Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Travel Diary in Irleand

A Happy St. Patrick's Day to all. Ireland was one of my favorite countries we've visited. Never mind the cold, rainy days in the height of summer. The beautiful green hills, the whitewashed houses and cottages dotting them, and the rugged coastal areas all seeped deep into my soul. Could it be that the reason is that half of my ancestral heritage is Irish. I loved the people, the many interesting and comfortable B&B's we stayed at, the food and drink. All those things made the crummy weather tolerable. When we came home, I wrote about the trip so that we would always remember it.

We started in England for a few days and then 12 days in Ireland, ending with a few days in Scotland and England. I have copied the section on Ireland and pasted below. It seemed a fitting thing to do on St. Pat's Day for those who have never had the opportunity to travel to the emerald isle and for those who have, it may bring back fond memories.

Ireland, June 2007--crossing the Irish Sea from England (traveling with our South African friends)

On the 4th day we put the car and ourselves on a ferry and crossed the Irish Sea. A very rough crossing. Lucky us! But none of us got sick, although we did see people who were green around the gills and heading toward the restrooms frequently. I felt fine, as long as I didn’t try to walk, stayed in my seat. We spent 12 days in Ireland and loved it. A very prosperous country, quite evident by the neatly kept, freshly painted homes everywhere we went and seeing people in the shops and eating places happily spending their euros.

We visited Blarney Castle and climbed to the top but didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone, as you have to hang darned near upside down to do it, and I figured I’d never get up again if I tried. Besides, I’m Irish and have the gift of gab anyway.  Coming down the winding stone stairs was almost more difficult than going up.

Next, went to Cork and Waterford, toured the crystal factory at Waterford, not one penny cheaper there either, so I just looked at the marvelous showroom they had, being careful not to drool on the crystal as I admired it. We went to a downtown pub alive with Irish music after dinner and enjoyed the local color and a tall ale.

We then traveled south and west to a lovely town called Kinsale. There we visited a South African friend of Mike and Mavis—Pat was mother to M&M’s son-in-law who died of cancer some years ago. She is 86, an artist, a fashionplate, and sharp as a tack. We had drinks at her condo and a nice visit. The B&B we stayed in was nestled in the rolling hills outside the town. It was a beautiful spot and a lovely place to stay. Breathtaking view from every window.

The next day we drove the Ring of Kerry which is a narrow, winding road along a coastal area with gorgeous scenery. All of Ireland is picture postcard kind of scenery, and so incredibly green. From there, it was on to The Cliffs of Mohr, huge cliffs by the sea. It was so cold, wet, and windy there, but lots of tourists. Reminded me of the area where many of the gothic novels take place. We heard a few days later that a Hungarian tourist had fallen off one of the cliffs and was killed instantly. Sad.

Mike did all the driving since he is use to lefthand drive in his country. So he drove the 2600 miles we covered, Ken navigated, and Mavis and I were superb backseat drivers. We managed to make it on all the narrow, no-shoulder, curvy roads. A slower pace but it allows you to see more, even in the rain, which was frequent.

We went on to Tralee, where I met with Caelinn, a girl in my online writers group, for an hour. She is from Dublin but was in Tralee on holiday. She’d asked me to call her cellphone when we got to that area, and she and I did manage to have a drink together in a hotel lobby. She’s a delight and a darned good writer.

Next stop was Galway, where we saw the famed Galway Bay. We had a terrible B&B there, run by Slovaks who spoke only minimal English. We learned later that it was a boarding house for migrant workers. Poor quality everything in it, but it was clean, and if it’s clean I can survive most anything. We did have a good meal at a nice pub that evening. From there we went on to Swords, which is outside Dublin. Found a great B&B out in the country and took a bus into Dublin the following day where we rode the Hop On-Hop Off bus to all the attractions. We went to Trinity College, then St. Stephens Green (lovely park in the heart of the city), big city shopping mall, Grafton St, which is filled with mimes, street musicians and lovely boutique shops, and Guiness Brewery. Part of the admission price at the brewery allows you to go to the 7th floor Gravity Bar, which is all glass from floor to ceiling and you are given a pint of Guiness. We were enjoying the brew and the view when a woman next to us started coming close to me and bent down to get under my chair. In doing so, she spilled her very brown Guiness onto the sleeve and pocket of my very white coat and my navy pants. “Excusez-moi!” was her remark to me, over and over. Seems she was looking for her grandchild’s pacifier which he’d tossed under my chair. I did get the stain out with a Tide Stain Pen. Worked like a charm. I can still hear Grandmere and her “Excusez-moi!”

While in Swords, I needed to do some laundry, so we took it to the one and only place in the town and discovered it was not do-it-yourself. I paid the equivalent of $32 for 2 loads of clothes. Mavis and I were both incensed over that, but we had little choice, so we both left it and left muttering and mumbling.

We saw the Kennedy ancestral cottage one day, but it was not open for touring. Went on to Northern Ireland next and visited the town where my great-grandfather, William Doonan, was from (Portadown). It was near Armagh, where we stayed. Armagh was an interesting spot as it had two cathedrals, both named St. Patrick’s, both the seat of a bishop, but one was Catholic and one Church of Ireland (Episcopalian) We went to see both. Our B&B hostess gave us tea and scones when we arrived, and she told us all kinds of Irish stories. She had definitely kissed the Blarney Stone some time or other, but she sure made good scones.

We drove up to the north coastal area and stopped at Giant’s Causeway, a ruggedly beautiful spot, more cliffs. Ken and Mike took a long hike, but we women passed. Glad we did as they were both huffing and puffing when they returned. Bushmill’s distillery is near there but was closed. The next day we went back to the Rep of Ireland to Donegal, which turned out to be one of our favorite spots. Then back to Northern Ireland where we drove through Londonderry, skipped Belfast, and on to Ballymoney. Every other place in Ireland is Bally something. We learned it means Town of…. That night we had gone to bed at the B&B and were reading before going to sleep, when we heard drums and fifes nearby. Ken dressed in a hurry and went out to find a big drum and fife parade. We left Ireland the next day taking a catamaran ferry from Larne over to Cairnryan, Scotland. Flew like the wind across a smooth sea in much less time than the day we came over

Ireland occupies a corner in my heart forevermore. Back to the writing world tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I remember your trip to Ireland. I would love to visit there one day. I had to laugh at the mental picture of you hanging upside down to give the blarney stone a kiss. ;)