Icelandic volcano disrupts flights again

Irish airline operators had a bad case of déjà-vu this morning when a cloud of ash from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull swept over the Emerald Isle and grounded all flights. The Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland were also affected. Flights in the rest of the UK operated normally.

The Irish Aviation Authority canceled all flights in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland starting at 7am local time and allowed them to resume at 1pm local time. The few small airports affected in the Hebrides also plan to reopen sometime in the afternoon.

The ash cloud only reached about 20,000 feet so flights crossing Irish airspace at cruising altitude were not affected. The cloud was thin and sparse compared with the massive one that grounded flights for six days last month. It thinned out to safe levels by the afternoon, prompting aviation officials to reopen service.

The World’s Favourite Mollusc

Oysters – love ’em or hate ’em. Apart from chili-fried tarantulas in Cambodia, there’s probably nothing on earth that polarises people more than the world’s favourite mollusc. My favourite bivalve-related memory is arriving in San Francisco after an eleven hour flight from Auckland and going straight to the Swan Oyster Depot for lunch. Apparently sunshine and exercise are good for jetlag, but experience shows that a winning combination of Anchor Steam Beer, oysters and sour dough bread also does the trick.

The world’s biggest oyster festival is prised open on August 28 in the town of Hillsborough in Northern Island. The highlight of the five day festival is the World Oyster Eating Championships on the following Saturday. Expect a truck load of Guinness to be consumed as contestants do their best in front of a global audience of more than 12,000 visitors.

Thanks to adonovan on Flickr for the pic of a winning combination.

Wistful Wishes of Whiskey-filled Weekends

UK’s The Independent had a good bunch of suggestions for folks who love the sweet, hot, aromatic burning sensation of the world’s greatest whiskeys. Now, distilled spirits may have originated in the Middle East, but the British Isles are the home of fine scotch. And what better for a connoisseur than to stay at or near a fine distillery?

The article lists examples of five lodges where you can stay, close to some of the world’s best distilleries. For example, you can rent small cottages at Scotland’s the Glenmorangie House for as little as 160 pounds ($313 USD) per night, full board.

“Within easy staggering distance” of the Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland is the Drum Lodge, a 200+ year old drum-shaped, gothic-styled lodge. (Yes, yes, it’s Irish whiskey, but it sounds cool anyway.)

Or try the island distillery of Bowmore, on Islay, where you can bring up to 11 of your friends to rent a cottage for as little as 440 pounds ($860 USD) per week. And there are seven more distilleries on the 25-mile-long Scottish island. It’s a mere four-hour, car-plus-ferry trip west of Glasgow.

Scotch fanatics may recognize the names here, but I can tell you, from the pictures I’ve seen of these places, they look beautiful and worth the trip…even if whiskey’s not your bag, baby.