May 042011

Day 10 (April 29, 2011)

Itinerary: Day in Dingle for the Pan Celtic Festival

After staying up late last night, we decided to do our own thing this morning and prepare to leave the cottage at noon. I woke up and did productive things like laundry and then decided that since it was so sunny outside that I’d hang the clothes outside and sit with them with my laptop to try and catch up on blogging. I’m falling behind. Several of the others found the channel on tv covering the Royal Wedding and enjoyed the British commentary about the arrival of the royal family. I hear the hats were quite interesting.

The weather outside was glorious again today. I think we tend to bring good weather where we go. We visited Seattle and never saw a drop of rain either. Today is going to be lovely. When everyone was ready to go, we scooted down the road about 30 minutes to the small town of Dingle, the town hosting the 40th Pan Celtic Festival this year.

Our first stop was at the little farmer’s market where we found yummy lunches. The Hot Melted Raclette consisted of melted raclette cheese on french bread. The melted cheese came from half a cheese wheel held under a flame, melted, and then scraped onto the bread. We also found some homemade desserts from several homemakers in town showing off their baking. I heard no complaints about the food.

Today was all about wandering around the town. The Pan Celtic schedule informed us that musical displays and dances were to take part all day around the town. We all went in search of entertainment, splitting up along the way. All the little store fronts were super cute and very individual, so I started taking photos hoping to make a collage at a later date. Several of us found our way to the craft market going on near the church. Mark’s parents made it just in time for a very interesting workshop on the traditional Irish Lace. Alan, Mark, and I wandered town to see what we could see.

The highlight of my day was entering a tiny music shop with a wall full of traditional Irish music CDs. I started talking to the owner of the store and she gave me some recommendations on good CDs with Uilleann pipe music. She even opened up several and played a few tracks so I could get a feel for the CDs before I bought any. We had a really good and somewhat long conversation before I found 2 CDs I liked. She found out I was from Houston and directed us towards a pub where the owner was from Houston as well. We said goodbye and decided to head towards the pub since it might have music playing.

We found O’Sullivans Pub where it was supposed to be. The directions were to stand on the (minuscule) bridge at the bottom of the street and look for a blue building with a guitar hanging on it. Sandra and her husband opened the bar only several weeks ago. He is a touring musician and she is from Houston. We chatted with her hoping some musicians would come to the pub and start playing. Her long-haired mini dachshund, Cricket, played with me the entire time and after a while we left to go find some other entertainment since nothing was going on here. Sandra mentioned that musicians will just show up randomly to play and her husband would join in for a little trad session (traditional Irish music). We promised to be back later.

The town sure seemed to be full of parked cars, traffic, and tour buses, but we never could find any of the promised street entertainment. That was a little disappointing, but it was a pretty day to walk around town and go souvenir shopping anyway. I just wished I knew where all the people were.

I think we were all happy with our afternoon because when we met up at 5p, all 5 of us were bustling with stories to tell. We headed back to O’Sullivans for a beer and wouldn’t you know, a couple musicians came in to play. We stayed until 6pm, the time when the Pan Celtic Festival schedule called for a parade to start in the Marina. The parade mostly consisted of various school age children and families walking with banners, one for each of the 6 Celtic Nations. Trailing the parade was a group of about 20 or more bagpipers playing various tunes. The parade lasted about 5 minutes as it passed by in front of us, but we decided to tag on to the end and follow the parade as it circled town. This was clearly the best option because we got to hear all the piper music and even chat with several of the pipers when they stopped for a break. It turns out this group is actually from Pennsylvania of all places and traveled here for the parade. No, they were not in any of the other events of the festival, they just heard about the parade and came to join. Sounds like fun to me!

We had dinner at the Dingle Bay Hotel where we were all once again very happy with our food choices. This might sound strange, but my chicken caesar salad was probably the best one I’ve ever eaten. The rest of the group enjoyed Irish specialties like seafood pie and lamb dishes. So far on this trip the food has been amazing.

At this point we were pushing our timing to make the start of the 7:30pm choir concert. According to the guy who sold us the tickets, the concert was in the Skellig Hotel, but when we entered, it was crystal clear that there was no concert here. Luckily the front desk was amazingly helpful and drew me a map to the public school where the concert was actually held. We arrived just before the concert started.

Tonights concert, unlike the evening events going on all week, was just a concert and not a competition. We saw probably about 10 A Capella groups perform about 2-3 tunes each. They were all excellent and ranged in age from college to retired, and ranged in size from 3 to about 30. I enjoyed the music. All the music was sung in Gaelic or another Celtic language. I felt as though this really added to the authenticity of the music and the beauty of it. Several of the groups introduced themselves and their chosen tunes in both the Celtic language and then later in English.

The evening ended in a pub of course. I figured nearly all the pubs would have live traditional music tonight and during the festival. Well, not all of them. Many pubs only have music if someone comes in to play it. But several do have scheduled times for musicians. We started at a highly recommended pub, O’Flaherty’s, but there was no music, just crowds of people. We ended up at a pub down the street with an accordion player and a guitarist playing good music. We all commented that we could get used to this lifestyle of going to a pub each night to listen to live music.

We stayed until midnight, but eventually we did realize that we had to go home to our cottage because tomorrow we are departing to drive to the Cliffs of Moher and then back to Shannon for a one night stay at a B&B before all the flights. With all this gorgeous weather and traditional music, I’m absolutely loving Ireland.

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