Monday, March 21, 2011

Reflections on the Emerald Isle, part 6 On the road to Galway

We got up bright and early the night after our time at McGann's Pub and headed toward Galway.  First stop was Doolin Pier.








The sun was brightly shining and waves were crashing.  I don't know why the sun and waves were so unexpected to me, but the surprise of it made the stop all more lovely.




Next stop---the Cliffs of Moher.  As I stated before, the Cliffs are amazing.  Massive, beautiful, breathtaking, awe-inspiring.  It is truly necessary to just let the pictures do the talking.

















"In memory of those who have lost their lives at the Cliffs of Moher"


Leaving the Cliffs, we headed across The Burren, an archeological and geographical wonder.  Jim, being the former geologist, found this to be a special treat.  Truth be told, we all found it fascinating.  Tami is a Social Studies teacher, so the history of it intrigued her.  Jeff and I just thought it was all wonderful.  Sadly, I realize we didn't take enough pictures at this stop.







On to Galway!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reflections on the Emerald Isle, part 5 Doolin




I interrupt this( regularly) scheduled Irish posting for a moment from the Dominican Republic.  I am presently sitting outside Hotel Casablanca in Barahona DR watching the sun rise and listening to the waves crash upon the rocks at the base of the cliffs below.  As I look at the cliffs, my first thought was that I was seeing a miniature version of the Cliffs of Moher near Doolin.  They aren't quite as grand nor anywhere near as high, but they are beautiful and they do overlook the Caribbean sea.  I'll take it.  I am here with Jim, as well as my son and his girlfriend.  The original intent was to be part mission trip to work on the church in Hato Mayor and part pleasure trip.  It has turned into more pleasure than work.  I will take that, too.  A rooster nearby just crowed "Good morning".  More on this trip later.
The cliffs near Hotel Casablanca, Barahona-Paraiso, Dominican Republic


The REAL Cliffs of Moher near Doolin.  These cliffs are massive and breathtakingly beautiful.


Now, back to our regular programming...

I can't believe it is taking me so long to post about the remainder of our visit to Ireland.  It is not right to be so busy that I can't get this done.

We headed toward Doolin after our stop at the Rock of Cashel.  We wove our way through Limerick, but didn't stop due to the advice from previous travelers.  We only had a few hours until it would be dark and we were hoping to arrive sooner than that.  Not to be.  As they say, travel in Ireland does not go at the pace of the U.S.  That's a good thing.  It is just difficult when one is learning the limitations of driving on the left, in a stick shift, in the dark, in the rain.


Once we found Doolin,  our task was to: 1) find a pub to have a Guinness, and 2) find a room.  We found both at McGann's Pub, one of three pubs lining the road in Doolin.  Doolin is the home to traditional Irish music.  It is far from Dublin and just a wee bit of a town near the sea and the Cliffs of Moher.  Before arriving at McGann's, we turned onto a small side road looking for a B & B advertised on a small sign post.  We didn't find it, but we thought we were about to find the sea.  In our car.  Off a cliff.  Probably more our imagination running wild from exhaustion and jet lag more than anything else.  So, we found McGann's and we went inside.

Tami and Jeff enjoy Irish music at McGann's
Our hearts did a happy dance.  It was the perfect little Irish pub with a bar on the left as we entered.  A look to our right brought the welcome sight of a coal fire burning near a few small tables.  We spied the table with our names on it, had a seat and ordered a light meal and a Guinness.  The fire felt good.  It was 4:30 in the afternoon.

This fireplace was the perfect spot to come to out of the cold and rain.


 A combination of the hearty ale and yummy grub and we were soon ready for a bit of a winter's nap.  We'd noticed that a table near us had a small "Reserved" sign on it.  Hoping to return to our preferred spot by the fire, we asked if we could reserve our table, too.  "No worries," said the beautiful barmaid, "we'll hold it for ya."  So up the stairs we climbed to a welcome respite.

Jim and Jan, happy but tired.


When I woke with a start, it was 9:30 pm.  Yikes!  Did we miss the night's entertainment?  Was everyone gone home to bed?  Um, no.  Little did we know that a late night was ahead of us.  It's a really good thing we had our nap.



When we got downstairs, the pub was packed.  "Too late," I thought, "we've lost our table".  Sitting at 'our' table and all those in the vicinity of the small room by the fire and the three Irish musicians playing were, oh, twenty-four or so wild Irish men in town for a stag party.  "No worries," the barmaid declared, "they'll be moving along in an hour's time."  When we saw her deliver another round and another, we conceded defeat and chose alternate seating.  Or should I say standing?  I stood in a doorway, peering in and watching as the night's events unfolded.

I got their dad's permission (to the right) to take this pic as long as I didn't plan to sell it.
 These were some tough pirates.


The attention of the men centered on one gentleman in particular, whom we would later learn was the groom-to-be.  While everyone else around him was shirted, dear old groom was in a pair of jeans and what we thought was an unusual pair of lime green suspenders.  Okay, it's his party, he can wear what he wants.  As he came back from the men's room, a mighty roar was heard from his fans.  Like Clark Kent entering a phone booth only to exit as Superman, the groom entered the men's room only to exit as, well, I'm not quite sure.  Oh, he still had the green suspenders on, but his jeans were missing.   In their place were stretch shorts, soccer shorts perhaps.  He'd downed a few, so his inhibitions were waning, me thinks.  We watched and laughed and laughed some more.


Tami and I weedled our way to a seat at one of their tables and we were fascinated by their stories.  We soon learned we were in the midst of greatness.


Jeff and Tami and some pub dwellers.


 These were some brilliant men we were meeting.  PhD's here and PhD's there.  Professors, engineers, ecologists.  Good golly, these boys were barely 30 years old. They lived all over the world and had reunited in Doolin to share a little fun with their buddy.




The big boy in the dark shirt is Bryan.  He is a BIG boy, maybe 6'6" or so.  Played rugby.
Look at Elmer laugh.  He often bent over to laugh.





The night progressed from there.  There was singing and there was laughing and, oh boy, was there drinking.  They were having a riotous good time and were incredibly gracious to let us all crash their party.  It was all good fun.  The groom joined us at our table and we held conversation.  Not much of it made sense, but it was fun.  The groom's brother, Killian explained that he was the best man and the best man gets to choose the groom's attire at his stag party.  Killian just chose a cute little green number and he enjoyed every bit of his genius.  The rest is history.  Much shall remain our little secret.  Wouldn't want to cause a stir for anyone.  I've already said too much.

Message to the bride:   He was a good man who did nothing to worry you.  He might have been three sheets to the wind, but he never, not once, did anything to make you displeased.  Aside from a little exhibitionism, he was a gentleman, through and through.

Elmer and I bonding.


This night we met some fascinating people, but our favorite was Elmer.  As my little mum would say, "He had a good face," and he was just a delight. Soooo funny and he welcomed us in.  He led the crowd in a song or two and we all joined in a bit off key.  After the third song, I think it was American Pie, the piped-in music of the pub got turned up more than a wee bit louder to drown us out. Just more reason to laugh.
Just looking at Elmer in this picture makes me want
to laugh out loud
We closed the pub down at about 1:30 in the morning, a good two hours later than normal.  The party continued down the road a bit at the hotel the group seemed to have filled to capacity.  We were invited to join them back at the hotel bar, which was being kept open just for them.  Killian, sweet as can be, waited to walk us down the dark road so we could find our way.  We stayed a bit, me drinking a bottled water.




This video is dark, but it is Elmer leading the crowd in a pub song.  I wish I could have gotten the whole thing.

                                         video

I met another young couple, unconnected to the stag group, but included nonetheless.  She was just as cute as a button and was a nurse who specialized in suicide prevention training.  She told me about the program she followed, singing its praises.  Interestingly enough, I found upon returning to work that my group of colleagues is scheduled for the same training in April.  Small world.  I just wish I'd gotten her email address.

Soon enough, Tami, Jeff, Jim and I headed "home" to once again rest our weary heads.  We overslept, but still made it to the Doolin Pier and the Cliffs of Moher.  Stunning.

I still smile when I think of our night in Doolin.  I laugh out loud when I think of James and his mankini.  I say a small prayer of thanks to the souls who gathered us in and,  for a small time, allowed us to be one of them.

Let me tell you, gentlemen, if ever you find yourself near South Bend, Indiana, give us a ring.  We'll put you up.  





Heading out to Doolin Pier and the Cliffs of Moher.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reflections on the Emerald Isle, part 4 Rock of Cashel

Oh, my.  Working full time, teaching two graduate level classes, recovering from surgery and planning a wedding are kickin' my tushie.  I see that there might be time to breathe come the last week of July...

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming! 

We woke up on our first morning in Ireland and set out for the Rock of Cashel, the beautiful ruins of an old cathedral. The site sits high above the little town below.  Legend associates the Rock of Cashel with St. Patrick, but the name comes from Caiseal, meaning "stone fort," and the hill was originally the residence of the kings of Munster. Excavations have revealed some evidence of burials and church buildings from the 9th or 10th century, but it was in the early 12th century that the Rock began to be developed into a major Christian center (thank you, Sacred Destinations) Despite a slight mist, it was lovely.  We spent quite a bit of time just roaming the grounds. 



At the time we were in Ireland, they were still recovering from unusually cold and snowy weather.  Much of the country had experienced a freeze.  Because it was an uncommon occurrence in the country, pipes froze and then burst once the thaws hit.  Many towns and cities experienced a loss of water and a water curfew ensued for several days.  The worst that we were personally hit was the day we were in Cashel.  Everywhere we went looking for facilities, we were told "we have no water".  You know, that's a little tough on someone who drinks just a few too many Diet Cokes (not me, mind you.  Blech).  Don't tell anyone, but one member of our little party had to desecrate the grounds of a national historic site.  Couldn't be helped.  Good thing the weather and the lack water kept most people indoors that day!





(More pictures below)



We ventured to find a tea shop to warm up and hopefully find a working loo.  On our way, we stopped in the Cashel Woollen Store and met Inge.  She was adorable and a wonderful delight!  She didn't care if we bought a thing or not.  Well, she probably did, but she didn't act like it. I purchased a lovely hand-woven scarf for my friend, Laura.  Should have bought more.


She kept us busy with her stories and her advice for our travels.  She told us all about the VAT tax and how to get reimbursed.  She advised us not to listen to anyone who said we had to spend 20 or 30 euros for a reimbursement receipt.  She said that they just didn't want to be bothered and hoped to keep the funds for themselves.  It was this advice that caused us to irritate a certain clerk at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin later in the week.  Tee hee hee.  She was great.  She had a German name, but she was as Irish as the day is long!





We found our tea shop and a loo, then ventured off toward Doolin.  We drove around Limerick, but had no time to stop.  The days are much shorter in the winter and we had our destination in mind.  This required that we boogie on down the road.  Again, we traversed the narrow fence and shrub-lined roadways.  Jim managed the roads well, but as the afternoon began to wane and light disappeared, the tension mounted.  By the time we hit Doolin, the light was gone from the sky as we made our way in the dark.  No lighted poles lined the roads as at home, making the drive a bit more harrowing. A light mist floated on the air and covered the dark ground with a moist reflection.  Doolin is a teeny, yet famous town.  The home of traditional Irish music had but three pubs to its name.  Our little car found its way to the middle one---McGann's Pub---and so, an unexpected adventure began.  Ever found yourself unexpectedly in the middle of a stag (bachelor) party?  Neither had we.

That story the next time...
McGann's Pub.  Ah, yes.  The scene of the crime.


















Where Tami fell down and went "boom".


The aftermath---wiping the mud from her boots and jeans.  Just look at that sad little face.





 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reflections on the Emerald Isle, part 3 Kilkenny

This is it.  This was the first one.  It was goooood.

For our first three nights in Ireland, we had made no reservations for rooms to sleep.  That was part of the adventure we looked forward to.  We found a spot to park and walked in the rain along the streets of Kilkenny, a lovely and typical Irish village.  We stopped inside a hotel or two along the way, but nothing seemed quite right.  We didn't want fancy hotels.  We wanted the flavor of Ireland and we wanted the "full Irish breakfast" we'd heard so much about.  Soon enough, we went into a pub to ask and met a man named Luke.  Luke sent us on to a pub called Lanigan's Pub & Hostel.  It is here we had our first Guinness and licked the foam off our lips.  Ah, but, I digress. 
Our first night, Jim had breakfast for dinner.  It was goooood.

Inside, we met P.J., the bartender.  He was so helpful, but assured us that we probably didn't want to sleep in the hostel.  It was St. Stephen's night and things were about to gear up fast and furious with rambunctious and raucous crowds.  He directed us to a pub next door where we might find rooms, but says our best bet is Rafter Dempsey's up the road.  We quickly stopped next door, but soon left because breakfast was not included.  I'm telling you, we wanted that Irish breakfast and we were determined. The proprietor told us to come back if we don't have luck at Rafter Dempsey's and he'll "ring up a few B&B's".  Sweet.  Oh, and P.J. told us to come back once we had a room and he would let us park in his car park.  For free.  Luck was with us and we found a room and that Irish breakfast at Rafter Dempsey's.  Food and service did not disappoint.  Tami and Jeff were without heat in their room.  Jeff wore a hat to bed that night and about 14 layers of clothes.



My first meal in Ireland.  I was tired, cold and wet.  This was gooooood.

Scenes from Kilkenny


This would be Patrick Joseph, who proffered a wedding proposal to me, hinting that he would have to kill Jim first.  He was like a waif from a Dickens novel,   including hat, long wool coat, a limp and a cane.    



Beggars on St. Stephen's Night


I obviously felt the same as Jeff.

Street Scenes

Kilkenny Castle

Where we parked our car, thanks to P.J.











Kilkenny Castle