You are on page 1of 262


The Sacred
and the Profane

Wild Writing Women Magazine Special Ireland Edition 2008
How to navigate this multimedia magazine
The magazine will open in the version of Adobe Reader that you have
downloaded on your computer. Please make sure you have Adobe
Reader version 8 or above, and if not, please download it now .

There are no page numbers in this magazine. Click in the Table of
Contents or section dividers to jump directly to the item you want to
read. When you see the CONTENTS button you can always click it to
jump back to the first page of the Table of Contents. The button appears
at the end of each story.

To play sound and video files, and to view links to resources on the
Internet, you must be connected to the Internet.

Required Software
Your computer will probably automatically play the movies and sound files
in one of the programs listed below, depending on how your computer
is configured. If you cannot view the files, try downloading any of these
players from the Internet. They’re free:

QuickTime RealPlayer Windows Media Player

You also need VERSION 8 or later of the Adobe Reader program.

NOTE ON Everybody’s computer configuration is different so,
TECHNICAL unfortunately, we are not able to provide technical
SUPPORT support.
from the

What do you say when someone invites you
to stay with them in a castle? If you are like
the Wild Writing Women, you scream, “YES!”
and then plan to pass through heaven and
hell if that’s the route to get there.

The enticement came from our friend Maureen Wheeler, founder of
Lonely Planet, who invited us to visit her homeland in Northern Ireland
and stay with her in the west wing of Crom Castle, a grand County
Fermanagh estate.
Like many Americans, five of the six WWW have Irish ancestry, and we
looked at the trip as a pilgrimage to reconnect with that heritage. Most
of us had been to Ireland before, and thought we knew what to expect.
Ah, but that is the gift of travel, to provide you with the unexpected, and
the gift of this trip was a shift in perspective on the Emerald Isle.

We had begun researching ancient pagan cultures before our departure
and, even though logistics forbade visiting many of the local sites our
research had unearthed, discussion of their existence took root in us as
we toured the country.

The second step of our transformation occurred while we were staying
at Crom; the locals learned that seven travel writers were “up at the
castle,” and being neighborly, invited us to join them for their Summer
Solstice rites on top of Knockninny Hill. A group of us went because
we thought it sounded like a lark, but after hiking up the hill that night,
we wound up being so fascinated by the experience that we all wanted to
write about it. In fact a bit of a cat fight ensued over who had the right to
write about this night of pagan rites. Being the editorial dominatrix and
referee, I decided the only fair solution would be that we would all write
about it—and so as is typical of this group, three of us have woven that
evening into a very different story.
The Summer Solstice excursion
went even further in influencing
our thinking: during our late-
night discussions around the fire
at Crom we wound up shaping
our theme for the magazine—from
Pam’s research on ancient cultures
to dancing with the Straw Men on
Knockninny Hill to dragging our
hands along the rough texture of the mysterious
2000-year-old Janus stone on Boa Island—we began to question
the extremes of this green velvet land, this obsession with the sacred,
which as Jung could tell you—is always mirrored by a dark side. We also
saw plenty of evidence of the profane, from the lads in Dublin sporting
shiners on Sunday morning to the concrete bunkers protecting the
North country police stations from IRA bombs. All humans possess this
polarity; it just seems that in the Irish the polar opposites carry a bigger

Somewhere in the midst of this contemplation, I began to wonder about
the Irish obsession with the otherworldly and their journey from a
pagan culture that worships nature to one of the most devoutly Catholic
countries in the modern world. On top of these religions you have a
pantheon of pixies, fairies and leprechauns, with their mix of magic and
bedevilment. Then there is the afterlife. Apparently the place is crowded
with dead souls, and the Irish have crafted the ghost story into an art
form. At Crom we were like round-eyed school children, listening at
the feet of the staff as they told tales of spirits at the castle, ghosts on
the lake—poltergeists so powerful that they prevented the boats from
docking. We had pretty much convinced
ourselves it was all blarney, until one of
Jacqueline’s photos caught a strange white
shape on the slate roof.

And then there was Castle Leslie….

This ancient ancestral estate has just
transformed itself into a world-class
resort. Well, I should say universal-class
resort, because their facilities include a
landing pad for UFOs. When the chef
told me this, I made him repeat it…
slowly. This resort isn’t pursuing the jet-
set—how passé!—they’re so 21st century
they’re catering to the extraterrestrial
set. You can land your Lear jet at any old
castle, but how many properties can accommodate your spacecraft?

When I talk about the Irish passion for the otherworldly, I mean it in
every sense of the word.

Now, let me just pause here to address one issue. I know what you’re
thinking: like a typical American, she is clueless that the Republic of
Ireland and Northern Ireland are not the same country. No, I used to
frequent a San Francisco pub called Ireland’s 32 and I am well aware of
the political divide. The “32” in this tavern’s moniker was a nationalist
reference to the 32 counties of Ireland, six of which are now referred
to as Northern Ireland and are part of the UK, and the remaining 26
counties make up the Republic. However,
when visiting this island today, it seems as
if the expats at Ireland’s 32 have gotten their
wish: it is almost indistinguishable that these
are two separate sovereignties. Crossing over
the border feels more like going from California
into Oregon. For us foreign travelers, the only real
jolt comes when you slap your Euros on the bar at a
pub in Northern Ireland and learn that British Pound
Sterling is the legal tender.

We saw more similarities than differences in the people of the North
and South, the main one being their incredible mastery of language,
their much-famed gift of gab and sharp wit. This was evident from the
literary genius present at the Dublin Writers Festival to a conversation
at the butcher shop in Enniskillen. In Northern Ireland all the Wild
Writing Women were moved, hearing the stories of The Troubles,
and relieved to see that these accounts have largely moved from the
newspapers into the history books. From our perspective, we thought
this region was one of the great undiscovered tourist locales in Europe.
An unspoiled hill country of forests, lakes and seas, naturally blanketed
in the green that gives the land the name Emerald Isle.

The only real Trouble remains the weather, but the frequent rain
provides all the excuse you need to sit by the fire and listen to stories—
whether they be tales of the sacred or the profane.

Cathleen Miller
Editorial Dominatrix
from the

This magazine is an interactive
experience. Notice there are no page
numbers. We want you to jump
around, to follow your bliss, your
interests, your sense of adventure.
Just like when you travel.
We’ve taken advantage of the convergence of fine
writing, art, multimedia and publishing technology
to raise the bar to offer you a fabulous interactive
experience. Sure, you can click through the whole
magazine page-by-page, but we hope you enjoy
jumping around, following your mood. Maybe you
want to read the essays first, before the “prepare for
your trip” section. We don’t blame you. They’re awfully
entertaining, but then, so are many of the how-to

Nearly all of the over-250 pages of this magazine
include beautiful, full-color photos, and there are a fair
number of sound and video files too, so that you can
“experience” Ireland on your desktop. (At least the sight
and sound aspects. You’ll have to taste, touch, and smell
it when you get there!)

As frequently happens with innovations, the idea to
include “Audio Asides” grew spontaneously out of
watching the group discuss the stories during
the critique process. It occurred to me that
we could include dissenting views, behind-
the-scenes commentary, author readings, even
field recordings as supplements to the written
pieces. The rest of the Wild Writing Women—none of
them the wallflower type—wholeheartedly embraced
the concept. So much so that it turns out you’re getting
a limerick and a couple of singalongs, too!
I can’t tell you what a treat it was to create this
magazine, and my greatest hope is that this format
creates more than the usual writer-to-reader
relationship. Rather I hope it will create a shared
experience between us—as if you were traveling the
lanes of the Emerald Isle right alongside us.

Enjoy the craic and I look forward to your comments.
Who knows, we might just do this again.

Sláinte! YOUR
Carla King WELCOME!
Design & Production Dominatrix
PS: For those of you who must know, this magazine was
created using the Adobe Creative Suite 3 products. It was
laid-out in InDesign, with photos and design elements
created or manipulated in Photoshop and/or Illustrator,
and published using Acrobat Professional. Sound was
recorded in the field using an iTalk recorder attached to a
30GB iPod Touch, and in the studio with a MacBook Pro
laptop, Alesis Multimix USB mixer and Audio-Technica
condenser mic. Audacity was the sound-editing program,
and video was produced using Quicktime Pro. Photos not
credited to the artist are in the creative commons domain
sourced from Wikimedia Commons.
SPECIAL Wild Writing Women: 2008
ISSUE PAGANS Cram a Whole Lot of Fun
into the Shortest Night of the Year
Cathy Miller carries a torch for the Man O’Straw
The Cleansing Flames of
Carla King on sex, drugs, and radical self-expression
Lisa Alpine tucks herself beneath a Hawthorne bush
and wishes mightily
Suzanne LaFetra on when civilized people can’t
find a way to work it out
SAINTS be with Us!
Jacqueline Harmon Butler and
her personal saint F E AT U R E S
Cossetted at CROM CASTLE
Getting the royal treatment in Northern Ireland
SALVE for the SOLE in Dingle
Dick Mack’s: Salve for your sole and soul
COLUMNS The Castle Leslie icon rocks on

Stick This in Your iPod
Celtic tunes for the journey
Miller to Go
Babies, beers, and salty dogs
Gear and Gadgets
Geeking out on sounds
Food Flirt
Boxty: Why it’ll get you a man
R o a d s i d e AT T R AC T I O N S

The Sheelin Antique Lace Museum
What do Ursuline nuns, Venetian lace, and the potato famine have in common?

Tara’s Palace
Welcome to the doll house

Shopping for your inner Grande Dame

D u b l i n R E S TAU R A N T S
Dubliners were dubious about the revamping of a favorite landmark, but all for naught

Upscale dining at the Dylan Hotel on oysters and rump roast and quail, oh my!

The Shelbourne
The most civilized place in Dublin to stick out your pinky

Eats that are worth braving a staunch mizzle

D u b l i n H OT E L S
Lay Lady Lay: A Night with Dylan
A sumptuous, five-star snooze in one of Dublin’s finest crash pads

An Inn at the Crossroads: The Fitzwilliam
Hip, happening, and hot Argentine concierges

Cover photo by Pamela Michael: Mummers gather on
Knockninny Hill for a pagan ritual on Midsummer’s Eve.
Tr a v e l T I P S What Goes Around
A Wee Irish Dictionary Through the Looking Glass
Mizzle, drizzle, skeltering, soft: do you know the difference?
Castle Leslie in the 1980s
Bloodwork on the Tracks Night Train to Limerick
A stitch in time saves lives
What happens when you don’t plan a trip?
Honey, Leave Your Hat On
What to pack for the misty isle of Eire

Road Reversal
A how-to guide for driving on the road less traveled Reports
Calling Home Vitamin G
Loosen that death grip on your cell phone Why Guinness is good for youse
The Ongoing Battle between Metric The Dublin Writers Festival
and Imperial Drooling over the annual lit fest
How not to get caught in the crossfire
Change for Good
The Winged Bus UNICEF’s handy scheme for putting your pulas to good use
Flying on the cheap with Ryan Air
Irish Arts Roundup
Links to Help You Get There A wee guide to the best in film, literature, and music
How to phone home, rent a car, find a pub,
or book a month in a farmhouse Salsa O’Dublin
A wild dancing woman braves the scene

Singin’ in the Irish Mist
Do you dare sing for foreigners?
Before You Go
Sacred Sites Wa n d e r i n g E y e
Lifestyles of the Rich and Royal Dublin
Columns Horse Crazy
Events & Excursions Medieval Faire
Reviews & Reports The Janus Stone
Contributors Avoca Handweavers
Resources Parting Shot
before you go
A Wee Irish Dictionary The Ongoing Battle
Audio Memories Phone Cards Metric & Imperial
Gear & Gadgets or
Cell Phones? Why fly
Bloodwork on the Tracks
Getting in the Mood
ROAD REVERSAL Ireland and the Arts
Tips for Driving Hey Mister, can you spare a pula?
on the Left Change for Good
Funky Chicken, anyone? What to Pack
Salsa O’Dublin Honey Leave Your Hat On
Tips for successful chirping
Irish Travel Links
Singin’ in the Irish Mist

A Wee Irish Dictionary
by Cathleen Miller

Youse may think you speak the language
but youse are going to need some help.
Here’s a wee guide to the lingo.
Click to enjoy a 4-minute audio
version of this piece by the
author, Cathleen Miller.
Youse may think you speak the language when
visiting Ireland, but youse may need some help. We
encountered some new hilarious expressions, and
found more than one situation where we were in a
muddle because of a lack of understanding—like
when we were looking for the ferry to Devenish
Island. Our buddy Noel had said it was by the
“ lake.” We took that to mean a “tiny lake.”
However, the locals in Northern Ireland use “wee” to
mean “nice.” We got lost and missed the boat. So
that you don’t, here’s a wee guide to the lingo.

No Hoper: the type
of guy youse are hoping your
blind date isn’t.
The Weather
Soft: as in, “it’s a soft day,”
means it’s not coming down
yet, the air’s merely humid.

Mist: the humidity has
now condensed into actual
moisture in the air.

Mizzle: in between a Mist and a…

Drizzle: yes, finally now, the water is
starting to fall in droplets on your wee head.

Rain: youse recognize this one.

Skeltering: torrential rain that is
slanting sideways as youse run for the pub.
The Landscape
a small hill left by a glacier.

a rounded or conical heap of
stones marking your grave
before or after youse have
drunk poteen with a no-hoper.
Youse: plural form of you, as in:

“We’ve fixed youse girls up with a
couple of no-hopers for the evening.
They’re bringing the poteen.”
Wee: something that is nice.
So if a man says, “ You’re a wee lass,” and
you’re self-conscious because you’ve put on a few
pounds, no need to slap the sarcastic bastard.

Craic: a term for fun.
(pronounced crack)
Fun honed to a fever pitch, a type of hilarity
whereby the biting local wit has been pickled in
Guinness. The Irish say, “he’s good craic.”

& other pastimes
Poteen: Irish moonshine.
(The Southern girls among us felt right at home.)

Sláinte: an Irish toast meaning “cheers!”
(pronounced slawn-cha)
On the Road Nagivator: an overzealous navigator.
This one Carla actually relayed—having
been a gift to her from a North Carolina
boyfriend. But constantly lost on the
winding lanes of N1 it came in handy, due
to the magpie environment of traveling with
seven alpha-females in a van. We finally
appointed the lone she-wolf in the front
passenger slot as the nagivator, and everyone
in back had to keep her mouth shut.

One of our favorite pastimes was stopping for directions,
once the nagivator had waved the white flag. On one such
occasion, trying to find the wee road out of Dublin, we
stopped at a gas—I mean petrol—station for help. A lovely
man gave us directions with such a sweet Irish accent that
we all burst into sunny smiles; then he drew us a map; then
he began filling it in with landmarks, then he pointed to one
and for encouragement said: “ Youse’ll be laughing by the
time you get there.” Finally he decided to get in his car and
let us follow him over the drumlins, onto the wee road,
which turned out to be the freeway to Fermanagh.
a .
o dyh
a b l o
H a h
My personal favorite expression
was uttered up on the mountain at the Summer
Solstice festival, by one of our hosts, Mr. Eugene
Murphy, who met with derision the notion that
he should share some of his precious whiskey
with a thirsty supplicant. “Ha, ha, bloody ha.”

Youse are now fully prepared for
a wee trip to the Emerald Isle.
Enjoy the craic, but remember to
take your own whiskey. Sláinte!

Suzanne LaFetra advises on . . .

The Ongoing Battle Between
Metric and Imperial

o f ? ”
er leas e
l i t p
l i ,
m il ness
4 7 3 u i n
“ G
If it weren’t confusing enough driving on the
wrong side of the road or tr ying to figure out if
you need Euros or Pounds to spring for another
round, in Ireland you can really get your mental
k nickers in a twist because they use both the
metric and imperial systems of measurement.

Officially, Ireland has gone metric. The Republic, because it’s part of the
E.U., and the North because Britain is attempting to join everyone on earth
(except the wildly advanced societies of Liberia, Myanmar and our own
U.S. of A.) in adopting the metric system. But people are a wee bit sluggish
when it comes to change, so most folks in Ireland will tell you their weight in
stone. And on some roads, the distance signs are metric, but speed limits are
posted in miles per hour. (Not that they actually say that, mind you, you’re just
supposed to figure it out.) Oh yeah, and a British pint is 20% more than the
Yank equivalent. Sláinte!
What’s a travelin’ lass to do?
Well, Lonely Planet has conveniently printed a conversion chart on the inside
cover of your guidebook. And you can purchase tiny, unreadable-without-a-
microscope cards that fit into a wallet. My cell phone has a calculator func-
tion. But while geeking out with your various conversion tools, you just might
miss out on the conversation with Sean McGorgeous on the barstool next to

So here’s the unofficial Wild Writing Women
Aw Hell, That’s Close Enough!
Travel Metric Conversion Chart
handy for approximating on the fly.
i s killen?
E n n
t h e ro ad to
ed l i m i t on
s p e e s s in a li ter?
t h e
How many pin
ts of G u in n
Can it rea
lly be 11 deg
r ees in July

cut here
Road Reversal

A how-to guide to driving on the left

Pamela Michael

N o ! Y o ur
L e f t ! No!
Left! ! < e e k s !>
As one of the designated drivers on Wild
Writing Women expeditions I felt cer tain
I could handle a little road reversal in
I reland, where they drive on the left.
I attribute my amazing driving sk ills to
luck brought to me by the $1 tip that
Jack ie Stewar t, one of the greatest
racecar drivers ever and three -time
Formula One World Champion, gave
me during my waitressing stint in
Switzerland. A blessing of sor ts. I n
fac t, I’m an exceptionally good driver,
day or night— except for the minor
handicap of being dyslexic, an issue
that unexpec tedly reared its confusing,
reversing head at ever y turn on the I rish
roadways. Those lovely Wild Writing
Women backseat drivers would say, quite
civilly at first, “ Turn left at the light.” I
would veer right without a clue that
I was headed in the wrong direc tion.
Problematic to say the least. H ysteria
arose in a cacophony from the backseat,
as they screamed in unison,
Carla came up with a solution to my arising dyslexia
and instruc ted the backseat drivers, “Shut up and just
use hand signals.” We found that a graceful swoop of
the hand toward the desired driving direc tion would
produce successful results and a positive response
from their confused chauffeur. Coincidentally, it was
also about this time that Carla introduced the term
“nagivator.” (See our dic tionar y for definition.)
Why the Irish drive on the lef t
About a quar ter of the world drives on the
left, and the countries that do are mostly
old British colonies. This strange quirk
perplexes the rest of the world, but there is
a per fec tly good reason.
I n the past, almost ever ybody traveled
on the left side of the road because that
was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies.
Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to
k eep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an
opponent and their scabbard fur ther from him.
Fur thermore, a right-handed person finds it easier to mount a
horse from the left side of the horse. I t is safer to mount and
dismount on the side of the road, rather than in the middle of
traffic, so if one mounts on the left, then the horse should be
ridden on the left side of the road. Mak es sense!

• Oncoming traffic comes from your right.
• The ditch is closest to the driver ’s side.
• The center line is closest to the passenger side.
• I f you’re turning right, you’re going to cross oncoming traffic.
• Look for traffic signs posted on the lef t side of the road.
• Travel clock wise in a roundabout.
• Draw a lef t arrow on your windshield, using a bar of soap.
• Ask your passengers to use hand signals.
• Guinness is great, but don’t drink and drive.
Driving on the lef t is right in . . .
Anguilla India Seychelles
Antigua & Barbuda Indonesia Sikkim
Australia Ireland Singapore
Bahamas Jamaica Solomon Islands
Bangladesh Japan Somalia
Barbados Kenya South Africa
Bermuda Lesotho Sri Lanka
Bhutan Macau St Kitts & Nevis
Bophuthatswana Malawi St. Helena
Botswana Malaysia St. Lucia
British Virgin Islands Malta Surinam
Brunei Mauritius Swaziland
Cayman Islands Montserrat Tanzania
Channel Islands Mozambique Thailand
Ciskei Namibia Tonga
Cyprus Nepal Trinidad & Tobago
Dominica New Zealand Uganda
Falkland Islands Pakistan United Kingdom
Fiji Papua New Guinea US Virgin Islands
Grenada St. Vincent & Venda
Guyana Grenadines Zambia
Hong Kong Zimbabwe

RED = Drive on the right
BLUE = Drive on the lef t

Bloodwork on the Tracks
by Jacqueline Harmon Butler
Jacqueline doesn’t let the need for lab tests stop her from
taking the Wild Writing Women trip to Ireland.

I need to visit a lab every two weeks to make sure my blood-thinning
drug is doing its job. So I either had to stay home or, if I was to join
my Wild Writing Women group on our trip to Ireland, find a place that
could run a blood test and send the results back to my doctor in the

Much to my relief, Tourism Ireland gave me the address of a hospital
in Dublin that could do the work. I grabbed a cab from my hotel,
showed the staff my doctor’s request, got the lab work done, and had
the results faxed to my doctor. It was that simple, and I never even
received a bill. (Depending on the country, you may have the same
experience in a public hospital. If you visit a pharmacy or private
doctor, you may be charged for services.)
Don’t let the need for regular lab tests stop you from taking your
dream trip. Here are some tips that will help you get your blood
work done while overseas:

1. Obtain a written request from your doctor on company letterhead.
2. Ask your doctor to be explicit about the tests to be done and to list
the results from the past couple of tests in the letter.
3. Before leaving home, contact the tourist office or even the consulate
for the country you will be visiting. Ask them to recommend a hospital,
lab, or pharmacy at your destination.
4. Record the name, address and phone number of the hospital or lab,
along with your doctor’s letter, in your document wallet.
5. Ask the concierge at your hotel for the easiest way to get to the
facility. You can also use google maps to get the directions ahead of
time, and print them out.
6. Once you arrive at the hospital or lab, don’t be afraid to ask for

I’m glad I didn’t let my health problems
keep me at home, vicariously
experiencing our grand tour of
Ireland through the Wild Writing
Women’s online dispatches.

Honey, leave your hat on . . .
A travel advisory for packing
for a trip to the Emerald Isle

To experience Eire properly youse’ll want
to be tramping around the countryside, in
which case youse’ll need to be prepared for
the rain or else be prepared for the misery.
San Franciscans know the drill: dress CATHY’S MUST-PACK LIST
in layers. That’s what I was told when Mud boots Tights to wear with
I first moved to the City by the Bay, Lightweight rain dresses and skirts
and—like most newcomers—was parka Closed-toe flats
Compact umbrella Scarves (like
confounded by how to dress in Wool sweater (the Pashmina shawls) for
a place where the temperature locals call it a jumper) color, warmth and to
could range by 50 degrees during T-shirts dress up an outfit
Wool cap
the course of a day. Likewise in
Ireland. Many days the weather was
cold and damp, in which case the
solution comes in a word: wool. But
underneath that wool it’s nice to
have on a t-shirt just in case the sun
comes out.
To experience Eire properly youse’ll
want to be tramping around the
countryside in which case youse’ll need to be prepared for the rain or
else be prepared for the misery. A wool sweater covered by a waterproof
jacket and a hat for your pointed head will do the trick. And as is usually
the case, the wool flat cap is popular here for a reason: it’s warm,
attractive, imminently packable, protects from the elements, and solves
the bad-hair-day dilemma.

Suzanne and I both arrived in Ireland via London, which at the time had
an onerous one-bag-only carry-on policy; you could board with a purse
or computer bag or briefcase or tote. Little old ladies were sobbing at
check-in and I had my undies strewn all over the airport as I repacked.
Security has since eased up, but double-check on these and other
luggage requirements at your destination airport before you go.

To make your trip successful, here are some items the Wild Writing
Women wouldn’t head to Ireland without.
—Cathleen Miller
Lisa must have: Jacqueline must have:
Clean hands A reliable wake-up call

Purell is an instant hand sanitizer
that claims to kill “99.99% of
most common germs that may I don’t like to rely on a hotel’s
cause illness in as little as 15 wake up service and since I
seconds.” Its active ingredient is often stay in guest houses and
ethyl alcohol (62%). You use it by short-term rentals that usually
wetting your hands thoroughly do not provide bedside clocks,
with the product, then briskly having an alarm clock that I
rubbing them together until dry. know how to use is a must. I’m
It takes just seconds. not all that savvy electronically
so the more modern, digital,
You can buy Purell in most all-time-zones fancy stuff isn’t
markets and drug stores in the for me. I want a basic alarm
U.S. I keep a small bottle in my clock that is super-easy to use.
purse at all times (stored in the There’s nothing worse than
required Ziploc bag while going being tired after a long flight or
through airport security check touring day and then fiddling
points). I always use it before with an alarm clock you can’t
eating and several times a day figure out!
while traveling.
Suzanne must have: A good read
So it’s 3 a.m. and you’re still whacked from
jetlag. No problem—whip out Travelers’ Tales
Ireland and slip into a brilliant collection of true
stories. Of course you get a taste of Frank McCourt
and Maeve Binchy, but you’ll also be led down the lane
by some gifted storytellers, on topics ranging from dog
ownership, gunrunning, fairies, to this memorable line from
an even more memorable train trip to Tipperary: “Go ahead,
Mr. Curtain. Jerk off to your heart’s content and the cows
come home, moo moo moo. No one will die in the process.”
The writing will keep you laughing in the wee hours, but
you’ll also get a healthy, revealing dose of history, culture,
art, music, and food. You won’t find maps to the best
pubs in Belfast in this book, but the well-chosen stories
in Travelers’ Tales Ireland can guide you straight to
the heart and soul of the country.

Click the book to read
Suzanne’s review of Irish
Arts and get a full review
of this and other great
books about Ireland.
Pam must have:
I never leave home—whether to
Ireland or the end of the block—without
a pocket monocular. A monocular is a small,
low-powered telescope. Many monoculars are
no larger than a lipstick, and will slip easily into a
pocket or purse. You use a monocular as you would
binoculars, but with one eye, like a telescope. I use
mine dozens of times a month for birdwatching, reading
the address on a house from the car, spotting wildlife,
reading signs across a parking lot and much more.

A monocular also doubles as a magnifier, which comes in
especially handy when traveling for deciphering the tiny
print on maps. (Is it just my aging eyes or are they making
the print smaller?) On airplanes, I always book a window
seat, if I can get one, just for the view of the world below it
affords. On daylight flights, if the weather is right and you’re
flying low enough, you can entertain yourself for hours
scoping out the terrain below. When flying to Zimbabwe
a couple of years ago, I was able to see almost the
whole African continent from the air. With my scope,
I was treated to an aerial safari of sorts, spotting
caravans in the Sahara, migrating herds,
volcano craters, and much more.
You can get a decent monocular
for under ten dollars or spend
hundreds. There are lots of
Carla must have:
I always recommend this handy
little device that gives me peace of
mind while I’m traveling or working in
airports, restaurants, conference centers,
and other public and even (supposedly)
private places. The system combines a stainless
steel cable with motion sensor technology and
a 95-decibel alarm to create a combination lock
that you can attach to the security key in your
laptop (all laptops come with one). You can then
loop the retractable cable around a table leg, a
luggage cart . . . anything.
There’s a motion sensor, too. I use it to secure my
laptop, then loop it around the strap of my digital
camera, my luggage, backpack, whatever, and
confidently dine in a busy place, or leave it in my
hotel room, or step out of a conference room for a
minute without worrying about theft.
When I reach my destination, I hang it on my
hotel room door, or rope it around luggage
stowed under a dorm bed, or attach it
to my tent door, or set it on top of
my motorcycle saddlebags. This
little device is at the top of my
“essentials” list, always.
Cathy must have:
Pub-proof footwear
I must admit, I thought long and
hard before I packed these boots.
They are bulky, and I took them out of
the suitcase a couple times, but finally
found space by stuffing them with my
socks. Good choice! As we rambled around
the grounds at Crom Castle, hiked up
Knockninny Hill, marched along the North
Sea at Donegal—and even slogging around a
flooded Dublin—my feet remained dry in my
They are lightweight, making them a smart
travel option, thoroughly waterproof, and
may be indestructible. The style gives you
that hip world traveler look, and yes, they
are truly global: like all Blundstones, mine
were made by a family-owned Australian
company, I purchased them on 24th
Street in San Francisco; and they
journeyed another 5000 miles with
me to ford many a beer-soaked
Irish pub.
AS Cathy experiences the international
quirks of the Dublin dance scene.

Salsa O’Dublin
A wild dancing woman braves a strange scene
by Cathleen Miller

Click for a free download of Carlos
Peluzza’s Nadie Detiene Mi Caminar,
as featured in this Audio Aside.

Ditch your cell phone.
Save money.
Enjoy your journey.
Loosen the death grip on your cell
phone and enjoy your journey!
To take your cell phone or not to take it
on your global expedition? That is the
packing question …
When traveling abroad I prefer a
calling card to a cell phone. It is
WAAAAAY cheaper and I don’t have
to worry about losing it. Send
me an email while I’m traveling.
Maybe I’ll even respond—or not.
Of course if the kids are still living
at home or you are tethered to a business
then you probably need to be
porting that cell phone along in
case of emergencies.
I know it is hard to give up
that constant communication
connection and it will take a few
days for your hand to lose the
cell phone grip position, but go
ahead—unplug. It is liberating
and what else are voyages for but
to shed our habitual behavior
patterns and dependencies?
For over a decade I’ve been using my Enjoy Prepaid phone card
while traveling. It has never let me down and rarely costs more
than 3¢ a minute (we’re talking pennies) to call the United States
from just about anywhere.
Here are some tips on getting the most satisfaction with your
calling card:
Call from landlines to get the cheapest rate. There is usually a $1
fee for pay phones. Calling cell phones rather than landlines can
also be more expensive per minute.
Do not sign up for auto recharge. I was furious when my calling
card was auto-recharged at $49, which added another $50 to
the account. Do you know how many minutes of call time from
Ireland to the United States that is? For the plan I chose with
Enjoy Prepaid it was 82 hours—not much time to explore the
Emerald Isle if I yakked that much. You can check your balance
online and add minutes if it is low without using the auto
recharge option.
Another cheap calling option is Skype, an Internet telephone
service. My son was recently traveling in New Zealand and Malaysia
and called me from Internet cafes using Skype. The voice quality
was decent, though at times his voice broke up and stretched
into an odd monster growl as if the creature had toffee stuck in
its throat, and then my son’s voice would reconstruct and sound
normal again.
It cost him 2.1 cents per minute to call my landline or cell phone,
though if I was online and had used my free Skype account, the
Skype-to-Skype calls would have been free. §

AUDIO ASIDE Pamela Michael takes her cell phone
everywhere. Lisa, Suzanne, Jacqueline,
Cathleen, and Carla also weigh in in on
phone services, voicemail messages, and text
messaging in this 4-minute Audio Aside.

For More Information
by Cathleen Miller

If the ultimate criteria for chosing an airline is
Price! Price! Price! then Ryan Air is an ideal choice
for a hop over the channel.
Let me just sum it up for
you: this is not an airplane,
this is a bus with wings
I have flown every type of commercial carrier ranging
from Mexicana to Ethiopian Air, but I have never seen
anything like this: hard vinyl seats, no seat back pockets
and a screaming bargain-basement décor of lemon
yellow and “royal” blue plastered by Ryan Air billboards on
the overhead bins—lest you should think you’re on the
Concorde. Unreliable departure times, no reserved seating,
no free food or drink, not even water. So why would
anybody fly this airline, you ask?
By the time I put my dainty butt on that hard
vinyl seat, I was in no mood for the frosty charms
of the two Slavic flight attendants, statuesque
blondes with bad teeth and worse English.
It’s the price, hon. I have flown from Glasgow to Dublin for £2 and, yep
that’s bus fare. I discovered Ryan Air in 2003 when I was bopping around
Europe for seven months; the airline was a phenomenon that not only
changed the concept of plane fare, it changed the way Europeans
holiday, creating whole new tourist destinations where Ryan located
their out-of-the-way (and therefore, cheap) terminals.
When I accompanied the Wild Writing Women to Ireland last year, like most
Americans I was aghast at the jump in airfare. There were no deals into
Dublin, but after much research I found a good price on a flight to London
and just assumed I’d do my old trick of flying into Gatwick (one of the few
major airports Ryan services) and catching the Winged Bus to Dublin. This
proved to be a very costly mistake.
Like many a transcontinental flight, mine arrived a couple of hours late.
Although I’d booked my Dublin flight with plenty of time to spare, now I
was in danger of missing it. I was told I had passed the check-in time and
so now would have to go on a later flight which would
cost me an additional $100. Oh—and my bag was too heavy.
My one carry-on sized suitcase. That would cost, too, and I would have to
go stand in another line to pay for that and, if I didn’t get back quick, I’d
be in danger of paying another fee for late check-in. By the time I put my
dainty butt on that hard vinyl seat, I was in no mood for the frosty charms
of the two Slavic flight attendants, statuesque blondes with bad teeth and
worse English. They glided down the aisle, staring down from someplace
above oxygen level, refusing all confused requests. Finally the whole
thing was so much like a scene from a sitcom that I began to laugh
and cheered myself up.
Ryan Air is a great value if you’re bopping around
Europe with nothing but a tote bag, a flexible
schedule, and a thick skin. In fact, the value alone can make
such a trip possible. But it is not a reliable carrier for those making
connections from an international
flight and you’d better be prepared
for all the surprise charges. §


B ook s, Movies, and Mus ic
Irish Arts Roundup
by Suzanne LaFetra

If a trip to the Emerald Isle isn’t in your
immediate future, you can still get a taste of
the place by checking out these flicks, good
reads, and live music venues.
Bloody Sunday, direc ted by Paul Greengrass, 2002
Wak ing Ned Divine, direc ted by K irk Jones, 1998
The Field, direc ted by Jim Sheridan, 1991
The Secret of Roan Innish, direc ted by John
Sayles, 1995
In the Name of the Father,
direc ted by Jim Sheridan, 1993
The Snapper, direc ted by
Stephen Frears, 1993
The Cr ying Game, direc ted by
Neil Jordan, 1992
The Commitments, direc ted by Alan Park er, 1991
Ryan’s Daughter, direc ted by David Lean, 1970
The Dead, direc ted by John Huston, 1987
The Quiet Man, direc ted by John Ford, 1952
Going My Way, direc ted by Leo McCarey, 1944
Once, direc ted by John Carney, 2006

Search for DVD’s
live music
When we are going through withdrawal between visits,
we head to Ireland’s 32, a San Francisco bar whose
name makes a political statement by adding the six
counties of Nor thern Ireland to the 26 of the south. This
establishment ’s been ser ving up great Guinness and live
events ever y night of the week for a quar ter centur y.
Ireland’s 32
click to visit website
2930 Gear y Blvd. (Near 3rd)
San Francisco, CA

And in the East Bay, we head to the Starr y
Plough for traditional Irish music, Celtic
dancing, even poetr y. The Starr y Plough
click to visit website
3101 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA

Find an Irish Pub Near You
Dubliners by James Joyce (duh)
The Butcher Boy by Patrick Mc Cabe
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
Rachel’s Holiday by Marian K eyes
Gulliver ’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
The Pic ture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Death of the Hear t by Elizabeth Bowen
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCour t
Anything by travel writer Der vla Murphy
Anything by William Butler Yeats
Ireland: A Traveler ’s Literar y Companion
edited by James McElroy
And don’t forget Travelers Tales Ireland by
our ver y own Bay Area gents, James O’Reilly,
Larr y Habegger, and Sean O’Reilly

Click for more Irish Literature
Click to find books on traveling in Ireland
featured anthology
Travelers’ Tales: Ireland
So it ’s 3am and you’re still wack ed from jetlag. No
problem—whip out Travelers’ Tales I reland and slip
into a brilliant collec tion of true stories. O f course
you get a taste of Frank McCour t and Maeve Binchy,
but you’ll also be led down the lane by some gifted
stor ytellers, on topics ranging from dog ownership,
gunrunning, and fairies, to this memorable
line from an even more memorable train
trip to Tipperar y : “Go ahead, Mr. Cur tain.
Jerk off to your hear t ’s content and the
cows come home, moo moo moo. No
one will die in the process.”
The writing will k eep you laughing
in the wee hours, but you’ll also
get a healthy, revealing dose of
histor y, culture, ar t, music, and food.
You won’t find maps to the best pubs in
Belfast in this book , but the well- chosen stories in
Travelers’ Tales Ireland can guide you straight to the
hear t and soul of the countr y.
Read Tim O’Reilly ’s stor y, Walking the Kerr y Way
featured guidebook
Traveling with a Lonely Planet guidebook is lik e
having an amusing, pithy, widely-read buddy in
your back pock et. This literar y charm means it ’s
not just a good guidebook , it ’s a good read.
LP crams its books with useful,
accurate, up -to - date information, of
course. But they ’re also created
by writers who ac tually know
how to write, offering juic y
tidbits on ever ything from
why Yeats was irk ed by the
addition of a wing of a Dublin
museum to some clever
deconstruc tionist theories on
O f course there’s all the stuff you’d expec t in a
good guidebook : itineraries, maps, highlights,
weather, and what to bring—but the LP writers
do it with a k ind of tongue -in- cheek panache.
Check out the tips for vegetarians: “Oh boy,
you’re a long way from home now. I reland
provides so few vegetarian options that your
convic tions might be tested. …We trust vegans
have brought pack ed lunches; I reland really
won’t be your cup of black tea.”
Lonely Planet: Ireland
Ever y bit of k nowledge goes down easier with a
healthy dose of humor and LP ’s writers generously
dish up the chuck les, riffing on parliament, prices
and St. Patrick . They even tak e a good-natured
pok e at the monks:
“Incidentally, Irish monks did have a solid
reputation as hard drinkers. Monastic protocol
limited monks to a mere gallon of ale a day.
Another rule insisted that they be able to chant
the Psalms clearly, so we might reasonably
assume the monks managed to build up a sturdy
tolerance in order to walk this fine line.”
And, lik e any travel companion wor th her salt, LP
isn’t afraid to just tell it lik e it is, even when it ain’t
so rosy. “ Thankfully, the terrible irony of a countr y
that expor ted economic migrants throughout
its histor y now getting uppit y when others star t
k nock ing on its door is not lost on a large por tion
of the I rish population….” §


what goes around
The Skye in June
Evidently the Wild
Writing Women
are not the only
ones to puzzle
over the odd mix
of Catholicism
and Paganism,
as attested to
in this excerpt
from The
Skye in June,
a novel by
WWW acolyte,
June Ahern.
Here’s a short
The Skye in June
The sisters continued to stare across to the head shop’s large window
display of pot pipes, candles, incense, and hippie adornments.
Also, there was occult paraphernalia like tarot cards and talismans.
Religious statues of Our Lady sat next to idols of the Santeria and
Voodoo religions.

“The same stuff we use at Mass. Incense, candles, statues, flowers. All
that stuff. Occult and Catholics, it’s like a big old magical mystery trip,
man,” Mary laughed ironically.

“The mystical part of Catholicism is what I’ve always liked about it. It’s the
other stuff that got to me,” June said seriously.

“Yeah, like don’t question anything,” Mary added.

A self-proclaimed atheist, Mary would still pray a “Hail Mary” when
feeling needy. June had often reminded her that praying to Our Lady
and having faith that She would help was the mystical part of
Catholicism. Still, she understood why Mary didn’t want to be a
Catholic any longer. Like her sister, June was also irked by the
memories of the Sister St. Pius, as well as Jimmy’s warnings
whenever she committed some infraction. He would say
things like, “God doesn’t like bad girls,” or “Good Catholic girls
don’t behave like that.” Still she yearned for ritual in a spiritual
practice to support her psychic gifts in a positive way. As little as she
knew about it, witchcraft was fulfilling that need.

“Yeah, I guess it’s true. Catholic girls can make good witches,” June

“Of course you’d think that way, you heathen pagan,” Mary snickered

Click for more about June’s book, The Skye in June.
Americans forced to sing in Poland,

AS Ireland, and beyond. It’s a common
torture. Listen, cringe, laugh, but learn

in this 4-minute Audio Aside.

Singin’ in the Irish Mist

Beyond the Bullfrog Song
by Lisa Alpine

For the record: Creedence Clearwater
Revival wrote Joy to the World, but
Three Dog Night often gets the credit.


for Good
by Suzanne LaFetra

So you’re on your way home. You’ve settled into
that roomy, spacious middle seat, plugged in
your headphones, and you’re ready to fight an
elbow war with the guy nex t to you in 17C all
the way across the pond.
Need a little ex tra room in your pockets?
The smart folks at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have a
simple solution, and they’ve partnered with the airline industry in a pro-
gram called Change For Good.

You may have spent your last Euro on an overpriced airport snack, but
you likely have a few leftover coins weighing you down. Rather than
letting those foreign coins clink around on the bottom of your purse or
clang around in your dryer or annoyingly migrate around your bureau
top for the next few decades, lighten your load.

If you reach into that all-too-close seat pocket in front of you, you’ll find
a nifty little envelope into which you can drop your leftover Rupees or
Pesos or Pulas (if you happen to have trekked through Botswana.) Use
one of those twelve in-flight hours (say, between the second bad movie
and your rousing exercise program of ankle
circles) to fish the spare change from your
pockets. Flag down the friendly flight at-
tendant who is trying to make your middle-
seat-in-coach experience a tad less grueling.
Hand over the jingling UNICEF Change for
Good envelope. Voilá, you have now helped
to support health clinics and education for
the world’s most impoverished kids.
Since 1987 UNICEF has been doing travelers
a little favor by gathering their unwanted

Not a bad return for a little spare change.
coins and putting them to good use. Smart
business all around: UNICEF gets a captive
audience to which it can deliver its mes-
sage, the airline industry gets to showcase
its commitment to social responsibility, and
travelers get to feel good about giving back.

Even that jerk in 17C with the hairy forearms
gets a chance to be a nice guy.
If you are simply too busy with elbow wars or ankle
circles to dig out your coins before landing, you can
always mail those pulas to UNICEF after the jetlag

And just what do all these tiny drops in the bucket
add up to? The Change For Good campaign has col-
lected a tidy sum for the world’s poorest children
from our leftover coins: $70 million bucks.

Which is 377,000,000
pulas, in case you
were wondering.


U.S. Fund for UNICEF

ATTN: Change for Good Program

125 Maiden Lane

New York, NY 10038

Pagans Cram a Whole Lot of Fun
into the Shortest Night of the Year
Saints be with Us! The Wishing Stone
The Cleansing Flames of
Moderated Debauchery
The Troubles Salve for the Sole
in Dingle
The Janus Stone
Click to hear the
author read a
Wild Writing Women short segment of
sacred sites this essay.

cram a lot of fun
into the shortest
night of the year
by Cathleen Miller

Pamela Michael
was the last time you got
to march down a mountain
at midnight carrying a
flaming torch? An honest-
to-god flaming torch, not
some hollow plastic wand
with an orange light bulb
feebly glowing at the end.

Pamela Michael
There’s probably an ordinance against it
There’s probably an ordinance against flaming
torches in your neighborhood—just as there
is against dancing with an open container,
wearing a straw costume while leaping a
bonfire, bagpipe playing after dark—well,
bagpipe playing at all. But in Northern Ireland
we witnessed pagans perpetrating these
reckless acts. And happily joined in.

Word had spread that a group of Wild Writing Women were staying
at Crom Castle and an invitation arrived to celebrate the Midsummer
Festival at the Aughakillymaude Community and Mummers’ Centre.
We weren’t quite clear what a mummer was, but there would be
an ancient pagan ritual and a bonfire up on Knockninny Hill. This
we understood. We had eagerly anticipated the evening, but as rain
skeltered down all afternoon—a local expression for a downpour
blowing sideways—our enthusiasm dampened. However, I put on
jeans, two sweaters, my Blunderstone boots, an ankle-length black
raincoat and a wool flat cap I found in the boot room of the castle. I
This wearing o’ the straw goes back to
the Iron Age, a tradition to celebrate the
coronation of the high kings of Ulster.

stuffed my camera and notebook in one pocket, a flask of Bushmill’s
Whiskey in the other, and declared myself ready for
When we arrived at the community center just before
dusk, we learned that the AUDIO ASIDE
mummers were a group of
entertainers, somewhat similar
to Christmas carolers, who
go around the countryside
performing various folk rituals.
Tonight they were outfitted
in costumes constructed from
straw—cone shaped straw
hoods, straw skirts, straw
leggings, straw gaiters. This
wearing o’ the straw goes back
to the Iron Age, a tradition
to celebrate the coronation
of the high kings of Ulster.
In a farming community, the
straw symbolized fertility, and
besides, the costumes were
cheaply made—important for

Pamela Michael
a get-up that was made to be burned. To be called a “straw man”
meant you had no property of consequence.
As the townsfolk hiked up the mountain, a white-haired
gentleman explained that the Catholic Church had
appropriated the solstice holiday by joining it with the
festival for St. John on June 23. “Are you a pagan or a
Catholic?” I queried.
“Both. You’ll find the Christianity here doesn’t go
very deep.” As we struggled up the rocky path, he
fell down and I asked if he was okay. “Yep, I’m
made of rubber.”
Some of the elderly and infirm piled aboard
a tractor that chugged up the narrow
trail ahead of us. One strapping man in
his 50s ran to catch up. “Emergency!
I’ve got the first aid!” He climbed
aboard carrying a cooler, which
I later learned was full of
At 11:00 pm it was still not dark.
beer. “Oh, I drove my tractor through your hangar last night!” he
sang at full volume.
At the summit we stood atop Knockninny Hill, which—dating
back to 3000 B.C.—is actually a cairn, an ancient burial place
marked by piles of stones. Around us lay the fertile green
valleys of County Fermanagh, dotted by white specks of grazing
livestock. The pastureland was parted by the glassy sapphire
of Lough Erne, an enormous inland waterway that stretches
50 miles from Donegal to Cavan. The lake appeared like an
illuminated sapphire because it mirrored the twilight sky, which
in honor of the pagans, had cleared to a soft, humid blue as the
first stars of evening made their debut.
The bonfire blazed on the rocky soil, as Carla, Suzanne, Pam,
and I milled around meeting the locals, curious to find out what
would happen next. The medic, who looked a bit like James
Coburn, disembarked from the tractor with his first aid cooler,
and offered me a warm Heineken. “What’s your name?” I asked.
PAGANS The bagpiper led the parade, and his
caterwauling rang into the night air. The
mummers marched round and round the
bonfire, and as I watched their pointed
hoods silhouetted against the flames, a
chill went through me, as if I were back
home in the South at a Ku Klux Klan

“Eugene Murphy.” Mr. Murphy had clearly
gotten a jumpstart on celebrating the solstice,
and as he watched me printing his moniker in my
notebook, he asked nervously why I was putting
down his name. I explained that I’m a writer.
“Jesus,” his eyes widened. “The last time my name
was in print I was in court.” I told him to relax
and offered him a swig of whiskey.
Off in the distance we could see the procession
heading towards us, 20 straw men and women
carrying flaming torches, their light glowing golden
against the azure sky. So far north were we, that at 11
p.m. it was still not dark. The bagpiper led the parade,
and his caterwauling rang into the night air. The
mummers marched round and round the bonfire, and
as I watched their pointed hoods silhouetted against the
flames, a chill went through me, as if I were back home
in the South at a Ku Klux Klan meeting.

One jolly gentleman, Sean
McGuire, too drunk to stand,
collapsed onto the rocks and
began to play his banjo with the
other musicians. “Let me see if I
can find the key.”
“It’s in your pocket!” cried Eugene.
The master of ceremonies shouted into the microphone
of a portable p.a. system, his high-pitched tenor straining
to deliver the meaning of the ceremony we witnessed. The
mummers tossed in “sun rings,” loops of woven straw that
symbolized the law of give and return. They burned their
straw masks from previous years, they tossed corncobs into
the fire, they broke bread and distributed it to the crowd. And
then the emcee began to call the mummers by name, ordering
them to jump over the fire—no minor request for a performer
suited up in straw.
When they had completed their portion of the program,
other citizens—ranging from young girls to old men—sang,
played the recorder, the banjo, the fiddle. I decided I would
like nothing better than to have my gravesite visited by
such a lively group each summer, and that these ancients
buried in the cairn were no doubt grateful they had begat
such successors here in Fermanagh, their progeny who still
celebrated their culture’s age-old traditions thousands of years
One jolly gentleman, Sean McGuire, too drunk to stand,
collapsed onto the rocks and began to play his banjo with the
other musicians. “Let me see if I can find the key.”
“It’s in your pocket!” cried Eugene.
Then he confided: “Nobody knows how much work we’ve put
in here—and for precious little thanks I might add.”
A thirsty supplicant approached him.
“Eugene, give me a shot of your
“Ha, ha, bloody ha. The only thing
you’ve ever given me is abuse.
However, I will give ye a ginger
biscuit.” d
t o m e an
t u rn ed help
He e d , “G o d
i sp e r rid o
wh d o n’t get
me if I
i sc uit s.”
i ng e r b
these g
Sean, who was on verse number 400 of “Farewell,
Fermanagh,” was improvising blithely. Carla and
Suzanne were perched to his right and he sang: “There’s
a couple of Yankees sitting on the rocks. They’re
drinking my whiskey and don’t know when to stop….”
The fire was dying down and fireworks fizzled and
popped into the damp air until the maestro announced
it was midnight and we would head down to the
community center and continue the party there.

Click to listen to Sean
and Eugene improvise
a verse of Farewell,

Flaming torches were handed ‘round to light the way.
“Farewell, Fermanagh” continued with more doggerel, Sean
picking his banjo down the mountain: “If you break your
leg, remember, there’s no spares…and if you feel someone
grab your ass, you’ll know Sean’s behind you.” At this
warning I began to fly down the trail, my unbuttoned black
raincoat billowing until someone said it looked like the
cape of Dracula—a story conceived by Bram Stoker not
too far away at Dublin Castle.
Back at the community center the fiddles cranked up; they
were joined by an accordion, another banjo and, of course, the
irrepressible Sean McGuire. I was reminded that American
Bluegrass grew out of the traditional Celtic music played by my
Irish ancestors. When the dancing began, Suzanne was yanked
onto the floor, into a rousing performance of a jig called “Shoe the
Donkey.” Our gal kept up admirably, her golden locks flying as her
muddy boots pounded the floorboards. As the fiddles screeched,
her dance instructor, Dessie O’Reilly, decided he’d choose a much
thinner partner for his next number: a broom. He may have been
in his 70s, but he moved like he was 17, jumping back and forth
over the handle.
A bar had opened up selling spirits, and several generations,
from grandparents down to infants, continued to enjoy the party.
I couldn’t help but stare at a particularly picturesque family
of women, all with the same face and a Titian shade of red
hair. When we left at 1:00 a.m. the frivolity showed no sign of
slowing down. Eugene had just shared his poitín with me—Irish
moonshine—and as I reluctantly strolled out the door, I saw him
holding Sean’s nose to encourage him to have a sip.
I rode home in a euphoric haze, marveling at these Celtic pagans—who
seemed very much in a world unto themselves—one where modern
strictures had not strangled them with inhibitions, choking off their
ability to sing, to dance, to tell absurd jokes and generally have a good

Wild Writing Women
sacred sites

The Troubles
Suzanne LaFetra

“What’s your most important memory [of Ireland]?”
and he said,
“How people who are so nice and lovely individually
can be so disagreeable collectively.”
-- Desmond Fennell, A Connacht Journey
Carla King
Tooling through the bucolic countryside of Northern Ireland, it’s tough
for an outsider to imagine “The Troubles” that have shaken this part
of the Emerald Isle until recently. Copper beech trees splay their dark
purple leaves across rolling farmland dotted with black-faced sheep. The
peaty, fiddle-filled pubs brim with friendly men in tweed caps and wide-
bosomed women serving champ and foamy Guinness. This dichotomy
is kind of like the way my marriage was going until recently.

From the outside, all was verdant and peaceful—tender enough. My
husband and I hosted dinner parties at which we’d make jokes and
smile at each other. We didn’t smash dishes or use four-letter words.
We even had sex once in a while. But last summer, I strolled through
Ireland without a wedding band, so during my travels I understood this
contradiction. County Fermanagh seemed so pastoral, what with all the
lace-making and pint-pouring and cow-milking. But what appears to be
wholesome and serene is only a few calendar pages away from the days
of car bombs and gunrunning and Bloody Sundays.

Carla King
My trip to Northern Ireland was a A brief history: 400 years ago
welcome relief from my American British settlers (mostly Protestants)
life, where I am right smack in the confiscated land owned by native
middle of a divorce. Most of my Catholics in Northern Ireland
travel companions had been through creating the Plantation of Ulster.
it, and understood when I slunk off The Brits banned the locals from
to brood. And I could sink into the owning land; they slashed political
culture of another place—a place rights, and punished those who
where divorce wasn’t even legal a wouldn’t conform to the Anglican
few years ago, by the way—and Church.
get lost in a foreign world. Each
Not surprisingly, the Catholics didn’t
night, I settled under the downy
care for the shoddy treatment, and
comforter in my small room tucked
over time a nationalist movement
into the West Wing of Crom
grew. The Protestants, a minority in
Castle, listening to the skeltering
Catholic-dominated Ireland, tended
rain outside, and reading stories
to support continuing rule from
about The Long War, the Famine,
Britain. Although the situation has
Ulster, the IRA, a history of conflict
become much more complicated
going back hundreds of years. “The
and tangled over time, those are the
Troubles,” as everyone in Ireland
roots of the problem. Fundamental
calls them, refers to a 30-year stretch
differences in power, in beliefs.
of violence that ended only a short
Irreconcilable differences, you might
time ago with the signing of the
call them.
Belfast Agreement of 1998.
One bloody Friday, the bombs exploded
Another brief history: My husband and I got married a decade ago. I had a
couple of babies, gained forty pounds. He got depressed and played computer
games late into the night. I watched my infant son poke Lincoln Logs into
a slot in a box and I cried from sheer boredom. We stopped talking about
much other than our children, we stopped having sex. Everyone’s got issues, I
thought. So I just numbed out to our troubles. Kind of like when your Honda
is making weird revving noises and you fear the solution is the brand new
tranny you can’t afford, so you just close the garage gently and pray it heals
In Ireland in the late 1960’s, things heated up.
What began as a strategy of nonviolence got
corrupted in misunderstanding. Both sides
mistrusted the other; hard line unionists
didn’t like the soft, civil disobedience
approach, and others thought the tactics
were simply a front for the Irish Republican
Army (IRA). Protestant loyalists attacked
civil rights demonstrators. Uprisings
escalated, troops were sent in. And so it
continued, each side throwing punches. The
IRA sprouted an aggressive, militant wing
known as the Provos. One Bloody Friday
in 1972, 22 bombs exploded in Belfast.
My husband and I were on vacation in Oregon with
my in-laws. In bed one night, I badgered him with Big
Questions: What would you do if you had six months left
to live? Do you believe in an afterlife? Then, “On a scale
of one to ten, where are you on the Marriage Happiness
He paused. “I don’t want to play this game.”
I elbowed him. “C’mon. Ten means you’re madly in love
with me and one means you’re ready to walk out the
door.” I grinned in the darkness, waiting for the eight, or
maybe nine.

H o n e y?”
“ o u r.”
hed . “ F
H e si g
“ Four? o k no w.”
w an t ed t
“ You
r ! ? ! ?”
“ But f o u
l led o ver.
.” H e ro
si x
y G o d!” n ne.”
“M e, S u z a
u r g am
“ It’s yo

“Yeah, but that’s what you
say when you’re done with a
marriage! You can’t just drop a
bomb like that!!”
I huffed and puffed, and the
next morning I blew out of
my in-laws’ house and spent
two solid hours sobbing
and kicking at discarded
sandcastles and staring out
at the too-cold and not-at-all
Pacific ocean.

The British locked people up without take the trash out and who would pick
trials. Prisoners died in hunger strikes. up groceries. We went out on “dates”
Ceasefires were called, then broken; without the kids. We did all the right
paramilitaries on both sides imported things, and our marriage looked better
arms. Bombs went off. Grenades were from the outside. At Christmas, he gave
launched. More atrocities against me a groovy pair of white boots. “He’s
civilians. Sinn Fein (the political arm of a keeper,” my mom told me. But when
the IRA) predicted that the war would the party was over, I was seething with
last another twenty years. Each new some unformed black cloud of anger,
flare-up reinforced the old mistrust and resentful that once again, I had
of both sides. Each new attempt to bought and wrapped all our children’s
soothe and hammer out agreements gifts, planned the menu, cooked all day,
was infiltrated with the remembrance and entertained the kids for hours while
of past hurts. More cease fires. More he took a nap.
broken agreements. More polarization,
We continued therapy, but didn’t
more antagonism. President Clinton
discuss the big stuff: sex, money,
intervened to get both sides together
power. I was too scared to admit
again and talks began anew.
that my husband and I were deeply,
My husband and I started to see a fundamentally different, as if we were
therapist. We practiced hugging. coming from different religions. We
We used I statements to express our couldn’t talk about what mattered. We
feelings. (Instead of “You cretin—why couldn’t enjoy each other’s company.
didn’t you take out the recycling?” I was Little hurts brought up the larger,
trained to say, “I feel frustrated when unresolved issues. We became trapped
you don’t do what we agreed.”) We behind huge walls of resentment.
made lists and charts of who would
Our sex-life was as evasive as a four-leaf clover. I started to dread weekends—
what on earth would we talk about? I spent my birthday in Mexico without
him. He started seeing a woman, “just a friend,” and doing things with her I’d
begged him for years to do with me. The ballet, museums, skiing. I fumed.
Retaliated. Polarization deepened. The night before he moved out, we sat
at the kitchen table and I poured us two shot glasses of tequila. We drank
and talked. “It’s time,” he said, “I’ve known for eight years we shouldn’t be
married.” I swallowed and felt the burn.
With the signing of the Belfast Agreement (often called the Good Friday
Agreement) The Troubles came to an end, politically speaking. But a few
months later, a bomb went off in Omagh that killed 29 civilians, and it was
the single worst incident during the Troubles. “After that, people decided
they just had had enough,” Maureen, a Belfast native, tells me one night at
Crom Castle. One of her best friends lost her legs in that explosion. It was
a combination of the talks, the politics, and the cease fires, she told me, but
ultimately, that inner shift had to take hold deep inside of people, so that they
could move on and find a new way to get along. In Northern Ireland, the last
decade has been relatively quiet. Mostly, people are on good behavior.
But I have not always chosen to be on my good behavior.
On the shortest night of the year in Fermanagh, I squatted in front of an
enormous bonfire and sipped a stranger’s moonshine. Villagers clad in straw
leaped across open flames, saying prayers of sacrifice and thanks. “It’s our way
to give back,” the caller said into the blurry-sounding bullhorn. “To remember
where we’ve come from.”
I remembered. Remembered what my husband said on our wedding day, and how
he looked in the middle of the night holding our babies over his freckled shoulder. I
remembered how hard we’d fought and cried and tried. Perched on the loose rocks of the
cairn, I watched people performing an ancient ritual: of sacrifice, giving thanks, drinking
up, letting go.
My husband and I split up a year ago. People who know us say, “It’s so great the way
you’re handling all this—both of you are being grown up about it.” And for the most part,

they’re right. Our divorce is “amicable,” a term
reserved, I’ve noticed, for notably unfriendly
situations. These days, we

both spend a lot of time
and money on lawyers
and divorce coaches and
child specialists. We slog

Collaborative through parenting plans
and house appraisals, and
our high-priced helpers hold our hands as we
wade through the swamp of emotional and
financial issues, everything from deciding how “new people” will be introduced into our
children’s lives to who will pay for college.
Ireland’s troubles have reshaped its people. Underground ripples of violence, extortion,
mistrust and fear still quake through the pastoral landscape from time to time. Not a
single person I talked with in County Fermanagh is unscarred—all have stories to tell of
uncles who’ve been maimed or a neighbor who lost their daughter or a school that was
closed for two whole decades because keeping it open was simply inviting disaster. None
of the people I spoke with openly took sides. Everyone just shook their heads and called
it a shame. One town elder I talked with at that bonfire on the shortest night of the year
said, “Too bad such civilized people couldn’t find a way to work it out.”
It is too bad when nice people can’t work it out. And sometimes partition
is the answer, even if it’s painful. In Ireland, for the moment, no one is
getting their legs blown off. The Orangemen still hold their parades in July
and it royally ticks off the Unionists. The IRA still throws a below the
belt punch now and then and everyone holds their breath. But the school
in Fermanagh has been reopened. You can drive back and forth across the
border and scarcely know it. Ireland has been the scene of an economic
miracle: the Green Tiger.
My soon-to-be ex-husband and I are trudging through a collaborative
divorce, structuring Parenting Agreements, attempting to find a fair path
through the jungle of finances. We are trying to move forward—without
car bombs, without hunger strikes. I want to haul out a grenade launcher
sometimes, like when he forgets to buy the kids a birthday present or
allows them to watch The Twilight Zone while he naps. I don’t, though,
because I know we have to peacefully coexist.
But when I sit around a table full of lawyers and we carve up our children’s
schedule, pore over Excel spreadsheets crammed with proposed budgets,
hammer out the specifics of who gets to be with the kids Christmas Eve
2012, it fills me with a deep despair. Every slight, every unpleasantness
unearths old hurts. Every document signed is an acknowledgement of pain
and failure unresolved. These days, I understand why people say that a
divorce is one of the hardest things you can go through. No, it isn’t getting
your legs blown off. It isn’t famine or torture. It isn’t a war, but it is a long,
protracted battle with someone you once loved. These days I understand
more about how that flammable combination of loss, pain, and failure can
drive nice people to do things that seem barbaric from the outside.
My trip to Ireland is a pleasant, fuzzy memory now. Back
home in Berkeley, I’m settling into my divorced life. My
ex-husband comes over to take the kids to school some
mornings. I mostly smile and hold my tongue, even when
I don’t feel like it, because the cease fire is in effect. Our
lawyers are on deck, the kids are watching. It’s an uneasy
peace. But even though we occasionally joke with each
other, or laugh about a New Yorker cartoon, I’m different
toward him, hardened. Like the buildings dotting
County Fermanagh, so tricked out with steel walls and
gun turrets they look like fortresses. “Do they still
need those?” I asked Maureen on my last day
in Northern Ireland, as we sped by a police
station nearly buried in razor wire, concrete
barriers, and steel. She didn’t say yes or no. She, like
every single other person who talked with me about The
Troubles, just shrugged in a sad way, having developed
their own armor against the pain. §
Carla King
Wild Writing Women
Sacred Sites

by Lisa Alpine
The Wishing
Wishing stones are not wishy-washy . . .
One blustery night at dinner, we to lavish on visitors, stories and
asked Violet, the housekeeper at stories and stories that pile up
Crom Castle, about sacred sites. like strawberries on trifle.
“Ye must go to the Wishing Violet told us of the bones still
Stone right here on the castle jutting out of the rocky beaches
grounds by the lake. Me son, at County Donegal. “Ye must go
Noel here, will show ye. Ye see the coast just a wee drive to
need to sit on the stone without the west,” she said. “During the
touching the earth around famine they’d walk for days to
it—every part of yer body on top be reaching the shore, where the
without a limb on the dirt.” boats were sailing to America—
only to die right there on the
Like all the natives, her thick beach of hunger.” Her deliciously
Irish accent slathered around her dense brogue unfurled the
words, adding a rich coating to story of Ireland’s tragic past,
the language—velvety as dairy an ironic tale of starvation told
cream on an Irish Coffee, or as she lay plates heaped with
as smooth and blankety as the boiled potatoes, roast lamb, and
dense foam on the head of a pint aromatic mint sauce onto the
of Guinness. Those accents wrap well polished trestle table.
around the stories the Irish love
Hawthorn branches pricked my head
like a crown of thorns
But our minds were still on the Wishing Stone and I asked, “Violet,
have you ever made a wish on the stone?”

“No deary. I have everything I

Well, we didn’t feel that
way, being ambitious
American alpha females
and all, so we hustled
right over there with
Noel in the mid-summer

Noel, who was raised at Crom,
as were his ancestors, is now
the manager at the castle. As he
cautiously held down the electric wire fence for us to step over, I asked,
“Have you sat on the wishing stone?”

He responded emphatically, “Oh yes, indeed, many a time and the
wishes always came true.”
We each took a turn, folding ourselves onto the foot-
square dome of lichen-pocked granite. In silence, with
eyes closed, hawthorn branches pricking our heads like
a crown of thorns, we wished mightily.

That stone works!
Less than 24 hours from my sitting session, my wish
was answered in a way I would have never expected. It
was a doozy and inspired a daily pilgrimage.

When I shared my surprise results and daily visits
with Noel, he exclaimed with characteristic Irish wit,
“By gosh, I’ll have to build a little hut over that stone
so youse won’t get soaked in the mist.” §

Click to hear Lisa
talk about her first
encounter with the
Wishing Stone.
Click to hear the
author read a
Wild Writing Women short segment of
Sacred Sites this essay.

The Cleansing Flames of
by Carla King

Carla King
I take a swig from the whisky bottle and pass
it to the man next to me, reflecting that the last time I
stood in front of a bonfire in the middle of the night sharing mind-
altering substances with strangers I stood in a cold, dusty desert in
the American West surrounded by hundreds of fluorescently-clothed
humans over-excited by drugs and alcohol and the shared experience
of burning down a very large neon-encrusted wooden man the size of a
small skyscraper that exploded with fireworks and tumbled in flames to
the dry, cracked earth.

Carla King
The smaller children, blinded by their masks, turn the wrong way
and bump into their more graceful elders who gently guide them in
the correct direction. By the time the whisky bottle comes around
again the villagers are leaping into the embers, over them, across them,
daring the sparks to catch their costumes aflame.


Carla King
Standing on this
cairn in the British
Isles, my blood is
warmed by the whisky
and a simmering of
recognition. Admittedly,
the Celts have made generous
contributions to my DNA over
the centuries, so perhaps that is
why everything seems so eerily
familiar: the soggy ground,
the voice of the man singing
to the fiddler’s tune, the straw-
clad dancers, the embers now
dying down and the feeling of
cleansing and fertility. Anything
could happen now, or tomorrow.
Midnight approaches and I am conflicted as to whether to jump across
the embers or just stand there transfixed by the glow, or kiss the man
next to me, or do cartwheels down the hill, or lie down flat in the dirt
and stare up at the stars.
I have done all this and more at the Burning Man festival, which has
been compared to the Wicker Man ritual of human sacrifice practiced
by Celtic pagans from these islands, but in fact is not related to this
or any other such ritual, says founder Larry Harvey, who claims to
have simply been motivated to burn an effigy as “an act of radical self-
One can’t help but wonder how many individual acts of radical
self-expression have included fire and dancing and sex and drugs
and music over the years, and happily caught on as an officially
recognized pagan ritual. But since when does anybody need an excuse
to burn off some energy? Wednesday is designated “Hump Day”
in the working world from San Francisco to Belfast, and in Dublin
town—eons away from the cairn where I now stand—Saturday nights
are designated abandonments from the restrictions of the workday as
evidenced by the bandaged knuckles and bruised cheekbones of half
the young men walking to church on Sunday morning.

Circle the Maypole, circle the flames
Then run off and do what you will
But back to Burning Man—what is it then? It is Wicker Man
and Beltane and Samhain, it is the Maypole and Christmas
and All Hallows Eve. It is polytheistic—choose your gods and
goddesses, pass around the whisky bottle, or whatever mind-altering
substance that comes your way, circle the flames and then run off and
do what you will.
We humans seem to need to get wild and perhaps anonymous and
break the social mores of the society in which we normally live.
Practically speaking, Beltane has been said to be an opportunity to
temporarily put aside marriage vows in favor of desire, but sexual
licentiousness also may have served to ensure fertility among non-
fertile couples, not to mention genetic variety.
Psychologically speaking, the ways that religion and associated rituals
serve people and society are more complex. Professor of Psychology
and Psychiatry Steven Reiss determined 16 basic human psychological

Psychedelic lint on the grand great earth.
desires that motivate people to seek meaning through religion:
power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor,
idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance,
eating, physical exercise, and tranquility. Of course, each of us has these
motivations in different doses.
One year at Burning Man I spurned alcohol in favor
of a psychotropic cactus that made the hundreds
of fluorescently-clothed creatures frolicking in the
desert look very small and fuzzy, inconsequential, yet
irritating, like psychedelic lint on the grand great earth.
Fires dotted the desert for as far as I could see, and the moon was full
and bright. The peyote created an environment that provided the ideal
antithesis to a life lived in the highly organized city of San Francisco. I
needed a ground connection, some tribal society, and a heavily nature-
bound ritual, and so I latched onto some Native Americans, their faces
smeared with ash and charcoal, drumming and dancing around a pile of
flaming jetsam while chanting ancient mantras in deep voices. I circled

The earth felt solid, the sky reliably fastened to it.

Carla King
the flames with them and, as long as I didn’t look up at the
bright fuzzy lint, the earth felt solid and the sky reliably fastened
to it. And for months I felt I could survive until the next excuse
to misbehave.
I don’t know if it’s the Celtic DNA singing in my veins or if it’s the
effect of the whisky but standing on the cairn with the blazing fire
and the Irish landscape still lit by the midsummer sun below my feet,
lakes and greenery and clouds in dark blue sky, I know that this thing
we’re doing here is the real deal, pure and purposeful and heartfelt and
joyous. Suddenly the earth feels wobbly and the sky is a melt of clouds
and stars. I stand stunned, on the brink of fainting or running off
screaming into the dark, but a man with a flaming torch takes my arm
to guide me down the muddy
road back to the mummers’ hall
where music and dancing is
promised. I look for my friends
and find them similarly led.
That is, all but Cathy, who struts
confidently down the muddy
road with a flaming torch in her
The whole village slips down
the hill, laughing riotously. I
couldn’t keep up but for the man
at my elbow. Finally, we reach
the mummers’ center where a
bar is set up over a laundry tub,
the old folks are dancing, and
the teenaged accordion player is
text messaging between tunes.
Suzanne is dragged onto the
Carla King dance floor and proves her grace
by gamely following an impossible jig, her long blonde tresses
streaming around her as a nimble, elderly gentleman flings her
expertly across the rough wooden floor. The room roars with
appreciation, and so that I am not chosen for the next dance I flee
outdoors where some men stand smoking and some girls in a cluster
whisper secrets, and still the sky is indigo blue with the stars poking
through and a lake glimmers in the near distance.
It’s early in the morning when I drive our group the ten miles back
to our beds, not without getting lost in a endless maze of single-lane
country roads. We sing sixties folk tunes to stay alert and then everyone
is quiet as the headlights illuminate a tunnel of greenery that magically
envelops the road. There’s time to recall the silent treks in hiking boots
back to the tent at Burning Man at sunup. I reflect that fire can be
cleansing, and it’s good to cling to the feeling of anything-can-happen
as long as you can.
It’s not often that one has the opportunity to join the sort of organized
misbehavior that is encouraged during the multicultural, disorganized
abandonment of Burning Man or on a midsummer hilltop. However
large or small, I appreciate the chance and silently congratulate the
mummers for keeping these folk traditions alive. Someone told me
up on the cairn that they’d only recently revived it after the great
distraction of “The Troubles.” A much better alternative to bombing
one another, I said to myself as another straw-clad villager leapt
through the fire. And then another whisky bottle came around. §
the janus stone
ga l l e r y by Carla King

In Caldragh cemetery on an island in Northern Ireland and protected
only by a rusty gate and a flimsy shade structure, the Janus stone looks
both east and west with its two faces. The “Lusty Man” stone sits nearby,
moved here from its home on Lustymore Island in 1939.
boa island
the janus stone

Sacred or profane? The enigmatic Janus Stone is rumored to be
a Celtic idol, maybe 1000 years old. One side appears to be a
feminine figure, while the other is unmistakably masculine.
boa island
the janus stone

The story of these Iron-Age, pre-Christian, two-faced Celtic
idols will probably forever remain a mystery.
boa island
the janus stone

Click image to play video.
(You must be connected to the Internet.)

The hands were broken away and now
sit on their own next to the figure.
boa island
the janus stone

Old gravestones crumble and gather moss, crowding
the way to the edges where new stones memorialize
those more recently remembered.
Wild Writing Women
sacred sites

Saints Be with Us!
The ups and downs of having
your own personal saint
by Jacqueline Harmon Butler
St. Patrick was a thread in the larger fabric
of religion that swaddled my childhood.
The sound of organ music greeted to add even more “Patrickism” to
us as my sister Patty and I entered my life. Saint Patrick and I had a
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. connection; he was a thread in the
We shook out our wet umbrellas larger fabric of religion that swaddled
and placed them in the my childhood.
corner, reverently, for this
was said to be the earliest So here I was, standing
Christian site in Ireland. on the hallowed ground.
Overwhelmed by the spirit
During my first trip to of the place, I wasn’t quite
the Eire back in 1978, ready to enter the nave
I admit to being a bit where a dozen people were
wide-eyed at everything scattered around the main
I saw for many reasons; altar praying. So I grounded
not least because our myself by picking up some
most ancient buildings in literature at the bookshop
California are a scant 300 and learned that a church
years old, but because I had stood on this site since
had been “encircled” by St. the fifth century. It seems
Patrick from an early age. the original building was
I attended Saint Patrick’s just a wooden chapel until
Elementary School and 1192 when Archbishop
Saint Patrick’s Church, John Comyn ordered a
where I made my first communion cathedral to be built in stone. Much of
and confirmation. Later I would give the present edifice was constructed in
my son “Patrick” as a middle name. the 13th century, and today it remains
And then there is my sister Patricia, the largest church in Ireland.
When my sister and I arrived at Saint demolition of nearby buildings to
Patrick’s the choir was rehearsing for form the park beside the cathedral,
services that would be held later in workers unearthed this perfectly
the day. The organ filled the church preserved slab bearing a Celtic
with passion and power and the cross, which was covering a well. It
singers sounded like angels. These is thought that it may have marked
vocal groups are part of the cathedral’s the site of the former holy well,
long history, with where Saint Patrick is
the Choir School reputed to have baptized
founded in 1432. converts from paganism
Its members took to Christianity around
part in the very first 450 A.D. I realized
performance of the longevity of this
Handel’s Messiah! saint’s influence, and I
(The original score was reminded again of
is on display in the the years of connection
cathedral.) As we between me and Saint
sat listening, my Patrick.
eyes filled with
tears at the beauty Growing up Catholic was
surrounding me in full of magic and mystery
the centuries-old for me. My grandmother
church. Wandering had a framed painting
around the building, Patty and I of Jesus with his hands holding his
discovered a very ancient-looking Sacred Heart. Those sad eyes stared
stone with a timeworn Celtic cross out at me every time I passed by
carved on it. A printed description the picture. It gave me the creeps,
claimed that, in 1901, during the actually. I had been impressed

Those sad eyes stared out at me every time I
passed the picture. It gave me the creeps, actually.
by stories of crying statues of the “Patrickism” continued at Saint
Madonna and paintings of her that Patrick’s school, where Father
shed tears and other mystical events. I Patrick Flannigan taught us about
used to pray that Grandma’s painting the Catholic sacraments and always
of Jesus wouldn’t start crying or seemed to have a joke or two to
sprout apparitions like Mary who tell us. I loved his Irish accent and
appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes. the way his eyes sparkled when he
laughed over his own jokes. However,
My paternal grandfather was Irish and the whole class quaked when
so I guess it was easy for me to believe Father Murphy came thundering
in mystical experiences and legendary in. He threatened us with hell
Irish folklore, like leprechauns and and damnation if we weren’t good
pots of gold—and the best one about children, studying our catechism and
Saint Patrick driving the snakes out of memorizing our prayers. I remember
Ireland. Perhaps it’s in my blood; my sinking down in my chair, hoping
mother always told me I had the gift he wouldn’t notice me and ask me a
of blarney because I spun many a tall question I couldn’t answer.

Father Flanagan’s eyes twinkled when he told a joke, but Father Murphy
threatened us with hell and damnation if we weren’t good children.
The Saint Patrick’s Church of my In Dublin, many years later, walking
youth was old and the kneelers didn’t through the gardens surrounding his
have any padding, so I spent much ancient cathedral, I thrilled to the
of my childhood with bruises on my thought that I was walking where
knees. The bruises made me feel extra Saint Patrick had once trod. The lush
holy. Irish grass smelled sweet beneath my
feet and a bird singing in a nearby tree
From my earliest years, I thought of seemed to be accompanying the choir.
Saint Patrick as my personal saint. I sat down on a weathered wooden
I liked seeing the statue of him all bench and felt my body relaxing as I
dressed up in the green and gold closed my eyes, enjoying the music.
robes of a bishop. During Lent he and A vision of Saint Patrick appeared
all the other statues were draped in before me, looking as he always
black, which gave the church a very had: dressed in his green and gold,
scary and sinister atmosphere. Father complete with conical hat and smiling
Murphy told us that this was so we at me. Saints be with us!
would focus on the passion of Christ,
rather than enjoy the beauty of the
art. But I always worried that behind
those black drapes the saints were
hiding their tears.

Ultimately, I transferred to public
school and began to drift away from
the Church, although I still attended
mass on Sunday and holy days and
Saint Patrick continued to be my
soulmate, advisor, and friend.
Saint Patrick died in 461 AD, and thinking about the saint that had been
is believed to be buried at Down one of the most important spiritual
Cathedral in Downpatrick, County companions throughout my life.
Down. No one can be certain of Patrick has seen me through many
the exact spot of his burial, but a challenges and transitions. I have
memorial stone of granite from the always felt very possessive about him,
nearby Mourne Mountains marks as if he were uniquely my own.
what is thought to be his grave. I
have returned to Ireland several times The grave site was very calming; it
over the years and in 2002 I made a was as if I could actually feel the
pilgrimage to the burial site. I must warmth of the saint embracing me. I
say I really did feel a special energy came away from the cemetery with a
there. sense of peace and love—just what
you would hope for from your own
The sky that day was a pale shade personal saint. §
of blue and puffy clouds sailed by
slowly. Wild daffodils were scattered
across the lush green landscape. I
felt right at home sitting at the grave
with the sun warming my back,
of the

rich and
Crom Castle
Castle Leslie Medieval Faire
Horse Crazy!
Tara’s Palace
Avoca Dublin at Malahide Castle
Arts & crafts for the aristocracy

Avoca Handweavers
Wicklow County
Wild Writing Women

Cosseted at CROM CASTLE
by Lisa Alpine

The road snaked around the hillock and we all
exhaled at once when the castle, in all its grand
proportions, spires, and arches, was revealed
backdropped against a misty lough. Oh my God!
echoed in unison from the women in the back seat.

Courtesy Crom Estate
Guess who’d been sleeping in one of the Wild Writing
Women’s beds? No, not Goldie Locks…
Our hosts at Crom Castle, Lord and Lady Erne,
just happen to be buddies with the Prince of
Wales and the Duchess of Cromwell.
So Charles and Camilla slept in one of the sumptuous four poster beds just
a few months before the WWW arrived for our week long stay last June.
No doubt the couple enjoyed
their getaway in The Buff Room,
a particularly elegant guest
accommodation with fireplace and all.
Odd name, though.
Naturally, the secret door in the wall
that separates the main castle from
the West Wing was left open for The
Royals so they could just pop on over
to the Lord’s for drinks or tea. We,
the Wild Writing Women, on the
other hand, did not know about the
secret entrance until one day, after a
phone call from Harry (Lord Erne’s
first name) inviting us to visit him and
Anna, his wife, for drinks. We gussied
up and waited where he told us to—in
Terry Dixon the stairwell on the second floor of the
West Wing. Odd, again.

A creaking sound of wood moving against stiff
carpet drew our attention to the wall—it was
moving! Just a crack at first, but then the door swung open and there stood
the Lord and Lady of the manor with smiles and handshakes ushering us into
their private castle. It was a world of grand dark wood staircases, monolithic
family portraits, and champagne flutes filled with French bubbly.
Crom Estate, in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, has been the
residence and the historic seat of the Earls of Erne for over 350 years. Our host
was the 6th Earl of Erne.
In the stunningly large living room with views over the lawns to the lake, open-armed
oaks and herds of fallow deer created a moving diorama, and photos of queens and other
familiar faces dotted the interior landscape. (People Magazine was my reference point
for the who’s who.) On the Steinway piano, polished to an ebony gleam, were several
photographs of a divinely elegant young woman—think Jackie O. It was Lady Erne, fresh
from Sweden when she worked at the Ford Modeling Agency in Manhattan. She was one
of their top models before becoming a Lady in a castle. Need I say, a fairytale come true?
Lady Erne engaged all of us in
The castle grounds
stories of travel and writing.
Her husband has published a
children’s book and we exchanged
autographed copies of our various
books including Wild Writing
Women: Stories of World Travel. They
were quite intrigued with Carla’s
motorcycle misadventures in her
book, American Borders. He and
Lady Erne read it to each other after
retiring and had many questions for
Carla the next morning, when the
secret door opened yet again. They
were all atwitter over a scene in the
first chapter where she describes
frolicking naked through the woods
in the rain in Southern France with
a newfound lover. “Just riveting!”
gushed Harry.
Cathy remembers our
evening with the Lord
and Lady of the caste.
Pamela Michael
Lord Earne in his study
So how did we end up
in this glorious castle
in Northern Ireland?
Maureen Wheeler, co-founder
of Lonely Planet Travel Guides
and an honorary member of our
posse, was born and raised in
Belfast. She knew of Crom, and
suggested we hold our bi-annual
Wild Writing Women gathering
at the castle.
Invited to stay at a
castle? Who could say
no? The idea seemed
Pamela Michael just right.
From Dublin we drove a few hours and crossed into Northern Ireland, all the while
avoiding the tendency to veer over to the right side of the road. Screams from the
other Wild Writing Women sitting in the backseat were quite helpful in keeping Carla
and me focused while driving country lanes, barely the width of a fat cow, toward our
fantasy destination.
Where the ghost hangs out
We knew we were close when the castle
ramparts peaked over a rolling emerald hill.
The road snaked around the hillock and we
all exhaled at once when the full monty in all
its grand proportions, spires and arches, was
revealed, back-dropped against a misty lough.
Oh my God! echoed in unison from the women
in the backseat.
For the entire week, the Oh My God!
reactions continued to Crom Castle’s neo-Tudor
turrets and crenellated towers stretching into the
sky. You just don’t adapt that quickly to living in
a castle. It’s different than a hotel, we realized.
We had the entire West Wing to ourselves. Well,
except for that ghost.
Jacqueline Harmon Butler
“Are any of them haunted?” we asked Noel Johnston, the manager, when
he gave us a tour of the elegant, high ceilinged rooms. They seemed perfect
quarters for spirits. He hesitated, chuckled and then, “Oh, there’ve been
He led us to The Rose Room all the way at the end of the hall. Large petaled, sherbet
colored roses spilled all over the wallpaper, the bedspreads, and the curtains. High
ceilings, a fireplace, oodles of porcelain objet and a bathtub you could drown in. After I
dubbed the room as mine, THEN Noel piped in, “Some folks do indeed see a lady float
through these walls.”
I had my antennae out the first night, eyeing any mischievous movements or shadows
crossing walls. But not a hair rose on my arms and I slept uninterrupted. Perhaps the
effect of the weighty down comforter and walls as thick as a fortress kept intruders at bay.
I slept blanketed in the history of solitude in the stillness of the Irish countryside.

Suzanne takes the helm

Carla King
Morning began officially with the filling of the teapot after which we would
slowly meander groggy-eyed into the Victorian Conservatory to write. The
immense glassed-in structure towered above us like a crystal cathedral.
We’d plug in our laptops—a real juxtaposition in this setting, and write, each of us in
silence, for several hours and before a break for a yoga stretch. The biggest downfall of
being a writer—other than the pay scale—is sitting on our posteriors far too much.
We combated the sitting with a series of highly un-Victorian poses: legs spread wide,
derrieres to the sky, various gyrations. At one point, all the Wild Writing Women were
bent over, reaching for our ankles, when I heard a scuffling sound. It was Noel, edging
backward out the door. “Me thought you women were writers, not gymnasts.” We all
laughed when he added, “Do youse do this every morning? Very interestin’. I’ll keep an
eye out for youse next meetin’!”
One day I decided I felt slightly feverish and needed to retire to my room with tea and
books. Really just an excuse to soak up the “rose” factor and the delight of having the
castle all to myself for an entire day. The rest of the Wild Writing Women went on an
excursion. I wandered the stairways in my bathrobe. I luxuriated in that tub which was
so deep that I needed to prop myself up in order to keep my book from going under. The
spaciousness, the time, the solitude, the luxury—I felt like an eccentric Royal myself.
Castles do that to you.
The old castle from the water

Carla King
“There is no place that conjures up in my mind more Irish romance than the
wide and fair domains of Crom.” John Ynyr Burges of County Tyrone, wrote
this in his diary when he was a guest at the castle in 1863.

1900 acres and one of Europes longest inland waterways
Ol’ John got it right. A romantic castle within a parkland of some 1,900 acres, Crom
is surrounded by the glistening waters of Lough Erne, which forms one of the longest
inland waterways in Europe. The lake is dotted with a myriad of mysterious islands,
many visible from the castle windows. Crichton Tower on Gad Island is a stone
folly built in1847, appearing to float not far offshore and beckoning us to visit in the
motorboat. Grebes call from the water grasses, swans hypnotically weave their graceful
dance around the edges of the island and herons break free from their tangled root
perches to take flight on huge flapping wings of gunpowder blue. Crom is home to the
largest heron rookery in Ireland. Truly a living postcard.
Built in the 1830s for the Third Earl of Erne, after the original castle was destroyed by
fire, Crom Castle was designed by the English Architect Edward Blore, best known for
his work on Buckingham Palace. The suggestively haunting ruins of the original castle

Suzanne, Carla,
and Lisa take a
yoga break in the

Jacqueline Harmon Butler
lie on the shore of the lake. It survived two bloody Jacobite sieges before it
burned down.
Two immense yew trees, one male and one female, guard the entrance to the old
castle grounds. They have formed a citadel of intertwining branches. Over 800 years old,
they are reputed to be the oldest trees in Ireland. Legend says that it was underneath this
canopy that Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone and leader of the Irish struggle against English
domination, kissed his lady love goodbye in 1607 before taking a ship from Ireland into
exile, never to return.

Leprechauns played tricks on our sense of direction
After a few days of drizzly walks, long writing sessions and teatime by the fireplace, jetlag
eased and we got curious about our surroundings. Maps came out. Excursions were
planned. But the leprechauns seemed to play tricks on our sense of direction. Winding
country roads, mysterious turn offs, unposted destinations. We saw many things we never
planned to see. Maybe that ghost had gotten into the car?

Exploring the old castle

Pamela Michael
Returning from one of our misadventures, Violet the housekeeper (mother of
our guide Noel and his sister, Cynthia) fortified us with hearty Irish dinners.
Think potatoes (the anchor of all Irish meals) along with lamb and mint sauce.
Every plate includes a russet.
At first there was a collective rolling of eyes when the spuds appeared nightly on our
plates…potatoes, again? Some of us were watching our carb intake. But a few days into
our journey we were so enamored by the ubiquitous spud, we gave in and even started
buying farl, a bread made from potatoes, to accompany our meals.
At dinner we quizzed Violet, who grew up here as had her father’s father’s father. Where
to go? What to do? What was Prince Charles like?
Noel let it leak that his mom, Violet, was a skilled AUDIO ASIDE
tealeaf reader. On our last night at the castle she Hear about
ushered each of us into the kitchen. So powerful Pam’s tea-leaf
were her translations of the wet, loose, leaves of tea reading.
that clung to the bottom of the cup, that not one of
us spoke of it around the hearth that night. Violet gave us each something profound to
ponder, but we all agreed that Crom Castle was a royal place to spend a week exploring
the magic of Northern Ireland.


Noel in the Yew Tree.
Carla King
Crom Castle was awarded the Winner of the Northern Ireland Tour-
ism Award 2007 for Accommodation. It is located in Northern Ireland
about 125 miles from Dublin and 80 miles from Belfast. The nearest
towns are Enniskillen and Lisnaskea.
The West Wing is available to rent year round on a weekly or weekend
basis for groups of up to 12 people. You can tailor your stay to be self-
catering, or if you would like to be looked after, a cook can be provid-
ed. Bring your own wine and other beverages.

Boathouse with castle behind

Pamela Michael
For current rates, visit the Crom Castle website. Rates include the use
of the Earl of Erne’s private tennis court and the rowing boat with an
outboard motor for exploring the lakes.

CONTACT Click the coat of arms to visit the website

West Wing Crom Castle


County Fermanagh

Northern Ireland
Tel: +44 028 677 38004

Carla King

The National Trust has managed the Crom Estate since 1987. Crom is one
of the Trust’s most important nature reserves. The National Trust Visitor Center
on the Estate houses an exhibition on the history and wildlife of Crom. It also has
a lecture room, the Little Orchard Tea Room, a small shop and a slipway for your
own boat. Boat hire can be arranged through the Visitor Centre. Pike fishing on
the Green Lake and Coarse Fishing on Lough Erne can also be arranged with the
National Trust.
T: +44 028 6773 8118

Carla King

Marble Arch Caves are among Europe’s finest with magnificent Meso-
zoic limestone caves, natural underworld rivers, waterfalls, and winding passages
from a boat. In 2004 Marble Arch Caves and the nearby Cuilcagh Mountain Park
were jointly recognized as a Unesco Global Geopark.
The Atlantic Ocean, with its large sand dunes and dramatic rock formations, is
within a 90-minute drive from Crom. As long as the ghosts don’t send you down
weird, unmarked highways, bring a picnic or have a seafood lunch at the re-
nowned Smugglers Creek Pub on the cliffs overlooking Donegal Bay and Blue
Stack Mountains. Sip your Guinness at the 150 year-old pub known for having
“the best view in Ireland.”
Devenish Island is one of the largest of some 200 islands to be found in Lough
Erne, and is the site of ruins of an abbey, and of a perfect 12th-century round
tower. The island can be reached by ferry.
Lough Erne by Boat: A variety of boat tour companies offer day cruises on Lough
Erne’s extensive waterways.

Carla King
Suzanne talks
about bicycling
around Crom

Carla King
crom castle
medieval faire medieval faire
ga l l e r y by Pamela Michael
crom castle
medieval faire

Knights test their mettle in horseback jousting, and
swordfighting demonstrations. Try your hand at
falconry, blacksmiting and enjoy music and all kinds of
historical re-enactments during this one-day medieval
faire in the summer at Crom Estate.
crom castle
medieval faire
crom castle
medieval faire
crom castle
medieval faire
Wild Writing Women

by Jacqueline Harmon Butler
Carla King

The Wild Writing Women piled mentioned that the Wild Writing
into our minivan and set out for Women were going to be in Ireland
Glaslough, County Monaghan in he invited us to come visit.
the Republic of Ireland. We were
Castle Leslie Estate is one of thirty
spending a week at the glorious
great Irish ancestral homes still
Crom Castle just across the border
run by the original family. Since
in Northern Ireland, and the added
the 1660’s the distinguished and
bonus of exploring yet another castle
eccentric Leslie family has lived
was too tempting to pass up.
there, welcoming everyone from
I had met Noel McMeel, the politicians to poets to rock stars (and
Executive Chef at Castle Leslie, a as we later learned back home, our
few months earlier in San Francisco old pal Diane LeBow!). A few years
at a Tourism Ireland luncheon. back, in their happier days, Paul
Using the hotel’s kitchen, Noel and Heather McCartney held their
prepared an adventurous lunch of magical flower-filled fantasy wedding
Nouvelle Irish Cuisine. When I at the castle.
Castle Leslie is located on the border dollar project is finally nearing
between the Republic of Ireland and completion. The resort has some of
Northern Ireland and was deeply the most unusual and interesting
affected by The Troubles. During luxury accommodations in all of
that time the castle and grounds Ireland, including the Castle, the
were allowed to slowly fall apart. It Hunting Lodge and self-catering
wasn’t until 1991 that Samantha cottages in the Village.
Leslie took over management of
True to his word, Noel was waiting
the estate from her uncle, Sir John.
for us along with Sir John, who is
Her dream to restore their ancestral
affectionately known as Disco Jack
home to its former glory took years
because at the spry age of 91 he still
to realize but the multi-million

Sir John enjoys a quiet afternoon

Pamela Michael
frequents the local village disco. label: “Uncle Jack’s Disco Bubbles
After graciously answering our Grand Reserve.”
questions and posing for photos, he
The completely restored Hunting
turned us over to Noel for our tour
Lodge is the main part of the hotel
of the Hunting Lodge, the stables
and offers a variety of rooms, some
and, of course, the cooking school.
of them overlooking the new state-
Noel had prepared a delicious of-the-art equestrian center. Being
lunch for us, which was served horse lovers, we wanted to go down
in an impressive wood-paneled to meet the animals and see their
room off the bar of the Hunting sumptuous accommodations, which
Lodge. The thick and creamy include an indoor show ring and
Irish Barley soup was perfect on a mechanized roundabout cooling
a damp, cool afternoon. The soup ring. There is even a virtual horse,
was accompanied by a variety of which can be programmed for a
fresh vegetable, chicken and cheese variety of gaits, walks, canters, and
sandwiches, using a combination of gallops. The horse is king at Castle
light and dark breads. Irish bread Leslie and there are over 1,000 acres
is a story all by itself and I could of parklands to explore. Alas, there
have dined on it alone. As the waiter wasn’t time for even a brief canter
popped open a bottle of champagne on one of these beauties, virtual or
we all laughed when we saw the otherwise.

Carla King
But if we had been on a long ride It was tempting to surrender to the
over the greens, no doubt we could delights of the spa but it was time
have luxuriated afterwards in the to visit the old Castle, which was
Organic Spa with its old-fashioned under siege by an army of craftsmen,
steam boxes, hammam, and a hot carpenters, electricians, and painters
tub overlooking the Old Stables who were completing major
Mews. There were relaxation renovations and repairs. Walter,
couches separated by wispy curtains heady of castle security and our
and a soft fragrance of wild flowers guide, told us that the entire project
and herbs floated in the air. was scheduled to be completed in
two weeks. Looking at the amount

Pamela Michael
of work yet to be done, it was it as the Queen on Swords from a
staggering to think the workmen traditional Tarot deck.
could meet that deadline.
There was a men’s toilet just off the
We wandered from room to room, ballroom that had four urinals at
ducking under scaffolds, hanging different heights across the wall. The
wires and curtains, imagining how lowest one was listed as “small,” the
lovely the rooms would look when next “medium,” the third one’s sign
the workmen had finally finished. read “bragger” and the fourth one
Antique furniture was pushed to the said “In Your Dreams!”
side of many of the rooms. Priceless
Just off one master suite was an
pieces were casually covered with
oversized shiny copper Victorian
drop cloths with almost no thought
bathtub. We giggled at the thought
as to their delicacy or value. In one
of Paul and Heather up to their
of the large halls hung a sword of
necks in fragrant bubbles sipping
honor and I had fun posing with
champagne on their wedding night.

Carla King
Walter walked us around the
grounds, pointing out various
magnificent trees, including one that
had a tree house. He told us of the
time Mick Jagger climbed up there
to get away from a bevy of giggling
females who were chasing him at a
party. Mick, he told us, is a cousin of
the Leslie’s.

The estate has miles of stone “famine
walls” criss-crossing the fields. We
learned that during the potato famine
in the mid-19th century landowners
risked losing their property if they
were caught feeding the poor. They
got around this law by putting poor
people to work building unneeded
stone walls and then paying them
with food.

Every so often we would catch a
glimpse of Sir John, nattily dressed
in his tweed suit and Tyrolean
hat complete with jaunty feather,
wandering through the hedgerows
or down a tree-lined path. Walter
told us the patriarch takes long walks
everyday in all kinds of weather.

Carla King
We stopped at a small cemetery and saw a grave, complete with
headstone, all ready for Disco Jack. All that was missing, besides him,
was the date of death.

As we walked along Glaslough, old Gaelic for green lake, I felt a deep
affinity with the land of some of my forefathers. Ireland has such a
difficult history. Between the Great Hunger and The Troubles it’s no
wonder that the local folk seize every opportunity to laugh and sing and
share a pint. My love of fun and laughter is surely a genetic connection
with the Emerald Isle.

Carla King
Chef Noel & his cooking school

Carla King

Noel caught up with us at the seasonal local produce plays a big
entrance of the cooking school. part in his classes and menus. At
Proud as a new parent, he his direction, the large kitchen
explained that he had been in total garden, which was overgrown and
control of the restoration of the lifeless when he arrived, has been
original Victorian kitchens. The turned into a healthy living garden
main room is huge, featuring state- filled with a cook’s delight of
of-the art stations for the students, vegetables and herbs. The school
with everything they need—pots, officially opened in July 2006 and
pans, mixers, blenders, knives, is one of the best-known cooking
utensils—all within arms’ reach. schools in Ireland.
Chef Noel’s understanding of
The cooking school dining room.

Carla King

The course offerings include evening, one-day and two-day cooking courses
for up to twelve people. Noel’s big blue eyes flashed with laughter when
he described his “Men Only, Guilt-free Cooking” and “Food & Erotica’”
I was particularly intrigued by the “Food and Erotica “ class and wished I
could take part in one of those. I wondered if Disco Jack would like to join
me. I could just imagine us dancing around the kitchen to some hot disco
music, pausing now and then to cut something up, or stir a pot, pausing to
toss fragrant herbs at each other or to taste our divine creations. §
Cathy Miller covets the kitchen.

Carla King

Glaslough Co. Monaghan
Tel: +353 (0) 47 88100
Wild Writing Women
what goes around

Through the Looking Glass
FLASHBACK! Castle Leslie in the 1980’s
by Diane LeBow
When we drove up to Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, a few hours
north of Dublin, that day in May 1987, I had no idea that an other-
worldly experience awaited me. Walking toward the ramshackle castle,
we noticed a glass conservatory—well, mostly glass, but with numerous missing or
broken panes. Sitting inside at an antiquated manual typewriter was a wild-silver-haired
gentleman, his equally wild eyes hidden behind horn-rimmed spectacles, looking as
though he might have stepped out of a Lewis Carroll tale for a few moments to welcome
us to his ancestral home.
Recently, I was surprised to learn that said Castle Leslie is now a chic inn, spa, and
equestrian center. I was even more amazed to learn that our Through-the-Looking- Glass
elfin host of twenty years ago was none other than a famous eccentric Irish aristocrat,
WWII Spitfire pilot, pioneer of electronic music, and co-author of one of the first books
on UFOs, entitled Flying Saucers Have Landed, by Desmond Leslie himself.
All of us mounted up at the—even then—well-kept stable, a feature in striking contrast
to the disheveled castle itself. Desmond and his daughter Sammy (Samantha Leslie)
galloped with me through their lovely
woods, leaping together over fences,
and relishing the horsey bond that
knows no international boundaries.
They provided me with a sweet little
bay mare, half Connemara, half Irish
Thoroughbred, who quickly became
my good companion.
Desmond cooked for us. There were
no servants or employees. The first
evening Desmond prepared and
carved a gorgeous large turkey for
us, spilling a goodly portion of the
steaming gravy down the intricately
carved front of the ancient wooden
sideboard. The Leslies and my
friends and I, five of us in all, sat at
an enormous wooden table—half the
length of a polo field, it seemed—
almost shouting to be heard from one end to the other. Desmond, and
especially daughter Sammy, told us of their dreams to turn the place into
a self-supporting equestrian center. Sammy seemed to me to have inherited some
strain of practicality and sense of business matters, which may well have skipped
over some of her aristocratic ancestry.
Like a Mad Hatters Tea Party, every evening we would eat in a different cavernous
room, each equally dusty, cobweb strewn, and carrying the aroma of family mysteries.
One afternoon as I wandered through the empty castle, Sammy out at the stable and
Desmond typing away, perched on his tattered wicker chair out in the arboretum, I
noticed upon entering our dining room of that first evening that, like something out
of an Alfred Hitchcock film, the turkey carcass with spilled gravy now congealed on
the floor, still sat mummifying on the sideboard.
My memories of that time at Castle Leslie still make me smile. For example, I recall
one day when my French friend who was visiting there with me was being a bit of a
nuisance. Desmond, exasperated, said to me, sotto voce, “Indeed, how can one deal
with a people that use the same word for up and down?”
I was saddened to hear that Desmond died in 2001, in Antibes, and that I shall
never enjoy his company again. Sammy visited me here in San Francisco, in the early
1990s, at the start of her round-the-world self-education tour, studying
hotel management and gaining work experience.
I am so pleased to hear that her dream
to restore Castle Leslie has come true.
One of these days I shall return—to
check for turkey gravy stains on
the antique sideboard and gallop
another lovely mare past the
lake and through the
woods. §
castle leslie
equestrian centre

horse crazy!
ga l l e r y
by Carla King


Julie Sargeant is an Englishwoman who answered an ad in the British-
based Horse and Hound to develop and manage Castle Leslie’s cutting-
edge equestrian centre. Three months later she says, “I got on a boat with
my furniture in one lorry, my daughter’s pony and my horse in another,
my six dogs in the back of my truck, and stood on the back of the boat
holding my 8-year-old’s hand and watching England disappear . . . and
had not a single moment’s regret.”
castle leslie
equestrian centre

The centre has 21 miles of track, a 30x50 meter indoor
riding arena, a “virtual horse” for practicing without the
muss and fuss of getting a real animal ready, and a horse
walker—a kind of treadmill for horsie indoor workouts
during those deepest darkest wettest Irish winters.
castle leslie
equestrian centre

Julie unpacks her latest acquisition: the “Virtual Horse.”
castle leslie
equestrian centre

A first-class operation, from the stable floors to the weathervane.
castle leslie
equestrian centre

Walking them home again.
TA TR Jacqueline Harmon Butler reports on . . .


A diminutive Georgian mansion consisting
of 25 completely furnished rooms is a bonus
attraction of a visit to Malahide Castle.
Jenny Gamble

The rain continued to pour as my taxi arrived at Malahide Castle
just outside Dublin. It was my birthday and to celebrate I had
decided that visiting Tara’s Palace, a dollhouse located on part of
the castle grounds, was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
This diminutive Georgian-style mansion was created by Ron and
Doreen McDonnell in 1980 and is undoubtedly one of the world’s
most significant dollhouses. The money raised from its entrance
fees, gift shop sales and special events is donated to a variety of
children’s charities.
Currently Tara’s Palace has 25 completed rooms; work
continues on the addition of more rooms and miniature
furnishings. The central façade is nine feet wide. Designed
and meticulously constructed to one-twelfth scale that would
accommodate people no
more than six inches tall, it
encapsulates the grandeur
and elegance of Ireland’s
great 18th-century Georgian
The Palace sits on a huge
platform in the middle of
a large, brightly lit room.
The outside walls of the
dollhouse are made of glass,
Jenny Gamble exposing the elaborate rooms
to the viewer from a ramp around the perimeter. I stood for
a few minutes just taking it all in, then I slowly made my
way around, enjoying the marvelous workmanship that had
created this magical place. The materials used are little pieces
of real construction items: miniature marble tiles, exotic wood
paneling and trims, parquet floors. Gorgeous textiles drape the
windows, many rooms are decorated with hand-carved chairs
and tables.
Miniature paintings by leading Irish artists adorn many of the
walls. There are miniscule silver goblets, copper pots in the
kitchen, small petit point rugs and chair pillows, tiny toys in
the nursery, and even a replica treadle sewing machine. I had a
vision of myself, Lilliputian sized, sitting in front of the sewing
machine creating a miniscule doll dress of satin and lace.
Jenny Gamble
I found The Important Drawing Room to be rather
formal and cold, but following the walkway around
the outside of the house to the Ivory Room, I delighted
in the artistry of the diminutive furnishings. The Day
Nursery is filled with scattered toys as if the children
had just left. Then on to The Oriental Room with its
collection of lacquered credenzas, small tables and
chairs and hand-carved screens. There is a four-poster
bed in Tara’s Bedchamber and even an en suite marble
bathroom. Personal items like an ivory
comb and brush are set on the bureau.
The Entrance Hall features a beautiful
Georgian staircase connecting to the
second floor. It’s an amazing bit of
craftsmanship, typical of the period,
and looks like it’s magically suspended,
almost floating, as the anchor into the
wall only supports the marble risers
and carved brass railings. I could easily
imagine myself in a gorgeous gown,
descending this magnificent staircase
to greet guests in my elegant foyer.
My favorite room is the Library, stacked with tomes
floor to ceiling. All the books are real with loose pages
filled with text and drawings, lying about on tables,
rugs, and chairs. I wanted to downsize myself so I could
sit back for a good read in the comfy armchair.
The hours passed quickly for me in the world of miniature
treasures and at closing time I reluctantly left. The rain had
stopped and the air was fresh and perfumed with cedar and
pine trees. I rode the train back into Central Dublin, but in my
mind, I was still six inches tall, sitting in Tara’s library, curled
up in the big comfortable chair and reading one of those
beautiful little books.

Tara’s Palace
Malahide Castle
Malahide, County Dublin
Tel: +353 (1) 846 3779
Jacqueline Harmon Butler
TTRA Cathleen Miller visits . . .

Arts and Crafts for the Dublin Aristocracy
I froze in front of the shop window. This coat offered
a fantasy life of freshness, femininity and originality.
While sashaying down one of the Grafton Street tributaries, I froze: there
in the shop window was a jacket that was my style. Let me just say that I am
a very choosy shopper, although like most woman I have purchased items
because they were on sale or utilitarian, but here was a jacket that stopped me
in my tracks because it was my style—you know the feeling—a garment
that produced heart palpitations and dilated pupils. The
platinum brocade fabric, Edwardian tailoring, and large jade-like buttons not
only promised a heady transfusion of my style, this coat offered a fantasy life of
freshness, femininity and originality—at last my chance to join the aristocracy
and assume my rightful place surrounded by leisure and grace.

Cathleen Miller
Inside the shop I discovered three floors of such goods, a sort of hip
Irish Laura Ashley collection of clothing and housewares—every-
thing from chintz-patterned china to flowered rubber boots that
would make you pray for rain. Only later would I learn that while I
was fondling the merchandise, the other Ws were in Ballykissangel
touring the original Avoca Handweavers, a family-owned craft
design concern founded in 1723, making it Eire’s oldest surviving
business. That evening while I was trying to borrow money from
them to buy my Avoca jacket, they recounted their adventures from
their day trip. (See photos on next page.)

The Dublin store’s basement houses a gourmet
deli and epicurean feast of comestibles, every-
thing the grande dame needs to serve high tea
in her townhouse, naturally resplendent in her
11-13 Suffolk Street
elegant brocade jacket. § Dublin 2
BT92 2BA
+353 (1) 677 4215

Cathleen Miller
Avoca Handweavers
Co unt y Wi ck l ow by Carla King

P h o to s & Vide o

Carla King

The f l y s h u ttle loo m wa s invented in 1740. I t ’s so called
b e c a u s e t he shuttle car r ying the yar n has small wheels t h at
l e t i t f l y a cross the loom. There’s an over head str ing that
c au s e s a l eather picker to hit the shuttle and send it fly i n g.
Th e wa r p threads are lif ted up and down by foot pedals. Th i s
l o o m re vo lu tionize d weaving in the 18th centur y. B efore t h at,
the s h u t t l e wa s pa sse d a cross the loom by hand. M en were s o
wo r r i e d t h at this new invention would put them out of wo r k
that l o o m s were sma she d or bur nt. The fly shuttle loom i s
s t i l l t h e m ost efficient method of handweaving. A weave r c a n
p ro d u ce u p to 18 meters of cloth per day. S ee it in ac tio n i n
the s h o r t vid e o s o n the nex t pages.
Click image to watch a short video (1 of 2) on the Internet
(you must be connected to the Internet)
Click image to watch a short video (2 of 2) on the Internet
(you must be connected to the Internet)

Click here to
take a virtual tour of
Avoca on their website.
L L E Y :

Stick THIS in your iPod!
Miller to Go Links
Gear and Gadgets
Links Events
Food Flirt
Lisa Alpine

Stick this in your iPod
Sounds to complement your inner and outer journey

From good listening to ROCK OUT!, our music correspondent personally
recommends these Celtic and Celtic-fusion travel companions.

Celtic Crossroads (good listening)
Ancient traditions meet modern technology in this
captivating overview of contemporary Celtic music.

(all the great artists) Celtic Tides
A musical journey from the Old World to the New. Features
Clannad, Altan, The Rankins with The Chieftains, and more.

Dagda - Celtic Trance (soothing mystical journey)
Trance ambient rhythms joined with the popular Celtic
mystique results in a hypnotic blend of whispery vocals,
haunting strains of Celtic flute, piano, harp and pulsing

(jig out!) Afro-Celt Sound System - Sound Magic
This is quite simply a highly essential album from an
extremely unique group who fuse seemingly opposite
cultures together: Celtic strings & African drums.

Afro-Celt Sound System - Seed (high-energy fun)
Fiddles and uilleann pipes mix with hardcore West African
percussion in a whirl of electronic bliss. The Afro Celts
offer listeners another dose of ‘sound magic’ via ‘Seed’,
their fourth release.
Carla King

Gear and Gadgets
G eek out on sound

Sight, smell, touch, taste, and . . . SOUND! This trip my favorite gadget was
the iTalk microphone. It plugged into my iPod to create a recording device of
decent quality at a decent price: just $20 at most discount retailers. I hadn’t
realized how integral sound is a part of a journey until I came home and
listened to what I’d recorded while I was in Ireland.
Voice notes, interviews, ambient sounds: all the audio you hear in this
magazine was recorded with it . . . actually, I used its older cousin without
the stereo and other improvements of the upgraded iTalk Pro.
The iTalk Pro’s twin built-in mics record directly to your iPod, and adjustable
gain settings give you control over the volume. You can even use an external
microphone; just plug it in to the 3.5mm jack. Sigh. So much technology, so
little time.
A small negative: I did make quite a few unwanted recordings, as
the big friendly record button was easily activated while knocking
around my purse, but hey, it’s digital. At the end of the day, I plugged
my iPod into the MacBook, synched it in iTunes, and deleted the
unwanted recordings from my my Voice Memos in the playlist.
So now what? When I needed to get
a recording out of iTunes and into a
format where I could share it, I first
exported it to MP3 format, then
opened it in the free Audacity sound
editor. Audacity lets you tinker with
stop and end points, cut out inappropriate comments, and fade in
and out, not to mention adding music or ambient sound tracks. I re-
ally had to stop myself from getting completely immersed in sound
editing so I could work on the other aspects of producing this mag-
azine. But look for more sound from the Wild Writing Women in the
future. I just turned our music diva Lisa Alpine on to Audacity. She’s
already hooked.

Click to buy

iTalk Pro for the iPod by Griffin Technology
About 50 U.S. dollars. Click image for
discounted price of about $20 on

Audacity Sound Editor for Mac, Windows,
and Linux. It’s a very popular free, open
source software program.
Miller to Go
Cathleen Miller

Singing in the Pub

2005 I set off on an around-the-world trip and
for good luck decided to make my first stop a
visit to Ireland. After flying in from San Francisco, I
landed in Dublin to visit my old friends, sister and brother Maeve and
Barry O’Sullivan. I met the O’Sullivans when they lived on Russian
Hill and we have remained friends for eighteen years, in spite of
their poor correspondence habits, which they extend to all forms of
conveyance: the postal service, telephones, and now email. No, the
way to experience this clan is first-person, and our friendship has
survived because of our shared love of the “craic,” as the Irish say.
At the time of my visit, Maeve had a new baby, Kim, a high-
spirited redhead like her mother. On my first afternoon in
town her husband Peter was working, so we loaded the wee
one in her carrier and the three of us headed up into the
Dublin mountains. This was my first visit to this area, and I
learned that it was like San Francisco in that thirty minutes
outside of Dublin you could reach such scenic countryside
that you’d think no city was within a hundred miles.
We stopped at a legendary public house, the Blue Light,
entering a quiet room where a handful of local men sat
nursing their beers. As we sat down, Maeve gingerly placed
the sleeping Kim’s carrier on a bench, and everyone stared at
us. I thought we’d made a mistake by bringing the baby into
this male domain, but naturally being this close to my first pint
of real homegrown Guinness, I wasn’t about to retreat without
a fight. About half way through the first round, Kim awoke
and began crying. Maeve said, “I guess we better go,” and
struggling to hold back the tears myself, I nodded.
A grey-haired gentleman in glasses was seated on the bench
to the right of my friend. He spoke up abruptly: “What she’ll
be wanting is a lullaby.” And without further ado, he
launched into a classic Irish tenor version of “Daisy”
that left me speechless. Soon all the other men in the
room joined in, baritones adding gravitas to the lilting
high voices: “Daisy, Daisy, I’m half crazy, all for the love of you. . .”
Kim immediately started cooing, Maeve grinned, and sitting by
the coal fire on a June evening, I felt as if I’d stumbled through a
time warp into a turn-of-the-century sing-a-long.
The harmonies continued, with the occasional solo. One
fortyish fellow propped in the corner closed his eyes and sang
a pitch-perfect rendition of the old Patsy Cline standard, “Crazy.”
However, in spite of my giddiness over this unexpected treat, I
kept glancing at one elderly man hunched at the bar. He wore
thick black-rimmed glasses and a wool flat cap. He said nary a
word, but his relentless glower conveyed: “I am not amused.”
After several more numbers the group asked where I was from,
and then began badgering me to sing something. I hadn’t
sung since grade school, and started to panic. As the goading
continued, I admitted with shame that I wasn’t being coy,
but I honestly couldn’t remember the words to any song. My
drinking buddies were not buying this excuse. “C’mon, you
must know something!”
Finally I launched into a few bars of “Summertime” which
seemed appropriate considering the concert had begun
to “hush little baby.” When I petered out for lack of
another line, the man in the flat cap said in a gruff bellow:
“You’ve got a lovely voice...sing some more.” I could feel
myself blushing.
With the help of the assembled, who knew the words to
more American songs than I, we sang some Hank Williams’
tunes. These alternated with solo efforts from the Blue
Light regulars, who performed long Irish republican
songs; by turns they would close their eyes and launch
unselfconsciously into a performance, as I marveled that
they knew the words to these endless complicated verses.
One blonde woman, who had entered later, stood with feet
apart, hands clasped behind her, head back, and in her alto
recounted verse after verse of a political ballad.
For me the evening was a complete success when finally
my man in the wool cap closed his eyes and droned in a
flat basso a mournful ditty about love lost. It was around
this time that Maeve’s husband entered and ordered a beer
at the bar. One of the choir turned to him and said, “Shhh,
there’s a baby sleeping over there.”
Too soon it was time to take the baby home and we bade
our new friends good night. As we headed toward the
door, every man in the room stood and sang in sweet
harmony: “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to
wear some flowers in your hair . . .” With tears in my
eyes, I waved farewell, and realized my journey had
just begun. §
Jacqueline Harmon Butler
Food Flirt
Gallagher’s Boxty House
a review with recipes

In celebration of my birthday this year in Dublin,
I wanted traditional Irish food for dinner,
especially my favorite: champ. Champ is one of
the Emerald Isle’s simpler dishes—you mash
some potatoes, add pure Irish butter, stir in some
scallions cooked in milk or cream, and serve. I call
it Irish comfort food.
Gallagher’s Boxty House serves champ, and came
highly recommended. None of us
had any idea what “boxty” was, but
the Dublin favorite seemed a fine
place for a birthday celebration, so
Boxty on the griddle,
we decided to give it a try. Boxty in the pan,
There, we learned that boxty (from
the Gaelic, Bacstai, referring to the
If you can’t make boxty,
traditional method of grilling over You’ll never get a man.
an open fire) is a pancake made with
a mixture of cooked, mashed, and -- old Irish rhyme
grated raw potatoes. Intrigued, we
ordered a couple of variations, but
first came fresh oysters, chicken liver
pâté with homemade brown bread and cranberry
marmalade, and oak-smoked Irish salmon. Then
the boxty arrived, served like crepes, stuffed to
overflowing with delicious rump steak marinated
in stout and braised with mushrooms, fresh herbs
and horseradish. Another variation was filled with
Wicklow lamb, slow cooked with cumin, carrots
and fresh mint.
The vegetarian in the group ordered
what turned out to be a scrumptious
vegetable pie, made up of fresh seasonal
veggies baked in a tangy tomato sauce
and topped with—of course—potatoes.
CLICK TO VISIT With it, we drank a French wine, Domaine
de Pierre Blanche Minervois, a blend of
Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache from
the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It was
big enough to stand up to the heavy Irish
dishes, yet had a soft, opulent mouth-feel.
Of course the birthday girl ordered a side
dish of champ all for herself. Even though it
didn’t come with a candle, it was almost my
Gallagher’s Boxty House favorite part of the dinner.
20-21 Temple Bar
Almost. Hands down, the best course
Dublin 2, Ireland was dessert, a house-made sticky toffee
Tel: +353 (1) 677 2762 pudding garnished with whipped cream
Fax: +353 (1) 677 9723 and chocolate sauce, which was instantly devoured by the four of us. Scraping the
dish clean I smiled and thought, “Yes, this
was a perfect way to spend my birthday.” §
1 and 3/4 pounds potatoes
1 bunch scallions or green onions, trimmed
and sliced fine
2/3 cup whole milk (or cream)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
Peel the potatoes and cut them into small
chunks. Bring to a boil in a pot of salted water,
then cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes
or until tender.
Meanwhile, simmer the scallions gently in the
milk for 2 to 3 minutes.
Drain the potatoes, then return them to
the pot and place them over low heat for a
minute or so to allow any excess water to
Add the milk and onions, and pound or beat
the potatoes to a soft, fluffy mash. Add plenty
of salt and pepper as you go.
Mound the champ in a large bowl. Make a
little hollow for the butter and allow it to melt
into the potatoes before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
1 1/2 lb. russet potatoes
1 cup flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper
bacon fat or lard (or oil) for greasing griddle
Cut half the potatoes into large chunks and boil in salted water
until tender. Peel while hot and mash thoroughly. Place in large
Peel the remaining potatoes and grate onto cheesecloth. Gather
up the ends of the cloth and squeeze out as much starchy liquid
as you can. Mix into the mashed potato bowl and then sift the
flour over the top and add salt and pepper to taste. Gradually add
milk a little at a time to make a thick batter.
Grease a heavy frying pan or griddle and heat thoroughly. Drop
a ladle full of the mixture on the surface and spread out thinly.
When browned underneath, flip over and brown the other
side. Repeat until all the mixture is used up. Spoon filling onto
pancakes, roll up and serve hot with butter.
Suggested fillings:
Slow cooked beef or chicken with vegetables
A variety of roasted vegetables
Chili beans with grated sharp cheddar cheese
Makes 4 servings.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing pan
1 cup self-rising cake flour, plus additional for flouring pan
1 cup pitted dates (5 oz.), finely chopped
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup water
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour
an 8-inch round cake pan, 2 inches deep.
In a 1 quart heavy saucepan simmer dates in 1 cup water, covered, until soft,
about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Beat together 1 stick butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a large bowl with an
electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Beat in egg until combined. Add flour and 1/8-teaspoon salt and mix at low
speed until just combined. Add dates and mix until just combined.
Pour batter into pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center
comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt remaining stick of butter in a heavy 2 quart saucepan over
moderate heat and stir in remaining cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup water, and a
pinch of salt. Boil over moderately high heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally,
until sugar is dissolved and sauce is reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, 2 to 8
minutes. Remove from heat and cover.
Transfer pudding in pan to a rack and poke all over at 1 inch intervals with a
fork. Gradually pour half of warm sauce evenly over hot pudding. Let stand
until almost all of sauce is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
Run a thin knife around edge of pan. Place a plate over pudding and invert
pudding onto plate. Pour remaining warm sauce over pudding and serve
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Cooks’ note:
Pudding, soaked with half of sauce, can stand at room temperature up to
2 hours. Reheat in pan in a 300°F oven 10 minutes. Warm remaining sauce
before pouring over pudding.
events and excursions

city sights and
roadside attractions
Writers Festival Pubs & Spuds
A Dublin Tradition A study in images

Guinness The Sheelin Antique
Vitamin G: From the source
Lace Museum
of Dublin Medieval Festival
Crom Castle
Salve for the Sole
Avoca Dublin in Dingle
Avoca Handweavers
Wicklow County Night Train to
pubs and spuds
ga l l e r y by Carla King

Sing along, if you dare, with the Wild Writing Women
and our original hit single (penned by our own
Cathleen Miller) on route to the pubs of Eire:
You Take the High Road
Out-of-tune singalongers welcome. (1 minute)

VITAMIN G: It’s Good for Youse
by Lisa Alpine
To recover from giving birth or
sightseeing, Vitamin G is Ireland’s
daily minimum requirement

Carla King
Serve at 6 degrees.
Pour at 45 degree angle to 3/4 full.
Let the surge settle.
Pour until full.
Let settle for 119.5 seconds.
What do the Wild Writing Women
and nursing mums in Ireland have
in common?
p i n t of -
a b i es? A daily aramel
w b orn b a m in’ c inness?
Ne fo d Gu
r e
No! colo

Guinness stout is on tap everywhere on the Emerald Isle. At any pub
in Ireland you can nurse on a pint for about four Euros but nursing
mothers get it for free. This practice was birthed at the end of the 19th
century, when stout porter beer gained the reputation of being a healthy
strengthening drink. It was used by athletes and nursing mothers; doctors
recommended it to help “recovery.”
There is plenty of medical folklore about the drink. In some countries, stout
is seen as an aphrodisiac. In others, it’s a beneficial bath for newborn babies.
It is a popular belief that brewery workers who are given free Guinness
never develop bladder cancer. In Ireland, stout is made available to blood
donors and abdominal post-operative patients, probably because of its high
iron content. Recovery, remember?
It certainly helped the Wild Writing Women recover from our
various sightseeing activities while in Dublin, too. Each night we’d
meet at McDaid’s pub on Harry Street for a Guinness stout and
chitchat. Surrounded by dark-tied men in suits on their way home
from work, we were a gaggle of Yanks in the corner, holding pints
Originally, the adjective “stout” meant “proud” or “brave.” The first
known use of the word “stout” meaning “beer” was in a document
dated 1677. The delicious dry stout the Wild Writing Women
were imbibing originated in Arthur Guinness’s St. James’s Gate
Brewery in Dublin. The beer is based upon the dark porter style
that was popular in London in the 1700’s. The distinctive feature
in the flavor is the roasted barley which remains unfermented.
Given that no one on our journey suffered any ailments stronger
than a hangover, perhaps what they say is true: Guinness is
Vitamin G. Along with potatoes, it is now one of my favorite food
groups. And it’s good for youse, too. A pint a day just might keep
that doctor away . . .
Here is the recipe for the perfect pour:
GUINNESS® Draught is best served at 6°C
(that’s 42.8°F) with the legendary two-part
pour. First, tilt the glass to 45 degrees and
carefully pour until three quarters full. Then
place the glass on the bar counter and leave
to settle. Once the surge has settled, fill
the glass to the brim. It takes about 119.5
seconds to pour the perfect pint. But don’t
fret. It’s worth the wait.
Click the glass to visit the Guinness website.

Audio Aside
Bonus track! Absent in the photo is Pam and our wee
lassie Suzanne, who took us by surprise with this writerly
limerick. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

The Dublin Writers Festival
by Lisa Alpine
The drizzly Irish summer is
perked up by the Dublin Writers
Festival, a wildly popular event
that sells out quickly each year
The English language includes so many
texture-rich and complex words.

The use of language to
weave landscape, both
human and natural, went
beyond description in the
discussion and debate
between authors John
Lanchester and Tim Robinson
at the Dublin Writers Festival.
Both exceptionally clever
storytellers, they reminded
me how many texture-rich
and complex words the
English language contains. desired effect of stretching my
imagination and stimulating my
The Writers Festival is held annually wordy ways.
during the drizzly Dublin summer.
I drooled over the festival program The woman sitting next to me
schedule, which brimmed with at The Ark Theater, one of the
heady presentations by many fine event venues, was as friendly as
writers including Adrienne Rich, an Irish setter, engaging me in
Rose Tremain, Xiaolu Guo and conversation before my bottom
Alistair MacLeod to name a few, but even reached the seat. She was a
when I went to buy tickets, alas, it fan of Robinson’s and had all his
was nearly sold-out. I was only able books except “one that was out
to attend one event, which had the of print.” I suggested she go to
the public library. With a look of
e a d !
o k w le l ah
B o

she said, “Why, I’d forgotten
about libraries. I used to go all the time
but since the ‘Green Tiger’ [the economic boom], I
buy all my books. It never occurred to me to check out a free copy
at the library.”
Up first was Robinson, author of the universally acclaimed two-
volume Stones of Aran, an environmentalist and writer who engages
the landscape, folklore and tangled history of Ireland in his newest
epic, Connemara: Listening to the Wind. Lanchester focuses more on
the urban, exploring the psychogeography of England’s capital city.
In his recent book, London: A City of Disappearances, he has remapped
and redefined the city’s fugitive topography
by wandering on foot along the edges and
As I left the theater for the grey streets of
Dublin, a feeling of inspiration drew me
quickly down the sidewalk and back to
my hotel and my laptop, where the words
seemed to pour out from my fingertips.
I felt I’d undergone a brainy leap forward
from my brief experience of great minds
speaking about why they write, their
passion for words, the perfection of the
craft, and the evolution of the story from
thought to indelible paper.
I met our group of Wild Writing Women at
McDaid’s pub that night with the happy
news of a story written and more inspiration
to be had the rest of the week—if we could
only get tickets. Next time I’ll be sure to
book well ahead! §

The Dublin Writers Festival is held annually
in June at various venues downtown. Tickets
cost between 8-16 Euros and they can be
purchased online several months ahead.
AC T Jacqueline Harmon Butler reports on . . .

What do Ursuline nuns, Venetian lace, and the potato famine have in common?
The patterns were closely-guarded secrets
passed from mother to daughter.
Everyone’s heard of Irish lace. as vintage beaded items such as
But have you heard of Youghal bags, jackets and dresses for sale.
Needlelace or Inishmacsaint I almost fainted at the prices, but
Needlelace? How about Limerick, then I reminded myself that all
Crochet and Carrickmacross? these exquisite pieces were hand-
These lace styles are all proudly made.
represented at the Sheelin Antique
Irish Lace Museum in Although today lace-
Bellanaleck in Northern making is a big business,
Ireland. with large factories
rolling off yards of fabric
Irish lace is world famous in minutes, the earliest
for the intricate, as Irish lace began as a
well as heavier, designs cottage industry. The
developed from very wealthy lords owned the
basic patterns. When the WWW land and tenant farmers produced
visited, the lace museum was over- crops for the owners. They lived
flowing with exquisitely crafted in small cottages on land, called
lace. Much of it wasn’t for sale but crofts, growing their own food
there was a section of beautiful on the least desirable, leftover
antique lace garments, as well acreage. Most of the crofters were
The nuns realized this skill could save people from famine.
“dirt poor” with little money for in this needlecraft. The nuns
necessities. realized that these skills could save
the people from famine. They
With the lack of land and the began instructing many girls and
rocky soil, the most women to produce the fine crochet
productive crop to that has come to be
grow was potatoes. known as “Irish lace.”
When the potato
blight swept across Designs and motifs
the country between were developed by
1845 and 1851 it families and the
meant starvation patterns were closely-
for thousands of guarded secrets
households. passed from mother
to daughter. The
The Ursuline nuns details were kept
came to the rescue. so secret that many
They were familiar of the designs were
with creating lost as the families
Venetian lace, and began teaching either died or fled
the tenant farm women how to from poverty to other lands. The
make it. I had been to Burano, wealthier Irish families that could
home of lacemaking in Venice, afford to buy such luxuries earned
Italy, and had been fascinated by the name of “lace curtain Irish.”
the skill and patience it took to Leave it to the Irish to find humor
create even the smallest design during this bleak time.
The crochet schools established by the nuns in the 1850s and 1860s
disappeared as fashions changed and the demand for the cottage lace
declined. The introduction of factory production changed the industry
and mass production is now the rule.

The 1880s saw a brief revival of the cottage lace industry and produced
most of the samples that are now family heirlooms or museum pieces.
Today many of these exquisite items are treasured as part of Irish history.

The museum has approximately 700 exhibits
dating from 1850 to 1900. On display were
several wedding dresses, veils, shawls, parasols,
collars, bonnets, christening gowns and
various other hand-made treasures.

I marveled over a delicately made wedding
dress and had a vision of myself wearing the
lovely garment. It had a panel of wispy roses
down the center, and the back of heavier lace
flared out into a small train. The sleeves fell to
just elbow length and I could imagine the lace
caressing my arm as I reached out for a glass
of champagne. §
700 exhibits date from between1850 and 1900

The Sheelin Antique Irish Lace Museum
Bellanaleck, Enniskillen
BT92 2BA
Tel: +44 028 66348 052
snapshots of dublin
ga l l e r y by Carla King
O’Connell STREET
St. Stevens GREEN
Guinness BREWERY
Wild Writing Women

Salve for the Sole in Dingle
Cathleen Miller

Dingle Peninsula is a windswept landmass of green meadows dotted
with sheep and rocky hills that thrust like an arrowhead into the North
Atlantic Ocean and Dick Mack’s is the spiritual hub of the region.
Dick Mack’s is across the street from the church.
The church is across the street from Dick Mack’s.

These words painted on a white Ireland for no less a momentous
fence in Dingle pretty much sum up occasion than one of the O’Sullivan
my view of the two driving forces of clan’s nuptials. The ceremony was
Ireland: the divine and drink rule of to be held in Waterford, but logical
this nation in tandem—and here in traveler that I am, I decided to fly
County Kerry, their parallel destiny into Dublin, drive cross country to
is delivered up with signature droll Galway and then curve down the
Irish wit. But beyond the wit lies Emerald Isle’s coast to sneak up on
truth, that the church is not any Waterford from the west.
more of a landmark here in this
En route I drove along the coast of
Irish village than the legendary Dick
the Dingle Peninsula, a windswept
landmass of green meadows dotted
This discovery was made in 2003; with sheep and rocky hills that
I had arrived for my first trip to thrust like an arrowhead into the
North Atlantic Ocean. I spent a perhaps, Dorothy—we are not in
couple of nights in the eponymous Missouri anymore. In a stiff winter
hub of the region, Dingle, a fishing wind from the Atlantic, the old-
village (and home to a mysterious fashioned painted signboard swung
visiting dolphin). It’s also known as over the heads of passersby:“Foxy
a friendly tourist venue and center John’s Bar, Hardware, Bicycles.” For
of traditional Celtic music and most men, the only thing missing
both of these facts were evident from an invitation like that would
on my first night there. I visited be the promise of barmaids wearing
John Benny’s Pub and listened to a nothing but tool belts. We quickly
band comprised of Irish bagpipes, scrapped our plans for an intellectual
recorder, guitar, and accordion. I exploration of the Dingle Peninsula’s
determined that what their output ecosystem, and following the siren
lacked in euphony was made up for song of Harps and hammers, we
in enthusiasm. made a sharp right turn into the
The next day I was walking down a
Dingle stone-paved sidewalk with Lo and behold, no false advertising
a gentleman contractor from San here. On one side of the dusty room
Francisco when we passed our first lay racks stocked with hardware
sign of intrigue—a sign that— and on the other was a bar with
a few beer taps and, of course, we When we opened the door we found
had to have a pint to celebrate this ourselves full in the middle of the
serendipitous discovery. A handful room, and the eyes of the crowd
of tradesmen stood around talking stared quizzically at these interlopers
shop, drinking and watching a rugby who stood frozen in the doorway.
game on TV. I was the conspicuous The cramped space looked like the
lone female amongst them. movie set of a 19th-century cobbler’s
shop, the wooden shelves adorned
Now fortified against the December
with leather goods, and like Foxy
frost, we continued strolling through
John’s, on one side of the small room
town until we came upon a shoe
was a bar. Also in the room were
repair shop named Dick Mack’s.
jammed about 70 people listening
Not having walked the soles off our
to the music—banjos, fiddles,
boots, we would not have paid heed
recorders, drums—with seemingly
to the inconspicuous storefront, had
someone new whipping out an
the very loud wail of Irish music not
instrument every few seconds. I felt
been seeping through every crack.
like a complete ass, but there was
We looked at each other and decided
nothing to be done now except wade
to investigate this shoe repair shop
through the throng and look for a
with a live band.
hole to drop into. Luckily my anxiety
was wasted.
Within 15 minutes some of the It was when we left that I paused to
patrons introduced themselves. One read the sign on the fence informing
bearded gentleman who appeared us that Dick Mack’s was across
to be in his 50s, Vin Pender, invited the street from the church and
us to his birthday party which was vice versa; something about the
being held at 7:00 that evening. I assuredness of this position, that this
wondered silently about his dour shoe repair pub saw itself on equal
expression, so unlike his jolly footing with St. Mary’s Church,
friends, especially considering it made me smile. Here it was, the
was his birthday. But I shrugged sacred and the profane, across the
it off and ordered a Guinness at street from each another.
the bar, then discovered the snug,
That evening we made our way to
a secluded curtained corner where
Vin’s party at the Marina Inn and
the womenfolk used to hide and
we were touched to be greeted like
drink during the era when they were
long-lost friends.The hosts offered
banned from pubs.
us complimentary food, seafood
tagliatelle or Irish stew.They were Back earlier that day when I first met
so good that I ate both as I watched Vin at Dick Mack’s, he had asked
thousands of Guinness disappear. the reason for my visit to Ireland
Much to my dismay, I also witnessed and I told him I was there for a
thousands of cigarettes on fire, this wedding. “Well, I hope your friend’s
in the heady day before smoking was wedding fares better than the one
banned in Ireland’s pubs. By about that was across the street. It only
10:30 a haze covered the room to lasted half an hour. This American
where I thought I’d need a seeing-eye woman married an Irishman and
dog to find the ladies’. The musicians they got into a fight on the way to
who rule Dingle continued to ply the reception and she went straight
their trade, with people arriving to the airport and caught a plane
toting all manner of traditional back to the States.” And that, ladies
instruments, joining the session and gentlemen, is probably why
randomly, then walking off, in a Dick Mack’s is across the street from
sort of seamless marathon of Celtic the church—just in case you need
tunes.I talked to several of Vin’s it. Within a few feet you can find
friends and as the night wore on and assorted repairs for your soul and
the drink kicked in, their behavior your sole. §
became increasingly maudlin and I
learned why: he had terminal cancer
and was most likely celebrating his
last birthday.
Click to hear the
author read a
Wild Writing Women short segment
of this essay.
what goes around

Night Train to Limerick
Serena Bartlett

From the travel sketchbook of Serena Bartlett
I don’t want to fear change. So, when I get the chance to see a new
place, I try to give that place the chance to breathe. I let the colors
vibrate a little stronger, heeding a few precautions, but otherwise
let the wind take me where it will.
The night train was changing tracks pints and cheap gossip magazines
heading out of Dublin. I wrestled with the corner turned down for the
through a crowd of men with beer page-four girls—the porn section of
cans loitering in the corridor and the tabs. After drinking a polite pint
queued for the toilet behind a woman with my new mates, the rigors of the
drenched in perfume. Our line swung week caught up with me and I fell
in synch with the shifting car, and the asleep, wedged between the speeding
cans of beer started swaying to the darkness and a train car of revelers.
augmented sounds of men singing While my mind dozed, my body
pub songs in at least three different continued to travel. I was finally going
keys simultaneously. Finally it was deep into Ireland, headed to legendary
my turn and I took a deep breath Limerick.
before entering the bathroom. In my
rush to make the train, I’d forgotten It must have been after one a.m.
how comically unpleasant on-board when I finally departed the train
latrines can be. in Limerick, and twisted through
the throngs of deeply-accented
My business done, I headed back night crawlers. As I moved towards
to my seat, which was flanked by the station’s exit, I noticed several
partygoers from all walks of life. I party-ers dressed head to toe in green.
squeezed between a dark window, St. Patrick’s Day was in a day or two,
and a man with a green plaid tie and but still I could not fully account for
disheveled hair. The usual laptops and this level of celebratory drinking and
daily papers found on most commuter dressing.
trains were replaced by flasks and
my post just south of Dublin. I could
have booked some lodgings, made
a guidebook itinerary, and followed
maps to museums and restaurants. I
could have researched local language,
sports and festivities that would
have remedied my comprehension
problems with the locals. I could have
had a credit card for emergencies.
Now, when Limerick’s hostel doors
were shut to me, when the annual
national football match between
Scotland and Ireland coincided with
St. Paddy’s Eve (apparently as big a
Leaving the station, I pulled a celebration as the day itself ), when
crumpled list of five hostels from my the only rooms available were proper
back pocket and tried to make out hotels with coffee, toast, beans and
the penciled directions by the light runny scrambled eggs served to guests
of a wrought iron streetlamp. I went in the morning, I had no funds to buy
from hostel to hostel, and like Joseph such luxuries. But there wasn’t much
wandering through Bethlehem, I I could do at that moment about my
found none of Limerick’s budget lack of a recognizable insignia on a
lodgings to have space available. The small rectangular piece of plastic.
city was full.
I sat in the hostel lobby abating my
Before leaving Oakland I had made upset by pondering the night and the
little preparation for the trip, other cause of the commotion. For the first
than an Internet search for local time since my arrival I really looked
hostels and a general query of some around me and noticed what was
highlights for the short trip west from going on. Along a row of fantastic
stately structures, lit-up with colored
spotlights, were lines of people with
matching football scarves, awaiting “Where’s the craic?” meaning in Irish
entry to some nearby nightclub. slang, “where’s the fun?” As I gazed
Inside, the man at the hostel counter down the street, I was dazzled by the
was mumbling in incoherent Irish genuine excitement exhibited on the
about the no-good footie fans, how revelers’ faces, and at the variety of
they’d never be let into a pub with all ways in which they spent the night.
their “colors” on. All they wanted to do Some were glued to television screens
was brawl, he said. Or at least I think shouting for football teams, others
that’s what he said. wrapped green tissue paper around
their Guinness fedoras. I had an
My eyes trailed further down the insight that Ireland had a lot in store
dim street, past the scarves, where for me.
green-hued figures congregated.
A cluster of pubs welcomed these As soon as I had left my worries
early St. Patrick’s Day celebrators, behind and opened up to the
luring them with giveaways for every unexpected entertainment around me,
few pints of Guinness or Murphy’s a kind-looking woman flashed past
they could down. A man tooted on the hostel counter, dropping her room
a plastic piano-flute and another keys on the desk and conveyed to the
waved around a banner reading, clerk that she was leaving.
There was room for me in Limerick Though some may criticize my
after all. laid-back approach of planning and
deem it unsafe, or nerve-wracking, I
The rest of my trip was dynamite. I offer this: Could I have planned any
met a sweet German girl with pink better? I arrived when my destination
and purple hair who drove me up the was alive with celebration, had an
west coast a few days later. When excellent personal tour of two cities
I returned to Limerick I met my and some towns in between, and
first love. (Funnily enough, he was met a man who changed my life in so
Scottish). Ireland had sung to me like many positive ways.
the emblematic harp I kept noticing
on everything from flags to bags of My experience in Limerick made me
crisps, the local term for potato chips. wonder how thoroughly-planned
itineraries could even be journeys at
Certainly the style in which someone all. Travel lets us be new people—no
travels—indeed, in which someone regular morning coffee spot, no
prepares for a trip—is an extension of commute where familiar roadways
her personality, perhaps a magnifying and train schedules and daily rhythms
glass view of it. rush by in a blur.
There is so much chance waiting to happen,
crystallized in that small segment of time when we
are able to just get up and go. So why map out every
moment? Why not leave room for new things to
happen—unexpected things?

Isn’t it the startling and unusual events that paint
watercolor washes on the black and white photos of
our lives?

On my journey to Limerick, I learned that it pays
to give a new place the chance to breathe. I let
the colors vibrate a little stronger, heeding a few
precautions, but otherwise letting the wind take me
where it will.

In Limerick’s cold, moist fog, a kind of phenomenal
freedom alighted on my shoulder. Some may call it
an angel, I don’t pretend to know. But I have tried
not to mirror that damp weather with a shroud of
my own worries and fears. §
pillows & plates
in Dublin
Fitzwilliam Hotel
Dylan Hotel Grafton Street Cafe
& Still Restaurant
Shelbourne Hotel Please, may I have another?
The place for high tea
ew The Fitzwilliam Hotel: Dublin

An inn at the Crossroads

by Cathleen Miller

If the ultimate criteria for a piece of real estate is
Location! Location! Location! then the Fitzwilliam
is an ideal choice for a Dublin stay.
If the ultimate criteria for a piece of real estate is Location! Location!
Location! then the Fitzwilliam is an ideal choice for a Dublin stay.
Across the street lies a mossy Eden known as St. Stephen’s Green, where
the nature-minded can have a blissful stroll. If you are more interested in a
little retail therapy, then at the corner begins Grafton Street, an avenue
lined with the tony shops of the town and enough pubs and tearooms
to keep you fortified. The rest of the city, is easily accessible by the DART
light rail, which has a stop right outside the lobby door.

Carla King
The Fitzwilliam itself represents the New Dublin, a hip international
crossroads of cultures more reminiscent of 1960s London than the quaint
pint-by-the-fire inn of your grandmother’s Ireland. The lobby sports
polished stone floors and sleek modern furnishings, but you can still have
your pint-by-the fire, albeit one framed by a stainless steel mantle. The
hotel lounge is a throbbing night spot for the young Dubliner business
crowd and travelers alike.
A full Irish breakfast is served at Citron, located on the mezzanine level. Like
most first-rate European hotel restaurants, they cater to an array of tastes,
with offerings ranging from yoghurt to sliced tomatoes. Meself, I opted
for the porridge, a welcome antidote to the damp weather, and brown
bread served with that heavenly Irish butter. However, the room’s retina-
searing chartreuse color scheme had the wee-bit-hungover wearing her
sunglasses to survive dawn’s decorative assault.
Over steaming cups of tea at CITRON, we compared
notes on one of our favorite themes: encounters
with the two hot Argentine concierges.

Each morning the WWW
all gathered at Citron
to plan our day. Over
steaming cups of tea and
coffee, one of our favorite
topics of conversation
was pampering ourselves
with the hotel’s pomades
in luxurious marble loos
with tubs fit for a spa.
We confessed to taking
multiple baths each day, and this made the California girls, fresh from a
drought-ridden Golden State, feel better about Dublin’s daily downpour.
We also compared notes on one of our other favorite themes: encounters
with the two hot Argentine concierges. My favorite was Augustin, tall
and broad-shouldered, who—dressed in his knee-length wool coat—
looked like a wayfarer from another century. He had a courtly manner
and I discovered that he was a poet and political exile. As I stared into
those enormous green eyes, with flecks of brown like agate marbles, he
recited one of the poems he’d written in English and confessed his literary
influences were Jim Morrison and Johnny Cash.
Naturally I didn’t waste any time telling him I was a writer, too.
What a coincidence!
Yes, the Fitzwilliam has location, but it’s the The Fitzwilliam Hotel
hostelry’s human capital that I will think about St. Stephen's Green Dublin 2
whenever I remember my stay. § +353 (1) 478 7000
Fax +353 (1) 478 7878
Timeless Tea
ew at

by Cathleen Miller

If the Fitzwilliam represents the New Dublin, then the Shelbourne
very much represents the Old Dublin—a Georgian mansion across from
St. Stephen’s Green, with Beaux Arts details and timeless ambiance.
I have made a habit of going for tea in the great hotels of the world, not only
because I crave the stimulating beverage, but the practice allows me to languish in
the luxurious environment of a place I can only afford for a couple of hours versus a
whole night. And the Shelbourne did not disappoint. Jacqueline and I were feeling
a bit worn from the frenzied round of sightseeing, pub crawling, bath soaking
and late sleeping that our Dublin stay had entailed. After spending the afternoon
packing before our departure to Crom Castle—while the more ambitious decided
to cram in one last museum—we decided to treat ourselves to high tea and
strolled around the Green to the Shelbourne.
The ritual was the epitome of soothing refinement, sitting on overstuffed
couches by a coal fireplace, and admiring the room’s décor: crystal chandeliers,
filigree crown moldings, a marble mantle, paneled walls adorned by damask
wallpaper—all the way down to the marquetry of our tea table laid with Frette
We sipped our tea with pinkies appropriately erect, and munched salmon and
cucumber sandwiches. We slathered the scones with clotted cream and strawberry
jam. Live for today—who knows, we could die tomorrow!
All the while our laughter provided the libretto for the
piano recital coming from the baby grand in the corner.
When we were finished, I sank back into the cushions
while Madam Jacqueline read our tea leaves. They
predicted we would indeed live long and happy lives, and
27 St. Stephen’s Green
this news made me smile at the thought I could return to
Dublin 2
the Shelbourne.
+353 (1) 663 4500

Bewley’s Grafton Street Cafe
A new look for an old favorite

by Jacqueline Harmon Butler

The oldest cafe in town, this hangout for the
literati was a setting in Joyce’s The Dubliners.
Built in 1927, Bewley’s coffee and tea café was a haunt of James Joyce and
the Dublin literati, and even before that it housed a school where Richard
Brinsley Sheridan and The Duke of Wellington studied. So when new
management took over and wanted to revamp this landmark, historic-
minded Dubliners were dubious. They needn’t have worried.

The rain was bucketing down as I made my way up Grafton Street to the cafe,
which has been a favorite of mine since my first trip to Ireland in 1978. Inside it
was cozy and warm and smelled of freshly-roasted coffee and the sticky buns
I used to enjoy so much for breakfast. The long tables and benches had been
replaced with smaller tables and chairs, giving the place a more intimate feel.

Dubliners were dubious, but for naught.
While preserving its finest traditions, Ireland’s oldest café has now been further
enhanced by one of the country’s most successful and innovative restaurateurs.
The old Oriental Room is now the Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, and has become an
exciting stage for lunchtime drama, evening cabaret, jazz, and comedy.
I was pleased to be in familiar surroundings and excited to try the two new,
award-winning restaurants. The upscale Mackerel specializes in fish dishes, and
the moderately-priced Café Bar Deli serves pizza, pasta and salads.
Downstairs at the Café Bar Deli I ordered a glass of Chianti. Its fruity, herbal
taste was a perfect companion to my thin-crust wild mushroom pizza and
crisp Caesar salad. For dessert I couldn’t resist my old favorite, Affogato, which
is a glass of espresso coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Thus fortified, I
was ready to brave the rain again for the walk back to my hotel. As I strolled, I
relished the feeling of satisfaction and relief
one feels after visiting an old friend, and Bewley’s Cafe & Theater
finding her looking exceedingly well. § 78/79 Grafton Street
Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel: +353 (1) 672 7720

Lay Lady Lay
A Night with Dylan

by Pamela Michael

The measure of a truly great hotel is not in the
quotidian tasks, no matter how elegantly performed,
but in the way the staff responds to the unexpected.
In the posh world of five-star hotels...
In the posh world of five-star complimentary Kir Royales later,
hotels, guests expect a certain we were escorted to our individual
level of cosseting and proficiency rooms, where our respective
for their money. The best luggage was waiting.
hotels have made a science of
hospitality; they purr with a fine-
tuned efficiency that promises
comfort and ease. They offer a
welcome oasis for weary travelers
who arrive battered by the
fiendish beast of 21st-century
air travel. The measure of a truly
great hotel, however, is not in
the quotidian tasks, no matter
how elegantly performed, but in
the way the staff responds to the
The designer-garbed “Welcome And what rooms they were!
Team” at Dylan, Dublin’s swanky Massive antique beds with Frette
new hotel, was put to the test linens. Plasma TVs. iPods. (The
in a big way (and passed with MP3 players come loaded with
grace and aplomb) when the six Dylan’s mix of songs. You can use
Wild Writing Women arrived in a them in the speaker base or take
rainstorm to find that we had only them with you as you go about
one reservation. Without rustling Dublin.) More high tech wonders
one designer feather, Rooms included a Bang & Olufsen phone
Manager Simon Cunnich calmly that I at first thought was a space
ushered us into the hotel’s wildly age vibrator of some sort. (Now
colorful Dylanbar for drinks while that’s service, I thought! Hotels
he sorted things out. A couple of take note.) The mini-bar offered,
in addition to high-end beverages Etro toiletries come in full-size
and snacks, a disposable camera, containers. All 44 rooms in the
a copy of the Kama Sutra and an Victorian-era hotel—formerly
intimacy kit, details of which I will the old Royal Hospital Nurses
leave to the imagination. Home—are unique. Some are ultra
modern, some whimsical; many
Dylan’s bathrooms are huge; most
feature Belleek pottery, Ireland’s
feature both a full-sized tub and
pride. All are extravagantly yet
separate shower. The tile floors
tastefully done, as one would
are heated and the fancy Italian
And what rooms
they were!
expect in a $32 million dollar
In addition to the hotel’s
bold and stylish décor, much
attention has been paid to
service and amenities in this
intimate four-story gem. The
facility includes a cozy library,
terraces for social and business
gatherings, a meeting room and a
full range of business services for demonstrate Dylan’s extraordinary
the corporate traveler, as well as level of service when we checked
24-hour desk and room service. out the next day, some of us
The hotel’s restaurant, Still, is one heading back to the States,
of Dublin’s finest eateries. others off to various European
Dylan is located in the leafy, destinations. Just as her taxi to
tony Ballsbridge neighborhood the airport arrived, Jacqueline
(home to many embassies) just discovered her leather jacket
south of the City Centre, and hadn’t been brought up to the
close to shoppers’ heaven Grafton room the night before with the
Street, entertainment and dining rest of her things. We had earlier
destination Baggot Street, and St. marveled at how the bellmen
Stephen’s Green. Room rates are figured out which suitcase went to
definitely in the “splurge” category, which room; we’d left everything
beginning at $515 a night. in a huge wet pile in the lobby
when we arrived, repairing to the
The crackerjack multilingual bar for cocktails while the staff
staff had another opportunity to found rooms for us.
As the taxi waited, quick phone burst into tears, the manager had
calls to the other Wild Writing one last idea. He excused himself
Women determined that the and ran off down the hallway,
jacket hadn’t been put in emerging a few minutes later with
one of our rooms by mistake. a sealed plastic bag, a note taped to
Jacqueline was frantic, the the outside.
taxi driver anxious to leave;
“I remembered you’d gone into the
an undercurrent of bellman
bar just after arriving and thought
malfeasance was beginning to
you might have been wearing the
emerge as Jacqueline struggled
jacket,” he announced, beaming.
to grasp what might have
“You must have taken it off and
happened to her favorite jacket.
perhaps it slipped onto the floor.
In the background, more phone
The bar staff had it in their lost and
calls were being made, staffers
dispatched to check various
places. Five stars. Bright shiny ones. §
Just when it seemed certain that
the jacket was indeed gone for
good, and Jacqueline about to
Eastmoreland Place
Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (1) 660 3000
Fax: +353 (1) 660 3005

an oasis of calm in the midst of a mizzle
by Jacqueline Harmon Butler

An elegant last supper in Dublin.
The staff took one look at us, ushered us into the
lounge and handed us Kir Royales.
The Wild Writing Women arrived at the Dylan Hotel a bit road weary
as a result of driving three-hours from Crom Castle in Northern
Ireland, then navigating the dreaded Dublin rush hour traffic. We
dragged our luggage and ourselves two blocks through a mizzle
to the lobby of the Dylan, where the staff took one look at us,
ushered us into the comfortable lounge and served us Kir Royals.
We had planned to go over to the Temple Bar area for dinner but
when we spotted the hip-looking décor at the Dylan’s restaurant
named Still, we opted to stay put.
Once we had gussied up, we followed the host to our table,
our shoes clicking on the smooth marble floor. Soft shades of
cream on the tablecloths and chairs, accented by touches of gleaming stainless
steel, created a modern, elegant atmosphere. The rather organic-looking
white leather high-backed chairs enveloped us in comfort and
created an air of intimacy around the tables.
We browsed the menu while sipping tall, cool flutes of champagne
and studied the appetizers. I chose pan-fried foie gras with braised
rhubarb and star anise. It was soft and smooth and literally melted
in my mouth.
Of course we also just had to try the house-made salmon gravlax
with avocado mousse and crab. It was delectable.
For our main course we chose a medley of offerings: saddle of
lamb with a sauce of pancetta and parsley mousse accented with
baby eggplant, roast Irish beef fillet with wild mushroom ravioli,
roast black-leg chicken accented with a morel purée, Boulangère
otatoes, and fresh peas, and for our vegetarian, a delicious
medley of roasted asparagus, mushrooms, eggplant and potatoes
concocted at her request. The dishes were all elegantly prepared
and presented. We especially enjoyed little glasses of various
flavored foams served as palate cleansers between courses.
A ruby hued Côte du Rhone perfectly accented our delicious feast.
It tasted of sunshine and herbs and the fragrance reminded us of
the South of France and the rich, dark terroir of the region.
Still’s Executive Chef Padraic Hayden is committed to using only
the freshest ingredients, and his favorite dishes to prepare are
those using locally caught fish, such as salmon and cod, or locally
farmed meats and fowl. He enjoys pairing his fish with sumptuous
ingredients, such as in his roasted sea bream served with poached
oyster, shellfish and cucumber blanquette, and caviar.
The Wild Writing Women love desserts and, after much
deliberation, decided to try the Valrhona chocolate fondant
mousse with a delicately flavored lavender ice cream. It
was so tasty that we ordered a second scoop.
We lingered over our last supper in Dublin before the long
journey home to San Francisco the next morning, ordering
a second bottle of wine to reminisce about our two weeks
together exploring Ireland. We’d enjoyed many suppers,
some here in Dublin, some prepared in the north at Crom
Castle by ourselves or the staff, and many pub meals. But
our dinner at Still was our most expensive and most elegant
meal of them all. How fitting to celebrate our last evening
on the Emerald Isle this way! §

STILL: in the Dylan Hotel
Eastmoreland Place, Dublin 2L Ireland
Tel: +353 (1) 660 3000 | Fax: +353 (1) 660 3005 |

Eats Worth Braving a Staunch Mizzle
by Suzanne LaFetra

First came soup, of course, because it was raining.
Potato leek, of course, because it was Ireland.
Silky and perfect, of course, because it was Gruel.
The doorman of the Fitz william Hotel eyed me
suspiciously. “ Ye sure ye want to go there, miss?”
I nodded, me the over- enthusiastic, direc tionally-
challenged California traveler who was so well prepared
for her trip that she didn’t even pack an umbrella. I
cracked open my brand new Lonely Planet guidebook
and pointed. “ They say it ’s great!” I chirped, as a few fat
raindrops plopped on the page.

He traced my route on the map, then offered me something
I needed even more than his warm I rish smile: an umbrella.
As I wandered through Temple Bar the rain came down
harder. M izzle, the I rish call it. I glanced at the sk y, then the
guidebook again. “Something special,” it read. “ Wor th the
effor t.” I was zigzagging past Trinit y College when it star ted
sk eltering (a pleasant word for an unpleasant horizontal
rain). I turned left, crossed Dame Street, then crossed over
again, opened my now wet guidebook for the eleventh time.
And even though the name Gruel doesn’t
evoke the most mouthwatering fare, it was
indeed wor th the effor t. For star ters, it wasn’t
mizzling or sk eltering inside the tiny, funk y, heavenly-smelling
diner. The unpretentious menu offered ten dishes, all under $16
US. H ip -look ing 20-somethings crowded around mismatched
tables where they chowed on delicate crepes and thick ,
steaming stews and spik y salads. A grumpy Spanish waitress
sliced a loaf of bread, so poufy it look ed car toonish. Not a
single bowl of lumpy porridge in sight.
First came soup, of course, because it was raining. Potato leek ,
of course, because it was I reland. Silk y and per fec t, of course,
because it was Gruel. I can’t do justice to the ecstasy of the
car toon bread with butter. Suffice it to say that savoring the
butter of I reland is lik e enjoying an heirloom tomato from your
garden after chok ing down mushy supermark et beefsteaks
all winter. You’ve forgotten butter could taste
like this.
I n honor of my waitress, I ordered the tor tilla. The Spanish
tor tilla is really an omelet, not even a distant cousin to the flat,
Mexican corny circles we Californians k now and love. Gruel’s
tor tilla was a sumptuous frittata; a delicate pairing of eggs and
potatoes dotted with sweet tomato chunks and chive crème
fraiche. The smok ed salmon draped across the top resembled
daint y pink tongues, and all came adorned with a mantel of
zingy rock et and lac y dill.
I wish I had saved room for the Cajun corn fritters with avocado
and lime salsa. Or the mushroom and goat cheese bruschetta.
Or Gruel’s specialt y—rolls—an unpretentious name that belies
the tempting mix of flak ey crusts stuffed full of slow-roasted
organic meats.
And when I burst through Gruel’s doors again 20 minutes later,
I wish I’d been there to pick up a to - go platter for dinner. But I
had only forgotten my umbrella. §

G ru e l
6 8 a D a m e St re e t
D u b l i n , I re l a n d
+353 (1) 670-7119
links & resources
to help you find your way
by Suzanne LaFetra
A sel ec t list of links

Start Planning Your Trip
Suzanne LaFetra

Planning for any trip can be both thrilling and daunting,
especially on the ever-widening World Wide Web.
Here are the links we lik e. (Click on the URL while
you’re connec ted to the I nternet and we’ll link you up

Travel Documents
Getting There
Where to Stay
Car Rentals
What’s Happening
Connec t
start mapping your journey
Discover Ireland
Discover I reland is the I rish Tourism Board’s site, full of
accommodations, special offers, and travel-planning
Lonely Planet Guides to Ireland
Lonely Planet guides are a great way to get familiar
with the I rish landscape, to plan out the where, when
and why for a trip.

travel documents
Irish Abroad: Visa & Passpor t Information
Click the I rishAbroad link above to get the essentials
on visa and passpor t information for travel to I reland.

getting there
Travel Ireland: Airlines
TravelI helps you get to the Emerald Isle,
with direc t links to tick et purchasing.
where to stay
Go Ireland
GoI gives you a listing of B&Bs, hotels,
farmhouses, and hostels with availabilit y calendars
My Guide to Castle -Hotels
Find a castle, manor house, or B&B.

car rentals
Reser ve a rental car, find general driving info, and a
glossar y of driving terms (in case you didn’t k now the
cubby box means the glove compar tment).
Irish Car Rental
Here are some good tips about driving laws, cell
phone use, and international drivers’ license

Ireland Restaurants
Click for a decent listing of I reland eateries.
Ireland Pub Guide
Find a place to share a pint.
what’s happening
Discover Ireland: What ’s On & Irish Tourism: Festivals
The t wo links above will give you lists of events,
festivals, and other I rish happenings.
Irish Music Magazine: Festivals
This magazine will give you details on concer ts,
festivals, and music in I reland.
T ravel Blogs: Ireland
A good collec tion of I reland travel blogs.

Dochara: Cell & Telephone Communications Info
Find out if your cell phone will work in I reland. Get
info on renting phones, calling cards, and more.
Le Travel Store: Voltage Info & Adaptors
Find voltage information, and get help buying
Wild Writing Women
Lisa Alpine
AUDIO ASIDE Jacqueline Harmon Butler
Listen to a seven-minute Audio Carla King
Aside of the Wild Writing Suzanne LaFetra
Women talking about our Pamela Michael
favorite moments in Ireland. Cathleen Miller

with special guests
Serena Bartlett
Diane LeBow
Curiosity about what is beyond the curve of the horizon has fueled
Lisa Alpine’s voyaging since she left home at 18 to live in Paris. She
has owned an import company (Dream Weaver Imports in San
Francisco), published a newspaper (The Fax in Marin County, CA),
written a travel column for 12 years for the Pacific Sun, and taught
dance and writing workshops around the world for two decades.
Lisa’s essays appear in numerous anthologies, including I Should
Have Stayed Home, Hyena’s Laughed at Me and Now I Know Why,
and Lonely Planet’s Tales From Nowhere. She’s working on a new
anthology, My Exotic Life: Laughing Rivers, Dancing Drums, and
Tangled Hearts. Lisa teaches writing at The Writing Salon in San
Francisco and at her home studio in Marin County. Click here to visit
her on the web.

Jacqueline Harmon Butler is the co-author of the bestselling sixth
edition of The Travel Writer’s Handbook. Her work may also be found
in many newspapers, magazines, and e-zines all across the USA,
Canada and Europe, including the Miami Herald, New Orleans Times-
Picayune, Dallas Morning News, Kansas City Star, San Francisco
Chronicle and Examiner, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Star, La Sicilia, La
Nazione and Il Tirreno.
She has received a variety of awards including the 2007 North
American Travel Journalists Association Runner-Up Award for Best
Travel Article Written For Internet, the 2003 Golden Linchetto Prize
for writing on Lucca, Italy, and the 2002 International Press Award for
writing on Sicily. Jacqueline’s essays are also featured in the Travelers’
Tales anthologies. Click here to visit her site.
Carla King is best known for her solo motorcycle journeys around
the world riding indigenous motorcycles like China’s Chang Jiang,
India’s Enfield Bullet and Italy’s Moto Guzzi. She is also very
involved in high tech, as a writer, editor, and web designer in Silicon
Valley. In her first attempt at travel writing, Carla won first prize at
the Book Passage Travel Writer’s Conference, and an assignment
to create one of the world’s first realtime Internet series. In fact,
her 1995 American Borders dispatches are the oldest realtime
travelogues on the Internet today. She produces and designs our
magazines, including the Taking Flight issue, which won two
national awards for best online travel magazine. Carla’s Motorcycle
Misadventures Minute and The Miss Adventuring Podcast are her
latest high-tech ventures. Her book American Borders is in its second printing; next up
is a book about two journeys through China. Click here to visit her website.

Suzanne LaFetra’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals
and newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian
Science Monitor, Brevity, Skirt, Ladybug, Rose & Thorn, Smokelong
Quarterly, Pearl, Literary Mama, and on KQED FM. Her essays have
been included in fourteen anthologies, including the Chicken Soup
and Travelers’ Tales series. Her journalism credits include many Bay
Area publications including the East Bay Monthly, Diablo Magazine,
Solano Magazine, and the Contra Costa Times. She wrote the
weekly “Arts & Leisure” feature for seven Knight Ridder newspapers
during 2004 and 2005. Suzanne’s writing has garnered over a
dozen literary prizes, including the Grand Prize from the University
of Maine’s Ultra Short Fiction contest, first prize from Pilgrimage
Magazine, runner-up for the XJ Kennedy Award for Creative Nonfiction, and honorable
mention in the 25th Hemingway Annual Short Story competition. She is currently at
work on a memoir about her love affair with Mexico. Click to visit Suzanne’s website.
Pamela Michael is a writer, education reformer and radio producer.
She is the award-winning editor of numerous books, including: The
Gift of Rivers, River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature
of Things, A Mother’s World, A Woman’s Passion for Travel, and
River of Words: Poetry & Images in Praise of Water. Her articles have
appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Odyssey,, Shape,
Orion Afield, Resurgence and others. She won first place in the Book
Passage Travel Writers Conference with her story, “Khan Men of Agra,”
which has been widely anthologized. She hosts a travel show on
KPFA FM in the San Francisco Bay Area, and her earlier radio work
includes writing and producing a four-part series on Buddhism in
the United States, narrated by Richard Gere. Co-founder, with Robert
Hass, of the much-honored River of Words organization, Pam has
worked for decades to help youth make creative connections to the
earth. Click here to visit River of Words.

Cathleen Miller is the internationally bestselling author of two
works of nonfiction: her memoir of life in the country, The
Birdhouse Chronicles, and the story of Somali activist Waris Dirie,
Desert Flower. Cathy’s work has been translated into 55 languages.
Her essays have appeared in the Washington Post, San Francisco
Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Cimarron Review, Old
House Journal, Reader’s Digest, and the Travelers’ Tales San Francisco
anthology. She won the Society of American Travel Writers Gold
award for her work as editor-in-chief of this magazine. Currently
she’s at work on Champion of Choice, a biography of UN leader Dr.
Nafis Sadik, a project that has taken her around the world. Cathy is
a professor of creative writing at San José State University.
Serena Bartlett (“Night Train to Limerick”) has lived and traveled in
more than 25 countries, always keeping her eyes open for the most
authentic cultural experiences. She is an award-winning author and
an active spokesperson for lively, inspiring and tasty ways to tread
more lightly on the planet. Her book, Oakland: Soul of the City Next
Door, was the first offering from GrassRoutes Travel Guides, which
she founded. GrassRoutes Travel focuses on urban eco-travel and
features insider tips to the most tantalizing businesses and activities
that give back to the community, environment and local economy.
Ethical journalism and uninhibited travel writing have always been
important to Serena, and she is a regular contributor to a number of national and local
Bay Area publications. Click to visit the GrassRoutes Travel site.

Diane LeBow (“Castle Leslie in the 1980s”), Ph.D., president of the
Bay Area Travel Writers, professor emerita and award-winning travel
writer and photographer, is based in San Francisco. The recipient
of grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment
for the Humanities, in 2007 she delivered the Zagoren Lecture on
“Women of Afghanistan and the World: Stories and Photos from
the Road,” at Rutgers University. Her essays have appeared in, Washington Times, Chicago Sun Times, VIA, Skirt, Bride
Magazine, and are featured in anthologies from Travelers’Tales, Seal
Press, and Cleis Press. She won the Travelers’ Tales’ Gold Award in
2007 for the Best Story of a Romance on the Road; the Bay Area Travel Writers’ Bronze
Award for Best Story in an Anthology; the Silver Award for Photography; and their Gold
Award for Best Travel Writers’ Website 2008. Click here to visit her website.
by Cathleen Miller
Funny that you should ask, dear reader,
because this is a question that we are always
trying to answer ourselves. The short retort
is: We are a clan of travel writers based in
the San Francisco Bay Area. But how did
we become the Wild Writing Women—
that’s what you really want to know, isn’t it?
Jacqueline, Pamela, Suzanne, Cathleen, Carla, Lisa
In the Beginning

Back in 1992, the group began innocently enough
when I took a travel writing class from Don
George, then travel editor for the San Francisco
Examiner. Why I did this is still unclear, as I had
never written anything and I had never really
traveled. But I decided to pretend to be the
woman I wanted to be, and it had been a lifelong
dream of mine to see the world; I saw travel
writing as a way to fund the fantasy.

During the course of the 10-week seminar, I
met other women who were much better writers
than I (easily done under the circumstances)
and coerced them into starting a writing group
by offering to cook dinner for them once a
month at my home. Thus the format was set in
motion that continues 16 years later: we meet
on the fourth Wednesday of the month, to cook,
gossip, drink wine—oh yes—and critique our
writing. Speaking for myself, I was thrilled to
be surrounded by talented females who were
interested in discussing something besides
toasters and tit jobs; these voyageuse spun tales of
paddling canoes down the Amazon and peddling
bicycles across Africa. I might not have been in
their league, but at least I had found a league I
wanted to play in.
The origins of our name are mired somewhere in
the mists of memory, merlot, and word games that
swirl around a particular bar in San Francisco,
much like fog rising out of the bay. The London
Wine Bar, located in the city’s Financial District,
was a frequent hangout in the early days of our
then nameless sect. There we drank, argued,
brainstormed, entertained our favorite editors,
hosted our Winter Solstice get-togethers, and
broke into spontaneous dancing to the surprise of
the Wine Bar’s stock exchange patrons. One night,
somewhere in between drinking six bottles of wine
and planning an expedition to Mount Kailash,
word games surrounding the letter “W” ended
with a moniker that stuck: Wild Writing Women.

As the years went by we helped each other evolve
from literary wannabes to professional writers.
Adding to our maturation, new members like
Pam joined us; she was already a seasoned veteran,
editing anthologies for Travelers’ Tales. We slowly
saw a change in the conversations around the
dinner table—from questions about how to write
a query letter, to queries about good locales for
book launch parties. Our gals began to write for
some of the top periodicals in the nation, have
their work anthologized, publish their own books,
and move into the role of mentor, teaching other
women how to write.
Creating Community

The creation of community has long been
a goal of our group, one we have pursued
through a variety of channels. At some point
all of us have led writing workshops. In fact
we have included a section in our magazine
featuring the work of our aficionadas, “What
Goes Around,” a title that symbolizes—not
only the travel aspect of our material—but
our reciprocal relationship of learning. This
student/teacher rapport has been at the root
of Lisa’s innovative approach for dance and poetry seminars.
For decades she has held workshops in such exotic locales as
the ancient kivas in New Mexico.

The WWW put together our first writers’ conference at Fort
Mason Center in San Francisco in 2003, and felt honored
(and astonished) when an international crowd of women
enrolled. One of our own devotees who attended that event,
Suzanne, later went on to become a much-published writer
and joined the WWW in 2007. There was some sweet
symmetry to that conclusion, because Jacqueline has known
Suzanne since she was born.

In addition to the writing workshops, we launched a literary
salon at the Monticello Inn at SF’s Union Square. For
six years we met monthly, featuring guest speakers who
presented on a variety of topics relating to the
scribes’ craft—from historical research for
biographies to publicizing new releases. The
best part of this routine was the opportunity
to meet many of you in person; like the full
moon, some men and women reappeared
each month, and other strangers dropped by
when visiting from Germany or Australia

One of the miracles of our longevity has been
existing long enough to see the expansion of
our audience, from local readers of the San

Francisco papers, to fanmail from folks in
Brazil, India, Italy and Qatar—thanking us
for what we’ve given them through the magic
of the Internet. Our Web Dominatrix, Carla,
has been a pioneer in technology since she
was in pigtails, and just as she has for many
a Silicon Valley corporation, she has given us
the keys to this innovative medium, allowing
us to build community with the women of
the world.
w . com
w w e n .
p : / / o m
ht ingw
r i t
i ld w
Wild Writing Women, LLC

In 2000, after one of our meetings we were
drinking wine late into the night (do we
detect a theme here?) and complaining—as
most writers do—about a lack of outlets
to publish the type of stories we wanted to
write, i.e. great narratives, not the type of

dry factual material that the travel editors of
most mainstream publications seem to think
people want to read.

But for a change something profitable came
from this whining: a book was born. We
decided to collect our favorite travel essays
and compile an anthology which we titled
Wild Writing Women: Stories of World Travel.
At first we self-published the volume, and
in what became a bit of a Bay Area literary
legend, we sold 1000 copies in a week. Next
we signed a contract with Globe Pequot who
bought the rights to the collection. What we
discovered along the way was that we enjoyed
the artistic control that the self-publishing
process entailed.
I remember reading a study on women’s
leadership that was apropos to our experience:
clusters of females function differently than men
in that there is not one dominant leader. Rather
we are more similar to fish. We will school based
on signals from any one of the group, suddenly
turning and following her lead.

Our next course of action was to expand on the
success of Stories of World Travel and form an
LLC to explore more creative business ventures.
We vowed that one of our missions was to
empower other women, employing the same
methods we had used to egg each other on as
wayfarers and wordsmiths.

The creation of our online magazine marked
a milestone in this goal. In fact the idea for an
issue devoted to maiden voyages grew out of the
readings we did to promote our anthology. Travel
virgins from 18 to 80 would come to meet us and
wistfully comment: “I wish I had the guts to do
what you do—to take a trip alone….” It occurred
to me that all they were missing was someone
to teach them how to do this, and so we wrote
down our own stories of early jaunts and the
lessons we’d learned along the road.

We collected advice from some of the most
prolific travelers we knew, like our pal
Maureen Wheeler who founded Lonely
Planet. The resulting issue, Taking Flight, won
us two national awards for best online travel
publication. The judges from the University of
Missouri School of Journalism offered us high
praise which could have come straight from our
mission statement: “Wild Writing Women’s
online magazine combines lively features and
practical advice aimed at novice travelers. What
makes Taking Flight particularly refreshing
is its exploration of travel as a vehicle for
empowerment and personal growth.” When
you can control your ability to go where you
like, you have taken a major step in controlling
your destiny.
What’s it like to be a Wild Writing Woman?

Down through the years our members have
come and gone, and at present we have six
intrepid souls in the tribe. The WWW’s
composition is not static—it’s evolved and
changed along with our lives, and our work
always reflects those volatile lives. There is

something incredibly bonding about reading
each other’s stories. The result is that beyond
our role as a writing group, we have become a
loving—if dysfunctional!—family, six sisters
who’ve guided each other through difficulties
more hazardous than dangling modifiers.

To date the Ws have nursed each other through
countless broken romances including divorces;
it seems one of the occupational hazards for
female travel writers is that it’s tough to leave
a man tending the home fires. By the time you
get back he’s either taken up with the trollop
downstairs or burned the house down.
The Sisterhood has also responded to
many a panicky email sent from a W alone,
frightened, and sometimes stranded on the
road, looking for help or merely reassurance
from the people she knows will get it.
Together we’ve navigated moving, robbery,
career meltdowns, financial and natural
disasters and a host of vehicular mishaps.
(See Carla’s
site for an encyclopedic exploration of this
topic). We’ve supported each other through
a host of physical ailments ranging from lice-
infestations to breast cancer, and cried on
each other’s shoulders at the death of family,
friends and our beloved pets. Now some of us
are heading into the choppy waters of many
women our age—the care of elderly parents.

While writing the above list I questioned
perhaps we’d made the wrong decision and
created trouble for ourselves by choosing a

rather unorthodox lifestyle as adventurers along
life’s highway. Maybe it would have been wise
to take the safer route, the road more traveled?
But I concluded our meandering had created
few problems; rather we’ve merely suffered the
same difficulties our gender faces universally.
The truth is that many a woman whose sole
travel consists of the well-worn path from
cookstove to cradle has experienced all our
woes—without the exquisite delights of being
artists who have chronicled the world.
Traveling Companions

One of the grandest treats we have experienced
has been our group retreats with our friend
Maureen Wheeler. These trips would never have
occurred without our bon vivant social director,
Jacqueline, who accomplishes the impossible: she
herds the cats together so that we all land in the
same corner of the galaxy during the same week.
Along with Maureen, our menagerie has stayed in
a ninth-century villa in Tuscany, boarding empty
planes just days after 9/11, and simultaneously
rejoiced and cried at the bittersweet mysteries
of life. We have sipped Provencal rosés as we
watched the sun set over the Cote d’Azur, the
night shift (including moi) staying up all night

.. .
telling stories, while the day shift rose at dawn to
hike the steep trail down to the Mediterranean for
a swim. We took ferries around the Greek Islands,
eating at tavernas in the villages and shopping till
our bags burst at the seams.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the
WWW on the WWW, and that we can
connect with you further along the road—
whether it’s just the occasional visit to our
website, subscribing to our free newsletter,
downloading our magazine, ordering our
books, or coming by to say hello at one of
our public appearances. Our most fervent
desire is that we’ll inspire you to be a wild
woman in your own right, whether you
write or not. §

k to
l i c
c tact
c wwwn

Carla King th e
Parting SHOT

Carla King
Thank you for traveling to Ireland
with the
Wild Writing Women

We welcome your comments . . .

please click here to reach our
readers page on the web
All rights reserved Wild Writing Women, LLC © 2008

Contact the producer at for information and permissions
regarding excerpts, republication, copies, and any other reproduction of any of the
material contained in this publication. Thank you.

Find more travel and adventure stories at