Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rock Sailing with Giants

Anyone who has ever taken a vacation knows how hard it is to see and do all the things on the adventure list. This is true when living abroad for a year. There are so many places and experiences. The longer you stay, the longer the list gets. And this has been the dilemma Zach and I find ourselves in with 360 days of our year spent.

One place we really really really wanted to go all along was Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Varying factors kept us away (butt-loads of homework, a disparaging neighbor who swore that it was total shite and not worth the trip, etc etc). But finally, we looked at our bucket-list and asked ourselves, what would be honestly regret not doing (besides not visiting Connemara?) and the answer was: experiencing the Causeway. So we booked same-day train and bus tickets and fled early one morning while the streets were still dark.

We went even though the weather report predicted horrible downpours and thunderstorms (with red lightning according to icons)! We went even though it meant more than ten hours in transit. We went because  some places just call to you from afar. You see pictures in magazines or in those extra-luscious, extra-large coffee table books and your heart and fingertips purr with the thought of traveling there. Giant's Causeway certainly called to me, and Zach is always the eager explorer or anywhere strange, unusual, and stunning.

We arrived almost awake after snoozing on the myriad trains and buses. The sun was shining. Not from behind a vast bank of clouds which is usually the case for a "sunny" day in Ireland, but actually shining clear of obstruction. (And there was certainly no red lightning anywhere in sight.) The sky was blue...not gray. The ocean was a jewel. And the Causeway was amazing! We trekked up and down the stair-step octagonal stones columns marveling at how a gush of volcanic goo could solidify into something that really looked man-made. It really made us stop and think about all the odd things stone does in Ireland. From the melted rock landscapes of the Burren to the dash-marked pillars of the ogham stones now mostly confined to museums--rocks are the most amazing yet most underrated spectacle of the whole island!

Even though we were dressed for freezing monsoons, we stripped down or folded up as best we could to play away the day in the hot sun. Zach went so far as to climb some of the taller columns. He lost his grip at one point and came sliding down fast. It gave me quite a scare, but he was not seriously injured. He managed to keep leaning forward and land on his feet, rather than topple back on to the craggy carpet below. Whew!

After that, we marched up winding cliff-side paths to take our picture under the towering columns known as the Organ Pipes. We set out on trails which meandered the very tip-tops of the rugged cliffs, where very few tourists actually go. We stood on the very edge of a cliff, clasped hands, and threw our arms in the air, letting the breezes blow us back, and in that whooshing moment, we stared all the way out to the horizon and pretended our promontory was the helm of a mighty ship, sailing fast and sure over the tossing and tumbling seas.

The illusion was fantastic and no doubt aided by our over-active writers' imaginations! We backed away from the edge of the cliff feeling breathless and exhilarated.

It was only after all this adrenaline and wonderment wore off did we realize that Zach's back had suffered a bit of twisting spasm during his fall. His sciatic nerve was awakened and roaring like the dragon you expect to find roaming the rocks at the Causeway (led on a leash by a Giant, perhaps). Fortunately it was time to go, so he could at least spend the next five or six hours resting up on one wheeled vehicle or another, but it was a long wait before he could get home to a hot shower and a soothing back rub à la Jenny.     

In the end we were so glad we went! No, more than that. We were plum tickled! Sure, there were still places to on our must-see list that weren't getting checked off, but we knew we could and would see them "one day" just as we saw the Causeway one day.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Popping Down to Cork

Our entire year in Ireland, we've wanted to visit Cork (both city and county), that much-talked-of region of  coastal beauty at the south of the island. We had incentive to go even before we arrived here last August -- someone, recognizing our love of good beer, had recommended the Franciscan Well brewpub to us. Our landlords talk about it in glowing terms every time they escape on a short holiday to "sigh... Cork." (Aine likes the people, Dos the ocean - though he warned us about Cork city.)

So finally, in the midst of a dissertation and a portfolio and all the final month wrap-up stuff, we decided it was about time to check it out. We had the extra incentive of our resumed beer book project, which requires us to interview some brewers and taste as many brews as we possibly can. (It's a rough gig.)

We shipped out (trained out?) the morning of the 7th. The train ride is pretty painless - just under 3 hours, direct. We schlepped out to our B&B on the west side of the city, right near the University campus... and it was, I won't like, kind of a sketchy establishment. Not like someone was going to haunt us in our sleep... but like we weren't entirely sure the floor in the bathroom would remain a floor for much longer, and we didn't want to leave the laptop in the room.

Fortunately for us, we didn't spend all our time in the room! We were outside as much as possible, I think, because it turns out that summer in Ireland has been hiding in Cork all along. We got to check out the English Market, the bustling (and very European-feeling) conglomerate of butchers, bakers, cheese makers, produce hawkers, and confectioners. (Yum!) We did a bit of walking around, and my general impression of Cork is that it's surprisingly artsy, considering how run down parts of it feel (I guess that means it's artsy without being pretentious?); it has more of a street art culture than Dublin, I think, and there's tons of galleries and music opportunities. (The downside? A whole lot of it smells like trash.) Of course we eventually ended up at the Franciscan. (Maybe Cork is just sketchy in general. We wouldn't have walked down this particular street if we didn't know what awaited at the other end. At least it didn't smell like garbage...) The beers were scrumptious, the beer garden was chill... and it was a good day all around.

The next morning, Jenny called it quits. Not on the trip -- but on the B&B. She found a much nicer B&B just a bit up the road for the same exact price, and we were able to relocate that very morning. (I think it was the shower that did her in. It would have done me in too, had I been the one to shower first.) This Wednesday was dedicated largely to a trip north to Mitchelstown, a small-ish town at the foot of the Ballyhoura "Mountains" and the home of Eight Degrees Brewing, a microbrewery run by an Aussie and a Kiwi. We spent over an hour chatting with them, and they were immensely generous with their time and their thoughts. (Their beer is truly scrumptious, too. If you ever see it, drink it!) They chatted so long with us that we talked right through our intended bus back to Cork - no big deal, as that allowed us to have dinner in town and wait for the next (and last) bus back to the city. We ate a remarkable and memorable meal at the Marketplace - ratatouille-stuffed bell peppers! - and then made it out to our bus stop with plenty of time to spare.

More than plenty of time, apparently. Because at 8:40, the bus didn't show. At 9:00, it still hadn't shown. By 9:30, I was back in the restaurant asking after alternate ways back to Cork, and Jenny was preparing to lie down in front of the bus if it happened to show and threatened to leave without me. These people were remarkably sweet. After they finished arguing about whether the bus was more likely to leave early or be an hour late (no decision), they called cabs to check prices, they called friends to see if anyone was headed to Cork (or wanted to do so for less than the cost of a cab), they contemplated everything short of building us a Wright-brothers-style airplane.

Finally, the bus DID show. (Over an hour late.) Grumble grumble grumble. Needless to say, we were so pleased to have a luxurious room waiting us. (Thank you, Jenny!)

Thursday was our day trip down to Kinsale, the Dos-endorsed coastal town. Summer was hiding from Kinsale that day, but even so it's a wonderful little place, full of narrow winding streets with unique coffee shops and bookshops and art shops. We took an hour boat tour of the harbor, sitting on the top deck at the very front where we couldn't hear the taped tour explanations over the speakers but could take some great pictures and tell our own stories about the landscape, the ruins along the bluffs, the cormorants soaring across the calm surface of the sea. We visited the Kinsale Crystal store, the only place in the world that sells the crystal deep-cut in the back room of the shop. Anna, half of the husband-wife team that run the place, chatted with us for ages about the crystal, about Ireland, about my five-finger shoes, and anything else we found in common. We ended up buying a small crystal bowl for ourselves (it's an heirloom!) and were very pleased with it.

We snacked throughout the day, but after our shopping we sat and had a wonderful picnic lunch (anyone who's eaten breakfast at an Irish B&B knows that lunch happens about 4:00 in the afternoon). Then after we headed back to Cork, we went once again to the Franciscan - not even for the beers so much as for the wood-oven pizza they cook up every Thursday night! And ohhh man, was it good. In my experience, some wood-oven pizzas get cooked too thin or charred too crunchy in spots. These guys did it right - the crust was thin and crisp and yet still bready, the fresh mozzarella was sooo yummy... and it was the perfect accompaniment to our playing pigs in the outdoor patio!

The trip was kind of a whirlwind - but even though Friday was our last day, it wasn't over yet! That morning, we walked for a good while through the campus of University College Cork. Of course it's not as ancient and manicured as Trinity's campus - but it is infinitely greener, with a great combination of trimmed lawns and wild-seeming woodlands. They have an actual river running through campus, and what must be one of the largest collections of Ogham stones in the world on public display! (Ogham is the ancient Irish method of writing; it's kind of like a vertical system of tally marks along a line. It also looks like a bunch of birds sitting on a telephone wire!) Then we took a walk down to St. Fin Barre's cathedral, whose three spires defined our daily walks to and from the B&Bs. We had to take in the English Market one more time - and this time we treated ourselves to some of the best ice cream we've ever tasted. Then we had one more interview - this one with Shane, the owner of the Franciscan, who was so kind as to sit with us for a while before his pub opened for the day.

That left us just enough time to go back to the campus and lounge about for an hour or so - the day begged for it, and for the first time in ages we were able to lie back on the grass, stare at the clouds through the fractal branches of a tree, and just enjoy breathing. What a perfect end to a wonderful trip!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Night at the Theatah

On August 2, Jenny and I had the extreme pleasure of once more visiting the theater in this most theater-influenced of cities!

Staying to see this play was a serious factor in our decision-making process waaaaay back when we were deciding when to return to 'Merka. It wasn't just any play -- it's Sean O'Casey's "The Plough and the Stars," a story about the regular people of Dublin set during the failed uprising of 1916. (When it was first performed at the famous Abbey Theatre, it caused riots. Not just throwing-tomatoes-at-the-stage kind of mayhem. I mean genuine riots. That's how revolutionary and controversial it was.) And it wasn't in just any theater -- it was scheduled for the Abbey stage, that very same place where the riots occurred nearly eighty years ago!

Well, we were in for a slight disappointment. Some time after we purchased our tickets, the Abbey announced that it had to undergo renovations of some kind, and the play would be moved to the relatively nearby OReilly Theatre. The move really was a bummer for us; yes, we got to see a play at the Peacock, the Abbey's experimental stage, for Jenny's birthday last October. But this was O'Casey, darnit!

Of course, once we got right down to it, the play was still a treat for us. We made a proper date night out of it, dining first at Messrs. Maguire at a table overlooking O'Connell Bridge and the River Liffey. We were decked out; Jenny looked stunning in her black dress, and I had my dashing Irish tweed coat (which I didn't get to wear, this being one of Dublin's three days of summer). A kind theatergoer took our picture outside before the show:

The stage was intriguing -- rather than the complete walls of the apartment where both the first and final act were set, we saw the doors and the metal girders. The bones of the building really emphasized the vicarious glimpse we were getting into this home, the side of the Easter Rising that history books and popular imagination fail to talk about. As far as we could tell, the play was excellent. (I say as far as we could tell because all the actors were proficient in their inner-Dublin accents; even a year here has not fully prepared us for every turn of phrase or every unique intonation!) A couple of the actors stood out from the rest, especially the man who played Fluther -- his presence stole the show, as far as we were concerned.

It may not have been the night we dreamed of months and months ago, but in its own way, our night at the theater was still magical, and I for one am glad we stuck around to experience it!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sunset Days

Well the sun is setting as I write this, but the sun is also setting on our time abroad. We've written endlessly. Word after word. Page after page. I've clambered deep into spider's webs, and blown glass bubble-dreams. I've walked the mean streets with hard-boiled detectives who hold hands with lady-monsters. Meanwhile, Zach has looked roadkill in the eye and walked away wiser. He's delved deep into the candy-coated wonders of temptations. He's even acquired some fresh saddle-sores wrangling matters of the heart in the good ol' west. And busy as we are, we've decided to add a new project to our never-ending must-do list: we're going to co-author a book on Irish microbreweries. We see it as one more rope to cinch down the sails of this windjammer we're riding, a zesty little vessel we like to call our lives as writers! And yet...(patient sunset, I have not forgotten thee)...

And yet, three weeks are all that we have left to finish up our portfolios and dissertations. To see all the sights. Eat all the delights. We've had such a marvelous adventure, made such amazing new friends.

But this is by no means our sayonara blog post from the island. Just a quick little note to let everyone know our wonderlust burns bright as ever. We've had a return trip to Waterford to interview Gráinne Walsh, master (madam?) brewer at Metalman Brewery. Coming up is an extended jaunt to Cork, then a mad-dash to Giant's Causeway, and you'll want to check back in for our write-up of the Ukulele Hooley!

As always, thanks for reading and enjoy those last dog-days of summer! We sure are.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wimbledon 2012 (Pt. 2)

The pre-dawn portion of Wimbledon Pt. 2 was much the same as the pre-dawn portion of Wimbledon Pt. 1: zombie-ritual and semi-conscious stumbling. Our taxi driver to the grounds was much chattier this day, however, so he forced us to remain awake (one part conversing to three parts accent-riddling). I'd say we arrived within five minutes of the exact same time as the day before, and yet--and yet!--we were two hundred numbers further up in the queue. We could only presume that fewer people had camped the night before; after all, we were now into the second round of the singles tourney, which meant fewer overall matches. Could we get Centre Court tickets with our improved position? We knew we'd find out -- in about five hours!

We were less fortunate in our queue-buddy selection, which is not to say they were terrible; they just weren't as convivial and friendly as Faye and Tom, the good folks from Oz, had been. In fairness, we weren't as convivial either; we attempted napping. Despite the cold hard ground, if we'd had a blanket over top of us, I'm convinced we would have succeeded.

Knowing what kind of wait to expect made the morning proceed overall much quicker. We bought a newspaper from a rolling cart to see the day's lineups, sipped more coffee, munched our breakfast-in-a-bag, and chatted the hours away. When wristband time came around, our options were once again limited to Courts 1 and 2. Which made sense -- the queue was overwhelmed with folks sporting RF gear (not, as I so foolishly supposed the first day, "Republic of France," but "Roger Federer" -- who, I must say, has a very well designed logo), and the Fed was appearing on Centre Court that day. Ah, well -- Court 1 had plenty of matchups we were excited to see, anyway!

Same as before, Court 1 play didn't begin until 1:00, so we had a good hour and a half of match play on the outer courts before finding our reserved seats. We shuffled on down to Court 3, where one of Jenny's favorite upstarts from last year, a German girl named Sabine Lisicki, was taking on Jovanovski. We cheered our hearts out for the peppy German -- I think in equal parts appreciation of her sense of humor, her perma-smile, her real (and not stilt-like) legs, her whoops-equivalent squeal when she made a boo-boo, and her hustle around the court. Perhaps we shouldn't root for her; after all, she does have a tendency to give us stress-attacks and make games go much closer than they should be. (This match went three sets, though Lisicki was clearly dominant; in the fourth round, she handled Maria Sharapova easily -- oh what fun THAT was to watch! -- then beat herself in another three-setter against Kerber.) But root we did, and in the process I found a tennis player to be my favorite. The game is wholly different when you're pulling for a specific player in the tourney (I'm a surrogate Federer fan, thanks to Jenny!) and not just picking a favorite in each match.

After the match, we clamored out of the bleachers and around to the players' exit. Jenny identified the right door, and we got there just in time to catch Lisicki leaving. I had our program and a Sharpie in hand, and I got her autograph! Not only that, I got to have a (very brief) exchange with her -- auf Deutsch! I was busy watching her sign the program, so I didn't see her face; but Jenny says that she lit up hearing someone speak her native language. Talk about a highlight of the tournament!

The way the Lisicki match was drawn out, we had nearly missed all of the first match on Court 1. But we weren't about to leave it! Besides, it was a match we didn't particularly care about. The second one on 1, however, was a must-see -- the completion of the Roddick/Baker match from the day before. The crowd still grew boisterous behind their native Jamie, but in the end Roddick pulled off a victory. We had to be proud for our countryman!

Then the infamous Rain Delay swooped down over the skies of ol' SW19. The rain wasn't too unbearable -- we sat outside for much of it -- but it was enough for them to pull out the court covers. All in all, the delay wasn't too long, and as soon as it wrapped up we welcomed Maria Sharapova (the then-world number one) and Tsvetana Pironkova to the court. Pironkova was a feisty little thing, and we cheered her on mightily (neither one of us being big Sharapova fans). She gave the #1 a good run for her money, but we sensed that she got nervous when she was actually close to winning the first set; ultimately she lost it, and was down 3-1 when they called the night for darkness.

(Side note: you don't get to see this much on TV, but Sharapova has the strangest rituals. I wonder if she in fact has OCD. I mean for real -- not the sort of mildly compulsive behavior about which we always jokingly say, "That's just my OCD." And not the sort of routine that many athletes like to utilize. Fascinating to watch.)

Exhausted, damp, and thoroughly reluctant to leave, we took our final pictures in front of the standings board. Then we joined the throng filing through the gates of the AELTC, wandered up the street, and hailed a cab outside of the mayhem. I was converted from "tennis appreciator" to "tennis fan," and I now know how Jenny feels sitting with me during a baseball game -- the sport truly is more fascinating, the more you understand it.

I could hardly think of a more fitting end to a first (and second) Wimbledon experience than falling straight into bed. I was asleep before my knees finished buckling!

Thank you, Jenny, for sharing such an enlightening and thrilling sporting experience with me!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jolly Holiday: Wimbledon 2012 (Pt. 1)

Oohhh, it's a jolly holiday in England which is where Zach and I spent the last week. Specifically, we journeyed to Wimbledon to see the Tennis Championships! I attended my first Wimbledon Championship tournament back in 1998 and have been raving about it ever since. It was a dream come true to finally get to share the magic and wonderment of the whole experience with my best friend, fellow-writer, muse, and confidant: Zach! Thus it was a natural decision to go once more while living abroad (because traveling from Ireland to England is cheaper and quicker than from New Mexico).

Attending Wimbledon requires patience. First you must endure the hours-long queue for tickets. That's right, get in line! Wimbledon has a tradition (er, rather lots of them) that they will not sell their tickets online before the tournament. You can enter a lottery to win tickets, and if you're are friends with someone rich and famous, they can give you a free ticket or two, but for the rest of us (Proles, plebians, peasants), there's the queue.

Used to be one could queue at about 4 a.m. just outside the grounds in a long line that wound its way through the surrounding neighborhood. Nowadays, the queue starts in a park near the tennis grounds, so campers come way in advance and hold their spots. And for good reason too. The first 500 tickets are for the legendary, mythical Centre Court, the next 500 for Court No. 1, and then a bunch for Court No. 2. Admittedly, I was tempted to go rent a couple of sleeping bags, but fortunately for Zach, my tennis-mania knows a few bounds. So (unfortunately for Zach) we got up at 3:00 a.m., performed in our sleepy-zombie state some ritual not unlike dressing and caught a cab bound for the All England Lawn and Tennis Club.

We guesstimated that there were only about sixty early morning people between us and the overnight campers, which is to say, there were only sixty people crazier than we were. Two people only slightly less crazy took up their spots behind us and we became fast-friends in queue terms. Faye, from Perth Australia, introduced herself as an annual Wimbledon attendee, while Tom--a youngster like us who was also, coincidentally from Australia--was attending for the first time, like Zach. But the Honorary Stewards keep the lines in order and keep up the moral. They come by in their fine suits and Panama hats with jolly announcements and pleasant conversation about tennis and the weather. It is everything a line should be in the civilized world, and the British would have it no other way.

Zach and I found out from our queue-buddies that even though we were the 1,099th and 1100th persons in the actual line, we could still be in contention for Centre Court tickets as many of the campers were students who could only afford the ground passes. So, we anxiously waited, dozed, chatted, waited, read the morning paper, waited, bought some coffee from one of the nearby burger stands erected to feed the queue of dedicated fans...and yes, waited some more. Just before nine, the wristband distributors worked their way down the line. We could hear them way off in the distance calling out "Centre Court! Who wants Centre Court?" But by the time they reached our section of the line, they had only Court 1 and 2 bands. We gladly took our bands for Court 1, which boasts its own fine array of celebrity players destined for outstanding matches (as does any other court at Wimbledon). But I did so want Zach to experience the grandeur of Centre Court.

As it turns out the grandeur of the grounds themselves was enough. I was overwhelmed with nostalgia, while Zach was all-amazement at how vast the tennis center is, with its many cafes, courts, stadiums, trees, fountains, and celebrity tennis legends who walk among the masses hauling their own massive racket bags on their way to courts. Yes, they just walk in and among the crowds. (The more unfortunate players have been known to get accidentally knocked down by eager, young fans racing across the grounds to land a seat at a smaller court. I'm not naming names, but there may have been a young girl in 1998 who literally plowed into a player, and who felt mortified after the fact.)

Although we had reserved seats on Court 1, play did not start there until 1:00 p.m., leaving us to roam all the outer courts where limited seats are open to anyone quick enough to nab them. Nab we did, for a bit of gentlemen's doubles, which is fast-paced nuanced tennis not often aired on television, but well worth the watch! Then we were off to Court 1 where we were delighted to find Faye seated next to us! We enjoyed  a match there, then scuttled back to Court 15 for ladies' doubles, then back to Court 1 for the rest of the day.

Cheering for the underdogs became our modus operandi. First we dug in as the few and the brave to cheer on Wimbledon first-time players Michael Russell and Donald Young (both from the U.S.). Then we cheered on Mona Barthel in her match against Vera Zvonereva, not just because she was German but also because we was the low-ranked seed in the match. We applauded Nadia Petrova and her partner Maria Kirilenko because even in the high-pressured moments of an intense doubles match, they giggled and had fun (and won in the end). We even managed to get their autographs afterwords. We cheered as long as we could for poor Lleyton Hewitt, who was no match for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (now playing in the semi-final against Andy Murray as I write this!). And we made our voices heard for poor Andy Roddick who had the misfortune of playing one of Britain's young hopefuls. Their match was incredible. Forget nail-biting. This one drove you knuckle-biting, it was so close point for point. They wound up having to suspend play once darkness and a bit of rain set in, but we resolved to get up early the next day and see the end of it (unless we nabbed Centre Court tickets...).

But for more on our second day at Wimbledon and the conclusion of our adventures in England, you'll have to switch over to Zach's post.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Full-contact egg races and a slice of Obamamania

This past weekend, Jenny and I road-tripped to the Irish midlands with our friend and fellow writer Eimear Ryan. She's a long-time fixture on the Moneygall camogie* team, and for as much as she downplays their quality of play, we gathered that a) Eimear is really good, and b) Eimear's team is really good. And not just in the way some of my slow-pitch softball teams were good.

*Camogie is the women's version of hurling, a traditional Gaelic sport. Think hockey on grass mixed with handball and an egg-race, and you won't be far off.

We met Eimear on Saturday evening, and she very kindly drove us to Moneygall. (Actually, Eimear lives in the finger of County Tipperary that extends into County Offaly just outside of Moneygall. Same thing, for our purposes.) Her house is lovely, and so was the family dwelling there.

After a brief pit-stop at the Ryan stronghold, Connor (Eimear's big brother) taxied the three of us into the town proper. Set the stage: Moneygall is a teeny-tiny town with one main street, and no one had heard of it until Barack and Michelle visited it in May of 2011. Our friend and host Eimear just happens to have grown up there. It has precisely two pubs, as far as we could tell, and they are right across the street from one another. The larger of the two is more or less what you expect out of an Irish pub. The smaller one is exceptional, and we wrote about it on our beer blog over here. (Here's the link to Adventures in Al"brew"querque.)

Moving right on ahead, after Julia Hayes, we went across the street to Ollie Hayes. (Eimear swears that not everyone in Moneygall is related.) Like much of the Moneygall strip, Ollie Hayes is steeped in Obamamania. The front is graced with a picture of the President emerging from the pub, and inside, Obama memorabilia lines the walls -- T-shirts, campaign posters, and loads of photographs. This pub even made the news back in Albuquerque, so of course they're proud of the attention! There's even a bust of Obama, and I must say, he looks quite dashing in a fedora. (There used to be a cardboard cutout of the President, too; it now resides up the street in the cafe.)

We didn't stay out too late. Eimear did have to sleep for her match, after all. We had a bit of a lie-in before breakfast, then Eimear took off for the game. Eimear's lovely mother (Berr -- my spelling could be off; it's short for Bernadette) gave us the grander tour of Moneygall by car, including the entire main street and then winding off into the beautiful soft hills to the church, which contains the records that reveal Obama's Irish lineage. (On the sign outside the church, we also found a tie to Circleville, Ohio -- my family's tiny hometown! Obama's great-great-great-great grandfather's brother filed a will in the courthouse there. It left a plot of land to Obama's ancestors and was the reason they left Ireland for the USA in the first place.)

Then we made it just in time for the camogie match. I can't say that we truly understand the game now, but we know how score is kept, and we know that the Irish must beat the self-preservation instinct out of their children while very young! Someone could easily lose a finger in these stick-thrashing melees! Now I see why Eimear comes to class with more bruises than a vampire slayer. Moneygall staved off a late Douglas comeback to win and advance to the semis of the Munster League. What did I say? Impressive!

Berr then took Jenny and me to the Obama Cafe up the street while we waited for Eimear to wrap up the postgame rituals. We had a delicious cup of coffee and a muffin while admiring the sheer amount of Obama swag. (The cafe was meant to be open for the presidential visit; complications meant that it opened about a month late. Oh well -- it seems to be thriving!) We then did our souvenir shopping there and just up the street, at the same souvenir shop where the Obamas took care of their own gifts. Once we finished, Berr took us a couple doors further down to the ancestral home of the Kearney's, Obama's forebears. The house has been opened to the public, and they've done a tastefully small display chronicling both Obama's heritage and his 2011 visit.

We reconvened with a showered and victorious Eimear, who drove us to the next town of Nenagh for a scrumptious dinner at an Italian restaurant. We were stuffed, and happy, and very satisfied with all we had packed into our day trip. Eimear was continuing on to Galway for a holiday with her folks, so she dropped us off at the bus stop. Jenny and I dozed our way back to Dublin, excited to post our pictures and share our Moneygall tales with all of you.