Dublin Castle and Chester Beatty

None of my guest have been able to get into Dublin Castle, although I had the chance to see it last September, on Culture Night.  I’ve finally figured out why it’s closed to tourists.  This year Ireland is the president of the EU.   The Castle is being used for all sorts of formal ceremonial event.  Therefore, it’s closed to the public until June 30.

A tourist to Dublin will find the best view of the castle from the mort side, looking south from the garden in the front of the Chester Beatty Library.

The Chester Beatty is still open and offers one of the most fascinating places to visit in Dublin.  To access it, you have to go around the west wall of the castle and through the side gate.

Patty, Kitty Lee, and I visited the Chester Beatty Library and saw fragments of the Bible that date back to 150 AD.  These are some of the oldest pieces of the document in existence in the world. While at the Beatty Library, we also saw a temporary exhibition of paintings including one that Patty has always admired, The Gleaners.  It was painted by Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton in 1854.  It’s from the period when artists were trying to record the daily life of laborers and the hard reality they faced in the mid-1800s. We could have spent much longer in the exhibits as we had very little time in the non-Christian collections on this particular visit.

The Library’s website explains:

Described by the Lonely Planet as not just the best museum in Ireland, but one of the best in Europe, the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin is an art museum and library which houses the great collection of manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and some decorative arts assembled by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). Its rich collections from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe opens a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. Chester Beatty Library was named Irish Museum of the year in 2000 and was awarded the title European Museum of the Year in 2002.

Egyptian papyrus texts, beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, European medieval and renaissance manuscripts are among the highlights of the collection. In its diversity, the collection captures much of the richness of human creative expression from about 2700 BC to the present day.

Admission to the Chester Beatty Library is free!

Working on the Railroad with Kitty and Patty

Irish Rail is definitely something to write home about!  Clean, comfortable, reliable, and on time. It accesses all the major cities in Ireland.

If you’re coming to Ireland (for this year’s Gathering perhaps) all you need to do is go online to irishrail.ie to book your train tickets. You’ll pick your tickets up when you get to the station by entering your reservation number into a kiosk. The find the train platform and take your seat. There are food, restrooms, and free (but intermittent) wi-fi access on board.

Simple as pie!

Saturday Market in Meeting House Square

We weren’t blessed with the best weather during Patty and Kitty’s visit to Ireland but we did manage to see quite a few sites. We even made it to the Saturday market in downtown Dublin….

Singing Along at the Cobblestone Pub

The musicians corner on Friday night.

The Cobblestone musicians corner on Friday night.

Patty sang us Annie's Song!

Patty sang us Annie’s Song!

I swear I have more fun each time I visit the Cobblestone.  I’ve developed such respect for the people there.  And, honestly, they make me feel like a rock star.  They are so complimentary of my Fulbright blog. It feels like “everybody knows my name.”

There’s far more of significance to the world more going on at the Cobblestone than at Cheers.  As case in point, I got to catch up with Fergus Whelan on this particular evening. He had left a copy of his book Dissent into Treason for me to pick up last week (click here for more about the book). I let Tom Mulligan know Kitty and I were mailing a CD of his music to Kevin Donleavy as well; perhaps it will be “on air” in Charlottesville soon. These folks are dedicated to preserving cultural traditions and recounting history.

Being at the Cobblestone really makes me wish I was musically talented!

Fortunately, my friend Patty is.  The musicians at the Cobblestone got her to sing a song.  And of course, we all followed along with “Country Roads,” a sure-fire selection when the mention of Virginia arises. Never mind that it’s about West Virginia and the three of us hail from Virginia!  In any case, you can practically see W.Va. from where Kitty and Patty live (Harrisonburg) and where I was born (the New River Valley).  And you can certainly see the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River from Kitty’s place.

Patty was ready for the event.  She and I had practiced singing the night before, actually.  On our last evening in Cork, Tony, Kitty, and Patty cooked dinner to avoid Valentine’s Day crowds in the restaurants. Then Patty and I had a festive sing-along around the dinner table and the peat fire Tony had built.

We drew from the Catholic folks songs of our childhoods, favorite camp songs, and music popular in the ’70s.  It all worked out fine when I set the key and Patty followed along. (It’s a disaster for me trying the other way around… I just can’t get up that high!  Even one octave lower is too high for me.)

When we needed help with the lyrics, Tony pulled up the text on line so we could sing karaoke-style.

Ah, the cider….

You’ll find me at the Cobblestone with a glass of Bulmer’s in my hand again “real soon”….

Worth the Long Wait at Muckross House

Kitty Lee, Patty, Shannon, and Tony at the lovely Muckross castle/house.

Bundled up and ready to tour Muckross House!

Muckross house is located near the town of Kilarney in southwestern Ireland.  We went there — twice — last week.  We had to work hard to see inside of the house, but I knew my three traveling companions would enjoy seeing the place.  Dave and I had been there in 2003 and had a splendid time and other friends of ours mentioned this as a highlight.

So we scurried there after seeing the Ring of Kerry, checking the official website for opening times. It indicated the house was open 9-5:30, seven days a week, in winter.  But although we arrived at about 4:20, the place was shut tight.  There was absolutely no sign of life inside the ticket booth or house and there were no signs posted with the tour times of opening hours.

However, the restrooms and grounds were still open and the park ranger assured us the house would reopen at 9 the next morning.  So we headed back to Cork for the night — an 1.5 hour drive — and hurried to the house again early the next morning.  We attempted to phone the Muckross office starting at 9 AM, but no one would answer the phone.  When we arrived at 9:30, the two ticketing agents told our host, Tony Duggan, that the first tour would be given at 11:30.  They said to visit the grounds until the tour started.  He let them know we already had!

Fortunately for us, the man is a CEO and knows how to get things done.  After all, we had other sites to see on our last day to the region. He managed to finagle a tour at around 10.  We experienced a fairly curt delivery of information with little opportunity to ask questions, but nevertheless, we enjoyed seeing the house.

I hope when you go to visit this fine building and learn its interesting history (it was last owned by an American family who gave it to the Irish people) you have better luck with scheduling than we had!

Gaiety with a Love-Hungry Farmer

Shannon Chance, Kitty Lee Layman, and Patty Asplund after the Love-Hungry Farmer.

Shannon Chance, Kitty Lee Layman, and Patty Asplund after the Love-Hungry Farmer.


Another Norman Rockwell Christmas at Kitty Lee and Glen’s

Introducing my Massie grandparents — Layton (Pa) and Lillian (Ma) Massie.  They are my Dad’s parents, and they used to live in Staunton, Virginia.

Although Ma and Pa are no longer with us, most of their kids and grandkids (as well as their great grand kids and their great great grandkid) gather at my aunt Kitty Lee’s home each year to celebrate Christmas.

I enjoy this outing and the chance to catch up with Kitty Lee and Glen (who live in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley), as well as my Dad and the rest of the Massie tribe.

This is the way we’ve celebrated Massie Christmas since the mid-90s.  Before that, we’d all gather at my grandparents’ cozy bungalow at 414 High Street in downtown Staunton, Virginia.

The pictures below were taken December 22-24, 2012.