Efharisto for a superb Greek experience

Sincere thanks to Con Lynch for sharing his memories of our trip to Greece and to Elizabeth O’Connell and others for the wonderful photographs.

Our Greek experience  – difficult to surpass

Consistent sunshine, imminently suitable mid-twenties temperatures, a superbly knowledgeable guide, well planned itineraries, effective scheduling, a forty plus group of spirited, adventurous forty pluses, singularly iconic world renowned sites to visit – historical, archaeological, religious, philosophical and theatrical, two top class hotels – all combined to make the Greek adventure of  RTAI Cork an experience that will be difficult to surpass.

Athens

During our sojourn in Athens from Wednesday afternoon to midday Saturday we enjoyed a guided tour of the Acropolis, the ancient citadel perched atop a hill overlooking Athens. It includes the Parthenon – a multi-columned, artistic, architectural, engineering  and structural wonder.

Parthenon
The Parthenon’s construction began in 447BC & was completed in 438BC, during the peak of the Athenian Empire. It is dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron.

Built (448BC – 432BC)to honour the goddess Athena it had practical use as the state treasury. The Erechtheion (421BC -) is another temple dedicated to Athena and Poisedon on the north side of the Acropolis.

The breathtaking all marble Panathinaikos Stadium was strikingly and unforgettably impressive. Built originally as a racecourse in 330 BC, it was refurbished to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympic Games (1896) and was the venue fouof the nine contested sports in thosgames.

From the Acropolis we could see the Agora, the ancient Greek market place which facilitated debate and discussion and we also contemplated Areopagus Hill, the high court of Athens, where St. Paul was taken and allowed to explain his teachings.

The Temple of Zeus (the father of Athena) also impressed indelibly and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (at the Presidential Palace) aroused the interest of many.

 

Our Well-informed Guide – Dimitra

We were fortunate to have a well qualified, well informed guide – Dimitra- who provided us with a steady flow of historical and geographical information during our daily bus tours. We learned that hills and mountains make up eighty percent of the country and that this was defensively beneficial during World War II when the Greeks managed to repulse an invasion by Mussolini’s Italian army.

It was in the mountains too that the Greeks conducted an ongoing guerrilla war against the German Nazi army and roadside monuments bear testimony to the memory of civilians executed in excessive and brutal retaliation.

Monument on way to DelphiWe stopped at one such monument on our day trip to Delphi. It showed strong resolute, armed Greek partisans emerging from the front of a large cuboid of marble, bearing the carved names of those massacred by the Germans.

Roadside Restaurants & the Oracle at Delphi

Dining at roadside restaurants was a feature of every excursion. Some of these were in spectacular locations with striking, memorable views. I think it is fair to say that we ‘ate like the locals.’ The food was reasonably priced and our hunger was satisfied. A tasty vegetarian dish featured prominently and was promoted on the Friday that we visited the historic site of the Oracle at Delphi and we learned from our guide that the members of the Greek Orthodox Church abstain from eating meat  on Wednesdays and on Fridays.

At Delphi we had seen the ruins of the 4th century BC Temple of Apollo, visited the  museum, climbed many steps and descended many more, filled our bottles with water from the Castalian Spring – water which I sipped slowly over the next few days to allow my body to adjust to its promised benefit i.e. to make us ten years younger (No signs of this yet I must confess, but perhaps it comes “dropping slow” like Yeats’ peace in Innisfree).

The museums of Athens were highly praised by all who visited them. The Archaeological Museum with its marvellous, well preserved 500 BC sculptures was a truly unforgettable experience. It is quite astounding to see the perfection of shape and form of items sculpted two thousand five hundred years ago.

Ice cream by the Canal and a visit to St. Paul’s Corinth

Our transfer to Tolo on day four enabled us to take a brief stop for food and some ice cream at the mouth of the twenty one metre wide, man-made Corinth Canal. This canal cuts across the Isthmus of Corinth to link the Gulf of Corinth in the northwest to the Saronic Gulf in the southeast.

We visited the ruins of  ancient Corinth where St. Paul lived for a while, practised his trade as a tentmaker, preached the gospel and made some Christian converts. After he had left he wrote to them two letters, excerpts of which are frequently read as epistles at the celebration of our Catholic Mass.

 

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Connecting with our past – a part of what we are

At this point, I could not help reflecting how our visit to Corinth was akin to the homecoming of a distant, generations-down descendant to an old ancestral homestead, a sort of linking of past and present, a veritable confirmation of the authenticity of scripture and a realisation of the sheer durability and truth of the Christian faith that has so influenced successive generations for two thousand years – even to the ends of the earth.

This vague sensation of homecoming, this reconnecting with a distant past probably also subliminally present in Athens which was the source of so much of what we are today – our philosophical thought and discourse, our sense of justice, our democracy, medicinal norms (Hippocrates) and mathematical theorems (the many leaky Pythagorus cups bought by our group supports this point).  For me personally it was that reconnecting with something of our ancient primordial past that made this holiday truly special and something unlikely to ever be surpassed.

 

Tolo, its magnificent harbour and ‘Christmas-Crib- like Island

The sea view from our hotel in Tolo was magnificent. There was a little rocky island about two hundred metres from the shore which was lit up at night giving it a ‘Christmas crib’ like appearance and adding a touch of magic to the land encircled bay – its opening to the wider sea evident only from the uniform direction of the bows of the boats anchored therein. It was here that so many of our spirited retirees took regularly to the waves while others enjoyed strolling along quiet street of this fairly isolated village of hotels, shops and restaurants.

 

A Mass Issue, Spetses Island  and Music in the Night air.

There was no Mass in the local Greek Orthodox Church that Sunday much to the disappointment of some in our group. The only option was to travel by taxi to another church for Mass (which normally lasts three hours) on the morning, but our schedule for breakfast and the departure time for our daily excursion made this impossible – but not so for our faithful guide. She travelled by taxi and made the necessary sacrifice to fulfil her obligation to attend Sunday mass. At breakfast  we enjoyed a spectacular sunrise over the hilltops across the bay before heading off to Spetses Island to explore, sample the food and enjoy yet another day of beautiful sunshine.

I think that the relative isolation of Tolo allied with its calm tranquility created a homely atmosphere and a coming closer and familiarity among the group. There was much high quality entertainment in the form of solo and choral singing. Thus, it was that the balmy evening Greek air was gently suffused with the wafting melody of the Wild Rover – sung in genteel and refined choral harmony. There were other songs sweetly sung and enjoyed by all.

Agamemnon’s Lofty Palace and the Incomparable Amphitheatre of Epidaurus

We travelled to the Argolis Region taking in Mycenae – one of the centres of Greek civilisation in the  second millenium  BC.  The Palace of Agamemnon is a magnificent archeological structure, built on different levels of a high rocky hill that affords  commanding and magnificent  views across the Argolid to the Saronic Gulf.  Agamemnon was commander of the Achaeans during the Trojan War. Entry to the palace is via the Lions’ Gate.

We rejoiced at the astounding amphitheatre of Epidaurus. Built in the 4th century BC, its original 34 rows had another 21 rows added by the Romans. It is admired for its amazing acoustics and all 14,000 spectators can intelligibly hear unamplified words regardless of the position of their seat within the amphitheatre.

 Greek Dancing and the Siege of Ennis

 It began with a Greek couple giving an exhibition of Greek dance.  While this was a work in progress, our committed guide taught the basic steps to some of our group. This all female  group joined the Greek couple on the dance floor and quickly refined and mastered  their newly acquired skills.

When the music changed and the belly dance was announced, they performed all moves admirably They were joined by some brave, intrepid males from our group and the speed and technical moves increased with intensity as talent shone through. Even the Greeks were impressed.

It was a fine artistic and respectable exhibition of the extensive range of talents of our group members. An award was subsequently bestowed on two outstanding performers – although it may have been the skill and dexterity and sheer energy of the Ionsaí na hÍnse that ultimately won the admiration of the Greeks.

An Lá Deireannach

Our last day was occupied by a guided excursion to the Byzantine fortress of Mystras which overlooks Sparta home of the legendary King Leonidas who was killed by the Persians while heroically defending his homeland at the Pass of Thermoplyae in 480BC.

The roadside restaurant at which we stopped for morning refreshments was memorable for its location and spectacular views and memorable too was the ‘backyard’ canopy covered restaurant in Sparta where we had our final afternoon Greek meal.  In the interim we visited an ancient church with impressive artwork within the fortress.

We finished our excursion with a walk about Sparta and some posed for pictures beneath the imposing , powerfully impressive statue of Leonidas – the mightiest and bravest and most gallant of heroes.

The entertainment and singing that night reached its climax with a rousing rendition of Mo Ghile Mear – Sean Clárach Mac Domhnaill’s  18th lament for Bonnie Prince Charlie who was then in exile.  After that our minds turned towards the journey home.

Wordsworthian Reverie

“For oft when on my couch I lie, in vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude……”
–   (Wordsworth’s “The Daffodils”)

Wordsworth was right and often since our return home the many and varied experiences of our Greek Holiday flash upon my inward eye – Athens, its acropolis and museums, Delphi home of the Oracle, Corinth where St. Paul preached, our hotel in Tolo with its fabulous views, many charming restaurants,  amazing amphitheatres, Sparta with its larger than life statue of the unshakeable, heroic Leonidas and the marble monument to Greeks murdered in reprisal by the German Army in World War II on the road to Delphi.

 

The goodness, kindness, sense of adventure and indomitable spirit of our group also features in my Wordsworthian reveries.  The dancing with joy and abandon appears and the singing too re-echoes still and then I wonder if the brave Leonidas is remembered in song.  After all there are songs to that wasteful Wild Rover who spent all his money on whiskey and beer, and the young cowboy who died for love and a rousing chorus for Bonnie Prince Charlie who never did anything for Ireland. So is there a song for Leonidas? Google cannot tell me?  I cannot ask himself, but even if I could, he would probably reply with his customary paucity of words – “Don’t need one” or just simply “No!” or just remain silent.

To everyone in the group, to Dimitra our superb guide, to RTAI Cork, and especially to tour organisers Frank Tobin and Mary Cahill – Efharisto and míle buíochas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October calendar

3rd – 10th Trip to the sights of Ancient Greece.

5th Social coffee morning. Clayton Silver Springs Hotel. 11 a.m.

 11th Amble in CobhHeritage Centre 11.30 a.m.

17th Hillwalk, Knockmealdowns.

18th Camera group outing to Gaggin.

19th Dermot Goode. Health Insurance talk. Midleton Park Hotel. 1.30 p.m.

25th Camera group meeting, SMA, Wilton. 2 p.m.

Ongoing events: Choir, Drama rehearsals, Line dancing, Art classes.

Spring trip to Birr, Meath and Dublin

The  Spring trip to Co.Offaly and Co.Meath will take place from Monday, April 30th to Friday, May 4th.

Monday April 30th: Depart from Patrick’s Quay, Cork at 10.00.

Visit Roscrea Castle and Damer House followed by lunch in the town of Roscrea.

15.00  Check into the County Arms Hotel, Birr  with dinner at 19.00 hrs.

Tuesday, May 1st: 

10.30 Shannon River Cruise to Clonmacnoise

12.00 Group visit Clonmacnoise Monastic Site

14.00 Back to Birr. Afternoon in Birr town. Visit Birr Castle and Observatory or take an historic walking trail around Birr

Wednesday, May 2nd: 

10.00  Lough Boora Discovery Park

13.00 Tullamore Dew Visitors Centre group visit  followed by lunch

15.00 Depart for Gormanstown, Co.Meath

17.00 City North Hotel check in followed by Dinner

Thursday, May 3rd: 

10.30 Depart hotel heading for Oldbridge House

11.00 Battle of the Boyne Visitors centre visit. Gardens of Oldbridge House and Victorian Walled Garden followed by lunch

14.00 Brú na Bóinne Visitors centre including a visit to Newgrange

19.00 Dinner at hotel followed by music in the bar

Friday, May 4th

10.00 Depart City North heading for Dublin City

11.00 Drop off in Nassau St. for some free time to enjoy local attractions

15.00 Depart Nassau St.

16.00 End of tour dinner in the Westgrove Hotel

22.00 Arrive back in Cork  (approximate time)

 

 

Trip to Dubrovnik

 

Recently 50 RTA Cork members and friends/spouses spent a week in Dubrovnik , Croatia. Exceptional weather ensured we saw the area at its best and let us partake in so many activities. We stayed at the hotel Valamar Club which had a lovely pool area, near a rocky beach. Nightly entertainment was provided but we made our own, Cork style! More anon.

Our brilliant informative guide, Suzanne took us on a half day tour of the old city of Dubrovnik with its spectacular surrounding walls, harbour area, cafe culture, museums,cable car and quirky shops. Some returned later in the week for concerts and other nightlife.

We had a days boat trip to the Eliphite islands with opportunities for walking, swimming and mighty Craic on board singing along with 2 musicians.

Awesome!
The breathtakingly beautiful , long and winding bay of Kotor, Montenegro.( 25km)
Sometimes referred to as a fjord , it is in fact a ria..a sunken river.

A tour to Montenegro brought us to the town of Kotor with its dramatic fortified walls protecting the old medieval buildings and squares within. A magical place indeed.

The Cathedral of St Tryphon, Kotor with Lovcen Mountain of the Dinaric Alps range in the background

The camaraderie among the group was extraordinary. No ‘singleton’was left alone. People grouped and regrouped and shared information on places to go, optional activities, taxi sharing etc.   This resulted in exploring Cavtat,a pretty harbour town reached by bus, taxi or ferry, the latter an experience in itself as we sailed into Dubrovnik harbour. A loop walk, swimming, eating and exploring or people watching kept us enthralled.

Some people went kayaking for some hours, others explored the island of Lopud and went on optional day tours to Mostar and Medugorje.

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After a substantial dinner buffet each night, some people went back into the city to attend concerts,listen to musicians outdoors and wander around in total safety. The rest of us made our own music outside a nearby pub and a huge thanks to those who had a vast repertoire of songs.

Hurricane Ophelia seemed so far away as we wallowed in 20 deg pristine clear seawater and 26 deg sunshine but concerns about property/power had to be suspended for the week. We arrived back to Dublin as storm Brian was arriving so reality hit immediately but plans are already being formed for 2018. As go brach linn aris le Cunamh De.

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Our Lady of the Rocks Church, on a man made ‘islet’ in Kotor Bay..(Long local legend)!!)Though it’s a Christian Church it looks somewhat like a mosque, this was so that any maritime invaders would mistake it for a mosque and not attack or destroy it.

 

Here is a slide-show of memories. Thanks to Eileen O’Driscoll and Mary Barnes.

 

 

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Events: October to Christmas 2017

October Events

2nd (Monday)   Choir practice 11.20 a.m.  SMA, Wilton.       Mary Fitzgerald

Drama rehearsal 4 – 6 p.m. SMA, Wilton.    Marian O’Callaghan

3rd (Tuesday)   Drama rehearsal 4 – 6 p.m. SMA, Wilton.                           

4th(Wednesday)  Art Class.   11.00     SMA, Wilton.        Claire Bradley

4th & 5th    Hill walkers:  2 days walking in Allihies, Beara Peninsula.  (Committee)

6th  (Friday)

Social Coffee morning: 11.00  Clayton Silversprings Hotel.    Padraig  O Conaill

Line dancing.      11.00  SMA, Wilton.     Marie Power

9th (Monday)    Choir a.m.       Drama 4/6 p.m. 

10th (Tuesday)   Drama 4pm /6pm

11th (Wednesday)  Art Class

12th (Thursday)  Amblers walk. Rostellan.  (Time to be notified by SMS)

13th  (Friday)     Line dancing.

Oct 13 /20  (Friday/Friday ) Dubrovnik Trip.   Frank Tobin/ Mary Cahill

13th (Friday)      Line dancing.

16th  (Monday)   Choir a.m.       Drama 4/6 p.m.

17th  (Tuesday)   Drama  4/6pm 

 18th (Wednesday)  Art Class

21st (Saturday)  Dinner and Show: Niamh Kavanagh (Eurovision winner) and her band The Illegals, play the  Hotel California album (The Eagles), as well as the Rumours album (Fleetwood Mac) in the Everyman Palace at 8p.m. Group rate €23 per person.

Early Bird options at Isaacs 5.30p.m.

Those attending may choose from 2-course (€23) or 3-course (€26) menu, or a la carte. To be paid directly at Isaacs.

Contact Mags McCarthy

23rd (Monday)   Choir a.m.            Drama 4/6 p.m.

24th (Tuesday)   Drama 4pm /6pm 

 25th (Wednesday)  Art Class

26th (Thursday)  Photography Group. SMA, Wilton. 2 – 4 p.m.   Mags McCarthy

27th (Friday)        Line dancing.

30th (Monday)  Choir a.m.         Drama 4/6 p.m. 

31st (Tuesday)  Drama 4 p.m. /6 p.m.

 

November Events

3rd (Friday)  Social Coffee morning  in Clayton Silversprings Hotel Padraig  O Conaill

6th (Monday)   Choir a.m.     Mary Fitzgerald

7th (Tuesday) 8 p.m.    “There Goes the Bell.” Performance by our Drama Group, at Cork Arts Theatre (CAT CLUB), Carroll’s Quay, Cork.

8th  Wednesday         Drama “There goes the Bell.” Second performance.

8th  (Wednesday)      Art Class. Claire Bradley

9th  (Thursday)   Amblers’ walk. Mahon. Marie Power

10th (Friday)      Insurance Talk by Dermot Goode.

                              ORIEL HOUSE HOTEL.     1.45 p.m.  Marie Dennehy

 13th (Monday)   Choir

14th (Tuesday)   Hill walkers. Mill Cove Walk.    Rosscarbery.    Committee

15th (Wednesday)       Art Class.

17th (Friday) Camera group shoot in Kinsale.

17th & 18th (Friday & Saturday) Drama. Saved by the Bell, C.A.T. Club. 8 p.m.

22nd (Wednesday)    MASS OF REMEMBRANCE 11 a.m.  ORIEL HOUSE HOTEL

                                      AGM 12.30 p.m.  ORIEL HOUSE HOTEL

                                      LUNCH 1.30 p.m.  ORIEL HOUSE HOTEL

27th (Monday)          Choir

29th (Wednesday)     Art Class

30th (Thursday) Photography group. SMA, Wilton. 2 – 4 p.m.

 

December Events

1st  (Friday)  Social Coffee morning.  Clayton Silversprings  Padraig  O Conaill

6th (Wednesday)     Art Classes   Claire Bradley

8th  (Friday)            Christmas Lunch. Hayfield Manor.   Marie Dennehy

14th (Thursday)     Amblers’ walk. Regional Park, Ballincollig.   Marian O Callaghan

Nollaig Shona agus Ath-bhliain fé mhaise!

 

Ar Bhealach an Bhoirinn

On September 5th, a group of approximately 30 RTAI Cork members arrived in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare at lunchtime. Having checked in to our accommodation at the Hylands Hotel, we were ready to head out for our first walk. A short drive took us to Fanore Beach, where we assembled, and after the “Rolla” we set out. After a short walk on road and path we followed our guide Marty Holland, into the Caher Valley. Interestingly, the Caher is the only river in the Burren that runs entirely above ground.

Leaving Cert Geography was brought to mind, as we remembered terminology we hadn’t heard in oh, so many years! The clints and grikes were scattered with erratics! We recalled transhumance, on hearing that cattle are wintered in the Burren to get the benefit of the limestone grazing. Later on we saw plenty of fossils of coral, too.

We almost escaped the rain! Fortunately for us, we were beside an old ruin when the heavens opened, so we could huddle together for a bit of shelter! The views across to the Aran Islands left a lot to the imagination, but we could just make them out through the mist. On our final turn downhill, we had a fine view of Fanore below us.

Back in Ballyvaughan, we were glad of a hot shower. Some of us wondered if we would be able to get out of bed the following morning – but never fear, the full compliment of hikers were up bright and early to tackle Mullagh More.

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Après-hike!

 

Mullagh More

On Wednesday, we drove out to Kilnaboy, passing the Poulnabrón Dolmen. From here we entered the Burren National Park, and began our steep ascent of Mullagh More. The terrain was much more demanding today, with loose stone and grikes to watch out for.  There were areas near the summit that required a bit of scrambling. With the support of each other we all managed it, though. The views were wonderful. We paused occasionally to take in the vistas below us; lakes, green patches and grey, grey stone. Some sharp-eyed members of our group spotted Fr. Ted’s house in the distance.

There was a palpable sense of achievement as we approached the final kilometre. Some hardy souls considered that a swim in the sea would be a fitting way to celebrate! With time to spare before dinner, some people went to visit the nearby Caherconnell Fort, others to the Dolmen, others enjoyed some retail therapy.

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Mary, Angela and Claire at Bishop’s Quarter.

The Flaggy Shore

On the third morning, a leisurely walk was planned along a stretch of coast known locally as the Flaggy Shore. Seamus Heaney’s poem Postscript is all you need to read if you want to know more about this beautiful place.

Thank You

Marty Holland (retired lecturer MICE) was our guide for the two days hiking in the Burren. He has indepth knowledge of the area as he walks there frequently. Marty has walked the coast of Ireland in an effort to raise funds for cancer research. You can read more about that amazing journey here.

Mary Cahill was the organiser of the entire Burren Experience. Hotel, meals, guide, walks and detailed advance information were all co-ordinated efficiently and without fuss. Go raibh míle maith agat, a Mháire.

Clare Shelley supported Mary in the advance preparations, and didn’t forget the whistle! Maith thú, a Chláir.

Go raibh maith agaibh, Pádraig Keating agus Helen Kiely as na griangrafanna a sheoladh isteach.