Donkey Crossing

Welcome to Donkey Crossing! Donkey Crossing is an on-line account of one Limey and one Yank living one Dream. From September 2006 until the end of 2007, we plan to visit friends and family on five continents and immerse ourselves into various cultures, natural phenomena and ways of life. We hope you enjoy our tales and visit often! Cheers, Jason and Rachel Napoli

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Clonakilty Craic
We'd heard mixed reports about Europe's famed budget airline, so embarked upon our first Ryan Air journey with some apprehension. Sure enough, the time between arrival at Stansted airport and take off was slightly hellish. Having checked in at the 'too good to be true' speed of light, we proceeded to security where a gothic looking girl policed the gateway to our destination, Ireland. Although she looked barely old enough to buy herself a drink, goth girl had us cramming handbags into day packs, repacking wheeled carry-ons and bagging our liquids and gels with compliant obedience. In spite of our cooperation and charm, we failed to meet the goth's strict requirements and were sent away to check our luggage. Three queues, half an hour, an irritating surcharge and a couple more grey hairs later we got the coveted nod from the goth guard and proceeded through security. Thankfully, the rest of our Ryan Air flight was uneventful and we were soon breathing fresh Irish air.
Destination Clonakilty, West Cork, Ireland
We were greeted by Bill Shanley, a good friend and musical colleague of my brother who would be our host. Bill clearly knew his way along the dark winding country lanes from Cork to Clonakilty and we soon arrived at Shanley's Piano Bar, Bill's home since childhood and ours for the next few days.
There was no questioning what the beverage of choice would be at Shanley's
Entering Shanley's, we encountered a boozy throng of music lovers, invisible through the fog of my steamed up glasses. We were guided through the crowd and introduced to Mrs. Philomena Shanley (Phil to friends and family) who I could see, when my steam cleared, was an extremely classy lady. We were served a tasty Murphy's stout by Bill's sister Emer, and immediately felt at home in the pub the Shanley family have owned for 103 years. As Bill jammed with the band, we watched from an alcove where platinum discs recognizing his recordings with various Irish artists hung from the walls.
The style queens of Clon: Phil Shanley and her daughter Emer
After saying good night to the regulars, our hosts brought us through the glass door at the back of the pub into their home - an inviting refuge with soft lights, fresh lilies and orchids and a homey feel. Every room was beautifully decorated with careful attention to detail, and we were guided along twisting pine hallways up to our cosy attic bedroom.
Before retiring, Bill, Andrew, Eva, Jason and I headed down the street to the Rossa Grill, the local late-night fast food joint. We were undoubtedly the oldest and most sober clientele there. The hungry crowd shoved each other towards the counter like a mob charging the enemy. Bill bravely joined the great burger rush and came back with cheeseburgers and curry chips for all.

Rachel, Bill, Andrew & Eva, some of us rosy-cheeked after a few Murphy's

The next morning after a lie-in (there's no such thing as an early night at Shanley's), Jason and I headed out to explore Clonakilty, or 'Clon'. Clon's streets are lined with beautiful boutiques, stylish gift shops and traditional cafes. For a town of 4,000 people the abundance of pubs (30+) seemed a bit excessive. Having said that, we soon took advantage of one for a nice pint of Beamish stout in front of an open fire.

Cobbled square in the centre of Clon

Back at Shanley's we were treated to a roast beef dinner by Phil's sister Barbara. She was visiting from Liverpool with her husband Ian, and the four of us quickly became friends. After dinner, we put on our party outfits and headed down to the pub to celebrate New Years Eve the Shanley way. We got seats in the packed pub just in time for "The Bill Shanley Experience" to launch into action. The band was full of talented musicians including Bill on guitar and Andrew on bass. They rocked the house with classics by the Beatles, Jackson Five, Van Halen, Jerry Lee Lewis and others. With the Murphy's flowing, the 'craic' was exceptional. The Shanleys certainly know how to throw a party!

"The Bill Shanley Experience", featuring Bill Shanley on guitar, Andrew Holdsworth on bass and 'the two Brians' on vocals. The vocalist on the right is Brian Crowley, an MEP (Member of the European Parliament) representing Ireland. According to one knowledgeable observer, Brian will be President of Ireland one day. It is only fitting for a musical nation such as Ireland to have a President with a great singing voice!

New Year's Day was Emer's birthday, which she celebrated by cooking a fabulous curry for the whole Shanley family and various guests, including us, at her home. Unsurprisingly, we found the rest of the family to be just as warm, friendly and fun as our hosts. Emer's children, Brian and Mai, are young musicians, so after dinner we had an impromptu jam session with them. As Bill and Andrew played, I joined them on Mai's 1/4 size violin for a rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely". Emer insisted I borrow the violin to play later that night in the pub. With Mai's kind permission I took the mini instrument and dutifully produced it later at the pub, joining in with the tunes I knew. The good 'craic' just refused to end! It was an honor for me to play with Bill, Andrew and the band.

Three guests jamming with Bill and the band

The following day Bill drove us around the local countryside, stopping for a delicious lunch of local seafood chowder and fishcakes. To aid our digestion, we walked on the beach, watching the waves and the hardy individuals surfing them.

Bill and Andrew demonstrate some air guitar on the dunes

Bill kept us entertained with stories of Clon's musical heritage. Apparently the town has drawn musicians to it from far and wide, including Noel Redding, bass player for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. After Hendrix's death, Redding made Clon his home and was a regular performer at Shanley's. He also took Bill on as his only student, and Bill holds Noel in the highest regard as a friend, teacher and mentor. Stopping at Noel's former home was a highlight of our tour with Bill.

A pretty Clonakilty scene

Since Clon is famous for its black pudding (blood sausages to the uninitiated), Jason and I cooked up some of this local delicacy in a full Irish breakfast on the morning of our departure. Besides being a fun culinary experience for us, this was a small gesture of thanks to Phil and Bill for their warm hospitality.

Sliced and ready to fry - Clonakilty black and white pudding. Delish!

As we said thank you and goodbye to Phil and our friends at Shanley's, we promised we'd be back...... and meant it.

Jason posed proudly with the pint of Murphy's he poured himself, supervised by Emer. Slainte!


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