I started this post with the intention of highlighting the trip to Ireland that Bill, Becki, Donny & I took in the fall of 2005. But then trying to recall facts, Donny reminds me that it’s all in my LiveJournal entries about the trip. I tell him that I’m not sure that I love Bill that much to try and dig in the archives. I have not checked into LiveJournal in forever. But I bite the bullet and there it all is patiently waiting to be read again. And so rather than trim I’m going again with a few tweaks, but just a few.
We are eating and drinking our way through Ireland, Becki, Bill, Donny & I.
In between BBD are singing for their supper and I am documenting the OBX part of the festival for the folks back home. The company consists of Barbara Hird, lebame Houston, Carl Curnutte, John Buford, Bill & Becki Rea, Donny, Marsha Warren, Jacquie Pierce, Marjalene Thomas, Rick Wetzel, Carol Adams, Greg Purcell, Gloria Abbs, Larry Tise, Chris Chappell & Joan Brumbach.
They are performing a concert version of The Lost Colony (full company), Elizabeth R (Barbara), The Virgin Queen and Her Shepard of the Ocean (Barbara & Chris). All of this is being done in the quaint Irish port village of Youghal (pronounced yawl) at their Youghal Through the Ages featuring The Life and Times of Sir Walter Raleigh. The festival runs September 23rd through October 2nd.
We managed to get some sleep on the plane and arrive at Shannon airport not completely drained. Which is good because we decide to rent a car so that we can do more touring and also so that Bill can say he got to drive on the wrong side of the road on his birthday. It is kind of pricy but we get a better deal with my Master Card, so Bill and I are the official drivers. So far I have left all of the driving to Bill.
Youghal is about 130 kilometers or a two hour straight through drive. We decide to weave and wander along the way making our trip last longer because we are in no hurry since first rehearsal is not until evening. Our first stop is at a wonderful little pottery shop where we buy mugs to drink our coffee in. When we ask the clerk how to proceed on our journey she tells us to take the ‘turd turn’ at the roundabout (roundabouts are very big in Ireland). We try not to laugh. Having trouble with the letter h, the Irish just leave it out. Already we love this country.
Next DB and I drift off to sleep leaving Bill to fend for himself as far as navigating goes. He stays the course and our next stop is at the village of Fermoy for lunch in a tiny café in town. We all order the blue plate special which consists of an entire meal. Becki did get three mounds of potatoes while we only got two, as she ordered fish which needs a bigger plate and we ordered lamb.
The countryside is so green and beautiful. Flowers grow everywhere. Ruins of castles appear occasionally. Pasture fences are actually amazingly thicket hedges or stone walls. Stonework buildings and houses are everywhere you look. All the people are eager to help us with any question and even go out of their way to offer advice.
Finally we reach Youghal. It is a very old port village with three main streets. The oldest continually operating church is here. The group will sing there Saturday evening.
We find Carl and get our apartment key. We are all staying in a new complex that is right on the water. It is built around a parking courtyard and gives off an airy feeling. We settle in and go to find the Mall Arts which is not a mall at all but a beautiful art center also on the water a short walk away. It is housed in the town hall which is an old stone building in the front with a modern full glass addition overlooking the water in the back. This is where the festival shows will be held.
My trio is due in rehearsal, so I take off to explore the street of shops which is one block over. Carl has taken Becki and myself on a driving tour down this street getting us to the apartment so I have a fair feeling for where a few things are. After I successfully tangle with an ATM machine, graciously helped by a nice Irish lad and gent, I buy fresh baked bread and ground coffee beans at a deli. I explore a few shops and head back to the apartment to deposit my things.
I try and try but cannot get the key to work. I head for the arts building to get another from the group and run into Donny coming back from rehearsal. My key works just fine when I try it on the right floor. I was one floor under our level. Maybe I do have a bit of jet lag even with our No Jet Lag pills. Donny leaves for the debut engagement which is singing for the opening reception. I want to freshen up and will meet them there.
The reception is lovely. There is a huge life size flower plaque of Queen Elizabeth made entirely with chrysanthemums.
After the opening reception Barbara and Chris have their show. The rest of us head out to The Quay, a pub between our apartment and the arts center, for beer and chips. There is a rehearsal at eight after which we return to The Quay en masse to celebrate Bill’s birthday. Irish pubs are truly the gathering hole for all. Every age, people together or alone, gather at the pub for a wind down (or up) evening. So far the ones we have seen have dark paneling and sturdy tables and chairs. They remind me a lot of the Cheers set only bigger.
Slowly members of our group fade away. lebame asks me to email pictures to Vera Evans for the local papers which I will do tomorrow. An Irish lass tries to teach Donny the jig and gives Bill a full feel up much to his delight, while trying to ascertain his size for something I forgot but ending up in being an age and weight guessing contest for her, Bill to buy her a beer if she is successful. We help her with the age but for the weight she is on her own. Her guess in stones takes a bit of translating with the contest ending up in a draw but Bill buys a round anyway.
Donny & I leave the gang to close the bar and head home. Bill and Becki follow shortly. It seems you can stay as long as they’ll let you after eleven in any bar but you cannot go to a new one after that time, which is official closing, so when Bill & Becki try for a new spot they are out of luck.
Saturday morning finds Bill and me headed to the grocery with our fifty euro voucher in hand to buy breakfast goods. Donny is minding the coffee and Becki is slumbering on. We did well, getting four bags of food and fresh bread and an apple tart from the bakery for about seventy euros. Bill cooks a marvelous breakfast of eggs, awesome fresh sausage, toasted bread with orange marmalade and so so coffee. I have heard that coffee in Ireland is lacking. But we have hope, there is a new coffee shop in town that is supposed to be outstanding.
Satiated Donny & I head for the internet café. It’s located on the shopping street almost directly over from our apartment. We get the computer configured for their wireless and I get into checking and sending mail. Donny leaves for rehearsal. I finish and take the computer home and meet them at the arts center. The madrigal group is singing in St Mary’s which is within walking distance but easier riding with all their costuming on. We are taxied to the church. It is so old. It has a timbered ceiling and reminds me of a cross between the grand cathedrals of central Europe and our colonial age wooden churches.
Their singing is well received. The organizers are pleased with the turn out. It is a small town so the turn out is modest but they are very happy. Now it is raining in torrents. Our bus taxi has disappeared. We get ferried in batches back to the arts center. Everyone changes and the majority of the group heads to Ahernes for dinner. It is on the shop street a bit north of the apartment. The meal is fabulous. All the dishes are excellent. The desserts are typical European, lightly sweetened with a focus on using fresh fruits and dairy. We even have passable coffee, actually pretty good coffee.
Our quartet decides to check out the scene at the Hotel Raleigh. It is located on the water street beyond the arts building a bit. There is a new group of two guys performing. They are very good. They do a lot of American songs which we find amusing. Again all ages frequent the bar. Breeda, a festival friend that had dinner with us, tells us that the hotel has hosted a wedding, a funeral and a christening today. The wedding is still celebrating in another part. Some of the funeral attendees including the daughter of the deceased are in the bar. She is partying on for a while but then dissolves when the duet starts into ballads. We find out who she is later, at the time we were trying to guess her story. As the entire group that is with her are dressed in black we guess funeral.
We head home around one. Bill, Becki & I take a walk along the docks, Donny goes up. Back home we dig into the cheese we have bought at the market and the apple tart. Add in a malt and it’s a great night cap for our first few days in Ireland.