Monday, 28 March 2011

The quintessential Irish experience!

I want to tell you all about the most wonderful time R and I had last night. His uncle L invited us to go see some traditional Irish musicians last night in a small pub. Now to kind of set up the story, L is in his own band called Beoga. They are considered a traditional Irish band, but their music always has a lively twist (Beoga means lively in Gaelic). If you're interested in seeing them or hearing their stuff you can go to Because he is in a band he knows who to see and where, and I would say an in to the music scene. Anyways.....

The bar was in the middle of nowhere, literally. In fact we got lost trying to find it.The gig started at 8:30, but we didn't arrive til about 9:40. We left late anyways, but we added an extra 15 minutes due to our detours through the dark country side. When we did finally find the pub it looked more like a house then a bar. One story with what looked like a barn and a house attached. When we walked in, it was wall to wall people. It wasn't very big mind you, but I would say about 120 people squeezed into the size of our old apartment. The band was in the corner playing. There was a bodhrán player (Irish drum) and fiddle/bango player, a guitarist and an accordion. They were called the Mairtin O'Connor band. Mairtin was the accordian play, Jim Higgins the bodhrán player, Seamie O'Dowd the guitarist and singer and Cathal Hayden was the fiddle/bango player. It would be an understatement to say these guys were good. In fact L and his band mates who were there told me that Cathal and Mairtin would be the best of their instruments in all of Ireland. Just last week they were playing in the Sydney Opera house and this week they're in a tiny pub. The music they played was powerful and moving. Some songs would start out slow and end in a lively reel. Others had you in almost in tears they were so sad and moving. They did have a musical guest, Dom Stiffe, who was a finalist in the All Ireland talent show. He's from Galway and sang and play guitar.
The band and the crowded pub

These pictures came from the phone. Regretted not bring my camera the whole time we were there.

What made this night the quintessential experience was that during the break in the music, sandwiches were handed out to everyone there, as if everyone was family. The fiddle player, Cathal got behind the bar and help serve drinks. (His dad owns the pub but now the sons are running it. Funny enough the pub is called Hayden's Bar) After the break they played a few more songs. Cathal's brother then got up and joined in with his fiddle as well. He was very good as well. It was Mairtin's and Seamie's birthday so a cake was brought up with candles for them and then cake was passed around. The night ended shortly after midnight with everyone catching up over their last pint.  I feel extremely lucky to see such talented musicians in such an intimate setting. L told us that there were a few other musicians there enjoying the experience.  It was a great night and I hope to have a few more like it. I know Beoga will be playing there in June, so I'm looking forward to seeing them again and sharing the night with you all.

Here's a wee video we took from R's phone. The quality isn't very good, but it gives you an idea of what we heard last night.
Now I must get ready while the babe is asleep. R and I head down to Dublin tonight to pick up our first American visitors. I really can't wait to see them. However it's going to be a long day tomorrow because they're landing into Dublin at 5:20 in the morning. Luckily we're staying at his Aunt's house near the airport so we don't have to get a hotel or leave at the 3 am from Tobermore. It will be nice to Aunt M and her french husband X. They have two kids, cousin R who's almost 5 and A who's 1 year older then O. Anyways, after we pick A & D up from the airport we're headed straight into Dublin city to go to Trinity college and the book of Kells. D is going to meet someone for his job. I'll tell you all about it this week. We've got lots of stuff planned so my blogs will be more frequent and packed full of more history!!
Hope you all have a good week!

Here are a few links to each of the band members.
Mairtin O'Connor
Cathal Hayden
Jim Higgins:
Seamie O'Dowd:'Dowd

Mairtin and Cathal. Picture courtesy of the internet.

Picture courtesy of :
oíche mhaith

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Derry (Warning!!! History lesson!!!)

We took a trip to Derry or Londonderry. We pretty much did the same thing as yesterday. Had lunch, walked around the city and then met my MIL again.  Except Derry has so much history right under your feet. I'll tell you the history and walk you through our day with pictures!

Glenshane pass on our way to Derry

Center of Derry

Shipquay St. On of the steeper streets. It's wicked it walk up it. You can smell the burning clutch from all the people who can't do a hill start.

Lunch! Took a while to find a sandwich shop that had a high chair. It was nice for another girls day out.

Eating chicken!
The view outside the shop. The old walls of Derry. I know I've mentioned them when we went to Derry for St. Patrick's day.

This is what the wall looks like from the top. You can walk the entire thing.
St. Augustine's church. It was one of the orignal churches in the city on a monastry site. It became too small for the population so they built St. Columb's Catherdal which you'll see later on.

Just as a helpful guide. When it says plantation settlers it means the lowland Scottish farmers the English government brought in to try and slowly convert the Irish population or "conquer". However Ulster, one of the 4 proviences of Ireland was the most heavily or strongly Catholic.  The history in Northern Ireland is a long and bloody one after the plantation settlers came over.

Graveyard of St. Augustine's church.

O was very good again today. Didn't whine at all. I can't believe how good she was. Also I can't believe that I would ever have to use sunscreen in March, lets hope it stays this way for a while.

A canon used on the battlements.

This is looking down at Bogside. Bogside is where the Catholic population lived in Derry since William of Orange took over. As I said before the history in NI is tragic. It has filled hundreds of books and is too much for me to tell even a wee bit of it . The mural on the building is one of 11 that show the history of the troubles since the beginning.

A broader view of the Bogside. This is also where Bloody Sunday took place as well.

Another look at the wall from the defending side.  This is looking down at Bogside.

A map of the walled city. It looks much bigger than it really is. I would say it's about a quarter to  half a mile across from the middle.

Each gate is marked by their name. They all had signs with the history behind each name.

Derry is a very hilly city. This is one of staircases I had to carry the stroller up and down. Walking around the walls with one of those is the best work out ever! I seemed to be the only one with a stroller on the wall. So I either stood out like a tourist or was just a crazy local.

The front of St. Columb's Cathedral. It looked they're restoring the whole thing. I can't wait until it opens.

Another part of the wall. There were only two of these turrets.  It did look like much of the wall was restored. The Butcher Gate had been rebuilt.

This was taken from the other side of the wall looking at the Waterside. This side is the Protestant side. As you can see by the mural, there is still is some tension.

The west bank

Another look at the wall coming down the hill.

This is the Tower Museum. I'm dying to find out the history. Will try and take our friends here when they come to visit us next week. Luckily one of them is a history major too!

Going back up the hill

Posing in front of the American tourist and the walking tours. I heard alot of American accents today. I hate to say this, but we stick out like sore thumbs when we travel, unless you're "disguised" by a local family like I have been. I will say that living in Europe will change your dress. I just have to take less pictures and then I won't stand out as much.

This is a hidden side street. It's called the Derry Craft center and connects Shipquay St to the where I took the picture of going up the hill. If you stay within the walls it's very easy to learn where to go in Derry. 

I would love to live in a area like this. It was quiet and just had such a quaint feeling.

Thought this was funny. It's the cafe you see in the first picture of the craft center. Why it was called Boston Tea Party I have no idea. Either to attract tourist or because America was able to kick the British out. I love that is says American muffins. Didn't realize there was a big difference.

 It was a great day today all around. Another sunny day! After my MIL got done where her meeting, we went and got a cup of tea and biscuits and walked around one of the shopping centers, or what we would call a "mall". Did pick up a parenting magazine. I'm sure I'll be telling you all the differences I found. Anyways O fell asleep on the way home. All the sun and fresh air wore her out. Tomorrow I'll be getting the house ready for A & D then a nice quiet weekend until they get here.

oíche mhaith

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


It was another gorgeous day here. I can't believe the amount of sun we're seeing. (Knock on wood). I don't want to jinx it, but the last few weeks have been amazing. The lambs are out the fields, the flowers are in bloom and it's sunny, definitely feels like spring.

We were able to do a small outing today, just us girls. My MIL had a meeting in Coleraine, so O and I got dropped off at the centre of town and walked around. It was so nice, not only to be out of the house, but just a lovely day. Coleraine is smaller the our usual haunt, Cookstown, but has a shopping center and a pedestrian only town centre which made walking around that much easier. It's north of our location, headed towards the coast.  We didn't have any money, but it was nice to poke around and make a wish list. I did finally find some parenting magazines in the books shop, I didn't get one but I've been dying to see the difference between UK and American mags. Also found a pair of lovely ankle boots at New Look I'm dying to get. I found that the clothes over here at the "cheaper" stores are much more fashionable. For example the styles you would find in say Banana Republic would be at Old Navy prices. The clothing is also much more feminine. I am finding myself wanting to dress up a little bit more then the good old New England t-shirt and jeans look. Anyways, O and I had a wonderful day together. She was great, waving to everyone and didn't whine at all, even though she was in the stroller for about 2 hours shopping.  Below is another photo blog. The MIL has meetings in Derry tomorrow so hopefully I'll be able to go shopping again with O.

The view of the countryside on our way to Coleraine. The sky was the clearest blue I've seen in a long time.

O snuggled up with her lovely and monkey.

Other side of the road. Again lovely sky.

Bann bridge in downtown Coleraine. The one on the left is the original bridge, the right is a just a foot path.

Looking up the pedestrian only shopping area.

Eating lunch outside in the square. Gotta love the face!

This building was in the town square, very pretty, but I couldn't tell you what it was for.

St. Patrick's church. I think is was Protestant based on the flags in the antechamber. It was lovely inside with a wooden cathedral ceiling. It has an amazing graveyard all around it.

Here is one of many old headstones. Most were from the 1800's, but a few were older.

Not sure if you can see this one, but I think the date of death for Mr. Wilson was 1742. Notice the crest and shield at the top. In New England at this stage we would have had skulls with wings. The difference would have come from a more severe look at death from the Puritans that settle New England. (sorry, slipped in a history lesson)

Many of the headstones were weather away so you couldn't see how old they were. The trees made it feel even older.

This is from Mark's & Spencer's (closest comparison is Target). I just loved the retro look of all the sweeties.

Enjoying a chocolate chip cookie at the local food court. It was nice to just hang out with O outside the house. She's much less whiny.

Mommy's new shades.  Found for 1.99

Just thought I would put this in because you would probably not find this in America and I know many of you are also Jane Austen fans. Trying to convince husband to let me get it. If I do it will almost finish my Austen movie collection. (Yes I am a wee bit obsessed).

Finished the trip with a visit to Aunt Bridge in Kilrea. This is O with my husband's cousin R. O loves playing with R, he puts her in fits of laughter. 

oíche mhaith