Poolbeg Lighthouse

It was another walking day today as we decided to visit Poolbeg lighthouse, which is described as an “iconic red lighthouse reachable by a lengthy seawall that attracts sightseers, anglers & cyclists”. It looked reasonably close.  It wasn’t.

But it was an enjoyable walk with many interesting sights along the way, starting with a sculpture commemorating the Irish famine, with a link to Canada, where many immigrated during the famine.  This is especially moving given the current refugee situation in the world.


It turns out we were only getting started.  Next we walked past row houses that probably housed dock workers at one time, though now they appeared rather more upmarket.


But from there it went downhill, with several kilometers of docks, container storage, waste water treatment plants and scrap yards.  About here some of us were seriously questioning the plan, and the planner.


And then we emerged onto the beach at the edge of a park.


And finally, the lighthouse.


It turns out that we hadn’t picked the best route to the lighthouse. The other route went through a park along the water, instead of through an industrial wasteland. So for the return trip, we opted for the more scenic route.


The hills along the path were covered in wildflowers in bloom.


… and trees (I think Yucca?) also in bloom.


Another very long walk, but well worth it.

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Deep Dive

If you are ever in Dublin, I would highly recommend visiting the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology. Compared to some, it’s fairly small, but it has excellent displays that delve into Irish history, from the Neolithic through the Vikings and the Middle Ages. Admission is free, so you can visit as often as you like. For us, that can be dangerous because we are “museum people”, and we can take a deep dive into the most arcane topics.  Take for example this late Bronze Age wooden wheel.


This single exhibit led to at least an hour of discussion and research over the course of two visits to the museum as we tried to decide if it was made from a single piece of wood, or multiple pieces.  In the end, we finally realized the information was there all along, if we only looked more closely.


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Tuesday in Dublin – Part 2

Amazingly, some of us weren’t interested in a 20 km walk yesterday, so we split up for the day. While we were walking in the park, J & D explored the Viking/Medieval area of Dublin. I mentioned earlier that we were staying in Temple Bar, but I discovered this isn’t quite right.  We are actually just outside of Temple Bar, in the Viking/Medieval area. This area has buildings like this Norman church with it’s distinctive steeple.  It’s something we instantly recognize from the time we lived in England, though the boys were too young to remember it.


There was even a small section of the original Dublin city wall – a very small section, as it turns out.


As you walk around Dublin you often see brass plaques in the sidewalk related to some aspect of Dublin history. It appears these are designed to help you with self guided walks.  Not surprisingly, in this area they mainly relate to the Vikings. This one shows the wattle and daub construction technique of that era.


Here is one that commemorates the Viking age, and shows a typical dwelling of the time.


And to go along with the plaque, the floor plan was laid out in the paving stones. This was something we had learned about when we toured the archeology museum.


This is the sort of thing that we enjoy doing when we travel – just wandering around getting a feel for the character of the city.

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A Walk in the Park

We decided on a change of pace for today. After spending yesterday in the museum, we decided today would be spent outside, so we headed to Phoenix park.

IMG_3067The park is about a 30 minute walk from our hotel, and it is rather large – about 4 km long and 2 km wide – so we had lots of opportunity to walk along the open paths.  And we had lots of exercise for the day.

IMG_3041  The chestnut trees were in bloom…


We came across a bird nest in a dead tree.


There is also a herd of Fallow deer in the park.  Apparently it is a “wild” herd, but they are really rather tame, so you can get very close.


However it actually is a wild herd, so there are numerous signs warning people not to feed the deer.


So of course the next thing we saw was this…


We later realized he was feeding the deer so that he could take a selfie with the deer looking over his shoulder.  There are no words…

From the park you have occasional views of Dublin and the surrounding hills. If you are wondering about the state of the Irish economy, this picture should give you the answer.


After a full day of walking we toured the Guinness Storehouse and enjoyed a freshly pulled pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar with stunning views over Dublin.


And finally, pizza at Forno 500, where we enjoyed the best ever Napolitana pizza. We were assured that it was even better than in Napoli.


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Rainy Day in Dublin

We are staying on the western edge of Temple Bar in Dublin.  I’m really quite pleased that we are on the edge of Temple Bar because it would be a lot rowdier if we were in the center.  This is perfect – near the action, but quiet when we come back to the apartment at the end of the day.


The forecast for the day said rain, so we decided to spend the afternoon in the National Museum of Ireland – Archeology. I highly recommend visiting if you are ever in Dublin.  An afternoon wasn’t nearly enough time, so we plan a return visit later this week – but to be fair, we are museum people…

But first we had lunch at the Beanhive restaurant. The food was great, and the latte art even better.


I have no intention of attempting this next one at home.


There was only a hint of rain on our walk to the museum, but by the time it closed at 5:00, the skies had opened. We started to walk back to the apartment, but quickly decided this was a great time for a Guinness.


And it was…

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The flight from Montreal to Dublin is relatively short at just over six hours. Of course, that means that even if you close your eyes immediately after takeoff, and if you can sleep just about anywhere, you are still going to get a poor night’s sleep. And if you are like most people, you will be lucky to get any sleep at all.  Let’s just say that one of us had a poor night’s sleep, while that rest were lucky to get any sleep at all.  So we spent the day walking around Dublin, getting a feel for our surroundings, and trying to stay awake.  Mostly we enjoyed relaxing in St. Stephen’s Green where the flowers were in full bloom.




Walking around the park there are a number of signs remembering the 1916 Easter Rebellion, including a poignant reminder of how it was suppressed.  You can still see bullet holed in the arch at the entrance to the park.


It was a low-key day, so we just wandered around letting our feet take us where they wanted.  Here was an interesting shot of the architecture inside the St. Stephens Shopping Centre.


And I’ll end with more street art, and a wish for the day…


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It’s Complicated

One of the reasons we decided to visit Panama was the fact that it is a UNESCO world heritage site. This seemed like a good thing. It’s hard to object to something that brings investment and tourist dollars to an area that is economically depressed. Or so I thought. It turns out that it isn’t quite that simple. Before long we came across banners protesting against UNESCO.  Not a lot of them, but there were a few.


So in this final post about Panama I want to take a moment to point out the pros and cons.

First, the pros. The old city is being steadily restored, preserving its original beauty with many lovely buildings like this.


But of course this is a work in progress, so you will see striking contrasts between the buildings that have been restored, and those that have not.


Some of the original buildings are in terrible shape.


And while some are abandoned, there are also some that are still inhabited, and the contrast with the restored buildings is rather stark.


When these two worlds are side by side, it gets messy.


And yes, that is razor wire between the two balconies.


Apparently there are also illegal squatters in some of the buildings, including in some that are part way through restoration.  These partially restored buildings are effectively wrapped in razor wire.

IMG_2522I had the sense that most people were in favor of the UNESCO status and happy for the benefits that it brings.  But there was definitely some resentment toward the gentrification that went along with it. But the simple fact is that we never would have visited Panama if it had not been for UNESCO, so on balance I think it is positive. But as I said, it’s complicated.

Next stop, Dublin.



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Street Art

We are getting ready to head out on our next trip, so this is probably a good time to finish the two remaining posts I’d planned about our trip to Panama.  The first post is the easy one, dealing with street art. A few things we saw suggested that 20 years ago most of the buildings in Panama were generously “decorated” with graffiti.  That clearly  isn’t the case today, but there are still hints.

When you get outside the central core of the old city (not more than 5 – 10 blocks) you start finding fairly traditional graffiti, like this.


Or this…


And then a little further out, you find art that probably has a political message.


And then art that clearly has a political message.


But closer to the center you find art that has been – I’m not sure this is quite the right word – but art that has been gentrified. This “graffiti” has been framed and protected under plexiglass.


But my favorite was in the center of the old town, across the square from our hotel. It was painted on the second floor of a hollowed out building that will no doubt be completely “restored” in a year or two. I can’t quite decide if the “flying girl” is soaring above everyday concerns … or getting out of Dodge while she can. I like it either way.


Next up, the dilemma of gentrification.

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Enough Already


This picture was taken yesterday.  And yes, that is fresh snow falling – on top of the several feet of snow that has been on the ground since November. I am so done with this winter. Enough already!

So to help me think happy (and warm) thoughts, I’ll return to our Panama trip.


When people ask what we do when we travel, our stock answer is that we wander around trying to figure out where we will eat dinner. We say this only partly in jest. It’s actually a great way to see a city – and to find great food. That was how we ended up at Navaja on our second night in Panama.


It is fairly small and unassuming, but with wonderful food. Apparently it’s not the kind of place that tourists discover. That led to a conversation with the people at the next table, and before long we had a recommendation for an even more out-of-the-way restaurant. If you didn’t already know about Donde Jose, there is no way you would even guess it was a restaurant.


See what I mean? Even with reservations and the exact address, we had a difficult time finding the entrance (it is the doors on the far right). But oh my, was it worth it.  The restaurant has only 16 seats, with a fixed multi-course tasting menu and wine pairing. The dishes focus on local flavors and ingredients, and it is just amazing. You can probably tell that we loved it, and would highly recommend it.  But you absolutely must make reservations well in advance.  We barely managed to get a table before the end of our trip.

That’s all I can write tonight.  My mind is distracted by thoughts of wonderful food…

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Homeward Bound

We are flying home today. When we step out of the airport at the end of the day, we will be greeted by -24 C weather (11 below zero, Fahrenheit) .  With that thought in mind, I will limit myself to a short post today.

We stayed at the Central Hotel, pretty much in the center of San Felipe, the old part of Panama City. But the hotel is also on Avenue Central.  It was build in the 1880’s so I suspect the avenue is the reason for the name.  The hotel sits on the Plaza de la Independencia, so it is nice and open. Here is a view of the hotel and the plaza.


The Cathedral of Panama City is on the other side of the plaza.


And as I head back to the land of ice and snow, I will leave you with another picture of the local vegetation. This isn’t an abandoned building – it is well maintained, and on a busy street – and yet it has already sprouted a tree growing out of the side of the building…


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