Ireland Revisited

The Emerald Isle: Another classic travel blog

 by Mary Jo

Ironically, yesterday the Mayhem Consultant and I returned from our first vacation in a year and a half: a cruise of the Chesapeake Bay.  But I didn't have the time to write a proper blog, so I'm recycling an older blog about a week we spent in Ireland, because who doesn't want to visit Ireland???

The Mayhem Consultant and I sailed from New York to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 purely to enjoy the leisure and romance of a transatlantic crossing.  But once we reached England, we certainly weren’t going to waste being in Europe! 

We’d vaguely planned to go to Ireland some day.  I’d spent a week there many, many years ago when I was living in England, and the MC had never visited Ireland at all.  Clearly, it was time. <G> 

Neither the MC nor I have any known Irish blood, but no matter.  We loved Ireland forIreland by satellite its beauty, wonderful friendly people, and deep sense of history. Rather than ramble on indefinitely, here’s a few bits and pieces, with a modest selection of pictures.  (Ireland is a very photogenic country!):

Travel the easy way:

We decided to try something new: instead of hiring a car ourselves, we’d hire a car with a driver/guide to take us around.  No stress, and a driver who not only knew the fun, off the beaten track places, but could tell us the history.  We worked through an agency recommended by a friend of a friend, and the Ireland Chauffeur Travel company turned out to be a good pick.  We worked out an itinerary, rooms were booked, and it worked as smoothly as silk. 

We were particularly lucky with our guide, John Daly, Besides being capable, welcoming, and knowledgeable, he’was a certified tour guide with a special expertise in Irish history.  Hog heaven for a historical novelist! 

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Celebrating The Shamrock on St Patrick’s Day!

Irish_cloverNicola here! Today is St Patrick’s Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland, and if you’ve read Wench Susan’s post earlier in the week you will already be in the mood to celebrate with a pint of Guinness and some delicious soda bread!

Whilst the harp is the official symbol of Ireland, found everywhere from Guinness glasses to official coinage, the shamrock is another symbol that is as widely recognised and popular. It is said that this little sprig of green was important to the druids and that St Patrick used it to explain the concept of the trinity in his teaching, as it has three leaves.

The original shamrock has been identified as being either the lesser or the white clover, although down the centuries there has been a lot of discussion amongst botanists as to what genus of plant it actually was. Normally it has just the three leaves; if you find one with four then that is especially lucky! References to it in medieval literature refer to beautiful fields of it in flower – there is a story that St Brigid decided to stay in County Kildare when she saw a meadow clothed in glorious shamrock/clover flowers.

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What the Wenches are Reading in April!

Christina here to tell you what the Wenches have been reading this month – an eclectic mix as always! With all of us being in isolation, we’ve had plenty of time to dive into our TBR piles and we hope you have too. Have a look and see if anything appeals to you!

The Forgotten SisterI’ll start off with my own April favourites: First and foremost I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Wench Nicola’s upcoming release, The Forgotten Sister – published tomorrow! – a Tudor mystery and time slip (dual time) novel. I can safely say that this is one of the best books I have read in a long time! It has everything you want from a time slip story and it was utterly, utterly brilliant!!! Nicola has managed to intertwine the story of Amy Robsart (wife of Robert Dudley in Tudor times) so cleverly with the characters in the present. Robert is part of Queen Elizabeth I’s court and Amy doesn’t seem to figure much in his plans. She needs a way out of their loveless marriage and thinks she’s hit on the perfect solution – but has she? The present day heroine Lizzie has her own problems to contend with and when her life begins to echo the happenings of the past, she has to uncover a centuries old secret in order to move forward. I couldn’t put this down and the characters will stay in my mind for a long time.

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Terroir

ClosMalvernePinotageReserveBy Mary Jo

Terroir has nothing to do with terror, horror movies, or upcoming Halloween.   Instead, terroir is a French word derived from Latin "terra" and French "terre" meaning the earth. 

Most often it's used to refer to the natural conditions of soil, sun, weather, climate, et al, that produce specific flavors in food and drink.   In other words, it's the agricultural version of "we are what we eat."   We all more or less know this even if we don't think about it much, but in wine cultivation, terroir is an important concept.  I might add that I am no wine specialist and my house wine is box pinot grigio, which is a perfectly good table wine.  

But the concept of terroir is interesting.  I started thinking about it when I was writing my most recent book, Once a Soldier.  My fictional San Gabriel is a small kingdom between Portugal and Spain and wine is its most significant product. and the only one that has the potential to bring in revenue through exports.  

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Celtic History

LugobrujahouseI have just returned from a three week tour of what could be called the last outposts of Celtic settlement. (The term “Celt” comes from the Greek Keltoi—meaning barbarian. Since there is no soft “c” in Greek, the word should be pronounced with the hard “k” sound–unless you're a basketball team!)  I understand many archeologists disagree that these coastal communities descend from the same unique tribe, but I don’t draw dividing lines through the centuries. There are strong cultural, artistic, and linguistic links between the coasts of Portugal, Spain, France, Wales, and Ireland. (We didn’t go as far as Scotland, but those links to Ireland are well known) Standing stones abound in all these areas to mark ancient history, and the haunting music of the pipes and rhythmic foot dance might vary but have more similarities than disparities. (photo is a store that sells "brujas" –witches–in Lugo, Spain)

 

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