IRISH DREAMS – PART TWO

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Carol Feller and her Groupies

Carol Feller and Groupies

Our visit to Ireland made clear why Irish eyes are smiling – friendly people, a pint of Guinness and perhaps a tot of Jameson’s gives the world a roseate hue.  We experienced all of that during the second part of our trip which focused on knitting – a passion we all share to the point of needing a 12-step program.  After our evening at the Celtic Whiskey Lounge and Sheehan’s Pub we sobered up the next morning for our class with Carol Feller.  As I wrote in my previous post, Carol Feller and Kieran Foley (more on him in a moment) are the equivalent of playing golf with Rory McElroy or Padraig Harrington.  I should note here that the Killarney Park Hotel was truly one of the finest hotels I’ve ever visited.  They are five star not only for their accommodations and food, but for their outstanding service.  On the morning of our class they provided us with a cozy room with a wood-burning fireplace and brought coffee for our enjoyment – all free of charge.   Carol spent more than three hours with us and was not only informative, but charming as well.  It seems to be an Irish trait.  Most of us have been knitting for decades but Carol provided us with some new tips and techniques, proving that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Some of our group had pre-ordered yarn from her while others said they would abstain.  After three hours with Carol everyone ordered mounds of yarn.  So much for willpower.

            The Dingle Peninsula

The following day we climbed into Jack’s van and embarked on a tour of the Dingle Peninsula.   The scenery, like everything else we’d seen in Ireland, was spectacular. The little town of Dingle is touristy and quaint at the same time.  It was here we experienced more Irish hospitality.  One member of our group stumbled and skinned her knee so we sought out first aid materials.  The local pharmacist didn’t just sell us the bandage and antibiotic ointment, she took it upon herself to clean and dress the wound herself.  Heck, I can barely get the staff at my local Walgreens to point me to the bandaid aisle. The waters surrounding the peninsula are crystal clear and the hillsides verdant, as one would expect in Ireland.  We had the opportunity to stop and pet some newly-minted lambs but, cute as they were, we declined.  I was struck by the many historical churches that remain along the route.  One is the Gallarus Oratory, a simple dry-stone structure built in the 12th century that  has remained waterproof and in near-perfect condition to the present day.

     Kilmaekeder Church and graveyard

Just as interesting is the Kilmaekeder Church, built in the mid-12th century on the grounds of a previous structure built in 636.  A stone from that period still sits on the alter.  The church grounds are filled with gravestones, some ancient and some rather recent (in fact one poor sod hadn’t actually been buried 6 feet under yet as the family was waiting for the headstone).  There were tributes to Irishmen killed by the English during The Uprising as well as markers for whole families that included listings of those who went to America and were lost at sea.  Once back in Killarney we traipsed over to dinner at the Ross Hotel’s Lane Café Bar.  The service was slow but the food was delicious.  I’d recommend it if you’re not in a hurry.

                  Us with Kieran Foley

The following day was our “marathon” day to Dublin.  The kind people at the hotel had a bag of pastries and fruit waiting for us as we left for the train station at 6:10 a.m.  The train service to and from Dublin was wonderful – clean, fast, and quiet.  Once in Dublin we headed for The Constant Knitter shop where we had a private trunk show with designer Kieran Foley.  Again, he was as kind and generous a person as one could hope to meet.  Are there any crabby people in Ireland????  Kieran brought out an array of his designs which are so complicated and intricate that I’d only contemplate starting one prior to entering the insane asylum.  Each piece is reminiscent of an Oriental carpet or fine piece of fabric.  We left him inspired to “up our game”.

After buying scads of yarn we we went in search of a great spot for lunch…and beer.  We ventured up to the Temple Bar area of Dublin (the featured picture this week) which is a hopping place, full of tourists and locals alike.  There is no end to the dining possibilities but we chose Boxty, which received rave reviews on Trip Advisor.  Once we were sated with Smithwicks lager and fish and chips we ventured to This Is Knit yarn shop. The store is elegant in design and content, located in the Powerscourt Townhouse building, a former mansion that has been transformed into a fabulous shopping center with a central atrium and boutique shops.  We bought more yarn, despite our resolve to be on a “yarn diet”.  From there we walked 40 minutes back to the train station for our return to Killarney.  When we dragged into the hotel at 8:30 p.m. we were greeted by hotel staff inquiring about our day and asking us about what we saw in Dublin.  I’m not sure they are used to anyone making Dublin into a “day trip”.

           We can smell the banana

Morning came too soon when we once again traveled in Jack’s van to Kinsale and Cork.  Kinsale is a darling seaside village, filled with cute shops and an outdoor market.  We could have spent several days there. We ambled in and out of the stores, buying knick knacks and two people bought beautiful leather purses fashioned by a local designer.  We relied on Trip Advisor again and ate lunch at Fishy Fishy, where we continued our quest of the perfect pairing of lager and fish and chips. Next we headed to Cork to visit Hedgehog Fibers.  Hedgehog is a very popular yarn, more so in the States than in Ireland.  In fact, we learned from all our Irish knitting contacts that the Irish like to spend money on food and drink, but not on yarn.  We bought MORE yarn (by now we were contemplating buying extra luggage) and then headed out to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.  We decided to go for broke, splurging on the premium whiskey tasting.  It turned out to be a wise decision.   We were taken to a private room where a young woman gave us the particulars of each whiskey we sampled.  I was tempted to chug one down but she instructed me that I needed to savor the banana, oak, berry, vanilla, honey, etc.  Geez, it all just tasted like whiskey to me.  I don’t think I’m sophisticated enough to taste premium whiskey.  As we finished up she kind of chuckled and said, “I’ve worked here four years and have never had an all-woman group before.”  So…I guess we broke the glass ceiling for whiskey tasting!

Next week – castles and some final recommendations.  Slainte!

The Quarantine Has Ended – Come Back!

by Bob Sparrow

It’s not often I ask for your help, but I need it now. I understood your lack of interest in my King Tut blog – he was a whinny, spoiled millennial (just from a different millennium), but when the ‘hits’ for Suzanne’s adventure in Ireland dropped off like a prom dress, I knew something was amiss. I then heard from a friend who said that when he tried to open our blog he was told that if he opened it he would contract the Zeus virus. “Oh no!” I said, not having the foggiest idea of what a Zeus virus was. All I knew was that Suzanne was in Ireland and has left me in charge of our blog website, and I’ve somehow let them post a sign on our blog’s front door that read: VIRUS, KEEP AWAY – ‘QUARANTINED’.

This is just great.   Fortunately for me, Suzanne had discovered Guinness beer while in Ireland and after explaining to her that we had a virus that’s shutting down our website, blocking our blog and ending our writing career, such as it is, she texted me back with, and I quote, “I’m in the Killarney Park Hotel bar and don’t give a shit about the blog.” That wasn’t Suzanne talking, that was the Guinness talking.

Nevertheless, I immediately leaped into action – OK, ‘leaping into action’ may be a bit of an overstatement; I actually just sat there dumbfounded and wondered ‘what the hell is a virus and how did we get it?’ I try to wash my hands every time after I go to the bathroom.   I felt certain that Google would have an answer for me, so I took a deep dive into polymorphic, multipartite and F.A.T. viruses – I was almost certain I had that FAT thing, but I digress. I was more confused than ever after my journey through Google’s virus explanation and asked myself, ‘what if I find out that we have the dreadful ‘Storm Worm’ virus, that Windows Trojan horse that forms the Storm Botnet?!!! I could be on a ten-foot ladder and that stuff would still go over my head. I needed professional help; OK that’s another story, but I mean I needed some tech help. Who do you call? Do I contact Facebook, where our blog appears? Or do I contact WordPress, who is the publishing platform? Or do I contact GoDaddy, where we got our domain name and is the website host? Or do I just look for some ‘cookies’ and forget about the whole thing?

GoDaddy was the only one I could ‘call’, the rest wanted me to send an email and wait for a reply. I had a virus and I needed some immediate attention! As it turns out GoDaddy had a solution, for a small fee, they would scan for malware, adware, spyware and underwear, I think. OK, perhaps I don’t completely understand all that went on and how we got the virus and how it was fixed, but we are now virus-free and encouraging you all to tune into Part II of Suzanne’s Ireland trip next week. I will let her know that everything here ran like clockwork in her absence.

Also, just as a precaution, don’t forget to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.

AMAZING FAMILY!

suz linda

Suzanne & Linda

by Bob Sparrow

     Who has a better sister and wife than I do?  NoooooooooBody!!  At the risk of beating a dead horse, or at least an old horse, for our readers, I must revisit my 70th birthday celebration and thank a number of people who made it such an AMAZING event.  My first thank you goes to my lovely wife Linda, who orchestrated a weekend of surprise after surprise.  Granted when you have a husband who is totally clueless, it’s easy to pull off surprises, but nonetheless she did a masterful job – a week after the event, I still don’t suspect anything!

      With the ‘Big One’ approaching, Linda asked me how I wanted to celebrate the conclusion of my 70th trip around the sun.  I said I didn’t want a big party, just something with the FAMILY.  That was the end of my participation.  Several days later she told me that she’d booked four villas in Palm Desert at the Marriott Desert Springs, where we love spending a week every April at our timeshare.  Perfect, just the kids, grandkids and us.

Jackalope

Cocktails at Jackalope in the desert

     Late Thursday afternoon, while grubbing around in the yard, the doorbells rings, Linda asks me to get it.  I come to the door in tattered jeans and dirty t-shirt; it’s my brother, Jack and wife Sharon, I greet them with the warm welcome of, “What the hell are you guys doing here?!”  They responded with a Happy Birthday and that they are going to Palm Desert with us.  I’m thrilled.  Later that evening (I did sneak in a shower and change of clothes) the doorbell rings again and, still clueless, I go to the door and there are four couples of our good friends, Mark & Kathy, Jack & JJ, Bob & Marge and John and Judy – they’re standing at our front door singing Christmas carols that turn into Happy Birthday.  When we’re all seated at the bar in our family room, Linda brings out a small box and asks me to open it.  It is a brochure for a 12-day trip for two to Kathmandu, Nepal, which includes a 5-day trek through the foothills of the Himalaya!  My jaw drops!!!  She says, there is no way she’s going, that the trip is for my brother and me.  All I can say is “AMAZING!”

photo (9)

Jack, Suzanne & me

     By mid-day Friday we’re checking in at the Villas in Palm Desert.  When we got there, there is only one villa that has been cleaned and available, so we walked over to the hotel and had some lunch at poolside in perfect weather.  Upon our return I walked into the one villa we had and I see a man, with his back to us, sitting out on the deck, and assume I went into the wrong villa.  Then one of my favorite people and one of the funniest I know, turns around and wishes me a Happy Birthday – it’s Matt Sparrow, my nephew – Jack’s son.  Fast forward to mid-day Saturday and I get my annual birthday phone call from my sister, who always calls me and sings Happy Birthday the way Marilyn Monroe sang it to Jack Kennedy.  As I’m standing there listening to her, she walks in the door – she had just flown in from Scottsdale – AMAZING!  Later that afternoon close friends and ‘practically family members’, Mark, Kathy and daughter, Kristin (best friend of our daughter, Dana) arrived to celebrate the occasion.

joe dana

Joe & Dana

One last surprise remained.  I was told to stay in my villa as preparations for ‘the party’ Saturday evening were taking place in Joe & Dana’s villa.  When I was asked to ‘come to the party’ I was blown away.  Dana and Joe had decorated the villa with pictures at ‘food stations’ they’d created representing a number of the places we’ve visited, Italy (Meatballs marinara, Fried cheese, beef Carpaccio with lemon arugula), Africa (Moroccan lamb kabobs with Tzatziki sauce, veggie couscous, roasted plantains), Japan (Ahi and Yellowtail crudo, crying tiger beef skewers, garlic and chili edamame) and Hawaii (Kalua pork sliders on Hawaiian rolls, grilled pineapple, Ahi poke). All the food was AMAZING! There we also ‘drink stations’ from Ireland (beer and Irish whiskey), my Dad’s famous martinis at ‘Poppin’s Grotto’ and ‘Klappers’ (cheap rum and diet cola) named after my dearly departed best friend, Don Klapperich.  The birthday cake, in a ‘travel and music’ theme had a quote from me about traveling and seeing things a little differently than most.  Dana then gave me a box decorated in the ‘travel and music’ theme that she had put together, containing 70 individual birthday wishes from friends and family (you saw my sister’s in last week’s blog) – they were AMAZING!  A huge thank you to those who took the time to write something nice and send it back (for some I’m certain it took quite some time to find something nice to say).  Seriously, I am was touched and am blessed to have such wonderful friends.

3 kids

Stephanie, Jeff & Dana

Thank you to an AMAZING FAMILY, especially those who made this an unforgettable (even for a forgetful 70 year old) experience – Stephanie, Jason, Dylan & Emma; Dana & Joe, Jeff, Jack & Sharon, Suzanne, Matt, (Mark, Kathy & Kristin) and especially to Linda whose dedication to FAMILY is unsurpassed.  To quote Lou Gehrig, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

    OK, enough with the birthday stuff, I’ve got some really interesting places to take you next year – hope you’ll enjoy them vicariously ‘from a bird’s eye view’.

HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND AN ADVENTUROUS NEW YEAR!