And so it was that I found myself being bussed to the Connemara Coast Hotel with a bunch of other dancers, most of whom I’d met along my travels through Ireland. The venue was very nice; along the coast of Ireland, they had decked out the ballroom with a lovely banner and the floor was a nice, live wood. Seeing so many familiar faces from nights out swing dancing in Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny and Galway made me feel better, although I was still nervous as heck!
I had signed up for 2 events: Jack & Jill, which is where you don’t know who your partner will be until the dance itself, and the Open Lindy–often also called a “strictly”–where you choose your partner beforehand. I was dancing with Rory, with whom I’d be dancing basically for 3 weeks straight only a short time before.
They finally called my heat to dance, and I was wildly nervous. So nervous, in fact, that although I was given 2 great leads to dance with, I totally let my butterflies get the best of me and didn’t allow myself to follow, or be creative, or basically do anything right at all (at least, that’s how it felt.)
Disclaimer: For some reason, some of these videos may not be visible in the USA. I’m not sure why…so sorry in advance if you can’t watch some of them! Also, if you’re interested in watching the whole competition–including fabulous solo charleston, great up-and-comers, and more, you can do so here at the Galway Swing YouTube channel!
Kilkenny is a lovely city. Although small–about 24,000 people–it has a vibrant nightlife and good shopping, as well as some of the best Irish folk around. Here are 5 of my favorite things I did in Kilkenny, many of which I’ve posted about already.
That being said, I always pounce on the opportunity to embarrass myself, so when I found out Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones, was going to be in Kilkenny for Subtitle, their first European film festival, I couldn’t resist trying to catch a sighting.
No, I didn’t get a chance to see any films in the festival (to be fair, I wanted to but it never quite worked with my schedule).
Yes, I paid 20 euro to watch awards being given to people whose work I hadn’t seen (sorry about that, again. I hear the festival was super.).
Yes, I felt like a bit of a poser. BUT, it was, as the Irish say, good craic. Some friends and I got gussied up, had a couple glasses of wine with some of Ireland’s finest (Jim Sheridan was there, whom I had to google but should have known), and enjoyed the awards ceremony, which was held in The Set, a really lovely theatre in Kilkenny.
My goal was to get a photo with the debonair Nikolaj. He arrived just before the awards began, and left almost immediately after. But not before I got a photo with him (technically) and ordered a drink at the bar next to him. Unlike my other undignified encounters with famous actors, I restrained myself. I didn’t interrupt him while we were at the bar as he chatted with one of the Romanian actors, but I did note that he had a Kindle in the same black case that I have. E-reader twinsies!
Here’s my photo with the Kingslayer.
I think I have made a decision, though. I like fall. A lot. I might even love fall, which has stunned me at every turn. I joke to people when I tell them where I”m from that I sound like a little kid running around here. “Ooh, look at the leaves! PRETTYYYYYYY! They’re so COLORFUL!” and people just laugh and shake their heads, kind of like when Kat & I were traveling in Scotland and marveled at the plethora of rainbows overhead every other day.
So why this change of heart? A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. Here are a few to explain why autumn has seduced me.
My third Thanksgiving abroad went swimmingly. I accomplished so many things that I normally do on Thanksgiving:
- Spend time with family (even if it’s via Skype)
- Cook! The menu I planned turned out even better than I anticipated! Rory ended up doing the green beans, too, as I was busy chatting away with my family, and everything we had was really delicious.
- OVEREAT. Our original 4-person meal turned into a 3-person one, so there was plenty of food to go around! We did finish off the potatoes and gravy, but there are definitely leftovers for today, despite our best efforts. We gorged ourselves and it was grand.
Today I took a bit of time to run over to Kilkenny Castle, one of the main attractions in my current town.
It was built in 1195 in Kilkenny, right on the river, and was initially home to the Pembrokes. At the end of the 14th century, the Butler clan bought it and owned it for more than 500 years; in the 1930’s, they immigrated to the USA and their family still lives in the Chicago area. The castle was sold to the city of Kilkenny by the last Butler for 50 £ in 1967.
The castle itself was beautiful and old, and the exterior is a wonderfully haunting grey limestone. I’ll have to post photos later, as I went on a bit of a whim today and didn’t have my phone or camera.
The interior is grand and much had to be restored, because for 32 years the castle was uninhabited and dry rot corroded a lot of the building. They were able to restore the family’s drawing room to a replica, and their portrait and painting collection has been preserved, too. One of the cool pieces is a huge marble table in the reception room, which was also the family’s wake table where their deceased would rest for 3 days while family and friends would come and pay their respects.
My favorite tidbit I learned on the tour was about the “pole screens” that were in the drawing room. Basically, a pole screen is exactly what it sounds like: a little screen on a pole, often decorated, that was used to shield the ladies’ faces from the heat of the fire. They would use these to a) retain their ladylike complexions, and b) prevent their make-up, with a base of wax, from melting off. We get the phrase “saving face” from this.
The other thing I asked about at the end of the tour was, of course, the ghost stories. I had this romantic notion upon coming to Ireland that I’d query every barman in the old pubs about ghost stories of the pubs and such, and so far have been disappointed. At Kyteler’s Inn, which should have some killer ghost stories,* the bartender just shrugged and said he didn’t know any. Lame. The guide at the castle, though, had a few tidbits for me. Here they are:
- Unexplained whistling, especially in the west wing of the castle
- Footsteps/sounds of running children, especially in December & January, coming from a locked room
- Seeing a woman going down one of the corridors
- This one’s the best: multiple people spread years apart have toured and said they’ve seen a man reading a newspaper in one of the bedrooms the tour group goes into.
I took a fun tour the other day with Paddywagon Tours, and had a really great time. The guide was fun and informative, the other people on my tour were really nice, and the scenery was, of course, AMAZING! Here are some shots from along the way to give you an idea of why Ireland is now in the bunch for favorite places!