Welcome to Happy Valley

It’s a lovely sunny day and we spent most of it in the picturesque town of Kinsale, which often wins first place in Ireland’s “Tiny Towns” competition for overall appeal. Some of its charm, however, might come from the fact that Eli Lily manufactures most of its Prozac just outside of town. Who knows what is leaking into the water supply?

We took the recommended walking tour, and learned oodles about this little town that played a pivotal role in history – ours as well as others. While it is not the only place of our acquaintance to make this claim, interesting things did happen here. Located as it is in the southwest corner of Ireland, it was considered the end of the world for centuries, though it was a rich trading center since 500 BC, due to its copper mines. Then the new world was discovered, and – because of what is considered Ireland’s most perfect natural harbor – Kinsale became the jumping-off point for ships seeking wealth and adventure to the west.

In 1601, the last Spanish Armada sailed in Kinsale and England suddenly realized how important this town was to them. The Irish were uniting with the Spanish in the hope of evicting the English. When the Spanish could not help the Irish earls defeat the English, the English got very serious about the strategic importance of Kinsale. The Irish resistance was broken. The plantation system and the onerous penal codes came into full force, and we all know what happened from there.

Two great forts were built at the mouth of the harbor to counteract both the Spanish and the French, who attacked in 1690. We saw a model of the original walled city and the forts off in the distance.

Lots more history here. The model for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe departed from Kinsale in 1703, and in 1915, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk just 10 miles offshore.

But the main impression we walked away with was that of a lovely town trying to outdo all its competition for cuteness and color. The judges for this year are coming next week! Time for a bit of Prozac?

Don’s Food Corner

We went for Modern Irish again today. Jo had a chicken wrap that didn’t seem to include anything Irish at all. But she started with a carrot/coriander soup. The carrot soup part was certainly Irish-based, but I’m not so sure about the coriander.  However, it did come with delicious old-school Irish brown bread and Irish butter — both of which can’t be beat, and which I was compelled to steal from her plate.

I had pan-roasted salmon and potatoes with a few spears of asparagus.  What makes it “modern,” it seems is that instead of the salmon placed on the side of the plate, with the boiled potatoes and asparagus in other separate sections, the salmon was cut into pieces and balanced on top of perfect cylinders of boiled potatoes with the asparagus attractively arranged on top of all of it. Very modern, I suppose. But I don’t think it changes the taste of things.

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