Dublin to Waterford Motorway now open

Today, Thursday 9th September 2010 marks a very significant day for anyone living in the Waterford (or South Kilkenny area) of Ireland. Finally, after more years than I care to remember, we can celebrate the reality of a fully uninterrupted motorway from Waterford to Dublin.

It may seem trivial (and even archaic) to some readers, but take it from me, this is a really big deal in this part of the country and so very long overdue. At long last, the Sunny South East will be a perfectly manageable (and comfortable) distance from our capital city, and should make day-trips, holidays and visiting friends and family and much less stressful experience.

Source: RTÉ News

Irish Times Crossword Compiler dies ages 92

I have always been an admirer of the Crosaire Crossword in The Irish Times but very rarely deciphered more than a handful of the clues, and mostly opted for the Simplex version instead. I was saddened to learn of the recent death of the man behind the Crosaire, Derek Crozier, who had been compiling it since 1943. He died on Saturday last (3 April 2010) at his some in Zimbabwe, at an impressive age of 92. May he rest in peace.

Source: RTÉ News

Average Car Mileage in Ireland

I have often wondered where people get their figures from when quoting average mileage on cars. Personally, I’ve had a figure of 10,000 miles per year floating around in my head for as long as I can remember, and think I originally got this figure from my father.

However, whilst perusing through the second hand car market recently, the issue of average mileage came up again but this time in relation to Petrol versus Diesel cars. To be honest, I’d never really given much thought to the fact that the average figure might different depending on the fuel type. However, according a Private Motoring Energy Usage report by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in 2005, there is indeed a difference (of around 50%) between the two:

  • Average annual mileage of all cars: 16,894 kilometres (10,498 miles)
  • Average annual mileage of Petrol cars: 15,969 kilometres (9,923 miles)
  • Average annual mileage of Diesel cars: 23,817 kilometres (14,799 miles)

Whilst the report is now 5 years old, I can’t image the relative figures for 2010 are that different. It also looks like my father was not too far off the mark either!

Mount Sion Silver Band Reunion 2009

Mount Sion Silver Band is the name of a brass-instrument band that I was fortunate enough to be a member of for a sizeable portion of my schooling life (11 years in total). The band was part of Mount Sion C.B.S. in Waterford City and was formed in 1967 by a number of retired Christian Brothers, with the support of the school Past Pupils Union.

During its lifetime, the band won several regional and national titles, made a number of television appearances (most notably, the Late Late Toy Show in 1986) and represented Ireland at the World Youth Band Championships in 1985. A number of former members have also gone on to become professional musicians, playing with the likes of Van Morrison, Neil Sedaka, Pavarotti and U2 to name but a few.

Sadly, the is sadly no longer in existence today but myself and a few other former members are organising a reunion and would like to invite all former members, family and friend of the band to attend. A dedicated website for the band has also been created at http://www.mountsionsilverband.org where full details of the reunion are available, along with lots of other information about the life and times of the band.

2009 Reunion in short

What?
Inaugural reunion to include book and website launch, photography exhibition, mass, social events and performances by past members.
Why?
To celebrate the life and times of the band, among friends
When?
23-25 October 2009
Where?
Waterford City, Ireland
Who?
All past members and friends of Mount Sion Silver Band

Click here to find out more…

Happy Birthday Guinness

Today, Thursday 24th September 2009, marks the 250th anniversary of the signing of the infamous 9,000 year lease by Arthur Guinness, for a four-acre site at St. James’s Gate in Dublin, on which the Guinness brewery is now located.

As a Guinness drinker (for more years than I care to admit to my parents), I’ve enjoyed many a pint of the black stuff, and have enjoyed some of my favourite pints in the following pubs:

  1. Martha Power’s Bar, Queen Street, Tramore, Co. Waterford
  2. Kavanagh’s (The Gravediggers), Glasnevin, Dublin 9
  3. Downes Bar, Thomas Steet, Waterford City
  4. Jack Quinn’s, Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, USA
  5. Geoff’s Bar, Michael Street, Waterford City
  6. The Spaniard Bar, Kinsale, Co. Cork
  7. The Cornerstone Bar, Lahinch, Co. Clare
  8. An Crúiscín Lán, Villierstown, Co. Waterford
  9. Benny Andersons, Ardee, Co. Louth
  10. The Shannon, Taipei, Taiwan

Where have you enjoyed your best pints of Guinness, and why?

Hubble’s Amazing Ultra Deep Field Journey

Even if you have no interest in astronomy, this video is worth viewing. It describes (and shows in 3D) an incredible series of photographic experiments by the team behind the Hubble Telescope that reveal over 10,000 galaxies in the deepest area of space ever photographed, an area they are now calling the “Hubble Ultra Deep Field”. It makes for truly fascinating, and yet extremely humbling viewing.

Source: Gizmodo via Life, is grand

Mazda Mileage Milestone

My trusty 1997 Mazda 323F hit another milestone last Saturday (8th August 2009) when it passed the 100,000 miles mark. The momentous occasion took place just outside Kilmacthomas on the main Waterford to Dungarvan road.

Mileage Milestone for Mazda 323F

I’ve never actually owned a car with this much mileage before and am already looking forward to the next 100,000 miles of happy motoring with this car.

Disneyland Paris: 10 Tips for travelling with younger children

During a recent holiday in France we took our 5 year old daughter to Disneyland Paris. Since then a number of people have inquired about what would be the right age to take a young child there, so here are some of my tips for anyone considering doing the same.

1. How does Disneyland Paris compare to the US parks?

I have now been to both Disneyland in Los Angeles (twice) and Disneyland Paris and am happy to report that the parks in Paris are every bit as good as the American equivalents. The Paris parks have all the usual favourites including Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Honey I Shrunk The Audience, Disneyland Railroad and so on.

2. Is Disneyland suitable for a 5 year old?

Most definitely Yes. I was sceptical at first, thinking that there would be nothing there but roller coasters and scary rides but there are plenty of attractions and shows to keep a 5 year old entertained. The Playhouse Disney Live on Stage show and It’s a Small World are a must see!

3. How young is too young?

This really depends on the individual but my personal opinion would be that there is little point in taking your child to Disneyland if they’re not really going to remember the experience. So, for me, any younger than 4-5 years of age is probably too young.

4. There are two parks in Disneyland Paris. Should I see both?

Yes. Both parks (Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios) have plenty attractions for younger children but the latter has some based around some of the TV shows your kids probably watch (e.g. Playhouse Disney, Lilo & Stitch, Cars).

5. How long should we stay?

I would say that 2-3 days is probably enough time to get to see (and enjoy) the attractions suitable for younger children. If you have never been before, you should expect to write off a lot of your first day getting to know how the park works and where all the suitable attractions are located, what hours they operate etc. You will also need some time to ensure you get to meet as many of the Disney characters as possible (a must for younger children). If you only go for 2 days, you’ll exhaust yourself trying to pack too much into your second day (like we did).

6. Where should we stay?

For short stays, I would recommend that you stay as close to the park as possible. This won’t be cheap but will be worth it as you’ll be able to exit the park during in the afternoon (if it’s very hot) and re-enter (reenergised) again later in the evening when it is quieter. Because the nighttime parades are quite late in high season (10:30pm) this may also give your child a chance to take a quick afternoon nap.

7. Is it very expensive?

Not really. The tickets are quite pricey in my opinion (a two-day ticket to get you into both parks will cost you €112 per adult and €95 for a child) but are actually good value for money when you take stock of your time there. All the attractions inside the parks are free so all you have to pay for is food and gifts.

8. Meet & Greet with the Disney Characters

The Disney characters do Meet & Greet sessions at various locations inside the parks, at various times throughout the day (e.g. from 4pm-6pm). The first thing you should do is buy your child an Autograph book (from any one of the shops inside the park). The various Disney characters will be more than happy to sign this for your child and they will love looking at the book afterwards. However, don’t rush to these areas at the beginning of the sessions, but instead head along around 30 minutes before the end of the session when everyone else has gone. This way you should get hassle-free access to all the characters and you’ll also get some really great pictures of them (with just you in the picture rather than dozens of other children and parents).

9. What about Food?

Food can be expensive but only if you want it to be. We got a meal including a burger, fries, drink, dessert and gift for €8 but you could pay €30 per person for an all-you-can-eat Tex-Mex buffet meal (including a full can-can/dancing show set in an authentic saloon bar), or €20 per person for a buffet meal set in a restaurant based on the Pixar Ratatouille movie.

10. What about Gifts?

To be honest, I didn’t really find the gift stores that expensive. For example, the autograph books I spoke about earlier was just €5, a Mickey Mouse pen was €2, a decent-sized Mickey Mouse snow globe was €5 and many of the soft toys are quite reasonable too (€20 for a pretty decent sized toy of any Disney character you care to think of). If you do see something you like though, buy it in the first shop you see as none of the other shops will be any cheaper.

In summary, I suspect visiting Disneyland with a younger child is a different type of experience than with older children, but every bit as enjoyable (if not more). You will tend not to go on as many of attractions per se (and will thus avoid a lot of wasted time queueing) but rather spend your time perusing around the parks meeting the various Disney characters, taking in the various shows and enjoying the wonderful parades. I heartily recommend it!

Farewell to the King of Pop

You can say what you want about the Michael Jackson but for my money he was a musical genius and his death is a tragic loss to the world. I’m sure the debate about his many and varied character flaws will live on but not for anywhere near as long as his music will.

It’s a real shame that he didn’t get to perform the series of concerts he had scheduled for The O2 Arena in London. Who knows what other great music he might have written on the back of the renewed confidence he could have gained from them. I had the privilege of seeing him perform in Cork, Ireland in 1988 and to this day, I’ve yet to see anything quite like it.

On a related note, you can look at a collection of his finest work on the excellent MUZU TV.

Beautiful Ireland by Joe Cashin

Two of my favourite photographs from the last year or so were both taken by Joe Cashin, an extremely popular contributor on Flickr and also an old friend of the family. Interestingly, both shots were taken in Co. Kerry and clearly demonstrate the truth in the statement that is omnipresent in Irish minds around this time of the year:

If only we had the weather

An Old Killarney Home (Muckross National Park, Kerry)

An old Killarney home

Evening on the Lakes (Killarney Lakes)

Evening on the lakes