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For our return we decided to take an ocean liner back to North America instead of flying. The Cunard Company now owned by Carnival Cruises has the Queen Mary 2 sailing from Southampton to NYC and back. The ship carries about 3000 passengers and for us it was the biggest ship we had ever taken. The other companies we cruised with where Crystal, Azamara and Holland American, on ships holding from 800 to 1100 passengers. We love Azamara and all the trips we made with them.

To go to Southampton from London you have several options, the distance is 128 km, the travel time is about 90 minutes depending on traffic on the highway if you go by bus or car. By train the train station in Southampton is not in the docks area so you need to take a taxi for the transfer. There is also no links between Heathrow airport and Southampton.

We compared prices and options and chose a private chauffeured car to go from our Hotel Bailey’s in London to Southampton. It took under 2 hours for our trip in a very comfortable Mercedes S class.

On arrival at Southampton embarkation was very well organized and took about 30 minutes.


If you travel with Cunard be ready to be bombarded non stop with publicity telling you how absolutely fantastic they are and no one compares to them, blah, blah, blah. This was a very big red flag and we should have known that if you need to repeat endlessly how fantastic you are, there is an obvious problem.

The majority of the passengers were British 1650 of them, then Americans 620, Canadians at 450 and then Germans, Italians, French and other nationalities. Notices on board were in German and English. Why?

The staff of the ship is mostly Philippino, gone are the days when they were all Brits or Irish, I will tell you why later, then some Eastern Europeans in management and the Ship Officers are British. This being a very big ship it took several days to get familiar with the various decks and where things were located, you could get lost easily.

The ship features many vignettes of the Cunard line and of the various ships and its personnel through the ages who help make the company name. That was when Cunard was owned by Cunard and not some foreign entity, it was also a time when Cunard still abided by British Labour Laws and rates of pay and before they decided to change the Flag on the ship to one of Convenience, which changes the pay scale and work hours.

Cunard today is no longer the company it once was, the world of the Ocean Liner is run on maximum profit business plan and so we felt we were being nickel and dime to death. Breakfast in the morning if you wanted a cappuccino you had to pay $4.50 and go get it at the bar some distance away. The service is also not what it once was, it is mostly serve yourself nowadays. We were rushed though meals, there was nothing leisurely. Order quickly and make sure you put in your wine order before you order your meals because you may get your wine by dessert time. The dining room Britannia had a very unsettling constant vibration. The Maitre d’ assured us on the first night that the speed of the ship was the reason for this unsettling vibration but once we attained the regular 21 knots it would cease, nope it continued to vibrate badly. The food was bland at best, not inspired at all despite the claim of exciting menu choices. The only time we experienced anything better was the evening we went to The Verandah, which is the premium restaurant of the QM2.


The entertainment on board is of OK quality, stuck in 1960 variety model, nothing to write home about and highly forgettable, certainly not world class as claimed by Cunard. Same with their so called World famous speakers, I expected Henry Kissinger, not so. The hype surrounding the shows is a little ridiculous. The various musical groups on board performing where either playing too loudly and/or not well, false notes, etc. with the exception of the Jazz group who played in the Carinthia lounge who were of superior quality. Helen Leek was also a great pianist and a woman of talent who gave recitals.

The QM2 was refurbished in Hamburg, Germany in June 2016, at least all the public rooms and restaurants where, am not sure about the cabins. The cabins are larger than the usual cruise ship cabin and the bathroom is nice, it was very quiet on our deck.

So when Cunard says they exceed your expectations, no they don’t, I expected a nice crossing of the North Atlantic in the style of bygone era, leisurely pace, superior food and no pressure or demands to conform to the expectations of Cunard, after all who is paying for the trip. Every announcement was always on the tone of the nanny scolding, for your safety and security blah, blah, blah, I finally remarked to someone that I was starting to feel there was something wrong or dangerous about this crossing or the boat. They were truly treating us like little kids, which is grating. Even telling people what was appropriate to wear on board. I can understand requirements for a jacket at dinner or on the special night a black tie, but beyond that I found it insulting. Given that the average age on board is 65+, it is inexplicable.

Upon embarkation our luggage was to be delivered to our Stateroom, I discovered one suitcase and one garment bag missing. After one hour of looking around I went to the service desk and found the missing bags just left there, so I had to carry it myself to my cabin, so much for their legendary White Star Service.


In the Port of Halifax, N.S., Canada, statue of a true Haligonian, Samuel Cunard.

I would not recommend Cunard which is now owned and a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation. The business plan is profits first and the rest later. That is not the way to enjoy a crossing or a cruise.

The nautical maps were also incorrect, geography is not Cunard’s strong point. Canada was shown somewhere in the North Pole region, Newfoundland was described as an Island, as if it was still a British colony. We passed Halifax on our way to NYC, it did not appear on the map, despite the fact that it is the birthplace of Samuel Cunard and he still has relatives living there.  A large statue to Samuel Cunard graces the docks in Halifax where the cruise terminal is located. However it was pointed out to us where the Titanic went down.



Titanic is down there, thankfully no iceberg in sight.

Now this is not to say that all was bad, no, we did have time to read great books we brought along, saw some fun movies, Zootropolis,  Hail Cesar with George Cluny and While we’re young, something we rarely do. We met great people, we had charming dinner companions and met lots of truly delightful people, we slept a lot, and walked the deck which was a great easy exercise. The ship also had a truly impressive wine list, some rare finds and great years. There was also a large collection of Ports some where 170 years old. The various bars on board had just about every alcohol you can think of and a great collection of single malt scotch.


Walking daily on Deck 7 was great fun watching the ever changing sea. The light on the water from grey to dark blue to royal blue all in a few minutes, then suddenly see rainbows and the Sun shimmering on the water making it silver white.


Because we had a large contingent of British people on board, I started to notice the accents, truly some of them I could not understand, it was thick. I was told that some of them come from the region at the border with Scotland. So we just smiled and nodded a lot.



An alumni of Trinity College Dublin, notice the colour.


At the front of the ship, no not modern sculptures but emergency spare propeller blades.


On deck 7 at Sea 


At 5am in the port of New York, our arrival.


The early morning arrival in New York at docking across from Governor’s Island.

From New York we went to LaGuardia which is undergoing a massive rebuilding and the whole airport is in shambles. We flew to Toronto for our connecting flight to PEI.



On our approach to Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Toronto seen from above.

London and Southampton


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One thing we both noticed during our trip through Ireland and then the UK is how foreign workers most of whom are EU Citizens work in the service industry. Gone are the days when Irish or British worked in that sector. It got us thinking that in the  event of Brexit, Britain will find itself in a very difficult position, all those EU workers in the service industry would go home or move to other EU countries. What will Britain do to replace them? The Brits are not going to take those jobs there has been in the last 30 years a culture change and you will find Brits working abroad but not at home and not necessarily in the service sector. In Hotels, restaurants, etc. staff is from a variety of European countries, not a Brit in site. It will be interesting to see how this situation evolves.

While in London we also stopped at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The V&A covers 12.5 acres (5.1 ha)[3] and 145 galleries. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world. The museum owns the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items being the largest outside Italy. The departments of Asia include art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection is amongst the largest in the Western world.


The V&A has its origins in the Great Exhibition of 1851, with which Henry Cole, the museum’s first director, was involved in planning; initially it was known as the Museum of Manufactures, first opening in May 1852 at Marlborough House, but by September had been transferred to Somerset House. At this stage the collections covered both applied art and science. Several of the exhibits from the Exhibition were purchased to form the nucleus of the collection. By February 1854 discussions were underway to transfer the museum to the current site and it was renamed South Kensington Museum.

The official opening by Queen Victoria was on 22 June 1857. In the following year, late night openings were introduced, made possible by the use of gas lighting. This was to enable in the words of Cole “to ascertain practically what hours are most convenient to the working classes”.

It is an immense museum and you have to choose what you want to see in the various galleries, one can become overwhelmed by the wealth of the collections. We picked to visit the Asian galleries on our visit and looked into Islamic Art. What is on display is of very high quality and is beautifully curated. It is also very well explained and the collections are part of established British policy to bring back to London treasures of conquered lands which at the time came under British rule. You can say the same thing about the French, German, Spaniards, etc who also had colonial empires. This is why museums in Europe have such extensive collections of Art from abroad.


Ceremonial dagger encrusted with semi precious stones, carved ivory, enamel, a gift from Fath Ali Shah of Persia (Iran) to Captain John Malcolm of the East India Company in 1810.


Gold and pink sapphires bracelet, Madras, India.


Chintz costume, a man’s morning gown made from Indian painted cotton, very popular in England, France and Holland around 1660. It is recorded in Samuel Peppys journal that he bought himself one around 1661. Much later chintz will become popular with ladies.


Fine stone carved window panels, exquisite design, Iran. This fashion of carving appears also in India, Syria, Egypt.


 Men’s Mughal Costume, was based on the Jama a tailored gown tied at the side and the Paijama trousers loose at the top but tapered at the lower leg. An elaborate turban (Pagri) was also worn at Court and a long decorative waist sash (Patka). Fine kashmir wool shawl were often draped over the shoulder, a fashion started by Emperor Akbar (1542-1605).

There were many other objects to see, making the visit most interesting. All this in only one part of the V&A museum.


We then went to lunch or Brunch this being Sunday with our friends J. and David Nice.







The House of Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882 in Chelsea



The Thames at low tide.


On the Thames this sculpture by Korean artist Ik Joong Kan, entitled Floating dreams. It is in front of the New Tate Modern Museum.


A small front garden of a house in Chelsea.


A street by our hotel in London

Now comes the time for our last leg of our trip, going home from Southampton on the Queen Mary 2. A 7 day crossing of the North Atlantic our destination New York.

London and Southwark


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I was going to visit JP and Guido in Bermondsey which is in Southwark (Suthick), an old acquaintance of mine Marcus Gheeraerts painted this scene of their restaurant in 1570 in Bermondsey. I think the Spanish Armada had arrived in town at that point. The famous JP can be read at https://itsmyhusbandandme.wordpress.com I would rename his blog Adventures in Bermondsey.


You can see the Tower of London on the other side of the Thames. This is more or less the period of Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare. Unfortunately JP was not in London the day we came by. So we went to visit the reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, the project championed by actor Sam Wanamaker.

A modern reconstruction of the Globe, named “Shakespeare’s Globe”, opened in 1997 approximately 750 feet (230 m) from the site of the original theatre. The exact location of the original Globe Theatre is not known.


I would not have visited this site if it had not been for Will, he wanted to see it and this was our chance. Since English is not my mother tongue, I have great difficulty understanding Shakespeare and grasping the meaning of his plays, I think Corneille use to say It’s Greek to me. I always say why can’t they make it into modern English for all to grasp. Nonetheless, it was a fascinating visit and I learned a great deal about the period and life in London at the time. Tours are given and the guide gave us a very good description of how plays were performed and who came to the theatre then. It was a theatre for the masses and people were packed like sardines inside. The whole business was to present a play and make as much money as possible by selling as many tickets, it was rough and ready entertainment for the age, in a brutal world.

The South side of the Thames was a suburb of London and fell outside of the Lord Mayor’s purview, so you could present plays and other spectacle like bear baiting and dog fights and have all manner of immoral and illicit entertainment which would not have been tolerated in London proper. London then was a very small town starting at the Tower of London and ending at Westminster, a small area easily walkable. The only bridge across the Thames was London Bridge which was always congested with traffic. It was easier to hire a barge and row across.


This maquette of London shows the Thames frozen solid which would happen some Winters, with all kinds of activities taking place on the frozen river. The South bank or Southwark.

It was a difficult time politically, Queen Elizabeth I was very suspicious of all around her to the point of paranoia, she saw plots everywhere. Wars of religion was still a fact of life between Catholics and Protestants and Puritans and Presbyterians were constantly agitating for a narrow minded social agenda either in Parliament or at City Hall. Actors and theatres were a favourite target and the threat of closure was always present. Under Oliver Cromwell in 1647 all theatres will be closed and some demolished, bigotry and fanaticism in London led to such extreme measures.

Writing plays as Shakespeare did could also be very dangerous, at any time you could be accuse of fomenting sedition which meant arrest and death for the author. Shakespeare was careful to always tow a prudent political line and flatter the Monarch so as not to become a target. He also sought the protection of powerful patrons and financiers. Complete original manuscripts in the hand of William Shakespeare do not exist, there are no substantial surviving manuscripts, so his plays are known from printed editions done during or just after his death. Seven years after his death, two of his friends and fellow actors, John Heminges and Henry Condell produced a collection of 36 of his plays, this became known as the First Folio.

In other words London and England at the time was a nasty brutish place. Contrary to what was shown in the movie Shakespeare in love, Queen Elizabeth I never came to the Globe. The theatre was brought to her in her Palace at Whitehall, this for reasons of security but mostly because the prestige of the Sovereign did not permit that she would stoop to the level of actors who were in the same class as prostitutes, criminals and other miscreants. The first English monarch to come to the Globe will be HM Elizabeth II in 1997 at the opening of the reconstructed theatre.DSC08892.JPG

The highly symbolic painted decorations of the stage would have been easily recognized by people at the time of Shakespeare, above the heavens with the gods, the spheres and the constellations, below the stage was Hell with its malign influences. In between was the resultant disarray of earthly existence, its trials and follies, tragedies and comedies played out on stage.

The exhibits at the Globe are very interesting from explanations on costumes and how they were made, to the make-up worn by actors, most of it made from highly toxic and poisonous ingredients, lead mercury, arsenic.

Also describe the crowds attending, there were various prices for seats and high prices for those special boxes by the stage reserved for wealthy nobles. Then there was the pit the area directly in front of the stage. People packed in so tightly you could not move. Our guide described for us what you could experience. People did not wash and were covered in lice, bad breath and strong body odour, because you could not move or leave during the show, you simply relieved yourself where you stood. People brought food and drink and spoke loudly during plays. In the upper balcony of the theatre all manner of immoral encounters occurred, the guide being a sensible fellow left it to our imagination to fathom what might have happened up there.


Here is a view of the more expensive boxes for Nobles with painted interiors. The Globe is not a big theatre but in Shakespeare’s time 3000 people could be packed inside for one performance. Today only about 1600 people can attend due to fire regulations.


Stage is being set-up for the 1927 silent movie, Passion of Joan of Arc by Carl Theodor Dreyer with accompanying orchestra.

While at the Globe book shop, I picked up Catharine Arnold, Globe, Life in Shakespeare London and The time traveller’s guide to Elizabethan England, by Ian Mortimer. I enjoyed them both.


A wood model of what the final reconstruction of the Globe and adjacent buildings would look like, most of it has been re-built, I am not sure if the rest will be completed.


The area today with the famous Shard building in the background. All in all a fantastic visit and most interesting.


Will and I on the footbridge crossing back the Thames at St-Paul’s Cathedral.



London in September


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I always love to travel to London at any time of the year. In the last 47 years I have been to London numerous times in all Seasons. There is no end of things to do and see, be it the opera, the theatre and yes we have seen extremely good theatre in London, museums and collections or just the pleasure of discovering a corner of the city not seen by tourists. Seeing friends and having a nice visit with them as we did again this time with J. and D.N., how Enigma Variations of me to just give out initials.

We stayed at the Bailey’s Hotel, 140 Gloucester Road in South Kensington, an hotel Will remembered well. It is very central and close to so many things, the underground is just across the street, lots of shops, restaurants, etc.

We visited the Globe theatre, it was my first visit to the site on the South side of the Thames just across from St-Paul’s Cathedral. Southwark (pronounced Suthick) is an interesting neighbourhood. The Globe is next door to Tate Modern Museum which is located in a former power plant. The whole area has been revitalized and is nothing like it was some 30 years ago, very vibrant.



We also discovered with our friend D.N. who has a most interesting blog and who recommends great books to read, he has the nose for books, his suggestions never fail to interest. http://davidnice.blogspot.ca  A garden which has been a fixture of London for centuries, I had never heard of it and it is a fascinating place, Chelsea Physic Garden founded in 1673, located at 66 Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea and across the Thames from Battersea Park.



Tucked away beside the Thames, Chelsea Physic Garden is a celebration of the beauty and importance of plants. Founded in 1673 it is one of London’s oldest botanic gardens and contains a unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants within its sheltering walls.

Omnia mirari etiam tritissima ( wonder at everything, even the most everyday things), motto of botanist Carl Linnaeus 1707-1778. 

Linnaeus was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who formalized the modern system of naming organisms called binomial nomenclature. He is known by the epithet “father of modern taxonomy”.

Sir Hans Sloane, 1660-1753, eminent physician is another person who was involved with the creation of this garden. To this day the Chelsea Physic Garden remains a wonder to visit.

We also walked some 22 km in London, it is a good city for walking. We also visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, there is always something fascinating to see and it is so well curated.

We only had 2 days this time in London and it was a busy time but so delightful.




Return to Dublin


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After a fantastic stop in Westport and the the visit to Ashford Castle and the time spent with the Hawks and Falcons, we returned via a very scenic route to Westport and our train waiting for us on our private platform. At the Station the train was too long by 3 cars for the platform, no problem, we had more oysters on the half-shelf and this time a small glass of Guinness, which I found to be a very good beer which goes well with Oysters.

Here are some of the views on the road back, Ireland is a spectacular country in its geography.





The West Country


County Mayo, in dark green. The Pink area is Ulster and its 6 counties,(Northern Ireland).

I can say that we have visited all of Ireland now, including Ulster. The Irish are a charming people, helpful and kind. Ireland has beautiful and dramatic scenery of great natural beauty. I learned to appreciate Guinness beer, me a non-beer drinker and sample 2 Irish whiskeys I really liked Green Spot and Yellow Spot which I found to be very good.

Though I preferred Yellow Spot Irish Whiskey.

Nose: There are masses of fleshy stone fruit on the nose, especially peach and apricot with hints of sherried dried fruit and Bourbon cask vanilla.

Palate: The palate is equally fruity with a substantial body and a velvety texture.

Finish: The finish is long and sweet with notes of marzipan and dried apricots.

Overall: This is very different to the Green Spot we all know and love with a delicious sweetness to it and a firmer body.


Our train arrived in early morning in Dublin Heuston Station, we took a taxi to our hotel to pick-up our luggage and headed to the Airport for our flight to London.


Heuston Station, Dublin

The next part of our trip was about to begin.




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I now know why Falconry is considered the sport of Kings. At Ashford Castle the Irish school of Falconry has about 24 Hawks and Falcons in residence. The Hawks are Harris hawks from North America. The female weighs about 2.5 Kilos and the male weighs about 1.7 kilos.

At our arrival at Ashford Castle we were taken by Land Rover to the school which is on the estate but at some distance of the Castle in the great park.


Falcons and Hawks are birds of prey, they cannot become pets and cannot be trained to be pets, that has to be understood from the beginning.  The instructor told us that we should under no condition try to pet them or cuddle them, the bird will think you want to harm them. They are majestic and dignified, not cute. Their claws are sharp and huge, the wing span when they fly off is impressive at 120cm or 47 inches.


Their eyesight is far stronger than any human eye, they can see things at a very great distance we would be unable to see. The instructor told us that from 4000 feet in the air they can see a little field mouse. They see in colour and differentiate various hue. They are also silent in flight meaning that you do not hear them coming or going. When they come down on a prey, the animal in their sight will never know what hit them. They are like a silent missile.


At the school they are kept in large enclosure, but each has its own territory inside  the aviary and a distance of at least 2 meters between birds must be kept. Otherwise they would attack each other and fight to the death. We took them out in pairs but I did notice that when they fly off they do so separately and will perch on different branches of different trees always at a distance of each other.




Since about 1980, Harris’s hawks have been increasingly used in falconry and are now the most popular hawks in the West (outside of Asia) for that purpose, as they are one of the easiest to train.
Their desire and ability to work closely with their falconer allows them to take a larger and more varied score of game than any other falcon or hawk species. They are effective on both bird and mammalian prey, and are willing to tackle game larger than themselves. Though not quite as athletic as falcons, the close and cunning ways they learn to work as part of a falconry team more than makes up for their somewhat lesser speed and endurance. Trained Harris’s hawks have been used to remove an unwanted pigeon population from London’s Trafalgar Square.

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Will is holding on his arm the male Hawk of the group. Females are usually the dominant partner of any Hawk group. They do not migrate like other birds and stay in the region where they live.






They come back to us because they know that in our gloved hand we have a piece of raw meat. However do not make the mistake of trying to fool them by not having that treat of raw meat, they will not return to you afterwards, you will be seen as untrustworthy by the Hawk.  Here I am walking back with my female Hawk, Maya. What a wonderful afternoon that was, quite unlike anything I have done before.

Ashford castle, Falcons and Hawks


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So after an extensive tour of Connemara our last leg of our trip brings us to Westport, Co. Mayo. Our visit here hit a highlight by visiting Ashford Castle and the school of Falconry.



Ashford Castle a former private residence is now a veery exclusive Luxury Hotel. The setting in a very large private park with its golf course, tennis courts, lake Lough Corrib, and Ireland’s School of Falconry, shooting range, etc. Guests are chauffeured around in luxurious Range Rover similar to those made for HM the Queen with liveried drivers.


view from the Golf course. 

A castle was built on the perimeter of a Monastic site in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman House of Burke.

After more than three-and-a-half centuries under the de Burgos, whose surname became Burke or Bourke, Ashford passed into the hands of a new master, following a fierce battle between the forces of the de Burgos and those of the English official Sir Richard Bingham, Lord President of Connaught, when a truce was agreed. In 1589, the castle fell to Bingham, who added a fortified enclave within its precincts.

Dominick Browne, of the Browne Family (Baron Oranmore) received the estate in a Royal Grant in either 1670 or 1678. In 1715, the estate of Ashford was established by the Browne family and a hunting lodge in the style of a 17th-century French chateau was constructed. The double-headed eagles still visible on the roof represent the coat of arms of the Brownes.

In the late 18th-century a branch of the family inhabited the castle. In the early 19th-century, one Thomas Elwood was agent for the Brownes at Ashford and was recorded as living there in 1814.

The estate was purchased in 1852 by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness from the Encumbered Estates’ Court. He added two large Victorian style extensions. He also extended the estate to 26,000 acres (110 km2), built new roads and planted thousands of trees. On Benjamin’s death in 1868, the estate passed to his son Lord Ardilaun, who expanded the building further in the neogothic style.

Lord Ardilaun was an avid gardener who oversaw the development of massive woodlands and rebuilt the entire west wing of the castle, designed by architects James Franklin Fuller and George Ashlin. The new construction connected the early 18th-century part in the east with two de-Burgo-time towers in the west. Battlements were added to the whole castle.

The Castle passed to Ardilaun’s nephew Ernest Guinness. It was gifted to the Irish government in 1939.

Today Ashford Castle is a luxury hotel, a major refurbishment was done in 2015.

We had lunch at the Castle in a beautiful dining room, service was in the grand style, very attentive, rarely seen today in any hotel.






Hotel grounds and garden




Half way mark


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Our trip to Ireland with Belmond Grand Hibernian was extensive. Each stop was very well organized and no detail was left unattended. Galway we had an excellent guide who gave us a good view of the city and its history. Vikings, Pirates, Spaniards, English, Cromwell and the Civil War, always interesting but complex, we had a great lunch Ard Bia at Nimmos a beautiful restaurant by the River Corrib (Irish: Abhainn na Gaillimhe) in the west of Ireland flows from Lough Corrib through Galway to Galway Bay. The river is among the shortest in Europe, with only a length of six kilometres from the lough to the Atlantic.


Our lunch started with a glass of champagne and oysters on the half shell. It was in an old stone building pictured above, it was at least 700 years old. We had Nan Tom Teaimin to sing some old Irish songs to us. She is a National treasure in Ireland, a very great artist and a great voice. She was not introduced to the group and no one knew who she was, it was somewhat embarrassing to discover afterwards that we had been entertained by such an artist.

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Nan Tom Teaimin singing at Ard Bia at Nimmos, Spanish Arch in Galway.


Ard Bia at Nimmos, highly recommended for its food.


Merchants Rd. Galway old town. 


At the Kings Head tavern we came upon this plaque at no.15 High Street.

A very interesting story about the Kings Head, with the fall and execution of King Charles I (Stuart) of England in the yard of Whitehall Palace in London, Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector of England. In 1651 the English parliamentarian army gathered its forces around the fortified city of Galway and a long siege lasting nine months ensued after various truce offers were turned down by both sides. A Colonel Peter Stubbers had been appointed Military Governor of Galway and on the 12th of April 1652 after the great siege he led the Cromwellian army as they marched triumphantly into the city. Two years later in October 1654 the last tribal mayor of Galway, Thomas Lynch, was forcibly removed from office and replaced by Stubbers who now became the first protestant mayor of the new order in Galway. Stubbers also took over the mayor’s house at No. 15 High Street. While Governor and then Mayor of Galway Stubbers initiated and enforced a brutal puritan regime on the town and peoples of Galway. Stubbers had all priests rounded up and marched off to prison to the sound of beating drums and blowing bugles. He also made frequent nightly raids throughout the countryside rounding up over 1000 Irishmen for transportation to the West Indies where they were sold as slaves.

The town also witnessed the more excessive elements of Puritanism in the despoiling of the churches and tombs both within and outside the town walls. They went so far as to break open the tombs and root out the bodies in search of treasure, usually when disappointed they left the carcasses uncovered so that they were often found mangled and eaten by dogs. After their desecration the town churches were used as stables for the horses of the Cromwellian soldiers. Stubber’s reign of terror, however, came to an end with the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. Upon this event Stubbers suddenly and mysteriously disappeared without a trace.

Stubbers was to be the only member of Cromwell’s inner circle to escape any form of punishment. Very little is known of him after this period, but it appears he fled to Germany.  Stubbers had at least one son Edward, who had also acquired property in Galway and the building at 15 high street was actually in the Stubbers family until 1932 when it was finally sold. The building was later turned into a public house and was appropriately named the Kings Head.

We also visited a fascinating little Church, St-Nicholas Collegiate Church, built in 1320, it is the oldest medieval parish church still in use in Ireland. The church is dedicated to St.Nicholas of Myra (aka Santa Claus). It is said that Christopher Columbus worshipped in the church in 1477. It is an Anglican church today and the Russian and Romanian Orthodox communities also worship there.


We departed Galway by entering into an old railway hotel, The Meyric Hotel on Eyre Square.  This was another neat thing about this railway trip, usually if you depart Galway by train you go straight to the railway station. However in our case Belmond had arranged for us to pass through the hotel and bypass the train station all together, like in the old days when patrons of the Meyric went through a private door opened only for them which gave unto a private platform where our train was waiting, how very nice.





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The Leviathan is something that is described as large and powerful. I remember towards the end of my high school, we read this book; Leviathan or The Matter, Form and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil—commonly referred to as Leviathan—written by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) and published in 1651. It was not easy going because it requires a lot of attention, reflection and in 1975 at 19, I probably did not have the sufficient academic background to understand it all.

Why would teachers pull out such a book in our sociology classes, maybe to expose our young minds to a difficult topic, forcing us to think.

The work concerns the structure of society and legitimate government, and is regarded as one of the earliest and most influential examples of social contract theory. Leviathan ranks as a classic western work on statecraft comparable to Machiavelli’s The Prince. Written during the English Civil War (1642–1651), Leviathan argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Hobbes wrote that civil war and the brute situation of a state of nature (“the war of all against all”) could only be avoided by strong, undivided government.

We also read The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli and found that book much easier to understand with it’s lessons still applying to our society today.


The Leviathan by Paul Griffin of Sackville N.S., at the Art Gallery of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown, PEI. Weighing 5000 lbs. or 2267 Kilos.

This sculpture is an Elm tree from New Brunswick that Paul Griffin selected and brought to PEI by truck. Just the fact that he was able to move such an incredibly large fragment of a tree over to the Island is amazing to me.

In August 2015 we were visiting the Island and saw Paul Griffin hammer daily the galvanized nails into the wood, some 100,000 of them. The Leviathan was then left on the upper terrace of the Art Gallery, until October 2016.

It was moved to the entrance gallery which is underground and leads to the Art Gallery. The new space inside the building with proper lighting gives a far more dramatic effect to this sculpture. A huge crane was required to lift the Leviathan unto a flat bed truck which then travelled around the Centre to the garage entrance on Richmond Street and from there moved inside into the Art Gallery.

Looking at this sculpture I am reminded of another sculpture by Rodin, the man that walks.lsk200721012121arc_pht.jpg



I really like this piece, for its texture and the sheer presence and mass and it occupies now a strategic area leading into the Art gallery.


More Ireland


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As we continued to tour Ireland we arrived at Killarney and visited Ross Castle on the lakes once owned by the ruling O’Donoghue Family in the 15th century.

The whole area is a huge National park of some 10,289 hectares once part of a large estate known as Muckross and now known as the Bourn-Vincent Memorial Park. It forms what is Ireland First National Park, a gift of the Bourn and Vincent Family who donated it all to the Irish Republic in 1932. On this estate stands Ross castle all of it set in wilderness. Three lakes all large are stocked with brown trout, Char, Salmon and Eel. It was very nice to visit such a beautiful and quiet place. Just West of the Park rises MacGillycuddy Reeks the highest mountain range in Ireland.




The three lakes are Upper Lake, Muckross Lake and Lough Leane. All part of a UNESCO Biosphere preserve since 1981.


While cruising on the lakes, we were served champagne to make the sailing more agreeable.

We then proceeded afterwards to the Galway and the cliffs of Moher. Though we travelled by luxury train, the railroad does not come near many of the most famous historical and geographically stunning areas in Ireland. An example the cliffs of Moher who are one hour away by car from the nearest railway station. Trains in Ireland connect only the large urban centres.

As we neared the Cliffs of Moher, we crossed the village of Liscannor where a large funeral was taking place for a young women who was part of the rescue team and she was part of a rescue mission sent to save a man who was caught in a storm at sea. Unfortunately for her she lost her life performing the rescue. In Ireland nature is still quite wild and unforgiving.

The Cliffs of Moher is an impressive site, you may have read about them or seen them in one of the Harry Potter novels or movie. The Cave in the cliffs is featured in the Half-blood Prince.



From the cliffs of Moher you can see the Aran Islands where the famous sweaters came from. It is said that each family on the Island had its own pattern. They were all fishermen and wore the sweaters when they went out to fish at Sea, however none of them knew how to swim, so if one fell over board in the rough sea, he would be drowned, the only way to recognize a drown man was by the family pattern of his sweater. The sweaters are no longer knitted by the women of Aran, they are now made in Galway by a large Irish clothing company.

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Looking straight out from the Cliffs of Moher some 3000 Km away is Newfoundland.

The cliffs is a special protected area, some 20,000 seabirds nest on the cliffs, Puffins, Chough, Razorbill, Guillemot and Fulmar.  The cliffs of Moher are well worth the visit, impressive at 200 meters in height facing the North Atlantic.