Wednesday, July 1, 2009

the Ireland Trip: Day 7

Monday, 22/6
Final day of driving - from Ballymote to Trim - which was like driving from Marion to Effingham (in both time and countryside look). The clouds floated off by the time we got to Trim around noon, and itw as actually sort of hot. We toured Trim Castle, which was where Braveheart was filmed, it turned out. Then we came to our final B&B (White Lodge House), and chilled. Internet available, and I caught Ramah online, so we got to chat some. It was 80 and humid back in Chicago at 8am -- YAY! I was so looking forward to the weather as summer was intended to be! Then, Tomi and I spent most of the evening reading, reclining, and eating some tasty Indian food. Tomi was still a bit off (and remained a bit seasick until the 3rd day home).
We outlined the trip home before bed. I was looking forward to returning. The trip was refreshing in many ways, but it was still a trip and that's always awkward for me. The tamed land in Ireland is also a little odd and out of place - or everything in it's place. Very tidy. I cna't help but contrast it to the wild jungles that grow up in Southern Illinois this time of year.

the Ireland Trip: Days 5-6

Saturday, Solstice
sleeping in is bliss.
Awoke at 9 to the smell of pancakes or waffles or french toast. Turned out to be the last, and it was tasty. Tomi staggered down for some toast adn insisted that she wasn't hung over. We looked into the Doolin Caves trip, which was a bit more expensive than we had anticipated, and opted to walk down to Fisher Street instead to look at the local shops. After discussin the monetary ramification of not spending money on any other fun, we decide to splurge on horse-back riding. Off to find an ATM first, back in Ennistymon, plus a few groceries for our dwindling cheese and bread lunches. Then, to Willie Daly's Pony Trekking. It was a beautiful, if sedate ride. tomi did fine for her first solo horse experience, and we both survived the 2 hours on horse back. One of the barn hands, Naeve, a girl of about 10, walked with Tomi the whole time - whew! I was tired for her.
We came back to Doolin for dinner, stopping only long enough to get petrol down the the side of the car at a pump that leaked. Another delicious dinner, and we managed to run into Peter and Morris and few others, and then Colum invited us to join them again. The bar was crowded with afternoon Rugby and Hurling watchers plus the weekend tourists. The night wore on, the drinks flowed, my headache banged and diminished until I had a shot of whiskey, the music played, and we had a good time again. More people came, and the bar was packed, glasses breaking as the night wore on. One bad incident with a drunken ass at the end of the night who wouldn't leave Tomi alone, in spite of my outright statement to get lost. And one awkward few minutes when Colum and a few others handed me a phone to call Ramah - because they were certain that he wanted to hear from 5pm Chicago time while I was in the middle of a racket in a bar. Had to call home to clear that up once we were back at the B&B.
(I will put in pictures of our new friends once Tomi's pics are uploaded.)
The nights here are dark and calm. The sky is cloudy often, but the stars are crisp when they shine. The darkness is everywhere adn complete when the sun sets. It's welcoming and pleasant.

Sunday, 21/6
another day spent driving. It hurts my calves to drive all these hours.
The fog was think when we left Doolin near 11. The hills rolled off into cloud adn mist, the stone fences became one with the sky in teh distance. We wound up the coast toad again, to come upon teh Doolin church as it was letting out. The crowd was large, the village all in one place, save for the proprietors checking out and breakfasting the tourists. We had to weave through the lave - double parked and home bound Catholics - to descend back to the sea. As we came down towards Ballyvaughn, the fog remained a blanket ont eh Burren's rocky hilltops, shrouds that stretched out in grey over the silver and blue ocean to join the sky. The countryside on the western coast reminds my of northern California - hills, rocks, sparse trees, the flora is odd here - birds-of-paradise, palms, evergreens... all of there imports in this tamed land.
We got to Ballymote midafternoon, and Tomi was sick from drinking too much last night and still from the ferry. We found a bathroom, and then drove on into the countrside and found the Carrowkeel Megalithic Tombs. The roads in Ireland are all paved. Even the one-laner leading from Ballymote to Castle Baldwin, and then up tot eh hills where the Carrowkeel tombs sit on private property. The last mile or so was gravel, and then a hiking trail up the sheep's hill to the tombs.
It was a beautiful walk in the thick fog, the sheep chewing their cud and eyeing us suspiciously as we passed. A fine mist was falling, ad we were both damp - Tomi smelling more like wet sheep than damp girl because of her wool sweater - by the time we got to teh top of the hill. The fog continued to thicken, as well. The hills there, the ground, were all peat and springy. So comfy for walking on. The hills were covered with a small ground shrub - gorse, I think - that is soft to the touch. In the lowlands or wetter places there are wild iris (of which I dug one up and thanked the land for), and nettles - which I remembered the hard way. ouch. Of course, I couldn't find any of the companion plant to stop the sting. There are also these wonderfully twisted trees that grow randomly - usually in lee sides or near the iris'...they have small leaves that resemble an oak almost, and bunches of white flowers all over. They also tend to be very old and covered in lichen. The ones at Carrowkeel were also covered on teh lower brancehs with patches of wool from the itchy sheep.
Back to Ballymote, where we relaxed for a bit before dinner. We gorged ourselves on pizza and then watched hours and hours of TV. The intrigue and drama and gore and non-stop was riveting yet appalling. My mind was hooked, but reeling. I am so glad we don't do TV at home, and will have to rein in Sol's daily morning movies after that reminder.
Monday, we planned to head back east again, to County Meath to stay in Trim, near Trim Castle. Then, Tuesday we head home. It felt like we were winding down, like Doolin was the heart of the trip. That was OK with me, as I was getting ready for home - the warmth and sun of summer, Solie, Ramah, the up-coming class, the anniversary party, and a break from spending so much money!!!

the Ireland Trip: Days 3-4

Thursday, 15/6
Rise after the sun, since sunrise here is around 4:30am...even though it didn't set til after 10pm. And of course, I stayed up too late reading. We stopped in Wicklow City at the Post Office to mail post cards to the little girls, adn then waited for an internet cafe to open so I could look up those danged country codes while Tomi checked into the ferries to the Aran Islands. On the coast road by 11, heading for Doolin adn the Cliffs of Moher! No matter that we had to call four B&Bs to find a place to sleep that night...
The drive was beautiful across the whole of mid-southern Ireland. Tipperary and Clare Counties are my kind of land, rolling with hills big and small, trees and pasture. We came back to cows and horses from the sheep of Wicklow. The dreary morning, and on-off rain cleared by late afternoon again. Sort of tropical in nature. We paused briefly on the coast road to look out over the Irish channel at the wind power being harnessed on the ocean. We picnic'd in ClonRoche at a gas station for lunch, and set out again for the Cliffs. No getting lost or turning around by day 3!
And after 6 hours, we reached the Cliffs of Moher, hungry and stiff, but excited. The wind whipped and buffeted, carressed and brushed us in turns. We ran up one side adn beheld the tumultuous Atlantic beneath the Cliffs, and the century-old castle. Then, more staid, we tread back down the long line of steps and up the other side. Tomi was aghast that other tourists were jumping the fence and making their own track along the cliff's edge, in spite of the warnings: trespassing, pirvate property, danger, this memorial to all who have perished... We then saw the gift shop adn headed to Doolin, where we found our room and showered, wandered down the lane for a pub dinner and had a Guiness together. Do you have any idea how many people told us to have a Guiness as it was mighty tasty...?
Joking, we hit the pub across the street on our way back to the B&B and each had one more drink. Tomi was aghast at the possibility of talking to strange, even if cute, Irish boys. We finished the night with a plan to visit the Aran Islands on the morrow, followed by the Burren on Saturday. I also swore to sleep in on Saturday, sunrise early or not!

Friday, 19/6
argh. Sunrise by 5am, donzing til 8, breakfast at 8:30. YAWN. Picked up a book by Rita Dowling on Celtic Spirituality while we were waiting for our breakfast that reminded my of several others I've read on various spiritualities -- 4 Agreements, the God in All Living Things - I have to remember to order it still. It was overcast and windy again, of course, but the forecast said it was supposed to warm up... as it had every other day by afternoon. We headed to Doolin Bay, where we had booked rides on the Jack B through Doolin2Aran Ferry. Getting out of the bay was the only fun part of the ride to the island. Just about the time I'd convinced myself not to be seasick, Tomi hurled her breakfast over the aft. ugh. Almost 2 hours later we stumbled onto the blessed dry land where we were bombarded by bike rentalmen -- "Here's a map of the isalnd, come get a bike!" "We've got teh best prives; take this map" "Only 5Euros, we're at the back when you're ready." Once we had extricated ourselves from that, we promptly found a toilet - pee, wash salt spray and vomit from face and hands, clean glasses. Yes, being able to see and move without stiffness and clouds is a good thing!
We headed up a hill and found the Sweater Museum, where Tomi found a beautiful woolen beige sweater and I got Ramah a pair of orange wool socks. A bit of exploring, and we stumbled into a tourist shop/internet cafe, where the proprietor gave us directions to an old fort -- less travelled and nearer than Dun Aunghus. We hiked down the road to the murky duckpond, then up, up, winding up, across the rocky countryside to the Black Fort and the flat rocked cliffs of Western InisMor -- which were much better than the highly travelled Cliffs of Moher, I should add. We had a picnic there on the cliffs, and then cut cross the cliff edge to the Black Fort, where we sat and enjoyed the promised sunshine before hiking back down to the tourist shop to reconnoiter with our direction-giver (the only Irishman who gave us accurate directions, I have to say).
We talked about the wildlife, and about the use of stone in Ireland/InisMor vs. wooden houses, school and jobs...he was friendly and we had a good conversation. We managed to miss his name, somehow. Then, we loaded back onto the ferry and bid the sweet land farewell again. Thankfully, the ride back was much calmer, and though Tomi tried to sleep away her nausea, we had no more outright seasickness.
Ahhhh, hot shower and clean clothes... We went to the second pub for dinner - McDermott's instead of back to McGann's - and had a delicious dinner. Then, we went up to the bar, where a group of Irishmen were laughing and playing with each other. We joked about them as we sat nearby, until we were welcomed into their circle of hilarity -- Morris, first, and then his brother, Colum, then Ken (who's stag party it was) and his brother Pete, Andrew and Andrew, and Stewart, and Ronan...and others who have been forgotten after all the drinks and laughter adn invitations to return the next day to watch the Lion's rugby game. It was a good end to a good day. And Saturday was my promised day for sleeping in!!!

the Ireland Trip: days 1-2

Our trip began when we left the neighborhood aorund 4, after several delays, of course. Traffic was bumper to bumper the opposide direction, but we had smooth driving to the airport for the most part. Quick check our small bags - less than 50 pounds between the two of us! - then waiting at the gate for take-off. Just enough time to try to figure out our new and borrowed cameras! The plane left on time, and we were in the air and on our way around 7pm, June 15th. Airplane dinner not as bad as it could've been, Tomi watched some TV, I read a little of Brisingr, and then we both tried to sleep some before our 7 hour flight landed us in Dublin at 9am (Irish time)...2am (Chicago time).
Out through customs, which was quick, despite the 20+ elementary school students in line with us, found our bags, exchanged our dollar-forty for single Euros (ouch), and then on to our Thrifty, nifty Fiat. With drivers on the right, which meant gear shift on the left. Oh dear. The rental clerk started to ask if I was really 25...and then blushed when he saw I was actually 3. lol.
The expressway was, of course, under construction. That just meant reduced speeds, though, and time to get use to the whole right/left road swap.
We realized about half an hour out from the airport that we needed the N7, not the N4 - thanks Thrifty clerk who was rushing us out the door! Oh, well. Lost is a state of mind, and according to the (sparse) road signs and our handy map, we just needed to take the next exit for R402. So, we meandered our way to Kildare, instead. It was pretty, adn we only had to turn around twice. The roads were lovely, if twisty and slow. Fine with me, beacuse of the whole wrong-side-of-the-road bit.
We hit Kildare adn parked in the city square right about the time Sol would wake up hungry. Me too!! It was sunny and breezy, and perfect for wandering around Brigid's Cathedral and the little town. Headstones dated back to the 1700s, and the round tower (2nd tallest in Ireland at 100 feet) dated back to the 8-900s. Mary adn Paddy, who let us into the tower for 8E were a chatty couple and gave us names of friends to see at Glendalough in Wickow on Tuesday. They also pointed us in the direction of a grocery and gave us directions to Brigid's Well.
After Tomi had a snack of green pepper, cheese dn bagetter, we set off through the warm afternoon to Brigid's Well. A mile outside of town, we came across the overgrown Black Abbey (or maybe the Grey Abbey), with headstones ranging from the 1700s-2008. The grass was mostly waist high, but a path was tramped clear to the inside of the old ruin, where people had recently built bonfires. A few more minutes down the country lave, we arrived at the neatly kept Brigid's Well and wishing pool. Happily visited by many, the trees and shrines were adorned with numerous trinkeys and prayers and wishes. Tomi and I both stretched out afer wandering around a bit, and napped in the warm sun. Ahhh, vacation!
Our day ended with a tired walk back to Kildare, good-byes and thanks to Mary and Paddy, and our arrival the farm of Cherryvills House Bed adn Breakfast. The house/rooms wer immaculate, though we couldn't get the TV to work - a theme we repeated for the first several days of the trip - and the grounds looked a bit like a well-worn and used working farm. Tomi prompty took a shower adn fell asleep. I ate a snack and took up the 3rd in Paolini's Inheritance series and read until after 10, when I realized that the dusky light coming through the bay window was no indication of how late it was.
I forgot to look up the US country code, so was hopeful that Ramah wouldn't worry, or else would call if he was...

Wednesday, 17-6
We rose a bit late because of the overcast rain. We ate a hearty breakfast, though we skipped the traditional sausages of native Irelanders - fried eggs, fresh bacon for me, toast, fruit, juice and tea, some cocoa pebbles for Tomi. Then, we set off through the drizzle for Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains. After turning around once, and only a few detours, we found Wicklow County, whose roads were much better marked than those in County Kildare. The gently rolling countryside of cows gave way to hills and mountains with sheep. Then we were on the Wicklow Way, winding our way up and up past old mining equipment and barren hillsides, the sun coming out over the tops of the ancient hills and pearly mist.
We got to Glendalough at lunchtime, and at granola bars and fruit while we walked the Green Road adn then up the mountain trail to the head of Poulanass Falls. The countryside was lush and green, ferns and deciduous trees native, interspersed with the Norwegian Pine planted by the reforestation efforts after the mining. The lakes were beautifully clear, as mountain lakes are, in spite of the red river adn foaming yellow falls. Poulanass rushed so hard down its steep-sided bed that it has created its own alluvial plain, which in turn has divided the mountain lake in Glen da lough (the Glen of Two Lakes). Interesting geology of the place.
We stopped to talk ith the slightly batty, but knowledgeable and informative information center caretaker, where we spoke about the wild animals of Ireland -- bears and wolves were nateve, but the last were killed a century ago. Foxes, stoats, martins, otters, badgers, asquirrels, ferral goats, moles or voles, strangely was an intriguing conversation.
Then, on to Kevin's Way, where we wandered in the ruins of the fort or monastery, the catherday, saw another round tower, and a tangle of headstones stretched out and about from those eroded down to foot-sized stones to new ones only a few years old.
We wound our way out of the mountains down to Wicklow City late in teh afternoon. The sun was out and the clouds gone by the time we found our way tot he seaside to sit for a spell before climbing up the hills again to find our night's lodging. Drom Ard, our B&B, was perched neatly, if precariously, on the hillside overlooking the city, the sea, adn the hills. It contrasted to the overgrown farmyard of Cherryville House, though the interior was not as fastidiously kept. We went back to the square for a deliciously expensive dinner at teh local steakhouse, where we got a 3-course meal and wine. Tasty.
Both days we saw signs of the failing economy. Wicklow was busy and bustling, but empty shops spoke for themselves. On the way to Kildare, one town would be building new houses while the next was shuttered and "for let."