Day 284: Causeway Dismay

When she walked to the Emerald Victorian this morning, Laetitia had already decided to go next to the Giants Causeway, but as the last drops of coffee fell into the carafe, she decided to make a detour elsewhere in County Antrim to Ballywillin Church.  The Normans built the church, now a ruin, in the twelfth century.  It was originally Catholic and then, after the Reformation, Church of Ireland.  Services were held there until around 1840 when a new church was built in nearby Portrush.  Among the weathered, lichen and moss encrusted tombstones in the graveyard was the headstone of Dorothea Ross.  The Stuart Coat of Arms and Fleur de Lys were faint but still visible.

The Giants Causeway is a stunning array of columnar basalt, a remnant of the region’s volcanic past. The orderliness of its columns once confused the captain of a ship from the Spanish Armada, who shelled it thinking it was Dunluce Castle.  Legend has it the Causeway was forged by Finn McCool, the giant Ulster warrior of Irish folklore.  Laetitia’s great grandmother had been there in her youth and among the family treasures was a stereoscope that showed a faded image of the Causeway in three dimensions.  The Causeway is a designated UNESCO Heritage Site and very popular with tourists from around the world.  As Laetitia’s group was crossing the crowded parking lot, they saw a group of German-speaking tourists disembark from a van marked Dieter’s Tours.  When Laetitia’s group noticed the van, they began to whisper among themselves and snicker.  Laetitia soon understood why.  Dieter is pronounced in Deutsch as though it was “deeter” and is a very common German name, but her group was mostly American, and, to them, the name reads “di-et-er” or “one who diets.”  Some comments from Laetitia’s group were, “why would anyone want to go on a tour with rationed food?” and “those folks certainly didn’t look like dieters.”  This episode spawned the limerick of the day.

To a German, no trip could be sweeter
Than one run by that tour group called Dieter
But, it’s a disquieter
To Yanks who read “di-et-er”
And think it’s not for a big eater.

Day 105: Cancan

County Cavan is lough country. There are allegedly 365 of them, one for each day of the year. A small lake in the county, known as Shannon Pot, is the source of the River Shannon. The county is part of Ulster, but is not in Northern Ireland. Laetitia took her group to Magh Slécht, an ancient plain dotted with little drumlin hills and remnants of early civilization: megalithic tombs, ring barrows, crannogs, stone circles, and standing stones. At the pub after a day of hiking on Magh Slécht, Laetitia heard some gossip about a young woman named Anne who had gone nightclubbing in Paris and had become a cancan enthusiast, much to the annoyance of the elders in the small hamlet of Ardan where she lived.

A flighty young lady named Anne
Would compulsively dance the cancan
Anytime, anyplace
“T’is an awful disgrace”
Said the dowager set of Ardan.

Day 63: Malt Fault

Today, Midleton is probably best known as the home of Jameson Irish Whiskey.  The Cork Distillers Ltd. facility in Midleton opened in 1825.  Jameson production moved there after the original Jameson facility in Dublin closed.

The distilled spirits known as Irish whiskey can be traced back to the twelfth century. The oldest surviving licensed distillery in the world is the Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim in Ulster, which dates back to 1608.

Briefly, the whiskey-making process involves soaking grain (traditionally barley) in water until the seeds begin to germinate. Once the grains have begun to produce sugars, but before they begin to sprout, the mixture is heated to stop the germination process. In Ireland, the heating process is done in ovens; in Scotland it is done over open peat fires giving Scotch whisky its distinct smoky taste. The product of this process is called malt. The malt is ground and put in vats with water and yeast to ferment. The beer that is produced by the fermentation process is then distilled to make whiskey.

Irish whiskey is distilled three times; Scotch whisky is distilled twice; Bourbon is distilled once. The most expensive whiskeys are made from pure barley malt. Less expensive whiskeys are usually made from blends of barley and more abundant (and thus cheaper) grains, such as wheat. The whiskey is then aged in wooden casks, often ones used previously for sherry. The whiskey is often enhanced by additives (usually trade secrets) that give each brand its distinct flavor.

Laetitia and her group did a walkabout in Midleton, followed by a distillery tour and whiskey tasting. During the tour, Laetitia overheard an argument between a father and his adult son that centered on the son’s poor taste in liquor. It was the source of the limerick of the day.

Said a Midleton dad, “It’s a shame, son
And there’s none but yourself for to blame, Son
Drinking bar Scotch and Bourbon
Is mighty disturbin’
In the town where they make pure-malt Jameson.”