Jona and I spent the last full day of our trip at the cliffs on the eastern coast of Ireland:
The area (called Howth…rhymes with “both”) was so pretty that I’m gonna let the next 10 photos do the talking, although I will say quickly that the water you’re looking at is the Irish Sea:
Toward the end of our trek, I sat on the edge of a cliff:
Jona came over and joined me (her cousin Shane took the following photo) and we cheated death together:
It really was a long way down. Here’s what it looked like from where we were sitting. The red arrow (to provide some perspective) is pointing to a person who somehow found a way to climb down there:
It actually wasn’t that scary. But you know what is? Standing on the edge of the subway platform at 59th and Lexington during rush hour. Now THAT is something to think twice about.
Back in the adjacent village, the first few houses we passed were all spectacular:
It was already dark at 5pm when Shane took us into a pub to get hydrated and warm. He and Jona are sitting in the corner in the photo below:
Then we got a “take-away” order of fish and chips at this place…
…and walked to the edge of the village…
…where Seamus (Shane’s father) picked us up and drove us home.
In Ireland, there are all sorts of funny words for things…like, for example, the trunk of a car is called the “boot” and bathrooms are casually referred to as “toilets.” When it comes to food, chips are called “crisps” while french fries are inexplicably known as “chips.” That said, here’s what my fish (smoked cod) and “chips” looked like (after they were reheated and dumped on a plate):
We finished off the meal with a few mince pies:
After dinner, we watched several hilarious episodes of “Little Britain USA” and Jona spoke to one of her newly discovered half-brothers on the phone for the very first time.
Day 3 of our trip was Christmas, aka “Rickey Henderson’s birthday” to those whose religion is baseball. (More on baseball in a bit.) There wasn’t anything to do in Dublin. Everything was closed. So Jona and I hung around the house all afternoon with her aunt and uncles and cousins and their kids (a few of whom aren’t pictured below):
During the last hour of daylight, we walked over to Dublin Bay (less than half a kilometer away) and took a long, leisurely stroll along the promenade. The tide was way out, so it wasn’t as pretty as it normally is, but I still got a couple nice photos. Here’s the first…
…and here I am with Jona (and her pink mohawk hat) in the second:
Back at the house, we ate a traditional Irish Christmas dinner:
That’s right. We had turkey with gravy, mashed and roasted potatoes (or “spuds” as they’re called here), cranberry sauce, and stuffing. There were also a few vegetables that I avoided.
After dinner, Jona and I played a game of Scrabble (on a mini-travel set that we’d packed for the flight). We all watched a lot of TV, and Jona and I fell in love with a comedy duo that’s insanely popular here in the UK. It’s called “Little Britain.” Check them out on YouTube.)
That was pretty much it. Slow day. But I have a few baseball things to report.
Seamus (Jona’s aunt’s husband, whose name, as I mentioned in my Day 1 entry, is pronounced “SHAY-muss”) surprised me with his interest in baseball. Not only does he own The Ultimate Baseball Book…
…as well as three major league caps and a 1986 Mets mug…
…but he’s related to a Hall of Famer; his great-grandfather was married to Ed Delahanty‘s aunt!
By the way, Seamus and his wife Joan had a funny exchange when he first put on the Sox cap. She thought it was perched too high up on his forehead, so she told him to “bring down the peak.”
“Don’t tell me how to wear me bloody cap!” he barked with a smile, then turned to me and said, “She’s a terrible woman.”
Seamus really DOES like the Mariners and reminisced about the days when Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Randy Johnson all played together on the team. Seamus gets a good amount of MLB games (and news) through his standard cable TV package, and he makes a point of watching the World Series every year. (He doesn’t understand why it’s called the “World” series when it only involves teams from North America.) His favorite player nowadays is Ichiro Suzuki, and he described a defensive play he once saw in which Ichiro “threw the ball nearly all the way to home base from the boundary.”
I’ve been keeping up with MLB news since I got here. First it was Teixiera, and now it’s…
GUSTAVO WATCH, PART 17
You remember the sad story of Gustavo Chacin, right? To sum it up quickly:
The latest Gustavo news is proof that the Jinx is always with him, even during the off-season when I’m an ocean away and distracted by other things. Just within the last few days, he was signed to a minor league (Ha!) contract by the worst team in baseball. That would be the Washington Nationals. Chacin has become such an inconsequential scrub that the move didn’t even make front page news on MLB.com. Here’s the story.
The day began with a traditional Irish breakfast:
Just had to get that in.
One of the strangest things about Ireland (which I realize isn’t strange to the people who live here) is that steering wheels are on the wrong (right) side of cars and cars drive on the wrong (left) side of the road. Here’s a photo of Seamus in his car…
…and here’s a photo taken from the road:
…and explored cobblestone streets…
…and checked out Dublin Castle (left to right: Shane, Jona, Zack):
We walked through several shopping districts and malls. My favorite (because of all the old books) was George’s Street Arcade:
Dublin is a beautiful city of temptation:
Grafton Street was packed with last-minute Christmas shoppers:
Shane led us away from the mayhem and into a quiet park called St. Stephen’s Green:
Then Shane and Jona grabbed lunch at a small restaurant, and even though I wasn’t hungry, I still ate because Shane said there probably wouldn’t be food at our next destination. So, what did I eat? Just a small, light meal–a cheese/bacon/potato “cake” with pasta and potato salad…and a vanilla/pear scone with butter:
(I can’t seem to figure out why I always gain weight when I travel.)
Next stop: Jona’s aunt Marion’s house, located in the countryside 16 miles from Dublin. Jona had met Marion (her father’s sister) only once in her life, decades earlier, and didn’t remember her; this was the first t
ime that Jona was meeting Marion’s husband and their two 20-something-year-old kids–her first cousins.
The house itself was, to put it simply, other-worldly. Built in the year 1700 on an ancient burial ground, it’s believed to be haunted and known to be over 6,000 square feet. (That’s a VERY conservative estimate. I’ve never been in a bigger house.) There were more than 30 rooms. No one in the family had an exact count; they’ve only been living there a few months. And that’s not all. The house is surrounded by 20 acres, on which one can find a tennis court, an apple orchard, half a dozen (empty) horse stables, and a 4,000-foot castle (complete with a spiral/stone staircase) that was built in 1579. I’m telling you, the whole thing was straight out of a movie.
It was already dark when we arrived, so here’s the best photograph I got of the castle:
Here’s what it looked like on the way to the stables…
…and here’s a collage of just a FEW rooms and staircases in the house:
It was the sickest thing I’ve ever seen. The collage above doesn’t even begin to do it justice. There were staircases that led to other staircases, hallways that led to hallways, walk-in closets the size of New York City studios, dens, studies, master bedrooms, guest rooms, a game room, a reading room, a laundry room, and a gigantic (now unused) “servants quarters” in the basement. I wanted to play hide-and-go-seek but a) there wasn’t time and b) I would’ve been too scared to be alone. Yes, most of the house was cozy and tastefully furnished, but still. It was so big that at one point, Marion’s husband (Jimmy) couldn’t find his son (Colum) so he pulled out his cell phone and called him.
There was also an enormous eat-in kitchen, where Jona and Shane and I were served tea, followed by a chicken-and-vegetable-curry over rice…
…followed by an English dessert called trifle (with extraordinarily fresh whipped cream)…
…which was accompanied by a spicy/rich fruit cake (which I neglected to photograph) with more whipped cream. I was still stuffed from my unneeded lunch, but what was I supposed to do? I didn’t want to offend the hosts or the ghosts, so I ate.
Jona’s parents separated when she was a newborn. Jona only met her father once after that, several years later, during a brief trip to Ireland, and he died of a massive/unexpected heart attack several years after that. Jona, as you might imagine, has almost no recollection of him so she’s been piecing together his mysterious past through a combination of his siblings’ stories and old photographs and his artwork. He was a painter–quite a successful one, evidently–and several of his pieces were scattered around the house. In the four-part photo below, you can see a portrait that a fellow artist painted of him along with three of his own pieces:
By 8pm it was time to move on to the NEXT destination. Marion, who insisted that Jona (and I) return in the summer, drove us all to the home of her brother Ciaran (pronounced “KEER-on”).
In case you’re losing track of the family tree…Marion is Jona’s aunt…which means Ciaran is Jona’s uncle. Jona had never met him (or his wife Mary) before. So, in we went, for a couple hours of schmoozing.
In the four-part photo below, starting on the top left and going clockwise, you’re looking at a) everyone sitting around in the living room, b) Jona in between Ciaran and another of her father’s paintings, c) Shane, Ciaran, Jona, me, and Mary, d) Jona being shown photographs of cousins and uncles and aunts and half-siblings that she’s never met:
At around 10pm, Marion drove us back to Dublin. It was Christmas eve. The streets were dead:
Seamus picked us up (to save us the 25-euro taxi ride) and drove us home. (On the wrong side of the road.)
That’s right. I’m in Ireland. No baseball here. Sorry to disappoint. Why Ireland? Because my girlfriend Jona recently discovered that she has family here, and they’ve paid our way to come visit. It’s a long story, one that I won’t get into here (in part because it’s kind of personal), so I’ll just say that a few weeks ago Jona got an unexpected phone call from a distant aunt in Ireland and learned that she has two half-brothers and a half-sister from her late father’s second marriage. (Crazy, no?) So we’re here, staying with the aunt (Joan) and her husband (Seamus…pronounced “SHAY-muss”) approximately seven miles from the heart of Dublin. This is first time I’ve been to Ireland; Jona was here once before, a few decades ago, and doesn’t remember much.
That’s the background.
As for the trip itself, we flew out of Newark Airport at 7pm on Monday, December 22nd. Because of the time change–five hours later in Ireland–it was 7am the next morning when we landed. Joan and Seamus picked us up at the airport and drove us back to their place. Jona and I had a quick bite, then took a four-hour nap, then hung around the house, and finally headed out with Joan. It was 4pm, and it was already starting to get dark when I took the following photo of the house from across the street:
We got on a double-decker bus, rode into Dublin, and started walking:
Joan dropped us off at Trinity College where Jona met her uncle William for the first time ever. (William and her father were brothers.) He took us to Bewley’s Cafe–a spot where Jona’s father used to hang out–and filled her in some of the family’s history, including the fact that her father had another son…with an Indian woman…which meant Jona has a THIRD half-brother!
William then took us to The Dawson Lounge (which bills itself as “Possibly the smallest pub in the world”) and walked us past the mayor’s house…
…and dropped us off in a bustling shopping district. Jona and I wandered into shops and malls…
…and then met up with her first cousin Shane (Joan’s son) whom she’d only met twice before. Shane treated us to drinks at another well-known pub called Kehoe’s. Here I am with Jona out in front:
Then we took a taxi home. It’s now 1:30am here. Jona just learned she has a fourth half-brother (named Jonah!) who was put up for adoption as a baby and is now believed to be living in America. (I just learned the Yankees got Teixiera. Ugh!) We’re exhausted, mentally and physically, and we have a big day tomorrow, although I’m not yet sure what it consists of. Our whole trip is gonna be less than a week. I’ll try to blog again tomorrow…