"" Writer's Wanderings: November 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Books For The Road - The Best of Me

Romance novels are not necessarily one of my favorite reads but I enjoy the story-styling of Nicholas Sparks so when I wanted a nice easy read with a little depth and some romance, I picked his recent release, The Best of Me.

The Best of Me is about two teenagers who fall deeply in love but due to circumstances of who their families are, they are torn apart. Actually in the name of love, Dawson releases Amanda when it is time for her to go off to college and her parents have completely forbidden her to see him. His reasoning is that love should be able to set someone free. Amanda wonders if that is because he expects love to return to him. It does. Years later when the two of them are reunited by the passing of a common friend but now the two have led very different lives. Still, they realize their love for each other has never faltered but life is complicated at best and the two struggle with what the consequences could be should they reunite.

Sparks will make you truly care about these characters and by the end you will definitely need tissues handy if you are in the least sentimental. I’m not sure if I liked the fact that I saw the ending coming probably sooner than I wanted but at least I was prepared for it. Good read for the road.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Beef & Guinness Stew

While in Ireland, we had Beef and Guinness Stew several times for dinner. The recipes were a little varied. Some were very rich and hearty, gravy-based and served over potatoes, once with a filo dough topping, and other times the dish was more like a soup. When we visited the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, we picked up a recipe card for the popular stew. You can find other recipes to use with Guinness at their website.

Beef and Guinness Stew

7 oz. (200ml) of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
1 lb. stewing beef, cut in cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced (the carrots in Ireland were huge so I'd use two or three of ours)
1 large celery, diced
1 large parsnip, diced
1 quart beef stock
sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary (to taste)

Brown the meat in large pan. Add vegetables and cook until tender. Pour in the Guinness and simmer to reduce by half. Add the beef stock and herbs and simmer for an hour to hour and a half. (You might want to thicken it a bit if you like more of a gravy than a soup.)

It is said that the stew is better made a day in advance and served over champ potato.

Champ Potato

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and halved
1 cup milk
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup butter
1 ground black pepper to taste

Place potatoes into large pot, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain well. Return to very low heat and allow the potatoes to dry out for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk and green onions gently in a saucepan, until warm.
Mash the potatoes, salt and butter together until smooth. Stir in the milk and green onion until evenly mixed. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

The Irish also make a potato called colcannon which is the same only with a little cabbage added to the potatoes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Slán go fóill, Ireland

Our last day of touring Ireland we left Belfast and traveled down the coast with the Irish Sea on our left as we headed for Dublin. This last little bit of roadway would bring us full circle around the Emerald Isle. We stopped in Newcastle for one last tea and scone and arrived in the last place on our itinerary my husband wanted to see, Bru na Boinne.

In Bru na Boinne, the area between the towns of Slane and Drogheda lie prehistoric passage tombs. There are about 40 mounds in the earth which are the oldest surviving traces of human activity in the area. The largest of the mounds is Newgrange which is surrounded by a kerb of 97 stones, the most impressive of which is the entrance stone that is covered in engravings.

Much to our chagrin, we found that the tour would take too long for us to do since we had arrived a little too late to catch the ride to the tomb and would have to wait until the next scheduled one. We explored a bit the visitor's center and added on another reason to return to Ireland.

Along our journey I picked up quite an eclectic collection of observations of Ireland and its people. Here are a few:

* Hubcaps are often tie-wrapped not because of theft but because they could pop off on the rugged roads.

* Side view mirrors are the most likely auto repair job because of the narrow stonewall lined roads. We managed to return the rental with both still intact.

* M roads are fastest and widest. N roads are wide enough for two cars and can be quite fast. R roads are a bit unpredictable in size and speed. L roads are usually one lane, sometimes with grass in the middle and even though the speed limit may say 80 kph keep it much lower.

* The Irish like their butter. As one woman put it "we use it by the slab."

* With lots of drizzly rain and sunshine, you are guaranteed to see rainbows--although we found no pots of gold.

* No matter how fast you travel on a road, no matter how narrow the road, the locals will pass you.

* Portions in the restaurants were always huge which begs the question, Why aren't more Irish people obese?

* Black pudding is a spicy breakfast sausage. If you have a squeamish stomach, don't ask why it's black.

* Count on dramatic sky-scapes to be ever changing.

* Pitch and Putt courses are not your regulation golf courses. It's a whole different game.

* A sign that shows a road narrowing is usually accompanied by the words, "Traffic Calming Device." Huh?

* Rest assured that if you hesitate whether in your car or on foot, someone will ask if you need help with directions.

* And if a gentleman should happen to come up to your table while you're having tea and start a conversation in Gaelic, just smile back at him, nod your head a bit, and keep quiet. He'll never know you didn't understand a word of it. Then again, you could be meeting up with a leprechaun and not know it.

With that, I say Slán go fóill, Ireland. Goodbye for now. I suspect we will return. You have totally enchanted us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Belfast, The Black Taxi Tour

We stood in front of the Titanic Quarter where our tour had ended to wait on a Black Taxi that was about to pick us up for our scheduled Black Taxi Tour, a tour to take us through the area of Belfast that was most active during The Troubles. When the taxi arrived the astute members of our group realized. . .it wasn't black. It was gray. When we pointed that out, we got quite a barrage of language explaining that not all "black taxis" were black. We moved on.

The taxi driver/tour guide who looked like he might have lost a few battles in the street, or the bar, wanted to know where our car was since he would not be bringing us back to where he picked us up. He drove us the short distance to the lot where we'd parked, spoke a few moments with the guys as they determined where our B&B was, and then led the way to the B&B so the guys could leave the car there. Still not where he would drop us off but we could return more easily there.

That left my sister-in-law and me in the car with the driver. We just kept giving each other glances wondering what would come out of his mouth next. But without the men there, he was very polite.

Still feeling a bit uneasy about this whole thing, I relaxed a little as the guys joined us again and even had to laugh at the looks on the other three faces when our driver asked if we'd had any "crack" in Ireland. Actually the word is craic (pronounced crack) and means fun. They looked at me like I was crazy when I said, "Yeah!"

The tour consisted mainly of stopping to look at all the murals Belfast is so famous for. Depending upon which neighborhood you are in, Protestant or Catholic, Unionist or Nationalist, Republican or Loyalist, the murals change expressing that point of view. With all the labels associated with basically two groups of people, it got very confusing. Even after researching, it still is.

Since the Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 1998, things have quieted down. As in Londonderry our guide had emphasized that Troubles were over, our taxi driver repeated the same thing. It was hard to be convinced when each time he got in the back of the taxi to sit on the extra jump seat and give commentary, he kept looking around the area and over his shoulder. While I read that the Black Taxi drivers are both Catholic and Protestant, I'm guessing ours was maybe Catholic since when we appeared to be in the Catholic area he relaxed a bit.

The tone of the murals has changed somewhat. There are 17 walls in the city that separate the Catholic areas from the Protestant. On one such wall along Falls Road, the murals have been toned down a bit and are now more generally political and often have to do with international issues. In the Shankill Road area, there is a housing project that surrounds what look like practice fields for soccer perhaps. I shudder to think that there are lots of children playing on them because the mural that made the greatest impact on me was one our driver said was so very unusual in its perspective. The gunman's eyes in the picture, as well as his gun, seem to follow you no matter where you stand on the fields. The UFF under his picture stands for Ulster Freedom Fighters a part of the Ulster Defense Association.

The history of the Catholic vs. Protestant struggle is very confusing to me especially since it doesn't really seem to stem from religious beliefs so much as that your religious preference (or what you were born to) determines your political affiliation. With all the historical places we visited the best I could piece together to try to understand how it all began was that when Henry VIII was king in the 16th century, he broke with the Catholic church. Remember the eight wives? Rome was not pleased with him. He tried to force Ireland to become a Protestant country as well sending his emissaries to destroy monasteries and do away with anything Catholic.

Animosity developed. Then later, in the 17th century came a struggle for power between William of Orange and King James. William was Protestant and James, you got it, Catholic. This is the struggle that led to the gates of Londonderry being barred as King James tried to storm the Protestant city loyal to William and the slogan, "We will not surrender." Now all of this is a little too simple an explanation but it points out one thing--hate festers.

In more recent history, the rule of England (the UK) over Ireland led to the Protestant politics invoking severe sanctions against the Catholic contingency often sending Catholics to jail for minor reasons. Remember there was also that potato famine. In 1922, the majority of the Irish island seceded from English rule and formed the Republic. For some reason, Northern Ireland chose to remain a part of the UK. So you see, there are actually two different countries that have a common heritage.

Are you confused yet? I still am.

In a way, I wish we had not taken the Black Taxi Tour--oh, by the way, the taxi driver's language improved greatly when he realized we weren't users of certain words. The tour was depressing in that we could see that even with the peace agreement in effect, there are still walls that separate, still back yards completely screened for protection, still places where mistrust and hate appear to brew. It cast a shadow on our view of Belfast which had been so positive in the morning on our Titanic Walk.

The taxi driver left us off at the Crown Bar in the "neutral" area of Belfast, the area he claimed where everyone got along. The Crown Bar was beautiful inside and out. It is one of the oldest landmarks in Belfast. We looked around and then headed across the street for a coffee. We needed to sit and absorb all that we had seen.

We walked a bit around a very nice shopping area. Perhaps had we been able to stay an extra day, we would have enjoyed it even more but we called it a day and found a taxi to take us back to our B&B in a nice residential area of Belfast.

One more note and I will finish my philosophizing. Over the years, we have been to many places all over the world. Just a glance at the category listing of my posts will show you that. Lots and lots of history has been explored in each place and the struggles of the world all seem to stem from two things: the desire for power and greed. Enough said?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Books For The Road - Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor by Leanne Hardy fell on my reading list at exactly the right spot. We had just returned from our trip to Ireland and I was steeped in Irish and English history and still marveling at the old abbeys we had visited rich with history and folklore. But whether you've traveled to such places or not, you will be drawn into the story of a young man caught in the struggles of the times.

Colin, faced with his mother's death and an overpowering father, runs to the place he feels he will be accepted--the abbey at Glastonbury Tor. While there, he is drawn into the struggles going on between Henry VIII's rampage to destroy all the monasteries and the church that he was taught to love. Unfortunately he discovers that there are some in the church who are not what they should be either. He must face his own fears, find courage within himself to follow what is right, and above all, learn to forgive as well as be forgiven.

Hardy paints a wonderful picture of where this all takes place--a real place in the south west of England. She did a heap of research including a two week stay in the area and the results are a very accurate portrayal of the events that took place around the abbey. While Colin's story is fictional as is Colin himself, his story is made all the more believable by the setting into which Hardy has thrust him.

This would be an excellent read if you are planning a trip to the UK or Ireland. You are bound to visit some very old churches and abbeys and the story will enrich your visit.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Belfast, The Titanic Connection

It was an early morning for us. The drive from Portrush to Belfast would only be a little over an hour, but we wanted to arrive in time for the tour we had booked online: Titanic Walking Tour. Southampton is always the port associated with the Titanic but the ship was built in Belfast, a fact that Northern Irelanders are beginning to capitalize on. Up until recently, they were a little nervous about calling attention to their building an "unsinkable" ship. Now they have realized what valuable innovation went into the building of the ship and they are taking pride in that.

We met our guide in front of the hotel, the Premier Inn, that was the starting point and immediately fell in love with her. She was absolutely a Titanic enthusiast--a Titanorak, as they say. She walked us along the street that led to the yards where the Titanic was built. On the way, she stopped to show pictures of what it looked like back then and talked of what the future holds for this area as they construct the Titanic Quarter, a waterfront community with business, residential, and commercial enterprises that will center around the Titanic theme and preserve the historic aspects of the area.

In the distance a silvery white building with an unusual shape stood out among all the other buildings. It was actually in the shape of a star if viewed from above, a white star. White Star Line was the name of the prominent British shipping company that commissioned the Titanic. Significantly, it is the same height as the Titanic was as it sat in that space being built.

A red brick building, the former Harland and Wolff Headquarters Building and Drawing Offices, was our first real stop on the tour. Our guide stood for a few minutes outside the iron gate and helped us to imagine what it might have looked like as the workers came through that gate every morning to their job building the world's largest ship--at the time.

The white star-shaped building loomed in the open space beyond the gate. It looked even bigger now that we were closer and if you squinted just a bit, you could almost imagine that it was the hulk of a ship, a very large ship. How awesome it must have been to see that grow each day and be a part of the construction process.

Inside, the building was showing it's age, but was still in great shape considering not much has been done to restore it yet. Beautiful stairways and unusual glassed in offices spoke of a time that was much more elegant than our sleek modern lines of today.

Goosebumps broke out on my arms as we entered the original drawing room where Thomas Andrews designed the Titanic, the Olympic, and the Britannic. After a brief explanation that painted a picture of past times in this room with the help of a photograph our guide held up, we were left to explore and soak up the history.

In the corner, was a display of clothing from the period. The Titanic was built between 1909 and 1911 when it was launched. And the fateful day was April 14, 1912 when it hit the iceberg and sank. Thomas Andrews, by the way, was lost that night as well.

We exited to the street again. The slipway where the Titanic was built and launched was inaccessible due to the construction going on with the Titanic Quarter. A little ways down the street however, we were able to look through a fence and see a bit of the HMS Caroline's bow peeking out from its construction cover. The Caroline, the last remaining WWI ship in existence, still commissioned by the Royal Navy, has been docked in Belfast for 86 years. It will be on display to the when renovations are finished.

At the pumphouse we grabbed a little something to eat. Here the guide collected tickets and money from those who had joined without booking online. In the dining area were several pictures and video displayed on the walls of ship building including the Titanic. After a half hour, our first guide handed us over to a second who walked our group to the dry dock where Titanic was sent after launch to be inspected.

Down the center of the dry dock are the blocks upon which Titanic rested. The guide held a photograph and pointed to a building nearby to try to give us perspective on the size of the Titanic. Eventually there will be a park area in the Titanic Quarter with grass and trees and in the shape of the deck of the Titanic. You will be able to walk from one end to the other as if strolling on the promenade deck. In comparison to today's huge cruise ships, the Titanic is actually small. The Oasis of the Seas is 1184 feet and 222,900 gross tons compared to Titanic's 883 feet and 46,000 gross tons. But for its day, it was the largest.

In the Pump-house, the working side, we were able to see the old pumps and view a video about how the pumps worked to pump water in and out of the dry dock so workers could repair or finish what needed to be done on the hulls of the ships they built there.

When we were finished, I was still in awe of the whole story. We have now been to every place the Titanic has a connection except for one port, Cherbourg, France, which we hope to cover on a trip in the near future (Southampton, Cobh) . We have even been over the spot where the Titanic lies on the bottom. I don't know what continues to draw me to the story of the great ship. Perhaps the little stories of all the people and how they came to be on board the ill-fated sailing. Whatever it is I guess I could be labeled a Titanorak--as long as it just means I'm totally interested in all things relating to the RMS Titanic.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Giant of a Tale!

On our second day to explore the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, we found ourselves in the land of legendary giants. The Giant's Causeway, a spectacular work of nature or giants if you would believe folklore, was fascinating. The rock formation is made from an estimated 40,000 basalt columns which were formed from a volcanic eruption over 60 million years ago.

The causeway was discovered in 1692 by the Bishop of Derry who immediately reported it to the tourist bureau in Dublin--just kidding--but it was reported to Dublin authorities who in turn contacted authorities in London and the theories and research began in an attempt to explain the phenomenon.

But who wants facts like lava flowing and filling in fissures and creating a layer of basalt and then sun and rain eroding them, more lava flowing, cooling slowly, more cracking, and on and on until you get all of these columns of mostly six-sided stones? Give me the legend. It's much more fun.

It is said that an Irish giant named Finn McCool lived along the coast and was insulted by a Scottish giant, Fingal, who lived across the channel. In anger, Finn lifted a huge chunk of earth and hurled it at Fingal. The earth fell into the sea. Fingal retaliated with a huge stone tossed in Finn's direction. He taunted Finn saying that Finn was lucky he wasn't a strong swimmer or he'd come over to the Irish shore and give Finn what for.

Finn was enraged and began throwing large clumps of earth into the channel to make a walkway for Fingal to come over and face him. It took him a week to complete the walkway but since he hadn't slept in a week, he was worried that he was too tired to face Fingal.

Now here's where it gets interesting. One account says he asked his wife what to do and she told him to disguise himself as a baby in a cot--which is what he did. When Fingal arrived, Finn's wife said her husband was out but showed Fingal her "baby" laying in the cradle. Fingal saw the size of the "baby" and wondered how big the father was. He high tailed it home tearing up the walkway as he went. The Giants Causeway is all that's left.

Now isn't that better than a lot of geological facts? Before we left, Bob and I were feeling a bit adventuresome. We climbed to the top of a group of rocks for a Kodak moment. After all, we were nearing the end of our Ireland trip and a turned ankle now wouldn't be disastrous.

Our final stop along the coast was at Carrick-A-Rede which means "the rock in the road." The road is the sea route for the Atlantic salmon on their journey west past Carrick Island. For over 350 years, fishermen have strung a rope bridge 90 feet above the sea to allow them to cross over to the best places to catch the migrating salmon. We were here not for the salmon but to cross the rope bridge.

I wasn't sure what to expect but I wasn't about to chicken out either. Talk about a group of grownup kids. . .It was a long walk and climb up and down to get to where the bridge is hung over the drop between the main shore and Carrick Island. An attendant sits in a shed at the top of the bridge and collects your ticket and instructs you that the bridge is one way only. If someone is coming toward you and on the bridge first they have the right of way. Oh, and no more than 8 on the bridge at a time.

Relief flowed over me when I saw that the rope bridge was really planking suspended by ropes and that I wasn't going to have to toe a rope like a circus performer. Actually it was easier to cross this rope bridge than the one in Disney World's Adventure Kingdom. It really didn't move much and no one was standing there jumping up and down to try to make you fall.

The island itself wasn't much more than a grassy covered rock. Probably a nice place to do some fishing from. Some of the shoreline was dramatic but we didn't spend a lot of time there. The adventure was in the bridge crossing.

On the way back, halfway across, I did aim the camera down for a view and snapped. I'm not sure I had my eyes opened looking down though. The last place you want to swoon from looking down 90 feet is in the middle of a rope bridge.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Beaches, Castles, and Irish Whiskey

We arrived in Portush, Northern Ireland, on a nice warm and sunny afternoon. I was amazed at being this far north and finding a beach town that apparently is booming during the summer months. Who knew it would be that warm this far north? We kept hearing about the Gulf Stream reaching up in this direction but didn't realize just how much it affected the climate and water temperature.

Lunch was in a cafe we found along the main street of town. Again, the waitress was fascinated with us being Americans and choosing to visit Northern Ireland. Her only warning was, "Be careful in Belfast." Derry was a pleasant enough experience. Wouldn't Belfast be too? A little later we met some folks enjoying the sun from a park bench. They, too, thanked us for coming to Northern Ireland and were hopeful more tourists would venture north now that things were quiet.

We wandered the town a bit on a wild goose chase trying to find the TI which was actually marked by a large fake lighthouse that we could see but didn't know that was the TI. We passed the amusement park now closed for the season and ended up at the shore near a park area. Bob and I decided to explore the hill and see what kind of a view we could get. At the top of the cliff was a sign that declared this to be Ramore Head--which means Big Ring Fort.

Another ring fort? If so, this one had little left of the stones that had once been the fort. The sign also told us that we could see the hills of Donegal to the west--check. And the islands of Scotland to the north--not so clear. The two of us soaked in the view and the sun for a few minutes and then headed back down.

Our little tour group of four decided to take it slower the next couple of days. We had been spending lots of time in the car and it felt good to be in the wider open spaces of outdoors and our roomy B&B. Good thing because the next afternoon it rained so much that we spent it indoors in front of a wide screen TV watching--football? Rugby actually. We found it amusing that the rain did not deter the golfers on the course across the street from us.

The morning had started out all right, a bit damp but doable. We trekked off to the Bushmills Distillery to learn how Irish whiskey is made. Just as they had at the Guinness Storehouse, the end of our tour included a tasting of whiskey. I asked for the mildest flavor, sipped it, choked, wiped tears from my eyes, and totally remembered why I didn't like whiskey of any kind.

A ways down the road was another castle on our list to visit--Dunluce. It was probably the largest of all the medieval castles we'd seen so far although it wasn't in as great a shape. Some of it dates back to the 16th century to the original owners, the MacQuillans. Notice that it is a Scottish name. This area of Northern Ireland is very close to Scotland. If you go to this site for the castle, you'll find a virtual tour (it's on a sunny day!) and if you click for the Panorama view, as it pans across the water, in the distance you can see what I believe are the islands of Scotland.

Much of what survives was built by the next owners in the 17th century, the MacDonnell clan. They loved to entertain and the improvements they made to the castle centered on that. There is a large guest house that you pass by before going across a small bridge that leads to the main quarters where guests were entertained and the family lived.

Since the castle sits right on the cliff's edge which is continually wearing away from the elements of wind and water, it has lost some of its mortar and stone. Legend has it that one night the kitchen with all of its servants fell into the ocean and that was why the countess of Antrim packed up and moved inland. Perhaps, but there is still a large fireplace-like space marked "oven" in what appears to be the castle's kitchen. One look at that and I am so much more appreciative of my microwave.

Friday, November 11, 2011

County Donegal

With Derry as our base for two nights, we were off to explore the area known as County Donegal. We had planned a route that we realized now was a bit too ambitious so we sat down and readjusted our expectations. The day before, on our way to Derry, we had stopped by Belleek Pottery which is just over the border of Northern Ireland from Donegal and gone on their tour. Watching the artisans at work took me back to my days in college as an art major working in my pottery class. Only we never worked with porcelain.

Much of the Belleek porcelain is made from slip, a more liquid clay than the red clay we had to work with and pound the air out of. The slip is poured into a mold and sets for a bit until it coats the mold with a thin layer. The excess is poured out and then it's left to dry before going into the kiln. There are several other steps including some glaze and adding decorative flowers and such made from a more solid porcelain clay.

The flowers that were added on to the vases were being made by one lady who was turning out tray after tray, each flower looking as good as the next. She was quite practiced at it. At another station, two women were using thin strings of clay that had been extruded through a machine (we always had to roll our clay into strips) and making open weaved porcelain baskets. Another was painting, with an extremely steady hand, shamrocks on a table full of dishes.

My walk through the retail area was short after a few glances at the prices. I kind of like my 40 year old stoneware that was a giveaway at the grocery store. If it breaks, it's no big deal.

Our day in Donegal was going to cover a few of the things originally on our list starting with Newmills Corn and Flax Mills. Fortunately we arrived a day before they were to close for the season. Unfortunately, the mill was not working because they were putting everything into winter storage. Still, we could not have asked for a more thorough tour.

The guide took us through the corn mill first explaining how things were done back in the 19th century. It was all very interesting but I was really wanting to see how the flax was prepared for weaving into linen. I know the process for cleaning, carding, spinning, and weaving of wool but I'd never worked with flax in my fabric arts class.

The flax plants had to be pulled out by hand so that none of the fiber inside the stems would be wasted. It is soaked in water and then spread out to dry. This does something to the pectin inside the stems that helps to loosen the fibers that will be extracted. The dried flax is put through fluted rollers to break up the outer bark of the stems. The broken bits that cling to the fiber are called shives. To remove them, the flax is put through a shiving machine which has rotating wooden paddles. If a shiver wasn't careful, he could loose a finger or two.

The flax fiber is then combed in preparation for spinning and then weaving. The mill only took it as far as the shiving. It was then shipped off to another place to be made into linen. One of the most amazing things I learned during the tour was that linen was used in the wings and fuselage of WWI and WWII planes. The reason? Linen was an extremely strong material yet when a plane took several bullets, they would pass through and the material would still hold its shape allowing the plane to hold together and hopefully land safely.

From the mills, we drove to Glenveagh Castle and were able to enjoy the gorgeous landscape and gardens during a sunny afternoon. The castle was built in the late 1800s and as all castles, has a lineage of owners. For more of its history, visit this site.

With the sun shining brightly, I spent a long time strolling through the gardens that were beginning to show the effects of the change of the seasons. There were still lots of brilliant blooms though and several butterflies. I could have lingered longer but we had one more spot we wanted to visit before going back into Derry.

Just outside of Derry, on a tall promontory, was another ring fort. But this time we really weren't there to see the ring fort. We were there to enjoy the view--even at the risk of being blown away, literally. The wind was so strong it was almost hard to stand against it. The fort was hard to find and we were aimlessly wandering down side roads until a lady pulled up along side us and got out to see if we needed help. When we told her what we were looking for, she started to tell us how to get there and then said just to follow her. I'm sure she wasn't headed in that direction but she went out of her way to be sure we found the right road to the fort.

That's how we found most of the Irish people. Willing to go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. They are a charming lot.
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