Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ireland Trip Part 4: Dublin's Hop On Hop Off Bus City Highlights Tour

Hop On / Hop Off Bus
Continuing our first day in Dublin (May 5th)- we took a Hop on / Hop off bus tour around the city to get a feel for interesting places.
  Our friend Anne Marie Clarke of Across the Pond Vacations (specializing in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) put the trip package together for us, and included this tour- These bus tours are really helpful in a new city. This blog will provide some highlights in Dublin, and we'll explore some of them in more depth in later blogs. SO, come along for the ride!

THE HOP ON / HOP OFF BUS- These buses are really handy for getting a feel for bigger cities rather than smaller towns, and was mandatory for Dublin. You can get off at any of the 24 stops in Dublin and back on again (just keep your receipt) at any stop - and do it often and all day long.

The O'Connell Monument

O'CONNELL STREET and the MONUMENT - O'Connell Street (in Gaelic, it's known as Sráid Uí Chonaill) is Dublin's main thoroughfare and runs north to south from Trinity College south of the River Liffey over O'Connell Bridge to Parnell Square, north of of the river. 
  In the 17th Century, the street was called "Drogheda Street."
Bus stop!
  If you're wondering what a "Drogheda" is- I believe it's a Gaelic word. It means "bridge of the ford" and is the name of an industrial and port town 56 km (35 mi) north of Dublin.
     That's the street that you'll find the O'Connell Monument, the memorial to Daniel O'Connell, the 19th-century nationalist. We'll learn more about him in later blogs. 


Once a jail this is now a museum run by the Office of Public Works, an agency of the Government of Ireland. It is located in the city at Inchicore Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Ireland.  This jail opened in 1796 and closed in 1924. It offers a panoramic insight into some of the most profound, disturbing and inspirational themes of modern Irish history. Leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 were detained here. 

REPORTS OF GHOSTS - Although we didn't get off the bus and go inside the Gaol, I knew it was haunted. I could feel that there were a lot of paranormal things happening inside. So, when we got home I checked out

According to that website, here are the reports of ghostly activity in the gaol:

  • Lights often turn themselves on and off in the prison’s chapel
  • Unseen forces pushing people over
  • Phantom footsteps
  • Children pause in sheer fright refusing to step inside the jail
  • Psychics have picked up on an evil presence around the chapel balcony
  • Feeling of being watched
  • Unexplained bangs, and voices
A typical street of houses in Dublin
PHOENIX PARK AND THE DUBLIN ZOO - Another stop on the bus tour was Phoenix Park and the Dublin Zoo. According to the Park's website, "The Phoenix Park was established in 1662 by one of Ireland’s most illustrious viceroys, James Butler, Duke of Ormond, on behalf of King Charles II. A herd of  Fallow Deer has lived in the Park since the 1660's when they were introduced by the Duke of Ormond.  The Phoenix Park is a sanctuary for many mammals and birds and a wide range of wildlife habitats are to be found in the park.  The Victorian People's Flower Gardens located close to the Parkgate Street entrance, comprise an area of  9 hectares (22 acres) and, were re-opened in 1864." 
Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park

WELLINGTON MONUMENT - The Wellington Monument is an obelisk in Phoenix Park.  It was built to commemorate the victories of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Wellington was called "The Iron Duke," and was a British politician and general, possibly born in Dublin or Meath county. 


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ireland Trip Part 3: Dublin: St. George's Arcade/Comics/Equality Mural/ EQUALITY WINNING

St. George's Arcade
It's Day 1 of our trip to Ireland and we stayed in Dublin. After waking from a nap, we explored a little of the city on foot before taking a bus tour. You'll read about the bus tour tomorrow. In this blog you'll learn about George's Street Arcade and some other cool things.

**SPECIAL NOTE: Today, May 23rd, Ireland is still counting the votes, but with about 60% counted, 71% of Irelanders voted YES to AMENDING the country's constitution to include gay marriage. (Sadly, the U.S. has a LONG way to go).  According to the IRISH TIMES TODAY, "Not only has Ireland has agreed to same-sex marriage, it has done so in a louder voice than many could have imagined, carried on the back of a remarkable turnout and an engagement by younger people not seen in years. The campaign became about more than just same-sex marriage. It became a debate about the place of the gay community in Irish society and the country’s acceptance of it."  VOTERS HAVE BASICALLY SAID, "WELCOME TO IRELAND, WHERE EVERYONE IS EQUAL AND WE WON'T BE BULLIED BY RELIGION TO HATE OTHERS." (The Catholic church was a large part of the "No" campaign). 
(In the words of Betty Bowers - "How embarrassing! Quaint Ireland shows backwards America what it’s like to WANT equality for all citizens, rather than being forced by courts to be fair to them.")

   ABOUT DUBLIN - Dublin is about 44 square miles. It's a very busy city (the busiest in Ireland and is the capital of the Republic of Ireland. It's located on Ireland’s east coast at the mouth of the River Liffey. 
  The first thing we noticed on the map is that the River Liffey runs from west to east, dissecting "northern Dublin" from the rest of Dublin. About 2/3rds of the city's attractions are on the south side but we explored both! 
  Dublin's medieval buildings include 13th-century Dublin Castle and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191. The Temple Bar is south of the river and is one of countless pubs. It's a central attraction, although we didn't go inside. Dublin has a lot of "buskers" or street performers (and we learned that there's a new law preventing them from using speakers). There's a lot of shopping areas, and we even found a mall there, too.

Shops in St. George's Arcade
ST GEORGE'S ARCADE - This is a shopping center on South Great George's Street in Dublin. It is a Victorian style red-bricked indoor market of stalls and stores. It opened in 1881 as the South City Markets. There are a lot of vendors in here selling things from wool (of course) scarves and sweaters to food, to paintings, pictures, jewelry and more.A Previous visitor shot a 3 minute video and posted it on YouTube, if you want a walking tour through it. It's exactly what we saw! (Just click here)

LUNCHTIME! - As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the cost of food in Ireland is expensive, so we went to a nearby supermarket, got pre-packaged sandwiches and bottles of iced tea and had a cheap and tasty lunch.

Sub-City Comics
Tom and Rob in Dublin
SUB-CITY COMICS!  - One of the first stores that caught my (Rob) eye was Sub-City Comics on Dame Street in Dublin. Of course, I had to go inside. Since I've been reading and collecting comics since 1974, I picked up a couple there. The store was loaded with graphic novels, new comics and all kinds of toys. It was a great way (for me) to start our trip to Ireland.

The Marriage Equality Mural in Dublin (defaced)
THE MARRIAGE EQUALITY MURAL One of the things that Tom learned about before we went to Dublin was a marriage equality mural on the side of a downtown building. We weren't sure where it was located, but it turned out to be around the corner from the Comics Shop.
  The enormous four-story mural of two men embracing by Irish illustrator and street artist Joe Caslin went up overnight on April 11th on South Great Georges Street in downtown Dublin, meant to be a "poignant representation of same-sex love in the city" ahead of the Irish marriage referendum on May 22. However, by the time we saw it, the conservative right-wing nuts had destroyed part of it. SIGH.
  To see what it looked like, CLICK HERE.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Ireland Trip Part 2: Dublin Part 1: Panti Bliss & Ireland votes today on Marriage Equality

Vote yes for marriage equality
On our very first day in Dublin, Ireland, we kicked off our trip by meeting a world-famous figure named Panti Bliss, who stands for marriage equality around the world.

It's not a coincidence that I'm posting this blog today, because today, MAY 22  is the day that Ireland votes to amend their constitution to include Marriage Equality for gay marriages. When we were there, there were "VOTE YES" (and vote "no") signs everywhere.  It was very exciting.

   It was also sad that the same kind of crazy conservatives exist there that try to squelch rights. However, the Irish People don't listen to them and are FED UP with the institution of church after all the sex scandals there.  As a result, churches have a lot less attendees and no more political power (AS it should be everywhere). So, the people of Ireland are voting on equality, and are not being influenced by a divisive religion (Can you tell we're fed up with organized religion who get into politics in the U.S.?)

Tom, Rory (Panti) O'Neill, Rob at PantiBar
The PantiBar in Dublin
WE MET THE WORLD-FAMOUS PANTI BLISS!  One of the first things we did when we arrived in Dublin (after our nap at the hotel) was to go to the bar owned by Rory O'Neill, also known by his stage name as Panti Bliss. Panti, is a drag queen and gay rights activist from Ballinrobe, County Mayo, Ireland. In November 2007, he opened the self-titled 'Pantibar' in Dublin. 'Panti' is short for 'Pandora Panti Bliss] Panti danced on stage in Japan with Cyndi Lauper during her 1994 Twelve Deadly Cyns Tour, has hosted talk shows, been in theatre productions, radio, film and won several awards. He's world famous.  He has given famous talks around the world about gay rights and marriage equality and will REALLY make you pay attention. Click here for more info.
Pantibliss poster

  On Monday, May 18, Mary McAleese, Former President of Ireland  gave in incredible speech: "Why My Family is Voting YES to Marriage Equality."   She needs to give this talk to the U.S. Congress. As an intelligent politician she clearly and concisely outlines why marriage equality should be and how marriage has grown from the past. 
 She cites:

 - Did you know women were not allowed to own property in the past? 

 - Did you know that women were considered property?
 - Did you know it was okay for a husband to rape his wife? 
 - Did you know it wasn't until 1968 in the U.S. that people of different races could marry?
YES. Marriage has grown and changed.  It needs to continue growing and changing to respect all citizens.
This level-headed, clear, factual talk separates church and state, and provides all reasons why gay marriage should be a reality everywhere. 
  Take the 24 minutes to watch, or just LISTEN to it. It is eye-opening. If you didn't understand the need for marriage equality before, you'll understand it now. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ireland Trip: Part 1: Our Flights and Overseas Flight Tips

Aer Lingus
On Wednesday, May 6 we made our way to the airport for our flight to Ireland. This blog will give you a couple of tips about parking and flying long distances.

After we dropped our elder dachshund Franklin with Tom's folks and our other doxie, Tyler and Weimaraner, Dolly at boarding, we went to the airport.

TIP#1: Reserve your airport parking on-line in advance and save money
PRE-RESERVE PARKING - A couple of weeks before the trip I (Rob)  pre-booked "Preflight Parking" for a space, and saved about $3 per day in parking fees. Pre-flight has free shuttles to and from the airport that run every 10 minutes. The service is great, and I always like to tip the drivers.

Economy class seating was not conducive to sleep
OUR FLIGHT TO IRELAND - We booked our flights with Aer Lingus, and they're really a nice airline. Since they didn't fly direct from our airport, we had to fly to Boston first, which was fine. It was a 60 minute flight on partner Jet Blue, and THEY serve Dunkin' Donuts coffee (Rob's favorite). Yay! Going to Ireland took about 5 hours from Boston and the flight left at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time. We were in economy class. BIG MISTAKE. 

TIP#2: Never fly economy class on a night-flight overseas.  
OUR EXPERIENCE:   The seats were limited with space. Tom, being almost 6 feet tall couldn't stretch his legs and the woman in the seat in front of him decided to lean her seat ALL the way back, practically into his lap so he couldn't watch a movie, couldn't turn left or right, and certainly couldn't sleep. Since I'm just 5'6" I didn't have as much discomfort. After a couple of hours of futility in trying to sleep, Tom developing aching legs, restless leg syndrome, and wound up walking up and down the aisles literally for a couple of hours. I kept nodding off and on for minutes at a time, and he was totally miserable. There was NO SLEEP TO BE HAD on that flight for us.

TIP #3: If you buy Economy Class and later try to upgrade, be sure to tell your BANK that you are trying to make an additional purchase on an International Airline (and tell them when you're traveling, or they'll think the card was stolen). Tom tried upgrading to Business Class before we left for the trip and the BANK rejected the purchase to business class going over because the charge came on from Ireland. SO, we lost the business class seats.

Business class seating was amazing
EXHAUSTING ARRIVAL - When we landed in Dublin, Ireland it was 3:30 a.m. OUR TIME (8:30 a.m. local time) and we had been up since 4:30 a.m. the previous morning. We were wiped out. Fortunately, Anne Marie of Across the Pond Vacations (whom we booked the trip through and we HIGHLY recommend) arranged for a pre-paid car to take us to the Hotel. It was SO appreciated. We got to the hotel at 10:30 a.m. local time, Dublin, got to check in early and collapsed into a deep sleep on the bed for a couple of hours.

TIP #4: Fly Business Class. Tom managed to upgrade us to business class on the way back.
The seats were really wide and actually reclined to a flat position like a bed, if needed. They had movies, pillows, headphones, and tried to give us hor d'oeuvres (which we didn't have), wine for Tom (water for me), a salad, a beef or chicken dinner, a shortcake (which we couldn't eat), cookies, hot tea, and more. It was non-stop food (which is actually wasted on us because we don't eat much, but it was pretty nice). We lounged, napped, and Tom even watched 2 movies on the flight back, while I finished reading 2 books. What a difference from the flight over!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Read in Ireland: A Wonderful Dog-Lovers Mystery: Gone With the Woof (A Melanie Travis Mystery)

While on vacation, I (Rob) bought and enjoyed the paperback mystery called "Gone with the Woof" by Laurien Berenson. It's part of a series called the Melanie Travis Mysteries that involves a woman who has 5 standard poodles and works with show dogs, agility, etc. and has an aunt who does the same. The book was really enjoyable, especially to a dog dad like me who loves mysteries. The characters were all interesting and their personalities stood out. Secret relationships are uncovered throughout the book during Melanie's investigation, keeping you guessing. It's a great book and one I recommend!  - Rob

Despite a toddler and a house full of Standard Poodles, Melanie Travis can't pass up an opportunity to help legendary dog breeder Edward March pen his life story. But her enthusiasm flags when the breeder's angry son Andrew demands she stop working on the book. Why becomes imperative once Andrew is killed by a seemingly intentional hit-and-run and Melanie becomes Suspect #1. To get herself out of the dog house, Melanie sniffs out every possible clue, only to run into dead ends as fast as she's running out of time. And the longer the killer stays unleashed, the sooner she may end up in the dog house for good. 

NEXT: Ireland Trip: Our Flights and Overseas Flight Tips

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ireland Trip: Eating in Ireland & Special Video of "Chef" Crusoe the Dachshund

Fish and Chips was Rob's choice
We continue leading up to our Ireland trip with some prep stories!  This one is basically about the food and how we worked around the expenses of it, with a BONUS fun video from our favorite Celebrity Dachshund, Crusoe working as a Chef.

FOOD CHOICES  - One thing we noticed is that there is NO turkey or turkey burger in Ireland, and that happens to be a favorite of ours. Chicken dishes are also limited, much to Tom's disappointment. However, most places had Fish and Chips, so Rob was happy. There were burgers, and we noticed a lot of lamb (which neither of us care for). Tom did have Shepherd's Pie one evening. 

A tasty pre-packaged sandwich
MEAL COSTS IN IRELAND - We noticed that the costs of sandwiches for lunches were between 7.50 and 10 Euros (that's about 9.00 to 12.00!). Dinner was MUCH more expensive and ranged from $15 to 25 Euros (that's about 18.00 to 30.00 a plate). Since we're light eaters, that was ridiculous to us and we had no way to "Doggy bag" food and eat it later. We also learned that most places STOP serving sandwiches after 6pm and make you buy the expensive dinners. That made us crazy because we usually just eat sandwiches for dinner. Again, not big eaters here.

Opt for the Tea!!
HOW WE HAD AFFORDABLE AND INTERESTING LUNCHES - Small convenience stores and pharmacies (or chemists as they're known in parts) sell pre-made, packaged sandwiches on white or wheat bread. We ate these almost daily (when we didn't just settle for Tea and Scones - which are very filling). The prepackaged sandwiches were about 2.50 Euros ($3:25) and coupled with an iced tea, we each lunched for about 5 U.S. dollars. The sandwiches included chicken and stuffing, chicken and corn, tuna and corn, chicken and bacon. We often took them to benches and watched people walk by making for an
Skip the coffee!
interesting lunch.  Of course, we're both pretty easy to please, and don't need any elaborate place to eat. We just enjoyed it together.

COFFEE OR TEA? - I (Rob) am a HUGE coffee drinker and Tom is a tea drinker. Ireland is made for Tom and they serve the best tea (we liked "Barry's Tea"). The coffee is NOT good. It's like the mud my mom used to make (she was Italian) where you a spoon would stand up in the cup! So, after I tried the coffee the first time, we then always BOTH opted for hot tea. 

In this video episode Chef Crusoe the Dachshund prepares “tagliata di manzo” – which essentially means, sliced steak.Enjoy!


NEXT:  Book Read in Ireland: A Wonderful Dog-Lovers Mystery

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ireland Trip: 2 Good Ireland Ghost Books!

In early May we enjoyed a great vacation in Ireland and toured the country starting in Dublin, going west to Galway and counter-clockwise back to Dublin. During the trip we enjoy a couple of good books about ghosts in the country. So, if you enjoy ghost stories, history or are even a bit Irish (and who isn't on March 17th?), these are well worth reading.

1)  Haunted Ireland - Haunting Tales from an Ancient Land – 2014
by David Pritchard (Author), Brian Murphy (Editor)

ROB'S TAKE ON THIS:  This book was perfect as a tour book, because it had short, to the point stories about the ghosts in various locations. The locations were named (castles, houses, etc.) with the county, and there were also pictures that showed the place,making it easy to find and identify. This book also identifies the different entities: Ghosts, Banshees (female ghosts that appear and sing or scream to mark someone's passing in the near future), Fairies, Pookas (supernatural animals), and witches.

BOOK SUMMARY: Without doubt most of us are fascinated by paranormal events and hauntings. Ireland is a very rich country for those interested in the Supernatural, and stories about ghosts and other inexplicable happenings abound. Because of this, the problem when trying to offer an overview of the subject is not what to include but what to leave out. This book covers a wide range of supernatural phenomena, many of which, for example banshees and fairy murders, are particularly Irish and derive from our Celtic heritage; others, such as ghosts and vampires, we share with many other human societies. Within these pages are tales of forewarnings of death, phantoms, witches and other alleged visitations from the World beyond our World. Some are well documented by eye-witness accounts, while others probably need to be taken with a large pinch of salt. But whether set in castle, cottage or dark forest, we hope that they will provide some insight into Ireland's supernatural heritage.

2) Irish Ghost Stories 
by Padraic O'Farrell (Author), Kate Shannon (Illustrator)
ROB'S TAKE ON THIS:  This book was filled with stories that the author source from three places. He interviewed people he knew, which made for interesting and unique stories.  compiled from newspaper stories in the 1800s, or provided his own take on a couple of the more well-known ghost stories. What's sad is that the author had just approved the proofs of this book and passed away.  

BOOK SUMMARY: There are many well-known Irish ghost stories and Padraic O Farrell tells some of them in this book. He has, however, leaned heavily on the side of lesser-known tales; most of them previously unpublished.
    Celebrated people have had strange experiences. This book includes those of the actor Micheál MacLiammáir and of playwright and author Hugh Leonard (Jack Keyes Byrne). The Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley, has acknowledged the presence of a ghost named Isabella in his Castlehyde home near Fermoy, County Cork. Oliver St John Gogarty also believed in ghosts.

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

Great Books by our friends

Great Books by our friends
Check out these great books (yeah, Rob's are in there, too)

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next

Podcast of Rob's 50 min. interview on Paranormal Filler Radio 7/13/14

Article on Rob's books in Baltimore Gay Life

Writer Jen Vance interviewed Rob about his books and abilities and published an article about him in Baltimore Gay Life newspaper in Nov. 2013. (It's on the 2nd to last page). LINK: