Dublin-The Brazen Head

December8

We caught a glance at The Four Courts building

as well as Christ Church Cathedral also known as Dublin Cathedral. It is an Irish Anglican church founded in 1038 by Vikings who occupied the city! In 1539 King Henry VIII mucked about with the building too.

When we saw this sign, we knew we had arrived at the right place. The Brazen head claims to be Ireland’s oldest pub and meeting place for historic rebels. There has been a hostelry on this land since 1198. The present building was erected centuries later in 1754 as a Coach’s Inn however the Brazen Head appears in documents as far back as 1653.

The pub is located away from the Temple Bar area on Bridge Street. This is found on their website: In this area the original settlement that was to become Dublin got its name. The Irish name for Dublin is Baile Atha Cliath- which means The Town of the Ford of the Reed Hurdles. Beside the pub is the Father Matthew Bridge which crosses the River Liffey. It was the very spot that the original crossing of the river was located. Here reed matting was positioned on the river bed which enabled travelers to cross safely at low tide.

The day was dark as was the tiny rooms like this one, where we were fortunate to find a table. We could imagine those rebels from long ago sharing plans and secrets as they huddled around the fire for a pint.

I wondered whether beer was once served out of the enameled jugs hanging from the ceiling.

The menu was somewhat limited but we did find Steak and Guinness Stew for Sister #2,

Fish and Chips for me

Seafood chowder for Sister #3 and

Irish Soda bread with that divine Irish butter!

But the highlight of that evening was not the food.

The highlight was squishing our way into the front room of Brazen Hall where the live music was still going strong. Indeed it was not only the best night of our time in Dublin but an evening that we will always fondly remember. A table of locals decided to take us under their wings and squished onto their bench, as well as giving up chairs so we could be comfortable.

This particular group of friends assemble every Sunday afternoon to sing along, clap and stomp with the local musicians. One woman’s late husband played with the group before he died and she attends every Sunday to honour his memory.

The locals were quite fascinated that the three sisters would choose to travel alone to Europe. They thought that we must all have been single. They tried to figure out our birth order which I was delighted with, given that I am the oldest by eight years!

There were many memorable tunes that we valiantly tried to sing along too. My favourite was Galway Bay as I had visited the beautiful little city a number of years before. I tried to raise my voice, smiling broadly with tears in my eyes.

Kath’s quote: “My soul to soar, forever more, above you Galway Bay” from the song by Francis Fahy (1854-1935)

Love never fails.

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Dublin-a Whirlwind

December7

We arrived in Dublin just as the sun was going down. To say our arrival was a disappointment would be a gross understatement: our cab ride from the airport to the hotel cost more than our flight, there was literally no food at the hotel, there was no place in the area to buy food, the first room we were given was not big enough for three and our fun plans for the evening were not meant to be. When the hotel manager (who negatively contributed to most of these circumstances) told us he was going to make it up to us if we agreed to have dinner in the hotel, hit a foul ball. We anticipated a complimentary glass of wine or perhaps an appetizer. What he did was give us a nice table (in an empty dining room). I could fill a couple of blog posts with our many complaints…suffice it to say: the three sisters were not pleased.

We pledged to make the best of it and the next morning we scouted out of the hotel just as fast as we could manage. It was the Dublin marathon that morning and as we boarded the Luas (the Irish word for speed) along with just about everyone else in the suburbs, we realized that all the roads in and out of the city centre had been closed. Once full, the train whisked by many disappointed spectators and was very efficient in getting us downtown. We wanted to go to the Irish Immigration Museum but first: coffee and food!

Quite accidently, we came upon the Arlington Hotel. Actually, we wandered into the their pub, which had recently served Irish breakfast to a mass of tourists and families, downtown for the marathon. When they spied us, they welcomely set us up at a clean table with a carafe of coffee plunked down in front of us. Ahh Dublin hospitality!

This was Sister #3’s breakfast as my plate wasn’t quite so nicely laid out. I selected something of everything, enjoying breakfast sausages along with a bevy of other meats and breakfast items but what delighted me was the Irish Soda Bread. It was set up at its own little table right next to the toaster, jams and marmalades. I politely only indulged in two pieces…I could have eaten half a loaf!

We hadn’t entered through this front door, so my first impression was actually my last impression of the hotel as we left. If only we had found this gem of a place earlier in our hotel search.

Sister #3 had researched our next stop. This is what drew us: Discover why 10 million people left Ireland and explore the impact they had on the world.

We knew the story would be a hard one to hear the details of and it was. We also knew of Irish resiliency and humour, so we set off to discover that.

We had a couple of last reminders of their hardship, when we went past the Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay. Walking amongst these life-sized skeletons made the depth of their despair that much more real to us. In all the facts about the memorial that I have read online, there is no mention of who underwrote the cost of this effective exhibition. A plaque at the site read that the memorial was a gift from Canada to Ireland to acknowledge the important effect that Irish immigration had on Canada.

Just a few steps away from the sculptures is a tall ship moored in the water that is set up as a famine museum. The Jeanie Johnston is a replica famine boat and is a fitting background of the statues.

This is the imposing building that gave the Custom House Quay its name.

As we crossed the bridge to Temple Bar we came upon these real-life marathoners. One of them was married to a Canadian and made us feel very welcome to their country. They were not Dubliners but had made the trip for the marathon. Sister #2 looks happy to meet them in spite of her falling asleep.

We had good fun, wandering the narrow streets of the Temple Bar area, deciding where we should stop for a pint.

Then we came upon the crown jewel of Irish Pubs. Sister #2 took our pictures and I didn’t notice until I was formatting photos that we had gotten photo bombed, and good!

The bar was packed and we couldn’t get anywhere near the live music that we heard in some far-off room, so we wiggled into a space by the window with a couple from Newcastle that once lived in Alberta Canada. They were so lovely and welcoming, and we would have been delighted to have spent more time with them, but they had a brief weekend together and we didn’t want to home in on their time.

With a picture to prove that we had visited, we were off.

I guess we are not as famous as Sean Connery, as the bar didn’t ask for a copy of our picture.

Kath’s quote: Best while you have it use your breath. There is no drinking after death. –author unknown

Love never fails.

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Last Day in Malaga-Tapas Tour

December5

Our time in Malaga was winding down, but we had one last day to savour the food and be immersed in the sights. I was so captured by this exquisite statue, right across from where we were meeting our tour guide for our Malaga Tapas Tour. The sculpture “Mom raising a Child” was completed by Vallencian artist Mariano Benlliure.

The Christmas decorations hadn’t gone up, but there were these beautiful garlands that hung in the ancient trees on the grand boulevard.

Everywhere we strolled there was a new sight to behold.

We began our tapas tour with a peak into the window of this long-standing store front.

In their front display case, they sold Bacalao (salted cod), rolled up to look like an enormous herring. I had never tasted it but a relative from Newfoundland absolutely loves it!

A stroll through Old Town led us back to the Market, which had become a favourite place in a very short period of time.

It was our guide Javi, from Malaga Food Sherpas who explained the history of the market and its importance to the community. This particular tour chose small artisans, grocers and chefs to share their personal stories and their passion for food.

Our first tastes were of another variety of Sangria along with the artichokes that we loved at our own market lunch. Fairly new to us though, were the Padron peppers. I once had blistered Padrons that were being tested for a Winnipeg restaurant, but I don’t know if they ever made it onto the menu. They are a bit hard to source especially in the middle of Canada. Unlike other peppers, most are mild but occasionally you might bite into a very firey one, without rhyme or reason.

At another stall in the market, I spied my favourite tapas of all time-Spanish tortilla. Well, I guess it would be a tie between this dish similar to a potato omelet and patatas bravas. Can you see why I call myself a potato aficionado?

Here is Javi, our expert foodie and guide. He was delighted that Sister #3 spoke some Spanish and was such a food expert herself. This tour was her birthday gift from Sister #2 and I.

Javi spoke of the delicacy of figs and almonds, both plentiful in the surrounding country. He demonstrated how to split the fig and slip the almond inside-simple and absolutely delicious.

At still another shop, we sampled Iberian ham, mild hard cheese and a couple of locally made dry sausages. All were beautifully cured and delicious.

At our next stop we were served an amazing white soup called gazpachuelo. Neither Sister #3 or I took a picture of it as it was served in a white bowl. Take our word for it though, the Andalusian white gazpacho made with potato and salt cod was divine, especially as it was served at room temperature.

Our last destination that day was at a beautifully restored restaurant called La Gloria, almost next door to the Picasso Museum that we had visited earlier. Had it not been our last day in Malaga, I predict we would have visited again. The outdoor patio was packed with diners that day.

Here we were served another version of croquettes

and another style of ham. The ham was very fatty but delicious, especially with a squeeze of lemon that neutralized the fattiness.

This was the place where I was finally able to sample the Spanish tortilla (potato omelet easy on the eggs).

It was jazzed up with a spread of homemade mayonnaise. Oh yum!

And finally, another version of fried eggplant. This time in wedges and without the honey. Equally as good as the first version we had tasted.

Can you guess why the three sisters were so happy in this pic?

We found Casa Arunda and they were not out of churros! We ordered what we felt was enough to share but then we had to order again as they were so amazingly good-a light airy confection which soaked up the chocolate sauce!

The restaurant was packed on a Friday evening with couples, families and co-workers all enjoying this elusive treat. We couldn’t have left Malaga without this final delight. But after the last dunk of creamy chocolate, it was time to head home and pack up for our next and final destination-Dublin.

Kath’s quote: “Never make eye contact with a stranger when you’re having a churro.” – Rucy Bran

Love never fails.

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Malaga, Day Four-Paella

December2

When I am home, D and I have tea together most afternoons. Even though our schedule was drastically different in Malaga, I craved tea around 3 o’clock every afternoon. Since the Air BnB was so well stocked with China, I enjoyed this afternoon’s tea from a China cup and saucer.

Once we were hungry for supper, we strolled towards the centre of town again and went the route via the Market (now that we had successfully found it).

Right by the Market was this beautiful apartment building built in 1925.

We knew where we wanted to try Malaga paella and headed to where we had heard it was stellar-Los Mellizos. They actually had two locations right across the street from each other (hence the name-the Twins) but neither had opened yet for the evening, so we had to kill some time. We found this lovely sidewalk cafe and stopped for cervezas. Little did we know at that time, that we would be back later that evening.

Another refreshing jug of sangria was ordered as we shared a paella made for three. Unfortunately, our eyes were bigger than our appetites. Sister #2 didn’t really care for it and Sister # 3 carefully eats small portions. So the gauntlet was thrown to me, and I couldn’t manage more than my fare share and we ended up taking home the leftovers. In the end I realized that I would have preferred if the Mixto had been a mix of sausage, chicken and shrimp as I expected. Mouthful after mouthful of exactly the same taste, did get kind of tiresome. But how do you know, unless you try. Right?

We wandered the streets again looking for churros for dessert and this time we actually came across the cafe! Alas, they had sold out of churros for the day. But we did not fret.

We went back to that earlier cafe and indulged in decadent ice cream cones. All was not lost!

Kath’s quote: “Never ask a girl who is eating ice cream straight from the carton how she’s doing”-authour unknown

Love never fails.

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Malaga’s Botanical Gardens

December1

We debated for a long while, whether we should take a day trip from Malaga to a village close by or spend our budget on something a little less draining on us all. Once again Sister #3 did her research and found that there were Bontanical gardens just on the outskirts of the city. We hailed a cab and were on our way.

This beautiful mosaic was just inside the gate, and we knew we were in for a special wander.

Here is some of the history of the gardens from their website. “The hacienda of La Concepción has its origin in the union of several farms located on the banks of the Guadalmedina River, north of the city of Malaga. With an agricultural vocation, there were crops of cereals, olive trees, almond trees, vines and, above all, citrus fruits. Its creators were the marquises of Casa Loring, Jorge Loring Oyarzábal and Amalia Heredia Livermore, both sons of well-known businessmen who came to the city in search of fortune. According to the jurist Rodríguez de Berlanga, the idea of making the garden came as a result of the visit to the palaces, villas, parks, haciendas and botanists that they met on their honeymoon, made throughout Europe seven years earlier. For the creation of the garden they had the help of a French gardener named Jacinto Chamoussent, who selected and acclimatized exotic plants, obtaining numerous awards for his work.”

“In 1911 La Concepción was sold to a couple from Bilbao formed by Rafael Echevarría and Amalia Echevarrieta, who expanded the garden with new areas such as the Arroyo de la Ninfa, the Avenida de Palmeras and the Mirador towards the city.”

“Once the Basque couple died, La Concepción passed into the hands of Amalia’s brother, Horacio Echevarrieta, who kept the hacienda in perfect condition until 1963, the year in which he died. From then on the estate went into open decline, with the abandonment by his heirs of its buildings and gardens.”

“The garden, recognized in 1943 as a “historical-artistic garden”, occupies 3.5 hectares. Its main value lies in its characteristic topography, its intact layout and the collection of subtropical flora it houses. Located on the side of a small mountain and with a landscape design, waterfalls, streams, fountains, stairways, greenhouses, large trees and old palm trees follow one another, the latter constitute one of the best existing collections in Europe.”

“This is called the Historic Viewpoint built by Rafael Echevarría around 1920, it is regionalist in style. From it you can see the cathedral, the castle and the mount of Gibralfaro, the mountains of Malaga, the sea in the background and the leafy grove of the Hacienda San José on the other side of the highway.”

“Of the more than 3,000 species present on the farm, there is an important monumental grove, with centenary specimens, where the ficus stand out, amidst magnolias, pines, cypresses and cedars, among others. There are also giant birds of paradise, bamboos, water lilies

and a unique climber that covers a huge arbor in iron of the nineteenth century.”

“This mansion was built as a recreational residence from the acquisition of the estate by Jorge Loring and Amalia Heredia in 1855. Built by the German architect August Orth, it is a classic style villa located on top of a hill from where you could see the entire estate and even the cathedral of Malaga and the sea. Its interior is organized around a central courtyard with marble fountain and double height with gallery, so that the rooms on the upper floor appear.”

“It had several rooms, billiard room, chapel, kitchens, cellar, numerous rooms and a celebrated library, where they gathered unpublished manuscripts, books of the fifteenth century, classic works and everything that was published related to the history of Malaga.”

Sister #2 and #3 appreciated the central courtyard as a spot to rest for just a bit.

I fell in love with Moorish tile when D and I visited the Alcazar in Seville a couple of years ago.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch in front of the house before making the descent back down.

With that, we were back at our starting point having enjoyed a jaunt in the country without leaving the city.

Kath’s quote: “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the (wo)man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. “-William Blake

Love never fails.

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