“That’s Ireland,” The Nation in Images

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Of course, you would expect images of the Emerald Isle to show lots of green. And, indeed, we saw many verdant places on our trip, from city parks to pastures to seaside cliffs.

In this “part two” post of our trip to Dublin and parts beyond, you’ll see lots of green; but you’ll also get a perspective on the culture of Ireland and its people. (Here’s the link to “part one,” which has some images but more insight.)

Below are images of places you’d expect — pubs, the coastline, castles — and places you might not expect — a notorious prison and the outside of a discount store. But collectively, they represent the Ireland we encountered over nine days travelling by foot, bus, train and streetcar.

On a walk to the DART Sandymount station, I noticed a plaque on this handsome home. Looking closer, I learned it’s the boyhood home of famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

The Clayton Ballsbridge Hotel, built as an orphanage in 1881, was our home base. Lots of character and history.

The Dublin Horse Show was attended by thousands over its four-day run. Even non-equestrians would have been impressed.

The history of Ireland has its dark, dark sides, too. Here’s the inside of the Kilmainham Gaol, a prison built in 1796. It housed men, women and even children over the centuries. Now it’s a museum, and U2 filmed a video there.

Of course, there are lots and lots of cool pubs in Dublin. And, like this one in Temple Bar, they’re easy to find. Not sure whether the guy at bottom left wanted to be in the frame.

 

 

 

 

Sincerely doubt this was named after me. And, we not stop in for a pint. Bet I would have been treated like royalty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The seaside town of Howth had lots of waterfront to explore, a tremendous old church and castle and, of course, great pubs. But my favorite part was the cliffs.

 

 

 

 

Of course I had a pint of Guinness while in Ireland. The one depicted here was hoisted during an awesome lunch of seafood chowder and crab claws in Howth.

Yes, Ireland has some spectacular castles. This one is in Malahide, a charming town along the coast. As you can ascertain, this is a real castle.

Not to diminish this more modest structure we saw in Dalkey. It’s a castle, all right. But more of a “starter” castle.

One day, we visited Belfast in Northern Ireland, still part of the United Kingdom. Yes, they’re on the British pound. This retailer is akin to our Dollar General.

The Crown Liquor Saloon (or the Crown Bar) is a Belfast treasure and part of the National Trust. Susan would concur: You will not find a cooler drinking establishment anywhere.

Looking west on May Street, Belfast does exude its British heritage. Those towers sit atop City Hall, which has a museum devoted to the city’s artists and statesmen and women.

On our visit to Galway, we encountered outstanding buskers or street musicians, like this guy, in the Latin Quarter. Look close and you’ll find Chicago among the sister cities listed on the mural.

A stroll through Galway had its magical moments. And, a visit to a local pub seemed to enhance the experience. Hey, we were in Ireland!

Galway’s a coastal town along the Atlantic Ocean. Caught a glimpse of these vessels at low tide.

 

On our final day in Ireland, I found solace and solitude along this beach in Malahide. No surfers or sun bathers, just sky, water and sand.

Advertisements

“That’s Ireland.” Recalling the Land, the People and More

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

When questioned about the often spirited revelry that lasted well into the morning during the Saturday of the 2019 Dublin Horse Show, the manager of our hotel responded succinctly, honestly and effectively: “That’s Ireland.”

Attending the Dublin Horse Show, reportedly one of the top three equestrian events in the world, truly was a highlight of our trip.

Those two words encapsulated the recent visit by Susan and I to the island nation — specifically the capital city of Dublin as well as day trip visits to other cities and small coastal towns. The Ireland we experienced was a place of warmth and genuine hospitality, and the people we encountered were welcoming and truly enjoyed celebrating. And, as noted, sometimes the celebration lasted long into the night.

What follows are memories in the ongoing effort by The PRDude to share in words and pictures what was experienced and perhaps not found in a guidebook during our visits to new places around the United States and other parts of the world.

The People. From the man at the airport who helped us find our shuttle bus, to bartenders and servers at the many pubs we visited, to the guy on the DART platform who assured me I was taking the right train to Sandymount, virtually everyone we encountered in Ireland was cordial, giving and open. Casual encounters evolved into conversations. The Irish people are truly among its strengths.  Where else do people regularly thank the bus driver?

A visit to Trinity College to view the Book of Kells is recommended. Get there by 9 am to avoid the lines.

The Outlook. On a DART train ride to the fishing village of Howth, I looked to the east as the train passed over the River Liffey and through the Dublin city centre.  To the east I counted 28 construction trains; in other parts of the city, there were more.  Clearly the Celtic Tiger economy has rebounded. Dublin and other cities in Ireland are desirable and vital places, however, housing prices are soaring. Rental housing in the very upscale Ballsbridge neighborhood near our hotel, the Clayton Ballsbridge, are steep by any means, with some two-bedroom units listed at 4,000 euros.

The Countryside. Dublin, with its crooked streets, shops and pubs, street musicians and vitality, was delightful. But we wanted to see other parts of Ireland. So we traveled by train to the medieval city of Galway on the west coast, and headed up north to Belfast in Ulster or Northern Ireland. En route, we were charmed by the undulating — and yes, very green — landscape along the Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) routes to these cities. Every few miles there would be a small farm with what looked like very happy cows and goats. This was storybook stuff, unadulterated and real. Wish we could have spent time there.

The Customs House, an impressive edifice along the River Liffey, makes for a great photo.

The Language. Yes, the Irish speak English, but with an accent. And, some train messages and signage was in Gaelic — which is not at all like English!  But we picked up on some words and sayings we found fascinating. Note this list, then think of what they would mean here in America. Scroll to the bottom for answers.

  • To Let
  • Brolly/Umbrie
  • Clamping
  • Crisps
  • Mind the Gap

You may have wondered about whether we enjoyed the pubs and music.  Did we tour castles.  Oh yes.  Watch for the pictures in an upcoming travelogue post. But first, I was inspired early during our trip to compose this poem:

Dublin Rain

Cascades like a fond memory

When you can’t expect to find shelter

Somewhere on Grafton Street.

We laughed under an awning

Knowing we could make St. Stephen’s Green

Embraced by all that would not leave us wanting or caring.

Subtle bursts of blue skyward

Are somewhat welcomed, then summarily dismissed

Because you rarely hear Dublin rain and it’s not invisible.

We lingered longingly after the farewell encounter,

Hoping and envious for a reappearance

Somewhere on the next crooked, cobblestoned street

Now, for the answers:

  • To Let — To rent or lease. Think of “sublet.”
  • Brolly/Umbrie — We watched to see people were carrying these — umbrellas.
  • Clamping — Better not park your car illegally. You’ll get the boot.
  • Crisps — Otherwise known as potato chips — only the ones in Ireland were better.
  • Mind the Gap — Be careful when departing a train, otherwise you might fall into the gap between the car and station.

One more thing: Should you visit greater Dublin, take the DART south toward Bray and get off at Dalkey. This quiet town boasts many fine establishments, including Finnegan’s.  A source told us none other than Bono frequents this classic pub.  We looked in the window during our visit, but no sign of the U2 frontman.

A reason to return.

What I Learned While on the Road — 877 Miles* Later

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Well, the BP Motor Club Trip Planner I requested noted that our itinerary would total 877 miles. But side journeys, and getting “lost” a few times added to the total.

Here’s what I’m referring to: For spring break 2019, Susan and I took a road trip — Chicago through Indiana, to Louisville, Kentucky; west from Louisville, back through Indiana, to Carbondale, Illinois; then back to Chicago.

Why? I’ve never been to Louisville, and I’ve been been to the far southern part of my home state of Illinois. So, what happened?

Here are some recollections in words and a few images.

A stroll through Old Louisville offered an uninterrupted presentation of (mostly) well-preserved or restored stone homes.

Awesome Old Louisville. Quick: Name what this Kentucky city on the Ohio River is most noted for. Most people would cite bourbon, baseball bats, KFC and that famous horse race. Let’s add the Old Louisville historic district — a 45-block, 1,000 home treasure of Victorian architecture — to the list. Our three-night stay in a VRBO apartment on Brook Street gave us a first hand perspective of this neighborhood comprised of former mansions and other stately edifices located between downtown and the University of Louisville. I would start my day with a stroll and was always rewarded with seeing something new, something intriguing.

Yes, there are big lakes in Southern Illinois, like Crab Orchard just outside Carbondale.

Outstanding Cuisine in a College Town Setting. Tremendous Thai food and sophisticated entrees in small town Carbondale, home to Southern Illinois University? True. We were advised by a friend to dine at Thai Taste, a popular restaurant a three-minute walk from our hotel. He was right: Exceptional Asian cuisine that was not at all modified to fit American palates. I still have fond memories of the egg drop soup and pad kee mao. Another evening we preferred to go a bit more upscale and had dinner at Newell House, a bistro with entrees that would rival the new eateries that have gained a foothold in restaurant-laden Logan Square. Our meals were served by concerned and engaging staff and were far less expensive than comparable places in Chicago.

This silver sedan was our land ship across prairies, over rivers and through small towns.

The Catharsis of the Road. My average drive most weeks consists of a four-mile round trip to the grocery on Saturday morning. My “hot rod” 23-year-old Toyota Camry serves well for that kind of short trip, but we were on the road for six days and splurged on a rental car — a new Ford Fusion Hybrid. Getting behind the wheel of this modern machine was inspiring, whether we were cruising down an interstate freeway at 70 miles per hour, driving through a sleepy town or navigating the seemingly endless series of switchbacks on our way to Little Grand Canyon in the Shawnee National Forest. Having Serius Radio with options like Little Steven’s Underground Garage, jazz and country made the miles along the often flat, barren landscape enjoyable.

These days it’s hard to totally detach and disconnect, even while supposedly on vacation.

On our trip, I viewed Facebook posts from friends enjoying spring break in places as far reaching as Italy and Morocco, and closer to home like Miami and Phoenix. Our six-day jaunt across three states was not what one would consider exotic. It was a simple road trip through the American heartland at the end of a long winter.

Yes, we drank bourbon in Louisville, toured Churchill Downs, walked trails and visited the SIU campus. But this trip demonstrated to me that a modest adventure can be rewarded and enriched when the travels are closer to home … if you can find the extraordinary in what some would consider ordinary.

*When I dropped the Fusion off at the nearby Avis rental site, we had driven 1,087 miles. What we did on those extra 201 miles off the prescribed route might be been the best part of the journey.

Marvelous, Madcap Munich: Words and Pictures

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Where to start with an account of our recent trip to Germany’s third-largest city?

First, words about Munich, the Bavarian capital and gateway to the Alps.  Here are some random thoughts jotted down in my journal.

Outside the Munich visitors center in the heart of Altstadt.

Overall Impressions:  Munich is a thoroughly modern metropolis with much of its centuries-old architecture and history intact. It’s a multicultural place, also very orderly and remarkably clean, especially given the throngs of people strolling its streets and plazas. Church towers, especially the twin domed spires of the Frauenkirche, dominate the skyline rather than modern office buildings. Quiet places, like small, well-maintained parks, were easy to find.  People were respectful — most didn’t even jaywalk! While in Munich, this Chicago guy knew he was in a much, much different place.

Beverage and Food:  Yes, there is beer available everywhere — in the famous bier gartens, in restaurants, in the outstanding Viktualienmarkt outdoor market and in the Hauptbahnhof train station. The beer tastes really good; but we also sampled wines from Germany and nearby Italy, and many venues featured gin-focused cocktails. And, we certainly dined on sausages and kraut, and enjoyed snacks of big pretzels.  All were delicious, but some of our best meals were had in Italian restaurants or outdoor venues. A highlight: Braised beef with fresh vegetables, whitefish and sausages with goat cheese at an outdoor wine festival in the Odeonsplatz.  We also favored soups from a vendor in the Viktualienmarkt.

Transportation: As a transportation guy, I found Munich’s public transit network of UBahn, SBahn, trams and buses exceptionally clean, safe, whisper-quiet, fast and reliable, although navigating the system required thought and patience.  Munich transit operates on the honor system: There are no turnstiles at the subway stations, and tram and bus operators don’t ask for a pass or ticket. (Better buy one, as it’s a 60 Euro fine if you’re caught.)  We traveled using a day pass that cost 12.8 Euros for the day — for both of us.  And, then there’s bikes; Munichers take their biking seriously and travel on bike lanes installed between the sidewalk and street.  Most ride well-equipped cycles with fenders, lights, racks and bells. I did not see a hipster-favored fixie while in Munich.  Motorized vehicles leaned sharply (as you’d expect) toward German manufactured-cars and trucks, especially BMWs.

The Outdoor Spaces:  As noted, there are plenty of green spaces between the 18th and 19th century plazas within most neighborhoods of Munich. But two stand out for their size and prominence. One day, we took the the UBahn to the Olympia Park, site of the 1972 Summer Games.  We visited the impeccably-maintained grounds, with its iconic space needle-like tower, on a flawless Sunday afternoon while a carnival was underway. From an outdoor bar near the site’s lake, we enjoyed our drinks while people boated or piloted paddle boards along the shoreline. At the nearby BMW Museum, we fantasized over gleaming sedans and sports cars. Getting back on the UBahn, we made our way to the Englische Garten — Munich’s large urban park. This is an example of an urban oasis that works:  Harmony of man and nature, with walking and biking paths, a river with waterfalls, vast open spaces, stands of trees and — you guessed it — a beer garden!  On our visit, we were serenaded by a traditional German band while enjoying our beverages.  Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of our Sunday in the park: Everyone was respectful, everyone was courteous.

The Day Trips: As much as we enjoyed Munich and its environs, we ventured on three day trips, using the Deutsche Bahn regional train system; like the local service in Munich, these trains were an outstanding value, comfortable and set-your-watch-on-time reliable. Our first excursion took us to Nuremburg, a walled medieval city around a two-hour ride north.  En route, we enjoyed vistas of farms and small towns. Upon arrival, we strolled through a gate and were enthralled by the charm of this city, bombed heavily during World War II, but remarkably restored. Susan was fascinated by the small shops, including one operated by a toy maker. Another day, we ventured east to Saltzburg, home of Mozart and flanked by the Alps, a river and lots of natural beauty. This Baroque gem in nearby Austria is defined by music, as one would expect. Unfortunately, we missed a classical performance, but enjoyed modern interpretations of songs by the Foo Fighters and Tom Petty at an outdoor festival. The views from the 900-year-old Hohensaltzburg Fortress  were truly breathtaking.  And, less than an hour away lies Augsburg, an historic smaller city that was founded by the Romans.  Augsburg was surprisingly cool and compact, with buses and trams that led us to the Fuggerei, the oldest housing settlement for the poor, the home of Mozart’s father and the most spectacular church I’ve ever entered — the Cathedral of St. Mary.

I could go on, but I encourage you to visit marvelous, madcap Munich. I’m sure you’ll cultivate memories that will endear long after you return home.

And, now, some pictures.  I’ve just selected a dozen. But visit my Facebook page to view more.

The Marienplatz blended people, history, modern retail, street music, and more — but no cars.

The Theatine Church on the Odeonplatz, one of many houses of worship within Munich.

While we failed to take in a classical performance, we enjoyed the musical stylings of street performers.

The freeway near the Olympic Park did not at all resemble the highways I’m used to driving.

The twin towers of the Frauenkirche are visible from many points throughout Munich. For us, they served as a point of reference.

Ah, if I only had access to a kitchen. Produce available at the Viktualienmarkt.

“The hills are alive, with the sound of music.” The view of Saltzburg from the Fortress.

The grand garden of the Nymphenburg Palace, the summer get-away for the Bavarian royalty. Not too shabby for a summer place.

A tranquil view of the river in Nuremburg. Hard to believe much of this city was destroyed; glad it was rebuilt.

Preparing to board a UBahn, or perhaps and SBahn.

Revelers at a street fair in the Sedlinger Tor neighborhood of Munich.

Prelude to our final meal in Munich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time Unplugged: Perhaps the Best Part of Summer 2018 Vacation

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

It’s the third week of August of 2018, and this is the first post of the PRDude blog.

Wonder why?

Striking a somewhat pensive pose before boarding Lufthansa flight 434 to ORD.

Well, from the attached image showing a pending flight from a foreign nation — and my somewhat disheveled and unshaven appearance — perhaps you ascertain that I have a solid reason for not contributing thoughts on public relations and other stuff: I’ve been away from Chicago.

Munich, the capital of Bavaria and a truly fascinating German city, has been my abbreviated home the past several days.

As you can expect, I’ll contribute a few “travelogue” posts on our vacation to this historic city, known for its culture, architecture, museums, parks and public spaces, food and — you guessed it — beer gardens, or more precisely biergartens.  (Yes, we visited a few.)  Along with our time in Munich, Susan and I boarded the local trains for day trips to Nuremburg, Saltzburg and Augsburg, fascinating destinations of their own.

But along with the sights, people, places and atmosphere, all enjoyable, enlightening and full of personal enrichment, one of the best aspects of our Summer of 2018 trip was this: I basically unplugged from digital communications.

Well, I sent a few emails from the hotel computer and kept up on how my Chicago Cubs were faring in this pivotal month of the 2018 Major League Baseball season.  But I stayed off of work email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. (Just realized that I really don’t use Instagram much anyway.)

My handheld spent its time in the hotel safe, and it still worked when we got back to Chicago last night.

For more than a week, I was able to experience marvelous Munich and its surroundings untethered to technology, free from the now incessant and seemingly unrelenting bombardment of instantaneous news, information and stimuli, now part of the world as we know it.

While many around me snapped selfies with centuries-old structures in the background, I just soaked in the charm of Munich. I not only plan to follow this unplugged vacation regimen during the next pleasure trip out of town, and hopefully on many, many days in between.

 

 

Charleston: Charming, Cultured, Cultivated (And Fortunately, Not Curated). A Travelogue

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Quick: What do you know about Charleston, South Carolina, that is.

Well, we didn’t know much about this colonial coastal city until we spent five days there earlier this month. We knew there would be lots of history, great food and Southern heritage in this Low Country town known as “The Holy City.”

But we didn’t expect to be somewhat overwhelmed by just how charming, cultured and cultivated we found Charleston.  So what follows is a stream-of-consciousness account (in modern poetics this could be considered “lyric poetry” — I am in the graduate program for English, you know) of our trip to Charleston, followed by some original images.

From the steps of our hotel, I counted four church steeples, some with spires rising majestically to the heavens
in the distance I view three construction cranes, all a safe distance outward.

The first morning; a walk along Calhoun Street to the Fort Sumter National Monument
a dozen or so people wished me “good morning.” I didn’t have to ask.

A decidedly human scale with 18th and 19th century structures not repelled by the modern,
harmony between the Guilded Age and the digital.

Low Country cuisine, honest and unadorned, subtly delicious,
no places named for false royalty or known by AU/curved symmetrical structures.

Within the peninsula, a sense of decorum, unhurried,
thoroughfares like Zig Zag Alley leading nowhere and everywhere.

Flora, subtle but majestic at times, in full bloom,
emerges to buffer the persistent breezes.

The honest greeting of an honest server,
proud to share history on the restaurant that once was a church for longshoremen.

Designer names equitably share King Street
with Asian noodle shops and a haphazard liquor store.

Stately and elegant, woven into the quiet fabric,
College of Charleston, seat of learning and culture.

The muscular side, cargo vessels in the harbor,
honor the colonial heritage.

Solemnity, most of the time,
broken by church bells, seemingly from all directions.

(Okay, had enough? Enjoy the images below. Visit Charleston soon. There’s a lack of pretense, but an abundance of reality.)

 

Handsome buildings like this one are everywhere.

Many private homes have impeccable small gardens.

A view of the quad at the College of Charleston, voted as one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. I would agree.

Charleston Bay is an active port.

This classic structure was completed in 1879 and is still in use.

The world’s biggest pineapple? No, a very cool fountain in Waterfront Park along the east bay.

Read closely, and you’ll learn that Charleston was once one of the busiest ports in the colonies.

Why is Charleston called the Holy City? Yes, there are a lot of cool, well-maintained churches. But also, the peninsula was a bastion of freedom for many religions.

Just outside of Charleston, one can get a glimpse of the country life. This image was shot at the Magnolia Plantation.

Yes, the azaleas were in bloom during our visit. We found these everywhere.

Yes, right there on the grounds of many churches; final resting places for Charlestonians.

The view from the Fort Sumter National Monument.