The Ring of Wonders

Today we took our long-anticipated tour of the Ring of Kerry, a 110-mile trip around the Iveragh Peninsula, a must-do for tourists to Ireland. It’s where one sees all the most iconic views, and comes with mountains, lakes, sheep, cows, tidy farms and precious villages.

We did it by tour bus, which was very well done and one of the best organized we have ever taken. Lots of variety here, beginning with a rest stop at a Bog Village Museum, which shows you how the peasant class lived in a world where turf – the peat in the ancient bogs – was the only source of fuel. You can almost get used to the smell, but it does cling a bit. What a rough life this was. And then there was poor Bridget O’Shea.

Lots of lovely scenery stops, which were just what you expect from the Irish countryside and coast line – including a rainbow.

One really interesting stop was at a sheep farm, where the shepherd introduced us to some of the 21 breeds of sheep currently being raised in Ireland – while one of his dogs watched attentively, awaiting instruction.

It was amazing to watch his dogs work, with almost inaudible direction.

In the video, the two dogs each separated two specific sheep from the herd. Don’t ask me how they knew which ones the boss wanted.

All the scenery was spectacular, and makes the Emerald Isle true to its name. From prehistoric ring forts to our dishy guide Michael, to Stone Age winter solstice markers, to bays and islands, colorful villages and their resident eccentrics (with goat) – this place has it all. How wonderful to see so much beauty in one day.

Don’s Food Corner

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I complained that “Modern Irish” cooking has sucked the adventure out of a foreign eating experience by making everything cleaned-up and generic-tasting?  Well, today it was back to the authentic traditional stuff. Was I happier?  Hmm.

I tried Irish stew, thinking that the version I had last week in Northern Ireland might not have been the real thing, compared to the more fully Irish version of the Republic. It turns out that they used the same cookbook, with only one very slight variation. Like the Irish stew ladled out at the Bushmills distillery cafeteria, the version today featured a mixture of little lamb pieces (not browned) mixed in with carrots and turnips.

The only difference, it seemed, was that the other version was cooked with the potatoes in it, while today’s version was served on top of a mound of mashed potatoes. As a result, the version cooked with potatoes had a thicker sauce. Today’s meat and vegetables floated around in a broth without any attempt to make any kind of thickened gravy-type sauce. It was served with a spoon. All in all, the “authentic” Irish stew consists of a bunch of stuff thrown into some water and then boiled for an extended period of time — with the lamb serving as the source of some type of broth.  (I think this will be the last time I try Irish stew on this trip to Ireland — traditional or modern.)

As our choices were somewhat limited, Jo had fish and chips. Served as expected, but I thought the fish was unusually succulent.

P.S. I started my day with a big bowl of porridge. It was great, served with honey and milk.  Jo, who – for some reason – finds the sight of porridge repulsive, averted her gaze while I snarfed it up.  (She averts her gaze when I eat oysters as well.)

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