Thursday, July 15, 2010

Save This Map for Later

Ballyvaughan is a tiny town in County Clare, pinched against the south side of Galway Bay by the Burren's otherworldly karst. Its most-photographed feature is a signpost:

Notice the very top: "This is just a signpost. If you want information, go somewhere else." (Photo copyright by Tina Manthorpe, all rights reserved.)

Diane and I passed through Ballyvaughan in August, 2006, and this sign changed our trip -- but we had become accustomed to Irish signs changing our plans by then. We entered Ballyvaughan planning to go out in a certain direction, but decided to go in another direction or three based on what we saw on the signpost at the town's center.

That's the way Ireland's towns' signs are, if you look at them in a calm and measured way. They are designed to be studied up close, not glimpsed at 100kph in BIG LETTERS. After all, if you're in that much of a hurry, you already know where you're going, or should. Signs should give options, not directions, and should be near pubs in which you can discuss the options with knowledgeable locals or charming liars. Or both, most likely. After such deliberations, your destination can be assessed and, if need be, altered.

All that by way of introducing this map of our tentative plans for the next month (please click on the image to see a larger and clearer one) from Google Earth:

This is where we're going to go. Maybe. We think. Or maybe not.

It should be fun to see a map in a couple of months that shows where we actually went and how much similarity it shows to this rough-out.

The green parts should probably look much the same; they represent excursions to places where we have reservations for overnight accommodations away from Birr (which is at the center of the map, from which four green lines and one white one radiate.)

The big northern green loop includes Armagh (historical center of Irish research astronomy in the 1800's, and current home of not only the old observatory but also a modern planetarium), Derry (from which my most recently-emigrated ancestor, my father's father's father's father, Patrick McMackin, left aboard the bark Fanny in 1848), and the Giants' Causeway. Recent events make a trip to Derry even more imperative for us. The return trip will take us through Donegal and Sligo -- I think.

The western loop marks our return to the Clifden Connemara Pony Show -- you really can't visit Ireland in August without going to that, can you? We've splurged on the Rosleague Manor House in Letterfrack again this time for resting between ponies, if only for the best croissants in the universe.

And the southwestern loop to Counties Kerry and Cork has its nexus in Killarney, which will be our base for exploring the Dingle and Beara Peninsulas. Of the latter, Ireland for Dummies says:

"When you get home, don't forget to tell your friends that the Beara peninsula was terribly ugly and boring. That way, the peninsula will remain the wild and unspoiled place that it is now, with many ruins (both ancient and more recent), magnificent seascapes, and sweeping hills."

If you want just a taste of what Dummies is referring to, you can start with a bit of a Google on Tuosist, Uragh, Drombohilly, and the Dursey Island cable car. While we're nosing around those places, thousands of tourists will be plodding around the Iveragh Peninsula to the north on the two-lane "Ring of Kerry," as we did four years ago. I'm glad we did it, but we'll never do it in a crowded August again.

The white lines are possible day trips from Birr, at our whim of a morning when we don't have anything scheduled in town or the castle archives. A return to Loughcrew is high on our list, as is a trip down to Waterford to see (starting with a skeptical eye) the new crystal factory, downsized, under different management, and with different employees. A trip through the Burren by a different track from before is important to me, and a venture to the more genteel environs of Wicklow can take us to the National Stud, too. And several jaunts to Dublin are in order this time.

Our list of places we want to see is long -- but I can almost guarantee that it's a very different list from the one we will have gone to when all is done in September.

That's just the way Ireland works.

2006: Actual peregrinations. I wish we had made a "planning" map for that trip; it would have been quite different from the actuality shown above. (Click to see a legible version.)


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Weather Warnings

I feel as though I'm posting more frequently while on hiatus than I was before.

I was just perusing Met Eireann's website, checkin' out the Irish weather.

There are certain weather warnings that I'm used to seeing on our National Weather Service's website for our area of Northern California: rainstorms in winter, fire conditions in summer, high wind or dense fog warnings at any time, for example. But I have never seen this particular one on this side of the Atlantic:

Blight Warning

Weather conducive to the spread of potato blight will exist for a time today (Sunday) and again during Tuesday and Wednesday There will be opportunities for spraying this evening and for much of Monday
Issued at 22:00 on 03-Jul-2010

Note that this is on the national weather website, not one dedicated to agricultural issues. Some things remain close to the surface for a very long time.