Ireland and England
October-November 2009

LAUNCHED: 21 November 2009.       LAST UPDATED: 21 November 2009.

Accessed at least many times since 21 November 2009.

Wednesday 21 October 2009. Off in the afternoon in a rental car with Bruce and Sally Larsen, headed for Boston. No difficulties at all and soon we're flying on Aer Lingus to Dublin. Happily the plane is not full so some room to stretch out. A very fast flight.

Thursday 22 October 2009. Arrive at ungodly hour of 4:40 am. Pitch black. Bus to O'Connell Street where we pick up a cab and off to Buswells Hotel. Little activity there so early but we manage to get in and soon are having a full Irish breakfast as we wait for our rooms to be made up. Buswells is a great location and all-in-all was a perfect choice. (Interesting to learn that it has a toll-free US phone number: 1-800-473-9527.)

Buswells Hotel in the heart of things.

After a short lie-down, the Larsens and I head out literally across the street to the National Museum where Sally drops off some stuff (a wedding dress, photos and documentation) that she's donating to a museum in County Down. Then we walk up Kildare Street to St. Stephen's Green and over to Grafton Street. Drop into the Vodafone shop and have a new SIM card installed in my phone. Wander about awhile then to Temple Bar area. Time for a pint. We find the Stag's Head, a favorite from the past and last visited a year ago.

The Stag's Head where we had lunch a year ago. Even the barmaid remains the same.

Cross the Liffey and through the intermittent rain to the Tourist Office (ask questions; pick up brochures), then to a Tescos where Bruce stocks up on Jamesons. Back to the hotel via Trinity College. Then a nice nap.
Have a drink with the Larsens in my room around 5 and, after awhile, up Kildare Street to a restaurant we noticed earlier that day: Town. Turns out that it's a very trendy place. Not too busy when we arrive but packed when we leave. Have onion soup followed by scallops—both starters.

Town was a good choice.

Friday 23 October 2009. After another good Irish breakfastr we check out and head by cab to the car rental place near the Baggot Street Bridge. We're soon packed up and with Sally driving we head out of Dublin to the Wicklow Mountains. First you're in the suburbs, then in open, pretty desolate countryside; the occasional forestry operation but otherwise deserted. Our first stop is for lunch at the Roundwood Inn in Roundwood. I had a memorable dinner here probably 30 years ago. A pint and a bowl of soup is just the ticket.

Where we had lunch in the Wicklow Mountains.

After lunch we proceed southwest for a few miles to Glendalough, renowned for its early monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. A lovely setting. The cathedral and the round tower are the most prominent features.

What's left of the 12th Century cathedral.

We then wind cross-country destined for Athy, via Granabeg, Hollywood and Ballitore, where we stop briefly at the Shackleton's Rest. Last time I was here it was closed up; it's re-opened but no customers today.

Shackleton's Rest near Ballitore.

Round about 4:30 we pull into Athy and the Carlton Abbey Hotel, our home for the next three nights. We had arranged for a family apartment which works out very well: Two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen and a large lounge. It overlooks the nun's burying ground.

Once an abbey, our hotel is only a few steps away from the Heritage Centre and O'Briens.

I was pleased to see that the misspelling of Shackleton's name in the lobby has finally been corrected after three years!

Although Shackleton is now spelled correctly, Restaurant is still missing an A. Left (2006), right (2009).

Have a drink or two in our suite, then wander over to Joe's Chinese Restaurant where some of the usual suspects are about to tuck into dinner: Zaz, Joe O'Farrell, Bob Headland, Kevin Kenny, Russell Potter, et al. We're then just in time for the Autumn School's opening reception at 7:30. The place is jumping. The first event is the launch of Regina Daly's new book The Shackleton Letters: Behind the Scenes of the Nimrod Expedition. Regina says a few words. Soon after we go upstairs to hear the keynote speaker, Caroline Casey, a blind woman (I can't tell) who gives an inspirational talk largely about disabilities.

Regina Daly launches her new book to those assembled including Joe O'Farrell and Duncan Lawie.

Once that's over it's not hard to guess where the action moves to—O'Briens, a mere hundred feet or so away. Frank O'Brien is present as usual, seemingly the same from year-to-year. And his daughter, Judith, who has trimmed down since last year and looks terrific.

O'Brien's, the unofficial conference venue for the Shackleton Autumn School.

The front room at O'Briens; still a functioning grocery.

The back room at O'Briens. Lady Herbert and her daughter, Kari, Huw Lewis-Jones and Russell Potter.

The back back room at O'Briens. Zaz Shackleton, Joe O'Farrell and the man himself, Frank O'Brien.

More activity at Obrien's: Bob Headland expostulating to Bruce Larsen and Kevin Kenny.
And Joe O'Farrell singing show tunes to Geraldine McDonald, Wendy Driver, Pauiline Young and Kari Herbert.

Saturday 24 October 2009. The first session begins at 10:30 (a very civilized time given the activities at O'briens the night before). The speaker is Hans-Kjell Larsen; his subject, his grandfather, Carl Anton Larsen, ship's captain, explorer and founder of Grytviken on South Georgia. His talk explains the presence of the "Larsen Triplets" from Norway, Torill Flyen from Boston and the Larsens from Jaffrey.

Hans-Kjell with Bruce Larsen at Frank Taaffe's house.

Sandwiches and beer at O'Briens for lunch, then the afternoon sessions.
Before the banquet Saturday night we go out to the Taaffe's lovely house for drinks and to view Frank's and Seamus's collections. Talk about books!

Mike Tarver inspects the treasures.

Out to the Clanard Court Hotel for the Banquet. David Wilson and I oversee the 'Nimrod Quiz', each table contesting. And then some traditional Irish music.

The boys from Clancy's entertain us.

On conclusion, back to Athy and another session at O'Briens.

Sunday 25 October 2009. Michael Rosove gives a good talk on Shackleton books to start the morning off. I then show a few photos of my new library in Jaffrey, concluding with my "Antarctic Council" slide, a Photoshopped version of Stephen Pearce's "Arctic Council."

Stephen Pearce's 'Arctic Council'. . . and his little known 'Antarctic Council planning the 9th Annual Shackleton Autumn School.'

Lunch. Guess where? Then back for the concluding sessions.
At the end of the day we have a party at our suite with all the Larsen relatives present.

A Larsen get-together: Hans-Kjell Larsen, Else Åbø, Bruce Larsen, Kari Flyen, Lill Egeland, Torill Flyen, Sally Larsen and non-Larsen Bob Headland.

Following that we move next door for dinner in the hotel. The bar/grille was once the chapel for the abbey with all the woodwork and stained glass preserved. After dinner, faced with the choice of attending a theatrical performance or making an appearance at O'Briens, some of us choose the latter (and learn later that our's was the better choice).

Monday 26 October 2009. A bright and blue morning. Check out of the hotel and congregate at the Heritage Centre to do the Shackleton tour with Frank Taaffe as leader. Off by Bus. First stop is Kilkea House, where Shackleton was born. On to Ballitore to vsit Mary Leadbeater's house and the Quaker meeting house. Refreshments at the Shaker Store.

Our tour guide, Frank Taaffe, in front of the Athy Heritage Centre. Our group in front of Shackleton's birthplace, Kilkea House.

After the tour we leave Athy and wend our way to Abbeyleix where we have lunch and then a pint at Morrisseys, a famous old Irish pub.

The bar at Morrisseys.

We continue on a mile or so until we reach Fruitlawn, Carol and Arthur Shackleton's lovely place where we'll spend the night. Son Robin is there, all grown up now and recently back from Indonesia.

Fruitlawn. A duck dinner with Carol, Robin and Arthur.

Tuesday 27 October 2009. We start the day with Arthur's full Irish breakfast. Delicious organic sausage. After a walk in the garden we take our leave and head north through Portlaoise, then Tullamoor, then to Belvedere a grand house outside of Mullingar. Have lunch in the visitor centre/shop, then self-tour the house. Built in 1740, the property has lots of interesting connections, including Mt. Everest, through one of its later owners, Charles Howard-Bury. The "Jealous Wall" is certainly unusual: An elaborate folly that was built by Robert Rochfort—who built Belvedere—so that he wouldn't have to see his youngest brother's nearby larger house, Rochfort House.

Belevedere and the "Jealous Wall".

Make a few phone calls to find a place to stay the night and decide on the Bloomfield House Hotel just a mile or so away. Large and commercial and with half term loaded with kids, but good rooms and baths and comfortable. We have dinner in the bar.

The Bloomfield House Hotel.

Wednesday 28 October 2009. Breakfast amongst far too many kids, then on our way to Clonmacnoise, an ancient ecclesiatical site south of Athlone that stretches back to the 6th century. Daphne Shackleton told us to look for her botanical murals in the visitor centre. We find and admire them. The site has lovely views out over the Shannon.

The Cross of the Scriptures and the remains of the Cathedral.

The view over the River Shannon.

Into Athlone, a bustling market town. Walk over the river and find a pub for a pint and lunch. Spend some time in a secondhand bookshop and an antique shop, then back to where we had parked—a large shopping centre—buy some supplies for the next two days, and head out for Mullagh via Mullingar and Kells. Arrive at Lakeview House at the end of the day and are welcomed by Daphne and the two dogs—Tinker our favorite. Relaxed and have a drink. Later, a splendid chicken dinner. Check e-mail on Daphne's computer.

Lakeview House and leaves in the garden.

Thursday 29 October 2009. After breakfast we have a walk around the farm with Daphne. Check out the new cow shed and discuss again the idea of building a replica of the Cape Royds hut in a nice setting. Another project for another time. After lunch we four set out in Daphne's car to Cavan where I try to top up my phone at a Vodafone shop (without success), then on to the North and to Florence Court, a National Trust property near Enniskillen. The 18th century house isn't open but the spacious and impressive grounds are and we wander round for perhaps an hour, ending up in the Walled Garden.
Continue on to Lough Erne to check on the Seagull, the Shackleton's historic wood boat, the oldest power boat in Ireland. All was fine with her and we push on for an early dinner at the Old Poste Inn in Cloverhill, Co. Cavan. Highly thought of. We celebrate Sally's birthday.
Back to Lakeview House and an early night as we set out early tomorrow for the airport.

Friday 30 October 2009. Up at 7 am, a quick breakfast, and we're on our way to the airport. Daphne's directions for the short cut work well and we're there in plenty of time. Drop off the car and wait for our flight to Gatwick on our favorite airline, Ryanair. I sneek through the gate posing as a hunchback with a secret backpack under my coat, but Bruce and Sally get nailed and have to pay €35 to check a bag. A few other things occur in the next hour that makes one wonder why anyone flies Ryanair.

Passengers on our favorite airline!

Arrive at Gatwick and pick up our next rental car and are off on our way. First order of business is to find Obriss Farm, our first Landmark Trust place. This proves a bit tricky so it proved a good idea to do this before darkness. We next drive to Edenbridge, the closest town, to find the pub where we will be meeting Conrad (coming from France) and to do some shopping. All is accomplished, plus some late lunch, then back to Obriss Farm just after 4 pm. We settle in, check things out and open the gin.
Not long after, Conrad rings and she's at the Olde Crown Inn, enjoying a beer. We drive in and join her. Not too long afterward, Mary rings. She's been hung up on the M25 but is in the neighborhood. Soon she meets up with us at the pub, and we all have a bit of supper. Afterwards, back to Obriss and we hatch plans for the following day.

Saturday 31 October 2009. After breakfast we set off for Sevenoaks to visit Knole, the home of the Sackville family. Extraordinarily large and just on the edge of the center of Sevenoaks, it is impressive and has lots of important paintings and furniture but is not what one would call cosy. Although one could say that of our next stop, Ightham Mote, not far away. On the way there we meet up with Sally's friend Duncan and his wife Elizabeth. We first have lunch in the visitor centre, then walk down to this very interesting moted house that was restored first by Charles Robinson, an American from Maine, and then more recently by the National Trust to whom Robinson gave the property. The house dates from 1320.

In the courtyard of Ightham Mote.

The others go to Duncan and Elizabeth's for tea while Mary and I find a Sainsbury and do some shopping. All back at Obriss, we have drinks and later enjoy a dinner of duck, brought by Conrad from France. Excellent!

Obriss Farm and the view south. It's a functioning sheep farm.

The kitchen and my bedroom.

Sunday 1 November 2009. Rain and wind. Ugh! Conrad and Mary drive off to visit nearby Chartwell; Bruce, Sally and I repair to the Fox & Hounds in Toy Hill, a highly recommended pub. I have a pint; they have lunch.

At the Fox & Hounds.

The Larsens then set off to Chartwell too. I have another pint and wait for Conrad and Mary who never show—too engrossed in Churchill—until 3 pm when I set off on foot back to Obriss. Picked up along the way by the Larsens and soon back at the farm. Some quick preparations for our party. In time Michael and Barbara Smith appear, then David and Isobel Williams, and finally Duncan and Elizabeth Dwinnell. Surprised they could all find us though we did put up balloons down at the gate half a mile away. Later, cook up some spaghetti and soon to bed.

Our party on Sunday (David Williams, Michael Smith, Isobel Williams, Barbara Smith, Conrad Paulus).

Monday 2 November 2009. A lovely sunny morning just as we have to leave.

Sally a few minutes before we leave on Monday.

Our entry in the Obriss Logbook.

On our way just at 10 am and off to East Grinstead where I photograph Hugh Robert Mills' house (I think), then on to Gatwick where we drop off the car and take the train to St. Pancras Station. We and our luggage just fit into a cab and soon we're at 13 Princelet Steet in Spitalfields, our second Landmark Trust house. We'll be here for a week. It's 1:30 and we're not supposed to show up until 4, but the cleaners are gone and so we settle in and relax. I'm up on the top floor sharing with Conrad. Duffy Monahon and Regina Daly—yet to show up—in the basement bedroom and Bruce and Sally on the 2nd (1st UK) floor.

13 Princelet Street is the one with the maroon trim. My bedroom at the top of the house.

The back garden and the back facade from the garden.

The first floor Living Room, ground floor Dining Room and the Morning Room looking into the Kitchen.

Some food shopping is done and I stick around waiting for Duffy and Regina who arrive separtely and in time. Of course, it's now time for a drink. When hunger calls, we wander over to Brick Lane, less than a block away. It's filled with restaurants and activity and we head for a restaurant that Bruce and Sally had seen earlier: Bengal Cuisine. Enjoy our meal, then back to our house.

Tuesday-Friday 3-6 November 2009. We're here for a week and the week always goes fast at Landmark Trust houses. Now that we're in London, most of the time we all go off in ones and twos to visit various sites, museums, theatre, etc. Bruce and Sally go off and shop for doll house furniture and to attend services at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's; Duffy, Regina and Conrad travel to Eltham Palace; I walk to the Geffreye Museum (highly recommended).

The Geffreye Museum—period rooms from medieval days to the present.

In the end I think all of us pay a visit to Soane's Museum, one of London's most eclectic offerings. Duffy, Conrad and I line up outside on Tuesday night for the once-a-month candlelight evening. About an hour's wait but worth it for the atmosphere.
As always when I'm in London I go to Waterloo Place to see Kathleen Scott's statue of her husband (and Andrew Lambert is correct—the statue of King Edward VII does block the view to Franklin's statue across the way. So the two tragic polar heroes can't, in fact, stare forever at one another).
During the rest of the week I drop in at Sotherans in Sackville Street (one of the last London antiquarian booksellers with a ground floor shop); see the current exhibit at the Royal Geographical Society; do a little banking in Curzon Street; visit the world's greatest travel bookshop—Stanfords—have a pint at the nearby Lamb & Flag (the old 'Bucket of Blood'); drop into Hatchards and buy a couple of current Antarctic books; have a quick look at all the greats at the National Portrait Gallery; seek out some Scott dioramas I didn't know about at the Natural History Museum; attend a meeting at the impressive and totally secure Foreign and Commonwealth Office of A100, a group of organizations coordinating and sharing information relative to the centenary of Antarctica's "heroic age;" take photos of the new Blue Plaque for ancestor Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (actually just around the coner from Princelet Street and close to his namesake street);

The Blue Plaque for my Buxton ancestor and nearby Buxton Street.

We all drop into Spitalfields Market at one time or another: not like it once was, no doubt, but still active and fun with lots of stalls but also lots of higher-end restaurants and shops. I couldn't resist an extravagant hamburger at one place and with others at least two tapas places and a Greek restaurant. Duffy and Regina were keen on London Walks and take in several.

On Thursday evening we have an "at home" for those who might like to drop by but wouldn't be able to make it on Sunday. Our lone guest: Jennifer Speirs from Edinburgh, my friend from crossing Africa days. She just happens to be in London on business so comes over and later we all go over to Brick Lane again, this time to Cinnamon where we enjoy more Bangladeshi food. We are now learning: this time we get 3 bottles of free wine, free popadum and 25 percent off the menu prices!

Enjoyng Brick Lane hospitality: Sally, Rob, Duffy, Bruce and Jennifer.

Spitalfields is an interesting neighborhood and obviously gentrifying. It's a lot more accessible than I was expecting: Liverpool Street Station is only about a ten minute walk away and Aldgate East even closer. Quite close to us is the Ten Bells, the pub where Mary Kelly, Jack the Ripper's final victim, was last seen drinking. And I love the Whitechapel Gallery, not so much the art but the building itself.

The Ten Bells and the Whitechapel Gallery.

And Hawksmoor's Christ Church, just around the corner, is all restored, looking good and worth a visit.

Christ Church.

Friday 6 November 2009. Sally, Bruce and I meet up at Victoria Station in the mid-afternoon and take the train to West Dulwich. We walk to the Dulwich Picture Gallery (designed by Soane), the oldest art gallery in England. All old masters. Duffy joins us there. I've been meaning to make this visit for years and am glad I did but no need to repeat the experience in the future. We walk south and soon are at Dulwich College where we're all attending the James Caird Society members evening and dinner. A large crowd of 174 with many friends and acquaintances in attendance. One thing about these gatherings is that the Society is not stingy on the wine! The AGM comes first, then a talk on the recent Nimrod centenary expedition, then dinner in the Great Hall.

Our table at the dinner. Philippa Foster-Back and Zaz Shackleton.

We, along with Stephen Scott-Fawcett—who will be taking Conrad's place in the house for one night—take the train back to London and tube to Princelet Street.

Saturday 7 November 2009. Blue sky and sunny. Stephen bids us farewell and soon we're headed to Greenwich, though not so easy to do because of the DLR being closed down today. So travelling to Greenwich by bus gives us a different perspective on things. Once there, all are hungry and thirsty so we repair to the Trafalgar Tavern and have lunch. Bruce orders the Tavern's famous whitebait; I have welsh rarebit.

Lunch at the Trafalgar Tavern.

Next we have a look at the Chapel at the old Wren-designed Greenwich Hospital (I photograph the Franklin Memorial) and the Painted Hall. Tarried a bit to watch a Pepys impersonator.

Greenwich Hospital looking south to the Queen's House and the Observatory beyond.

We then climb the hill (becoming harder every time I visit) to the Observatory. A big crowd there.

Looking down at the Queen's House and Greenwich Hospital with Canary Wharf in the background. Duffy straddles the prime meridian.

We descend the hill and spend an hour in the National Maritime Museum, then take the boat back to central London.

Sunday 8 November 2009. We see Duffy off at 9 am. I decide to stick around the house and neighborhood for the day. Have a look at nearby Christ Church with Bruce and Sally. Shop for the party this evening. People begin to come around 5 pm. Among those attending: Stuart Leggatt, John Bonham, Meredith and Richard Hooper, Maryann Bowen, Zaz Shackleton, Sarah Strong, Mary Cavanagh and her friend Jackie, and one or two others.

Our Sunday night party.

Some of us wander back to Brick Lane for yet another curry dinner, this time at Sheba. We're getting expert at this.

Our last meal in Brick Lane.

Our entry in the Princelet Street Logbook.

Monday 9 November 2009. Up early (Regina even earler—she leaves before the rest of us stir) and pack and tidy up and are out at 10 just as cleaners arrive. Fortunately they let us leave our luggage in the hallway and Bruce, Sally and I go off to Hammersmith to visit Zaz who promises to show us some family artifacts. She does but not the one I want to see.
Back to Princelet Street to pick up our bags. The next residents are there and we pass on some tips and some food and are on our way. Walk to Liverpool Street Station and take the Stansted Express getting off at Bishop's Stortford. Mary Cavanagh is there to meet us and she whisks us off to Sycamore Lodge where we are comfortably ensconced. Relax over a drink and conversation and later walk down to the Lemon Tree in Water Lane where we have a very nice dinner.

Our final indulgence—dinner with Mary at the Lemon Tree.

Tuesday 10 November 2009. Up really early and a quick cup of coffee. Mary drives us to Stansted to catch our flight to Dublin. What a good friend she is! No trouble with Ryanair this time. We make it to Dublin and have plenty of time before our flight to Boston. Have some breakfast and then embark. On arrival, we part ways. Bruce and Sally go to friend Torill's place for the night, then go on to Tucson the next morning. I take the T to the Harvard Club, attend the 800th meeting of the Harvard Travellers Club, hand out an award to friend and neighbor John Field, then drive back to Jaffrey with him and find myself in bed soon after 11 pm. A long day but a fine trip!