31st May, 2009

The WineGeese Society Tour

Normandy, France
June 13, the Geese took flight from Paris, destination Château d’Audrieu.  First stop, Giverny to visit Monet’s magnificent gardens and house.  What a treat for the senses!  We walked in the footsteps of Pisarro, Renoir, Rodin, Cezanne, and Sisley to mention just a few of the renowned painters who visited Giverny at the turn of the century.  After a delightful lunch, we boarded the bus for Château d’Audrieu, our home for the next five days.  Weary travelers descended on the bar where we lived up to our WineGeese title.

Days were spent visiting the beaches of Utah and Omaha, and cemeteries and sites etched in our memories by the films The Longest Day and A Band of Brothers.  We visited Ste Mère Eglise and Dead Man’s Corner, Pointe du Hoc, and the D-Day Museum at Arromanches which overlooks one of the Mulberry harbors.

Evenings organized to lift the spirits both mentally and figuratively were spent in historic and enchanting chateaux where we dined on superb food and WineGeese wines — Château de Colombières, where we were welcomed by Comte et Comtesse de Maupeou who shared the family-owned wines of Château Figeac in St Emilion; Château de Creully, location of the clandestine studios of the BBC from which Edward R Murrow and Howard Marshall broadcasted the battle of Normandy to the world.

No trip to that part of the world would be complete without a pilgrimage to the abbey of Mont St Michel and a visit to Bayeux to view the famous tapestry of the 11th century conquest of England.  Our final night at Château d’Audrieu was a celebration of friendship.  We toasted and roasted new friends and old.  The roast was organized by the Murphys and the Levells.   Mixed in with the fun and camaraderie was a sense of gratitude to the “Greatest Generation” who fought for the freedoms of future generations and to them we raised “The Parting Glass”.  June 18 saw us onward and upward to the Emerald Isle and our final destination.

Morning at Leinster House and the Hugh Lane Gallery
Let it not be said that culture takes a back seat when the WineGeese go on tour.  June 19 saw the WineGeese visit Leinster House, the seat of both houses of the Irish parliament, where Dr Rory O’Hanlon, member of Parliament from Co Cavan, condensed into 30 minutes a brilliant short course on the Irish Peace Process from 1916 to the present day.  Joining us was a group of students from the University of St Thomas in Houston who were in Ireland to study the Peace Process.  Of particular interest to the American audience was the story of Hazel Lavery, the Chicago born wife of the famous Northern Irish painter John Lavery, whose participation altered the course of Irish history.  There was not a dry eye in the house as the moving portraits of all the fallen heroes of 1916 flashed across the screen to the lilting background of “Danny Boy” prepared by poet and musician Mr Terry Browne.

Historic Lavery Portraits at Hugh Lane Gallery
Leaving Leinster House, we all wended our way to the Hugh Lane Gallery where we were greeted by Director Barbara Dawson and head of conservation Joanna Shepard who showed us the historic Laverys stored in the basement of the museum awaiting restoration.  Refreshed by a wonderful lunch we returned to our hotels sated with good food, culture, and gratitude to organizer Terry Browne before departing for an exciting evening at Áras an Uachtaráin arranged for us by The Ireland Funds.

Castle Howard in the Vale of Avoca
Our last day in the Emerald Isle saw us at historic Castle Howard in the beautiful Vale of Avoca, the setting for so many of Thomas Moore’s melodies.  Our hosts Ivor Fitzpatrick and Susan Stapleton gave the visiting Americans a true taste of Irish hospitality from the champagne greeting on arrival to the sumptuous high tea at the conclusion.  In between, we enjoyed a delightful rendering of Moore’s melodies by some of Ireland’s finest young singers joined by one of Ireland’s leading pianists Mary Scarlett who had strong Dallas connections.  Who will ever forget listening to the haunting lyrics of “Sweet Vale of Avoca” sung by tenor Dean Power as we gazed out at the Vale of Avoca from the picture windows of the Castle drawing room?  Thanks again to our intrepid Dublin WineGoose Terry Browne through whose good offices this enchanting visit was arranged.  As a small token of appreciation, Mike Corboy presented Ivor and Terry with Stetson hats and Susan with a pictorial book on Dallas with an invitation to Texas to sample some of Big D’s hospitality.   Homeward bound we all agreed that it was the perfect ending to an unforgettable trip.  Next stop Santiago!

by Netta Blanchard