Sunday, May 31, 2009



One of the first places we visited out of Dublin was Glendalough, and that turned out to be the perfect introduction to Ireland.   We left Dublin and headed toward Military Road on the advice of one of my tour books.  I'm glad we did.  The little-traveled route helped us learn how to drive on the left and cope with narrow Irish roads without having to worry too much about a head-on collision.  We did have to watch for sheep, though.  They often wandered the roads, and one fearless little lamb even stopped to nurse briefly while we waited for a small herd to leave the road.
The real gem in the region, though, is the monastic settlement.  A round tower, ruins, and well-kept hiking trails could keep a soul busy for the entirety of a day, so if you like to hike, bring a picnic meal.  Jackdaws nest inside the roundtower windows.  Ancient and modern graves share an extensive graveyard, with warning signs put up by the government reminding locals that no burials are allowed within certain of the ruins.  The hills and river (we thought the water was stained by peat, but it turns out much of the water is stained by iron that oxidizes when it becomes aerated, say, by the long waterfall near Glendalough) form a spectacular backdrop to the site.
A small village holds up well to the tourism in the area, with a gas station and well-stocked convenience store, lovely shops, and sizable restaurants.  The village compared favorably with far more developed areas, surprising considering the population is tiny.  I'm particularly grateful to the shop owner who advised me to get a book map of Ireland.  Combined with my very useful useless map (the scale gave me a great birds-eye view of the whole island but didn't have enough detail for proper navigation) I was able to tour us around Ireland without getting unintentionally lost.

Very nearby, we came across the miner's settlement.  Another perfect picnicking area, you can admire the view and kick through the tailings, check out exposed beams that used to frame pipes, and speculate on how the mining operation ran based on the buildings, paths, and framework.  
There's not much left to guess on, which makes it an intriguing puzzle.  Information signs help, but don't give away the whole picture, letting the visitor figure out much of it for themselves.  My question was, how did they pump the water up to the mining area, or, if they didn't, was there a natural water source that's since dried up or diverted itself?

This is an intriguing area, and near enough to Dublin to daytrip.  We didn't return to Dublin, but continued onward toward the south coast, driving to areas I've already posted about, like Kilkenny, and others I haven't gotten to yet in my ongoing scattershot coverage of our vacation.

Friday, May 29, 2009



Specifically, Bunratty, an easy drive from Shannon.  Yes, it's touristy.  I don't care!  I loved the atmosphere.  Medieval feasts, a working potter, period furnishings not only in the castle but in the village, and the animals created a fun anachronistic (the sites at Bunratty vary wildly in period) park-like destination.  During the height of the tourist season, it probably is quite crowded and might get Disneyland-ish, but while we were there it was near-perfect. 

 Alas, to counterbalance our experience, a lot of the places within the park were closed or unattended.  You could still go inside the unattended buildings.  In the ones that were attended, we were able to sample bread made with period methods, and purchase pottery made on site, among other things.  [Fudge. *ahem*] 

I wish we could have stayed for the medieval feast at the castle.  Ten courses, if I remember correctly, with live period music and entertainment, and irish wolfhounds in attendance.

The keeper for the wolfhounds happened to walk them to the castle while we were on the last leg of our tour of the grounds.  We had to pet the dogs.  Had to.  People a bit more shy of dogs than we are watched rather than participated in the ongoing corruption of their doggerly obedience.  The dogs seemed much more interested in attention than dinner.

A walled garden, cottages designed to illustrate how people of different walks of life lived, mills (that I believe still grind flour!) sheep, a donkey, deer, a castle, hens, a manor house, pubs, a doctor's house, printer ... there's much to do and see at Bunratty, all kid appropriate without being insufferably downsized or safety-fascist so the adults can play and not feel stifled.

  Afterward, have a meal at Durty Nelly's, established 1620.  Yum.  It's just outside the park, so no need to pay an entrance fee to eat.  If you're with law enforcement, bring a spare patch from your jurisdiction.  They have them stapled to the beams.

I brought home a pin and a small pottery tea bag cup, for disposing used teabags in.  (Used teabags are useful for fertilizer, sunburns, and other oddball stuff--google sometime!)  It's also beautifully decorative, and if I was serving tea to friends I'd happily set it on the table so they could make use of it after their teabags were done steeping.  One of those things that you didn't know might be useful until you have it.

Bunratty is definitely high on my recommended list.  You'll have to decide for yourself whether it's better to visit during the height (more energy, more things to see and do, much more crowded) or during the off season (no crowds, quieter, potential to talk with guides and folk who work there about Bunratty and period life in general, fewer exhibits in full swing).  I haven't decided.  I guess I'll just have to try both.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009



In contrast to the quiet village and rural splendor of Cong and Ashford Castle, Kilkenny is a lively, busy medieval town.  I recommend stopping at the tourist information centers anywhere in Ireland, but particularly in Kilkenny, the meeting place for a guided tour that will allow you to appreciate the town's rich, dual past.  As a dweller on the outskirts of a large metropolitan area, I enjoyed imagining two towns, side by side, experiencing medieval-style growing pains as they expanded into each other, echoed by our own area many times over.

The St. Canice's tower in Kilkenny turned out to be the only roundtower we found on our countrywide tour that gave visitors access to the interior and landing on  top.  The view is incredible, but the standing area is very narrow, so if you're nervous of heights, this place might give you the feeling of balancing on the top of a very long pole.  The neighboring church looks gorgeous from the tower top, but it has an even more exquisite interior.  I wished I'd brought blank newsprint--they might have given me permission to take rubbings of some of the tombs.  Worshippers and visitors have been walking on many of the church's memorials for centuries, so sadly, some of the inscriptions are so worn they can no longer be read.

Kilkenny Castle is furnished and gorgeous, and filled with artwork, including a modern gallery below.  Nearby, the Butler House marks the perimeter of an incredible marketplace with a gold smith, silver smith, dry goods store, restaurant and other businesses that have a soft, period feeling to them, as opposed to the modern shopping mall a short walk away that has all the usual suspects.  There are many other places to peruse in Kilkenny that have that same ancient feeling to them; restaurants, gardens, a farmer's market, an inn once owned by a reputed witch (and based on the stories, I'd say she may well have been, and a potent one at that!) and even a nursery that abuts the ruin of a church.  

This is a great place to visit when it's raining--plenty of things to do indoors.  If it happens to be sunny, though, all the better because there's a lovely riverwalk and extensive castle grounds.  It would be tough to decide where to have a picnic.  Might as well stay a few days and go to all of them.

Are you all green with envy yet?  Or orange?  Some people mentioned 'the troubles,' but not here in Kilkenny.  Someday I hope to go back to this peaceful, friendly town.

Saturday, May 23, 2009



We went to a lot of places, saw more than I can describe in even a dozen posts.

We stayed at Markree Castle, but before we got there we visited the other castle I considered staying at (but it was quite a bit more expensive.)  Ashford Castle is a five star hotel, and we weren't allowed inside.  But we were allowed to wander the grounds.  They included hundreds of acres of woods, a shooting range, impressive stables, and so on.  We crossed a bridge to get to Ashford, the first image on this blog post.  Guards at the gate took our entry fee.  My DH noted that he felt excluded since we couldn't go inside, but he was grinning.  We all were.  The place is magical.
It's hard to understand the scope of the castle itself without walking completely around it.  Before we did that, we roamed along the river and through woods.  Gunshots periodically pierced the quiet. We found a cave, and in it, pieces of orange skeet.  We decided that heading back might be a good idea, in case loose bullets might be flying in our vicinity.  On the way, we found the building where marksmen can shelter while playing.  The folk who'd been using it, if they had been there and weren't shooting at real pigeons on the trail, had left.  We didn't hear anything after that, though.
We found several gardens, all huge and old.  My favorite was the walled garden, in which there's an herb garden that looks like regular landscaping until you realize that the big shrubs matched in size to the roses were things like sage, rosemary and thyme.  Ancient, gnarled wood supported fat, fragrant sprigs that can be used in cooking or medicine.  They had a long arbor--hazelnuts, not grapes--shaped to bend sharply at about eight feet in height so that it was difficult to tell the trees apart from the supports.  This is what all gardens want to grow up to be.  I could have stayed for days and days.  Next time I'll bring shoes that look good but have a serious waffle sole so I can stomp around without slipping in the sometimes muddy areas.  Or just go horseback.  I didn't see signs that said we couldn't ride horses through the walled garden.  

I loved Ashford.  Loved it.  If you go to Ireland, you have to stay in Cong, visit Ashford Castle and the church and abbey, and be sure to bring your walkin' shoes and nice clothes for the day you visit the castle.  If you stay at the castle, bring your best clothes, and bear in mind that the restaurant is black tie.  And don't forget to stop by the Crow's Nest in Cong.  They do good food, and if you're looking for a brawl, that'd be the easiest place to get into one.
That probably bears further explanation.  These kids, on our way walking to the Crow's Nest, hooted and hollered while driving like Irishmen through the streets of Cong.  We went into the pub, and a few minutes later these same kids came in.  The four of them could only afford one cider.  The bartender gave it to them in the can with a glass upturned over it.  One of them tried to be impressive by picking it up by the glass and flipping it over ... and the cider ended up on the ground.  And of course exploded when they opened it.  Then the shrill wolf whistling started, right behind us, while two old guys sang songs familiar to everyone but me--no Danny Boy, no Whiskey in the Jar.  Just when I thought he'd whistled for the last time, he'd whistle again, sometimes in my ear, sometimes in Ruairi's ear, sometimes between the lady and gent sitting to my right.  I kept Ruairi in check (which entertained him) but I wasn't sure the lady to my right would be able to restrain her companion for very much longer.
The whistling won, in the end, in the sense that it drove us out before the fight was on.  As I got up, the lady smiled at me.  We never traded a single word, but our eyerolls were timed about the same (synchronized eye-rolling, anyone?) and we were friends in irritation.  I wished her luck and she laughed.
Fun town, exquisite castle, great food, incredible scenery, and a sense of ancient peace and yet liveliness that's hard to describe.  It's a place to go fishing, not to doze by the river but to actually catch stuff.  It's a place to practice falconry, and race on horses, not amble sedately on animals so jaded they're like zombies.  The ancient is alive and well at Ashford Castle.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Captain Obvious

Yesterday I went to workout.  After some time on my favorite elliptical torture device, I went to stretch and I discovered something.  My low, low back was tender.  WTF?  I toyed with it, figuring it was just tight.  It didn't get worse with exercise, and I had no problems during my weight-lifting routine.  My physical trainer (the train part being that thing with the bright headlight that hits you when you're in the tunnel) ran me through an arm routine that made me a bit sore in the shoulders but nothing debilitating (yet.)  Not even a twinge from the back.  But sitting in the car?  OMG!  Sitting anywhere, unless I'm careful to keep a curve (toward the stomach, not hunched--that makes it worse) is painful.  

I went over my activities.  I got that furniture from IKEA, but I used equipment to move it and I used good mechanics and it wasn't even hard.  I didn't do anything weird at the test.  I took the garbage to the curb.  I vacuumed--hmm, I have a track record for doing bad things to myself while vacuuming.  But that doesn't seem right.  So I checked my IUD to make sure it hadn't started to migrate.  No, all good there.  My friend M suggested it might be back cramps.  Well, it's early for cramps, way early, and I don't get them like I used to.  Still, I took ibuprofen.  Didn't touch the pain.

So I'm telling my DH all this over the phone, and then tangentially mentioned that O and I moved the futon down to the porch the day before yesterday.  And it happened.  I had my Captain Obvious moment.  Or, to quote MST3K for "Cave Dwellers" (a classic!) "This arrow may have something to do with her pain."

Moving that futon was a bear.  It was awkward and dangerous and at one point I slipped and had to catch myself before me and the futon as one big nasty package were delivered on O downstairs from me.  Could I have tweaked my back?  Heck yeah!  I'm surprised one or both of us didn't end up in the hospital when I slipped.  (Note to self, scrub algae off of deck when feeling better.)  

I feel dumb, and yet, vindicated.  I figured it out, and I didn't hurt myself doing something innocuous like drying myself off with a towel.  (Been there, done that.  *sigh*)  I hurt myself valiantly.

I just didn't realize it at the time.  D'oh!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Looking for work and working for looks

I think my exam thingy went well today.  There was a math component, and a detail focus test, and filing, and stuff.  I didn't finish first, but I was one of the early ones to leave.  There was only one problem that really bothered me.  I came up with an answer that wasn't one of the multiple guess.  After I finished everything else, I stared at it some more, and still couldn't sort it out.  So I figure I got that one wrong.  I just need 70% to pass, so I didn't stress over it.  It just bugs me because of the principle of the thing.  Next stage will be the verbal interview thingy in a couple of weeks.  I'd better get some laundry done before then.

In other news, I've been working on tidying and organizing the house some more.  I'm actually starting to see progress.  I also got some writing done.  I'm hoping that very soon I'll have time to post about Ireland, and put some stuff into a memory book about it, and start on that article that I've been doing too much thinking and too little writing about.  Ideally I should have written it while I was over there.  20/20 butt sight.

And here's a reminder to check out what your local high school drama department is doing.  Support a good cause, and let the high school kids wow you with what they've accomplished at their young (but very mature, they assure me) age.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stream of Consciousness (might have giardia)

Incredibly sunny outside.  I have all kinds of energy, but watched A Beautiful Mind for lunch anyway.  I'm trying to get a mental angle on writing about Ireland, and not succeeding very well.  Non-fiction is hard.  It's full of facts and personality and stuff.  (Ahem.)  But I have confidence that I'll figure it out by dinnertime.  I have a test that I need to take tomorrow, but I don't know what it's about, except that it will have something to do with my job application for an administrative staff position.  I put the cushions on the outside furniture, and imagined that the cover for the gazebo would be filled with spiders, so I procrastinated by planting 11 red nicotiana (the 2 six packs had one missing--I was totally ripped off to the tune of about 30 cents--or maybe they were on sale and I got ripped off less.)  I stared at my tree peony, which exploded and now is really, really pink with flowers so huge they're ridiculous.  The tree peony really needs to get bigger so it's not so disproportional.  Even Cyrano de Bergerac would laugh.  I may have to paint and drink wine later today.  I painted and drank wine during a blackout yesterday with my friend R, and watched a power station thingy burn, and bought paint brushes and indigo watercolor because I wanted more versatility in shadows.  I pushed a wheelbarrow that was so squeaky we couldn't stop laughing about it.  After dark, a nighthawk screeched just outside the house.  It was beautiful, at first.  I now have a cat in my lap, which means I have a sudden urge to get up and do something urgent, because I'm pinned by cuteness and I realize that I can't get up and do something urgent lest I disturb the cuteness.

My life is beautiful.  I hope I don't get an awful disease and die before I can see how it all ends.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bruiser Blues

Got up this morning with a simple task--get some furniture.  I had it all picked out, with one exception--a sale at World Market might change a choice.  So I packed the kids up into the Bruiser and we crossed the river into the sales tax-free zone.  That turned out to be the only easy part.  

The Bruiser ran rough, and finally gave a final gasp as we pulled into the parking lot for our first stop.  We picked up the outdoor papasan chair (because they're sturdier than the regular kind) and set it in back.  Had to start the truck, give it gas, jog it over to drive, lurch out of the parking space, turn it toward the street, stop, and the engine died.  Rinse, repeat.  I thought someone might have siphoned off our gas for nefarious purposes, so I stopped at a gas station to top off.  Nope, we had plenty of gas.  Water in the line?  I thought about getting some heet, and then found out there's a mechanic literally across the street.

Across four lanes of street, plus a divider lane.  Yikes.  

Lurching, gasping, expiring and then coming alive with a key-turned resurrection, I got the truck pointed in the right direction.  Miraculously, the traffic all cleared seconds later and we charged across while the gettin' was good, bumped up into the tiny parking lot, slowed, and the engine gave up.  I started it up again to swing wildly into a parking spot.

There in the holy sanctuary of Meineke, the temporary cure came in the form of turning up the idle speed by one of God's children.  We picked up the rest of our pre-planned furniture, sans any sale-induced modification, and headed for home.  One last hiccup--a cop driving down the middle of the highway, lights flashing, at 30 miles an hour.  The Bruiser grumbled and growled and churned out an excess of smoke, thoroughly uncomfortable at that speed, but didn't choke to death.  We went through the business district instead of taking the highway home.  On the other side, I saw no sign of the cop or his parade of followers.  I doubt I'll ever learn what the purpose of that slowdown might have been.  

The furniture is all set up now, and I spent the rest of the evening watching a movie, mulling over my next writerly move.  Monday, I'll have to take the Bruiser to the pickup doctor to see if they can figure out why there's holes in the firing chain.  The Bruiser even threatening a full-blown backfire at one point.  I had to warn the kids that there might be a loud bang at some point, and to not be alarmed.  It's just the truck protesting its indigestion.  

Tomorrow, it'll be watercolor and sitting on freshly laid stone steps at a friend's house, far away from the craziness.  I have a meeting out west anyway.  I can head out early, interrupt painting with some business, and then finish out with some fine wine, music, and enjoyment of a garden that I don't have to weed.  Just a quiet interlude before I face the grindstone.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Ticking Clock

I've been doing a lot more reading than usual lately, and I found a standout.  I haven't finished it yet, but the depth of setting in Burke's In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead had me sitting up and taking notice.  In some places the setting overbalances the other book elements, but I didn't mind.  I ate it up.  I can't say too much more about this, because this is for a class and I'm not supposed to discuss it in advance.  I can't recommend it until I've read the ending, either.  This is just a note, and a heads up to setting junkies.

In other news, I applied for a secretarial/admin-type job today, and tomorrow I'm going to take a typing test.  I don't think I've taken a typing test since high school!  I'm 99% sure I can easily pass this test, because the wpm requirement is relatively low and I'm allowed 5 errors in five minutes.  Alas, I have an Achilles heel when it comes to tests.  If it's a timed test, I get really nervous.  An hour in which to do an essay, no problem.  I'm your gal.  A class period to complete an exam that the instructor calculated would take the whole class for an average student, piece of cake.  If I hurry and I know my material, I'll have time to do the extra credit question.  Given twice the number of math problems a genius could handle in two minutes and allowed one minute to go as far as I can ... I tend to panic.  I haven't frozen before, but my performance plummets and I get the shakes.  I hate tight time limits and pre-ordained 'failure' (a guarantee that it's impossible to complete the test.)  There's only one thing I despise more in a test--a race against others.  Fortunately, I'm not in a race against others.  I don't have to be the fastest typist to impress a potential boss.

To prepare, I've been practicing on a typing program I originally got for the kids to teach typing, and I've been going over lessons that cover my weak spots, namely, left-handed capital letters (I often mash the shift key at an odd angle with my right hand, producing lots of errors including non-capitalization and double capital letters) and double quotes (I have a lazy right pinkie, same problem as capital letters that land on my left hand.)  Fortunately my typing speed is enough above the minimum that only complete and utter adrenaline shakes will cause me to fail.  Unfortunately, complete and utter adrenaline shakes are not out of the question.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things that go bump

It took me several hours, but I finally developed a raw document that will eventually be shaped into what I hope will be a decent resume.  Yep, that time in my life has come again where I'll be looking for work.  I don't know what yet, but I'll know it when I see it, or maybe they'll know me when they see me.  

In the meantime, I'll be writing as per usual.  

Settling back into home life has been weird.  Even though I was in Ireland only a short time, I think because it was so intense and there's so much going on with family and the future, I won't settle back to 'normal'.  Developing the new normal will be interesting.  I remember when I was working part time at the crazy fun place, establishing a new routine helped me step up, and then when I actually achieved routine, my productivity overall sank a bit.  I think this will be the same thing again.  I'll step up to meet the challenges, and as soon as things are settled (aka, in a rut) I'll start missing those opportunities to write for fifteen minutes here or read for a half hour there and I might only glance idly at the latest community college classes.  

That right there is a good reason to stir things up every once in a while.  I think right now most of the country is stirred up, due to the change in presidency, and the economy, and everything.  If the country is anything like me, that could be a good thing.

In the meantime, it can be stressful.  Thankfully, every time I sit down, Carey finds me and sits in my lap.  I think she missed us while we were away.

Good luck job hunting to all of us!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Lists: Loves and Misses

I'm sleeping well (except one incident with sleep walking--haven't done that since I was a kid!) and I'm on local time, but I'm a bit draggy today.  Just a quick post before I start putting up more stuff 'bout Ireland.

Ten things I love about being home:

*Friends are a local phone call or a short drive away!
*Yay kitties!
*Yay dogs!
*The garden--she is blooming!  And I can weed!
*I'm totally motivated about cleaning house.  Weird, but I'll take it.
*Dinner and a movie every night (we often watch videos during dinner)
*My very own laundry room with my very own soaps!
*I can turn around without bumping an elbow in my shower and there's two shower heads.  Ahhhhh ...
*I can meet with  my writer's groups again.
*I can cook my own meals!

Ten things I miss:
*My DH
*Being with my whole family every day
*Stone circles and dolmens (and speculating about bored gaelics with too many rocks about)
*Having a pint with my DH and kids
*Listening to local wisdom, especially when it's unwise
*Good bacon (and black and white pudding, and irish sausage)
*Lamb as a regular option on restaurant menus
*No dishes or dusting
*Chasing unfamiliar birds with my camera

Twelve Great Moments:
*Castle bedroom antics (and other antics but I won't use up the whole list for that)
*Seeing the Cliffs of Moher from the sea
*DH's expressions while having a pint at The Crow's Nest
*Running around Cahir Castle until after closing (oops)
*Roaming Ashford Castle grounds, especially the gardens
*Being terrified of the roads to Moll's Gap--and then not terrified after the sun came out
*Sunning (and getting sunburned) on the black rocks on Inisheer
*Rock shop shopping spree
*Distracting Irish wolfhounds from their mission
*Dunmore cave--the creepy learning where people met their fate at the hands of Vikings
*Watching falconry students walk their hawks
*Pony trek around Inisheer (I sure loved that island)

Five great meals:
*Dinner at Markree
*Dinner at Davenport Hotel in Dublin
*Lunch where I had that amazing thick slab of cod--hopefully I'll remember where soon
*Dessert/coffee at Moll's Gap
*Breakfast just about every south coast B&B

Honorable mention to the Rogue Brewery Pub at the Portland Airport -- you guys always rock and I couldn't resist giving a nod even though that wasn't in Ireland

Monday, May 04, 2009

Markree Castle

Our vacation is almost done.  I'm torn between feeling sad that Ruairi and I will be going different directions soon, and homesickness, especially for my friends, the animals and my garden.

We're in the castle sitting room right now.  The castle is beautiful and smoky and lush and drafty, as castles are wont to be.  We were very early, so our rooms weren't ready when we came in.  They gave us coffee and water on a tray and offered tea and scones.  Portraits with gilded frames hang on the wall.  One has a lady in a mink cape with a large ring on her right hand, which is held to her breast.  Green marble columns (from Connemara?) support a wedding cake ceiling.  The walkways near the main stairwell slant toward the rail side, bent from ages of supporting people moving about the castle.  The walkway closer to our rooms is level, but I can feel loose boards through the rugs.  Some rooms have famous names on the doors.  A French employee serves as a butler, though he handles much more than wine.  He also lights and maintains the many fireplaces, and brought us drinks in the late evening.

Wind gusts harass the trees.  We took a walk in the gardens, down to the chilly, clear river, through wooded areas on well-kept paths.  An archery target set up makes me want to set up my own archery range as soon as we get home.  Here, it's soggy and a walk in the woods in my last pair of shoes (the others are muddy--one got sucked off my foot in deep mud at one point) would be unwise.  I don't think they'll let me run around the airports in my stocking feet.  Otherwise I might have been more tempted to ask that they call the archery instructors to take me around on a shooting walk.  The receptionist said they have bear and deer shaped targets in the woods.

We had a fine dinner and I just finished a hot port (aka mulled wine.)  Feeling very relaxed and sleepy.  I got some writing done on a novel.  Not much else to say except that it's been a beautiful day, both the sunny part and the storm.  One more overnight to go after tonight, and then I'll be flying home.  

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Family History

We stayed an extra day at the Dan O'Hara Heritage Center to relax and enjoy the lovely town of Clifden.  We had some laundry to do too, and I wanted a night to soak in a tub with seaweed bath salts and enjoy some mead.  I'm glad we did, because the guided tractor tour of the grounds left a big impression on me.

It's very strange to be in someone's home knowing that they were forced out by the landlord and as a consequence half the family died on the way to America.  Dan O'Hara himself died soon after, and his four remaining children were fostered.  I don't think anyone knows what ultimately happened to them.  

Dan O'Hara had a very simple, and by our standards harsh life, but he loved his home and his family and enjoyed a good livelihood by his own measure.  He had all he needed--sheep, cows, chickens, peat, good water and potatoes--and was reduced to selling matches on the street.  It's not a distant abstract to me imagining the loss of home and family, never to be found again.  Despite this grim and sobering story, I can still enjoy the land and the welcome given by its owners and devoted caretakers.  If anyone reading this manages to make it to Connemara, I highly recommend visiting and if possible staying overnight.

Tomorrow we're heading in the vague direction of Sligo.  The weather was beautiful this morning and afternoon, but we've got rain and wind now so I'd better plan something that's indoors, just in case we don't get fair conditions back again.  

Friday, May 01, 2009

More Fun in Ireland

We've been to so many places since my last post, and there hasn't been time to write about them.  I don't have that much more time now, but I thought I'd post a couple of pics at least. 

Our family hired a pony cart on Inis Oirr (Inisheer,) one of the Aran Islands.  The driver took us on a nice tour of the east side, which included a shipwreck.  The three biggest of us walked part of one hill to save the pony, which acted up several times at the sight of having to drag around four big Americans.  There was seating for nine, by the way.  Not sure how the pony coped in the height of the season!  Probably with much grumpiness.  My DH used to be known as Aran Storm to some ... and we wanted to have a guinness at the local pub, Ruairi's ... but alas, they were closed.  At least we got to walk about, have a guinness at another place instead, and also got to sunbathe on a beautiful beach.  He and I basked on dark, smooth rocks.  We got sunburned.  Sunburned!!  Not bad, though.

Afterward, our ship, the Tranquility, took us to the base of the Cliffs of Moher.  On the way, Ruairi pointed and said, "You hear that sound, Highness?  Those are the shrieking eels ..."  The cliffs are amazing from up top, but even more spectacular viewed from the sea.  We got up close enough to see the thousands of birds nesting and swirling around the rocks.  We had perfect weather, and the sea was very kind, but still fun as we had a few rollers give us an fun and easy ride on the way over.

More later, possibly even tomorrow, as we're taking a vacation from packing/driving.  Our extremely entertaining host is going to take us on a tractor ride after breakfast up a big hill, and we're going to get a close look at some Connemara ponies.  There's also some nice pubs and the sea close by, here on the outskirts of Clifden.  I'm looking forward to putting my feet up in the afternoon and maybe reading a few chapters from one of the many books in the B&B's library, or challenging my DH to a game of chess.