Bruges Part One: Culture & Fun

I’m just back from a weekend of culture and fun in Bruges. Perhaps some of you reading this don’t know where Bruges is. Well, it’s in Belgium. It’s a small little town that’s just over an hour’s train ride from Brussels on the way to Ostend on the coast. Bruges is what the town is called by French speakers, but it’s in the Flemish region of Flanders, so it’s known as Brugge there. It’s been a popular tourist destination for a while, but it was the success of a film by Martin McDonagh that really put the place on the map for me. I remember going to see In Bruges at the cinema when it was released and I was immediately blown away by the tightness of the script, the sparkling dialogue, the quality of the acting and, perhaps most importantly, the use of Bruges as the location. Previously, I had been vaguely familiar with the name of the town thanks to its football team, but the film made me fall in love with its buildings and canals, its nooks and crannies, its beer and, well, its beer. I’ve since watched the film a few times and have even sampled some of its beer that comes in those effeminate glasses

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Bruges Part Two: Going Around in a Boat

This is the second part of my double post about my recent trip to Bruges. You can read the first part about culture and fun in the Belgian town by following this link. I’ve already written about some of the sights to see on the streets of Bruges and it seems that every single street and footpath is made from cobblestone. There are few cars on the streets, though the occasional taxi or police car passes through now and then. There are a lot of bicycles and the cyclists tend to travel at faster speeds than the cars. Horse drawn carriages are another way of seeing the town, but we decided that going around in a boat while looking at stuff would be a far relaxing way to see Bruges. And it was. It was perfect weather to go cruising and there are many places where you can hop on a boat. There was a bit of a queue when we got there, but we didn’t have to wait too long to get on board. Each little craft fits about 30 people snugly and we took our place on the stern bench where we soon got talking to a couple of friendly Belgians

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Man at the Top

Long Time Comin'

And so Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band‘s Wrecking Ball Tour made its way around Europe and finished up with two nights in Kilkenny. I’d only planned to go to the two Munster gigs when the Irish dates had been announced last winter, but that plan went out the window following the first show in Limerick. I went online the next day and easily secured a pitch ticket for the second and final concert at Nowlan Park on July 28th. These two dates were going to be a bit of a celebration as half a dozen other acts would join Bruce and the band over the two days in what was being billed as the Wrecking Ball Weekender. My sister and her husband had already bought tickets for the Saturday and they both had yet another unforgettable night on what was their third gig of tour. Josh Ritter, Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard had warmed up the crowd that night and Glen also returned to share the stage with Bruce during an impressive duet on Drive All Night. They also got the whole of the Born in the USA album and some nice weather, so it sounded like Sunday would be a tough act to follow

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One Way or Another

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I was in Cork city earlier this month with my two nephews when the shop window you see above and below took my eye. Both windows of the Irish Cancer Society’s facade were full of record covers and a very interesting collection it was too. Unfortunately, a sign amongst the records carried the bad news that the merchandise wouldn’t go on sale for another two weeks. I then realised that I wouldn’t be too far from Cork city that day as I’d be staying at my sister’s place following Bruce Springsteen’s gig at Páirc Úi Chaoimh the night before. So, I took a couple of photos of the windows and resolved to return on the morning of the 19th

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Rebel Rouser

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Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s triumphant return to Ireland for their debut Limerick gig last Tuesday was followed two days later by the band’s first ever gig in Cork city. As I made my way down on the bus from Limerick, I thought about the last gig played at what was going to be Thursday night’s venue. Páirc Úi Chaoimh is the home of the GAA in Cork and also the home of the Cork hurling team that had been defeated by Limerick the previous Sunday. I had been there a lot throughout the ’90s, following the fortunes of a pretty decent Limerick hurling team and had actually been in attendence in July when Limerick won the 1996 Munster championship by beating Tipperary in a replay. I never thought it would be another 17 years before Limerick would win their next Munster title and, when I saw Oasis play there a month later, I never imagined that it would just as long before another concert would take place at Pairc Úi Chaoimh

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16th of July, Thomond Park (Sunny)

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It’s four in the evening and sunny. That’s not unusual for a mid-July day in the Northern Hemisphere. But I’m writing this on the outskirts of Limerick city and anyone familiar with Ireland’s third largest city will be only too aware that it’s not noted for its sunshine. Recently, however, the Limerick of Frank McCourt’s raintrodden Angela’s Ashes, like the rest of Ireland, has been experiencing its hottest summer in seven years and there’s no sign of it abating. The unusual weather has brought warm days and nights, sunshine and no rain. As a result, people are constantly in a good mood, more optimistic and far happier. This unexpected heat wave has had to compete with two other unusual events this week. On Sunday, the Limerick hurling team won its first Munster championship in 17 years, when they defeated provincial rivals Cork in front of 30,000 sports fans at Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds in Ireland’s national sport. Two days later, at the home of the Munster rugby team, Thomond Park, over 30,000 music fans came to watch Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band make it a memorable few days for the city by the River Shannon. Many people got to experience the weather, the hurling and the music. Due to work commitments, I could only watch Sunday’s final on television, but I was there on Tuesday to see the concert of a lifetime by my favourite performer.

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Brimful of Ashes

Ash

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fast for many Christians and a reminder that Easter will be upon us in six weeks. It’s been decades since I took part in the rituals associated with the day, but for the last few years I’ve been using it to remember the musical trio from Downpatrick in the county of Down in Northern Ireland. Ash formed there 21 years ago and have released half a dozen albums since. They haven’t released any original albums since 2007, though, as the band has decided to focus exclusively on singles instead of the lengthier format. So, today I’m going to look at a couple of songs that appeared on singles by the band and also a couple of singles from a time when singles ruled. Punk Boy is a song by a Welsh band that formed in the same year as Ash and are named after their lead singer. Ash’s version of the Helen Love song appeared on the filp side of their 1995 single, Petrol. Who You Drivin’ Now? was originally released in 1991 on Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, the second album from Seattle grunge band, Mudhoney. Ash’s version is taken from a 1999 EP that also saw the band performing songs by Ween and Nirvana

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