The Gift of Eloquence
(May 2 - May 21, 1999)

You can click on "photos" to get directly to the photo page.  Please disregard any dates on the photos as Diane's camera seemed to have a mind of its own as far as inserting a date on the photos she took.

Hi everyone.  Diane and I are in Dublin, Ireland.  We arrived on Sunday morning, May 2 and drove to the Hotel Conrad.  Our first task was to find a Hertz place to exchange the car.  It was metal on metal on the brakes all the way in from the airport and three weeks of that wasn't going to work.  No one on my team was interested in driving a car here given that they drive opposite of the way we drive in the USA.  So I will end up doing the driving to and from work every day.  That's fine with me because I like to drive.  We usually have to get a car with a standard transmission for expense purposes, but I convinced my manager that it would be safer for us to get a car with an automatic transmission this time.  She agreed.  Whew.  I haven't driven a standard on the opposite side of the road for many years and didn't want to even attempt it this time.  There is a Hertz place close to the hotel, so we went over there to get another car and we got lucky.  We had this awful Mitsubishi small car and they gave us an upgrade to a nice Volvo.  It has been about five years since I have driven on the other side of the road and it took several days to get used to it.  The judgment driving from the right side of the car takes more concentration when one is used to driving from the left side, and on the opposite side of the road, especially in tight spaces.

After taking a nap, we met some colleagues, who also arrived on Sunday, for dinner.  We headed across St. Stephen's Green park over to the well-known and busy Grafton Street area, then to the also well-known Temple Bar for dinner.  Not having had time to read any of the Fodor's about Dublin, I was looking for a restaurant named Temple Bar.  Only after I asked Diane if she had any idea where this place was did I find out that we were looking for an AREA named Temple Bar, not a restaurant by that name (although there is one pub named Temple Bar).  We ended up at Fitzer's Cafe where I had some great lamb and BEER.   Diane doesn't much care for lamb, so I don't get to eat it at home.  My plan was to eat lots of lamb while in Ireland.

I'm really not a big beer drinker because I don't care for the carbonation in canned or bottled beer.  However, draft beer, especially draft beer in Germany, England and, now, Ireland is marvelous.  SMOOOOOOTH.  I decided on a local lager, Kilkenny, and it was great.  Another night last week I had Murphy's, a dark beer.  I wanted to try Guinness, but found out not every pub/restaurant serves Guinness.  Actually, I found out that not every restaurant even serves beer due to licensing rules and costs.  It turns out that Murphy's and Beamish
dark beers are brewed down in Cork, but Guinness is most popular and recognizable.  I was expecting the beer to be served 'warm' (it's not actually all that warm) as they do in Germany and England, but was surprised to have it served cold.  Other than the night I had to have wine due to no beer available, it's pretty easy to put down two pints each dinner.  I may not be able to buckle up my belt by the time I leave here.  But it's oh so good.  ;-)

The first night out I really had a hankering for Irish Stew and a beer.  As we hunted for a restaurant, I asked one guy if they served Irish Stew and he said it may be hard to find it since it's a winter dish, not spring and summer.  That was disappointing, but c'est la vie.  Then a couple of nights later, our team of seven, plus two spouses, plus two bosses split up into smaller groups for dinner and Diane and I went off on our own to walk around a bit before dinner.  We were walking past this restaurant, The Shack, and we noticed the sign outside said IRISH STEW.  I immediately started drooling and slobbering and licking my chops for the stew and beer I was about to partake in. SIGH....NO BEER!  How could I be so lucky?  I did enjoy the Irish Stew.

A few nights later, we ate a place that was recommended, but hard to get into called Gallagher's Boxty Restaurant.  I called to ask if they would book us in for a group of 11, although I was told they didn't book.  I told them it was the birthday of someone on my team, Joe from Scotland,  so they booked us for 7:30.  They had Irish Stew AND beer, but 'boxty' and 'champ' were the draws here, so I had to pass on the stew and have a boxty.  Boxty is a potato pancake filled with 'whatever' - lamb, beef, chicken, mushrooms, veggies, etc.  I had the lamb boxty and it was DELICIOUS.  Diane had the chicken boxty as a meal and a starter of Murphy's Stew, which I helped her with.  A colleague who is a vegetarian had the veggie boxty and said it was great.  I asked if they did anything special for birthdays and they said they would do a small pastry with candles.  So at the end of the meal, I had my video camera ready when I saw the waitress coming out with the pastry and then she totally faked me out and shut the lights.  We were in the downstairs section with NO windows.  Therefore, NO video, just sound.  How could I be so lucky?  But I think Joe's face lit up the room since he didn't expect it.

Another night we ate at Davy Byrne's, which was very informal, more like a pub.  We sat eight people around three of those small round tables one usually sees in a small bar, more like snack tables.  The highlight here was that the night we split up, several folks ended up here for dinner.  We almost didn't get in, but one of the guy's, Tom (a character), went in to see if we could get seated and the same waitress was there and remembered him.  Not only did she remember him, but she remembered what they were drinking from the previous night and, even more incredible, she remembered that Rufus is a vegetarian and liked green beans.  When his meal came out with cauliflower, she told him she would go get him some green beans.  This waitress was also very personable.  Now that's service.  Needless to say, she was well tipped.

Our team slimmed down by three people on Saturday as the bosses left, including one spouse.  We picked up another spouse, Patrick's wife, who flew in from California on Sunday, so in week #2 we are seven team members and two spouses.  This team is different than other team's I have been with and not at all like my normal team (who I hope to rejoin in July).  No one wanted to take a tour on Saturday, other than Joe (who took off with some friends) and Joan (who has relatives here and went to visit them).  The others just hung around Dublin.  Diane sees enough to do such that she could take a tour every day.  We decided to do a day-long trip to Cork, Blarney (including the Blarney Castle and, yes, the Blarney Stone), and Killarney.  It was a train-bus-train tour that started at 7:30 AM and got back to Dublin at 10 PM.

The first leg was the train to Cork where we were met by a bus to take us to Blarney a few miles away.  Diane is a 'Casey' and the O'Caseys are from Cork.  As mentioned earlier, Cork is also home to the Murphy's and Beamish breweries.  It is also a harbor town.  The weather was cool and threatening, but no rain yet.  We got to the Blarney Castle and had about an hour to look around and visit.  Here are some words about the legend pertaining to the Blarney Stone, as borrowed from a souvenir book we bought:

"The stone was reputed to have been that mentioned in the Bible as 'Jacob's pillow' and was supposed to have been brought to Ireland by Jeremiah the Prophet.  It was more likely to have been brought back during the Crusades which legend applies also to the Stone of Scone now at Westminster Abbey.  Another tale was that McCarthy (of the McCarthys of Muskerry) was given the story of the stone by an old woman he saved from drowning.  This lady turned out to be a witch.  As a reward, she told him the secret of a stone in the castle which would give THE GIFT OF ELOQUENCE in return for a kiss.  Wherever the truth lies, tradition has it that once kissed the stone bestows the gift of eloquence."

Diane and I now have the gift of eloquence.  ;-)

After Blarney, we spent some time in the Blarney Woolen Mill where Diane could spend some of her hard earned Irish pounds.  She lives for these opportunities and well-deserved they are.  :-)  Then we went back to the train station to catch the train to Killarney, about two hours away.  We got to Killarney at 3:25 PM and were met by a tour bus who took us to see the lakes of Killarney (there are three of them), Torc Waterfall and then to the Muskross House and Gardens.  Unfortunately, it was now raining on and off and wasn't as pleasant as the first half of the day.  I'm not up to walking through gardens in the rain, so Diane and I went to the cafe to get some coffee, tea, pastry, and apple pie.  And I wonder why I'm putting on weight.  Then, of course, it was into the gift shop.  Why do they call these things 'gift shops'?  I have yet to have anyone give me a gift in one of them.  ;-)

It was then time to go back to the train station to get the train back to Dublin, a 4-hour trip with a train switch in Mallow.  Considering the weather, it was a pretty good day.  Sunny and warm would have been nicer.

Now for some first impressions.  I like Dublin and have enjoyed walking around a bit and to dinner every night, although I haven't seen much of it yet.  St. Patrick's Cathedral, of the Church of Ireland, was closed one evening when we went over that way.  St Stephen's Green park is manicured with blooming flowers and waterfalls.  There are always lots of people in the park.  As for the countryside we saw from the train, the terrain is rugged and VERY green and, even from a distance, one can tell the grass is very thick.  Lots of cows, not as many sheep as I would have expected, but we've only seen sites to the south so far.  Maybe one can see more by car, but we decided on a tour and leave the driving to others.  The roads are narrow in the countryside and it's the other side of the road and I'm sure I wouldn't see as much as Diane since I'd be concentrating on driving.  Also, it would have been a very tiring day to do what we did and do it by car.  We hope to take another tour next weekend out to the western coast. 

Sunday morning was mass and then to Bewley's for cappuccino, tea, pastry, and scones.  I haven't had scones since my last trip to England back in 1994.  I love scones, so I was pleasantly surprised that they are big in Ireland, too.  For those who aren't familiar with scones, they are like biscuits with raisins in them.  It was a rainy day, so we hung around the hotel after breakfast.  Diane wrote in her diary and I worked on this note.  In early afternoon I got a real treat.  You all know how much I love Japan.  Well, there is a Japanese
station here that broadcasts Tokyo's NHK.  I also knew that a sumo basho (tournament) was starting today (they have them six times a year, every other month) and I love to watch sumo.  From Ireland, we are about nine hours behind Tokyo, so no chance to watch the sumo live.  But, lo and behold, the rebroadcast was on from 1-3 PM Ireland time.  What a great way to spend part of a rainy afternoon.  :-)

After the sumo, Diane and I went to Trinity College, sort of the Harvard of Ireland, to see the Book of Kells.  Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I to 'civilize' Dublin.  It's Ireland's oldest and most famous college and is spread over 40 acres not too far from the hotel we are in.  The Book of Kells is stored in Trinity College and is more than 1000 years old.  We took the tour in the library to see the display and the book.  We learned that the book contains lavishly decorated copy, in Latin, of the four gospels.  It was probably produced in the early 9th century by monks at Kells.  The book was thought lost in 1007 when the Vikings raided Ireland and took the jeweled cover of the book, but left the manuscript.  The book was sent to Dublin in 1653 and to Trinity College is 1661.  The work that went into writing the book must have been incredible.  The writing was done with a quill pen and the artwork is magnificent.  All done by hand.  Only two of the four books of the gospel are displayed, and only two pages of each, at any time.  The book is kept in a very dark room with dim lights illuminating the glass case in which the book resides.  The story of the book is explained in displays in other rooms you go through before getting to the Book of Kells room.  Then you go upstairs to the Long Room in the Old Library.  The room is about 195 feet high, 213 feet long, 42 feet wide and houses 200,000 of Trinity College's 3 million books.

I'd like to tell you a few things about where I'm working here.  We drive about 30 minutes to the northwest of Dublin to work.  It was pasture land that has been turned into an industrial park.  The IBM portion is referred to as a technology campus and is here because the tax laws are favorable to companies.  There are several divisions represented here and it is an 'emerging' campus given that ground was broken only in late 1996 and new buildings are still going up.  Since it is a new development here, IBM has many assignees here from many different locations to train the local hires as to how to run the businesses here.  One of the things I happen to love about world travel is the accents that I hear when foreigners speak English.  Well, I am getting my fill of it here in Ireland.  I hear people speaking who are from France (my favorite language to listen to), Italy, Germany, Hungary, Spain, and Ireland, all in one place.  I have not seen anyone from Japan yet.  This is truly an international working environment on this campus.

Until next week, take care.

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