Self-Isolation Play List Recalls Travels

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_16ceI enjoy a weekly podcast of BBC Desert Island Discs. I just finished the Daniel Radcliffe episode. I’ve also noticed that the some people are creating self-isolation playlists and sharing on Instagram. Satellite Sister Lian Dolan created two with the themes of survival. We may as well have fun with it while we are waiting and looking out for one another by staying home.

I haven’t created a playlist since I dropped my youngest child off at UC Santa Cruz. And I don’t listen to as much music as I once did. So when I imagine being interviewed by the BBC presenter on Desert Island Discs, I think of the songs inspired by my travels.

My first big trip outside the United States was to Catrine in Ayrshire with Teen Missions when I was 16 years old. I came home at the end of the summer and discovered that My Sharona by the band The Knack had completely taken over the airwaves. My high school pep squad and student body adapted it to our school name, “La-Si-er-ra” and yet I had not heard it once! While I was in Scotland we sang a lot of Christian songs but weren’t allowed to listen to the radio; however, I did develop a real soft spot for bagpipe music and all things Scottish. Later I fell hard for the twins from Edinburgh, The Proclaimers. I have every album recorded by Charlie and Craig Reid and the disc I want in my COVID shelter in place is The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues.

My next travel adventure was to study summer school in Cambridge, England. First my then husband and I drove around England, Wales and Scotland. I loved Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat That’s My Home, and was bummed to find out that it didn’t reach the same popularity in America.

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I didn’t travel much while I raised my children–annual trips to Yosemite were more the norm. So when I was newly divorced I gave solo travel a go. Except air travel to meet up with a friend or group, I had not had complete control of an itinerary before and the rebel in me loved it. I chose London and Dublin for my first solo foray and I fell hard for Ireland.  That trip I was mad for Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping.  (And for the record, I apologize for linking to some truly bad videos.)

Within a few years I was semi-regularly volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Northern Ireland in Belfast. I even marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Downpatrick. There were many songs that I enjoyed singing as we enjoyed the culture in NorIreland. On one of my last trips a young builder who was apprenticing at the site shared with me his favorite song at the time: Voodoo Child by the Rogue Traders.

I discovered New Zealand through Habitat for Humanity as well. I met a group of Kiwis on a Jimmy Carter Build in Cambodia and the next year led a team to Wellington, New Zealand. Music was a big part of the build and I discovered Brooke Fraser. One of my favorite songs is Something in the Water.

I have returned many times to New Zealand and I like many other Kiwi artists besides the obvious–the phenomenal Lorde. I was briefly obsessed with Gin Wigmore’s Black Sheep. I have memories connected with the New Zealand National Anthem and the Rugby Union theme song for the Rugby World Cup, World in Union. Sometimes I would discover a song on Kiwi road trips that was a hit in New Zealand but not yet in the United States, such as Glad You Came by The Wanted.

The biggest connection with a song on any of my adventures was summer of 2014 when I followed the Tour de France from Yorkshire to Paris. For part of the tour I joined a Thomson spectator tour in the Alps. Our bus driver had a great playlist including Enrique Inglesias’ Bailando. If I only could take one song to my desert island it would be this one.

Working at home all day and then spending all evening at home is not quite as isolating as being stranded on a desert island. I have Facetime with my grandson and daughter and phone calls and texts with colleagues and friends. Still, there is a growing sense of the end of the world as we know it.  Just as 9/11 ushered in a different set of priorities, so too will this pandemic.

 

 

 

Peadar Kearney Quintessential Irish Pub

My very first solo trip overseas was to London and Dublin. London was a tough slog as people are just not very friendly. I treated myself to the Royal Mews and all the other things that previous trips I’d been deprived in the negotiations with friends over itineraries.

When I arrived in Dublin I immediately felt welcome and relaxed. I would order my half pint of Guinness at the bar and someone would hear my American accent and start a conversation. I had an absolutely fabulous time. I really loved the Irish peoples love for group singing in pubs. It doesn’t happen every time. Every time it did happen I would sit  grinning and join in if I knew the song. At that time in the mid 90s the Dubliners I met LOVED John Denver so we sang a lot of “Country Roads.” It is an uplifting experience and that is not the Guinness talking.

When Tevis and I got to Dublin he confirmed a meet up with a friend who he met when working in Mountain View. We met up at a pub on the edge of Temple Bar in Dublin–Peadar Kearney. It is smallish, even so we were able to grab a table. Deeper in the bar a live band led the crowd in a sing along. I smiled wide. I love Ireland.

Quirky & Fun Irish Stuff

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I know, I know. It implies they don’t charge fees for withdrawing cash, although your bank will charge you. Still I posit that this is misleading. I didn’t get any extra cash that wasn’t fully represented on my bank statement!
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Before we left for Ireland my Auntie J shared an article about the popularity of Krispy Kreme donuts in Dublin. I couldn’t quite figure it out. The drive-thru Krispy Kreme was causing such a disturbance to the neighborhood that they shut down for a time. Then when I was at the Christmas Fair at Belfast City Hall and I saw these treats. OMG! So much sugar.
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Retail is suffering in California and stores are not making as much of an effort with Christmas displays. So it was delightful to see these fun window displays in Dublin. Plus it is Harry Potter!
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It is a penguin! Naturally this little figurine caught my eye at the Guinness Storehouse.
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I have so many questions. I just missed it, damn. Are they telling stories with yarn? Or are the stories about yarn? 

 

 

Afternoon Tea at Powerscourt Hotel

One of the highlights of staying at certain hotel properties in Ireland or Britain is the Afternoon Tea. This was my special birthday treat to myself when I stayed at Powerscourt Hotel in County Wicklow.

img_6231I was looking for a special way to celebrate my birthday at the end of November. I chose to stay at the Powerscourt Hotel. I remembered being impressed umpty years ago when I saw it in the distance. I checked it out on-line and then my son offered to use his points to make a reservation.

Tevis had to return to Boston for work, and his points allowed me to stay two nights and enjoy the hotel amenities and the garden at Powerscourt. His “status” earned an upgrade to a garden suite and I was tempted to not leave my room.

img_6255It was raining on and off, sometimes intensely. I had originally thought I might drive to other places in County Wicklow. The weather and the quality of my accommodation made it easy to stay put and focus on Powerscourt Hotel and the garden. I walked the labyrinth and ate dinner at the hotel’s pub.

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Delicious Afternoon Tea for one! I didn’t have a reservation but they had enough for me.

They have a spa (didn’t try because I had a massage scheduled when I returned home). Breakfast was included with my upgrade and the downstairs restaurant served up a wonderful omelette. I would have stayed longer if I could. It isn’t far from Dublin (businesses in Dublin use it as a place for off-site training) and it could serve as a base for seeing the greater Dublin area and avoid the ridiculous hotel prices in the city.

Powerscourt: What a Garden!

img_6286One of the best gardens in Ireland is in County Wicklow less than an hour from downtown Dublin. Powerscourt gardens are beautiful and delightful even in the end of November–the mark of a garden with good bones. The house is a shell of its former glory since a fire ravaged it. The living spaces have been replaced by specialty shops and cafes. The stable at Christmas sells Christmas trees and greens. The garden drew me back and it still satisfies.

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This folly gives a great perspective of this corner of the garden. This is the area where Scouts are invited to camp each year.

The entrance fee for an adult is 10 pounds from March through October and 7.50 pounds in winter. There are discounts for seniors, students and children and it is 25 pounds for a family of five. There are headphones with additional information and an introductory film, both available for free. Although the repetition of how proud the owners/descendants are of the property gets tiresome.

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The Japanese Garden is well established and maybe needs a good trim.

I first discovered Powerscourt many moons ago when I traveled around Ireland with Cameon, my chum from high school. I had won airfare for two in an Irish-American Club raffle on St. Patrick’s Day. We flew to Dublin and rented a car to travel around the island. We started by driving north so our stop in Powerscourt was towards the end of our week. I remember it fondly and have frequently wanted to return on other visits. Even though it is only 40 minutes from Dublin, I could never include it in my itinerary. I’m so glad I made it back.

 

Local Dubliners Recommend

IMG_6160While dining on stew at O’Neill’s pub, a couple of local Dubliners made some recommendations. I was thinking aloud with my son about what I was going to do in the afternoon considering I have seen most of the popular destinations at least a couple of times. I took up both of their suggestions.

First I walked to St. Stephen’s Green to see the temporary exhibit of the World War I soldier. “The Hauntings Soldier” is the creation of Martin Galbavy with the assistance of Chris Hannam. The sculpture is made from scrap metal items like horseshoes and spanners. It is really quite moving and I was especially impressed to see how many people were on site to take it in.

Then I walked to the other side of Dublin–to Parnell Square–to see the Francis Bacon studio (recreated) at the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. The studio walls could use a fresh coat of paint. I walked all the way through the galleries (tiptoeing past a concert in the middle gallery). The exhibit with the Francis Bacon studio begins with a David Frost interview with the artist on a loop. Chaos fed his creativity. Then you walk up to a window into the recreation of his London studio and see why he is so very creative.

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It looks like a tip, yet he created beautiful modern paintings.

“The Hauntings Soldier” may not be there when you go to Dublin, but the Francis Bacon studio will be. Go!

Bookshop Crawl in Dublin

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The Winding Stair, named for a book of poems by WB Yeats

I was staying close to the O’Connell Bridge in City Centre, so when I asked Google Maps to show me “bookstores near me” a lot of red markers popped up. Big smile. I decided to head across the River Liffey to the nearest red dot.

The Winding Stair is lovely inside. The coziness invites browsing and buying. I have no business buying more books, so I bought gifts for others.

I received a text from Tevis and met for lunch at O’Neill’s pub on the other side of the river–crossing the Ha’Penny Bridge. We were chatting over lamb stew about our plans. A couple of local Dubliners sitting next to us heard me say that I’ve seen everything at least twice. They suggested I check out a special statue in St. Stephen’s Green and Francis Bacon’s studio (see next post). I decided to continue my bookstore crawl and see the tribute to WWI soldiers in St. Stephen’s Green.

I walked past a few unmemorable shops, plus a rare bookstore (danger, Will Robinson), I ended my crawl at Hodges Figgis at 56-58 Dawson Street. It is in the Waterstones corporate family and yet it offers so much choice I had to go in.  To avoid purchasing I took pictures of books that appealed to me.

I did buy books for others and I mailed them home from the post office in Bray. Some of those books took a month! to get to California.

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Across from Hodges Figgis is a Tower Records! It started in Sacramento. I didn’t know any were still open. Amazing.

Bookstores sing a siren song to me. I cannot resist going in. I’m already thinking about how close my hotel in London is to Foyle’s bookstore for my stay in March. I just had some new bookshelves built in my dining room and I was finally able to unpack my boxes of books after more than a year. I found a book on polo with a forward by Prince Charles that I bought with money I could not afford when studying at Cambridge University one college summer.

I will embrace my weakness and make it my strength! And pack accordingly.