Beach Day in Youghal

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This week Jon is away on a business trip in the Ukraine so it’s just me and these two munchkins holding down the fort:

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I wanted to take a special “field trip” this week to help break up the time. We actually got some nice sunny weather in the middle of the week which reminded me of summer which reminded me of the beach…so, we went to the beach! Yes, it’s January and it’s still frigid out there, but the boys were up for the adventure. I decided to check out the beaches in Youghal (pronounced “yawl”) because they’re not too far from our house and I’ve wanted to go back there ever since we visited  the town’s medieval festival in August.

Our day started with a picnic lunch on the beach. Jacob approved.

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After lunch we spent a couple of hours playing on the beach. David had fun digging in the rocks and the sand:

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And the boys made themselves a “house” on top of this rock. David collected a few dozen rocks that he used as the “fire” and the “plates”. Jacob mostly just stomped around destroying everything that David tried to build.

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Once he’d tired of his menacing brother, David moved on to “sand sliding”. He loved climbing up this little sand dune and then jumping and sliding back down.

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After we’d had our fill of beach fun we decided to drive through the town before heading back home. Youghal is an ancient walled city and there are still some pretty cool relics from its medieval past.

We drove through this, Youghal’s clock gate. It was built in 1563 on the former site of Trinity Castle, one of the five principle gates into the walled city during the late 14th century.

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As we continued down the road we passed Tynte’s Castle. Now set among shops and restaurants on the main street of Youghal, Tynte’s Castle is a 15th century urban tower house–the last tower house that remains in Youghal today.

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Finally, we came upon the crowning glory of the medieval town: the town wall.

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The Youghal town wall was built in 1250 and it is the second-longest surviving stretch of town wall in Ireland. The sections of wall that still remain stretch for about 1 Kilometer–not bad for a fortress nearing its 800th birthday!

We had a grand time climbing to the top of the wall and peering out through the windows where guards used to patrol with bows and arrows.

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The view wasn’t too shabby, either:

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And, since David’s newest obsession is the Disney movie Tangled, we had to check out the tower to see if Rapunzel was hiding out inside (she wasn’t).

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After walking along the top of the wall we decided to climb back down and see what was on the other side. Just inside the wall is St. Mary’s Collegiate Church and Cemetery. What? A medieval cemetery? I just had to see this.

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While we were wandering through the cemetery we came upon this section of the medieval wall. See the coffin-shaped cutout in the stone work? A coffin actually used to reside there. This was the former location of the “pauper’s coffin”. When someone too poor for a proper burial would die, their family would first put their body into the pauper’s coffin. Then the body would be wrapped in a shroud, buried, and the pauper’s coffin would be returned to the wall for the next body. Craaaaazy.

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From the cemetery we continued down into St. Mary’s Church. The first church built on this site was a monastic settlement in the year 450. The church that stands today was begun in the year 750 and completed in 1220. The original Irish Oak roof is still intact and the timbers have been carbon dated to the year 1170–which means the roof was constructed before saw mills were even invented. Somebody (rather, somebodies) went out into the woods with an axe, cut down giant trees, and hewed each piece by hand to an exact size and shape before fitting it into the roof.  It’s incredible, really. And the church is beautiful–stained glass windows, intricate stone work, and fascinating tombs line the walls.

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After exploring the church it was time to go home. As we were heading out of town we passed by this restaurant, The Old Thatch. This restaurant has been in business since 1662. People have been drinking beer here since about the time the Mayflower set sail for the New World. I wanted to go in for a snack but, seeing as both boys had already conked out in the back seat of the car, I decided it was best to just keep driving.

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It was a wonderful day exploring with my two little sweeties. And now we’re one day closer to Daddy coming home!

Medieval Festival In An Ancient Walled City

This has been one of those wonderfully rare weekends that had just the right balance of fun, rest, and rejuvenation. On Saturday morning I basically got a mommy-vacation: I went grocery shopping by myself for two glorious hours (because it still takes me that long to figure out where to find things and what packaging to look for and convert prices from dollars/pound to kilograms/Euro so I know if the item is actually worth purchasing).

After my little “shopping spree” I went to our church for a women’s mini conference. It was a beautiful event with a talented speaker, heartfelt worship, and delicious food–including my favorite: scones (oh my, the scones here are to die for. Seriously, one of my favorite things about Ireland.  The fact that scones with jam and cream are a part of daily life makes living here 100% worthwhile).

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While I was at the conference noshing on scones, Jon took the boys to our local castle in Blackrock for a tour of the dungeons. Turns out, this was not nearly as cool as it sounds. The dungeons were not actually dungeons–it was just the basement, and had never been used as a dungeon at all. Very misleading. The boys enjoyed themselves as much as they could walking around an empty castle basement for half an hour, and at the end of the tour they got to go up to the top of the castle to check out the view (upon which David stated that he was going to throw his baby brother off the roof. We may need to work on the whole “brotherly love” thing).

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On Saturday night, Jon and I got to go out on our first date night since moving here to Ireland. A sweet girl from our church came over to our house and looked after our (sleeping) children so we could go out to a movie. It wasn’t the most unique date, but it sure felt nice to get away from our house and enjoy some time together.

The big event of our weekend, though, was the Youghal Medieval Festival. The event was in Youghal (pronounced “yawl”), an ancient walled city in County Cork where people actually lived during medieval times–how cool is that?!  There were lots of fun events going on at the festival: food, music, crafts and medieval demos. And lots of people dressed up in awesome medieval costumes. We forgot our costumes, but we tried to fit in as best as we could.

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We all enjoyed listening to the Youghal Pipers:

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And we got a great view of the town:

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When asked what his favorite part of the day was, David said it was “watching Mommy get scratched.” This is what he was referring to:

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They had a tent set up with all sorts of medieval torture apparatus and drawings showing how they used to be implemented. Gross. A little girl was manning this tent and she convinced me to help her demonstrate some of the apparatus. She literally tied me up to this torture board and started hacking at me with a foam axe. I was putting on a great show for the kids, cringing and writhing in pain each time her axe came down on me. It was all fun and games until my tormenter went over to her table of torture devices and picked up a real metal anvil. I quickly slipped out of my restraints before she could finish her demonstration.

I have suspected for quite some time now that our son is crazy. My suspicions were confirmed today. There was an arena set up for toy sword fighting. All of the kids were invited in to use foam swords to attack some guys in medieval garb. While all of the other kids rushed to attack their targets, David ran in the opposite direction and started “stabbing” an unsuspecting spectator (David is in the green shirt in the left side of this photo). Thankfully David’s victim wasn’t caught too off guard by David’s advances and he managed to fight off the wild little beast.

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After all of the excitement of the festival we had to get some nourishment. We ate grilled kangaroo (yes, the jumpy things from Australia–not totally medieval, but definitely different), sausages, pizza and ice cream. Yummmm…

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A very sweet weekend, indeed.