We’ve been to Paris for Christmas so this year we decided to go a little further south -to Lyon and Avignon. Christmas day when we arrived on the Air France flight to Charles de Gaulle a staff member dressed as Père Noël saw us off the plane and into France. When the next plane arrived at the Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport we took the train into Part Dieu, noticing that the Lyon suburbs must be the home of the French graffiti taggers. We then made our way to the Hotel Carlton Lyon in the Presqu’île district.
After getting over the jetlag and lack of sleep with a short nap we took a walk around the Presqu’île, a neighborhood with lots of shopping, restaurants and entertainment. This area celebrates the Christmas season with brightly and imaginably lit streets, a carousel for the kids and a large, brightly lit Ferris wheel.
We spent four nights in Lyon and then rented a car to drive to Avignon , where we stayed three nights. We explored Avignon, took a day trip to Arles and returned to Lyon via the back roads and Orange. We stayed one night in Lyon and then back to the U.S.
Each section of the commercial district in Lyon was festooned with bright lights that went for blacks and blocks.
The Ferris wheel
We are heading to Ireland once again. This time will be short for me but Robert will be staying over to play some Irish golf. We;re going to Dublin, Cashel, Galway City and Ennis. Robert is continuing on to Adare. We are celebrating an anniversary so we are exploring where to go for an occasion.
Robert and I have met so many brilliant people in pubs in Ireland. Fascinating people we’ve met in pubs include:
- A bass player whose bass was rubbish
- Two young women from Australia, interning in London and traveling through Ireland
- Numerous folks from all over the EU who wanted to discuss American elections
- A young man from the Netherlands named Bart
- A man who explained exactly how the Celtic Tiger economy effected regular people
- And on and on….
And now for some tips on how to talk to folks in pubs in Ireland:
- Sit at the bar. If you sit at the bar it is assumed that you are available to talk. If you sit at a table, not so much so.
- Be open to others. You will meet not only Irish folks, but people from all over the world, especially the EU.
- Talking gets easier the later in the evening.
- Ask questions. We asked lots of questions about Ireland, places to go, Irish history and politics, etc. We got great answers and conversations.
- As for the famous anti-American sentiments…Some folks may not like American politics but they do like individual Americans. Don’t be afraid to express your own opinions but be sure to listen to theirs. One fascinating thing about talking politics in pubs is that opinions are often not what you expect or they’ll have quite a different perspective.
- Tell a joke. Robert has lots of bad ones he loves to tell.
In 2005 R. and I went to Ireland for our second trip. Below are some of my observations on the Irish road system and happenings in the Dungeon Bar.In November Robert and I returned to Ireland. We stopped in Dublin, where we saw a play at the Abbey Theatre, toured Dublin Castle and generally roamed around the city.
We then ventured down to Kilkenny, which is a beautiful, artistic town with a really big castle.
From there we traveled through N and R roads to Kinnity Castle, which is near Birr. According to publicity about the castle there are several ghosts as permanent guests. That night at the bar we saw several people in medieval dress enter. Robert asked them if they were in fact corporeal or were they the resident ghosts. They thankfully replied that they were employees of a telecom company in Dublin staying at the castle for their Christmas party. There was also a wedding reception going on as well. That night at the Dungeon Bar we partied with the medievals (including lords and ladies, monks and friars, jesters and cross dressers), refugees from the wedding reception, people from nearby towns, and musicians playing at a traditional music session. A good time was had by all. There are some photos of the festivities below.
A trad session in progress
That night combined medievals, musicians, castle visitors, townspeople, and refuges from a wedding in interesting combinations.
From there we went to Galway and toured the Connemara, which many folks say is the “real” Ireland. It was certainly scenic.
Some observations about driving in Ireland. Roads are classified according to their proximity to the sheep population. “M” roads are usually at least four lane “dual carriageways.” For M roads sheep can hardly be seen due to highway speeds and their distance from drivers. “N” roads are usually two lane roads with pavement markings. On these roads you are very near to the sheep. “R” roads are sometimes two lane roads but are likely to become 1 ½ lane and then one lane roads. You really, really hope that you don’t run into another car coming towards you. On R roads you are really, really close to the sheep, as they are sometimes wandering along the roadside munching grass. Roadside safety features include rock walls, castles, cars parked on the side of the road and/or sidewalk, and/or sheep. We managed to avoid all of those.
Also, all Irish roundabouts have names, even some of the mini-roundabouts. They are not close to sheep at all. Howver, we were always having to pay attention where we were going while driving on the timpeallán that I didn’t take any pictures.
We left Cork and traveled to Dublin via Waterford and County Wicklow. We stopped at the Waterford factory for some quick shopping, stopped at Cobh, and then cruised through the garden of Ireland, County Wicklow. We saw a number of small towns we have put on our list for the next trip and finally made our way to Dublin, where we quickly dumped the car and prepared to be city people for a few days. As city people we did lots and lots of walking. We checked out the shopping on Grafton Street and then took several walking tours (heartily recommended). our first was a history tour of Dublin by a graduate student of history at Trinity. He truly had the gift of gab and we enjoyed the 2 hours of Irish and Dublin history. We also went on the Easter Uprising tour, which was a highlight of our trip. We met at a pub off of Grafton street, got a pint and retired to the basement where Malachy, our guide, started off with some history of the uprising. We then took off for a walking tour of Dublin, hitting the places where significant encounters occurred. One interesting fact Malachy told us was that Dublin was a predominately Protestant city but tolerated Catholics. He pointed out a Catholic church hidden in plain view, explaining that the Catholics didn’t want to bring attention to themselves. He mentioed another similar church off Grafton Street. We ended up at the Post Office and Malachy recommended that we visit Kilmainham Gaol.
When we got toKilmainham Gaol we were given timed tickets. Since our time was more than an hour away and we hadn’t had lunch we popped into a local pub to grad a bite. One old fellow at the bar regaled us with stories of the owners, staff and most of the others at the bar. After a good story and some lunch we went back to experience the gaol. I recommend this tour to anyone who has an interest in Irish history and the tour continued the story of the Easter Uprising well.
Before we leave Cork and travel to Dublin, I thought I’d post some photos illustrating the contrasts between old and new Cork. Cork, more than any ohter city we’ve been to in Ireland, embraces the new as it still preserves much of the old. Cork is a compact city. It’s downtown (or An Lár) features lots of shopping (and the English Market), wide boulevards and narrow streets, lots of churches, and many bridges over the river. Intermixed with all this, much of it old, are modern buildings and urban spaces. Take a look.
Out of Cork we took a day trip to Kinsale, which is known as the gourmet capital Ireland. the day we were there it was incredibly windy, so no going out on the boat that day. There was a good chop in the water in the harbor so I was glad we couldn’t go sailing. We did explore the town and ate lunch at Fishy Fishy. Since it was April and way off season we walked in and were seated. I’ve heard about 2 hour or more waits in the tourist season. The food was soooo good and it certainly lived up the hype.
Afterwords, after visiting churches, we went to Desmond Castle and the International Museum of Wine, where we did learn of the “wine geese.” The “Wine Geese” was the name given to families who migrated from Ireland in the 17th to the 19th centuries. Some of them went to France and into the wine trade and are often referred to as the “Irish Wine Geese” Ever wonder how a French cognac got a name like Hennessy? Or why French Bordeaux is called Lynch-Bages?
Then a visit to Charles Fort with a look over the harbor.