“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” Anonymous

The planning and anticipation of travel is a pleasant and important part of a trip. This summer we will be spending a few weeks in Ireland. I’ve spent hours on the internet, have several books including the AA Ireland Road Atlas showing the tiniest villages and roads. I’ve an old DK Ireland Guide book from a trip thirteen years ago and a new DK Backroads of Ireland. I have Rick Steves’ latest book on Northern Ireland and three maps (probably not needed with the atlas). I will take along Ireland: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. It has excerpts from works by 15 Irish writers.

My daughter teases me about my traveling library. She says my books take up most of my bag. This has changed a bit. I can now carry books on my Kindle but not the guide books. They definitely need to be paper.

Ireland seems to have gained a reputation as a foodie country with several cooking school offering classes to visitors. I’m looking forward to checking that out. On my visit in 2000 I was amazed to twice be served a plate of food bearing three kinds of potatoes. There were mashed, boiled and fries in addition to meat and the ubiquitous cabbage.

On previous visits the pubs were wonderful places to hear music and meet local people but thick cigarette smoke made it less fun than it might have been. It seemed like everyone smoked, there were always teenagers sitting in the corners of the pubs puffing away. A few months after my last visit, smoking in workplaces was banned (March 2004) making Ireland the first country in the world to institute an outright ban on smoking in workplaces, this included all pubs. I was amazed that it could actually happen there.

A friend who has a B&B in Ireland gave me this recipe.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter

1 egg, unbeaten

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1 cup raisins

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

Sift together all dry ingredients except for baking soda. Cut in the butter. (Go through with fingers.) Add raisins. Add milk, egg, and baking soda. Mix, not completely, just until moist. Knead for a few minutes- not too much. Place in a casserole dish. Brush with egg yolk. Bake for one hour at 375ºF.