Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ireland, The Land of Shamrocks

This week it seems that in America and across the big pond; in the old country and the new, almost everyone is celebrating being Irish.  Some folks can claim a true Irish heritage, and others are Irish only in spirit.  But either way, we all seem to enjoy the experience of St. Patrick's Day.

In April of 1999, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to England and Ireland with my husband, who was spending a lot of time there on a big computer project for work.  The company he works for has a facility in England and one in Northern Ireland.  Now I realize that Northern Ireland is not really Ireland proper, as it's actually part of Great Britain.  But, if you have a rental car, the Republic of Ireland is within driving distance and one can spend the day there, which is what we did.

It really was a great adventure, this trip.  I'm so thankful I had the chance to go.  It was mostly a working trip for my husband, but at least he was able to be free on the weekends, and that's when we did most of our sightseeing.

Our trip was scheduled for ten days, and two of those were spent in the air between London and Raleigh, North Carolina.  One day was spent traveling to Belfast, Northern Ireland.  So that left us with five days in England and two full days in Ireland.

I don't have a lot of pictures of Ireland, but I'll share what I have.  We didn't own a digital camera in 1999, and these pictures were made on my beloved Canon Sureshot, 35mm, automatic focus.  My parents gave it to Mr. Forest Manor and I for our first Christmas.  It was so easy to use, and it actually took pretty good pictures.

I spent about two hours today scanning all these pictures into Picasa and editing some of them.  To be almost 13 years old, they've held up pretty well.

These pictures were taken in and around the town of Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland.  Newcastle is a seaside resort at the base of the Mountains of Mourne.  I like the colorful red and yellow trim on the doors and windows above.

We stayed at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle.  The hotel takes its name from Slieve Donard, the highest peak in the Mourne Mountains.

The big room that looks like a conservatory is where they served breakfast in the morning.  It had a great view of the surrounding area.

Breakfast consisted of eggs and Irish bacon (which is more like our ham).  What we would call bacon in the States, they call "streaky meat."  They also served sausages, toast with butter and marmalade, delicious yogurt with fruit, and tea and coffee.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention the traditional grilled tomato that is usually served with full breakfast in the U.K.

But the oddest thing they served was beans for breakfast; they looked just like what we call pork 'n beans that you buy in a can.  I don't know how they tasted because I didn't eat any. :)  I made a point to try most things while I was over there, but I just don't do beans for breakfast.  The other thing I could not bring myself to eat was the black pudding.  If you're not familiar with this dish, it is also known as blood pudding or blood sausage.  It's a blend of onions, pork fat, oatmeal, flavorings, and blood (usually from a pig).  Ugh. 

These next pictures are outside the hotel, looking out towards the Mountains of Mourne and the water...more breathtaking views.

Yes, this is Yours Truly, in a little garden area outside the hotel.

Some of the photo is slightly faded out, or over-exposed, I'm not sure which.  The funny thing is, I wore that green coat almost everywhere in England and Ireland.  It seems to pop up frequently in our pictures. ;)

This picture was at the back of the hotel.  The walkway led down to a wrought-iron gate, which opened onto the beach.

The beach, with tennis courts to the left.

A closer glimpse of the pretty, wrought-iron gate.

Here are the Mourne Mountains, running right down to the sea.  They were often misty like this in the morning.  Makes me think of the Misty Mountains in Tolkien's Middle-Earth Trilogies.

Even though these pictures are old, you may be able to tell that the quality of light in Ireland is beautiful and has so many variations.

That's enough pictures, I think, for one post.  I have just a very few pictures of Dublin I'll show in another post.  My post doesn't have a recipe or pretty table; due to a re-model, our kitchen and dining room are in chaos at the moment.  I hope it's okay for me to join Cuisine Kathleen's St. Patrick's Day Blog Party Crawl, beginning tomorrow, March 13th.  There will be lots of food, pretty tables, and at least 40 shades of green.  Hope you'll be there!  Thanks so very much for hosting this fun party, Kathleen!!

Thank you for visiting the House at Forest Manor.  I always appreciate your visits and kind comments.  What do you plan on doing to celebrate the Irish this week?

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