Belgium, Italy, Ireland, France, Scotland, maybe China or Vietnam. My last trip abroad was Italy in 2014, the first year of retirement. I’ve traveled on an airplane once (to Washington State) since my surgeries and ongoing medical issues. I often wonder can I, will I, when will I travel out of the United States again. Maybe, until then I can enjoy reading about places I would like to go.
I recently reread “The Pipes are Calling: our jaunts through Ireland” by Naill Williams and Christine Breen. A Dublin born writer and American writer-painter, they moved to Kitumper, County Clare, Christine’s grandfather’s cottage, on the west coast in the 1980s. They wrote several books, including “Oh Come Ye Back.” I read “The Pipes” a few years after we traveled in Ireland. It is a journal of their explores or “jaunts” around the country by auto, on bicycles or on foot, with their young daughter, Deidre. Many of the places they visit were on our five week iternary around the country.
I remember the beauty of the Dingle pensuila which they visit. And we took a carriage ride in Killarney Park; but did we go to the medieval city of Kilkenny, part of their tour. They also mention unforgettable places like the Cliffs of Moher, Croagh Patrick, and the Giant’s Causeway. It also brought back memories when they write about the tense, even frightening, atmosphere in Northern Ireland, young soldiers, machine guns, signs and graffiti documenting the struggles, the troubles.
I enjoyed reading about Donegal where my grandfather Gallagher’s family lived. I think we went to the Abbey Theatre there. Since I did not know the exact location or town, I visited my friend Bill Gallagher’s relative (in a pub of course). Niall and Christine describe places I didn’t visit or don’t remember, Bunratty Folk Park, Knock Shrine, Moore Hall, Cuil Aodha, Ennis, Newry, and West Mayo to name a few.
We like them spent several days in Dublin. The University of Dublin and Guinness Brewery were destinations for us but I don’t remember other specific streets, shops or churches. Maybe a bookstore near the University. Throughout the trip they mention Irish poets and writers. Dublin there are traces of George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and Sean O’Casey. Christine like me graduated from Boston College with a B. A. In English. I graduated in 1969; she in 1976.
For me “The Pipes are Calling” evoked the Irish countryside, small roads lined with hedges, wind and rain, rocky fields, peat moss, warm knit sweaters, pubs, friendly shop keepers and tidy bed and breakfasts, small villages, thatch roofed cottages, Irish music and of course step dancing. And so many shades of green.
But it’s another day and I just finished “The Sweet Life in Paris: delicious adventures in the world’s most glorious — and perplexing City,” by David Lebovitz. Diane spent significant time in Paris after graduating from college. I’ve enjoyed her stories but have never been there. I was familiar with Lebovitz through his book, “ The Perfect Scoop.” But I was drawn to “The Sweet Life” because it was a memoir with recipes. How delightful. David Lebovitz got his start in Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse. He became a well known pastry chef.
In 1999 he decided to leave San Francisco and move to Paris to live, cook and write. Each chapter explores an aspect of living in Paris. As much as he loves the city, Lebovitz is quick to point out how the culture is different, better sometimes, perplexing, even frustrating other times. The French don’t like to wait in line but will jump ahead and push behind you but then they always dress correctly, no sweatshirts and flip flops in public (at least among proper, traditional Frenchmen). Supermarkets are awful but the open air markets and speciality shops are fantastic. He describes his difficulty with language. Life in Paris is sweet but not always easy.
To really experience the city, David works for a while in poissonnerie or seafood market. But how to remove the every present stain, smell of fish from body and clothes. He has his favorite boulangerie to buy his morning baguette. Unfortunately he claims that French coffee is awful, make it yourself (or drink tea). Lebovitz real passion is chocolate and he takes another job, volunteer, in Patrick Roger’s, one of the best chocolate shops in Paris (and there seems to be many). But dealing with customers is more than he can handle. He is more into making and eating all forms of chocolate.
“The Sweet Life” explores to ins and outs of ordering in a French restaurant, do you want water? Why aren’t there enough public rest rooms? The lack of service in department stores, while clerks gossip and smoke. And then there are what he calls “Les Bousculeurs” — people pushing on the streets — not in all France, but Paris. At times I wonder why anyone would move to Paris. But then there is the wine, the cheese, the chocolate, a politeness, well dressed, friendly, once you’ve been around for some time, people, the Seine, the speciality shops, cafes and restaurants. David has stayed.
I’d like to go to Ireland again. I need to get out my photographs and check my journals to recall more of out trip in the 80s. It might be fun to read another one of Naill and Christine’s books. And then Paris. I’ve wanted to visit. I do plan on trying some of the many recipes in “The Sweet Life.” Many are desserts, many chocolate. I already ordered several pounds of chocolate from King Arthur. When I get freezer room I’ll make some Lebovitz ice cream.
And of course there are other books I can read or reread about Paris, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, India. So many places; so many dreams. And maybe, just maybe I can still board that plane.