Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Queen in the Republic

Two weeks ago (I'm a little behind, forgive me) Queen Elizabeth II came to visit Ireland.  As she does her fair share of international outings, this might seem quite ordinary, but it was anything but.  Given Anglo-Irish history, it really was quite something to see our President McAleese and Queen Elizabeth meeting together as, in the words of her majesty, "firm friends and equal partners".  It was moving and, I think, much needed to see the Queen and Prince Phillip paying their respects to those who died fighting for Irish freedom in The Garden of Remembrance and the Irish War Memorial, and at Croke Park to pay respects to the victims of Bloody Sunday.  It was a visit that I'm sure many of our older generation never thought they'd see.  The first visit of a British Monarch to the Irish Republic, and so soon - when you think about it - after all the trouble and hate and violence of past decades.  There are still very raw wounds but it's my hope that this has helped heal them.  She even made a very well received cĂșpla focal as Gaeilge to open her speech at the state dinner.  It was quite something to watch.

I'm sure you must have seen some coverage of this visit wherever you are in the world, but in case you missed it, I'll let you enjoy some photos of her visit (and I might even comment on her outfits as we go along...would you expect anything else?!):

Preparations for the visit were "mighty" (as they'd say in the 'Wesht')....

Garda, garda everywhere....
There were the expected protests..
...but our Gardai were out in full force.

They were all preparing for this moment:
Arriving at Dublin Airport - I thought she looked lovely in that green hat and coat, with a lovely blue/green dress underneath (you can't see here, but the coat is lined in the same material as the dress and the center of each flower on her hat was blue).
The Royal couple with the Presidential couple (can't stand anything about the President's outfit).
Our cobblestone streets were no problem for the Royal-ified Range Rover (complete with flag)
At the Garden of Remembrance  
In the Old Library at Trinity College, which I highly recommend you visit for a Harry Potter-esque experience ;)
Just look....
Beautiful, isn't it?
At the Irish War Memorial in Islandbridge, Dublin
Checking out the view from the Guinness Storehouse
Prince Phillip longing for that pint....
(not mad about the Queen's colourful ensemble here..in person it might be better, though)
The Queen with President McAleese and her husband entering Croke Park
In her favorite colour, yellow.
Everyone looking very elegant arriving at the dinner.  I very much liked what the Queen wore - it was age-appropriate (a quality that was sadly but not surprisingly sorely lacking in the choices of some other female guests at the dinner that night), and I thought the tiara I let her borrow suited her quite well.  The President, thankfully, lost the coat to reveal an elegant scoop-back, sheer sleeved gown.
The Queen meeting Irish royalty - Brian O'Driscoll, of course.
Speaking at the dinner.
Although her speaking in Irish was impressive, this was my favorite part:

"I love this clinking glass!" - QEII (guess clinking the ol' crystal doesn't usually fly at Buckingham Palace). 
Visiting the Irish National Stud in Kildare.  I do think she looks nice in blue.
At a party/concert at the National Convention Centre
Arriving in Cork, on her way to the Rock of Cashel
Love this! The Queen visiting the English Market in Cork - what is sure to be the most famous photo of her visit.
And finally...

Saying farewell to Ireland...

I kept thinking of Sue, knowing how much she would have loved to see this historic visit take place.  For this gal, who has lived in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and England, this really was a pretty cool thing to see.

Next up...Obama gets B(ar)ack to his Irish roots.  

images via and via

What Song Are You Listening To?

I love this video because I always wonder this - do you?

The funniest part, to me, is how many people have to check their iPods to see what they're listening to :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dinner With A Hollywood Legend

Yes, I'm serious.

I know it's been a couple of weeks - I've kinda been here there and everywhere and am finally back at home in Dublin, for another week or two, at least, and then I'm off to London to see my little brother and his lovely lady - woohoo!

Anyways, it's been a beck of a couple of weeks in Ireland!  Have you guys and gals acros the ocean seen our little country on your news broadcasts much this month?  We've been pretty popular these days - Queen Elizabeth II and Barack Obama within a couple of days of each other - and I promise to talk about those in another blog post this week.

But  as exciting as all of that was, I have much more exciting news to report:  last Friday, I had dinner with a real-life, true-blue, drop-dead-gorgeous Hollywood - and Irish - movie star.  Who, you ask?  Who else?


Ms. Maureen O'Hara (cue me jumping up and down, clapping my hands with excitement!).  Can you believe that?!  I still can't!  I'm sure you've seen some of her film, especially this one along side the Duke:
Or in this, with John Payne and a very young Natalie Wood:

And maybe you watched her in this when you were a child:
She really is amazing.  She is still absolutely beautiful and incredibly elegant at 90 years old.  Here's a more recent photo:
She's sharp as a tack, full of fun and full of life.  She's a definite firecracker - but I expected that, her being a red-headed, fighting Irish lady and all.   I also knew because about four year ago, I read her autobiography:

What you may not know about me is that I am totally and completely obsessed, enamoured, infatuated and obsessed (believe me, it deserves 2 mentions) with Hollywood's "Golden Age".  I'd give my right arm to go back in time to Hollywood in it's hay-day.  Make that both arms... Most of the time I prefer to watch a classic film over a new one - and musicals?  I mean do you really have to ask?  It's all my Uncle Gerald's fault - he started me on classic cinema when I was about 3 years old and I was hooked from the start. Since I was a teenager, I've collected and read the autobiographies of some of the major - and not so major - stars of that era, and I've got quite the little collection going.  I have to say, though, in all honesty that Maureen O'Hara's is one of the best I've read - it' funny, engaging, hard to put down.  She makes you feel like she's talking right to you, and believe me, that's not always the case.  It's a really great read and I'd recommend it if you want a little insight into that time period and some really good stories, to boot (it's on amazon, in case you're wondering).

So anyways.  How did I get to have dinner with the Lady herself?  I wish I could say that when she heard I wanted to meet her she immediately accepted, but no!  A family connection was the key, and one I'm most grateful for.  There were only nine of us at the table - myself, my mother, my brother and uncle, Maureen's daughter, nephew and her right-hand-woman and her husband (two of the nicest people I've ever met).  It was lovely - intimate and we were all able to talk together and ask her all kinds of questions.  In case you were wondering:  The Quiet Man is her personal favorite, John Wayne (or "Duke", as she still calls him) was her favorite leading man and one of her best friends until he passed away, she's a huge supporter of the Shamrock Rovers, and she got her start in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin!  She was also born in Ranelagh - the first place in Dublin that we lived when we moved back here.

All in all it was a completely surreal, spectacular evening that ended, of course, too soon.  We were all dressed up and excited to get a photo with her, but unfortunately (ok, heartbreakingly) she had an extremely sore eye and flash photography was a no-no.  :(  Note to self:  photos before dinner!  I was so bummed, but who knows, maybe there'll be a next time someday.  I was really naughty, however, and managed to snap this sneaky photo of her when she was leaving - I couldn't help myself, how could I have spent the evening with a living legend and not have any photographic proof of it!
I apologize, it's not a great photo and I feel like a total stalker posting it, but I thought you'd like at least a glimpse! But believe me, she is just fabulous!!
In case any of you are going to Co. Cork in 2013, she's unveiling the Maureen O'Hara Legacy Center which will celebrate her life and work (housing some of her memorabilia from through the years -costumes included! - and some of other stars, too), and will also have a film school - how cool is that?  I'll definitely be stopping for a visit when it's open, can't wait to see her collection of memorabilia.

SO, if you haven't seen her films in a while, hop to it!!  She gives it as good as she gets it in her films, and that's true for her in life, too.  And what a beauty - those eyes and that hair!  This Irish girl is green with envy.  ;)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

'Till The Cows Come Home...

This week I'm over in Galway at my parent's house.   My parents live not far outside Galway City, but you'd think you were in the middle of the country.  They live on a little country lane (where, unfortunately, in the last couple of years a couple of new houses were built, but we try to ignore them!), surrounded by beautiful green fields and hills.  There's a farm at the top of their road and we often have to stop at the end of the driveway to let the tractor pass before we leave.  I love coming here because it's a definite escape from city life and the air is just so fresh here - I love it!  So it's been a almost perfect week so far (it'd be perfect if P was here with us): a little family time, a little fresh air, a lot of exploring for Munchers.  Aside from missing her Dad, the change of scene hasn't bothered her one bit and the main reason for that is this:

Meet Millie (or "doh-ddy", as C calls her)!  Well, ok, she's a bit bigger now but she's she's still as cute and is annoyingly never around when I want to snap a picture of her.  Millie has been part of the family since the end of 2007.  She's been spoiled rotten and loves every second of it.  She was the "baby", the apple of everyone's eye....that is until my little Munchkin came along and stole the limelight.  And let me tell you, Millie doesn't like it.  Not one bit.  Nor does she like C.  Not one bit.  C, on the other hand, adores Millie.  I mean it was love at first sight.  Even from her only being a few months old, every time she saw Millie her face just lit like it was Christmas Morning (well...as I'd imagine her face to be on Christmas morning, she's a little young to fully appreciate that excitement yet!).  And what does Millie do?  Completely and utterly ignore her.  I always feel so bad for C, who just wants some canine affection, but she is not to be deterred!  She's started giving her treats and we're hoping that some doggy bonding might happen.  Dogs are just like men - the way to their heart is through their stomachs!
P & Miss Millie - Jan 2008

I digress.  Since coming out to Galway (where I hadn't been with C since Christmas - it's been a crazy year), she has put her walking skills to great use in this new-again-to-her house and lovely big garden.  She has mastered going up and down my parent's stairs on her hands and knees, and now she's practically jumping down their front and back door step.   Take a peek at her out-door step skills from yesterday (I'm still trying to capture her staircase antics on video):

So, with stairs and dogs galore in this part of the world, C's having a grand ol' time.  Only one thing has cast a shadow on our visit so far:   (please excuse the poorer quality iPhone photos from here on out)

The cows!  As my dear, darling husband quipped: "The world according to Carys: dogs are the greatest thing that God ever put on this earth, but cows are the spawn of Satan and are to be feared and reviled".  And that was absolutely true our first couple of days here.  However, she's becoming braver the longer we're here.  In fact today she took me on a walk down my parent's road, where we were greeted by this sight:

Cows are so nosey!  They were all minding their own business, chewing grass (and doing other things that cows do that shall remain nameless!), and as soon as we walked in front of their field they all lined up to get a good look at their audience - a big human, a little human and a dog who likes to bark at them and scare them.  You know, the usual.

They are also total hams (ba-dum-ching!) - I mean look at this pose:

This was when I knew we were making progress - She got as close to the fence as the grass would allow and she even waved and said hello.

(I keep trying to put clips in her hair to keep it out of her eyes but she will not let me.  Any Moms out there with tips on how to get your darling daughter to keep clips in her hair?!)  

About 2 seconds after this photo was taken, the cow's responded to C's "hellos" with some very loud "mooooooos", and C practically climbed up my legs and hid her head in complete and utter fear.  SOOO, I decided, between the moos and the dark clouds gathering overhead, that it was time for a little bit of Toy Story 2 - C's new favorite thing (guess why?  yep - not one dog, but two).

So we bid our fond farewells, and this 'lil lady stood right in the middle of these poles (which, thanks to my  photography course told me is a perfect 'frame within a frame'" - told you these cows are posing pros), so I snapped a couple more pics.  

 I liked this little lady - the photos aren't brilliant and don't capture what a lovely colo(u)r she is.  
 I think she liked us too - half way down the road I turned around to this pose sight:

"Ireland's Next Top Moo-del".  I'll be here all night, folks!