Toot-toot to Malahide

Northward bound. We caught the northbound DART from Sandy Mount Station for the half hour trip to Malahide Castle. It was our first excursion to the area north of Dublin.

Arriving in Malahide, a beautiful and quaint town, we expected to see a magnificent castle perched on a hilltop. We debarked from the train. Where is the castle? Scanning the horizon all we could see were tree-lined streets and colorful flowers spilling down lightposts and out of window boxes on the homes and businesses.

Puzzled, we finally spotted a sign and arrow pointing to our left – Malahide Castle. We set off with the expectation of seeing the castle around the corner. No such luck. Mike then spotted a Tourist Information sign with an arrow pointing to an impressive building. As we walked to the door we realized it was a church. What? Is the Church now luring tourists in? After asking several people for directions – all had no more clue than we did – we headed back to the train station to find help. In the station parking lot we encountered the toot-toot train – a miniature red circus train for kids. The conductor invited us to find a seat as he was heading on his rounds and Malahide Castle was one of his stops. We managed to squeeze into the incredibly tiny compartment for the journey (I am sparing you the humiliating effort to get off the toot-toot). Suffice it to say my knee is sporting a nice bruise.

Our visit coincided with a clear, gorgeously sunny day so we opted for strolling the extensive gardens planted by Lord Milo Talbot the last member of the Talbot family’s 800 year occupation of the castle rather than a tour of the castle itself. Lord Milo died in 1973 and the estate passed to the Irish government and is now open for the enjoyment of all (who can actually find it.)

The gardens were indeed lovely. We felt totally at home as many of the rare and tropical specimens Lord Milo had collected were plants and trees we are completely familiar with – palms, aloes, and eucalyptus.

Slainte. Slan go foill.


Wrongway Coach to a Midsomer Town

And that title is as misleading as the plot of any Midsomer Murders mystery. Inspector Barnabess and her loyal but often befuddled DS “Mac” were on the right coach (at least on the way to the murder) and they weren’t anywhere close to Midsomer.

We actually took the train to the picturesque seaside town of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced dun Leary – Irish pronunciation is a mystery all in itself.)

We stopped into the Irish Design Gallery to look at Irishmade goods – woven scarves, shawls, jewelry, watercolors, soap and candles. We wandered down the boardwalk and had an informative chat with the woman running the RNLI shop — Royal National Lifeguard Institute. The courageous women and men of the RNLI are volunteers who put to sea in all weather and conditions to rescue those in need.

Now we come to the Midsomer Murders moment that poor, put-upon Joyce Barnaby longs for – a comfortable sit at the seaside in the brisk ocean breeze munching on delicious fish & chips.

As to the murder, the only victim was a haddock filet and a basket of fries—delicious and worth the trip. With the breeze picking up, our intrepid team decided to return to home base. We hopped the next south-bound train. Odd, this one has *tables* all the way down each coach. Too late, we realized this was a nonstop straight to city centre. Kate’s helpful seatmate, more on the ball than Mac, suggested she push the emergency button at Sandymount, our home station, but rather than spend the night in a Garda station we opted to carry on to the end. A short return trip from Pearse Street Station (Stasiun na Bpearsa) saw us back to home dock and dinner.

A lovely afternoon by the sea complete. Slainte. Slan go foill.

St. Enda’s School & Padraig Pearse

Today we zubered (or should that be ubered?) south 10 miles and 100 years to visit St. Enda’s School. With fifteen beautiful acres this lovely spot was once the home of a radical experiment in education led by one of the later central leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. Today the property is owned and supported by the Irish government. Entrance is free (the folks at the entry don’t even have a way to accept donations from visitors.)

The current exhibit is titled “Who was Padraig Pearse?” It was opened by Ireland’s Uchterain (President) Michael D. Higgins at the 2016 celebration of the Easter Rising.

As we worked our way through the excellent exhibit materials and walked the sunny grounds, the laughter of children—at times  haunting—rang out from the surrounding woodlands. An enthusiastic bunch of primary grade students were there for a long day visit.

Here are a few photos of the school and grounds.


Old Friends

Dublin, the capital city of Ireland is definitely old. Known to Irish-speaking citizens as Baile Atha Cliath (“the town of the ford of the reed hurdles”, or the shallow spot on the River Liffy) was probably established by Vikings some 1200 years ago. That early settlement was also called Duibhlinn, meaning “Black Pool,” but rumors that the name came from a leak at the nearby Guinness plant are definitely false.

The city is definitely an old friend, though, and we spent today revisiting a few favorite places. Today was sunny and warm so, with our good-for-a week Leap passes in hand we hopped on the Dart (Irish Rail) train at Sandymount Station and headed for town. First stop: Grafton Street and its Vodaphone store to get our phones fixed. Then across the street and through the Fusalier’s Arch into beautiful St. Stephen’s Green. This four square block park provides a relaxing spot in the center of Dublin for workers, students, and visitors alike.

Amid hundreds of insistently hungry seagulls Kate spotted a stork and took its photo. Then we just found a bench near the central fountain and people-watched. City workers taking lunch, couples holding hands, gangs of a dozen or more chattering students, and lots of folks hurrying through on their way to who knows where.

Eventually we found our way over to Harcourt Street and the Conrad na Gaielge (Gaelic League) Shiopa Leabhar, or bookstore. There we found some great Irish/English books including Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s An Prionsa Beag (The Little Prince) and Re O Laighleis’ brand new Trumptai Dumptai agus an Falla Mor (Trumpty Dumpty and the Big Wall.)

Our final pilgrimage of the day was to Bewleys on Grafton Street to admire the beautifully restored stained glass windows and to grab some late lunch. Restored, we once again brandished our Leap cards to hop aboard the Luas (trolley) Green Line and then ride the Dart back south to Sandymount and home.

= Slan go foill =

1 Down and 29 to Go

Writing this short note from our Dublin “home,” the Clayton Inn, Ballsbridge. The Clayton is a beautiful old brick six-story hotel whose former occupation was home to the British Embassy in a (formerly) hostile country. It’s located close to the Irish Rail stop at Sandymount, just 15 minutes from downtown Dublin.

Our SAN–JFK (New York) flight was good except for a 30-minute Trump delay. His presence at the nearby UN apparently caused disruptions for many flights. The JFK–DUB flight, however, was delayed 90 minutes while the flight crew deplaned a very sick passenger and then had to locate and remove her checked luggage.

Tomorrow we’ll deal with our phones which have both stopped working (no texting or WhatsApp at present). Probably Vodaphone has updated their SIM again and we just need new ones.

Best news today, Mike had an opportunity to practice his Irish on the cab driver with exchanges of “Dia duit, conas ata tu?” (Hello, how are you?”) and “Ta me go maith, go raibh maith agat,” (I’m good, thank you!)

One more story: the cabbie, an older born-and-raised Dubliner, told us that when he was a kid his family like many others proudly kept a small piece of Lord Nelson’s pillar on their hearth mantle. The IRA in 1966 blew up this symbol of British imperialism that stood in the heart of Dublin for many years. Kate and I saw more of the pillar’s remains in the gardens of Kilkenny Castle where they form a comfortable circle of butt-rests for garden visitors.

Slan go foill! (Goodbye for now!)

Aaaand they’re off!

Mike’s out first with a heavy bag–at least 40 pounds, but whoaa! Kate cuts around the porch corner and it looks like she might make it to the idling Uber first. Oops, down goes Mike, sliding on a stone, but he just manages to get his fingertips into the closing back door. Ouch! That’s gotta hurt. So, finally they’re off once again to Lindbergh Field and ultimately to that Emerald Isle of Western Europe, beautiful Ireland.

Check in later to see whether they managed–this time–to pack everything they’re going to need. On the 2013 trip Mike forgot his debit card, which made getting Euros to pay for the taxi to the hotel bit of a challenge while Kate dug furiously in her bag in a befuddled, jet-lagged state for her card–our first travel causality. Always good to get the first one out-of-the way. 🙃

This trip is partly about genealogy. We’ll be exploring O’Bendorfer family roots (mother’s side, obviously) in Dublin, Northern Ireland, and perhaps once again on the west coast where we discovered in 2013 that one of Kate’s family branches–the Bodkins–was a founding tribe of Galway. (Norman horse thieves, according to one story.)


The bronze badge above belonged to Kate’s grandmother around 1910, , listed in records of the day as an Irish scholar meaning she was a young student who presumably spoke and studied primarily in the Irish language–Irish.

Third Time’s the (Lucky) Charm

Dublin, here we come again! Don’t worry, we’ll just be there to check the impact of global warming on the Emerald Isle. Hopefully the beer’s not gotten too warm. 😄🍻 Plus, where else could we get away from our own Orange Eejit? So, we’ll see you all in a couple of weeks.

Ireland map

NB – Go here to see blog posts from our two previous visits to Ireland and Scotland: (