Posted by: mdmusingsie | January 19, 2020

Saint Antoine L’Abbaye

On the other side of the mountains from Grenoble, back towards Lyon, atop a steep hill sits the Abbey of Saint Antoine (Anthony).  This was a hit and miss site when it came to openings.

The museum was closed, a few of the restaurants were open, most of the shops were closed or on lunch, but the church was open, so at least it wasn’t a complete ‘view from the outside’ as some of our other adventures had been.  We were caught out a bit by the French lunch hours and might have stayed longer if we had been able to get some simple fare like soup and bread at one of the restaurants, but they appeared to only be serving large dinner-style meals.  My friend said that simple soup or sandwich lunches, like you find all around Ireland, are quite rare in France.  They go for the big mid-day meal, which helps explain the lengthy lunch break.

It was a shame that more wasn’t open because there were a number of families with children visiting the site – probably looking for a way to keep the kids off their screens and from complaining about the inevitable boredom of school holidays.  A missed opportunity for the kids to learn a little history and maybe pick up a trinket or two in the shops.

The Abbey is a series of structures in a walled enclosure; some of the buildings exist as part of the wall, with the church at the far end overlooking the valley.

As we walked towards the entry gate it was apparent some type of restoration work was going on; however, it being a Saturday, none of the workers were about.  The dragon-scale-like multi-coloured roofs of the entry buildings were spectacular.  My camera, though, failed to pickup up the vibrant colours as well as I would have liked.

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Entry St. Antoine Abbey

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St. Antoine Abbey roof

The cathedral-sized church dominates the site, and that’s where we spent the majority of our time.  Reports vary, but construction began as early as the 11th century and continued into the 15th century.  It holds the relics of St. Anthony of Egypt, brought there in the 11th century, and are reported to have healing powers.  It started out as a Benedictine abbey and was transferred to the Antonines after they became a formal order in 1297.

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St. Antoine Abbey looking back towards entry

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St. Antoine Abbey church

Looking at the front of the church, I couldn’t help but wonder it something was missing at the top.  It looks abnormally square for a church, especially one with so obvious other Gothic influences.  It may have been modified at some point in the past – information in English is not always easy to find.

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St. Antoine Abbey Church

The Gothic exterior is quite impressive.  In the entry hall is a beautiful painted ceiling.  The lengthy nave is flanked on both sides by little chapels/shrines.  Some still bear signs of the original wall paintings, some house large religious paintings, and quite a few held statues in nooks and crannies overlooking the shrines.  It must have been quite impressive in its heyday.

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It’s a very interesting church with a lot of architecture and hidden gems around every corner.

A cast-iron cross stands outside the church entry near the wall that overlooks part of the town below.

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Cross outside St. Antoine Church

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View from St. Antoine church

Maybe it was winter; maybe they were under maintenance; but any which way, I wouldn’t have wanted to use the public toilets.  A little too much visibility for my genteel nature.

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St. Antoine Abbey public toilets

One of the houses between the Abbey and the car park had done a fine job making their courtyard festive for the holiday.

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Posted by: mdmusingsie | January 12, 2020

Dem bones, Dem bones

It was while I was looking for interesting thing to do in the Grenoble area that I came across the St. Laurent Archaeological Museum.

Not only did it look interesting but was one of a small number of museums in the area that offer guides in other languages than French.  My friend had never been there before, so it was a new adventure for her as well.

The museum is located at the bottom of the Bastille, in an old church (11th century) which was built on top of an older church (9th century) which was built on top of 4th century graves and a 6th century crypt.

If you have a fear of heights, or open grave sites, this probably isn’t the place for you.  The entrance to the museum is over a series of metal grates and glass flooring to expose the layers beneath.  Even many of the stair cases are comprised of metal grates to allow the maximum viewing of the site.

As you enter, you look across to the altar area and see the paintings on the walls and the stained glass. Just in front of and below the altar is a semi-circular room with a dome, which houses the 6th century crypt.

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St. Laurent Archaeology Museum

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St. Laurent Archaeology Museum

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St. Laurent Archaeology Museum – Crypt under altar

Stairs lead you down and around, and the audio-guide explains different aspects of the site, including the transition work of one church to another where walls and doors were added, changed, or bricked up.  See the decorated archway above the current doorway in the photo below.  You can also see changes in the wall construction in this area.

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Lower floor doorway

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Old doorway painted archway and building material changes

Over 1500 graves have been discovered under the church and the attached cloister.  The audio guide mentioned that at one point, around the time they built the wall around the town, many graves were moved from outside the wall into the church.  The fact that the monks purposely built their cloister on top of a burial ground is interesting in itself.  There was some not very friendly energy down in the tombs, so it’s not a place I would want to be parading around on a daily basis.

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St. Laurent Archaeology museum graves

Although the tombs have been explored and analyzed by the archaeologists, the bones of many of the occupants remain exposed for view.  As my friend mentioned, it would make a great Halloween venue!

The crypt itself was quite impressive, given that it was from the 6th century and most of the stone carvings on the pillars are still very much intact.  Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

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Crypt at St. Laurent Archaeology Museum

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Carvings in crypt

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Carvings in 6th century crypt

 

Posted by: mdmusingsie | December 28, 2019

Beginning in Bernin

I’ve done so little traveling about Europe since moving to Ireland, when a friend invited me to France over the holidays, I jumped at the chance.

Unless you’re visiting family or doing something like skiing, traveling in the wintertime can limit the available sightseeing opportunities. In France you have to beware of the intermittent worker strikes as well.  Only the former affected my trip.  That and the French lunch hour(s) where many businesses and attractions are closed from around 12:00 (noon) until 2:00 pm for lunch.  Therefore, to visit more than one attraction in a day plan to be at one in the morning, take a very leisurely lunch, and go to the second in the afternoon.  The other thing to be aware of when traveling in France, is many attractions only have tours and/or exhibits in French.  My French is trés peau/pauvre, but I can read more than I can speak.

My ex-coworker/friend lives in a small village outside of Grenoble in southeastern France in a valley of the French Alps. One side of the mountains, bordering Switzerland, are tall peaks covered in snow. On the other side of the valley are smaller rock cliffs.

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Several of the roundabouts even had festive Christmas decorations, including this one on the outskirts of Bernin.

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Somewhat like Ireland, there are castles or châteaux everywhere. The main difference in France is that most of them are intact and inhabited, either by familes who allow you to take photos from outside the gates, hotels, or tourist attractions.

We checked our lists (and websites) twice as we headed for the first of the castle-hunting expeditions.

Chateau de Vizille is a gorgeous castle not far from Grenoble.  Well, the outside is gorgeous, anyway.  Despite our double checking, the facility, including the museum that depicts the start of the French revolution which began in the region, was closed.  We weren’t the only ones who expected it to be open, there were other people who had come to visit – even the postman hadn’t expected them to be closed.

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After a walk around the lovely park grounds, we spotted a very small sign by the entry – probably one-inch cut off a piece of standard paper where they had typed, in fine print, that they would be closed from December 22nd until January 1st.  C’est la vie, as the French say.

We stopped for another outside photo only chateau, but this time we knew they were closed.  Chateau Touvet is only open during the spring and summer. One side of the 13th century chateau was built on a cliff but it also has a moat (full of fish) surrounding the buildings. We could see snatches of the gardens, which are terraced and in a formal style. According to Wikipedia, the estate is still in the possession of descendents of the original owners, which is impressive.

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Posted by: mdmusingsie | November 2, 2019

Dunsink Observatory

Part two of my Culture Night outing was spent at Dunsink Observatory, which turned out to be relatively close to where I live.  Dunsink is the oldest purpose-built scientific research centre in Ireland and an extension of Trinity College Dublin, built in 1785.It’s now managed by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

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Dunsink Observatory

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Dunsink moving ceiling

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Dunsink moving ceiling

Originally, the telescope was located in the room being used for lectures on Culture Night and the movable ceiling panels are still in place.

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Dunsink telescope

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Dunsink telescope

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Dunsink telescope

Back in the 1700 and 1800’s there wasn’t the light pollution that detracts from celestial observation, nor was Dublin quite as large; however, Ireland doesn’t exactly have the best climate for scanning the night skies, unless you want to observe a lot of clouds.  Undeterred, the observatory is a popular attraction for amateur astronomers and hopefully the next generation of astrophysicists and scientists. The annual event was chock full of visitors enjoying the lectures, checking out the displays, and chatting with fellow enthusiasts.

Historically, Dunsink was used not only for research and science, but it also kept the time, with relays throughout the day to O’Connell Street where ships could set their clocks by the time ball.

It was at Dunsink where they determined that Ireland was 25 minutes (and 7.4 seconds) off from Greenwich Mean Time.  This aligns with my suspicions about why events always start late in Ireland – they are operating on Dublin Mean Time.  In 1916, Ireland moved the clocks back 35 minutes and switched over to Greenwich Time.

Around the mid 1800’s the second dome shaped building was added along with a new telescope.  This is where the main telescope resides today.  I was able to peak through it before dusk, but once darkness fell the queue to view the heavens was so long I didn’t stick around.  They are open twice a month in the winter for open viewings, so perhaps another time.

A fun fact I learned on the night, which might help you on trivia night, it is take 500 seconds (8 min 20 sec) for light from the sun to reach the earth.

I’ve had a long fascination with astronomy and have visited several observatories around the world when I (remember to look for and) find them, including Dominion Observatory on Victoria Island, Canada; Griffith Observatory near Los Angeles; and now Dunsink.  Had my stars been in a slightly different alignment, I might have been an astrophysicist.  Maybe on the next turn of the wheel..

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Posted by: mdmusingsie | October 25, 2019

At the Casino

Time, having moved swiftly on, found me facing Culture Night – an event with too many possible, amazing, choices and far too little time.  Decisions, decisions, what do I do?  Naturally I headed for the Casino.  Casino Marino that is.

Although Dublin (and Ireland in general) has a fair number of small traditional gambling establishments by the same name, this particular venue didn’t have a single slot machine, poker table, or roulette wheel.

Casino is Italian for ‘small house’ and looking at the exterior, it does appear on the small side, however there are 16 rooms over three floors.  Built to look like a Greek temple, the building is completely symmetrical.

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Commissioned by James Caulfiled, 1st Earl of Charlemont around the late 1750’s the building wasn’t completed until around 1775.   It wasn’t just the lack of modern machinery that caused the project to take so long to complete.  It’s the detail in all the stone carvings and plaster ceilings that were the biggest contributing factor.

Lions guard the four corners of the stairways and four gods adorn the top – Bacchus, Ceres, Venus, and Apollo.

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Not only is there plenty to admire in the stone carvings and attention to detail, but there are lots of little architectural tricks employed in the building of this house.  For instance, four of the outer columns are actually hollow and serve as drain pipes for the roof terraces.  The urns at the top of the house disguise chimneys.  The glass windows make it appear as if there is only one room, however, each floor has several.

The entry or reception area has an intricately decorated plaster ceiling as well as a half-dome.  This leads to a great room for dining or entertaining.  The parquet floor boasts a large star of David in the centre. Flanking both sides are smaller chambers – to the left a library and to the right what could have been a bed chamber or study.

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The ceilings of all three rooms are full of plaster carvings.  The most interesting is in the library where a circular carving depicts the signs of the zodiac.  The bookshelf is built into the wall and has curved shelves.

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Entry to the side rooms is through ‘hidden’ doors, made to blend in with the wall when closed.

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From the entry, a switchback staircase leads to the upper floor, containing an ornate bedroom complete with sitting area separated from the sleeping chamber by Grecian columns.  Opposite the fireplace is what I called the walk-in closet, but other accounts label it a 3rd bedroom, possibly for servants.  Another smaller, plain bedroom is across the hall with its own hidden door in the wall that leads who knows where.  There is also another stairway leading up to a viewing platform on the roof.  We were only allowed to glimpse the stairway but could not ascend it.   Not a bathroom in sight, which for the time it was built is probably not that unusual.  There was another door on the upper floor that was closed to visitors which may have contained a water closet.  They probably relied more on bedpans.

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The lower floor, which can be glimpsed only from the outside, contained the kitchen and servants quarters.  Since the current remodeling has only recently been completed, that level is not accessible and probably contains construction materials.  Hopefully that level will be restored one day as well.

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Outer access to lower floor

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Lower floor access

Supposedly, the casino was linked to the main house, Marino house, by a tunnel, which has been blocked off due to all the construction in the area.

For a small house, it certainly packs a punch, which is exactly what Earl Caulfield intended when he had it built.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | September 28, 2019

Back in the Saddle (so to speak)

After nearly a year of stress and trauma over buying a house in Ireland, remodeling, and moving, I’m finally back in the saddle and out and about (though it has taken me a while to write things up and arrange the photos.)

My first real outing was during Heritage week in August.  Although I only made it to one event, I considered it a breakthrough.

This is actually the second year in a row I’ve attended this particular event called Feis Teamhra held at the Visitors Centre on the Hill or Tara.  It’s a celebration of literature and music hosted by Susan McKeown and Paul Muldoon. Last year the featured fiction writer was none other than Sebastian Barry along with poet David Wheatly and the musical group Mongoose.  I was quite impressed with Sebastian Barry’s live reading.  He really breathes life into the words as he reads them aloud.

The program begins with music, followed by a reading by each writer, more music, then, after a short intermission, the cycle repeats.  Last year, although I enjoyed the music, I thought it took up too much of the program.  The musical act had 4 sets whilst the readers only had two each and they were considerably shorter in length.  Maybe they took the comments that I put on the Heritage Week survey on board, as this year, although the format was the same, the amount of music at each segment had been slightly reduced.

This year the feature readers were novelist Glenn Patterson and poet Eamon Grennan.  The music was provided by Sive, who they announced had sold more CDs at the event than any previous musical act.

While waiting in the church-cum-visitor’s centre, I was checking out the stained glass window and walls and happened to see what looked like the shadow of a musician playing the piano in the corner of the wall to the right of the window.  The head seems enclosed in a halo and the arms reach either for piano or maybe a desk, depending on your interpretation.  See what you think.

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It’s a lovely afternoon out and my only wish would be that it lasted longer than 2 hours.  I’m already looking forward to the last Sunday in August, 2020.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | April 21, 2019

Egg Hunt 2019

First, apologies to my readers as I haven’t posted anything in months.  Mostly because all I’ve done in the past few months was fret, stress, fume, and steam over the house buying process in Ireland.  Never have I been a part of anything so dysfunctional in my life.  I could go on and on, but that’s a rant for another day.

As viewed from the on-ramp of the freeway heading from what will be my new home town of Ashbourne, Co Meath onto the N2 motorway is a giant rabbit sculpture which fit in nicely with this year’s Easter post.

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It was Marks and Spencer who had the best options for eggstravant eggs this year.  Nothing too otherworldly to make you go WOW, but I did find some on what I consider the sophisticated end of the chocolate egg trade.

First up is a dark chocolate egg with a lovely feather design.  It also has a little tray below bearing golden truffle eggs.

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Next was one of two I saw in the new ruby red range of chocolate.  According to Wikipedia, ruby red chocolate has only been around since 2017 and only to the general public since 2018.  Also according to the same source, ruby Kit Kat was introduced to Japan and South Korea and that’s the other ruby red I saw this year – a large red Kit Kat egg.  However, I considered my version more elegant and in keeping with this year’s theme.

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Lastly, an egg I didn’t get to purchase because I didn’t find out about it in time, is the Wild Atlantic Way egg by Hazel Mountain Chocolate, located in the Burren and Galway.  Checking their events page, you can have a ‘lock in’ day at the chocolate factory learning about the chocolate making process and sampling plenty of goodies along the tour.  I need to book one of these for a future excursion.

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Hope you have a safe, healthy, and happy Easter!

Posted by: mdmusingsie | December 31, 2018

Raise a Glass

Time seems to slip away with increasing speed.  Maybe that’s because I’m getting on in years.

Many of the posts this year were back dated and spread weeks or more after their occurrence as I struggled to find the time to download and edit the photos as well as write the posts.

One of the stops my September group and I made was to Tullamore Dew Distillery.  One of the gals was a big fan of this particular Uisce Beatha.

We were given a tour which told the story of the whiskey and the grains involved in its making.  Like most distillery tours, it also included a tasting segment.  I find the ones with the greatest age, and price, are the smoothest.

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The photo below shows the aging of the whiskey.  The dark shaded area at the top shows how much evaporates or is sacrificed as the “angel’s share” as the spirit matures.

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Tullamore Dew – each year the angels share increases

So raise a drop of your favorite beverage, whether it be a coffee, soft drink, beer, wine, spirit , or humble water, as we bid 2018 a fond farewell.

 

Posted by: mdmusingsie | October 21, 2018

Inis Oirr – Revisited

My second set of visitors and I also took the boat ride to Inis Oirr; however, due to the weather (mid September), the Cliffs of Moher part of the cruise had to be cancelled.  On the way to the island it was a bit choppy and more than once we hit a wave and received a salty splash.  By the time we reached the island the sun had come out and helped us to dry in short order.

Instead of the horse and cart ride, we opted for the tractor.  Unfortunately, our ride had to be cut short as the driver had a wedding to attend in Galway and needed to catch the little 6-seater plane that flies to and from the island.

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Inis Oirr

While waiting to return on the ferry, we happened to catch the Ferrier in a visit to tend to the horses.

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Ferrier visiting Inis Oirr

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Ferrier visiting Inis Oirr

Fortunately, the return boat trip was much smoother and we arrived back on the mainland with nary a drop of sea water.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | October 7, 2018

Trim Castle

I hadn’t visited Trim castle in years, more like decades.  I have a vague recollection of stopping there on one of my early bus tours of Ireland.  As it’s only about a 30 minute drive from where I’m living, it was the perfect place to head off to on a what-do-we-do-today trip.

What remains of Trim castle, it’s curtain wall and structures are impressive enough.  It must have been quite imposing in its prime, between the late 13th century and early 15th century.  Hugh de Lacy and his descendants were the, if not architects, then at least financiers of this complex.

The curtain wall contains a number of building remains – nearly a city in themselves.

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The earliest fortification, dating around 1173 or so, was burned to the ground rather than be surrendered to the King of Connacht.  A few years later the stone keep began to take shape, complete with a moat and drawbridge.   Following that the curtain wall and associated defensive structures attached to it were constructed, negating the need for the moat.  Over the next number of decades, several extensions were added to the main keep, along with a separate great hall.

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One would think that with walls so thick these dwellings would have been warm, but from what assorted guides have said over the years, they were cold, drafty places.  Of course, during some of the earliest construction, there were no windows – just hides and curtains attempting to keep out the draft.

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A number of castles I visited had separate great halls, which were added later, during less troubled times.

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Trim Castle – Great Hall and Solar

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Trim Castle – Great Hall

Trim Castle was used to film parts of the movie Braveheart.  A photo album, available from the ticket office, can be perused to see the modification that were made (and subsequently removed) from the buildings to make them look more authentic and habitable.

Outside the castle is a lovely park to stroll through which includes the remains of the 13th century St., Mary’s Abbey.

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St. Mary’s Abbey – Trim

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St. Mary’s Abbey – Trim

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