fields of green in Co. Cork

I was off work recently for a bit more than a week and I spent part of that time going back through photos taken this year.  as part of that I came across these pictures from a long weekend that we spent at Ballymaloe in Co. Cork.

First my travel guide synopsis:  We didn’t realize when we booked it, but Ballymaloe is home to Ireland’s version of Martha Stewart / Julia Child.  They host an admittedly expensive but pretty fantastic set-course meal as well as having a hotel in an old country house and grounds.  Nearby is the Ballymaloe cooking school which has a cookery shop as well as gardens etc.   It’s also close distance to Ballycotton and some unexpected and excellent cliff walks.  Photos from that likely to come shortly :).  If you’re looking for a nice weekend getaway and don’t mind or are actively looking for something a bit posh, Ballymaloe Country House is highly recommended.   Oh, and apparently it’s actually pronounced ‘ballymaloo’.

Onward to the photo!  I took this wandering around the grounds.  Coming from the road there’s a fairly large field in front of the house.  This is looking back across the field as rainclouds start to roll in.

Horses at the RDS

One of the nice things about being new to an area is you actually go do more things that are going on, whereas you probably wouldn’t if you were here for years on end.  A couple weeks ago the Dublin Horse Show was on in the RDS.  We took advantage of our continued good weather that we’ve been having this summer and wandered on over to take a look.  I highly recommend going next year when it’s back on if you missed it this year.  I you don’t live where it’s handy to go to this particular event, if you have something similar then give that a visit.   I’d never seen horse jumping in person before but it’s very cool.  You can tell the best of them are moving in sync between rider and horse and trusting each other’s lead.  Otherwise it just doesn’t work as well…

On to some photos and photography thoughts.  First is my realization of something I’d heard a while ago: if you want to shoot photos of something (be it sports, theatre, dance, concerts, whatever), you’re probably going to have a lot better access if you go to an amateur event or lower-rungs of pro rather than a top tier event.  In a side ring was amateur jumping and you could be right on the fences of the ring getting some great angles.   Not as good as being *in* the ring, but hey :).  The shots I got later of the main ring are much farther away and just not as compelling.


There are a couple of posts in the hopper, but I’ve been delayed by a mix of travel, visiting, and busy times at work…  In the meanwhile, here are a few flower photos that I’ve taken lately that I particularly like…  The first one was taken last weekend at the botanical gardens in Copenhagen and the rest in Powerscourt Gardens earlier in the week.


And  a couple of floating flowers:


three months in, things that I miss

I’m looking back on three months having lived here in Ireland and this post is probably going to sound a bit more negative than the way I wrote-up my impressions one month on.  Which is a little in line with the last couple weeks since I’ve been generally annoyed at life: two weeks ago I gashed my hand requiring stitches and making use of my dominant hand much more difficult, and then I’ve spent the past week being sick, so my outlook isn’t the most positive right now.  On the other hand, I’m writing this while enjoying a freshly grilled steak and some homefried potatoes while sitting out in the back garden, and being eyed eagerly by two apparently neglected dogs.  So don’t get me wrong, in reality life is pretty good :).

Three months is long enough that I’ve been able to realize some of the things that I don’t get here so rather than a general impressions, I’m focusing on the things I miss most from the US.  Caveat on this list – I’m not really going to talk about friends and whatnot here.  That was what I expected to miss most about moving here, and I was dead on that without a doubt friends from Seattle (and beyond) are the thing I miss most.  Onward to the list!

The first chunk is food related:

1. On the Mexican / Tex-Mex food tip: good fresh flour tortillas.  Oh, and taco trucks.

2. Getting a burger out that’s cooked medium-rare.  Apparently since the BSE crisis in the 90s it’s law that a restaurant has to cook ground beef (mince here) to medium well or well.  I heard a rumour from an American that we met shortly after moving over that he was able to talk a particular joint into cooking his burger medium rare, but I’ve resigned myself to medium well if I get an option.  It’s a shame because Irish beef is quite good and there are a couple of burger joints that I’ve found to be otherwise extremely good 🙂

3. Southern BBQ.  Due to the braces I hadn’t been eating that much barbeque lately anyway, which health-wise is probably a good thing :), but I’ve yet to see any evidence of a southern-style smoke-shack anywhere.  Like a medium-rare burger, this is another thing that I’ll have to deal with at home :).  Terminology clarification – by bbq I mean brisket, ribs, smoked chicken, etc., rather than just grilled burgers or steaks.

4. Steak related – the two that are going to be hardest to address because I need to find a butcher that’s willing to do some custom cuts – skirt steak and hanger steak.   I have a couple leads for a butcher that might do this but need to go chase them up.  The easier to address on is a nice thick, what my friend Avi would call, American FU steaks.  It should be easy enough to get my local butcher to just cut me a steak that’s thicker, I just haven’t asked.

5. Doggie bags.  Despite the rep that American portions get, and Claim Jumper definitely deserves, an Irish meal really isn’t smaller, or at least not much.  But an overall dining difference is that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do a to-go container.  The more I think about it, given that the economy is still rough here, it’s a bit surprising that it hasn’t come up a bit more so that you get multiple meals out of whatever you’re buying. Maybe because people are more likely to go out afterwards and you don’t want to lug containers with you for the rest of the night?  Or its just viewed as trashy to do it?  Dunno.

6. Pop-chips.  Enough said.

Finally, some things non-food related!

7.  Watching American sports at a normal hour.  For things like baseball or football, if the games are on the channels we get, or if I’m willing to trek to the Woolshed (bar that shows a lot of sports), I can easily catch the early game, but the late game is a lot less likely to happen.

8. Going to Sounders games.  I haven’t been to any live sports events here yet so maybe this will be replaced with supporting Leinster Rugby or something else.  Or with the Sounders in a tailspin to start the season 😦 maybe I’ll quickly tune them out anyway :).

9. Having almost every website or service Just Work for my location.  This is really a commentary on how US-centric a lot of websites are and how annoying it is to try to purchase something when you get to the checkout it either refuses to acknowledge that you might be outside the US and not have a postcode, or actively rejects selling and shipping to Ireland but didn’t bother telling you that before you wasted your time trying to buy the item in question.


And other than friends back home, that’s pretty much it for the ‘top things missed’ list – if you’d asked me before we moved I would have thought the top things missed list would have been longer and had more important stuff on it.   Even better there are a lot of things about Ireland that I’m finding to be pretty great, but that’s for the next post methinks.


Reward for getting this far – crappy picture of a picturesque bridge in Clonegall (Co Carlow) from the weekend.  Ones with more of a panorama and overall better framing were ruined with the leaf-less branches of a weeping willow so you get this mediocre pic instead :).  I’ll have to head back in the spring / summer when I suspect it’ll be better for photos…


Ireland – impressions a month on

It’s been about a month since we moved to Ireland, so I thought I’d take a page from a writing style from a sports column I read (you know, since sports commentary is where all the best writers end up ;-)) and post the 10 things I now know, think I know, or just maybe have made up about what’s it’s like moving to Ireland.  Executive summary is so far so good for being over here and adjusting – in general I’m enjoying it and appreciate it over here.


Before I get into it – let’s start with the beautiful sunrise I saw over Sandymount Beach a few days ago…


Now on the 10 quick hits list :).

1. I appreciate how much people walk here – both frequency and distance.  I’m willing to concede this might be colored by the fact we’re in a major city, but it seems like the Irish that I’ve come across think nothing of walking a kilometre or so to a shop or bar or bus stop or whatever.  Even though there’s a high probability that it’s going to be a) cold, b) windy c) raining or all three.  I’m also willing to concede this could be related to the high expense of cars+insurance+fuel and difficulty parking.

2. I really wish the US had actually embraced the metric system and Celsius temperature scale, or at least that I’d learned them better before moving over.  This can also be thought of as the ‘what the @#!?”$% clothes map to 5-7 degrees for the high???’ item.  At least I have a rough ability to map distances from starting to run in the last year or so and using the km – mile conversion associated with a 5k run, otherwise I’d have no idea how to convert distances :).

3. Public transportation.  At least here in Dublin it’s pretty good and I’m happier with it and more of a user of it than I ever was before.  Not 100% reliable unfortunately, as Clodagh can attest being stranded both trying to get to work and return from work :(, but it still seems more comprehensive than what we had in the Seattle area.  If it wasn’t for and how it’s starting to map realtime GPS based data though, I’d be totally lost.  The traditional system was that the timetables told you when a bus left the starting point.  And you were supposed to just understand how long it would take to get to your stop and then know when to expect a bus.  Seriously.

4. Redmond has one of the best off-leash dog parks that I’ve ever heard of in Marymoor Park’s off-leash area.  Based on reaction from our dogs Double Bluff beach on Whidbey Island beat that.  Neither is a patch on the Sandymount beach when the tide is out – I’ve never seen something as good for letting dogs out and run around.  Suffice it to say, Shay and Rascal may think they’ve found heaven here in Ireland :).

5. There’s a very nice ‘local’ feel to a lot of things here, and once you’re talking with someone they’re generally extremely helpful and friendly.  Between our new vet here, the orthodontist, the local ophthalmologist, the folks I’ve been dealing with are fantastic and spend as much time with you as needed.  I haven’t gotten the feeling they have to rush off and minimize time-per-customer/patient/whatever.  Same thing with a lot of the restaurants and pubs around – you feel like the businesses are local family sorts of things and both that you’re keeping money in the community as well as that they genuinely are looking out for you and giving you the best experience possible.  I’ll also caveat this one with dealing with large companies here can be a complete nightmare (this might be it’s own post later) and you can definitely end up in soulless tourist traps easily enough.

6. Being here is a weird mix of things being harder and easier – though I’m sure a lot of it is down to just familiarity and expectations.  Things that I would have expected to go very smoothly in the US take multiple calls or follow-ups here.  And some things that are a serious hassle in the states are just a snap over here.  It’s like you’re throwing dice each time you try to set something new up…  Which experience will I get this time??? 🙂

7. The weather.  It had to be talked about at some point, both because it’s the stereotypical thing people think of as well as the fact that it’s one of the first things people ask me how I’m adjusting to when learning I’ve moved over.  The weather here really isn’t that bad.  Then again, I am coming from Seattle which if you ask 99% of the US population, spends 364 days a year dealing with cloudy rainy weather.  Since we’ve moved over we’ve experienced beautiful clear cold sunny days, snowy flurries, massive gusty winds, the standard rain showers you’d think of, and everything in between.  Will Rogers once said about the Oklahoma weather that if you don’t like it you should just wait five minutes and it’ll change to something else.  Lengthen that to an hour and he may also have been talking about Ireland…

8. I have this idyllic vision of global systems being interconnected and having mappings for equivalence.  Not that they necessarily have to be unified into the exact same system where the Global Government with their black helicopters rules the world, but that having no insurance claims in the US should be able to provide proof in a manner Irish insurance companies understand and accept.  Or drivers licenses.  Or banking systems and credit histories.  Sadly this vision is very far from reality.  Le sigh.

9. Initial trips to grocery stores here are like an exploratory expedition – finding out what exists here, what doesn’t, what’s an equivalence, what new things I’ve never seen or heard of before :).  And which products and brands, like Special K, have the same name and are similar but not the same.  I’m all for tweaking products for local markets, but maybe they should get a new name then, eh?

10. Small cars can be fantastic.  I think a few people I’ve talked to, both here and back in the states, expected me to try to find a large American-style car when we got a car here.  I’m not sure if that’s a commentary on my driving style or a commentary on me, but either way I’ll let it go :).  On the other hand if you’re driving on the opposite side of the road from what you’re used to, and on fairly narrow roads at that, with cars often parked half on the footpath / half in the road, then having a smaller car might just be a godsend.  I’m just saying.  Oh, and the price of insurance is astronomical so its definitely tiny car and tiny engine FTW.


Bonus point:

11. I’m planning to post more as I adjust to life over here noting down a bit of my experiences covering a bit of the good and, well, the bad.  Also planning to get back into highlighting some of photos that I’m taking around – particularly as I get around the country a bit more.   Of course that’s what’s planned and I’ve planned that before :).


Bonus photo for getting this far – the very cool looking Aviva Stadium:

Iconic Seattle

I was looking back through the back-catalog and came across a couple of my version of ‘iconic Seattle’ that I’ve finally gotten around to putting online…  I’m covering the skyline (with Space Needle!) and Pike Place Market here, so need to find a different ‘shot of a ferry’ and a Mt. Rainier  shot to round out the main four Seattle icons.  I’ll have to get back out there 🙂



Headed to the North

Keeping on from the trip to Ireland, later in the week we headed up to Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland, photos today are going to be from the drive up and seeing things in Antrim.

Again, first the travel summary.  I’ll start off with something that wasn’t so great.  Our two days in the north were July 11th and July 12th, and frankly I wouldn’t recommend going up either of those days.  For those who, like me, weren’t aware of what the twelfth signifies and some of the history, relevant wikipedia entry here.  Side-stepping the politics and impact to normal people’s lives aspect, there are some pretty big impacts to a traveler.  First is that the restaurants and pubs are either closed those nights or are closing early.  Apparently the bus service is shut down early too.  Also, the twelth is a bank-holiday meaning that shops and whatnot are closed anyway that day. Talking with the bartender at our hotel, he mentioned it’s the only days that he actually worries and checks in on his friends to see if everyone made it home OK, since there are still some people who commit random acts of violence.  Definitely not great for those that live there and not so reassuring for a traveler either.  The other impact is traffic – the parades on the twelth generally are through the main street of the town or village, which is also the road that you’d be using to pass through.  Note the conflict there :).  On a less good note, if you’re driving through a strongly loyalist area where people are lining the streets for the parade and your car is a (southern) Ireland registered car, you’re going to get some very strange looks.  Not that I think anything necessarily was going to happen to us, but hey, people are crazy some times.  That said, I’d absolutely go back up to the North and to Belfast again to give it a proper visit.  The people we talked to were all very nice, Belfast has some cool old buildings, and the landscape in the North was absolutely beautiful.  I’d also like to go back to drive the coast road as it looked beautiful.  We started up it on our way to Antrim and turned around and changed routes when we realized the impact the parades were going to have.

Positive things and sights: Giant’s Causeway is a pretty amazing sight, particularly if you get great weather like we had 🙂 and is a definite must-visit if you’re anywhere near it.   The new visitors center is very shiny and new, though it’s a bit annoying that you have to buy a ticket for the center to be able to talk to the tourist information people – that really felt like something that should have been available to everyone for free.  The rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede felt more like a made-up tourist attraction but still is worth doing if you have time and are in the area but if you have to cut something it’s definitely cutable.  It’s probably also a lot cooler if you go to it first and then the Giant’s Causeway, I felt a little underwhelmed seeing them in the reverse order.  I can’t really speak to the Bushmills Distillery in Bushmills town since it was closed by the time we tried to go, but I hear it’s very cool.


As we drove back from Carrickfergus back to the inland route up to the Giant’s Causeway, I caught this shot of a woman enjoying the sunny-ish day and view as re driving by.

The rocks of the causeway make a great natural chair 🙂

Part of the Giant’s Causeway:

The same columns exist in the hill towards the back of the picture above.

Getting back up to the top of the hill

Shot towards a farmer’s fields border the trail at the top of the hill

Nice shadows coming off the rope-bridge


Tinahely Walks

Continuing on with some of the things seen and done on my recent trip to Ireland, today is from a walk near Tinahely.

Travel-guide summary first :).  Tinahely seems to have a strong walking club that’s put together some very well-marked and well maintained walking trails near the village.  They even have a walking festival in the Spring.  This day we did one of the Mangan’s Loop walk from the loop walks.  You start out with a wander up a lane until you get to the start of the trail.  There are three loop walks altogether and at times all of the walks are using the same trail until they fork off onto their own bit.  Mangan’s Loop is the shortest of them, but you could easily combine a bit of the longer Ballycumber Loop walk if you wanted to still hit the top of Garryhoe hill but wanted a longer walk.  Overall the path was in good shape and didn’t require any specific skill.  The weather the day we went alternated from cloudy and dry, misty and dry, and very light showers.  Even though visibility from the hieghts wasn’t great it was still a very nice walk – I’d recommend these if you’re looking for hill walks and prefer something better marked and maintained then just wandering through a farmer’s fields and hoping you know where you’re going :).

On to the pictures 🙂

I’ll start with my favorite non-people picture from the walk (and the trip, I think).  Just as we continued down from the top of the hill we came across two horses grazing on the side of the field.  I caught this after we’d moved past them and were looking back towards the hill.  I also got a couple with both horses but their bodies were weirdly cut off from the hill so never really looked right :(.

As we were heading down the path back to Tinahely, a nice view of another close-by village


Lastly, examples of how the trail is marked and how they help you along:

Johnstown Castle

I’m just back from a week in Ireland and managed to get around to see a few things while there – the pictures from this post are from our visit to Johnstown Castle in Wexford.   The next couple days and posts will cover some hill walks and some things and shots from up North as well as closing out the trip in Dublin.

First a bit of travel guide summary :).   Johnstown Castle is an 1800s era mansion built in Wexford that now operates as a tourist destination with gardens to wander and an agricultural museum on the grounds.  The museum also includes a pretty large and interesting section about the famine.  When we were there the castle/house wasn’t open to visit and I get the impression that unless you’re hosting a meeting there or having a wedding there, it’s generally not open.  If you really want to see the inside of this type of house you should go to Powerscourt in Wicklow instead.  If you’re further south or prefer also getting a feel of rural life and tools through the years, then Johnstown Castle is worth a drop-in.

On to the photography :).  It was kind of a grey and crappy day while we were there so I ended up shying away from landscape-y photos and started looking for textures and things that might be good desktop backgrounds.

Firstly, obligatory picture of the house:


We ducked under some trees in the walled garden to get out of a passing shower and noticed rusty nails coming out of the brick wall.  Below both with the color version (which I think I prefer) and in black and white.


Wander on the other side of the wall and a bit further down, it was starting to be overtaken with moss.  Second picture is a walled up entryway, but not sure where it went.


While talking about what kinds of trees were on the grounds, and realizing I know nothing about the types of trees :), I caught this shot I really like looking up through the canopy with the leaves backlight by the sky.

Pictures from a hill walk in Tinahely in the next post…