Last week saw my daughter Tjorven, my five grandchildren and myself visit a most lovely and atmospheric open garden in West Cork. It had been a very long time since we had the privilege of doing this and luckily the weather was with us. The garden is situated at the site of a 19th century dairy farm and there are fabulous ruins to be found there. The townland of Breeny Mor (Na Bruine Mora in Gaelic – meaning “Great dwellings of the fairies) lies a few kilometres south of and uphill from the village of Kealkill. Close by is the beautiful Mealagh Valley and also Coomhola. I tried to find some more information about this dairy farm by checking the Census but the earliest records I could find for Breeny Mor was of one family by the name of Cronin where both the man and wife were dairy workers and that was in the Census of 1901. There were no other records of dairy men to be found and so I am wondering if this farm was still a working farm in the beginning of the 20th century and if these people were descendants of the original dairy farmers or were they just working at that site.
The ruins are quite well preserved and I found the window slits interesting, the present owner of the place said they would have been great for airing the place. In my imagination this building was a dairy where from the fresh milk the butter, cream, cheese, and yogurt was made, but maybe this was just a stable for the cattle? I am not well up on this sort of thing. I’d love to know more, visiting this place has made me very curious about the history of farming and especially dairy farming in this region of West Cork.
Close by this garden there are to be found a stone circle and boulder burials, which we did not visit this time but I would like to do this in the near future.
But for now I will let you all just wander around this place via my photos, I let you loose on this garden and hope you enjoy it too. For us and for the children it was a magical place.
Some years ago I partook of a wonderful holiday in Naxos, the largest but least touristic island of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, where with some friends we walked the ancient Donkey trails. And because of it being spring time, the whole of the island was covered in the blooms of wild flowers and herbs, a wonderful sight to behold! The fragrance of Oregano, Thyme, Chamomile, Lavender, and Melissa were a daily delight.
The island is also very rich in archaeological finds and remains as it has been lived on constantly for the past 3000 years. Simple but beautiful Byzantine churches and monasteries are to be found all over the island, many containing icons of great artistic value, covered in gold leaf and intricate painting, some are also half covered in silver to protect the paintings. The architecture of these churches, while simple, I found very graceful and atheistically pleasing, painted in brilliant white with some of the domes in Greek blue, and the older ones, of which we saw quite a few, are built in natural stone, even the roofs are.
The highest mountain on the island is called Zas and is 1004 metres high; I only ever saw it with its head in the clouds. Some people believe that Zeus was born here while others think that he was born on Crete and grew up here. Naxos is supposed to be the island where Theseus left behind the Cretan princess Ariadne after she helped him escape from the labyrinth where he had killed the Minotaur. Ariadne is then supposed to have fallen in love with Dionysus. Mythology abounds in the Greek islands and it was just lovely to see with my own eyes things that I would have read about long ago.
Gosh, the food was marvellous and I enjoyed eating every Greek dish. So I had lots of salads made with organic and sun ripened tomatoes, olives, and cucumbers and covered in the most delicious local feta cheese and olive oil. Then there were the goat and lamb dishes, the bean and tomato dishes, absolutely mouth watering, and always the fried potatoes. People are fond there too of sweet things, lots of honey and sesame seeds and almonds, all this baked scrumptiously wrapped in filo pastry and served with strong Greek coffee in tiny cups. My favourite was some sort of sweetmeat covered in powdered icing sugar and with a delicate flavour of pure rose essence. Not to forget the drinks, the Ozo I found overrated and did not take to, but there is another drink, a liquor made from the leaves of a tree, a hybrid between lemon and grapefruit, it is called Citron and pronounced Kitron, they come in three different colours, supposed to be three different strengths but the Naxiots were unclear which colour was the strongest! I fancied them all as this drink gave me a nice gentle sense of lightness of being.
The meal that I can remember as being the most wonderful, we ate at a tavern in a remote village after a long strenuous walk through the mountains. Rosemarie, our guide, knew the people and we were all welcomed with open arms. The nice woman of the house served us a lovely goats stew flavoured with the sort of aromatic herbs we had been walking through, there were long, podgy, green beans in a tomato sauce, potatoes fried in olive oil and rice wrapped in olive leaves and tasting real good. This same lady happen to be very fond of roses and not only did she have lovely old scented roses in vases all over the place, they were also on the napkins and tablecloths.
The town of Naxos or Hora as it is called and where we had our accommodation is built on a hill forming a natural acropolis, on top of which is a fortress, dating from the occupation by the Venetians. Along the sides is a labyrinth of streets, narrow and stepped, the houses are a brilliant white and the doors and windows blue, arches are everywhere and some are very low so that even I had to bend down to pass through them. Here and there geraniums and bougainvillea flowers throw a lovely dash of added colour making the whole a beautiful place full of photo opportunities. Word has it that the town was built in this way to fool the pirates and give the town folk the chance to escape when being attacked, apparently the arches connected from house to house, who knows. It is a delightful town and I got lost several times in the labyrinth but enjoyed finding my way out again eventually.
One of the first days we passed the main Greek orthodox cathedral, built on the site of an earlier small church (Zoodochos Pighi), it took its present form in 1780-7, and it is dedicated to St.Nicodemus the Athonite and to St.Nektarios. Large quantities of materials from ancient temples were used in its construction! Its solid granite pillars are supposed to have come from the ruins of Delos. Anyway, we were curious as to what was going on inside as we could hear the singing of a low male voice. At our entrance we were invited in to take part of the baptism of a child. The priest, with a long white beard, was singing and doing his rituals. There was the scent of incense, and candles were lit all over the place. The child was totally undressed as it would then be dressed in a whole set of elaborate new clothes. The church looked interesting; it was covered in icons some of which were exquisite art.
Along the promenade there were the many restaurants, most of them for the tourists but some were clearly the haunts of the locals, mainly the men sitting drinking their Ozo and talking, or is it philosophising, while overhead the octopus were hanging to dry on wooden sticks in the sun.
The walks took us over hills and rocks and through meadows and even over a small river in one valley. The views were magnificent, especially the white villages hugging the mountainsides, Filotis being one of the nicest and nearest to Mount Zas. We passed the olive groves along the valleys. And went along the rocky mountain paths were we would come across herds of goats, we also saw ducks and a lone turkey. We noticed that there are very few cattle here on the island. There was a lot more that we were delighted to see; there was the Kouros, an ancient statue never fully erected and still lying in its ancient quarry. The marble quarries and the emery and obsidian stone. The ruins of the temple to Demetre. The colour of the deep blue of the Aegean Sea. The interesting looking moths, butterflies, lizards and beetles. The beautiful sunsets. The lovely little shops full of copies of artefacts, some of which I saw in the local archaeological museum, very ancient remnants of life in Naxos and the Cyclades.
I came home very energised and happy, and with lots of photos and some stone samples. On our way back we stopped for one day in Athens and visited the Acropolis. I must say that I was surprised at the effect it had on me, I was very impressed. We also saw the change of the guards which I thought was very funny! We saw the remains of the temple to Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. Our hotel was very close to this area and the evening of our arrival we hung out in the colourful Plaka district, little streets, some paved in marble, full of life, shops looking vibrant and lively and very full of all sorts of souvenirs but also local produce and stunning Greek tunics and other clothing and jewellery, they were pulsating with the laughter of Greeks and tourists alike all of whom seemed excited to be alive! There was music, and in line with Greek tradition, carnations thrown all over the place. There is lovely architecture to be seen here too in the houses, so this is a great place for an evening walk.
This visit to Naxos and Athens took place many years ago but I still have great memories of the beauty and the sheer delight of seeing some of the monuments that I had read about. It is another one of these places where I can go in my mind and be delighted.
Some while back we drove through the area of county Clare called The Burren. Geologically speaking this is a fascinating place, also for botanist. This area is known for and covered in karst, limestone that is so weathered and cracked that several small plants and flowers grow in the cracks, some of the plants are only found in the Alpine and Mediterranean regions of Europe. Now we did not do any trekking or hiking, we just drove through the area and mainly looked at the interesting landscapes. Partly along the coast, and partly inland.
A typical and fine example of Karstic landscape. Karst is a special type of landscape that is formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks, in this case limestone. Whole landscapes are formed in this way and the Burren is one of those areas, as seen in the photo below.
We decided to stop for lunch in Kilrush at a traditional Irish pub for some much needed nourishment.
This is just yet another part of Ireland that’s nice to explore. There is plenty of interest there for anyone liking or studying geology, botany, or archaeology. We did not even scratch the surface. I hope it gave people a taste though.
The other day, while Ian was undergoing tests in the hospital in Cork city, I decided to overnight in Bandon, which lies close enough to Cork, and I took the time out to explore a little of the town. I had never really explored Bandon, I only ever travelled through it. But I was nicely surprised, it has got a rich history and many interesting buildings. As I did not know much about these building as yet, I decided to do some research on Google and I used some history books to enlighten me. I had planned a visit to the local Heritage Centre, but it was closed. So I decided to take a walk down the long street past the Children’s Charity Store (a delight in itself). The street was mostly lined with houses to the left and an old empty brewery building, as well as a new one, to the right. Some of the terraced houses had been build by the Town Commissioners as artisan dwellings in 1912. Eventually I saw more detached houses and many beautiful mature native trees, the entrance to an estate looked picturesque.
Bandon town as it is now spans two sides of the river. At some point in time a bridge was built connecting the two sides, probably in 1864. British protestant Settlers were introduced into Bandon and the town became part of the Munster Plantation. A wall was built around the then town between the year 1620-25 of which parts remain to this day, use was made of slate stone. Every year a Walled Town Festival takes place in Bandon.
Photos below and above: So far these buildings or ruins remain a mystery to me, as I learn more about the town I will be able to fill in more information on these, some of which do look quite old. Townscapes can be quite beautiful to the eye I think. I often think that I would like to paint them.
Photos below: Interesting doorways, some Georgian (one on the left), some, I believe (the one with the pointed portico) was a style brought here by the Huguenots.
Below, looking toward the spire of Christ Church which is now the Heritage Centre.
Photos below: I found this intriguing wall all along Chapel lane and do not know if it is part of the old town wall, or not but I have asked for advice from Bandon facebook site and hope to be able to shed more info on this soon.
The Courthouse, in pale blue, and the Town Hall, which was built in 1862, to the left of it.
The photo below is of the side of the Courthouse. It shows a fine stone building underneath the plaster and paint of the façade. I loved the arches above the closed off windows. Also the old gate was of interest.
Although most of the houses’ facades are plastered and painted, I did see several stone facades too, dark grey, rough, slate stone. Some limestone too was used. And then there are many walls, skilfully built along the roads leading out of town (photos below), but also many to be found within the town. There is a great revival of conservation going on, the old town wall – part of which remains in existence are being preserved.
Photo below: This 16-sided stone building is the former Shambles, or meat market, and dates to 1818.
A view toward the St. Patrick’s church, a fine Gothic revival church, along which some of the old town wall runs.
I have so thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to Bandon town and will return for more, as there is much more to explore, and read up on too. I hope that you enjoyed it a little too. These small towns are found all over rural Ireland and though very different from each other, they have many similarities too. I’m on my quest to discover more about them.
One of the publications which I read and found quite useful is: Irishwalledtownnetwork.ie
Some photos of our last visit to Lier this past autumn. Lier is a charming and beautiful place to visit with many interesting sites, such as the begijnhof and the Saint Gummarus church, built in Brabant’s Gothic style. I hope that you will enjoy my short photo album.
Today I found a very old recipe book in the library in Ghajnsielem. It dates back to 1958 and it was compiled by Carmen Carbonaro, it is called ‘Maltese Dishes’ and seeing that I cannot find copyright information I am going to use some of the information to share it here. It is a wonderful little book! Apart of the interesting recipes it has also got illustrated advertisings from the time period it was written in, fabulous bit of information for foodies and those interested in traditional facts of twentieth century Malta or Gozo.
Even before I got home and had a good look at it, the little book was the topic of conversation big time. I stopped at the organic vegetable shop in the village across from an ancient church with the nice baroque façade and on the pleasant Piazza Indipendenza. Doris, the young woman that owns the shop (Pomona) started to check the recipes, she told me that in the time of her grandmother people did not use butter in Gozo, only lard and this, she said was reflected in the recipes. In walked Charlie, one of her nice and regular customers and he added more information to the conversation, we had got on to vegetables, artichokes as a matter of fact, which is a vegetable that I have never cooked myself and was rather interested in and luck would have it that they are in season at the moment, so I bought some. I intend to try out the recipe on page 27 of the little book, there it gives the recipe for ‘Stuffed Boiled Artichokes’ or ‘Qaqocc mimli’ in Maltese. Among the ingredients I will need are Olives, Parsley, more Olives, Breadcrumbs, Anchovies and Chives. And of course globe Artichokes.
WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT…… I have to ‘beat’ the artichokes it says!?! Beat them, but well that does not actually surprise me as Doris was telling me that in the ‘olden days’ they also used to ‘beat’ the calamari to tenderise them before cooking! What I am rather surprised of though is that at the end of the recipe it says to serve the artichokes when cool, with mayonnaise, and in those days that would have been home-made mayonnaise, the way we used to make it in Belgium last century. I guess that here it would be prepared using olive oil rather than corn oil like we did.
I cannot wait to try out this Artichoke recipe and, after making more marmalade from home grown bitter oranges today, I feel like a real Gozitan woman, getting into the spirit of this lovely island and enjoying it to the full.
Charlie, Doris and myself then got on to more about wild foods and how we can use the flowers of the artichoke to eat as well as the globe. The globe I presume is the flower bud. I glean so much local information from those two very pleasant people, I just love to shop there.
Other interesting recipes in the little book that I think might be worth trying out are:
• Chestnut soup (Imbuljuta)
• Ministra (a Maltese very delicious soup)
• Vegetable hot-pot (Kawiata)
• Timpana, a most popular dish on the Maltese menu it says.
• Rabbit stew and spaghetti (I have tried this out in a restaurant – very nice)
• Tunny fish stew
• Lampuki pie (a popular fish during August and September.
• Imqaret (date slices)
• Xkunvat – a special Maltese sweet.
• Marmurat, a sweet made with almonds
There are many more interesting looking recipes in the little book. At the end of it there is a menu for the week page, I had a look. Monday it says: Spaghetti, Meat Balls using the meat left over from Sunday dish, cheese and fruit. For Tuesday it says: Meat Soup. Meat from Soup (Buljut) with lemon juice and salad, Custard, Fruit. I won’t give the whole week but interestingly I read that on both Wednesday and Friday fish is recommended, I guess that in those days the church still had two fasting from meat days in the week. All the other days have meat on the menu.
Interesting too is that there are 24 different advertisements in the little booklet, the advertisements themselves are of interest if looking up dietary information of the time.
The little book was published by Empire Press in Malta. It sure is something to treasure. I’m going to have some culinary experiments with it in the next two weeks. I do look forward to learning and to tasty dishes.
Looking back on my days in South India I must say that I enjoyed the food very much there. All the dhal dishes, the variety of vegetable dishes, the spices and fragrant herbal dishes were all very much to my taste, and rice as a accompaniment was delicious. While sorting through photos the other day I found some of my visit to Vijayawada and the surrounding area in Andhra Pradesh, and I picked out some of the ones that portrayed foods, street food sellers, and chai shops.
Man selling his vegetables using his bike as vehicle, both practical and colourful. The carts on wheels are also very practical and you see them a lot in all the towns and villages. The young boy was minding a cool water stall, big smile on his face as he was obviously enjoying this job.
Harvesting the rice under a very hot sun
Along the road on the way to Vijayawada we came across a rice harvest, the people harvesting were working in the hot sun, laying the stalks of rice on the road, we were told that the trucks and busses driving over this would dislodge the rice grains and make the job easier for them to gather the rice.
A lovely lady preparing vegetables, and a storage place where the cabbages and green chillies seem to be a popular food item.
Another popular street selling item would be the bananas, I ate some lovely little bananas in South India, they tasted so creamy, a bit like banana ice-cream, delicious. The hot food stall in the dark, this was around Christmas 2009, the smell was very nice and wrapped itself around us while we browsed the other stalls in the area. It was the first time I saw the Christmas stars on sale, beautiful crafted from light cardboard, I bought some and took them home to give to my grand children.
I’m always fascinated with the vegetable types that I am not familiar with, here are quite a few on display, the okra, and the bitter gourd (though I have tried to grow these in Ireland), not even sure what the purple vegetable is. I would want to try them all out. And when I find spices or herbs between them I go altogether enthusiastic. Loving it all.
Another street food seller, love the amount of green beans, they make any meal worth eating. So colourful too.
Here I cannot remember what this man was selling, I thought some sort of nuts perhaps. And on the right it was the children that caught my attention more, they were very curious about me for some reason.
About the chai houses I have fond memories too, you would be walking or driving along the road and there you would regularly come across a chai seller, lovely to sit in the shade and drink a delicious glass of chai, and chat with the local people who would be just as curious about you as you about them. A relaxed way of living, having all the time in the world, the way it should be. Materialism has not reached these parts it seems. I still think that rural areas are healthier and nicer to live in wherever you go in the world. In India you are never far away from other people even in rural areas, it is not a lonely sort of place. It’s colourful and friendly. I was fortunate to travel both in Tamil Nadu, in Andhra Pradesh and in Kerala, in each place I made very good friends. In Kerala my good friend Mary even gave me demonstrations in preparing traditional Kerala dishes, she and her husband also took me into the mountain areas where they showed me a variety of trees that produce spices, very interesting, but I will write about that another time. My friends, I do hope you enjoyed my little photo journey through this delightful part of the world.
Some years ago Ian and I spent a few weeks in Central Portugal. In memory of all the forest fires which destroyed so much trees plants and animals (and most of all human life) that was lost there over last summer, I have decided to enter a few thoughts, photos, and words from my journal of those days. It will show the fresh beauty of the place, and like many I hope that the land will recover in all its glory.
We were staying in a small village called Orca in the centre of Portugal, close to the town of Penamacor and Castello Branco. It was very hot already during our stay even though it was only towards the end of April. One day we decided to travel to Covhila which lies on the foot of the Serra da Estrella Natural Park and mountain range. Here is a little of what I noted down at the time.
Journal entry of April the 28th ~ INTERESTING ROCKS AND MAGNIFICENT VIEWS
We made a day trip to the Serra da Estela mountain range, the highest mountains in Portugal, while we were staying in a lovely little hotel in the historical centre of Covilha. It was possibly one of the most amazing days we spent in Portugal. The beauty of the landscape, plants and rock formations, topped up with actually being able to hold snow in my hand, while we had been baking in temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius in the valley below, was lovely. There were interesting stones and flowers to discover. We drove down into the Glacial Valley where the village of Manteigas was to be found, the views leading up to discovering this village were wonderful. It is a trip I would advice anyone to take when visiting central Portugal.
LOOKING DOWN TO THE GLACIAL VALLEY
This was not only a fantastic view, it was also very interesting of geological interest. This U-shaped valley was gouged out by a glacier during the last Ice Age. Manteigas is a very lush and quite large village surrounded by mountains, it lies bathed in the sun and water streams down to it from all sides. This assures a good supply to make everything grow well and look very green and fresh. We had a lovely traditional Portuguese soup there with Spinach in it, after a generous helping of fresh Olives and bread. We finished off the meal with a nice desert made of layers of coffee ice-cream and pastry, delicious!
Granite rock formations
You are climbing up to nearly 2000 meters high, a very good road, the views magnificent!
AMAZING SCENTS AND A WELCOME COOL BREEZE
The scents all over central Portugal are just so sweet and lovely, so much so, that you breathe with pleasure. The heat does help with this, but even high up on the Serra da Estrela I experienced these lovely scents. I wish that I could bottle it and bring it home, but meanwhile I did breathe with pleasure.
SNOW AT A HEIGHT OF 1750M
Well I have enjoyed this little journey into my past. I’ve got lots more that I will share. At the moment I am going through many photos of the past few travels, on some of my memo sticks. I’m taking at least a year off Facebook and it is amazing how much time more time I have to spend on other things. Wading through thousands of photos is no mean task, but it is enjoyable. I hope that you have enjoyed my journey into the past too.
In India, somewhere about 15 km from Jammalamadugu in the Kadapa district, in Andhra Pradesh, there lies a village called Gandikota. It lies on the right bank of the river Pennar. This river creates a deep gorge while it runs through the ancient red granite rocks of the Erramala hills, whole big bolders of them, a magnificent sight! About seven years ago I was there. It was new years day of 2010 and together with some friends we visited the fort there and the temples and mosque all well maintained ruins now. Gandikota Fort was constructed around the 12th century during the Pemmasani Dynasty, and became one of the most prominent forts in the country. Gandi is the Telegu name for gorge and the village and Fort got their name as a result of that. There was quite a bit to see at Gandikota, most immediately when you enter the area there is the impressive ancient Jamia Masjid mosque with its beautiful architecture, its elegant arches. Then there is the granary which is a very robust and dark building, very cool inside while intense heat outside, only air vaults letting in a tiny ray of sunlight. Before long the eye catches another interesting building, this is the ruin of the Ranganatha Swamy Temple, very impressive with its magnificent carvings and pillars. The carvings depicting scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There are also the ruins of the Madhavaraya Temple and some other ruins in the vicinity.
The rock structures of the gorge are magnificent, the red granite majestic in huge blocks precariously grace the tops of the gorge, you have to climb over them to get to the edge and see the view. Granite is an igneous rock made up of a variety of mineral, like quartz, feldspar, mica, and hornblende. The composition of small amounts of mica, amphiboles, and other mineral is what gives granite its red colour.
I spent many months in this vicinity over several years but alas it is now seven years ago I was there last. This visit was one of the outstanding natural and archaeological beautiful places that I visited in Andhra Pradesh, but there are many more. It’s been too long since my last visit to India, me thinks.