"This blog is not necessarily for lovers of art, it includes a variety of topics and whatever. I'm a painter who likes to know what's really going on in the world today. So you might find anything from Shamrocks to Salmiakki mentioned here on my blog. There will of course be some boring, factual and informational posts, but I'll keep them to a minimum, I promise!

And I might get a bit nostalgic now and then.

So you have been warned!"

- Alan Hogan

Showing posts with label boats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label boats. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Artist on the edge! - Aran Islands

Part 4 of my summer holidays 2013 in Ireland, and a visit to the Aran islands was our next destination. From the day we arrived in Ireland the weather was great. But today was by far the hottest, reaching over 30°C. Our first stop was Doolin harbour were my friends and I tried to find a ferry-boat. Due to the good weather a lot of other people made the same plans. Luckily I had pre-booked our places for the boat. There were plenty of boats going over to the islands, all extremely busy the whole day. The Aran islands are made up of three islands, Inisheer, Inishmaan and Inishmore. I had planned on taking my Finnish friends to the largest of the three Inishmore, but due to the amount of visitors things got a little chaotic for the ferry owners and we ended up stopping on all of the islands. We did spend most of our time on the large island as planned though.

First stop was the little island of Inisheer, or as I like to call it 'Craggy Island'. It was a unexpected surprise for me to be on this island, even though we only stayed 20 minutes at the harbour waiting for the next boat. This small island with a population of only 297 is full of history and geological wonders, just like almost everywhere along the west coast of Ireland. But I like to call it Craggy Island for it's modern history and charm. It gets the name Craggy Island from a very popular tv sitcom 'Father Ted' starring the late Dermot Morgan. It was the island of Inisheer which featured in the program's intro.

The Father Ted series became so popular that it gained a cult following, and even after many years fans still come to visit the island and pay homage to the show. In fact they visit all three islands as well as the house where the show's main characters lived. The house itself is not actually on any of the islands as many assume, but is in fact on the mainland in County Clare. Anyone interested in it's true location can find it here on Google maps.

Here's a few photos I took while I was there. 
Click on each image to enlarge.

Inisheer or 'Craggy' island

One of the many small ferryboats visiting
 the Aran islands.

A 'Father Ted'-themed tour vehicle on Inisheer.

Ferryboat from Doolin to the Aran islands.

The Plassy shipwreck on the small island of Inis Oirr, just off the west coast of Ireland. The ship went down in 1960, and it's wreck has since become more famous for it's appearance in the opening credits of the popular tv comedy series Father Ted.

Next stop was the middle island called Inishmaan. There wasn't much to see while waiting at the harbour here. We only had a few minutes before our boat to the main island arrived. It's pretty much the same as it's sister islands. Here's a photo of the harbour wall and an old Guinness commercial made on the islands.

Lego-like harbour wall at Inishmaan island

After a brief visit to Inishmaan we jumped aboard another boat and headed to the largest of the three islands Inishmore. This was where we spent most of our day. On arriving at a very busy harbour we tried to find one of the many horse-drawn carts set out for visitors. Unfortunately they were all hired out and we had to take one of the many mini-bus tours instead. In hindsight it was a better choice as we may have got too hot or sunburnt on the long cart trek. I was a little concerned about how the horses were coping with the heat and the hauling of tourists around all day. But I saw that their owners seemed to be giving them some rest and plenty of water. Anyway, 'sure it isn't every day the weather is this hot in Ireland. For a moment it brought to my mind the memory of a holiday I spent in Rhodes, and seeing the Lindos donkeys. A very upsetting sight to see if you like animals.

Horse and cart on the island of Inishmore.

A traditional Irish thatched cottage with a
matching leprechaun version next door.

One of the beaches on Inishmore.

Traffic chaos on our mini-bus tour of Inishmore. 
Thanks to our driver Rory for getting us back 
to our boat on time! 

The Man of Aran cottage which featured 
in the 1934 movie 'Man of Aran'

Old ruins

Limestone pavements on the Aran islands

During our visit to the island of Inishmore we went to see the prehistoric fort of Dún Aonghasa which is located at the spectacular cliffs overlooking the atlantic ocean. I have been to this island before wishing to see this unique location but was unable due to bad weather. Instead I ended up drinking Guinness and playing pool all day in the harbour pub with a good friend. I call that a social visit!
I was very happy about finally going to see this famous fort and it's cliffs, especially with the great weather! We also discovered a small visitors centre before walking up to the cliff edge. A small cottage setting can also be found nearby selling the famous Aran sweater and wools. There are also other craft-shops selling items such as jewellery, hats and t-shirts. Most of the t-shirts have slogans written in the native irish language of course. I did see one t-shirt which I thought was incorrectly written and complained to the old woman working in the shop. It wasn't long until she proceeded to give me a bollicking about it. I explained to her that I had been sent to learn the Irish language in the nearby village of Kilkieran on the mainland when I was a boy and this was the dialect I knew to be correct in the area. But the old woman told me off and said the Irish of the islanders is correct and all the rest are wrong. 'Being a meagre Dubliner, who was I to argue with this pleasant old lady. But I wonder was she ever taught by the Christian brothers or nuns! 

Craft shops near the Dún Aonghasa visitor centre.

Landscape of grass and limestone.

View over Inishmore from the prehistoric 
fort of Dún Aonghasa.

Cliffs at Dún Aonghasa

A Chinese tourist just lost his boat ticket!

Artist on the edge ... at Dún Aonghasa 
before my big splash! (not recommended)

Nice view!

Walking back down from Dún Aonghasa.

Village of Kilronan on Inishmore island.

Of course the weather isn't always as cheerful and sunny as we had experienced on the island of Inishmore. On the contrary, it's by far one of the harshest weather locations in Europe with rain and strong galeforce winds constantly arriving in from the Atlantic ocean. So local businesses have to make the most of welcoming tourists and visitors whenever good weather arrives. Tourism has become the islands main source of income in recent years.
Most of the people I have met anytime I have visited the west coast of Ireland have been great craic and for me it's the best place in Ireland!

The Aran island ferry owners
had a good day at the office! 

Finally here's a piece of music I like by the band British Sea Power. It's called Man of Aran and features footage of the 1934 movie 'Man of Aran' which was filmed on the island of Inishmore. The original movie in full can be found on YouTube here.

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This is part 4 of a set of 'Ireland' travel posts here on my blog. Click on the destinations below to read the rest!

Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to share it with any of your friends.

You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan 


Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring in Stockholm......with vice-cream!

Last Friday I got an early taste of spring as I spent a lovely sunny day in Stockholm. While large amounts of snow were still evident last week here in Finland and temperatures were still low enough to catch a cold, I hopped onboard a Viking Line ferry in Helsinki and headed southwest to the picturesque city of Stockholm in Sweden. I had been on short visits to the city before but always during cold and unpleasant weather. This time it was perfect, a bright sunny day with temperatures around 15C degrees. Not too hot, not too cold, perfect conditions for any irishman!

I really like the ferry trip between Finland and Sweden. There's always an interesting mix of people from both countries, aswell as a few russians and the occasional 'foreigner' like me! Everybody onboard always seems to be enjoying themselves.

The weather in Stockholm was indeed good to me on this occasion and I took full advantage of it by walking around the city streets and sitting outside several cafes. Lot's of interesting sights to see. I also noticed a lot of flowers sprouting up around the town centre. A refreshing sight to see after several months of snow and freezing cold.

National Museum of Fine Art, Stockholm.
In the afternoon I dropped by the National Museum of Fine Art where there was a special art exhibition taking place. It was titled 'Lust and Vice', a collection and an account of how sexuality, virtue and sin have been illustrated and shown in art from the 16th century to present day. The exhibition is varied and quite graphical, not the sort of thing you might like to take your grandmother to. Then again, granny does enjoy a good laugh! And yes, once again, lots of interesting things to see!

Here's a video I found on the exhibition. It's only in Swedish, but there's great detail to the images so it's worth a look.

Bildspel, Lust & Last from Nationalmuseum on Vimeo.

Unfortunately this irish catholic boy had to give this exciting exhibition a miss. Alas I had good reason not to corrupt myself with this unique insight. For one thing, the sunshine outside was just too nice to be stuck indoors. And secondly I didn't have much time to see a complete exhibition as I had a tight schedule and a boat to catch at the end of the day.

Instead, I opted for a big fat ice-cream and a short boat trip along Stockholm's canal and waterways instead.
Let's call it my vice-cream!

Here's a short video I put together with some photos of my little day out. A little less costly and not a bad substitute for a day at the gallery!
Excuse the dodgy camerawork and enjoy!

Before I finish this post I want to say a big thank you to the nice person in Exton, Pennsylvania who purchased a print of my painting titled 'Birch Path' yesterday. You have excellent taste and I fully appreciate the sale!

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Blog of Two Cities!

Some of you reading this blog will probably know little about Finland, just as I did once upon a time. Most of what I knew usually involved snow, Santa Claus and film locations for old spy movies. Add to that names such as Mannerheim, Sibelius, Viren, Hyypiä, Räikkönen, Litmanen, Häkkinen, Grönholm, Lordi and that was about it for me. 
Ten years later including three years living here and the story has changed. I now know more about Finland, a lot more. 

Visitors to Finland will most likely arrive at Helsinki airport and continue on to the capital.  Helsinki’s a great place to start, full of all the amenities and attractions a modern city should have. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do and see. However, I would recommend seeing it in the summer months, as the winter cold might get a little uncomfortable if you’re not prepared, especially down by the harbour. I still get the chills thinking about all that ice on the harbour. Indeed, summer would be my preference in any case. In fact you might find yourself as surprised as I was on my first summer visit to Helsinki. It was a lot warmer than I expected, and there was so much colour in the city from a variety of trees, flowers and even the buildings. It can often have a sort of Parisian feel to it in a certain districts.

Helsinki Esplanade in the summer.

However, if you do have more than just a long weekend, I can recommend looking beyond Helsinki.
Yes, there’s a lot more to see in Finland, and unfortunately this blog post isn’t big enough to tell you everything. I’d love to tell you all about the nice nature spots I’ve seen and my encounters with deer, elks and snakes, but that’ll have to wait for another blog. 

Instead, I will tell you about another city in Finland which I discovered since moving here. It’s the oldest city in Finland and it lies about 150 km west of Helsinki. The city is called Turku and it is also known as Åbo to it’s Swedish-speaking inhabitants. However, I prefer to call it Turku, even though I have learned to speak Swedish. I’m not being biased or disrespectful towards any one language, it’s just that I find Turku is easier to remember and easier to say. And hey, if my hometown in Ireland sounded better in Irish I’d use it all the time, but for now it will always be ‘Dublin’. 

Anyway, here's a little video I made from some photos I took while visiting Turku. I hope it gives you a mild impression of the city.

Nowadays Turku is probably best known for constructing some of the largest cruiseliners in the world. Coming from a part of Europe that also produced large ships at one stage long ago, it’s great to get the chance to see these giants of the sea this time around. I can almost imagine what the shipyards of Belfast must have been like in their day. It's sad to see what happened to the industry back then. I believe however that they have finally found a new use for the Titanic's old yard. I recently found out it is now used as a facility for culture and film. In fact I found out from a documentary while watching a dvd movie that it has the largest indoor film-set in the world. The film I watched was a fantasy adventure made here called ‘City of Ember’. It’s good to see some enterprise, employment and rejuvenation being brought to this old part of Belfast.

Now you'll have to excuse me for rambling, I tend to get sidetracked in my typing sometimes. More often I forget my initial subject completely. I suppose I'm not getting any younger, and anyway I’m no Charlie Brown,... or is it Dan? ....I don't know anymore!!  
Anyway, getting back to Finland before I really do forget where I was, let me say a few more words about the city of Turku.  
Last summer during the month of July I was lucky enough to be presented with a voucher from some Finnish friends to a luxury spa hotel in the small town of Naantali near the city of Turku. This gave me the chance to spend some time in this part of Finland. Naantali is a nice place were the Moomins live, and you can read about it in a previous blog I posted by clicking the word Naantali here or at the end of this blog. Normally I would only go to Turku to take a ferry to Sweden or whatever, so I never got to a chance to see much of the area. The first thing I noticed about Turku was the larger number of public bars compared to Helsinki. Being Irish I’m probably more qualified than most to notice these differences. Maybe I’m wrong maybe I’m right, but there just seemed to be more bars in Turku!  I get the feeling that this is perhaps due to its big population of students. Then again, Helsinki has an even bigger population of students, so I don’t know why there aren’t more bars in Helsinki. I should check the facts and statistics out before writing any of this really, but hell, it's only my small observations that are at stake here! Or maybe I'm just conjuring up a subliminal message aimed at certain readers to make more bars! :)

I felt a more relaxed atmosphere as I walked about Turku. Was it because of the lazy river Aura running through it? Or was it the lack of traffic congestion I always see in Helsinki, I really don't know!  It put me in mind of two cities in Ireland, Cork and Dublin. The city of Cork can feel more relaxing than the capital city Dublin, which also has a lot of traffic congestion like Helsinki.
As in Ireland and perhaps in Finland, it’s a well-known fact that where there are students, there are bars! It's a social thing for many students. One such bar I discovered in Turku was an old converted schoolhouse called ‘Koulu’ (Finnish word for School). This is a big old building containing different sized rooms all full with school paraphernalia from bygone years. The bar serves a nice selection of beers and ales, some of which I believe are made here in their microbrewery. I was very tempted by the décor to stay and enjoy my pint indoors, but the warm sunshine outside got the better of me. And with the added bonus of a small bar in their beer-garden how could I resist!

Beer garden at 'Koulu' Pub, Turku.

Like a lot of European countries, Finland also has a few Irish-themed bars, most of them being in the major towns and cities. And Turku is no exception. Usually I prefer to go to a Finnish bar and meet the locals, but a lot of Finns seem to like their Irish bars and tend to party harder than any of us Irish, hence I usually end up in an Irish bar by the end of the night whether I like it or not!  
After spending my day walking around Turku, and popping into one or two Finnish bars and restaurants, I happily ended up in The Castle Irish bar. It was an average Irish-themed bar inside, with a good crowd of people, most of whom seemed Finnish, all having great fun, or as we Irish say "having a bit of craic!". In fact I didn't meet one Irish person there. The bar staff seemed to be mainly English I think, so they were friendly enough :) ... And they served a nice pint of Guinness!  
It's a shame it was so expensive though, I could have drank a lot more. There were a few good singers performing in the bar that evening. Two Finnish guys singing covers of their favorite songs. A good night's entertainment!

During my evening in the Castle bar I had the honour of bumping into a local guy called 'Tumppi' (see photo above). I remembered him from a video I found on YouTube last year. He made a very informative tourist video for the city of Turku featuring himself and his dry brand of humour. 
You can watch his little video clip here,

While the Christmas lights are truly packed away now in Turku, people are still persevering with the cold Finnish winter and there's a desire to see the snow disappear at some stage. Christmas is a busy time in most places, and Turku is no exception. In fact, Turku is traditionally known as the Christmas town here in Finland, so I imagine some extra attention is required every year. And those busy people responsible for organising it down at Turku City Hall can't put their feet up just yet, because another party of sorts has just begun.
Indeed, Turku happens to be sharing the title of European Capital of Culture 2011 with Talinn this year. This title brings with it many roles for the city in promoting itself as a true centre for the arts and culture in Europe. A host of activities and exhibitions are planned throughout the year involving many local artists and public events from the city of Turku. The schedule has already started recently with the official opening ceremony. In case you may have missed it, here it is, all 35 minutes of it!!
......So stick the kettle on and grab some biscuits!!

Here's that link I promised for the blog on my visit to Naantali.

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Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to share it with any of your friends.

You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan 


Check out this Finnish band from Turku called Magenta Skycode, they're pretty good. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In the Viking Club, at last!

Woo Hoo! I finally got my Viking Club card in the post.
And no, it's not a membership card to become a real Viking. I won't be growing any scruffy beard any time soon. And I certainly won't be heading off on any long journeys marauding and pillaging foreign lands, unfortunately.
This precious card does however allow me certain discounts on board the Viking Line fleet of Ferryboats operating out of Finland. I can receive discounts on goods such as alcohol, sweets, beer, alcohol and meals, as well as a small discount on drinks and alcohol from their bars onboard.
It's the closest I'll ever get to becoming a Viking I suppose. And it's about time us Irish got some kind of compensation from the Vikings for all their years of plundering in little old Ireland many years ago.
Now where did I leave my axe?


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The Art Garage, Finland

The Art Garage, Finland
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