Monday, 30 May 2011

Ashton VSG vs Oliva Serie V Double Robusto

Saturday morning, 7:38am and it's time to send a drive down the first fairway.  With the tee shot out of the way, the next shot is 7 iron lay up, then a wedge over the water to the edge of the green.  A 20 foot putt and the ball is in the hole.  A birdie on the 1st is no bad thing but I was left wondering why I bothered ordering a shiny new putter the day before, when my old one had just done that.  Oh well, no harm in having a back up putter I suppose.

A few pars, multiple bogeys, another birdie, and two double bogeys later, victory was mine and I was home in time for brunch.

The plan for the rest of the day? Smoke an Ashton VSG, chillax for a bit, smoke an Oliva Serie V Double Robusto, then watch the Champions league final.  Not the worst plan I've ever had.

After reading good reviews on both cigars, I decided to pick up a few during the week.

I've had a couple of Oliva cigars previously but not the double robusto and never anything by Ashton.  Both cigars are great looking, with lovely rich brown colours and both firm to the touch.

To accompany the cigars, I went for a St. Peters brewery golden ale they call "Golden Ale".  A strong ale but not strong in taste, which was light and fresh, going very well with both cigars.

The VSG (Virgin Sun Grown) was first to be smoked.  This was boxed pressed, had a lovely wrapper with little veining and in general, a good looking cigar.  I had no problems at all during the smoke and it remained enjoyable from start to finish.  Plenty of smoke, good draw, nice and relaxing.  I really enjoyed this one and got right down to the nub before reluctantly letting it go.

The Double Robusto was just as good as the VSG.  Another great looking cigar, firm and a joy to smoke.  It did tunnel on me and had to be cut and re-lit but it was such a good cigar, that didn't bother me.  Lots of generous smoke and I think I've found a new favourite, at least until Macanudo 1968's become available over here.

To sum up, both are fantastic cigars, both have their unique qualities and both are highly enjoyable.  I think the Oliva edged it for me simply because it has a size I like but there really is nothing to choose between the two.

The Golden Ale wasn't bad either.  Shame about the football.

The Ashton VSG

More of the Ashton

Friday, 27 May 2011


The car is back from the garage, all fixed up and good as new.  Sort of.  Good as new apart from the nasty damage down the left hand side.  Big nasty gouges along with lots of smaller nasty gouges kinda takes the shine off it a bit.

Thankfully, they put their collective hand in the air and said sorry.  I didn't make a fuss.  Accidents happen, such is life.  No point crying about these things, once they repair the damage. 

While I made my way to the garage, I was accosted by a man in a suit trying to sell me cigarettes.  Cigarettes?  Surely not.  Well, no, it wasn't cigarettes he was pushing.  It was electonic cigarettes or E-Fags for short.  Now, ok, it's not like he was trying to sell me Marlboro's, but just because it's not made from tobacco, does that make it right?  I for one think not.

They dress it up and pretend it's an aid to giving up smoking.  It's not.  It's just another trap.

I'm all for people giving up smoking.  I smoked the ciggies for over 20 years and only stopped smoking last August, so I'm speaking from experience, but I do have a problem with the gums, patches, pretend cigarette nicotine inhalers or whatever guise these props come in.  They don't work.  If they did work, people would use them once and stop, but they don't.  They may help some people but if they did actually work, then the manufacturers wouldn't get any repeat business, and there's no money in that.

Anyways, as everybody knows, cigars are a totally different thing and as I type up this rant, I'm smoking my first ever Oliva Serie V Double Robusto, and what a lovely thing it is too.  You know where you can stick your electronic smoke stick Mister!  My actual words were  "I don't smoke" humph.

Rant over, now back to the Oliva.  I like this cigar.  It's a firm stick, good looking, not overly veiny and this one lit perfectly.  I've enjoyed about a quarter of it so far and the burn has been perfectly even, producing a generous amount of smoke.  I'm not sure about the taste because I burnt the roof of my mouth eating dinner earlier and I'm not very good with tasting notes anyway, but it's pleasant all the same.  It's actually very pleasant and if ever a cigar felt like it would only get better with age, then this is definitely one.

Electronic cigar?  I don't think so.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Last of the Spring Cigars

Roll on the Summer cigars!

I'll remember Spring 2011 for a number of reasons.  The number one memory will always be the 3 months off work spent with the baby, which goes without saying was the best thing ever.

Another great memory I'll take from it is the many cigars I've enjoyed.  Not just the cigars, but everything that went with smoking them. 

I've got one weekend left and weather permitting, I'll get to enjoy a few more before I have to rejoin the rat race, which brings me to the final care package which arrived this morning.

Fox's of St. James threw in an additional cigar to make up for the disappointment of the last order.  It looks like an Oliva Serie V Maduro Short Robusto, Edicion Europa 2010 to be precise.  I think they've made up for it with that.

The picture below shows the stash, with the complimentary cigar on the left.  The God of Fire beside it will be left alone for a while and so that leaves an Ashton VSG and a Oliva Double Robusto for the weekend.  I like to start my weekends on a Thursday.

The weather today has been mostly torrential downpours with high winds and lightning.  Great fun but not conducive to cigar smoking.  Thankfully though, there was a lull in the onslaught and I took full advantage.

I knew it would be a small window of opportunity so I went for the free cigar, which is smaller than the rest.  It didn't disappoint but things got a bit cold in the garden.  This weather we're having caused flights to be cancelled at Heathrow but it didn't stop me giving it a go.

The cigar needed a bit of coaxing to get going but only needed touching up once.  A good burn after an early fail but the weather conditions didn't help and it was slightly damaged, see pic below.  The draw was a bit tight throughout but not too bad and it did produce a decent amount of smoke.  All in all, OK but I don't think I'd go and buy any of these as I think there's better cigars out there for the price, which is around £12.  I much prefer the Luis Martinez Churchill it replaced and that was a snip at £10 a pop.

Here's hoping the weather improves for the weekend.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Time is Running Out

With only 1 week to go before I return to the day job, the blues are kicking in big time.  Going back to work is one thing, I mean, I'm not exactly looking forward to it but I'm not dreading it either. Well maybe a little bit.

I've spent the last 3 months hanging out with my man, taking him to the park, changing his nappies (aka diapers), going for walks, feeding and dressing him.  Then some days at nap time, if the sun was being good, I might spend an hour with a nice cigar, and if the sun was being really good, a nice cold brew to go with it.

Those days are now pretty much gone.  The boy is in creche having the time of his life.  He runs off and grabs the nearest fire engine or racing car, and I'm forgotten about in seconds.

It's not all bad though.  One last order is on the way, one more special package before I'm forced back at the grindstone.

The order is for 5 x Oliva Serie V Double Robusto, 5 x Ashton VSG Robusto and 1 x God Of Fire Carlito Double Robusto 2006.

I've had a couple of Oliva cigars in the past and remember enjoying them but I've never had the Double Robusto.   Ashton and the God of Fire are totally new to me.

I went for the GoF because of a blog and review done by Cigar Craig which gives it the thumbs up, so if it's good enough for him, then it's probably too good for me.  Please click on Cigar Craig above or opposite for that review.

I went for the Ashton and the Oliva cigars in equal measures because I have reps from both cigar companies now following me on twitter, so I think it's only fair to share.  I have to thank Craig and Bear Duplisea for that, as both of them tweeting my blog.

The cigars are on their way from Fox of St. James, which given their reputation, should come in perfect condition.  I'm hoping that the last cigars (and first) I got from them were a one off and not an indication of the norm.  These were unsmokable and fell apart.  I was offered a free cigar with my next order, which is this one, so I'm hoping that makes up for it.  I will of course be posting what happens later in the week.

The cigar pictured below was smoked, by me, a couple of weeks ago.  It's another of the cigars the wife got me in Dublin.  I don't know what it is or where it came from as it didn't have a band, but it was certainly one to remember.  She did get the name but I can't make out what the guy in the shop wrote down, so I guess I'll just have to pop into the shop next time we're home, and get another one.  That way I can ask them to write it down again.  It'd be rude not to.

The cigar itself was slightly damaged here and there, with little cuts and small bits of wrapper peeling back.  The wapper was very light and thin and the cigar felt huge in the hand.  I didn't expect much due to the damage but to be fair to the cigar, the damage didn't make any difference.  This was a beautiful cigar from start to finish.  Full of flavour, very choclatey and smooth.  A joy to smoke.  Wish I have some more.  It's lasted around 90 minutes and I could quite happily have done another 90 minutes.  A perfect role which was fully appreciated at the time.  This one was put together by somebody who knew exactly what they were doing.  A fantastic blend and role with a perfect burn despite the damage.  10 out of 10.

Away on his toes

Mystery Cigar

Monday, 23 May 2011

Down with this sort of Smoke

While we were in Dublin recently, the wife got me a whole heap of cigars, and out of all the lovely cigars she got me, I've got one left.  Without knowing it, I think I've saved the best till last.

This cigar is not listed at any of the shops I usually buy from in UK and after googling it, it appears to be a bit of a rare find.

The cigar is an Arturo Fuente Anejo "Shark". have done a great review, which is here Shark, but to give you a quick synopsis, it's hand rolled by just one person, a lady know as "The Shark Lady", it's released only once a year, at Christmas time, and the 7 year old wrapper spends 8 months in a cognac barrel. 

After Saturday night out with the wife,  I felt like I spent 8 years in a cognac barrel.

Saturday started fine.  I went off to the driving range and hit a few golf balls.  On the way back, I eased up at a junction, letting a car out of in front of me.  A small truck behind him pulled out a bit then stopped.  I looked at him wondering why he wasn't moving...he was saying something but I couldn't hear him as I had the radio up too loud...I turned it off and heard him say "tires" and "smoke"...I continued to look at him, not comprehending what he was on about...then he shouted, loudly..."Mate, your tyres are on fire!!!"  Oops.  Now I noticed the smoke.  I switched the engine off and got out.  The tyres were not on fire but the car had dumped a bucket of transmission fluid on the road.  Not good. 

With the car out of action, I needed cheering up once I got back to the house.  A cigar and a beer in the garden did the job.  The sun was out and the beer was cold which is all I really ask of my Saturday afternoons.

We had a table booked for 7pm at the Sky Lounge at the Mint hotel near the Tower of London.  The sun was still out but it was bit windy and things got nippy once the sun ducked behind the neighbouring buildings.  We managed to squeeze in a main course and a couple of drinks before the cold and wind became too much to bare.

The outside space on the roof is split into a smoking and non-smoking section which is a free for all, so you can't pre-book these tables.  It was such a lovely evening that the waiter when off and got us a table on the roof, which was a nice touch.  There's not a lot available on the food menu, but it was very tasty and really good cocktails are available.  Beers are all bottled and a bit pricey so I went for a mojito to start followed by an 8-year old Cuban rum with my Partagas Serie D No. 4 apres burger.

We found a nice secluded spot which was more sheltered from the wind, away from the table area and we took in the view while I enjoyed the cigar.

The food at the Mint was lovely.  My burger was delicious, juicy and big.  The wife had an Asian salad that was just as tasty.  I think we have a new venue for the Doyles next time they visit, but I'd recommend the mint for lunch rather than dinner.

After the Mint, we headed off to the local pub for few more pints and another Partagas for me.

The Partagas cigars were from a box of 10 picked up in Switzerland for me by @JimmyBloor.  Lovely cigars which are in great shape.  The No.4 is one of my favourites, introduced to me in Luxembourg and a cigar that has never let me down.  The burn is probably a bit quick, then again, maybe it's an indoor cigar rather than outdoor but I've noticed a significant difference in smoking time between the No. 4 and a Ramon Allones Specially selected.  That could be down to weather conditions or something else with the cigars, I don't really know but I think I'll have to continue with my research just to be sure.

I think that's it for us as far as nights out go.  The pain of the hangover the following day is too much, especially at our age, then having to deal with a baby who doesn't care about such things.

Many thanks to Nora the babysitter who took care of the boy while we were out enjoying ourselves. 

Tower Bridge

The Gerkin

The Shard

A Brew
Special Stick

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Cat who could Fly

Since arriving back from the Motherland, our baby has been up most mornings at around 4am, screaming his head off.  He starts screaming and doesn't stop until somebody picks him up and gives him a cuddle.  Mostly though, when I pick him up, he screams even louder and throws a few punches.  It's not until the wife shows up, that he stops and falls back asleep.  But, and there's always a but, as soon as we put him back down, he's off again with the screaming and the crying.  

Unfortunately for me, it mostly ends with me staying up until 7am or later until he falls back to sleep and stays that way when I put him down.

Most mornings, the cat will show up looking for food or something, and always just as the baby was back to sleep.  She would pop up at the door, glare at me, then start beating the crap out of the door with her paws, while doing her own demented scream... MEEEOOOOWWWWAAAAAAAA!!!

So one morning while the cat was in full flow, I put the baby down, then slowly opened the back door while at the same time swinging my right foot at the cat's midsection.  The cat however, sensing danger, backed off and I scored a miss.  She then proceeded to run to the safety of the back garden wall.  I gave chase, grabbing the garden brush on the way.  The cat reached the top of the wall and sat there, smugly looking back at me, thinking she was safe.  Not so.  I jabbed a right with the brush and sent her flying.

I strode victoriously back to the house, hoping that none of the neighbours had been watching.

Now, before you start calling the animal cruelty police, the cat is fine and still loves me very much but you would think she might have learned a lesson, but no, she continues to spring up at the window during these sleepless sessions, on the off chance I'll let her into the house or give her food or something...then again, maybe she just likes a good chase.

I kept myself sane during the evenings with some Rocky Patels the lovely wife picked up for me in Dublin. A Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Maduro and a non-Maduro Old World Reserve.

I've had one RP cigar in the past and I have to say I wasn't overly impressed.  These two turned out to be more of the same.  The maduro to be fair wasn't too bad but it did produce a hell of lot of brown which stained my hands and probably stained my face too.  The non-maduro was boring at best.  I don't know what it is, maybe it's my own personal taste but Rocky Patel's just don't do it for me.  If anybody out there can make recommend a good RP stick, I'd appreciate it.

Going back to the brown stain coming from the maduro.  There generally is some staining from the maduro when it gets wet, but this one was all over the place, like actually playing with brown paint.  It didn't affect the smoke and to be honest it didn't actually bother me at the time as the smoke was good enough.  In fact, it probably made the smoke more interesting than it actually was.

So that's three Rocky Patel's that looked great but didn't smoke great.

No cats were harmed during the making of this blog

Thursday, 19 May 2011

They think it's all over...well it isn't quite over just yet

The last cigar of the trip home was enjoyed in the shed at my parents house.  The shed fills the bottom quarter of the back garden so it's not a bad place to enjoy a cigar, especially when a few beers are involved.  This time it was the Arturo Fuente Churchill, the one with the flamboyant tube that was picked up in Galway.

Now this was a great cigar.  I'm not entirely sure but I think this is my first Fuente, and it definitely won't be my last.  I'll be looking to pick up a few more over the next few months.

This was a really smooth cigar, great burn and full of smoke.  No problems at any stage and I smoked it right down to the nub.  See for yourself below.  The picture also shows the golf bag the Brother-in-law gave me.

There are two cigars I haven't mentioned yet, one smoked during the trip and one just after we got back to the UK, both bought in Dublin.  These were new cigars to me and this is what I thought...

The first one was a Te Amo World Selection Series Nicaragua Blend.  This was my first Te Amo and although the cigar had a consistent burn it didn't excite me in any way and I grew bored of it by about half way through.  I'll give them another try some time in the future but I'm in no great rush.  It looked good and felt good but as we all know, looks aren't everything.

The other new cigar was a Bauza something or other.  Not sure what exactly but it was approximately Robusto sized.  This was a lovely cigar to smoke and another one for the humidor in the future.  This one also went down to the nub which is always a good sign.

That about wraps it up for the trip home.  I had lots of cigars, nights out on the town and we drove over 1800 miles.  We spent quality time with friends and family, dropped in on some relations unannounced, relations I hadn't seen in years.  We saw new places, Fr. Ted's house and made new plans for the next trip.

Roll on September.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A close shave

I had the beard growing for the best part of 8 weeks and a fine beard it was too.  Some people are unable to grow beards. Not me though, my beard was a full beard, with flecks of grey, a bit itchy now and then, but it grew on me. Ba-dum-tish!

I'd already decided to get rid of it before I was due back at work.  So what better place to do it than Sam's Barber shop where I was spoiled rotten with a hot towel treatment, followed by a shave with a cut-throat razor, then an Indian head and upper body massage to finish.

Sam began with a quick tidy up of my hair (the bit left on my head) and then shaved off the beard with a clippers in a matter of seconds.  A lemmy was offered but politely refused.  It was strange to see the beard, something that had take some time to grow, taken off my face so quickly.  There one minute, gone the next. Oh well.  It was also strange to see how white the face was where the beard had been, compared to the sunkissed non-hairy rest of my face.

Anyway, Sam started off the hot towel treatment before finding something better to do, and handed me over to the expert hands of a lovely lady who did the shaving and massage.  They didn't spare the hot towels either.  I think no fewer than 8 hot towels were used during the making of this shave.

To top it off, Sam wouldn't take payment, telling me it was on the house.  Sam being a close friend of my brother probably had something to do with it, rather than the fact I came in looking like a charity case.

I was actually a bit out of it after such a relaxing experience.  Apparently, people often leave the shop, walk left, then regain their bearings and walk back the other way, a bit dazed.  I know how they feel, and I recommend it.

We waved goodbye to Sam and headed home.  A quick stop at the house and we were back into town to meet a friend for coffee and to show off the baby.  The wife went off to pick up three cigars for later on, when we would be meeting Raul the wise and Johnny D, and I went off with the baby to catch up with our friend Linda.

When the wife returned, I was nicely surprised to see what else she had with her.  Apart from the three cigars which were to be smoked by the three amigos later, she picked up another 11 cigars, some Rocky Patel's, Romeo y Julietas and some new ones I never heard of before.

After coffee and a lovely catchup with Linda, we were back to the house.  I waited about 5 minutes before running off to have one of the new cigars at the brothers house.  I chose a Macanudo Maduro which I'm happy to report was fantastic.

I was impressed with Macanudo maduro.  Macanudo might be one of the biggest sellers in the U.S. but I don't believe they're as popular over here, not yet anyway.  This particular maduro was a slow burner, sweet as expected, full of smoke.  It had a creamy choclate and coffee taste and was one of the most enjoyable cigars I've had in a while.

A couple of beers later and we were on our way into town to meet our friends.

We had a special surprise in that an Johnny D flew in from Luxembourg at short notice, just to have a cigar with myself and Raul.  There may have been some other reasons for the visit, I can't quite remember, but I'm pretty sure that a cigar with the boys was the main and most important one. 

Johnny brought some Ramon Allones Specially selected with him which we went with, while Raul tried his best to teach me how to pronounce Allones correctly...Ahyoneyz...or something like that.  We had a blast, more of our friends showed up and things kept going until around 1am when we called it a night.

On the way home, myself, the wife and the brother were in a taxi which had to stop behind a car that appeared to be abandoned.  After 5 minutes, my brother got out to investigate with me following him a minute later.  It turned out the car was an unmarked police car.  When the two brave policemen returned, I politely suggested that they could have parked up on the pavement instead of blocking the road.  They didn't respond very well to this and as a result, I was nearly arrested.

So a close shave with a blade to start the day and a close shave with the law to end it.

A Lemmy

Macanudo Maduro

Peter the holder of my Pint, Gilly D, Johnny D, Raul the Wise, Derek the Hidden, el Wife, Kaz the Acrobat

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Goodbye Galway hello Dublin

We were winding up our week in Galway and getting ready to head back to Dublin, but before we hit the road, we dropped into town to visit McCambridges.  McCambridges is a nice shop selling select goods, foods, wines etc and who also stock a small humidor.  As far as I know, its the only shop humidor in Galway which is a bit rubbish to be fair, so well done McCambridges.

Dublin appears to be the main place for cigars and I think McCambridges get their supply from one or two of the shops there.  They're also around 20% more expensive than Dublin.  This being the case, I selected something I hadn't seen in Dublin and went for an Arturo Fuente tubed Churchill.  It was mainly the tube that attracted me, which was beautifully ornate.  It certainly wasn't the price that attracted me, at €22 a stick.  I decided to go for it as it wasn't overly exorbitant.  At the till, the nice young man who was serving me said  "Oh sorry sir, my mistake, its actually € eh, that OK?"  I shrugged, I tut-tutted, I paid the man.

We had a great time in Galway, saw the sites, drank some Guinness and played lots of golf.  I met up with my cousin Declan who took me out to play Gort Golf Club.  A wild windy day and he was a bit knackered after working a night shift but I enjoyed the day out and hope to get out again with him, on a less breezy day if possible.

One of the brothers-in-law, Cillian (pronouced Killian), plays off a 9 handicap, so it goes without saying that he's pretty handy around a golf course.  Apart from knocking in an eagle on one Par 5 we played, he also insisted I take a golf bag of his back to London to replace my old pencil bag.  A fine bag with lots of pockets.  Too many pockets perhaps...

After the first day out on the golf course, we got back to the house and I couldn't find my phone.  My nice new HTC HD7 Windows phone with all my photos of the trip.  I checked everywhere, the golf bag, the car, the house, the car, the golf sign...I borrowed another phone and called my answer...I went to the car and called...nothing...I went to the golf bag and called...still nothing...I pictured my poor phone all alone on a golf course and remembered I left it on silent as this would be proper etiquette for golf.  Never again will I make that mistake.

So the phone was nowhere to be found.  Cillian suggested we head back to the golf club, get a buggy and drive around looking for it.  And that's exactly what we did.  We checked at the clubhouse, informing all and sundry that a phone had been lost on the course, then we set off.  We started at the 10th hole and checked all the way back to the 18th, asking everybody en route, and ringing several times.  No joy.

As we came back up to the clubhouse, things were looking bleak.  Darkness was closing in as were some nasty looking clouds.  I felt all was lost for my poor phone, helpless and alone out there.

I suggested we take a quick look in the car again before heading over to the first hole.  I lifted the golf bag out of the car and handed it to the Cillian to check.  I took to the car.  Nothing found in the car so I turned to the Cillian who said "No sorry, I think your phone's had it..." I was crestfallen, as he handed me back my phone.  Yes, you guessed it, it was in the bag the whole time.

Thank God for my idea to go back to check the car.  I owe myself big time there.

I owe Cillian for finding the phone, for the golfbag and for not calling the local newspapers and radio stations with the story of the century.  I'd also like to thank the Cillian, my cousin and the Father-in-law for paying my green fees each time we went out.  A more generous bunch of people you would not find anywhere.

Another little nugget before I move on from Galway and never let it be said that my blogs are not educational, if nothing else.

The picture below is of a window where it is said, the word "Lynching" originated.  The story goes that a 15th century Mayor called Lynch (no surprise there), hung his son from the window of his house after finding out the son had committed a murder.  I don't think this is the original window or even the original site or even if the story is true or not, but an interesting factoid nonetheless.

Cheerio Galway, see you in September.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Don't tell Me I'm still on that fecking island!

We had enough of Connamara and decided a trip south was the way to go.  So with only one destination in mind, we set off to find the most famous house in all of Ireland.

I don't know why but I expected to find the place swarming with people and road signs for miles around pointing the way, but not one sign did we see and only one man, and he was lost.

We eventually found what we were looking for, pretty much in the middle of nowhere but what a beautiful site to behold.  We took a few happy snaps and minutes later we were gone, only to be stopped a few hundred yards down the road by a motorist.  We pulled up alongside and he asked us for directions to Ballymilkymoo, which was really just a pretext.  After telling him to follow the road until it ends, then take either a left or a right, not sure which, he dropped the question that he really stopped to ask...So eh, is the house where they did the filming..? Yes yes, just down down the road there, you can't miss it.  Bye we said as we waved the happy camper on his way.

On the way back, overjoyed with what we had just witnessed with our bare eyes, we dropped into in see the Autograph Tree in Coole Park, Gort.

The autograph tree is a huge copper beach that has been signed by some of the most important literati of 19th and 20th century Ireland.  I've included some pictures below, one of which shows who signed it and where.

The cigar of the day is an unknown.  It was one of the cigars the wife picked up in Dublin but I don't know what it is, so answers on a postcard please.

Now for those of you looking at the picture of the house and are thinking "huh?", see the following link...  Fr. Ted.

Fr. Ted is a sitcom about three priests living on a remote island off the west of Ireland.  It ran from 1995 to 1998 and is loved by millions around the world, particularly in Ireland and the UK.  In my opinion, it's one of the funniest comedy programs ever created and in case you didn't notice, most of my blogs about the trip to Ireland have contained Fr. Ted references.

...and for those of you looking at the picture of the man with the beard and are thinking "huh?" well that's a rare photograph of me.

Night, Dougal.
Night, Ted.

They've taken the roads in.

After a successful trip to the wilds of Connemara, we decided to take a different route and headed up the east side of Loch Corrib, towards the Galway-Mayo border.

First stop was Ashford Castle who were charging €10 to view the grounds only.  So with no access to the castle and no coffee or tea available, we decided to give it a miss.  We'd been a couple of years ago, so been there done that.  We reversed out and sped off, leaving a trail of dust and tyre smoke in our wake.

That said, there are repairs going on at Ashford Castle, which is the reason there was no access to the castle for non-residents.  It is well worth the visit if you ever have the chance.  Pierce Brosnan had his wedding here so that alone is surely reason enough.

We drove off with no real destination in mind, just a vague idea.  When I say we, I mean I had no idea.  The wife knew exactly where she wanted to go and I just did as I was told.  We crossed the Galway - Mayo border a few times, picking Finney as a good a place as any to stop off for a spot of tea and a cigar.  

The road out to Finney went from two lanes to one lane to half a lane.  There were narrow bridges, wild sheep and potential death traps everywhere.  I love that sort of driving.  Rally Ireland as I like to call it.  

After a hour or so dodging death, we stopped at a pub for some refreshments.  We ordered coffee and were treated to Nescafe gold blend in chipped mugs.  I fancied a pint so we ditched the coffee for two delicious pints of the black stuff.  These were lovely and if I wasn't driving, I could have happily spent the rest of the day there sinking pints.

We took our drinks to the veranda where I smoked one of the Grafton reserve cigars.  A lovely little stick that burns well and smokes well.  Can't really complain about this one.  Exclusive to the Irish market and grown from Cuban seed somewhere outside of Cuba.

The view was of the side of a mountain, beautifully cut with little streams and dotted with little sheep.  They weren't really little sheep, they were just far away.  How on earth the farmer rounds these guys up I'll never know, but he must have an army of sheep dogs to help him.  This is not a job for one man and his dog.

We called it a day and headed back to the city.

I had developed a bit of a taste for the pints so we went out early to the pub that night.  I brought one of the Vegafina Robustos that Raul the wise had given me in Dublin.  This is another lovely cigar.  A sweet Dominican which is on now my list of favourites.

So that was another nice day out in and around Galway.  It helps when the sun is shining and it was so we took full advantage.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

How come all the rocks are different sizes?

The wife hails from Galway as do the rest of her family.  Galway, or Connemara to be more precise, is a stunning part of the world, full of lakes, rocks, mountains, harbours and tourists.  Apart from the tourists, its the thousands of lakes and the millions upon millions of rocks that catch your eye.

We took a spin out to Connemara visiting Aughnaure Castle, Ballynahinch Castle and Roundstone

On our way out to Aughnaure Castle, we got stuck behind a slow driver, one of those people who drives at around half the speed limit, even though the road is straight, wide and flat.  This guy was doing 60KPM on a 100KPH road and managed to create a train of over a dozen cars in the space of 5 or 6 miles.  I sat behind unpatiently, cursing the man under my breath...well maybe not totally under my breath...but as we were taking a turn off for the castle, we would soon be rid of this slow fool...Captain Slow took the turn ahead of me.  We had maybe two miles of a narrow country road to the castle and Captain Slow was promoted to General Slow.  He ambled along while behind him, I was darting from left to right, filling his mirrors while screaming "Comon! Comon!  FFS!!".

As we entered the car park, I tore past him and parked two spaces up.

I looked to my left in order to see what this tool looked like only to find him staring across at me...I looked away.  Round 1 of the staring competition to Mr. 3rd Gear...I got out of the car and stretched...My enemy got out of his car and stretched...I look over at him and he looks over at me...I was bigger, younger and had a beard...he looked away...Round 2 to me...We walk off to the castle...we get there first...I win he loses...In your face Mr. Shorty-no-beard.

Aughnaure castle is an old castle type house from the 16th century, of which there are around 200 in Galway alone.  Most are just ruins but this one still has floors and a roof.  The grounds or rather the small river that circles the castle, is absolutely gorgeous and worth the €3 entry fee.

Next stop was Ballynahinch Castle. This place is a working hotel set on stunning grounds with a river running past it.  It sits high up on a valley just shy of a 90 degree turn in the river.  There was a nice homely feel to it and if you like fly-fishing, then this is the place to be.

We stopped here for a coffee and as the sun was out and we had such a nice view, I decided a cigar was in order.  I went for the Macanudo 1968 as it was all I had with me.  A bit too much cigar for a coffee and coke but enjoyed all the same.

We then drove to Roundstone and stopped for more coffee but didn't hang around as it was too windy to really enjoy the place.  Further along the road, we stopped briefly at a beach which was ferociously windy so we had our coffee in the car.  We decided to call it a day and head home.  The drive back was about 90 minutes so we stopped and picked up some hitcher-hikers for company.  They were French.

All in all, we had a nice day out in Connemara and would recommend this as one of the places everybody should visit at least once in their lifetime.

Aughnaure Castle

Ballynahinch Castle

Macanudo at Ballynahinch Castle

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

I was wearing my Blue Jumper

We rounded off the week in Dublin with a trip to the Zoo.  I wore my blue jumper.

Dublin zoo is the 3rd oldest zoo in the world and the 2nd oldest scientific zoo in Europe after London zoo.  I won't tell you what the oldest zoo in the world is because this is not a zoo, that's all I'll say.

Dublin zoo is where my Grandfather and Uncle worked and so we spent many a happy day there as kids.  Apparrotly,  I got lost there twice.  You see what I did there?

Another nugget is that Dublin zoo produced the first lion to be used as the famous MGM "Leo the Loin" mascot.  Raar.

Anyway, the sun was out as myself, the wife and baby, my sister plus her 3 kids headed off to the zoo.  There isn't a lot really to say about it apart from we all had fun and saw some animals. 

We then went for lunch and the kids had some play time.  I then visited my Grandmother and then after that, went to the brothers house for a well deserved cigar and beer..

The cigar was the Macanudo 1968 and the beer was Guinness.  Both were lovely.  I've mentioned the Macanudo previously and once again it didn't disappoint.  Great cigar.  I've got one left in the humidor and already I can see it being a struggle leaving it alone.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

"To the Mainland"

After a enjoyable and victorious day on the golf course with Mikkel, the plan for the evening was to meet up with the MJ's and their lovely Spanish friends, plus Jackie and Libby, for a knees up in Temple Bar.

Jackie lives way out in the sticks and was unable to get a lift back to civilisation so it wasn't looking good.  Thankfully though, we brought our car with us on the ferry, so we went and fetched her.

The venue for the evening was "The Garage".  A great little pub if you don't mind sawdust on the floor or unisex toilets.  The smoking section at the front is reasonably good. I spent most of the night there.

The cigars for the evening were the Grafton reserve and a new one for me, a Macanudo 1968.  The 1968 was the discovery of the trip for me, a great cigar.  Big, very big.  An all round great smoke that lasted for almost 2 hours, burning consistently throughout after taking only a few minutes to get going.  I did bring some of these back with me to the UK and will set about finding a cheaper source than Dublin for my next batch.  All this was thanks to the wife who kept me supplied me throughout the trip. 

I was unable to source the 1968's in the UK, so I contacted  and according to them, they're due to be released to the UK market sometime late May.  I look forward to it. 

"Going to America"

The second game of golf played on the trip home to Ireland was at the K Club with Mikkel, my old friend and golfing rival.  I nearly always meet up with Mikkel for a game of golf when home in Ireland, a tradition stretching back about 8 years or so now.

The K Club is famous for staging the Ryder cup in 2006 and still milking it for all it's worth.  I was at the Ryder cup in 2006 and 2010, did I ever mention that...

This was the first time I smoked a cigar on a golf course and it wasn't that easy.  Well the smoking part was easy but lighting wasn't. The course is described as an inland links, which basically means that wind is pretty much a permanent feature.  Thankfully though, it wasn't a particularly windy day.  It was actually quite mild but it still took 6 or 7 attempts to get the cigars going.

When we arrived at the K Club, for some reason we struggled to find parking, even though we were actually in the car park.  All the spaces appeared to be reserved for members.  All members appeared to be elsewhere so we parked up and went inside.  We left shortly thereafter as we had selected the wrong course and had to drive back the way we came.  In the car park, K Club security had pulled up alongside my car but they made off as soon as they saw us coming.  Lucky for them.

We had no problem find a parking space at the Smurfit course, which by the way, is not the one the Ryder cup was played on, but a pretty course all the same.  Not too long with some nice holes and I somehow managed to score 36 points while playing off 20.  Mikkel was a little bit behind on the score sheet, which basically means he lost the last golf day between us on Irish soil.  I think we're about even now, but the trophy (pictured below) stays with me.

As the title of this blog suggests, somebody's going to America and isn't me.

Best of luck to Mikkel and his family as they up sticks and head across the pond.  This of course means that the golf rivalry will have to recommence on American soil.  Maybe we'll do it Ryder cup style but I somehow doubt Ireland will be hosting it again.

The cigars I went for were a Grafton reserve and a Juan Lopez Havana.  The Grafton is only available on the Irish market.  A great little cigar.  Perfect burn and smoke.  I bought a few of these over in Dublin and really like them.  Mikkel had the Grafton.  I had the Juan Lopez which was OK but not great.  Maybe it was a bit too windy to really enjoy the cigar.  Next time I'll save the cigar smoking until after golf with a pint of Guinness.

I wasn't the slightest bit sad that this was my last golf day in Ireland with Mikkel, which is not to say he and his family will not be missed.  I was just very happy for them and so wish them the best of luck on their new adventure to America, which no doubt will be an exciting and amazing experience for them and the kids.