A Walk in the Medieval Town of Volterra


A couple of years ago I was already in Volterra and I liked it a lot. One of the absolute ‘must-see’ in Tuscany. This time I enjoyed it even more as I was more familiar with it.

For you some impressions of my beautiful walk through the small medieval town.

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Volterra, Tuscany/Italy:

For further information:>/strong>
Volterra
Tuscany


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Impressions of Pienza in Val d’Orcia in Tuscany


Pienza is a little Medieval city in the beautiful Orcia Valley south east of Siena. For me it is a very typical Tuscan city even though it is very well visited by tourists. It’s a World Heritage Site, not only the town, also the whole Val d’Orcia.

The town is small, very clean, has nice little shops and a calm atmosphere. The many tourists coming here are not that much like in for example San Gimignano, Siena or even Florence. The views are amazing and for a relaxing history day it’s a perfect choice.

You can read more here and enjoy these additional photos I took this time. Fun factor: this time I took nearly the same photo of a bicycle in a little side street.

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Pienza, Tuscany/Italy:

For further information:
Pienza


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An Sord – Between Malahide and Dublin


Swords – that was the first village I ever visited in Ireland. I came here in spring 2006 because I had a job interview. I realized that I didn’t want the job, but I did want to live in this country. And I will never regret that I really came here to live. It is still one of my favorite countries. The only thing I never liked was the weather.. I am definitely more a person for southern Italy.


Swords is a nice little village north of Dublin and the nearest one to the airport. If you take the bus, you will arrive in less than 10 minutes. For me completely new was the Retail Park, a huge shopping- center with nearly a hundred shops. It wasn’t there when I came the first time.

The old town still has nice little pubs, very cozy and perfect places to eat something typical while experiencing Irish lifestyle. Locals come here to eat, they have their beer in the evening, and they are friendly, open to everyone, curious and will for sure sing in the later hours.


The village has one main road, going from south to north. The first known settlement was around 560 AD when Saint Colmcille blessed a well which gives also the name to the place. The Irish word Sord means clear, pure, An Sord is the Irish word for ‘the water source’. From the medieval period there is still a round tower to see, 26 meters high.

The main street leads to the castle. Not too much is known about it. It was built around 1200 as a manorial residence of an Archbishop. For nearly 150 years it has been in use by archbishops before one decided not to stay here but in Tallaght. He just forgot the castle which slowly started to fall into disrepair.

It then was partly used as a constable’s home during the 14th to the 16th century. In the mid 19th century it was used as an orchard and in 1985 it became property of the Dublin County Council.

Restoration is still going on and the castle can be visited only by appointment.


We had one and a half day in Swords and I enjoyed it because I remembered my first stay here. And my sweetie liked the very Irish atmosphere, the good food (we were twice in the same pub for dinner), the calm village which is also one of the cleanest in Ireland.

Swords is a perfect place to stay for someone has only a day to stay and doesn’t want to go into the big city of Dublin. Malahide castle is nearby, 15 minutes by bus.

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Swords, Co. Dublin/Ireland:

For further information:
Dublin Webside
About Swords and
Malahide Castle and Gardens


Posted in Europe, Ireland, Leinster, ON TRAVEL | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Oldest Occupied Castle in Ireland – Malahide Castle


When I came the very first time to Ireland in 2006, I stayed in Swords, just north of Dublin and near to the airport. I stayed only a couple of days but had time to visit a sight. It was Malahide Castle. I even took a tour inside the castle. I liked it very much and over the years I always wanted to go back. But like very often when you live nearby you always have the feeling ‘next week maybe’. That’s why I have never been there again.

This time I wasn’t alone and I got the chance to re-visit Malahide. Plus meeting with friends right there in the beautiful park.


Malahide Castle is the oldest occupied castle in Ireland and has been in the Talbot family since 1180. It was sold to the Irish government in 1976 when the last of the Talbot family inherited the castle and had to pay an enormous sum of inheritance taxes. Since then, it is open to public and can be visited. Not only the huge gardens but also the estate itself. They give guided tours of around 1.5 hours. Our guide was hilarious, she seemed to know all about the castle history and family and talked with a lot of passion.


Malahide village was already a Northmen settlement. Vikings lived here since 795 and used it of one of their main bases. The last Danish king left Dublin to retire in Malahide when the Anglo-Normans arrived around 1171. Shortly after that Henry II granted Richard Talbot, one of his best knights, the land of Malahide, who started to built his establishment right where the castle stands today.

The family never left the castle except for the short Cromwellian conquest of Ireland when the estate was granted to Miles Corbet. But he was hanged shortly after and the ground was given back to the Talbot family.

The building was enlarged significantly during the reign of Edward IV, the towers are from 1765.

During world war I the grounds of the castle were used as a base for airships.

When the 7th Baron of Talbot died in 1973, he left the castle to his sister (also unmarried). She sold the castle to the Irish State to pay inheritance taxes.. very sad!


There are a few interesting stories I read in the castle while visiting it.

Maud Plunkett, wife of Richard Talbot, was married before. But her husband was killed in a fight right after his wedding. So Maud was maid who became a wife and a widow the very same day. After being again a widow she married a third time and lived in Malahide. She was known as a forceful character. She is buried in Malahide Abbey which is located beside the castle. But the abbey was already in ruins in 1630. The two stone-carved female figures are ancient sheela-na-gigs warding off evil and death.

It is said that Malahide Castle has 5(!) ghosts. One is the first husband of Maud Plunkett, Sir Walter Hussey who was killed on his wedding day and his young bride and widow immediately married after his death his rival.
The second ghost is Maud Plunkett herself, chasing her first husband.
The third ghost is the brief occupant Miles Corbet. He was the owner of the castle during Cromwell’s occupation and did a lot of ‘damage’ to the castle and especially to the abbey. He desecrated the chapel. He was hanged, quartered and drawn. That is the way he appears to the unfortunate ones.
Then there is Puck, a jester of the 16th century. He fell in love with a kinswoman of Lady Elenora Firtzgerald. He was killed on a cold December night and with his dying breath he swore to haunt the castle.
The fifth and last ghost is the white lady. She is from an unknown painting of an unknown artist, leaving the painting from time to time and wanders around. She wears a white flowing dress.


We did the tour without any ghostly encounters. But admired very much the rich and beautiful rooms and halls.

After that we had a look in the gift shop, we met our friends from Navan and had lunch together. Avoca is a very popular restaurant chain in Ireland at the moment and really offers great meals. There is also a good range of gluten/lactose-free choices. We were sitting outside, the weather so perfect, warm and sunny, nearly unusual for Ireland.

The park is huge and provides space for concerts in summer.

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Malahide Castle, Co. Dublin/Ireland:

For further information:
Dublin Webside
Malahide Castle and Gardens


Posted in Europe, Ireland, Leinster, ON TRAVEL | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ice Cream in a Chocolate Coat


Summertime and ice cream – there is no way to avoid this cool treat. I have a friend visiting me for a few weeks and she asked me about ice cream. I thought that it is a good idea and prepared some almond ice cream covered with chocolate in two versions: on a stick and as confection.


To make the ice cream more almond I put a few drops of almond extract into the mixture. As sweetener I used raw honey. I put also a teaspoon of carob gum so it will not make ice cristals in the ice cream which can be disturbing.

Try this recipe with other kinds of ice cream flavors like orange ice cream or just vanilla ice cream!

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Ice Cream Confect
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
16 confects 15 minutes
Passive Time
6 hours
Servings Prep Time
16 confects 15 minutes
Passive Time
6 hours
Ice Cream Confect
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
16 confects 15 minutes
Passive Time
6 hours
Servings Prep Time
16 confects 15 minutes
Passive Time
6 hours
Ingredients
For the ice cream:
For the coating:
Servings: confects
Instructions
  1. Clean the peaches and cut them in chunks. Put all the ingredients for the ice cream into the blender and blend until super smooth.
  2. Fill the 16 molds with the ice cream and freeze at least for 6 hours, better overnight.
  3. Take the confect out of the freezer and prepare the chocolate coating. Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil and let it cool a little. Now pass one confect after the other in the chocolate and put them on a parchment paper on a plate and again into the freezer. Let them stay for about 15 minutes until the chocolate shell is completely hard.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

You can use all kinds of fruit but prefer the ones, that have a good own taste like banana or strawberries. Apples or pears are poor in taste.

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