Back on Land

The night before we docked in Longyearbyen, Norway, we all toasted the Captain and crew and thanked them all for a wonderful trip. Earlier in the day I watched about twenty people take the polar plunge. They all survived.

Night or day the views were the same.

Once we docked in Longyearbyen, Norway we boarded a bus that took us to the airport. On the way we passed the entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

I had an uneventful overnight in Helsinki and it was on to London the next day. I opted for a slower pace and stayed in Windsor for my last few days abroad. The castle wasn’t open on the days I was there but I managed to see a few sights. It really is a lovely town. With Eton right next door.

Windsor Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Eton College was founded in 1440 by Henry VI. You will need $56,000 per year to send your teenage boy there. No girls, please.

Dundee and Alyth, Scotland

V&A Museum Dundee

See London to Dundee if you need background.

After 10 hours sleep, I woke to a rainy day in Dundee. Still dragging a bit, I went off to see the Victoria & Albert museum down by the river Tay. Architecturally it was a beautiful, interesting place with a large open interior.

I learned that Scotland exported ceramics including Asian themed plates to Asia in the 1880’s. Also the Scottish Imp, made by Chrysler in the 1970’s had tartan seat covers.

The Imp

But the best part was the cafe. I had a delicious pea mint soup and a scone. All while enjoying a view of the river. After lunch it was pouring rain so I went back to bed. I lucked out the following day. It was sunny and perfect for exploring. Dundee is a city of about 150,000 with several good museums, three shopping centers, and a university all in the center. It is very walkable and the people are friendly and helpful. In the morning I was out before anything opened so walked around and found a lot of public art.

Dundee is home to DC Thompson and Co. comic book publishers so several comic book characters were featured around town as well as prominent figures like Queen Victoria who visited Dundee in 1844. My next stop was the McManus Art Gallery.

I really enjoyed the museum. It had art and artifacts from around the world as well as Victorian and Edwardian paintings. There were sections on natural history, history of Dundee and the history of the building itself. The inside of the building was very cool

Inside the gallery

I headed to the other side of town to see the Contemporary Art Museum near the University of Dundee. It was small and there was one in depth exhibit on a lighthouse on the Algerian coast. I bought some postcards in the gift shop and the guy who checked me out was from Wisconsin. Lots of people working, studying and visiting from other countries.

Another big attraction in Dundee was the Discovery ship. There was a museum dedicated to it and you could board the ship. Since it cost 17 pounds, and I was pretty museumed out, I decided to skip it. The ship was built in Dundee in 1901 and its first mission was to carry Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their successful trip to the Antarctic.

On Wednesday I stowed my roller bag at the Premier Inn hotel and caught a local bus to Alyth. The driver didn’t announce any stops so I was a little nervous I would miss my stop but after about 45 minutes we arrived at Market Square, Alyth. I found the guesthouse where I had reservations to stay but I got the times wrong. It was 3 pm and check in was not till 4.

I walked down the road to see the Alyth War Memorial and was taking it all in when it started to pour. I managed to find a bus shelter but not until after I was soaked to the bone. Back at the guesthouse I spent several hours trying to dry out.

See My Morning Walk for more on Alyth.

On the road

Lake Michigan

I was thinking about eyes. They take in light. Images pour in. Movement. My brain processes them into things I recognize. My ears take in sounds. Add music and conversation. My brain keeps track of it. I’m driving. My hands on the wheel. The cruise control the gears the radio.

Feet on the pedal. Brain keeps track of sights sounds conversation cars. Surrounded by semis. Speeding up to get around semis. Rain starting. Windshield wipers. Billboards along the road. Leonard singing Hallelujah. Bruce belting tramps like us baby we were born to run…. Billboard flashing. Anti choice. God is here. He sent Trump. Brief thoughts about possible identities of “he”.

Impressive all the things we can do simultaneously.

Art Museum

Saw an interesting exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Some of it thought provoking. Some of it just depressing because of what it represents. All the horrible history. America in denial:

“In Native America: In Translation, 10 artists consider Indigenous histories, cultures, and representation through a contemporary lens. Photography, a medium historically used to suppress and stereotype Native cultures, is reclaimed by these artists, who are, in the words of the curator Wendy Red Star, “opening up space in the art world for new ways of seeing and thinking.”” (From museum pamphlet)

Lake Michigan was crazy with big waves. Too cold to surf.

Random Friday Thoughts

It’s Friday. Another week slipped by. I found a website that is unfortunately no longer active but it is still accessible. It is called TCK Town Magazine. It has five years’ worth of TCK stories. They are well written and engaging.  And if you are a TCK you will definitely relate. 

It is hard for me to think about being in the middle of a draught when I am surrounded by 10,000 plus lakes but there you have it. We have been in a draught. And now it has rained twice this week. Everybody is very happy. I’m happy because it has cooled down a lot. 

I came across a book called The New Russian Poets 1953-68. My house is full of such things. I usually ignore them but I saw this one and I didn’t ever remember seeing it before so I picked it up just to take a look. I actually found a poem I liked by Yevgeny Vinokurov: 

And In A World 

And in a world, where all is frontier, 
All merely boundary and barrier, 
You are, fathomless infinity, 
At least a consolation. 
…There’s a gleam of blue that shines 
Through a crack in the barn wall – 
Here already is your witness: that 
Not everything is so plain and flat. 

Sitting next to it on the shelf was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I had never seen it before either. It looks like something I would enjoy. I’m going to put it aside for a read later. 

Shifting gears… I recently came across a postcard of a tour my family took in Tokyo. My brother told me we were in Tokyo twice and took tours each time. I dug around and found some more Tokyo photos. It is clear we were different ages. He also gave me a pin he had that the tour group gave out. I looked up the JTB company and it is still going strong.

This first group must have been from 1959.

These two photos are from 1962. You can see that it says “Pigeon Bus Tours”. Hato is “pigeon” in Japanese and stands for peace. These bus tours started in 1949, and have been very successful showing close to a million tourists around each year.

Happy Friday.

Cloquet, Minnesota

Cloquet, Minnesota is about 20 miles west of Duluth. Part of it is within the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation and is one of three administrative centers for the Reservation. As you pull into town you will see the R.W. Lindholm Service Station. Frank Lloyd Wright designed Ray Lindholm’s house in 1952, and since he knew Lindholm was in the oil business, he offered to design a gas station as part of Broadacre City (Wright’s urban planning concept). Wright completed the design and the station opened in 1958. It later became a Phillips 66 station. The station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It is still a working gas station.

Another Cloquet attraction is Gordy’s High Hat. In 2015, the drive in diner was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

Gordy and Marilyn Lundquist opened their door in 1960, to serve “hand pattied hamburgers, hand-battered Alaskan fish, homemade onion rings, and fresh blended malts” and they are still going strong. We stopped in for burgers and fries and they were yummy!

Enger Tower, Duluth

Norwegian businessman Bert Enger (1864-1931) left his estate to the city of Duluth, MN and to some charitable organizations. One third of the money was used to build a memorial tower and 330 acre park on Skyline Drive. The tower was dedicated by Olav, Crown Prince of Norway in 1939.

Enger Tower is five stories up with nice wide steps and railings so not a difficult climb. It is 80 feet tall and has an amazing panoramic view from the top. Today the park has a Japanese garden with a Peace Bell you can ring. It was a gift of Duluth’s sister city, Ohara-Isumi.

The Tower

The View

The Japanese Garden

Interesting note on the bell. The original Peace Bell which was in the former Cho-ei Temple, is the oldest remaining bell in Ohara, Japan. Ohara donated the bell to a wartime scrap drive but for some reason it was never destroyed. After WWI, in 1946, sailors on the USS Duluth found the bell and took it to the US giving it to the city of Duluth where it was displayed in City Hall. In 1951, the Dean of Chiba University School of Horticulture was pursuing academic travel in the US. He learned of the bell’s existence, met with the Mayor if Duluth, and asked for its return. Mayor George Johnson along with Professor Peterson of the University of Minnesota and the US Air Force and Navy, returned the bell to Ohara on May 2, 1954.

This bell is a close replica of the original bell and presented to Duluth as the Japan-US Friendship Peace Bell, dedicated on June 5, 1994.

Two Harbors, Minnesota

Two Harbors is about a half hour drive north of Duluth. We took the old scenic drive along the lake.

Two Harbors was originally two separate communities — Agate Bay and Burlington. The towns merged to form Two Harbors and was incorporated as a village in 1888. By the early 1900s, the area was predominantly known for logging and more than 35 logging camps were in the area. It came to be known as the City of Two Harbors in 1907.

The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) was originally started in Two Harbors. They discovered a mineral called corundum which could be used to make sandpaper. It turned out not to be really corundum so they moved on to other things. In 1905, they moved to Duluth and in 1907, they ron Ore was discovered nearby. The Minnesota Iron Company bought 17,000 acres so they could build their railroad. Up until the railroad was built, the main transportation route was on Lake Superior. Agate Bay was chosen as the railroad terminus and shipping port because it was close to the iron ore site and had a clay bottom.

These days the railroad serves as a tourist attraction with one trip that runs on the weekends from Duluth to Two Harbors. It is a full day trip with a stop for lunch and a tour. There are other trips all operated by the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

Two Harbors also had a thriving commercial fishing industry but over fishing, along with the invasion of the sea lamprey, destroyed the industry by 1955. Agate Bay gets its name from the translucent reddish-brown stones called Lake Superior agate, the Minnesota state gemstone. They were formed by basaltic lava 1.1 billion years ago.

The Edna G. Tugboat was built in 1896, and named after Jacob Greatsing’s daughter, Edna. He was president of the D & IR Railroad. Edna originally served the shipping industry but during WW1 she moved to the east coast to serve the US Government. After the war she returned to Lake Superior. The Edna G. was the last steam driven tug boat to operate on the Great Lakes. She was retired in 1981 and donated to the City of Two Harbors to serve as a museum.

Castle Danger Brewery…. for the beer lovers…

Local Two Harbors Castle Danger brewery has now gone state-wide.

“Crafting a North Shore experience…”

Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth is about a two and a half hour drive north of the Twin Cities. We had hoped it would be cooler up there but on the day we left, the temperature was the same as it was in St Paul — over 90 degrees F. 

Just outside Duluth there is a large rest stop with a spectacular overlook. There is also a sculpture by David von Schlegell done in 1976 called The Gate. Von Schlegell was from St. Louis, Missouri. His father was an American Impressionist painter, William von Schegell. The plaque says: 

The Stainless steel sculpture functions as a metaphor, tying the horizontal lines of the land and Lake Superior, which are both very visible from this location, together at the point of intersection with the City of Duluth. The Gate serves to recognize the importance of Duluth, as not only a gateway to Minnesota’s north shore, but also to the world through the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway that extends 3700 kilometers (2300 miles) east to the Atlantic Ocean.

On the way into town we stopped at the Duluth Grill located a 118 S. 27th Ave. W. The restaurant is open daily from 8 am to 3 pm and serves fresh, local, organic food. Their salads and sandwiches were delicious. Plus they serve breakfast all day.

Our next stop was to check into our hotel right on the lake. We stayed at the Canal Park Lodge at 250 Canal Park Drive. It was very comfortable and the view was spectacular. Breakfast was included. 

The first day I walked along the shore all the way to the lighthouse and back. It was kind of a mistake since it was so hot but I did get to see the bridge go up and got a close up view of the light house.

The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was completed in 1905, and was upgraded in 1929. In 1973 it went on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most photographed sites in Minnesota. In the busy seasons, it averages 26 lifts a day and operates 24 hours a day. It has a clearance of 180 feet when completely raised and is very similar to a bridge in Rouen, France. They are the only two of their kind in the world.

A couple of big ships had just gone out when we arrived but I was lucky enough to see the bridge go up to let the tug boat back in.

Another important bridge is the one that connects Duluth, Minnesota with Superior, Wisconsin. The John A. Blatnik Bridge is 7,975 feet (2,431 m) long and rises up nearly 120 feet (37 m) above the St. Louis River which is a tributary of Lake Superior. The bridge was completed in 1971 but has been widened and strengthened since then.

San Francisco and Point Reyes

I recently returned from visiting old friends in San Francisco. I had a great time visiting old haunts and exploring new ones.

First stop was Golden Gate Park and a walk around Stow Lake. We saw lots of turtles. Stow Lake is located between John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive – west of the Japanese Tea Gardens.

Somehow it had never registered with me that San Quentin maximum security prison is located right on the Bay. It must have a fantastic view. It is the oldest prison in California opened in 1852. It sits on 432 acres and houses about 3,776 occupants. It is easily seen as you cross the Richmond bridge from the East Bay to Marin County.

San Quentin

We were on our way to Point Reyes National park about an hour and a half northwest via Sir Francis Drake Blvd. The road took us through Roy’s Redwoods Preserve and Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

We stopped at the visitor center at the entrance to Point Reyes and headed towards the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself was closed off but the views were spectacular.

Next day was dedicated to The City. We spent the day wandering around the neighborhoods and enjoying the energy. We strolled through Chinatown, stopping to look at all the treasures to be found in it’s small crowded shops. We stopped for lunch at a restaurants where everybody spoke Chinese and shared large dishes.

After cutting through some familiar places in North Beach…

…we ended up at the Ferry Building, a large commingling of many foods-cheese, chocolate, meat, bread, baked goods, produce and dry goods.

We took a trolley from the Ferry Building to the Wharf and wandered down to Scoma’s for a few drinks. Scoma’s is a restaurant located at the end of Pier 47 that has been around since the 1960’s. The waiters wear white coats and black ties and the menu consists of fresh-off-the-boat seafood. Plus they make a good cocktail.

Next week – the wine country and the East Bay.

Ireland Itinerary

My brother is currently in Ireland and posting photos. It made me think back on my trip to Ireland in 2019, just pre-pandemic. Ireland is a beautiful country full of friendly people and enchanting castles. Here is a re-cap of my trip.

Dublin – highlights:

Tour of the Castle
National Art Gallery
National Archeological Museum – very cool
Trinity College – must see
Chester Beatty Library

There is plenty to see in Dublin, several churches, and parks, and some shopping. Pubs and tourist attractions. Guinness does a tour. We did a lot of walking around town. We found a great Italian pizza place and a nice pub, and other good restaurants in our neighborhood. Our hotel was very centrally located.

I think most first time travelers to Ireland take the southern route through Waterford, Cork, Killarney, Limerick. There is a lot to see in Ireland and I picked a northern route because there were certain things I wanted to see. I saw everything I set out to see. Next time, I would like to go to Northern Ireland, to Londonderry. But this is what we saw on this trip.

We picked up our car at the airport in order to avoid Dublin traffic. We were heading north to County Monaghan. Our first stop was Brú na Bóinne. This is a Neolithic period World Heritage Site comprised of Knowth, New Grange, and Dowth. We spent three hours touring Knowth and New Grange.

The Knowth site has one large mound and 18 smaller ones. We were shown a film of the interior and were able to look down the passageway but could not enter it. However we could climb on top of it and see a spectacular view of the surrounding farmlands.

Highlight of the trip: New Grange consisted of one large main mound. Everybody who visited had to join a tour with a guide. At New Grange we were led into the mound for a demonstration of how the Winter Solstice lights up the cave-like structure. I’m sure the real thing is much more impressive but it was very cool. I am not a fan of small tight spaces and almost didn’t go in but luckily we weren’t in there very long so I didn’t have time to panic.

Both places were built 5,000 years ago, before the Pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge in England. It is an incredible display of engineering, not to mention beautiful and kind of eerie.

Our next destination was Ballybay. This was the place my family listed as their home when they boarded the ship for America back in the early 1800’s. Since I had spoken with a genealogist in Dublin, I knew they had probably not come from the town itself but the general area, I was really more interested in the countryside. The area was lovely with farms and rolling hills. We drove through the middle to town, took a couple of pictures and kept going north.

We spent the night in Monaghan which is almost to the border with Northern Ireland. We were there in October and I was a bit surprised to see our hotel all decked out with Halloween decorations.

Monaghan – Westenra Arms Hotel
The Diamond, Monaghan Town, Monaghan, Ireland.
Phone: 047 74400

There was a small interesting museum in Monaghan and an impressive church.
Monaghan County Museum, 1-2 Hill Street, Monaghan, Ireland – 11 am to 5 pm

After spending the night in Monaghan, we headed west. The road took us into Northern Ireland several times along the way. We could tell because the road signs looked different, otherwise there was no indication.

Monaghan to Westport (3  hrs)

We stopped at Turlough  – Castlebar on our way.
National Museum of Country Life – 10 am to 5 pm
Traditional Folklife collections

Turlough Round Tower

Across the street from the museum was the Turlough Round Tower from the 9th century – one of the most complete and best-preserved round towers in Ireland. Round towers were built as places of refuge for the occupants of important Churches or Abbeys against the Vikings. It was one of my favorite things.

Westport – We stayed the night at the Westport Coast Hotel right on waterfront.

Next morning we headed out – Westport to Clifden – 1.5 hours

Kylemore Abby.

Our first stop was Kylemore Abby. Originally built by a wealthy doctor from London for his wife, this has been home to the Benedictine nuns for 100 years.

The nuns ran a girl’s boarding school out of the Abbey from 1923 to 2010. They currently offer Residential and Day Retreats. The grounds included a Gothic Chapel and Victorian Gardens. The whole setting was very impressive.

Our next stop was just to the southwest of the Abbey at Connemara National Park. Much of the park was part of the Kylemore Abbey estate up until 1980 when it opened to the public. It was a mountainous area with almost 5,000 acres of land. On the way up one of the paths we saw some of the Connemara ponies. It was a good area for hiking.

On the way to Clifden, right on the coast in County Gallway, we opted for a small detour along the Sky Road Loop, a very narrow strip of road that follows the winding coast. The views were spectacular.

We stayed at the Ardagh Hotel that promised to provide us with a top rated seafood dinner. It did not disappoint with oysters and lobster. I opted for the lamb which was also very good.

Clifden – Ardagh Hotel & Restaurant
Ardagh, R341 Ballyconneely Road, Ardagh, Clifden, Connemara, Co. Galway, H71 X590
+353 95 21384

After spending the night in Clifden, we stopped to buy a couple of sweaters and headed for Ballyvaughan. On the way we took a very narrow, small dead-end road along Lough Corrib. We parked at the end of the road and had a picnic. Sheep were grazing below us, it was drizzling, and the lake was beautiful and eerie.

Clifden to Ballyvaughan – 2 hours

Ballyvaughan – Hazelwood Lodge
+353 (0)65 707 7092
Bed and Breakfast

We stayed at Hazelwood Lodge in Ballyvaughan, a comfortable bed and breakfast with a lovely couple who ran it. They were happy to share lots of information about the area. Ballyvaughan itself was not much but it was located in easy driving distance to many things. We planned to stay for four days and take trips from there. Our first outing was to the Cliffs of Mohr (obviously a must-see).

We were lucky it was a beautiful sunny day and not too crowded. From there we drove to Kilfenora to see the Burren Center. We learned about the geology of the limestone covered area, the fossils of sea creatures to be found, and the wild flowers that grow in abundance. At the Burren Center they show a film and there is a small exhibit. Next to the center was the Kilfenora Cathedral dating back to 1200 AD. It is known for its ornate and interesting crosses. Another thing we learned about Kilfenora was the television show Father Ted was filmed there in the 1990’s.

Out in the Burren National Park we took in the desolate landscape with tufts of green pushing through the cracks in the rocks. We stopped at Poulnabrone portal tomb that dates back to neolithic times, between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. It sits in the middle of a large field of rock.

The following day we continued our day trips from Ballyvaughan and headed down a small narrow dead end road onto private property in search of Gleninagh Castle. It was one of the best preserved tower castles we saw. The tower was built in the late 1500’s by the O’Loughlin family and they lived there off and on until about 1840. Next to the tower is a small well which provided them with fresh water. We saw many of these towers up and down the coast, some of them just rubble.

Gleninagh Castle

We headed south down the coast road to Loop Head Lighthouse right at the tip of Loop Head peninsula. The first lighthouse on this spot was built in 1640 and there has been one there ever since. In 1971 it went electric and became automated in 1991. Now the house acts as an Inn where people can stay in holiday apartments. The view from up top is spectacular.

On another day we took a boat from Doolin to Inisheer Island, the closest of the three Aran Islands. It was a pretty smooth ride and took about forty minutes. On the island we wandered around the ruins, the farmland, the town, the coast. It was beautiful in a kind of eerie way. I saw more farm animals than people. The islands were known for the Aran Sweater which is usually off-white in color with a cable design and pure wool. We decided the sheep must live on the other side of the island because we didn’t see any.

The boat ride back was another story. It was a rough ride and many were sick or at least looked green. The waves came up well above the windows and we would go up in the air and slam down hard onto the water. I was even a bit uncomfortable and I have never been seasick.

The boat took a different route back because we were to see the Cliffs of Mohr from the sea as well as the cave where Harry Potter was filmed looking for horcruxes. It was definitely impressive but difficult to really enjoy in the moment.

Before we left the west coast we stopped at Corcomroe Abbey built originally in 1182. Monks kept it up until the mid 1500’s when the English Reformation came about and closed Catholic monasteries. It was a beautiful place.

Corcomroe Abbey

Ballyvaughan to Dublin – 2.5 hours

Dublin – Drury Court Hotel
Address: Drury Court Hotel, 28-30 Stephen Street Lower, Dublin 2 
Phone: +353 (1) 475-1988

Our last stops in Dublin included Christ Church Cathedral (Dublin’s oldest building), and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Of course we spent some time walking through the Temple Bar area, and we ended our visit at the Hairy Lemon pub eating the most delicious bread pudding I have ever had.

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