Wednesday, 20 June 2012


With the car back in action, we crossed our fingers, and the Irish sea, for our first trip back to Ireland since Christmas.  Against the odds, and despite what the naysayers naysaid, the car made it to Ireland in one piece, with the air conditioning system being the only casualty of the first few days.

Apart from the air-con, there was a sloshing noise when I turned a bend, a parking light that stopped working but then worked again the next day, plus an oil pressure warning on the dash, but that was my fault for trying to overtake a tractor.

The windows, which were working perfectly well by the way, were electronically wound down, as we had arrived in time to enjoy the beginnings of Irish Summer 2012.  Temperatures soared to highs of 22 or 23 degrees, which is a heat wave by Irish standards, and for a few days at least, we basked.

We got the good times rolling with a trip to Finglas for a barbeque and Eurovision party with Kaz and Rolo.  A great night, despite the frustrating Eurovision voting system which meant that Ireland didn't win again.  There's always next year Jedward, and the one after that, and the next one, and the next one...

The most important thing was that we beat the English, again, and carrying on the great tradition, we awarded them less points than they gave us.  Roll on next year.

After the songs had finished, myself and Rolo had a cigar in the garden, with Rolo impressing me with his hidden talents of beer brewing and soap making.  Lovely larger beer it was too, and I certainly like the beer brewing idea Rolo, but swap the soap making for cigars making and I'll be your biggest fan for life.

We only had a few days in Dublin and before we knew it, we were on our way to Galway.  The plan was to head back to Dublin but we didn't want to push it too much with the car, so we stayed up in Galway.  Lovely when the sun shines, but Summer 2012 had come to a sudden end, and torrential rain took it's rightful place, leaving us with nothing much to do but watch telly.

People are always asking me what is it like coming back to Ireland?   Has it changed much?  And my normal reply is "Ah sure, I hardly recognise the place anymore".  But after watching Friday night television, with Gay Byrne and Pat Kenny still on the late late show, and I realised it hadn't changed that much after all.

At some stage or another, something much worse that Pat Kenny came on the telly.  Something called "Tallafornia".

I managed to watch about 20 seconds of Tallafornia, which is exactly how long it took for me to take a severe disliking to everyone on the program, the program makers, the broadcasters, and the 30,000 people who apparently watch it.

Thankfully, summer 2012 returned once again, saving us from the evil telly-fish-Erin, and I even managed to get a few rounds of golf in.

Anyway, just before the trip home to Ireland, I smoked a couple of the Ramon Allones Extra Limited Edition 2011, that were picked up at the duty free in Jordan.

I remember my first every RA Extra last year, and I loved it, but the three or four I smoked since then, have been nowhere near as good.  I knew I was doing something wrong, so I packed four for the trip.

Determined to figure it out why there was such a difference, I got the first one going, and as expected, it wasn't great.  The second was different, and exactly what I was looking for.  What I did differently this time was the cut, which was larger and as close to the cap line as possible.  I did the same with the next cigar and the same thing, beautiful, full and open and not a bit tight.

I didn't cut the last one as well and it suffered like the others, so I'm pretty sure it was down to the cut.

With the mystery solved, we had one last day in Dublin before heading back across the sea, just in time to miss the Queens diamond jubilee.

The night before we set sail, I smoked what might be called a custom rolled Cuban cigar, bought at the Decent Cigar Emporium on Grafton street.  I picked up a similar looking fat cigar from them a while back which was excellent, so I was expecting more of the same.

I got two cigars this time, one robusto and another larger sized stick.  I had planned on aging both, but changed my mind and blazed up the robusto.

Not sure if it was a mistake or not, but I found the robusto to be bland and flavourless.  I'm hoping the bigger cigar will be better, and rolled with different tobacco, but the look very similar so maybe not. 

The DCE is an excellent shop and I love popping in there for a look, and a complementary Cuban coffee.

Once more, I'll leave you with some pictures to enjoy.

Donnacha does a runner

R.A. Extra 2011

Thats me on John Waynes' the Quiet Man Bridge - Galway
Decent Cigar Emporium cigar

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Qu'est-ce que la Raclette?

Before our trip to Jordan, I was busy trying to get the blog up to date, and I still am, so once again I'm going back in time, to a time just after St. Patricks day, when we were on our way to the Larkins for a sleep over, and the car decided it could do with a new gearbox, and for the third time in our two year relationship, left a long trail of transmission fluid behind itself.  So much for an afternoon of fun times, beer and cigars.

On the plus side, it was a lovely sunny day and were lucky we broke down where we did.  A few minutes earlier would have left us in the middle of major roadworks at a major junction at the bottom of a huge hill, in heavy traffic.

We were just over half way to the Larkins, so Carine drove over to rescue the wife and child, leaving me to be rescued by the AA.

A few hours later and I was on my way back to the Larkins by train.   Ryan picked me up at the station, and after a couple of very welcome beers, we sat down to enjoy the food Ryan and Carine had planned for the evening, which was a Raclette grill.

I'd never heard of a Raclette grill before, and for those as philistinic as I am, I shall explain.  Raclette involves cheese (Raclette), a variety of meats and a grill that sits in the middle of the table, with little trays that are used to melt the cheese with the meat and potatoes.

It's simple, delicious, and Swiss, not French.  Sorry Carine.

The Raclette grill was great fun so thanks to the Larkins for a lovely night and a tasty meal.

The cigar that night was a Bolivar and the picture below shows a lovely dark cigar, but I don't remember much about it.  I think it was a bit on the tight side, and never really opened up, but one cigar that didn't have a problem opening up, was the Partagas Serie D No. 4 Especial Limited Edition 2010 that Barney gave me in Luxembourg last year.  I'd been saving this for a special occasion, and a sunny Saturday afternoon the following week seemed special enough, and I needed cheering up.

Earlier in the week, the car was patched up, given a full service, and managed to get half a mile up the road before making a rapid return to the garage, after the mechanic noticed a big pool of oil that should have been inside the car, rather than on the ground outside.

The Especial Serie D is bigger than the normal Serie D, with a beautiful dark wrapper, and this particular cigar that was never in doubt.  Definitely one of the best I've ever smoked and with the garden in bloom, it was a lovely 75 minutes spent thinking of what my next car might be.

More time travel now as I skip forward seven weeks.  We've arrived home from Jordan, but the car is still in the garage.  A new gearbox, radiator, ECU and other bits and bobs later, we get the car back in time for the drive home to Ireland.

Next time I'll be in the present, more or less, where I'll cover off the trip home, so once again, I'll leave you with some photos to enjoy.

Raclette (Swiss, not French)

Carine (French, not Swiss)

Raclette Night Cigar

Best Serie D No. 4 Ever

Crazy baby