Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Hallowe'en!

Today, much of the Western Christian world- and many non-Western countries by cultural rub-off- celebrate Halloween.

Roll the theme!

The word is sometimes spelled Hallowe'en, after a series of contractions. Let's work through them here. Hallow means sacred or holy, referring to the spirits of the dead. All Hallows Eve celebrates, you guessed it, all of the deceased ancestors and spirits. Eve is sometimes spelled even, which would have been contracted to e'en, with the apostrophe replacing the "v" sound. Take out the all and we get Hallowe'en. Boom.

Different countries and communities have widely-varying traditions around this changing-of-the-seasons time of year, but many of them have similar themes: Celebration and remembrance their ancestors, thanking the powers-that-be (God, gods, earth, spirits) for a bountiful and successful harvest, marking the changing of the season and the hours of daylight, and wishing for good fortune in the coming winter and following spring. In addition to the spiritual celebrations of Halloween night, we also have Diwali- the Indian festival of light, Dia de los Muertos- a Mexican celebration of deceased family, and a number of other festivals celebrated this time of year.

In ancient Ireland, the festival marked the coming of winter and its cold, crushing darkness. Ancestors were celebrated, but evil was also warded off with the carving of rutabagas into scary faces and the construction of huge bonfires to ward off darkness and to scare the evil spirits straight.

Archaeologists have found two probable sites for ancient Halloween celebrations: Tlachtga and the Hill of Tara. Both have structures pointing to the rising sun at the end of October and may have been used for celebrations of this autumn festival.

The vegetable carving survives today as the art of pumpkin carving, pumpkins being native to North America and thus not available to the ancient Gaels and later Celts of Ireland. The bonfire didn't make it over to mainstream North American Halloween celebrations, but young people in Ireland have kept this tradition alive, often building huge, unsafe fires in urban areas. Yikes.

Although technically illegal, bonfires in Ireland seem to be enforced just like drug dealing, illegal parking, and all other street crimes. They are discouraged, but not actively policed.

We might try some of these traditions this year, especially that of the fortune-telling bowl of colcannon. Simply, a trinket of some kind is mixed into a big bowl of colcannon (a mashed potato and cabbage mix) and the bowl is served to the party guests. Whoever gets the trinket gets good luck (or married, or will die, or any other superstition) for the next year. Cool!

However you celebrate the changing of the seasons, do so safely and responsibly! Happy Hallowe'en!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Big Brewing and Bottling Day

I let the Cooper's lager ferment for more than a month before it finally petered out. A skilled lager brewer would set it aside at a very cool temperature to finish, but I was running out of beer. It's just a kit, after all.

I had a few other brewing tasks to accomplish that day, so I mixed up a batch of sanitizer and dove in.

First, I had to try the previous batch of cranberry/apple cider, just finished conditioning in the bottle.

Cranberry/Apple Cider
Cranberry/Apple Cider

I had another batch of cider ready to go into the bottles, which I had laboriously cleaned and sanitized. The cider went in to my 750mL bottles, and I always reserve beer for 500mL, 1L, and 2L bottles.

Bottled Cider and Primed Beer
Bottled Cider and Primed Beer

My usual beer bottling rig was assembled in our tiny kitchen. The tube stretched from the fermenting bucket to the bottling station below. I set all the empty bottles to my right and moved all the full bottles to the counter on my left. The setup isn't perfect, but it gets the job done.

Beer Bottling Setup
Beer Bottling Setup

I finished with 40 pints of tasty lager. It isn't up to the standards of some of our favorite craft lagers, but it is serviceable. Someday, when we have a larger living space in a temperate climate, I'll make a real lager, complete with months-long fermenting and lagering time.

Until then, cheers!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wild Wallabies in Ireland!?

While doing some research for my Dublin eBook- specifically for the north-of-Dublin village of Howth- I stumbled upon an interesting little factoid: a population of wild wallabies has colonized Lambay Island, a small burg off the Irish coast north of Dublin.

Almost unbelievably, the wallabies were reportedly introduced to the island by Dublin Zoo as a way to humanely handle an unexpected population boom... in the 1980s!

I had to look around for confirmation of that- and I only found a few vague references to it. I certainly hope they are all wrong. Accidental introduction is a problem, but intentional colonization as late as the 1980s by an exotic species seems extremely irresponsible to the animals being introduced and the native animals hosting this new species.

Island ecosystems are as fragile as they come. I find it difficult to believe that zoo officials- presumably animal and ecosystem preservers- would do something with such potential for disaster as recently as this reported wallaby dump.

In any case, environmental soapbox speeches aside, the wallabies are there on the island and they seem to be sustaining a small breeding population. It seems that these shy marsupials are difficult to capture on film or photograph. The only pictures I could find are from the air or from a great distance.

The island is mostly privately-owned, and people can only visit via a special cruise package. Either way, let's hope this cute little invasion stays on the island- I'm sure mainland people don't want these guys hopping around their back gardens!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is This Legal?

Ireland has some very interesting quirks, we all know this by now. One of the more annoying ones for me is their mixed adherence to safety standards. One one hand, they do a great job of encouraging the use of high-vis safety materials on cyclists, pedestrians, kids, and pets... but on the other hand...

Where do the Walkers Go?

Nailed it.

The local custom on many busy streets is the sidewalk parking job. Residents, delivery drivers, contractors, and others routinely pull this stunt all over town. Drivers seem to easily forget that the road belongs to cars, the bus lane to buses, the bike lane to bikes, and the sidewalk to pedestrians.

I've had cars cut me off on my bicycle to pull up on a cycle lane for a quick park- sometimes blocking the cycleway completely. This leaves me with two choices, neither of them desirable:

  1. Swerve out into the bus/taxi lane or the road itself to navigate around the illegally (?) parked car.
  2. Get off my bike, pull it up onto the sidewalk, walk it around your illegally (?) parked car and back onto the bike lane before continuing.
Such a reckless and selfish act surely must incur strict penalties from Ireland's crack police force, An Garda Siochana... Well, not that I've seen.

I've struggled around one of these cars while a pair of cops on the beat walked by and smiled at me. I've seen the Garda cars drive by rows of these treacherous urban icebergs without pause, which makes me wonder... Is this legal, or just laziness on everyone's part? 

My guess is the latter. People here (including the police) have an unofficial motto: Ah, sure it'll be grand! This seems to mean something similar to the Hawaiian hang loose. In stodgy American English, this means: 

Just roll with it, if they made a really selfish and thoughtless choice, they probably had a good reason, and the inconvenience, risk to personal safety, loss of life or property, or other setback you've incurred can't be that bad, right? Ah, sure it'll be grand!

Why should anyone waste time policing parking? That would mean getting the clamp (cars aren't towed away here- they are fitted with a tire clamp), writing the ticket, and inconveniencing someone else to pay the fine and remove the clamp. That's a lot of trouble to go to when it would just be easier to walk on by with the assumption that it'll all be fine.

...Sometimes I feel like a chump when I follow the rules.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Derry Bogside Walk

The standard method of communication in contentious Northern Ireland seems to be graffiti and outdoor murals. In the mostly-Catholic Bogside neighbourhood, the Republican (anti-British) artists have constructed a series of (mostly) peaceful symbolic messages.

This area was once a literal warzone, bullets and gas once flew down these streets. Today, tourists like us can walk the guided stroll through the murals- with materials interpreting each one.

Peace- A dove (symbol of peace) and oak leaf (symbol of Derry)
Peace- A dove (symbol of peace) and oak leaf (symbol of Derry) 

John Hume- Nationalist Leader Hume, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela
John Hume- Nationalist Leader Hume, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother
Theresa, and Nelson Mandela

The Hunger Strikes- Two hunger strikers in a Belfast prison. Note the vandalism of the mural and the IRA on the nearby wall.
The Hunger Strikes- Two hunger strikers in a Belfast
prison. Note the vandalism of the mural and the IRA
on the nearby wall.

Saturday Matinee- A kid and an armored car
Saturday Matinee- A kid and an armored car

Civil Rights
Civil Rights

Operation Motorman (left) The Runners (right)  A soldier smashes a barricaded door with a sledgehammer and Bogside residents flee from a gas attack
Operation Motorman (left) The Runners (right)
A soldier smashes a barricaded door with a sledgehammer and Bogside
residents flee from a gas attack

Free Derry Corner, Petrol Bomber mural
Free Derry Corner, Petrol Bomber mural

Bloody Sunday- Residents carry a body from the fighting
Bloody Sunday- Residents carry a body from the fighting

Bernadette- Bernadette Devin McAliskey Nationalist leader
Bernadette- Bernadette Devin McAliskey
Nationalist leader

Death of Innocence- Annette McGavin, killed here in 1971 aged 14
Death of Innocence- Annette McGavin, killed here in 1971 aged 14

Bloody Sunday Commemoration- Faces of those killed on  Bloody Sunday in 1972
Bloody Sunday Commemoration- Faces of those killed on
Bloody Sunday in 1972

After looking at all these peaceful murals, one would think that we were feeling good and hopeful, right? Well, a little bit.

In addition to the murals, we saw a lot of other material that we haven't shared here. Someone had written a letter to the British military asking for an official apology for the attack on Bloody Sunday in 1972. The military actually wrote a return letter- telling them, "...After a thorough investigation, it has been determined that no wrongdoing was committed by..."

What the heck, UK? You can't throw them a bone after 40 years? The letter was posted clearly for all of us to see, and to stir the pot in this already hot neighborhood.

Other stickers and graffiti promoted Nationalist extremist groups like the Bogside Republican Youth and other very sinister-looking organizations threatening violence. It seems that even the young generation holds the old grudges in this part of town.

The Derry Marathon was taking place this morning, and volunteers and supporters lined the streets of the Bogside- the home stretch of the marathon route. Just around the corner (and not photographed), vans of police stormtroopers with full riot gear, batons, and machine guns waited ominously just out of sight of the celebration in the street. There had just been a hotel firebombing three days before, after all...

Thankfully, there was no violence on this particular day. The SWAT teams went home empty-handed. We toasted the peace process with some fine and inexpensive English cask ales. We hoped that these two embattled groups could one day really, truly, celebrate and embrace each other.

...Maybe over some of these fantastic beers!

Cask Ales
Cask Ales

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chester Beatty Diwali Concert

This previous Wednesday (Oct. 22, 2014) was the Indian holiday Diwali. To celebrate, the outstanding Chester Beatty Library presented a performance of Indian Classical music of sitar, tabla (hand drum) and voice.

 I had never attended a live performance of Indian music, so I was excited. There was a nice crowd queuing up outside library's lecture room- as would be expected for such a fine (and free!) opportunity.

The performers began with a raga, a traditional musical form in which the sitar player and tabla drummer improvise based upon a pre-determined structure- much like jazz players riffing with each other. The raga is a contemplative form, and very long by modern standards. It begins slowly and gains momentum as is continues. The live experience is fantastic- it doesn't really hold up when recorded.

The performance concluded with a vocal piece accompanied by sitar and tabla. This work was also improvised over a structure- the musicians communicated with each other while trading solos.

I walked away more informed and more aware of non-Western music, which I presume is exactly what the good folks over at the CBL wanted. Thanks for a great performance and Happy Diwali!

...And for the curious, here's an example of a sitar/tabla raga. Don't let the lame video title turn you off.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Free Safety Swag!

Ireland is famous for its green. Green grass, green ivy, green hills. The Land of a Thousand Shades of Green. But most of the outside world doesn't know about a lot of other green in Ireland: Hi-vis lime green.

People in Dublin (and I presume the rest of Ireland) wear a lot of vis-vests and other hi-vis gear. Cyclists, walkers, workers, kids, and even pets are decked out in green and orange- and I think it's a great idea.

In a busy city like Dublin, it's always a good idea to be visible in any light, especially on those wet nights when headlights reflect off the damp pavement and mist clouds visibility. And that's where RSA Ireland comes in.

RSA Swag Box Ireland
RSA Swag Box

In an effort to keep people seen and safe, The Road Safety Authority distributes free (!!) high vis materials for individuals, families, and organizations. They are also the driver licensing authority for the country, but I wasn't so much interested in that. I just needed some safety swag.

Vests, Armbands, Bags, and Bag Covers from RSA Ireland
Vests, Armbands, Bags, and Bag Covers

I made an account on the website and picked out what we needed: a biking vest, a drawstring bag, a knapsack cover, and a set of reflective armbands for each of us. They also offer some running-specific gear and a few other accessories, but I didn't want to be greedy or ask for equipment we wouldn't need.

Less than a week later, everything arrived, free of charge. I wish I had looked this up so much earlier. I spent 8 Euro on a really low-quality, too-small running bib when I needed something for night cycling. Little did I know that I could have gotten so much better for so much less.

If you're in Ireland, get in touch with RSA and get (and wear!) your set of safety swag. 

...I guess I'll SEE you all on the road!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cashing in some Change

I'm a total cheapskate. A penny collector and a penny pincher. I feel like most of the Irish people I meet think it's a strange attribute. The virtue of thriftiness in the extreme doesn't seem to be as big here as it is in the States. At least they don't have extreme couponing reality shows...

...But change collecting is a different game here. The pennies still clatter to the ground, and I can still collect gobs of them every time I go out, but I long ago learned why people here devalue small coins as much as they do.

Bank fees. Back in the States, banks and credit unions competed for business with low fees and high rewards. Many fees and interest rates are set by EU standards here, so banks don't have to up the level of service to attract customers. One of the services that I took for granted in Iowa was free coin counting. I could show up with a jar of mixed change, dump it into a sorting machine, and take the printed receipt up to the teller for cash or deposit. For free. Easy as that.

Here, ANY teller service draws a base charge, like a plumber's one-hour service minimum. Some services add additional fees. Coin services are no exception. Banks can choose whether or not to take coins, and some require that they all be counted and sorted into handy bags to reduce costs for machine counting.

And they can still charge both the standard teller service fee AND a percentage of the total take for their trouble of taking in coins that they will then charge someone else to collect for their cash registers.

But I won't be taken in by this racket, and don't even suggest I go to one of those green coin counters at the supermarket. Those fees can be higher than those at the bank... and that's saying something!

But how to solve the problem of turning several Euros of small coins into something of value? It hit me. The self checkout at the supermarket! Yes! Handing a handful of dirty pennies to a busy clerk at the checkout seemed a bit rude, but stuffing a handful of dirty pennies into a soulless machine, one at a time? Perfect.

I already knew the perfect target. Our local supermarket has cans of cheap whole tomatoes for an even 40 cents. In our mostly-vegetarian, one-pot cooking style these days, we go through about 4 of these cans a week. We always need them, they're cheap, and 40 cents is just enough to feed into a machine without jamming it.

I counted out 4 Euros of 1-and-2-cent coins into bank bags of 40 cents each. Over the next ten days, I went to the market every day, usually around 10 o'clock, and bought a single can of tomatoes- with 40 pennies.

It worked! I got the rhythm of the machines down; I knew exactly how fast I could feed them without jamming up the works. I wonder what the employees who saw me were thinking. I wondered if I should act like I was obsessive or otherwise mentally ill, but decided that would be insensitive to people and families who really struggle with mental illness.

Luckily, to date, no one has asked me why I come in with bags of pennies for a single can of tomatoes. My initial ten bags have already been spent, but now I know how to get rid of them quickly, easily, and without a fee.

If you're in a south Dublin supermarket, be on the lookout for the guy wearing headphones, humming to himself, and buying a single can of tomatoes with a bag of copper coins. If you see him, come over and say hello.

...Or back away slowly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I've Never Been a Stamp Collector, But...

Ireland's national mail service An Post recently released a new set of four 68-cent domestic stamps:


Yes, An Post has released a stamp set commemorating four classic video game properties. From their official press release:

The four constitute probably the most iconic images of popular culture since the 1970s and lie at the heart of a multibillion dollar global industry. Mario was created by Nintendo in 1981 and wears his distinctive red cap and blue overalls, beginning one of the biggest video game franchises of all time... 
Sonic the Hedgehog first appeared in 1991 and has been blazing a trail for SEGA ever since... 
PAC-MAN first appeared in 1980 and saw players steering a yellow dot around levels of maze, eating Pac-Dots and fruit, and avoiding ghosts.. 1978 Space Invaders was born, originally manufactured and sold by Taito of Japan and one of the forerunners of modern video gaming.

An Post, I'm on my way!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Walking Around the Derry City Wall

We got up early on our first full day in Derry so we could maximize the beautiful day. From our hostel window high up on the hill, we got a great view of the River Foyle and the city below.

Derry from the Hills
Derry from the Hills

Our first target was the old Derry city wall. Derry is known around Ireland for its recent contentious history and its 17th-century wall. Almost all of the original wall is still standing and intact, and the local authorities have thankfully opened the top of the wall for a scenic walk around the old fort city.

A few (unmanned) British guard towers still stand along the wall as a reminder of the very recent problems with violence and terrorism in the city. We saw more evidence of that later in the day...

Guard Tower Derry, Northern Ireland
Guard Tower

Old cannons (and replicas) still line the battlements of the wall. Some are (somewhat ominously) pointed out at the town below. Take that, King James II

A cannon on the Derry City Wall, Northern Ireland
Here's Lookin' at You!

Derry City Wall Exterior, Northern Ireland
City Wall Exterior

From the top of the wall, we could see most of the largely-Catholic Bogside neighborhood. The poorer Catholic population of Derry was long ago forced out of the high and dry ground and pushed into the low-lying, soggy, boggy Bogside. From the wall, the dip of the earth is clearly visible.

We could also just make out some of the Republican political murals, which we would revisit later in the day.

Bogside Neighborhood
Bogside Neighborhood

But not everyone on this side of the Foyle is Republican, and we were reminded (here in Derry more than any other city) who was on which side with flags, graffiti (including murals), and walls. Connected to the old city wall was a much newer, higher wall. This protects a small Unionist neighborhood from the marauding Catholics in the wilds of this Bogside area. Ironically and sadly, it is called the Peace Wall. It must keep peace, but the message isn't very friendly...

It's extremely sad and frustrating- to an outsider like me- that people refuse to live together in peace here, and the high fences make it clear that real, lasting peace is still a long way off.

Peace Wall Derry Northern Ireland
Peace Wall (?)

Iron Maiden's Eddie Hoover, Symbol of Britain's Military Might in Derry, Northern Ireland
Iron Maiden's Eddie Hoover, Symbol of Britain's Military Might

Londonderry West Bank Loyalists Still Under Siege No Surrender
Loyalist Message

...But at least some people are trying to push the peace process along. Not all the murals and artwork are sectarian or violent in nature. This beautiful mosaic depicting the Peace Bridge, a robin, and an oak tree (the symbol of Derry, from the Irish word for oak tree, Doire) is made of pictures of faces tinted different colors. 

Peace Mural Derry, Northern Ireland
Peace Mural

A sculpture around the corner depicts two colorless, sexless humanoids back to back. Passers-by can look through the eyeholes of one and see out the eyeholes of the other. This symbolizes the hope that two disagreeing sides can see the world as the other sees it, through the other's eyes.

Peace Sculpture Derry, Northern Ireland
Peace Sculpture

We ended our morning at the Guildhall, Derry's most iconic city building. From Guildhall Square, U.S. President Bill Clinton gave a rousing pro-peace speech. He even refused to say the name of the city (Derry or Londonderry?) to make sure no one was offended.

The Guildhall Derry, Northern Ireland
The Guildhall

Today, it houses the City Council chambers and a so-so (but free) museum.

Much more from Derry next Monday!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Retro Saturday: New Blue Marlin Personal Best!

Earlier this week, I achieved a new personal best time in The Blue Marlin. I came VERY close to a 47-minute time, but got bad luck on the weight-to-beat, losing the day by 3 pounds.

Still no real progress on the FAQ project, but that will be coming when I have some time.

In the meantime, enjoy my current PB time, 1:08:01!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lots of Talks this Week!

Sometimes, the events just seem to line up. This has been a busy week for historical talks here in Dublin, and I've been spoiled for choice. On Tuesday, I was back at Dublin City Hall for the second of their October series of Dublin WWI lectures.

This week, the talk focused on some of the old townships of Dublin and their response to the Great War. Dr. Seamus O Maitiu presented more personal accounts and primary documents of the people of Rathmines, Pembroke, and Blackrock townships. Donnybrook, our nearest current village, represented the township of Rathmines, by the way.

There are still two more lectures in this series, the next to Tuesdays in October 2014. Each is at 1:10 in the City Council chambers. Arrive early to get a seat, as that chamber fills up quickly!

On Wednesday, the fabulous Ballsbridge, Donnybrook, and Sandymount Historical Society was back in action at my local library branch with a fantastic lunchtime lecture about Dublin poet and publisher Patrick Kavanagh and his ill-fated literature and politics review, Kavanagh's Weekly. 

This eight-page weekly newspaper featured biting political satire and the latest literary criticism. Listening to passages read from the paper gave us all a laugh- the lampooning of corrupt Irish politicians and their 1950s austerity could have been written today by a sarcastic blogger.

The newspaper only lasted thirteen issues due to high costs and limited circulation. Too bad, because he seemed to have a finger on the pulse of the issues of the day and presented them in an approachable, entertaining, and informative way. I feel like he would have been a successful blogger had he been alive today.

On Thursday, the Natural History Museum here in Dublin arranged its first-ever free lunchtime chat. Today, the guest was a member of Birdwatch Ireland, and he gave us a mini-tour of some of the birds that are doing well and those that are dwindling in Ireland. Just as in other places, birds living around more intensely-farmed land are suffering more than any others.

Thanks as always to the Dublin Event Guide for assembling all these free events in one weekly email magazine for me. Without it, I wouldn't have to make the tough scheduling choices that I do week after week.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Glasnevin Cemetery

Our secret mission at the Botanic Gardens was actually to scout out a (not so) secret back entrance to Glasnevin Cemetery, Ireland's most well-known boneyard. The Botanic Gardens and the cemetery share a boundary, and recently a long-locked gate between the two was opened to the public.

I wanted to confirm the location (and existence) of this secret gate before including it in my eBook, and I was glad to find it open and operational. Without this gate, it would be about a mile walk around the southern end of these two properties to get to the main gate of the cemetery.

Just inside the cemetery gate- on the wall to the left of the main Botanic Gardens entrance- we could see the famous and imposing Celtic round tower of the Daniel O'Connell monument. More on him later.

Glasnevin Cemetery and O'Connell Monument
Glasnevin Cemetery and O'Connell Monument

A number of Irish celebrities and heroes are buried here. The 1916 execution victims seem to be the only revolutionaries not to be buried here. I saw name after name on gravestones that I see on streets and bridges around town: O'Donovan Rossa, Markievicz, Griffith, Casement, and the list goes on.

The grave count here is reportedly over a million... and growing. The cemetery is still open for new arrivals. This would be a great place for more dark humor, but we (and dozens of other tourists) walked by a funeral with our cameras and guidebooks, so I'll leave it alone.

It is a marvel that they have buried so many here, but the grave markers are pretty densely-packed so...

Graves at Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin
Densely... Populated? 

The story of the cemetery is quite interesting. In the nineteenth century, the English (them again!) did not allow Catholics to be buried with Catholic rites in their own churchyards. The recently-deceased Catholics had to be buried with Protestant rites (GASP!) or unceremoniously buried with no clergy present (DOUBLE GASP!) I guess the English Protestants wanted to keep the Irish Catholics down even in the afterlife.

Until The Great Liberator Daniel O'Connell started his equal rights for Catholics campaign in the British Parliament. He argued that allowing the Irish certain civil freedoms would be beneficial to both sides and would encourage peace. The Brits agreed and, with O'Connell's help, put into law a number of civil rights for Catholics- among them burial rites. He achieved his goals politically- not violently- and his anti-violence platform inspired all future Irish Republicans and British Unionists to pursue their goals peacefully forever... wait, that's not right...

When the cemetery was first founded, it was a cemetery for all- Catholics, Protestants, and those of any other or no religious affiliation. Truly a big step for equality in the 1800s.

O'Connell Monument Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin
O'Connell Monument

For the book, I was only researching the free part of the cemetery, that's just the outdoor cemetery. There is a museum on the property with some interpretive cemetery materials, information about O'Connell and the founding of the cemetery, and some genealogy research materials. We also skipped the guided tour, but enjoyed a pleasant and reflective stroll nonetheless. 

Coincidentally, there is a documentary coming out at the end of October 2014 about the cemetery and its... inhabitants. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

National Botanic Gardens in the Fall

Earlier this year, I took a trip to the far northern edge of Dublin to visit the National Botanic Gardens up in the Glasnevin neighborhood. I had to little bit more research to do for my eBook, so this weekend we took the long (5.5 miles each way) walk up to Glasnevin to do some scouting and to check out the autumn foliage of the Gardens.

Botanic Gardens Front Gate Dublin
Botanic Gardens Front Gate

Ireland isn't really known for her deciduous forests flashing reds and golds in the fall, but we were curious as to what kinds of flowers and trees would be in bloom. We discovered, to our amazement, a little cactus and succulent patch. Outdoors! In Ireland! The gardeners here must truly be masters if they can keep cacti alive in the wet, cold, damp weather of Dublin. Fair play ta ye, gardeners!

Killer Cacti! National Botanic Gardens Dublin
Killer Cacti!

Even as the days are growing dark and cold, flowers are still in bloom in the outdoor gardens. We strolled through the native and exotic annual gardens to see the late-fall blossoms.

In the spring, I missed the food garden... Not that there would be much growing in April. In October, however, the garden was groaning with Irish produce. To encourage organic growing practices, the gardeners planted marigolds around the edge of the beds and installed this guy to keep out the birds.

Kitchen Garden Scarecrow National Botanic Gardens Dublin
Kitchen Garden Scarecrow

The Gardens are bordered on the northeast by the River Tolka, and we had a very nice stroll along the bank of the river after walking through the pine and oak forests.

River Tolka National Botanic Gardens Dublin
River Tolka

River Tolka Weir Dublin
River Tolka Weir

After crossing one bridge, we were both overwhelmed by the smell of roses. At the northeast corner of the Gardens, the rose garden was still blowing up with the color and aromas of dozens of rose varieties.

Roses at National Botanic Gardens Dublin

Roses at National Botanic Gardens Dublin

After the outdoor walk, we went inside the Victorian-era iron and glass greenhouses. Sara got this excellent picture of an Irish robin hanging out in the warm, damp hothouse.

Irish Robin National Botanic Gardens Dublin
Irish Robin

I suppose the gardeners keeping the cacti alive don't have the chops to grow orchids in the Irish climate. I guess I can give them a pass on that after seeing the indoor orchid and carnivorous plant display.

Purple Orchid National Botanic Gardens Dublin
Purple Orchid

Lady's Slipper National Botanic Gardens Dublin
Lady's Slipper

Pitcher Plant National Botanic Gardens Dublin
Pitcher Plant

After a very long walk up and extended tour of the Gardens, we were tired and a bit thirsty. Luckily, there was a new craft beer pub that we wanted to check out on Clanbrassil Street, The Headline. There, we found Five Lamps Liberties Pale Ale on draught! We had been looking for a pint of that stuff for a long time, and it was worth the wait!

...We also tried some great beers from Carrig Brewing in Leitrim and Black's Brewery in Kinsale. Irish craft beers just keep getting better and better. And what a way to finish our day! 

Carrig Lager and 5 Lamps Pale Ale
Carrig Lager and 5 Lamps Pale Ale