From sunny France to not so sunny Dublin

This time I mixed my work trip to France with a little extra and treated myself to the small gift that I missed because of that storm Doris which stuck me to Amsterdam airport in February. I had to attend a seminar in La Roche sur Yon and before planning my trip I just in case checked the possible flights from Nantes to Dublin. I was lucky to find that exactly on my departure day there were also straight flights to Dublin – wow that was a sign, so I booked a flight, took a week off and here I am – just on St Partick’s Day.

As I didn’t come so early to see the St Partick’s Day parade, I just left that for some other better time and didn’t think about it. Of course, one day I would like to be here at the right time to see the parade but I would prefer to get a sunny day for that. This year’s St Partick’s Day was rainy, grey and didn’t feel like a day that you would like to spend outdoors, so I was happy to get a bus and get straight to home where for my big surprise I found exactly the same St Valentine’s Days decorations waiting for me with 2 cards for both Days 🙂

What about France? France was really wonderful – sunny, warm, and full of nice friendly people, delicious dinners, picturesque sights and of course the seminar that was the main reason for my trip. We spent 3 days with nice colleagues from different countries of Europe and enjoyed the kindly welcome of our French partner school. Our 4 students started to work at their placement restaurants, our cooking teacher started her practice at the school restaurant and I signed the contract for future partnership with the other schools. But the best part was the feeling that my trip to Dublin was ahead and you were waiting for me there and we can celebrate our birthdays together.

The White Lady of Haapsalu

1-august_2013-128When you are Estonian and you live in Haapsalu, everyone knows that you are sharing your hometown with the White Lady. The White Lady is our own ghost who has been living in the Castle walls for centuries and only on one August night when the full moon is in the sky, she appears on the window of the Chaple to seek for her lover. And for that rare appearance, our town has started a tradition of White Lady Days, when the whole main street is a big market, musicians are playing on different stages and in the back gardens, you can find small garden markets and theatre groups performing. All the cafes are full of people and at night you can go the see the performance which of course, takes place in the Castle Yard.

Of course, it is a romantic love story and who doesn’t like romantic love stories of beautiful sad girls, so the performance has been played in the Castle Yard from 1979 when Haapsalu had the 700th anniversary.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYears and years ago, when the Episcopal Castle of Haapsalu was the residence of the Bishop, there were only religious men, called Canons living there and it was not allowed to the women to enter the castle. But the Canons were young lads and so it happened, that on of them fell madly in love with an Estonian girl from the neighborhood. As they wanted to be together, they had made up a plan and the girl, dressed up as a choir boy, stayed in the castle, helped in the stables, sang in a choir, because she had a marvellous voice and at night time met her lover. For some time they were happy and safe but of course, their happiness was discovered and the church laws were very strict. So the poor girl was immured into the walls of the Chapel of the dome Church and the boy was thrown into the dungeons of the castle to starve to death. And every year, in August, when there’s full moon, she comes back and shows herself on the castle window to see if her lover has come. If you don’t believe it, you have to come and see it with your own eyes.

After every 2-3 years the play is changed, but the story stays the same – we have had 3-hour long performances with horses and houses on fire, we have had real fighting scenes, dance performances, a musical and now even a time travelling story. So it doesn’t matter, if you have seen one, the next time it can be totally different. And when the show is over, the crowd gathers under the Chapel window and starts to wait for the appearance of the shadow of the White Lady. 🙂 Haapsalu is quite like a Storybrook, you never know what you get here.

Sushi night in Estonian Summer Capital

parnu_1When you are in Estonia you definitely have to visit the Summer capital PĂ€rnu. We are lucky to have some friends there and this time, we spent our night together with making sushi. 🙂 We felt already like profs because for us it was the second try but we wanted to try something new too and this time we were making also the hot sushi and we didn’t have to be disappointed, it came out really delicious. Just with the help of some youtube videos and a great desire and now I can say that it’s one of the best ways to keep up with your friends whom you haven’t met for a little while. So here’s a bit of Irish-Estonian sushi night captured with a smartphone just somewhere in the middle of the whole tasty and fascinating process.

 

August Blues Festival in Haapsalu

The August blues festival in Haapsalu was already the third for us together. Last year we had to miss it and so it was nice and fresh feeling to jump into all this music, parties and fun again. I have been going to this festival so many times, that it’s hard to count already, it has been held in Haapsalu 22 times already and has become one of our most famous music events and there are lots of fans from different countries who come back every year. 3-13932816_10205159865835578_2791810301530168709_n

For example, our Finnish friends with whom we have special Festival Traditions and so we start our Festival every year from Riika’s garden and then head to some nice place to have the Festival Dinner and get into the right mood.

August Blues Festival starts on Friday with lots of concerts all over the town but the main events take place in the Castle Yard, inside the old episcopal Castle, and I am pretty sure that the medieval walls give this festival a special taste and vibe. When all the performers have been on stage the party continues i the Blues club, which has always been the old Culture House from the 70-s, where some not so well known bands are playing and sometimes they form totally different bands from the musicians who are there. this year we had even two Blues clubs with two after parties, the other one took place at the Old Cinema, which is kind of a night club now, but years ago it was a real cinema.

The festival continues on Saturday with lots of concerts in cafes, on the streets, and of course, in the Castle Yard, and ends with afterparties at the night clubs. So everyone can find something, even if you are not interested in buying the Festival Pass but want to see just some of the musicians.

From Galway Girl to Molly Malone

In some reason, I have always loved Irish music, long before my feet touched Ireland and long before I even imagined that it could become my second home. I loved the long sad stories of “Molly Malone” and “Danny Boy”, the happy melodies of “Galway Girl”, “Whiskey in the Jar” and “Wild Rover” and the very old “It’s a long way to Tipperary”  and I even didn’t know where Tipperary really was. Somehow these melodies suited me and I wanted to play them in my English lessons when talking about English speaking countries.

Now I have had some nice experiences to be in real Irish pubs with real Irish music and I must say that whenever I hear them playing “Wild Rover”, which seems to be the most played song, and even if I know that it’s the most touristic performance in Temple Bar in the middle of the day, I feel that I want to sit down and stay. But one of my best experiences has been still in a pub in Duncannon, where the musicians just sat around the table and played, sometimes drank beer, and played again, some locals joined them and sang and the whole pub sang with them and they all knew the words. that was amazing.

So on our second Irish Dance evening in Parliament Hotel Pub with our friends from Estonia, I was very happy that besides the dancers there were also musicians singing and playing. And after our trip to Galway, the “Galway Girl” was just the right piece of music to listen to.

The evening ended at the Bank, which is another remarkable pub in Dubin city centre, located in the real old bank and absolutely worth to visit. The interior is luxurious and a bit royal in spite that it is a real pub where you don’t have to order anything else than a pint of beer or cider. So with 2 days we managed to visit three different pubs, definitely much more than usually with three weeks 😀

 

A trip to Connemara

When you have guests visiting you can behave as a tourist and as there are so many places in Ireland which I still haven’t seen, I was happy to join my friends on a day trip to Connemara. I have always wanted to visit Connemara, probably because of some mysterious romance books, which I even cannot name any more but when they have been taking place in Ireland, then something has definitely happened in Connemara. So for me, it sounded a very romantic place and that’s why I recommended it to my friends.

We started early in the morning at the Molly Malone statue with Irish Day Tours and headed through the mainland towards Galway. Unfortunately, that hot summer, which had touched Ireland for the past 4 days had disappeared and given way to the normal Irish weather and so we were followed by showers, a bit of sunshine and more and more showers. I still kept believing that it could change and tried to watch the cows because there was some old Irish saying if the cows were standing, the weather would be nice, or was it the other way around 🙂 Actually when we were discussing it some days ago on our car trip, even my Irish relatives were not exactly sure, if the poor cows had to lie or stand to predict the good weather, so I tried to concentrate on the landscape and miss the cows.

01-file_000When getting nearer to Connemara, there were already more sheep than cows and none of them was lying. They all looked very colourful, of course, their real colour was white, but their heads were black and they all had painted red or blue stripes on their backs and they all had horns, even the girls 🙂 Estonian sheep never have horns, at least I have never seen them. The painted stripes have different meanings as our guide told us – they can mark the owner or if the sheep is sheared or not and probably something more that only the real sheep owners can understand.

Soon we reached the Killary Fjord to start our 1,5-hour boat trip. The weather was not our friend any more – it was grey, cold and pouring rain and all the picturesque coastline of the Irish only Fjord, that we were supposed to see was hidden behind the fog and it seemed that the real autumn had begun – it felt like somewhere in the middle of November. As the Irish weather is tricky, and I have a lot of experiences already to know it, we didn’t lose our good mood, but stayed outside on the boat and took pictures of the foggy shores.

Very soon the weather started to change again, the rain stopped and the fog faded away and it seemed like the mountains, which lay on both side of us, started to take off their foggy clothes and dress into the green festive dresses. That was really so beautiful and worth waiting.

At the same time, it went warm again and we also could take off our raincoats and warm sweaters and start to feel summery again. Very soon it was already possible to count the sheep on the mountains and then our 1,5-hour boat trip was over and we had to go back on the bus and drive to our lunch place.

We had a short lunch break at Kylemore Abbey, which seemed to be the biggest tourist spot in the area. The Abbey is still used by the nuns, but we didn’t have so much time to go inside and greet them because we had to stand the queues to get some lunch. That’s of course not the greatest thing of taking a day tour – the place was visited by almost 25 buses full of tourists, but it all went quite quickly and there’s nothing to complain about. We even had time for a small walk towards the gorgeous abbey, admire the building and the stunning high mountains behind it, take some quick photos and go back to the bus.

Our last stop was Galway and even if I knew that I am going to like it and will be sad to have such a short time here, I couldn’t imagine that I liked it so much. Now it’s my favourite town in Ireland, without any question. Galway is the home of a Claddagh Ring and a lot of signs and adverts here and there reminded you that.

Of course, we wanted to find the sculpture of two Wildes, or to be precise, a sculpture of two writers – the Irish writer Oscar Wilde and the Estonian writer Eduard Vilde. The sculpture is mad by Estonian sculpture Tiiu Kirsipuu,  and was given to Galway as a present by its sister town Tartu, where the second copy of the sculpture is located. The writers are from the same generation, but have never met, it’s just the imagination of the artist who saw them in a nice chat on the same bench discussing the life and literature.

Even our guide didn’t know who is this man sitting beside their famous writer, now he knows, I hope that he will tell it to the other groups as well because when entering the busiest street with hustle and bustle, musicians and jogglers, these two guys are the first ones you will notice.

Galway is a place where you need to sit down, forget your hurry, take a beer and enjoy life, then perhaps take a little shopping tour and buy some unuseful, but cute souvenirs, a Claddagh ring to your loved one and some woolen Irish jumper just in case because after enjoying the sun and the music, it might get cold again but you still don’t want to leave.

Now I have a plan for the next summer and it’s always good to have one – we will come back and stay here for some days and do all these things together.

 

Irish Dancing

Everyone who comes to Ireland wants to see Irish Dancing, which probably became really famous after Riverdance performed on Eurovision in 1994. That’s why my friends who visited us in July asked us for taking them to see Irish Dance. So we carried out a big online search to see which different places are offering Irish Dance evenings and which of them are not so awfully touristic and expensive. As the Church is in our neighbourhood and despite being a real touristic place is still worth to see, we suggested them two options – the Church and the Parliament Hotel and they picked both of them 🙂

So on a nice warm summer evening, when our friends had just come from a Viking Splash Tour, which they loved a lot, and we had just arrived from our Cork visit, we ended up at the Church and enjoyed some good Irish dancing with a nice dinner, just like any other tourists, and as the other tourists, I also made a video and uploaded it on my Facebook page, where the Curch had also liked it.