populated. They made it illegal to be homeless, punishable by death. So the homeless moved to these underground vaults. The life expectancy of a grown man was 18 months once we moved to the vault. I won’t go into gruesome details – but it was really sad to just think about the conditions. One of the vaults is currently used by a Wiccan group. There were some scary stories about why the Wiccans move from one room to another. The tour guide had a great, super scary delivery. It took about a hour for the girls to talk to us after this tour. Although – and I want it on the record – this was Patrick’s choice, not mine! As revenge I am including the picture of him in the vault. It’s one of the few pictures that turned out.

After the creepy tour we headed to the Scott Monument. It was built in the mid-1800s and there are 287 steps to the top. I got to about 250 and had to turn back. Partially because I just couldn’t stomach Aine running around completely oblivious to the height. I can’t believe that we weren’t scooping her up off the pavement – although in fairness there really wasn’t an easy way to fall or jump out of the tower. Lily, Aine and Patrick made it to the top of the tower.

Then we went to Calton Hill. There’s an old observatory there – and some towers and ruins (Nelson’s Monumnet) that nearly look like they are from Rome. Like the day before on Arthur’s Seat, it was just nice to be out in the great weather climbing aorund. Aine particularly enjoyed it. Patrick pointed out that it’s fun to see all of the old emperial statues and mouments. For better or for worse those seem to get blown up in Dublin so there’s not a lot left.

We capped off our day with a fun Thai meal.

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Edinburgh Castle by Ann Treacy
April 9, 2010, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh

So it turns out that we should have come to Scotland a long time ago! We have had an amazing time.

Edinburgh is very hilly; it’s built on 7 years. The castle is built on the top of one hill on one end of town. It looms pretty impressively over the town. In fact from our apartment we walked into town and kind of fell upon this amazing site. We all gasped! (First a quick note on the apartment. We have a 2 bedroom apartment with a sitting room, kitchen and big bathroom. It’s about a 10-minute walk from town. It is wonderful!)

Anyways the city really does take your breath away. It’s one of those times when I wish I had a good camera because I just don’t think my fit-in-my-pocket camera did any justice to the scenery. We saw where the prisoners lived and were tortured. We’re always suckers for torture – of others. But mostly we were overwhelmed by the amazing views.

We decided to start with the castle. So we climbed up and up. It is huge. We took at tour and I found out how little I really know about Scotland. Most of it I learned watching Macbeth! We saw the crown jewels.

The Castle is at one end of the Royal Mile. At the opposite end is the Palace of Holyrood – between the two are a series of tourist shops, loads of tiny alleys, some cool old buildings. We stopped for lunch at The Elephant House, where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter.

Then we walked down to Holyrood and as you get closer you can see Arthur’s Seat – an extinct volcano. We debated for about four second whether to see the palace or climb the mountain. We went fr mountain, which was spectacular. The best part of it was that we never really thought we’d get to the top. (For those in the know we really climbed up near the Seat of Arthur, not the tallest peak but one next to it, though in retrospect we could have gone for it.) Anyways we did climb the entire thing – in fact we climbed up and around the mountain.

I was so impressed with the girls. Kate was a little afraid that her asthma might be a problem but she toughed it out. In fact, she said climbing the mountain was her favorite part of the day. Both of the older girls had reservations about the height issues. And I’m happy that Aine didn’t run off the side of the mountain. She was actually kind of sad that the climb was so gentle – she wanted to be climbing up rocks.

Then we kind of winded our way back to the apartment, We saw a statue of some relative of Guthrie. (Patrick can post a comment with details if he wants.) Patrick and I popped in a cemetery to see philosopher David Hume’s grave. The kids waited below where some Japanese tourist stopped to stare at them.

Then we went to a French restaurant called Chez Pierre for dinner. It was excellent – although even I have to sometimes marvel at kids who will order mussels.

Easter in Greystones by Ann Treacy
April 7, 2010, 12:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Well the toughest thing about coming back to Ireland after 10 days back home is coming back to the cold. At least it was nice and sunny and probably I would have thought it was warm except that it’s 80 degrees back home and now I know it.

For Easter Uncle Fearghal brought us all to the Hungry Monk in Greystones, which is a little town/suburb on the sea about 30 minutes from Cabinteely. If you’re ever in Greystones, you should check it out. The name actually comes from a cookbook, but they have monk paraphernalia all around the restaurant. The restaurant itself is like a converted country house. We had profiteroles that were nearly as good as Uncle Billy’s. The big girls shared scallops. After lunch we took a quick walk along the beach.

Planes, trains and automobiles – not for us! by Ann Treacy
April 6, 2010, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh

So it turns out that while Scotland is very near to Ireland on the map, it’s not so close on the ground. Actually I knew that going in but it certainly gives me time for blog posts!

We started out yesterday on a bus to town (Dublin), got a coach (fancy bus) to Belfast, took a taxi to the harbor, got a boat to Stanraer, now we’re on the train that takes us to the big train that takes us to Glasgow, where we’ll change trains for Edinburgh and probably we’ll end up in a taxi to the apartment in Edinburgh. Whew!

So far the boat is the favorite mode of transportation. There’s a kids’ play area, arcade, pub, restaurant, seats to watch movies and more. You can walk around the whole time if you want. Aine and Kate got their nails down. We had choice seats right at the back of the boat where we could watch Belfast get smaller and we could see land two hours later when we got close to Stanraer. The sailing was a little choppy – and they wanted us it would be. But – and I remember this from taking the boat from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire years ago – it doesn’t seem so bad if you can get outside and see the water.

My Internet connection is spotty. I have a whole new appreciation for folks who are stuck with satellite. That’s what we had on the boat – I couldn’t do much. We’re going through rural Scotland now – I’m afraid Aine is going to hurt someone’s feelings by asking continually if we’re still in the middle of nowhere.

As long as this is, I’m glad that we have a chance to take our slow boat/bus/train/taxi trip. Obviously we spend a lot of time in Minnesota and Ireland. SO the girls know how life is different in each – but we don’t always have a good gauge on what differences are uniquely Irish or Minnesotan as opposed to European (or British) and American. For example Aine has asked me about a dozen times if there will be a pool at the hotel. (No there won’t be. As there is rarely a pool at the hotel in Europe and we’re not staying in a hotel, we’re staying in an apartment. Because there are apparently few to no hotel rooms big enough for a family of 5 in Europe.) I can generalize across Europe because we did look into visiting a few places – Scotland won.

Belfast to the Boat by Ann Treacy
April 6, 2010, 11:09 am
Filed under: Belfast

We’re officially on vacation! It was a quickly devised plan – but a good one. We’re heading to Edinburgh. As Irish Grandma says, we’re taking the slow boat to Scotland. We started yesterday by taking the bus to Belfast. We headed into town where we saw (from a distance) and commemoration event at the GPO (General Post Office) for the 1916 Easter Rising. We could have joined the event but we were a family on a mission – lunch, new shoes and bus. It did make me think that it wasn’t so long ago that a bus trip from Dublin to Belfast during the Easter holidays might not make Fromme’s list of safest vacations.

Anyways we got to Belfast. We had about an hour left of daylight so we ran around the city center for a while. We saw the City Hall, Langan River and a bunch of empty shops. Apparently they take Easter Monday more seriously in Belfast. Even the Crown Bar was closed for a few days – the girls were bummed. (Actually they have been in the Crown Bar but they didn’t love it in the way they don’t love most pubs.) We ran into some troubles finding a restaurant that would take kids. We’ve noticed before that on the one hand Belfast pubs are generally better than Dublin pubs; on the other hand it’s tough to find a place that serves food and kids – because so many restaurants are pubs.

We ate. The girls drew a picture of their wishes. I had to add Kate’s (below). Apparently she’s not really looking forward to the boat.

We slept in our very OK but definitely right-prices hotel. We walked for about 20 minutes and went to the Stena Line launch – and that’s where we are now. We’ll take the boat to Stanraer and train to Edinburgh.

Macbeth at the Guthrie by Ann Treacy
April 5, 2010, 8:53 am
Filed under: Minneapolis

My other big activity back home with seeing Macbeth at the Guthrie. Macbeth was the shortest and bloodiest of Shakespeare’s plays. This performance was particularly bloody! It was directed by Joe Dowling who always seems to take a show as far as it can go – and then a little bit. I hadn’t seen Macbeth in years. I found it a little bit tough to follow, which I think was a sign of how tired I was. I would go into greater detail but I know I have a PG audience.

I went to the show with friends Kathleen and Bernadine. We had a very nice dinner at Spill the Wine beforehand.

Bob McChesney and John Nichols by Ann Treacy
April 5, 2010, 8:52 am
Filed under: Minneapolis

It was great to be home –mostly it was 10 days of work. Well work and really good restaurants. But one night Dad and I went to see Bob McChesney (founder of FreePress.net) and John Nichols (Washington correspondent to The Nation.)

They were in town promoting their new book: The Death and Life of American Journalism. They were interesting because of the tremendous amount or research they had clearly done and their perspective. They had a couple of points that I noted. First that the idea that the constitution was intended to be revisited every 20 years or so. That answers a lot of questions.

Second, they promoted uncensored government support of the media. They pointed out that countries that supported the media had more civic engagement and other great things that naturally I’ve forgotten. But they had an idea that each citizen should have $200 in government funding to give to a nonpartisan, nonprofit news source. I love that idea. Someone in the audience was worried that other people would give their money to the wrong resources, like to sports coverage – but they had clearly had that question before. They pointed out that sports coverage is rarely nonprofit. They added that most people would give their money to a news source – even if they never really read the news source. Because most people appreciate that access to information is essential. While the questioner looked skeptical, I think they had a goodpoint.

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