Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ireland 2011

 Our trip to Ireland started with a 6 hour flight through the night to Dublin. We arrived, got our rental car, then drove the 3 hours to our B&B in County Cork. (Note to self...This was not a bright idea...flying all night with no sleep, losing 5 hours with the time difference, arriving at 5am Dublin time, then trying to drive that far.) The lady running the B&B allowed us to check in early so we took a few hours nap then got showers and visited the Blarney Castle including a kiss of the Blarney Stone (only Ritch and I...the kids were a bit scared of hanging upside down over a huge ledge in the pouring rain). We ate dinner in Blarney village at a nice little pub then headed back for the kids to practice and went to bed early.

The next morning we had a lovely breakfast, said bye to our hosts, and headed to Killarney in County Kerry. On the way we drove through the city of Cork, and visited the Drombeg Stone Circle and Timoleague Friary. We arrived in Killarney mid-afternoon and checked into our hotel then drove into the city for dinner and then tracked down a pub with an Irish session so the kids could play.

The next day we visited Muckross House, Muckross Abbey, Muckross Farms, and Torc Waterfall. The farms was really fun for the kids with people baking bread in the little farmhouses, people working the farms, and animals to pet. We went back into the city that evening. The kids wanted to try busking after seeing a number of performers on the streets. We walked past a small group of teens putting their instruments away then decided to go back and try the spot they were leaving. They walked up to us and asked if Haley had been in Cavan last year. They happened to be a group of teens she had played a session with in Cavan last year and remembered her. The kids busked for about 20 minutes then we went for supper and found a different session for them to join in with later that night. We met 3 people from Australia in that pub who'd seen the kids busking and Ritch and I talked to them while the kids played.

Our next stop was Doolin Village. On the way we drove around the Dingle Peninsula. Talk about beautiful...mountain passes, water, cliffs, summer flowers all over the place. Also talk about scary driving...the pass from one side of the peninsula to the other had segments where only one car could fit at a time. On one side was the mountain wall and on the other a shear drop of the cliffs. We had to look along with mountain to see if a car was coming because there weren't any turnoffs so if the cars met, one would have to back up to let the other pass. To top it off there were lots of bikers as well (why anyone would want to bike up those mountains, I have no idea) on the roads barely wide enough for one little VW Passat.

Our B&B in Doolin was very nice. The farmer who ran it told us about the pub where we'd find a real Irish session. We took the kids there for the session at 9pm and the pub was packed with tourists. The kids had a great time meeting the other musicians and playing with them.

Doolin session at O'Conner's Pub.

Sunday in Doolin we took the ferry out to the island of Inisheer. The water was very rough with huge waves and the people running the ferry were passing out barf bags left and right. The island had a castle, a WWI tower, and a monestary from 500 A.D. The kids also enjoyed the playground on the island while we waited for the ferry to take us back. We were supposed to take the ferry from Inisheer to the bottom of the Cliffs of Moher but because of rough seas, the captain decided to go back to Doolin first then see if it was safe enough to go to the cliffs. Haley was feeling a bit sea sick so we decided to get off at Doolin and leave the cliffs for another visit. (The second time we have tried to see those darned cliffs and not been able to. LOL)

O' Conner's had an early session on Sunday from 5-8pm. We were hungry after our boat ride so went in at 4pm for dinner. While finishing our food, in walked Qristina Bachand. She and her friend just happened to be on vacation. Haley recognized her immediately. We had "met" her virtually through youtube when she commented on a video of Haley playing at 5yo then we met her at Tullamore where she and her brother were performing at a concert during our first Fleadh. Haley went over to say 'hi' and was happy that she recognized her. The kids enjoyed playing with her and the other musicians at the session that night.

From Doolin, we drove to Sligo. We stayed in the same B&B we had stayed in last year. We stopped in the city, found a tourist office for a map, did a little shopping at Monsoon (Haley and my favorite children's clothing store), and found a music store to look for bouzoukis for Dylan (there were none in the store).

That night, while looking through pamphlets in the B&B, we found a Michael Coleman museum. Michael Coleman was a fiddler who moved to NYC during the time when recording was being invented. He recorded his fiddling which was then sent back to Ireland and kept the tradition alive. Haley has heard so much about Michael Coleman because his teacher's fiddle style comes from the playing of Michael Coleman, handed down from fiddler to fiddler. So, the next morning we set off to the museum. Haley was most excited to see the fiddle Michael Coleman played. We toured the museum then a man drove us out to a replica of the home Michael Coleman lived in. It wasn't open but he opened it up for us and talked to the kids about all the artifacts and how people lived in those days. He then took us down the road a little ways to show us the ruins of the home where Michael Coleman was born.

On the way back to Sligo city we stopped to see the ancient passage tombs at Carrowmore. They were very similar to those we'd seen last year at Newgrange and Knowth but there were so many mounds in this area. There were cows eating around one of the tombs in a field which was a little funny to see. We also dropped a weeks worth of clothes at a laundry then drove out to our favorite little fishing village of Mullaghmore.  We couldn't find a pub that allowed kids in late at night so ended up back at the B&B and to bed early.

Wednesday morning, we picked up our laundry (washed, dried, and folded) then headed to Cavan. It was only a 90 minute drive so we arrived around 1pm. We drove straight into town, parked behind the library, then headed toward the Fleadh Offices to get the schedules and information booklets. On our way, we passed a small stage and the man running the stage saw the kids' instruments and asked them to stop and play on live webcam. He was so impressed with their playing, he told them to come back everyday if they wanted. We stayed around to watch fiddler Anton NicGabhann play then went to the offices. From there we headed into the heart of town to pick up t-shirts and just see what was around.

The kids wanted to sign up for the Street Seisun (basically busking) competition so we got that done and found out the details...younger age groups busked Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5-7pm and 3 groups would be chosen for the finals on Sunday afternoon.
Haley, Dylan, Jayne, and Bram busking.
The kids started busking and their friends, Jayne and Bram from upstate NY saw them and asked to join in. They had a lot of fun busking together. After busking, we all went to dinner then found a session in a pub for the kids to play in.

Our next few days in Cavan kind of followed the same plan. We drove into town from our B&B early enough to get parking, the kids played on the webcam stage, we walked about town, they found someone to play with in the hotel, they busked, dinner, then night sessions. Friday, Haley had a quick lesson with Brian to check her competition tunes. A lady from RTE radio heard her practicing and asked the kids to come to their truck to record a few tunes for the radio later that day.

One evening we saw Anton fiddling in the street so stopped to listen. He saw Haley in the crowd and called her over to join them for a few tunes.

The competitions were Saturday morning. Haley played her best but didn't end up placing. She was a little upset because she knew how well she had played but she bounced back quickly. Dylan also played very well but didn't place. Only pianists placed in his accompaniment competition.

Saturday evening we ran into their friends, along with a new Scottish friend, Benedict and all the kids played in the streets together. They had a blast learning some Scottish accent and teaching Benedict to talk American.

They were joined a little later for a few tunes by Brian and Heather.

Sunday Haley, Dylan, Jayne and Bram competed in the Street Seisun finals, a televised event on the "big stage." They were really good together. They hadn't had time to rehearse so came up with a couple sets and went out and played amazingly well together for kids who see each other twice a year. The judge said, "When you are asked to judge an event like this, coming out and seeing an act like that makes it all worthwhile." He went on to comment at how he liked Bram's dancing and how well Haley and Jayne were in tune especially with Haley on a half size fiddle with very little room for error as they shifted into 3rd and 5th positions. The kids ended up winning the under 15 age group!
Kids at the Molly Malone statue.
Monday and Tuesday, we spent our time in Dublin. We saw the bog bodies at the natural history museum, walked to the Guiness factory but ended up not paying the money to go in (37 euro for a family!), saw the oldest pub, and checked out Monsoon there. Ha!

The kids played in Gogarty's pub on Monday night. The people playing remembered Haley from last year. We tried to meet the retired fiddler for the Chieftains but were unable to coordinate our schedules and we had turned in our rental car so had no way to get out to his home anyway. He did talk to Haley on the phone and said a few things that made her feel better about the competition. Hopefully we will be able to meet him next year.
Haley and Dylan posing outside Ireland's Natural History Museum.