Monday, November 9, 2009

October 2009

The first half of October followed September's trend of sunny, mild weather. The leaves don't really change color here - they stay green and then all just seem to be gone one morning, usually after a particularly windy night. Like these trees behind our cottage - they were green one day, bare the next.

The veg garden in early October - fall peas, cosmos and cabbage.

Climbing Carrauntoohil
October's clear skies invited us to take a day trip to County Kerry, just south of us, to climb Carrauntoohil, the highest mountain in Ireland (1,039 meters or 3,408 feet). It can be a dangerous climb if it's foggy or misty in the mountains (which is most of the time) and people have lost their lives on Carrauntoohil when bad weather conditions took them by surprise. We were lucky to have clear weather coincide with a weekend, and with the shortening days there was just enough daylight to drive to the trailhead and make it up the mountain and back down before nightfall. (Theoretically, anyway. More about that later.)

We started our trip on the car ferry that crosses the River Shannon between Clare and Kerry. This cuts off about 85 miles of driving the long way around through Limerick.

From the foothills, looking back to the lake where we started our climb.

Heading up the first hill. This ridge is shaped like a horseshoe, with Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest mountain, at the apex of the horseshoe flanked by Ireland's second and third highest mountains on either side. This walking loop is 7 miles and ascends six different peaks. The next day our legs felt broken and we spent a lot of time sitting down.

Bushwackin' Bill leads the way. You can see the horseshoe shape of the ridge in this photo - we started by going up the first hill on the left, then continued from left to right across the ridge at the top of the photo, and back along the ridge on the right.

Sittin' on top of the world

On top of the second peak - the other mountains that we'll climb on the return trip are visible across the deep valley.

Resting on the peak of Ireland's second-highest mountain, with the highest, Carrauntoohil, looming behind me.

We had to cross this razor-back ridge (middle of photo) to get to the base of Carrauntoohil on the left.

There's a surreal, Tolkein-esque look to these mountains.

A cross at the top commemorates some of the mountain's victims.

Purple shale and green lichen form abstract patterns on the steep mountain sides.

And check out what that little sign says:

The fog was starting to roll in and cover nearby mountain tops. Time to get going - we still had a few hours of walking.....

..... and two more peaks to scale before the descent.

Looking out to the sea and Dingle Peninsula in the far distance. Even though Carrauntoohil is only 3,400 feet - lower than the high peaks of the Adirondacks in New York - the Irish mountains feel much higher because they surrounding area is at sea level.

Looking back at Carrauntoohil, now starting to get fogged in.

Having a sos beag (Irish for "a little rest") as the sun sets slowly in the west. Due to a couple of unforeseen circumstances that morning too lengthy to go into here (a lost dog followed by car trouble) we got on the trail about 3 hours later than we intended. The last hour of the walk was in full dark, but it wasn't too bad since we had flashlights and were back down in the foothills by then.

Vegetarian Cooking Class

In September and October I taught a 6 night vegetarian cooking class, using the commercial kitchen at a performing arts center in Ennis. The classes booked out quickly with a waiting list of people who wanted to get in, so they are going to run again in February. I'd never taught cooking before but it was a lot of fun and great to be back in a teaching role again.

Each night focused on a different type of ethnic cooking: Italian (lasagne and polenta with mushroom sauce); Mediterranean (cous-cous and spanokopita); Japanese (nori rolls and miso soup); Mexican (nachos and burritos); Thai (green curry and an appetizer called miang kam) and American (cornbread and Hoppin' John, a southern black-eyed pea stew).


We met another friendly musician and he invited us to Dublin to hang out for a few days. Barney Bowes plays fiddle (what an appropriate last name for a fiddler!) and banjo, and we kept running into him at various sessions and festivals this summer. We got to talking and it turns out one of his sons is building a house in Clare, so when Barney was around in September we had him over to the cottage to play a bunch of tunes. He returned the invitation and invited us up to Dublin, which we had (amazingly!) not visited in almost two years of living here.

Christchurch Cathedral - we stayed in apartment belonging to a friend of Barney's, just around the corner from here in the center of town. It was a quick visit - we left Clare on a Saturday morning and came back on Sunday evening. While we were in Dublin we did some sightseeing and played at an oldtimey session on Saturday night, and a mixed session (trad, bluegrass, oldtime and ballads) on Sunday afternoon.

An enclosed bridge from the cathedral leads to a Dublin history museum across the street.

In the museum - my Joan of Arc impression.

The bell tower at Trinity College

The cobbled courtyard at Trinity College

Grafton Street, a lively pedestrian area near Trinity College

The pond at St. Stephen's green - kind of a mini-Central Park in the middle of Dublin.

The river Liffey divides Dublin in two, crossed by some lovely old footbridges.

Nice fresco on this building

Fresco detail - a humble depiction of women washing clothes in the river

There are no tall skyscrapers in Dublin, but lots of these types of grand buildings - it reminded me a bit of Washington, DC.

A late October misty morning in County Clare