Notes From Ireland
How to put into words what I experienced, saw and tasted in my 10 short days in Ireland? Having limited writing skills, it is impossible. Written words could never do the land justice. Ireland is a visual place and a state of mind. Deep greens, deep and light blues broken by grey tones define the landscapes and seascapes. Brightly colored homes and buildings dot the countryside, towns, harbors and cites.
And so it began.
After flying all night, I watched an orange sun rise over ocean clouds. Descending though these grey clouds, I could faintly make out white caps breaking on a watery surface. Bits and pieces of land started to appear, grey in color and more large rocks than land. Slowly, a larger landscape developed, a green canvas filled with thin lines scratched across it still defining ancient land boundaries. Finally, little white spots of grazing sheep finished this watercolor.
The jet lag was not bad.
The driver who rescued us from the Dublin Airport gave us a warm welcome and nice introduction to Ireland. I was simply over whelmed by the road system and layout while riding into city center. Our driver blamed all this on the Vikings. Leaving us at the Davenport Hotel, he left with a friendly smile and wished us well. We were now on our own. Strangers in a green land.
Across the street from our hotel was a Subway restaurant, I was not allowed to check it out. My first evening's meal was a wonderful Guinness beef stew at Kennedy's Bar & Restaurant. Over the entire time of the trip, each night's meals eclipsed the one before. From simple fish and chips, to Irish stews, though the many types of chowder, every one was exceptional.
No way could I have driven Dublin's roads, just crossing them as a pedestrian had it's own a steep learning curve.
The weather started out very cold, windy and rainy. So much so the folks were complaining. Very unusual for that time of the year, everyone said. Plenty of sun ended our vacation; in fact I got sunburned causing me to buy a hat! I didn't bring one because, well it was Ireland.
We used the Hop On Hop Off bus tours to get around Dublin's city center. The narration of the guides could not have been topped.
Our first outing was to the Book Of Kells at Trinity College. Very nice. Trinity was founded by the first Queen Elizabeth. Also, the lovely Kath was over whelmed by the Long Room library and its 200,000 plus shelved books.
At Christ Church, I was a little bit “the ugly tourist”. In a beautiful and practicing medieval church where the Crusades were once discussed as current events, my clicking shutter echoed off the stone walls that created its cavernous space. This ugly tourist presence was further compounded as I carried around bags from purchases. Their crinkling echoed throughout each time I picked them up.
Not being a beer drinker seemed a bit odd since I was in the land of Guinness. We toured the Guinness brewery ending in a seventh story observation deck that commanded a panoramic view of Dublin. At its center was the Gravity Bar where your complementary pint is pulled. Yes, I had one. Loved the view and tour, but sorry to say, I'm still not a Guinness drinker.
In a flash our Dublin days where over, it was time to move on. A driver came and ferried us back to Dublin airport where our rental car awaited. He explained the baby seat in the back was for his first child, a daughter. She was to be his most important passenger later that day for she was coming home from the hospital. On his IPhone was a photo of her that he proudly was passed around. Kath, being the librarian, explained the need to start reading to her that day. After a few more fairs the day was his. He wished us well as we did with his new daughter. Again, we were our own.
Our rental was a red BMW 316d. Driving on the wrong side meant breaking a 40 year habit. Left turns are easy, right turns were “go wide young man”. We all took a turn driving, mine turned out to be the four hour drive from Donegal to Bunratty. Driving on the major roads meant I was able do 120 kpm, 74 mph to us. To save on fuel, this car would automatically shut off if you came to a stop while in gear. The first time this happened, we all freaked out to say the least. The roundabouts are something I will never forget. Some roads signs I figured out, some I didn't.
Once acclimated to riding and driving on the wrong side of the road, the landscape came into focus. There were sheep, lambs, cows and ruins everywhere. Intermixed stood brightly and colorfully painted homes and buildings.
Our first bed and breakfast was The Cove Lodge near Donegal Town in Donegal County. Seeing and being in this county was very personal journey to the lovely Kath. For it was of that land her father's side immigrated from. Leaving Ireland in the 1840's, they came though Philadelphia to settle in a new world. This was the same route we flew.
My one big, stupid photography mistake was at the Slieve League Cliffs, I broke a cardinal rule by forgetting to bring a second battery! After a long drive followed by a very steep hike, shooting was cut a bit short. I never left again with checking twice if I had a second, charged battery.
We encountered many a tour bus filled with Germans and French. I heard numerous other tongues spoken and it was fun trying to figure out the language, a few I didn't.
The second bed and breakfast was The Park House. This B&B offered a unique feature, a dinner meal. The owner, Shane, is a cook and he served us an excellent final Irish feast.
Everywhere we traveled, we meet very cheerful, happy and helpful people in spite of my feeling the rest of the world seemed to treat and regard this land and country as one big tourist destination. All seemed to enjoy talking about their little corner of the world with the humor and wit the Irish are known for. An exception was the grumpy border guard at the Dublin airport that stamped our passports.
We visited Belleek and went china shopping. The show pieces on display created over the years were incredible! The store sits just yards from Northern Ireland. After shopping we walked into and then out of Northern Ireland. No big deal. I pray it remains this peaceful. So, without really planning on it, I visited two countries.
Took some real back roads. The country side is very rolling and at times very barren. Some the roads were barely a lane wide with no shoulder, just vegetation that at times covered stone walls built less than two feet from the road edge.
Vegetation seemed to be covering anything older than ten years.
Stone wall/fences were everywhere, even in places where none should have ever been, on slopes that fell off at a gentle 45 degree angle toward a cliff by the sea.
At the Slieve League Cliffs, the Cliffs Of Moher and a few other road side stops that featured cliffs, the waves seemed to enjoy playing a game of one upmenship with the helpless fallen rocks and boulders. Each wave tried crashing harder and spray taller then the last.
The tides always seemed to be out whenever I could take a water scene.
It was hard taking castle photos while trying not showing any street lights, paved roads, cars or tour buses.
Found an Ireland sticker for the traveling hard case, it liked that.
It is over.
Just a few notes following our Irish adventure. We flew back out of Shannon and into Philadelphia. On our flight there were two little Irish Princesses seated behind us. One was maybe 5 and the other around 10. They were very good during the whole flight. Their parents explained everything that was going on inside the cabin and the sounds that the plane was making. This calmed them down; making them better fliers than some adults I have seen. Sure, my seat got kicked a few times, but not until after 5 hours of sitting. Just like us, they had another flight that day. One that would take them on to Disneyland in Florida. I kept thinking, this was probably going to be their first trip to Florida and maybe even the first time out of Ireland. When the little Irish Princesses met Florida heat and humidity, I hoped their grand adventure would not be ruined! I'm sure enjoying a big, cool pool was also part of the plan.
And finally the last note. It has been months since Kath and I have returned to our real world. One of chores, tasks, deadlines, unexpected expenses and a daily grind. Now finished is the time of daily fabulous food, sights never seen before, friendly folk and sheep everywhere. When sitting in front of a computer screen weeding though many photos, my mind starts drifting, wondering if I was really there. Was it all just a dream? Sometimes I'll have no recollection of taking this or that photo, jet lag I guess. Other times I'll find myself looking at a map of Ireland and ponder, will we ever return to that emerald isle of the sea?
Here are a few links