Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hello again

Irish Pub of the Week #8 - Katie Macs, Ballycastle. Trad music in County Mayo.
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Some more updates this weekend...
Photo Link: <Tuscany photos> (all 288 of them, we'll have to edit them down!)
Photo Link: <Mum & Dad's Ireland photos #1> (from June)
Photo Link: <Mum & Dad's Ireland photos #2> (from June)
Also, 2 of our Berlin photos (from Christmas) were selected for inclusion in the "Schmap" online Berlin Guide (Deutsche Oper) - Photo 1 / Photo 2
Well, Clare has been in Ireland for 1 year and 1 month now, and Joe has been here for 7 months. So here's a bit of a "State of the Union" (village!) update from us... (a few picture links in here)
Clare… “Not much sign of the summer yet. Last summer (2006), the weather here was magnificent and I had heaps of visitors & wrote a lot more emails. My Mum, Ken, Joe, Kiwi Liz, Gina & Mike and Glen & Simon all came to visit. Even went crew sailing very regularly all summer at the Royal Irish Yacht Club (Dublin) as well as a few Hash House Harriers weekend trips. Chris Irvine is living in Ireland now, and so is sailing this season (I only got a look in last year as Chris was working in Belarus). Now I’m writing the thesis for my MBA, I’m really knuckling down. I completed 2 subjects last year – hopefully it will all be finished by this November. Joe’s parents, Sue & Dave have been here for the month of June (photos) – we had some good trips out, and I’ve just finished a batch of blog stories about our Tuscany trip and Connemara weekend. Tracy also came over from Baghdad last November for the Aussie Rugby match. She’s currently living in Mossman, FNQ - converting the Mossman sugar mill into an organic chocolate processing factory, whilst living in a solar powered hut in the rainforest overlooking the beach. The complete opposite of the green zone in Baghdad, this time last year! Tracy has handed in the final, final version of her masters on mud crabs.”
The biggest change from this time last year is where we’re living now – Annagassan. This is a one street fishing village where everyone knows the names of all the dogs and what they’re all up to. Our ex-carpark dog “Pigsy” (proper name D4), was captured by the Louth dog catchers, but rescued by his owner who lives in a large house in the village. So now from time to time we take D4 out for a walk along the seafront. I think they’re taking better care of him now. The pub (The Glyde Inn) has great “trad music” sessions on Friday nights. So we’re becoming semi-regulars on Friday nights now. We’ve even taken an Aussie flag and a fake cork hat to put behind the bar, but somebody already flogged the cork hat! If it’s sunny (God forbid) we even have a beach (well sort of, but not like Straddie or even Bribie Island!) Clare is forever running outside and taking pics of “weather” as Joe describes it – sunsets, clouds, storms and the ever changing scenery of Dundalk Bay. We’ll try and post some of those pictures soon.
We have an incredible view (and ever changing) view of Dundalk Bay and the Cooley Mountains from the big front window in our apartment. Just this weekend we’ve seen fishing boats trawling just off from the pub (about 60 metres offshore) and sailing boats about 200 metres from the shore. Annagassan was founded by the Vikings coming to raid, rape and pillage the nearby Monasteries, ie. Book of Kells and all that good stuff. But Clare found out the other week that the “Rath” (manmade hill) across the River Glyde was most likely built, not by Vikings or Celts, but by the people before who built Newgrange a long, long time ago!
We haven't really gone out of our way to find history – just the normal tourist stuff so far. Yeah, and Clare’s had audits on estates that date back to AD 462! (In Northern Ireland, quite close to a couple of our favourite walking spots like Castle Ward, Strangford Lough & Tollymore Forest Park - we love County Down :) After Clare finally finishes the MBA thesis, hopefully around Oct/Nov, she’ll have the time to really look into her own family history on both sides. She's concluded that even though it’s through her Dad’s mother that she has an Irish passport, he is SOOOOO German, and not at all Irish, whilst her Mum, who is technically at least 75% Irish but without access to a passport, is SOOOOO Irish in many ways. Her Dad’s family is actually only Irish since the late 1700’s when they came from France, as Huguenot protestant refugees to Cork. So not Irish and not Catholic – so much for all those family “histories!”
We’re off for a long weekend in London 04-06 August. Hope everyone is enjoying the Brissie winter! Don't forget we warmly welcome all visitors (Oh, and we have the best Guinness in the world!)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lots of updates...

Irish Pub of the Week #7 - O'Donoghue's Dublin. Nice atmosphere, but bloody expensive drinks (1 pint of Guinness + 1 rum & coke was over €12 / AUD 18)
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Just a quick update to the blog. We've made loads of major updates recently, mainly finishing off some of our recent stories:
The Connemara Jig (from May)
Red Dress Run (photos, from July)
Also been doing lots of updates to our main Flickr photo site, now that Yahoo photos has disappeared from the net. Bye for now.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I'll see you on the beach

3 images from Saving Private Ryan scenes filmed in Ireland.
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"I'll see you on the beach", as quoted by Tom Hanks in the opening of Saving Private Ryan (1998), right before they land on Omaha Beach...
Movie location pilgrimages can be fun – I’ve stood on top of King’s Canyon (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), we’ve been to Katz’s Deli in New York (When Harry Met Sally), and this coming October we’re planning on driving to the Devils Tower in Wyoming (Close Encounters of the Third Kind). But Saving Private Ryan has always been a favourite of mine, and a few years back I got to see Omaha Beach for real when I took a ferry trip from Portsmouth to Cherbourg and explored the Normandy region.
So yesterday (Sunday) I went for a drive down to Ballinesker Beach (part of Curracloe Beach), County Wexford. This is where they filmed the incredible first 30-40 minutes or so (the Omaha Beach scenes), of Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg’s locations team surveyed virtually every inch of coastline in Western Europe and decided that Ballinesker/Curracloe was the beach that most closely resembled Omaha Beach in France, a preserved and protected historical monument that could not be filmed on. So this beach and local area are quite famous now, and reminders can still be found that the filming took place there. All of the opening scenes of the film were made here - the landing craft, water & beach scenes, as well as the fighting to the dune tops with 2 massive German pillboxes, machine gun nests and trenches, etc. (this was all built on top of the dunes). Then the entire area was rehabilitated and turned back exactly the way it was.
So what can you see today? Well, if you start at the Ballinesker Beach carpark, you'll find a large "Saving Private Ryan" sign that shows the area of movie filming. There are no physical traces left in the dune tops except for some stairs going up to the area where a massive German pillbox was built facing the beach. There are also some tarmac paths left in the dune tops. In terms of props, the only thing left is a landing craft in the grounds of the nearby Curracloe Holiday Villas, which is open to the public. In Curracloe village, 4km away, an exhibition is currently running in Furlong's "Omaha Beach Restaurant" (Furlongs was frequented by the cast and crew seeking a Guinness during the filming!) A large number of photos are displayed around the walls of the restaurant, along with some other memorabilia from the making of the movie.
Sunday was cool, around 14c, with cloudy skies. This, of course, is Summer in Ireland so you don’t need to worry about high temperatures. Some kids (brave souls) were actually swimming, but I wondered along the beach taking photos and trying to figure out which escarpment or hilltop section was the “gap” that Tom Hanks and crew finally seized from the Germans. I eventually found the sandy path/stairs into a gully, with a bluff above that looked really familiar from the movie, with a small tarmac path (big enough for vehicles), ending nearby. I'm sure this is where some of the crucial scenes took place.
There's quite a bit of information on the net about the making of Saving Private Ryan in this area. June 2007 was the 10th anniversary of the filming taking place, so I found a couple of articles that were interesting...
Curracloe Beach. Also known as Omaha Beach. This is where the first thirty minutes of Saving Private Ryan were filmed. The location scouters evidently felt that it was the closest thing to the beaches of Normandy that they'd find outside, well, Normandy. Curracloe is actually a lot smaller than the Normandy beaches, with no large area of swampland before the bluffs, but it did a passable imitation on film.
I found out about the filming by accident, before the publicity machine started. The producers had laid a helpful trail of little pointy signs with DW on them all the way from the main Wexford-Dublin road, to help crew. On a lonely impulse of delight, we followed the signs one day to a small caravan park just off the beach, where there were all lots of locked caravans with exciting and provocative signs like 'Special Effects' and 'Film Editing' in the windows. So DW stood for DreamWorks, I suppose.
There was great excitement in Wexford and Curracloe at having Hollywood bigshots like Spielberg and Hanks in town - not that they were physically in town, they were staying at the most expensive hotel within a helicopter's range. Apparently they brought obscene amounts of money to the town, so that's okay.
We saw the beach transformed. They put up huge wooden Xs, the type used to stop the boats from coming in to shore, and cut away a section of cliff to build one of the bunkers in. This was a wooden constructions aged to look like concrete, and is sadly no longer there. Only the steps up to it remain. During filming one whole end of the beach was cordoned off, but there was no obstacle to stop us from gathering and gawping at all the nice explosions and maimings. One of the landing craft was given to the caravan park next to the beach; it stands in pride of place next to the tennis courts.
I've swam in the sea at Curracloe since I was a nipper, so it was a strange experience to see it run red with the blood of American soldiers. With the jerky, hand-held quality of the beach scene, it's difficult to make out familiar features of the beach. But there's one scene, after the invasion has been successful, when Tom Hanks is standing on the bluffs looking down at the boats, soldiers and balloons saying something like 'That's quite a view' and I can say: 'That's my beach!'
One of my friends, son of an FCA [Local defense force. ] soldier (oh yes, those were Irish soldiers dying messily for your Celluloid pleasure) was on a landing craft with all the haggard-looking soldiers, mugging unashamedly at the camera. Strangely, his film debut seems to have ended up on the cutting-room floor...
Wednesday June 06 2007
The 10th anniversary of the filming of Saving Private Ryan will be celebrated with an exhibition in Furlong's Omaha Beach Restaurant in Curracloe on June 27. The exhibition of photographs and memorablia will open on the day that filming started on Curracloe Beach in 1997 and will be on public view during the summer.
Wexford Echo - 10th anniversary of Saving Private Ryan 5/31/2007 - 12:11:38 PM
THE TENTH anniversary of the filming of Saving Private Ryan in County Wexford will be marked by a series of events next month. A group was formed last year to put in place a commemoration for the summer of 2007. Called, ‘Locating Private Ryan,’ the group comprises John Michael Murphy, John Billington, Stephen Eustace, Pat Furlong, Jimmy Lacey and Martin Mc Cool. The primary aim of ‘Locating Private Ryan’ is to promote Wexford as the primary film location of Saving Private Ryan. An elaborate commemoration has now been planned for Wednesday 27th June – the 10th anniversary of the first day of filming on Curracloe Beach. The focal point for the anniversary events will be Omaha Beach Restaurant/Furlong’s Pub in Curracloe village. It was felt that this venue has symbolic value as it is a lasting legacy of the filming of Saving Private Ryan locally, being named as it was in tribute to the filming of the D-Day landing on the beach nearby. In the film, Curracloe Beach stood in for Omaha Beach after Steven Spielberg’s locations team surveyed virtually every inch of coastline in western Europe and decided that Curracloe was the beach that most closely resembled Omaha Beach in France, a preserved and protected historical monument that could not be filmed on. As Saving Private Ryan recreated the disaster of the Omaha Beach landing, it was fitting that the only building in County Wexford to be named in tribute to the filming should be named so. Pat Furlong, frontman of Omaha Beach Restaurant, felt that this was the most fitting name for their premises which opened in 2001 to preserve the legacy of the filming as an important event in the history of the area. “We were going to call it the ’98 Bar originally, but it was not finished in time for that anniversary so, bearing in mind that the film about the Omaha Beach landing was made here, we decided to call it the Omaha Beach Restaurant instead,” Mr. Furlong said. The Furlongs have many fond memories of the filming of Saving Private Ryan at Curracloe. According to the publican, Furlong’s Pub was packed most days during filming between 1.00 and 2.00 p.m., then activity would subside, before the place came to life again at 5p.m. Many famous names and faces turned up in Furlong’s during the shooting, including Steven Spielberg, clad in baseball cap, sunglasses and denims One of Mr. Furlong’s best memories of the filming on Curracloe was the 41st birthday of Tom Hanks which fell during the Wexford shoot of Saving Private Ryan on 9th July 1997. A special request was received at Furlong’s Pub from Tom Hanks’ secretary for a barrel of beer. Pat Furlong recalls: “It was Tom Hanks’ birthday and they wanted me to bring a barrel of beer along. His secretary came up to the pub and asked for a keg of beer. Instead of giving them a keg of Guinness, which could not be poured out, I said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do – I’ll give you 41 cans of Guinness’. So I gave them 41 cans of draught, one for each year of Tom Hanks’ life. So they got the Guinness and they sent me back a signed autograph from Tom Hanks.” According to Mr. Furlong, the coming of Saving Private Ryan to Wexford was a fantastic boost for Curracloe, and the main reason he offers for this is the advent of 3—phase electricity in the area: “We were waiting about ten years for 3-phase electricity in Curracloe. With the coming of Saving Private Ryan, it finally came to Curracloe. Cloney’s put it in for petrol. You could say that Saving Private Ryan brought 3-phase electricity here.” On the evening of 27th June, at 7.30 p.m., there will be the launch of a Saving Private Ryan commemorative exhibition featuring war gear and uniforms used in the film and many other items which will revive the memories of the film being made here ten years ago. A letter sent by Tom Hanks to the ‘Locating Private Ryan’ group this year will also be visible to the public for the first time.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dublin HHH - Red Dress Run

Photo Link: <Dublin HHH - Red Dress Run photos>
We went on the Red Dress Run with the Dublin Hashers today. I think the pictures pretty much sum it all up!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The rain

I've been watching a dam. Well I call it a dam anyway. It's right next to the M1 motorway, nestled into a hill on the northern side on the Boyne Valley, on my way to work. The water level was pretty high over winter. Then the fishing season started and every morning keen fishermen were evenly spaced around the edge with their rods dangling in the water. Then, at some point, someone let the plug out, literally, and the dam drained away to nothing (I have no idea how you pull out the plug in a dam!) Overnight, the water was suddenly gone, and grass took over. Now June has seen some serious rain in Ireland. Heavy, heavy rain in short bursts, but lots of them. Not soft rain like usual for Ireland, but more like the way I remember how it rained in Brisbane in the 1980's, when you got soaked in 3 seconds. So every day, the water level in this dam is getting higher and higher, and I think soon it'll be back to the level it was over winter. So, this dam has gone from full, to empty, and is getting close to being full again in a matter of weeks. Silent Valley Reservoir, in the Mourne Mountains has an amazing spillway like a giant plughole too. A huge concrete tube leading down a channel carved into acres of carefully levelled green slopes, ready to take the spill that might just happen one day when it doesn't stop raining. I for one want to see the water flowing down that massive plughole. It'd be a pretty incredible sight. Not sure if they'll send me a "spillway alert" on my mobile though, so I'll probably miss it anyway. Just up the road in Northern Ireland, we saw playing fields and ASDA carparks completely submerged. Fenceposts cutting through paddocks where cows would need snorkels. This is a wet, wet place. You get used to it, you don't notice it, but you just think of how much Australia (and lots of other places) need this rain so, so badly. The sort of rain where you've gotta pull out the plug in your dam then let it fill up again. You wish.
Took a few more pics at Dublin Airport on Sunday too, against very stormy skies (and rain of course). Geeky I know, but something I don't think I'll ever tire of.

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Finnair OH-LVC A319, Sunday Afternoon

My Travel G-OMYA A320, in stormy skies

Ryanair EI-DHI B737, with nice wing vapour

Girjet EC-JTN B757, charter operator based in Barcelona