Monday, September 1, 2014

Ireland Day Four: Killarney National Park

Another long lazy morning. The bakery in Sneem makes delicious raisin buns.

Driving from Killarney to Sneem a few days before, we had seen Kissane Sheep Farms. We looked on the Internet and found they are a working sheep farm, and that if you can arrange it, you can get a tour of the farm and, in particular, see a demonstration of the dogs working with the sheep.

Well, we were both quite interested in that, but we tried calling the farm from the hotel and couldn't get an answer. Of course, this might have been because I couldn't quite parse the format used for Irish phone numbers, so I might have had us dialing the wrong numbers on the hotel phone.

Irish area codes vary in length, between one and three digits (excluding the leading 0), and subscribers' numbers are between five and seven digits. However, a migration to a standard format, (0xx) xxx xxxx, is in progress. However, to avoid disruption, this process is only being carried out as needed where existing area codes and local numbering systems have reached full capacity.

So we drive up to Moll's Gap and stop at the front gate to the farm, where there is a sign instructing to call on the intercom at the gate for further details.

We do that for a while, but noone answers.

These things happen on vacations sometimes. You can't get too hung up on it.

We drive on into Killarney National Park, stopping at Ladies View (for the view), at Torc Waterfall (for the waterfall), and then at Muckross House (for the house).

Muckross House is the real-world version of Downton Abbey, or Monarch of the Glen, or Upstairs Downstairs, etc. It's a 70-room country estate which held 22 live-in servants, hosted magnificent hunting parties, and was once visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Its final owners were Americans, the same ones who built the beautiful Filoli House in Woodside, California, which we had visited about 10 years ago.

Our tour guide is very good (this is becoming a theme in Ireland: the docents and guides really enjoy talking about their national treasures to guests), and I enjoy the tour very much.

We realize that we're famished, so we stop at the Estate Cafe. The food doesn't seem to exactly match the menu, but it's delicious and I can definitely recommend the "seafood pie."

The weather is just superb, so we walk through the Muckross Gardens to Muckross Friary, another Cromwell victim; this friary was run by Franciscan monks, not Augustinian monks. As with the ruined monastery at Ballinskelligs, and elsewhere that we visit, the cemetery at Muckross Abbey is still actively used. (I remain somewhat confused about the difference between an abbey, a priory, a friary, a monastery: it's complicated.)

And yes, the Yew Tree in the cloisters is stunning.

The jaunting cars operated for the convenience and entertainment of the tourists give Muckross Estate a very back-in-time feel. As we walk down the long tree-lined path that leads up to the front door of the estate, we can imagine that the Queen's royal procession is approaching, just behind us...

We take an hour and walk through Muckross Traditional Farm, a re-creation of what farming life was like a hundred years ago.

Yucky is what farming life was like a hundred years ago.

On the drive back to Sneem, we stop to try to hike the trail to the Meeting of the Waters and the Tea Room that is said to operate there. The trail is beautiful and we walk for 20 minutes, but I am too tired to make it all the way so we turn back (though we do get some great views of Muckross Estate from across the Middle Lake, as well as that classic view of Brickeen Bridge).

This seems to be a common theme in Ireland: signs often tell you the destination of the road/trail that you have reached, but they generally don't tell you the distance to that destination. You'll come to a junction and the sign might say "this way to Waterford", or "this way to Dublin", or "this way to Limerick".

Which, of course, are major cities, hundreds of kilometers and several hours away.

Or, "this way to Castletownroche," or "this way to Bealnablath," or "this way to Kilgarvan."

Which, of course, are tiny villages of a few hundred people, just a few kilometers away, and likely not even marked on any of the maps I'm carrying.

Which makes decision making at the junction entertaining!

And the trails are like that, too. Looking at it later, on the Internet, I'm fairly sure that the trail to the Meeting of the Waters and Dinis Cottage and the famous Brickeen Bridge was about 2.5 km each way, a 5 km round trip.

And I suspect we walked about 1.5 km before we decided we'd walked far enough.

But I don't really know, and in a way that's part of the pleasure of this part of Ireland: not everything is explained ahead of time; not everything is arranged for the convenience of visitors (including the phone numbers).

When you see a castle, stop.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ireland Day Three: The Ring of Kerry

Our room is so comfortable that we sleep late.

But hey! It's our 29th anniversary. I think we are allowed.

We pile in the car and set out on the Ring of Kerry.

As described by several books (esp. Rick Steves), we are driving clockwise, while the tour buses always drive counter-clockwise. The main point of this is that the attractions that we visit in the morning are those which the tour buses will visit in the afternoon, thus hopefully we avoid most of that activity.

Our first stop is Staigue Fort, a prehistoric ring fort built at the top of a river canyon with a commanding view of the bay. For a 2,500 year old building, it is in remarkably good shape.

The walls are built of large flat stones laid without mortar, but the stones haven't budged an inch and are as solid as you could imagine. An ingenious arrangement of open staircases inside the ring allows you to easily climb to the top of the walls.

The only entrance is narrow, set such that you have to inch through sideways.

A large moat around the outside makes the walls effectively 25 feet tall. It is easy to see how this fort provided a formidable and effective defense for centuries.

Our second stop is Derrynane House, home of Daniel O'Connell, "the liberator."

The house is set on a beautiful plot of land on the waterfront, and there are acres of walking trails to explore, wandering through meadows and beaches.

Daniel O'Connell's house, itself, isn't all that interesting, but his life is fascinating beyond words.

As a youth he witnessed the French Revolution firsthand, while studying in Paris.

He became a lawyer and practiced trial law in Dublin, becoming one of the most famous and successful lawyers of his time. He was challenged to a duel at the conclusion of a case and killed his challenger (the pistols are displayed at the house).

He founded the Catholic Organization and grew it to hundreds of thousands of members in just a few years. He ran for election and was elected the first Catholic Member of Parliament. He refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, resulting in Parliament overturning the law.

He organized the "Monster Meetings" to protect the treatment of Catholics and was thrown into jail. When he was freed, he was paraded through Dublin on an enormous chariot (also on display at the house).

After leaving Derrynane, we make our way through Waterville and out the Skellig Ring to St. Finian's Bay. The Skelligs Chocolate Factory makes yummy chocolate, though we have been misled by the guidebooks into anticipating that their cafe had food for lunch.

We walk down to the beach and write our names in the sand.

Coming back through Ballinskelligs, Donna spies a castle and we stop to investigate (already, one of our Rules For Traveling In Ireland has become: "when you see a castle, stop").

We find ourselves at Ballinskelligs beach, where there is a lovely little beach cafe where I have a scone and Donna has cabbage and potato soup.

Then we walk down to ruined McCarthy's Castle and Donna climbs to the top of the walls (this will become a pattern throughout the trip, as well!).

Then we walk up the beach to the ruins of the old Augustinian Priory, which it turns out was founded by the Skellig Michael monks and subsequently destroyed by Cromwell.

The beach is a most fascinating discovery; we later decide that this is our favorite spot in all of Ireland: ocean, mountains, beaches, castles, churches, and lunch.

On our return to Parknasilla, we enjoy some of the paths through the grounds, and we're particularly taken by their delightful Fairy Tale Walk (according to the Internet, there was another such trail at Derrynane Park, but somehow we missed it, sigh).

Ireland Day Two: Dingle

For some reason, I am awake early. We enjoy the hotel's breakfast buffet, but soon I am ready to leave.

Just down the road is Adare's Augustinian Abbey, which dates back to the 13th century but is now the parish Anglican church. The deacon is there, and tells us that, this spring, storms struck the area. There was a bad day: trees fell down, the Abbey's roof was damaged. He has opened the church and we visit briefly, pay our respects, and move on.

We have decided to avoid Tralee. The Rose of Tralee Festival is underway, and even though it would be fun to attend, we are more interested in visiting Dingle.

When we were preparing to visit Ireland, we spoke to many people. Person after person told us to visit Dingle. After a while, I lost count; still, it was a nearly universal suggestion. Because of our itinerary, this is our only chance to see Dingle, so today it must be, and today it will be.

We drive out of County Clare and into County Kerry, stopping briefly at the overlook above Castleisland to take in the marvelous view.

We strike west, out on to the peninsula, and stop for a walk on Inch Beach. The wind is howling; dogs are barking; children are playing, surfers are riding the waves. It is a special place.

On we go, and finally we arrive in Dingle, which is just as delightful as everyone promised it would be. A beautiful harbor, fun shops, and a great ice cream store with locally-made ice cream: "carmelized brown bread" is the flavor we choose.

We buy a bit of this and that. Today is the annual Dingle Regatta; youths are racing boats on the harbor.

Time is passing; we leave Dingle around 2:30 PM and drive to Killarney by way of Killorglin and the Ring of Kerry. Killorglin, of course, is the home of the famous Puck Fair, but we are one week too late.

Along the road, we have been noticing a large gray bird with black wings and a black head. Once we get some Internet service, we do a bit of research; it turns out that these are Hooded Crows, common to this area but completely new to us.

Somewhere between Killorglin and Killarney we pass Fossa and Aghadoe, but I am unaware and we just zoom on by. I'm not sure why my guide books didn't alert me more to Aghadoe, as I think I would have really enjoyed stopping there.

By 3:15 or so we are in Killarney. It is time to get out of the car, so we park in the lot at St Mary's Cathedral, which is truly a magnificent church, and we spend some time there. We walk into downtown Killarney and tour the shops; it is a fun place to while away the hours.

I stop into the local pub for a moment, my attention attracted by the game on TV. It is Gaelic Football, a most unique game, played only here in Southwest Ireland. It turns out that we drove right past the GAA field in Fossa just before we entered Killarney; I noticed that there were players on the field, but otherwise had no idea. The match on TV is Tipperary vs Cork, an important and hotly-contested battle, and we watch for a while.

The drive from Killarney to Sneem is extremely dramatic, past lakes and mountains, winding along the cliffside, often only a single lane road, with massive tour buses racing along in the opposite direction. Eventually, we reach Sneem, and Parknasilla Resort, site of our anniversary celebratin, and an oasis of calm and beauty and a destination well worth the trip.

As you can tell by the view from our room!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ireland Day One: Arriving and Driving

Because of the carriers we used, we found ourselves flying in and out of the brand new Terminal 2 (the "Queen's Terminal") at London Heathrow. This is truly a beautiful facility and I was very impressed by it: spacious but easy to navigate, with nice shops and restaurants and plenty of seating to accomodate travelers with time to spare.

Perhaps I should say a bit more about those "shops and restaurants", though. We had two very nice meals at the WonderTree Cafe in Terminal 2, and I recommend it highly. But the signature shops and restaurants for which Terminal 2 is known are, well, pretty high end (Burberry, Gucci, Bulgari, Bottega Veneta, Harrods, etc.); perhaps you might want to have a look at the menu for the Prunier Seafood Bar?

Enough of that; it's on to Ireland!

Our Aer Lingus flight to Shannon airport takes barely an hour, although unfortunately the cloud cover is extensive and I am only able to see a little bit at takeoff and a little bit at landing, enough though I suspect we flew over some beautiful territory (Wales, St George's Channel, as well as most of south-central Ireland).

Shannon Airport is small and friendly and easy to handle. We simply walked across the street from the terminal to the car park to pick up our rented Renault and we were off on the Great Ireland Adventure!

We deliberately scheduled an extremely short trip on our first day in Ireland, because we knew that it would take some time to get the hang of driving in Ireland.

Really, though, there are only four elements to master in order to drive in Ireland:

  1. Drive on the left.

    In Ireland, you drive on the opposite side of the road as compared to America, and the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the vehicle. I kept chanting to myself: "look to the right, keep to the left". But really, this didn't take very long to get used to; I was rather surprised about that.

    It did seem like, each morning, I would have to re-remind myself about how things go, and it was a bit of a challenge to re-train myself to look over the correct shoulder when I was checking for things in my mirrors.

  2. Get the hang of the roundabouts.

    In Ireland (at least in the areas we visited), there are almost no traffic lights or stop signs. Instead, most intersections are roundabouts, so you need to know how to navigate a roundabout properly. Mostly that means:

    • Look to your right when entering the roundabout
    • Yield to the traffic already in the roundabout before entering it
    • Pay attention to the sign as you're approaching the roundabout, so that you know which exit you want as you leave the roundabout
    Heck, it's really not that hard: just look at the video.
  3. Distances and speeds are in Kilometers, not in Miles.

    So when you see that the speed limit through town is 50 km/hr, you instinctively might think that's rather startling, because 50 MPH in America is far too fast to drive through these tiny villages. But, of course, 50 km/hr is much slower, and perfectly appropriate.

  4. Drive country roads carefully.

    In the part of Ireland we were visiting, there were only a few super speedways (called "motorways" in Ireland). Most of the roads we found ourselves driving were absolutely gorgeous, among the most scenic roads I've ever driven in my life, but they were narrow, curvy, and had very restricted visibility. So just

    • Go slow
    • Give the other drivers plenty of room
    • Be patient
    • Enjoy the beauty of the roads
    • Oh, and yes: go slow!
    It frequently amused us to see a sign on a country road telling us that the speed limit was 80 km/hr or even 100 km/hr, when the road itself could clearly be driven only at 40, 50, or 60 km/hr.

    Driving the country roads safely was definitely the most challenging part of driving in Ireland, but I'm pleased to report that we had a trouble-free time of it!

So, anyway, we left the airport and got on the road.

A few miles from Shannon Airport is Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, an interesting place.

If you've read McCarthy's Bar, you'll recall that Bunratty Castle is the site of the funniest episode in the entire book, an absolutely hilarious adventure involving country roads, pubs, a medieval banquet, and two sisters from Philadelphia who have brought their children to Ireland.

Really, you have to read the book.

I wish we had taken the time to go in to Bunratty Castle and take the tour and visit the park, but we were still Ireland novices and I made a bad decision and decided to push on. This was perhaps one of only two bad decisions I made in Ireland about where to go and what to do, so I'm not going to beat myself up about it too much, but I'm definitely a bit disappointed to have only seen the castle from the outside (where it is still quite impressive).

So after waving to some of the children who were Way Up There at the top of the castle, we climb back into the car and venture on.

We drive into downtown Limerick and walk through the busy commercial center. We get some nice shots of King John's Castle from the river front, pick up a few necessities from the Dunnes Store in Limerick ("Umbrellas! How did we fail to pack umbrellas?"), and on we go.

We take the motorway out of Limerick, then exit to the N21. Just 4 km before Adare, traffic crawls to a stop and Garda with alert lights flashing zip by us. We crawl into Adare at barely 10 km/hr, but the scenery is delightful and, did I mention this, WE'RE IN IRELAND!

As we reach Adare, the problem is clear: a tourist bus has broken down. But here is our destination, the Dunraven Arms Hotel! A wedding is underway and we must park far, far in the back.

The hotel is a delight. Quaint as all get out, but comfortable and stylish at the same time. Our room is beautiful, with a four poster bed and a large window onto a lovely courtyard garden.

We walk through the gardens and the swallows are everywhere, swooping and darting and catching dinner. It seems there is a nest in every awning and eave.

Adare is often called "the prettiest village in Ireland" and with good reason. Thatched houses line the street, centuries-old abbey and friaries are just off the road, and the thousand year old castle is just across the river.

We walk up and down the town streets, buying some fudge from a local creamery, and later having a Beamish and a Caledonia Smooth to accompany our sandwich and soup at Auntie Lena's Pub.

After our meal, we walk through the Adare Town Park, which is far too scenic and pleasant for that simple name, then return to the hotel to unwind, check email, and plan the next day.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Central London in Two Days: Day Two

We slept like exhausted travelers, but awoke refreshed and ready for more. Could we have a better second day? Why not?

We popped back on the Tube and exited at Westminster, hoping that by arriving early we'd have fewer crowds.

After a short wait, we are inside Westminster Abbey, where we pick up headsets for the audio tour (narrated by Jeremy Irons).

Touring Westminster Abbey is extremely fascinating. To start with, it is a beautiful building, with plenty of art and architecture to experience.

And it is packed with history and tradition. Just the day before, while viewing the Crown Jewels, we had paused to view the video of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953, so it was quite interesting to be standing in Westminster Abbey, just a few feet from the raised platform where the coronation occurred, and to see the Coronation Chair (now no longer with the Stone of Scone).

But Westminster Abbey is also overwhelming; a thousand years of history, religion, arts and sciences, warfare and country are all jumbled together and deposited upon us at once.

For myself, I was most taken by the tombs and memorials to the scientists (Newton, Darwin, John Harrison, etc.), and the artists (Chaucer, George Frideric Handel, etc.), but I do try to pay attention to the Kings and Queens.

(I must admit to be rather naive or uneducated in one respect: for some reason it didn't occur to me that everyone was buried in the church itself; I somehow had it in my head that churches were churches and graveyards were graveyards, but at any rate, as Donna says, I'm not confused about that anymore.)

After what seemed like hours of viewing the Abbey, we were both quite pleased, but also thoroughly tired, so when we found ourselves in the old 13th century monastery section of the Abbey (called the Cellarium), where to our surprise there was a delightful small cafe, we immediately stopped in.

Donna, in a moment of inspiration, spots that they are serving high tea, and so we have our tea, scones and all, and it was just superb!

After finishing our tea, we walk and walk and walk.

We cross through Parliament Square and over to St James's Park, where we walk through the park along the lake. Most of the birds are quite familiar (ducks, geese, swans, pelicans, coots, etc.) but it is fun to see them here in the heart of the city, and all the passers-by are delighted by them.

I was confused by the maps I'd read into thinking that Buckingham Palace Gardens is an open space like the other royal parks, but of course it is not, so we detour a few blocks and walk over into Belgravia, by Eaton Square and up Upper Belgrave Street.

We walk past simply dozens of foreign embassies; I have fun guessing them as we approach by spotting their flags.

Near the French Embassy in Knightsbridge, we enter Hyde Park. This can be confusing to us Yanks, because in New York, Hyde Park is a town (home of FDR), and in Illinois, Hyde Park is a town (well, a neighborhood of Chicago), but in London, Hyde Park is a park.

Anyway, we walked along the Serpentine as children played on the shore and paddleboats coasted gently through the water.

Just before we arrive at the bridge over the Serpentine, we arrive at the Lady Diana Memorial Fountain. As we near the fountain, the sun is shining and children are playing in the water.

The memorial is open, informal, and family-friendly, with little pomp or ceremony; in this way it seems to me entirely appropriate for Diana.

Just a short distance away (is this coincidence?) is another memorial to another unusual royal: the Albert Memorial. While the Victoria Memorial is right in front of Buckingham Palace, the Prince Consort's memorial is miles away in South Ken, but visually the two memorials have much in common: both are massive pedestals, adorned with statues and embellishments, and topped with gold figures.

We walk down through South Kensington past the Royal Albert Hall and by the V & A museum, its entranceway mobbed with families and street vendors.

The Royal Albert Hall, I notice, is holding its summertime series of "prom concerts," which I later look up and discover means "promenade" concerts, originally because they were held outside and the audience walked around freely, but which now means that you stand up for the show in standing-only areas!

From South Ken we ride the Underground on the District Line over to Temple. We walk up the Strand past the Royal Courts of Justice and Temple Bar, admiring the various sights along the way.

When the Strand becomes Fleet Street we stop at tiny Twining's Tea shop: 305 years in the same location!

We pass two other Christopher Wren churches, then read the magnificent St Paul's Cathedral with its enormous dome. We can just barely make out visitors enjoying the view from the tower atop the dome, but there is no time to rest, we have much more to do!

We walk down and across the delightful Millenium Bridge. A street artist has been working here this summer, painstakingly painting tiny micro-paintings between the non-skid bumps on the bridge's walkway.

He is there on the bridge now, talking with tourists and fans, and we stop and photograph some of his work.

We admire the reconstructed Globe Theatre. An afternoon show is in progress, so we can't take the tour, but we are amused when we see a number of actors come running around the side of the theatre and disappear through a back door, evidently exiting "stage left" in order to re-enter "stage right".

We walk along the south bank of the Thames. Past Blackfriar's Bridge we stop in Doggett's for a pint of Marston's and a rest. Fortified, we walk along the river until we reach the London Eye, passing a nifty statue of Laurence Olivier out in front of the National Theatre.

A large summer festival is taking place along the waterfront and the area between the Eye and County Hall is jammed.

We snap the classic pictures of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben across the river, then cross Westminster Bridge.

We take the Tube back to the hotel and use the (free!) guest laundry while sharing a plate of fish and chips and watching the Bayonne vs Toulon rugby match on T.V.

I am baffled by Rugby.

But the fish and chips is delicious.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Two days in Central London: Day One

We found ourselves with two entire days to explore Central London.

The weather was glorious (at least, it seemed glorious to us), and, since neither of us had ever been to London, everything was new and exciting and interesting and fascinating.

So, naturally, it wasn't a question of what to do, but rather of trying not to overdo it.

Which I don't think we totally achieved, but still, we had a fabulous two days!

Here's how Day One went.

We got off the Underground at Green Park and walked through the park to Buckingham Palace.

We spent a while admiring the Victoria Memorial, and the palace gates, and the Queen's Guard, and the whole scene, then we walked down past the Wellington Barracks and the Ministry of Justice to Parliament Square.

It was already 11:00 AM, and there was an imposing line at Westminster Abbey, and so we decided to defer the tour. So we took pictures of Big Ben, just as it was tolling the hour.

We walked around to the back side of the Houses of Parliament (known as Victoria Tower Gardens, where unfortunately the Rodin sculpture The Burghers of Calais was not on display because it was out on loan to the Henry Moore Museum), because somehow I thought that we'd be able to walk entirely around Parliament, but of course you can't; you can only walk to the edge of the Thames but not along it, there.

So we walked back, past the statues of Richard Lionheart and Oliver Cromwell, and started walking up Whitehall.

As we went, we were accompanied by the Horse Guard, who were just changing the guard at that moment. It was so much fun to watch them that we walked right past Number 10 Downing Street without even noticing it.

I did enjoy seeing the Banqueting House, and the Gwydyr House of Wales, and the back side of the Ministry of Defense, and a few other buildings along Whitehall.

And found ourselves at Trafalgar Square, staring up at Admiral Nelson on his perch.

We made our way through Leicester Square and on into Covent Garden. I particularly enjoyed the "Seven Dials" intersection, and we both had fun walking through Neal's Yard, which was just as colorful and eccentric as the Internet had promised it would be.

We were feeling a bit peaked, so we took a break and stopped at the Bloomsbury Tavern on Shaftesbury Avenue to rest for a bit.

Suitably revived, we cross a street or two and find ourselves at the British Museum, the sun shining brilliantly, the courtyard jammed with families picnicking, children running about. We stop at one of the food trucks and split a sandwich.

Oh, dear reader, you will find this horrifying, appalling, but it is true: we toured the British Museum in one hour.

What do you see in just that time? Well: the Rosetta Stone; the Parthenon Marbles; the Lewis Chessmen; Egyptian mummies; Persian ceramics; Roman statues. Someday maybe I will have a week just to visit the museum, but for this day an hour made do.

Coming out of the museum there was a light rain coming down, so we high-tailed it to Holborn Station and rode the tube down to Tower Hill, transferring at the unspeakably complex Bank/Monument transfer station.

We arrived at the Tower of London just after 3:00 PM.

Can you see the entire Tower of London in two hours?

Why yes, you can!

The White Tower, the Bloody Tower, the Traitor's Gate, the Wall Walk, the Crown Jewels, the Royal Armor, the inner and outer yards, the ravens, the Scaffold Site.

Wait, did I mention the CROWN JEWELS?!

Two hours, in many ways, is just about the perfect amount of time to spend at the Tower of London. You certainly could spend more, and there was certainly more to see, but we saw everything we wanted and saw as much of it as we wanted.

And we were both fascinated by the art exhibit taking place on the grounds of the tower: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.

The rain was becoming more steady, so we rode over to Victoria Station and I had a Doom Bar in the Belgravia Pub. It was a nice enough place, but the cigarette smoke in all the pubs is rather hard on a reformed smoker, so we decided to look elsewhere for dinner.

Down the road and around the corner was da Scalzo, an acceptable Italian restaurant, which served us an acceptable pizza, and it was time to declare the day done, and head back to the hotel.

The Art of Racing in the Rain: a very short review

One of the things about traveling, and about 10 hour trans-Atlantic plane flights in particular, is that you have a lot of time to read.

So I recently read Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain.

I envision that the author's thought process must have been something like this:

I know: what if I wrote a book from the point of view of the family dog?

That is, I'll have the dog be the narrator!

Hmmm... I'll need to have a story for the dog to tell.

Perhaps the story isn't all that important, because the interesting part is that it's told by the family dog.

Well, anyway, there you go.