Death and November – but not a sad story!!!!!

Death is so much a part of life: it touches everyone. The shock, the finality, the numbness is just heart wrenching. To compound this emptiness it always seems as if it’s our saints are taken while the sinners remain…. But the fault of that perception is that our scoundral is probably someone else’s hero, just as loved and embraced for all their failings.

November’s All Souls Day was always a special day in 32. The “List of the Dead” was prepared in the days before and ‘enveloped’ with a church offering: names and dates coming from a trove of Memorial Cards. The closest and most treasured of the cards were carried in Mam’s Prayer Book to be remembered way more often that just once a year. Faith converted these loved ones from being “gone” to being transformed in love. They were people who had coloured our lives: parents, grandparents, children, relatives and friends.  Communing with them brought a peace, lifted our pain and allowed them to continue as part of our lives. It transformed the sainthood that initial loss bestowed on them to an understanding of the realities of their lives. We could now remember indiscretions without judgment or guilt and fondly acknowledge that no one is totally saint or sinner.

Other times are also part of the ritual of remembering – the annual cemetery mass, lights on the Hospice Christmas Tree, anniversaries and birthdays.

Memory cards in my house now are stored in a box including Mam’s trove of cards – prayer books are out of vogue now. (It’s hard to imagine a time when they were given as presents – Mam got one from her brothers and sisters for her sixteenth birthday!)

Around the beginning of October, now, I open the box and read through the cards, the rhymes and prayers that were so significant, look at the photos that were so carefully chosen. I add the “new” names to the “Dead List” saved on my PC, then print and send to the local sacristy that they might be remembered a little more publicly, displayed in the church porch around the anniversary time.

Not all loss is caused by death and over the years I’ve seen much grief caused just by someone’s departure. Very soon (maybe too soon) after Shay’s death someone told me that loss through death was not the hardest to bear and I found that difficult to understand. Now all these years later maybe it’s true. Emerson coined the words: “Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest.” And maybe that’s because there is a ritual around it? Other separations just happen and are often unacknowledged.


Baltinglass are back where they belong

I sat beside a Baltinglass lady in Croke Park for the replay of the All Ireland – she was as stressed and as excited as any Dub. She has followed the Dubs for a number of years. we had a great chat, me doing a lot of boasting about my Wicklow relatives (both Lamberts and O’Loughlins) who had featured in Wicklow football over the years, one of them, Niamh Kelly, with a Wicklow All Ireland medal! Bumped into Liam from Aughrim as the Sam was being presented and had a great chat about all the family stalwarts who played in the blue and gold!

Back to Baltinglass! Baltinglass featured in our lives as a stop-off point on the journey to Wexford. I loved the view of the ruins across the Slaney as you entered the town.

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Germaine’s was a particular favourite for lunch for Mam and Dad when in later years they journeyed without the clan. (The Wicklow Heather was the pit-stop if they went over the mountains.) Germaine’s is also where I met up with Jim  on the run up to Christmas to collect my turkey (his welcome donation to the Paddocks Dinner).

So when I sat up in bed on Monday morning to read the epaper, as usual turning to the sports pages, I was delighted to read the following article about the Baltinglass win in Wicklow  Club Competition. I’ll certainly keep an eye on their progress through Leinster. They will have Home (Aughrim) advantage for all matches through to the Final and as Dad used to say Aughrim is a pitch for the bold and brave. My neighbour at the All Ireland had much the same comment to make to supporters around us who were baying for “soft” penalties and cards. a Laois friend often talks about “the battle of Aughrim”.

Dad was an ardent follower of Wicklow football. He had great stories about the hurling and football days of Ballymanus and Annacurra. So the Baltinglass club victory in 1990, one of the last matches he was able to watch, was a great thrill for him.

Baltinglass are back where they belong

Thursday, October 27, 2016 By John Harrington

The Leinster Senior Football Club Championship will welcome back a long-lost prodigal son on Sunday when Wicklow champions Baltinglass make their first appearance in the competition for 22 years.

The Wicklow side were once one of the most familiar faces of the provincial club campaign in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, a period that saw them win 15 county titles in 24 years.

That glorious era for Baltinglass GAA club was gilded with gold when they won the ’89 Leinster title and went on to win the All-Ireland too, the only Wicklow club ever to do so.

They’re back now though thanks to a County Final win over St. Patrick’s, and team-captain Jason Kennedy admits it’s hugely satisfying that the current generation have added their own chapter to the club’s illustrious history. Winning a first county title in nine years meant a lot to everyone in a town now festooned with green and white banners, but their tradition demands that they now have a good cut off the Leinster Championship which starts with a clash against Louth Champions, Sean O’Mahony’s, on Sunday.

We’ll be going into the game on Sunday looking to do ourselves justice. If that’s enough to get us into the quarter-final, then well and good. We’ll be taking this game very seriously. It’s not like we have the championship in the bag and we’re just going into this to see how we go. We’ll be hoping to definitely be competitive. “It is a bit of a journey into the unknown, but it’s one that we’re very excited about.”

The death of Anthony Foley

I was from the Dublin of GAA (Caisleán) and Soccer (St Pat’s Athletics). My first ever date was to Richmond Park! Rugby never featured except when the Cork relatives (in-law) visited and to them rugby was Munster.
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Then I met Shay and himself, Gerry, Terry and Peter joined Railway Union. This was not blood and guts rugby I see on TV today; I think they may have been on the 20th team (maybe a bit of an exaggeration but definitely one of the lower teams). They NEVER won! But the APRES MATCH was brilliant.

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I also stood shivering on the terraces of old Lansdowne Road on more than one occasion – I remember buying a second hand fur coat in the Georges St Arcade for the freezing experiences. Even then the standard of dress at a rugby match was very different to what one wore to Croker! I went into labour with David at a party in Railway Union, dashing straight from there to Holles Street!

I remember knitting David an outfit in Red White and blue, the colours of Railway Union.

Brian played for a while; it was said he was quite talented; he has a Leinster medal somewhere. As a mum I only saw the cuts and bruises.

Even though I lived next door to a rugby family (Irish player), Rugby was still Munster and social but not something I’d turn on the telly to watch!!!!

Not until a copy of the Wexford Journal arrived in May 2006 from Robert did the memories of what Rugby meant to Munster men come back to me. I remember being fascinated by the supporters’ efforts to get to Wales. (Kept 2 articles from the time – see below)

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So why do I think of all that now? Well the wonderful tributes that not only the celebrities but the ordinary people of Munster are paying to Anthony Foley clearly indicate the importance of this Munster man in a Munster sport. One could not be but touched as the hearse drove by Thomond Park and Munster fans lining the Limerick streets sang the rousing “There is an Isle” – absolutely beautiful, and so sad.

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Munster fans set sail from Kilmore Quay

PUBLISHED 25/05/2006 Wexford people

Six fanatical Munster rugby supporters travelled to the Heineken Cup Final in Cardiff in style last weekend on board a yacht from Kilmore Quay.

Dermot Greer who runs Sailing Ireland in Kilmore was contacted by the eager Limerick men asking him to bring them to the game on his 37ft yacht, ‘Yola’.

When they told Dermot, a life-long rugby player, that they would give him a ticket to the Munster versus Biarritz match if he agreed, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

In the lead-up to the final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, tickets were changing hands for up to €500 and all flights and ferry sailings were booked up.

Dermot’s passengers arrived on Thursday evening last and spent the night on the boat in Kilmore Quay, setting off on Friday morning. Before leaving port, they bedecked the vessel in the Munster colours with a few Wexford and Limerick flags thrown in for good measure.

It was originally planned to leave on Thursday in a flotilla with five other boats from Cork but the trip was postponed until Friday due to strong winds.

They sailed all day Friday and right through the night, arriving at Penarth Marina in Cardiff early on Saturday morning, catching sight of the Millennium Stadium from the bay.

‘The stadium is only ten minutes’ walk from the marina so it was very convenient’, said Dermot, a highly experienced yachtsman and an Irish Sailing Association and Royal Yacht Association instructor.


Some of his passengers also have sailing experience and for them, the adventure was an opportunity to indulge two passions – rugby and the sea. The skipper himself played rugby for many years.

The extended sea trip didn’t faze Dermot who set up his Sailing Ireland sailing school and yacht charter company in Kilmore Quay three years ago.

‘Yola’ is a passenger boat registered with the Department of the Marine and is usually hired for shorter trips around the Saltee Islands, Dunmore East and Waterford City although Dermot tries to take one or two longer journeys every year to places like the Isles of Scilly.

The rugby fans were due to set sail from Penarth on Sunday but sheltered in Milford Haven on Monday following forecasts of gale force winds.

‘We didn’t want to chance crossing the Irish Sea. The weather was looking a bit iffy so we decided to stay until Tuesday morning’, said Dermot. The ‘Yola’ was expected back in Kilmore Quay on Tuesday evening.

He and his passengers thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Wales. ‘The journey over was super. The wind was behind us all the way’, he said.

‘We had success on the pitch which was great and there was a fantastic atmosphere in the stadium’.


The day Munster rugby grasped the Holy Grail

Barry Duggan

Sixty minutes had gone in the 2006 Heineken Cup final in Cardiff.

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Anthony Foley celebrates winning the Heineken Cup in 2006 when Munster beat Biarritz by 23 points to 19

Munster led French opponents Biarritz by four points, but hadn’t scored in 18 minutes and had just turned over the ball, leading to a break in play.

The men from the southern province had been here twice before, in 2000 and 2002, with heartbreaking losses on both occasions. Gasping for air in the white-hot inferno of the Millennium Stadium, the Irish province were out on their feet as 74,000 – with easily the vast majority supporting Munster – anxiously looked on.

Out-half Ronan O’Gara glanced up at the big screen – and then one of the most remarkable scenes in modern sport took place. The stadium screen relayed live images from a heaving O’Connell Street in Limerick, where a crowd was watching the game. A roar went up in Cardiff. Suddenly realising their team, relations and friends in Cardiff could see and hear them, all of Shannonside roared back. The guttural Munster crescendo descended from the stands, rolling out onto the pitch. The stadium shook.

There was only going to be one winner. We knew then that it was going to be an unforgettable day, and 10 years have failed to diminish those memories.

Getting to Cardiff was an achievement in itself. The stories of fans travelling from around the world rivalled the adventures of Phileas Fogg. Tara Robinson from Limerick made a 32-hour bus journey through Brazil and Argentina before flying to Madrid, on to London – and made it to Cardiff 20 minutes before the game began. Another couple travelled from New Zealand.

Fr Liam Ryan ensured the Augustinian church in Limerick was packed the week before with a prayer of desperation offered to St Jude: “Help me to find a flight, a ferry, a paddle boat, a ticket for the stadium in Cardiff . . . Bless Paul, ROG and all the lads so that they may bring home the Heineken Cup, the Holy Grail . . . If you answer my prayer, I promise to limit myself to one drink if they win. Thank you for the gifts I am about to receive.”

Battle-hardened supporters who’d ventured to many a foreign field still recall that weekend as one of the best. Think of the Munster hurling final in Thurles and double it. It wasn’t confined to the rugby fraternity either.

Munster rugby unified all – as GAA and soccer diehards rowed in. Big burly men, who barely acknowledged each other at home, drank, hugged and sung with all their might. Families separated across the globe reunited that weekend. ‘De Banks’, ‘Slievenamon’, ‘Limerick, You’re A Lady’, ‘Spancil Hill’ and ‘The Rose of Tralee’. Even ‘Molly Malone’. It never ceased. Line-outs, rucks and mauls – and that was just the pubs in Cardiff the night before.

They slept on couches and floors. “If your mother asks, we had a fine B&B,” one dad warned his 12-year-old son.

Johnny Looby, then president of Kilfeacle Rugby Club, recalled the madness.

“After a rocky night over on the boat, 23 of us stayed in a house about two miles outside Cardiff. There was only meant to be seven in it.

“Pebbles Ryan from [Tipperary] town was laid out on a couch with a towel over him – the same as being laid out in Tom Fogarty’s funeral home in Tipp town. We didn’t see a dinner from Thursday night until Sunday. I went hoarse. It was the greatest weekend of my life.”

On Saturday, apprehension, anxiety and angst. Two men bedecked head-to-toe in Leinster blue got a roaring ovation and 1,000 foam rugby balls hurled at them when they walked into the Prince of Wales pub. They never paid for a drink the rest of the day. Actor Peter O’Toole spoke of his late friend and Munster supporter Richard Harris.

Nerves were unbearable. How could we take 80 minutes?

The game was a rollercoaster. Nip and tuck. Stringer’s try. You little beaut. Munster by seven at the break. More penalties and drama. O’Gara stretched the lead to four with six minutes to go. Touching distance.

All stood, as Biarritz laid siege. But then, just before 5pm on May 20, 2006, referee Chris White blew the sweetest sound ever – the final whistle. Munster were champions of Europe.

That night is hard to describe. Happy, laughing faces everywhere. The best rolling maul ever witnessed happened on St Mary Street around midnight. Twenty police officers wrestled with 40 fans for possession of a giant rugby ball, with thousands cheering.

The night never ended. It just gave way to morning and dashes to ferries and airports. It rained in Limerick at the homecoming but we didn’t feel a drop. Licensing laws were ignored and work was forgotten.

It’s hard to believe that, a decade later, the final of the European competition has just been played, but without Irish involvement. Nobody seemed to notice or care.

Maybe the heady days of the Champions Cup have peaked and the parties we held in Clermont, Leicester, Toulouse, San Sebastian and Cardiff will never be repeated. One can only hope more rich days lay ahead with even more memories to be made.

The final word to the late great Peter O’Toole speaking to this reporter, then with the ‘Limerick Leader’, barely an hour after the final.

“Dickie [Richard Harris] is dancing in the heavens with this result. They have done it all now, they have beaten the All-Blacks, the Aussies, and are now the champions of Europe. Remember this is only a club and yet there was over 70,000 supporters here in the stands and they came across a sea for this. Who else would do it?” asked O’Toole.

Before waiting for an answer, he spoke for all of us: “I have never seen anything like it.”




Hearty breakfast as disembarking at 9.30 – cases had to be out before 7am. Quick rendition of “My bags are packed”.

Our biker guide was on the quay to make sure we all got on the bus with our belongings.

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I did my usual people watching in a small café – where locals were coming to buy breakfast while the rest of the cast did last minute shopping, sight-seeing.


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I did go to a few shops and met a really interesting guy in one who talked about the destruction of Cologne during the war. He rooted out some old postcards to give me that showed then and now – a bit of a find!




The resilience of the European people never ceases to amaze me. the awful atrocities they lived through during the war and the way they picked themselves up and moved on.

As I’ve a “blue pass” I can get assistance through the airport – but today was an example of service at its best. Think it probably was because there were three young guys coming to Dublin for the weekend, one of them in a wheelchair. Well! Each of us got our own attendant and we were brought direct to the plane and “airlifted” on. The lads asked would the same happen in Dublin; I certainly couldn’t give them any assurance (I was doubtful). But surprise surprise – it did.

Another memorable adventure!


After busy day yesterday, decided that walking tour of Nijmegen in German could be missed. So wrapped up and went on deck and to read and watch the world go by.


Have become friendly with some of the German guests – a few of them have been to Ireland and like to talk about their trip. Others have plans to visit. And while I don’t think they understand the Irish wit, they are very impressed with how we enjoy ourselves. They were particularly taken with the sing-song last night and that we could sing for hours!!!!!

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Great kefuffle at noon  when ship ready to sail, and an Irish person from Cabin 225 (not me) was missing – tried to phone but went to answering …. And then she comes ‘strolling’ along the quay. ALMOST another emergency!!!!! Great crack at French Dinner as stories of lost sheep were repeated. We even had a rendition of “A poor little sheep ……I’ve lost my maa-maa-maa”.



Antwerp, the City of diamonds – and we didn’t even look!!!!

Antwerp, the city of Rubens: Great experience in De Kathedral Antwerpen. The guide pamphlet set the atmosphere for the walk around the Cathedral of our Lady. “Welcome! When entering sit down on one of the chairs at the back of the cathedral. Feel the majesty.

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Gigantic pillars support the ribbed vault above your head. Large stained glass windows filter the light. You are surrounded by opulent works of art. Our visitors are often reduced to silence by such beauty

….The cathedral was built as a house for God and today it continues to receive many Catholics who wish to celebrate and pray here.””



This modern statue stands close to the back of the Cathedral and symbolises man trying to balance faith (the cross) and living.

The visit was at our own pace, focussing on what drew us: it was so spiritual and inspiring to see four of the masterpieces of Rubens, the Antwerp painter who was the proponent of Baroque in the Low Countries:

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“His dynamic flamboyant and imposing alterpieces continue to leave visitors speechless” according to the guidebook – AND THEY DID.


Antwerp, the city of Lace: Fiona and Catherine went off shopping. Being “crafty”, I decided to visit the Dupon Lace House. Met a fascinating lady whose family have been lacemaking for generations who was delighted to explain all about bobbin lace, needle lace and combinations.


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Bought three lovely examples: Renaissance Needle Lace, Duchess Bobbin Lace with Bruges pattern and Princess Bobbin Lace.  Thoroughly enjoyed the chat.

And just had time to buy some Belgian chocolate before meeting girls for coffee. As time was moving on we decided to get a taxi back to the ship – luckily we had only 10 minutes to sailing. Then to find Fiona’s mobile missing – still in taxi- what a nice guy to race back and return it just as gang plank was being pulled up!!!

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There were 180 passengers on the ship, 174 of them from Germany. And still it was the Irish contingency that out-sang the Karaoke with renditions of An Puc ar Buile, the Banks, Molly Malone and many many others – all unaccompanied as you can imagine.



Docked in Gent today and decided to take coach trip to Bruges …..such a quaint town! Known as the Venice of the North, it’s UNESCO site.

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The Historic Centre of Brugge is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble, illustrating significant stages in the commercial and cultural fields in medieval Europe.

Brugge in medieval times was known as a commercial metropolis in the heart of Europe.


The city reflects a considerable exchange of influences on the development of art and architecture, particularly in brick Gothic, which is characteristic of northern Europe and the Baltic. This architecture strongly determines the character of the historic centre of the city.

The 1th century city walls marked the boundaries of the medieval city. Although the walls themselves are lost today, they remain clearly visible, emphasized by the four surviving gates, the ramparts and one of the defence water towers. The medieval street pattern, with main roads leading towards the important public squares, has mostly been preserved, as well as the network of canals which, once used for mercantile traffic, played an important role in the development of the city.

In the 15th century, Brugge was the cradle of the Flemish Primitives and a centre of patronage and painting development for artists such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. Many of their works were exported and influenced painting styles all over Europe. Exceptionally important collections have remained in the city until today.


What did we do besides walking around and sightseeing –

EVERYONE in Bruges seemed to be eating chips from a van with dollops of sauce on top. we ate chips and sauce out of a bag as all good Brugians do!!!!So we joined them.e-in-bruges-2

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Will have to rewatch “In Bruges” when I get home as its set here (hence the name!) and lots of the violent scenes takes place around the Square.

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Our translator, Marie Claire (aka as Marie Celeste, Marie Antoinette, Polly) entranced us with her knowledge of the area – Waterloo (had never even heard the ABBA song?); Flanders (Bruges is known as the Jewel of Flanders); wasn’t quite sure whether we were in Holland or Belgium; But she certainly minded us – making sure we knew return times, meeting points, etc. so very pleasant you couldn’t be cross with her – but lucky we had access to WIFI. Also the German guide had pretty good English and shared some info with us.

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Scenery to and from Bruges was gorgeous – reminiscent of the landscapes one sees in WW1 films



WOW! Did I ever think I would be the cause of a medical emergency on board a ship in Rotterdam Harbour????? Well that’s what happened!

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Not feeling great this morning so decided to stay in the bed and let the five Irish off with English speaking guide for a tour of Rotterdam. Thought a trip on deck might sort me out, but ship receptionist felt I needed a doctor – emergency services arrived (in less than 10 minutes) – top to toe examination – some immediate treatment and strict orders to stay in the bed.

What did I miss during all this excitement….a museum that wasnt open!!!!!! And these cubist houses which would have been worth a view.


Ever obedient (not) I decided to wrap up warm and got up on deck in the afternoon (warm and sunny) to see us leaving the harbour!
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Woke up in Amsterdam this morning. An English speaking guide met us for a bus tour around the city. Just as I pictured – canals, bridges, waterfront buildings. We had an hour to spare before our booking in the Van Gogh museum so the cork lads wanted to do some walking, the Laois couple and Fiona decided on some retail therapy. I stayed on the canal bank soaking up Amsterdam atmosphere and watched the world “sail” by.

c-amsterdam-van-gogh-museum Van Gogh Museum was so informative – another excellent guide– exhibitions of all his work as a timeline … I probably never appreciated his genius – and it was great to have previously known about the Arles (France) connection

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c-amsterdam-poldersFiona and I decided to see some of the countryside and signed up for a trip to Edam and the Zaanse Schans windmills (all operational) and traditional village – who could think of Holland without windmills and cheese????

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Just imagine that most of Holland is below sea level and yet they have designed a system of drainage and land reclamation that allows farming on a grand scale. Will think of these polders when i hear about the annual flooding in Ireland!!!! Many of the farmers have their own windmills to drive the drainage systems!

Amazing that Zaanse, realising that Irish is an official European Language has produced a guide leaflet “as Gaeilge”.


Onto the village of Edam next, one of the centres for the CHEESE industry- lovely little town – traditional Dutch houses – the rest of the gang walked through …. I slept on bus – it’s a busy day!!!!!

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We visited a dairy farm on way back and Auntie Antje, the farmer’s wife, showed us how cheese is made. Then we got a chance to sample – would have loved to bring some home but case weight is a consideration. So just feasted here!!!

Barely an hour for dinner, then out again for the Grachtan tour of the canals by night. As the tour was designed for the predominantly German contingent, Marie Claire (designated minder of the Irish) accompanied us to translate – unfortunately she thought most of the information was “irrelevant” and we had to make do with our limited knowledge of German!!!! We have the poor girl totally confused with our humour; she’s trying so hard, BUT!!!!!!


Woke up this morning to views of the Markermeer, a large lake in the central Netherlands. It used to be part of the Zuiderzee, but is now a freshwater lake. Hoorn, with a beautiful old city area, is one of the richest Dutch ports.



Everyone walks or cycles or uses a small boat moored outside their door.

We managed to get a taxi to centre and do some shopping, some coffee in a Pancake Café



the Trophy is for Pancake Champs of the year – NOT Sam!!!)  There was bell ringing practice in the nearby church for the duration of our coffee – not sure if this is an everyday occurrence!

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We then had to make a mad dash to the Westfries Museum right in the town centre to see the current “special” exhibition. It’s an exhib of returned art. In 2005, 24 paintings and 17 pieces of silver were stolen. Five of the paintings were recently discovered in the Ukraine and have been returned to Westfries. All of them have sustained major damage but luckily are in the process of being restored. The Statue is of a guy called Coen, very big in the Dutch West Indies – came from Hoorn.

b-hoorn-sqcoen-statue  bhoorn-waiting-for-a-taxiThe luxury of sitting in a bar and calling a taxi to the door!!!!!

With all that culture under our belts, we hit back to the ship for drinks and dinner.  All free for the cruise duration!!!!! and then onto deck for a last look at the sunset in Hoorn!