Sunday, October 31, 2010

Part 2 Ireland Places

                             Me with my youngest sister and mom

Because I forgot to finish posting on Ireland, I'm slipping this in and dating it for back in October.  Sneaky, I know.

I've gained a lot of perspective since the trip; a lot of awareness of what was wonderful and what I'd do differently if I had the blessing of another trip someday.   I think any time you do something hard and a little scary for the first time, it's not easy.  
Later, your mind adjusts and you feels as though you could now handle the same situation more deftly.  This is how I've felt about virtually anything new and overwhelming in my life: children growing up, getting married, death, etc.  

I'm learning!

Now I will continue on with the wonders of Ireland:

Irish Places :
Riding a ferry was a first for me...and so much fun!
We met the ferry outside of Tralee (Tra' Li) and crossed Tralee Bay to the Dingle Peninsula, saving lots of drive time. 

We all had a great time and opted to sit above the cars, enjoying the fresh air.


The Dingle Peninsula was one of my favorite spots.  The small fishing village of Dingle was so colorful and the fishing theme brought home memories of the Oregon Coast.  It was neat to hear people speak Gaelic.  It was becoming a lost language until Ireland began a campaign to encourage it.  Even their public television stations have children's cartoons in Gaelic.  
Some photos of Dingle-

 The Dingle Peninsula itself is amazing.  On the way to Dingle, we went over Connor Pass.  The road was rather crazy at times (crazier than the other narrow, windy roads we had thus traveled) but the view of Brandon Bay will be forever etched in my heart.  I was reading the map and willing us to stay on the road safely so I regretfully didn't take pictures of that bay. 
The scenic views of the peninsula are to die for, the historic spots carry the weight of centuries. 
From an Irish website: The Dingle Peninsula / Corca Dhuibhne ia a unique storehouse of Irish cultural heritage. Until recently, the peninsula was remote from the influences of the modern world, and this meant that the language and traditions of the area have survived intact to a greater degree than in most of Ireland.

One historic site was that of Dunbeag Promontory Fort.  Located on Slea Head Drive along the peninsula, the fort dates back to 800 B.C. in the Bronze Age.

The interesting thing about this place is that from the moment we all stepped out of the car, we felt something.  We had parked above in a flat parking area but as we stepped out, we all felt as if we were off balance.  Walking the trail down to the fort, exploring the area and walking back to the didn't matter what direction we faced or what we were doing, each of us felt a strong magnetic pull toward the ocean.  (The ocean being just below the cliff on which the fort was built.)  Not one of us had ever felt such a thing.  And it was strong.
I've since tried to research others feeling that pull while there...but have not found anything.  It's an unusual place.

A couple of Irish dogs that greeted us at a nearby cafe-

The beaches on the peninsula were very different from those I've known in the US.  Less saltiness in the air, virtually no sea life washed upon the beaches and a completely different colored landscape to view.  My favorite was Clogher Strand (Trá An Chlochair). 

We drove the entire scenic route of the peninsula in one afternoon and took it all in:

Dunquin Pier.  The place I was most excited to visit!  There is a famous photograph of sheep being herded down to the pier.  I couldn't wait to see it in person, to step into that photograph.  (Minus the sheep on this day.)
We drove along, looking for signs of where to turn off.  We missed it and drove back and forth, hunting for the exact spot.  It's not well marked and easily missed.  
Once we knew we were close, we parked and began looking for the trail that takes us to it.  My sister, Julianna, made her way through the grassy banks to the trail.  That's when we realized the grass was unlike anything we'd ever felt.
Spongy and soft but somehow wiry at the same time.  It reminded me of what monkey fur might feel like.  You could lie down in the grass, sleep there all night and when you arose in the morning, so would the grass.  

More photos of my favorite place-

Making our way back by a different route, we found an interesting old homestead.  How old, I don't know as homes made out of stone can last centuries.
We pulled over to check it out-

We entered this little building as everyone was curious about it.
Personally, my memories of exploring this homestead are overshadowed by the fact that my bladder was about to burst while there.  
Certain members of our party...I won't name names...emptied theirs out behind the buildings.  Me? I can't do such a thing if there's even a chance of exposing myself or possible legal reprecussions since we were technically trespassing.  
I'm a bladder Nazi.  I vil decide vhen my bladder vil empty!

I'm just thankful we took photos.


This area of Ireland will forever have a special place in my heart.

Another favorite spot was Muckross and Muckross House.
Mom met a charming Irishman there...
and we enjoyed the shops where handmade scarves are woven from wool grown in Muckross as well as seeing the pottery workshop where Muckross pottery is fashioned:

Muckross is outside the city of Killarney.  It was in Killarney that we enjoyed a carriage ride to Ross Castle as well as the International Hotel.  Another site we enjoyed was Bunratty between Shannon and Limerick.
Here's a hodgepodge of photos from those places:

Mom laughing after her rendition of an Irish it!  
After all, it was in honor of her that we all went. 

Writing a letter of marital encouragement to my oldest son and new daughter-in-law.  They were married just before our trip and requested a letter.  I thought it fun to post it from Ireland!

Irish Food and Lodging:

(I apologize for the length of this post...but I'm trying to fit it all in!)

We stayed at a variety of Bed & Breakfasts and one hotel.  The International Hotel in Killarney deserves to be mentioned here.  It was wonderful!  
Word to the wise for those who may travel to Ireland or other countries:  Ask to see the rooms and while there, feel the beds and pillows.
Because looks can be deceiving.  You may see this on the outside;

But experience this on the inside:

*A poor to average springed mattress with no padding at all
               *A slightly updated bathroom but with the old tradition of toilets that don't flush and non existent hot water. 
            *Pillows that look fluffy and soft but feel like a pillowcase filled with wet sand when you lie down.

I won't name this establishment...and it was actually similar to many others we stayed in.  But in this B & B, my mother was locked in a bathroom down the hallway for some time.  She shouted and banged on the walls to no avail...and then mysteriously, the ancient door knob unlocked itself.  
All that for a bath that never  happened due to lack of hot water.  

I chuckled over the view out our bedroom window- old, decrepit brick buildings sporting broken windows and below in the yard; the lady of the house's knickers and things hanging from an umbrella clothesline in the damp air.
Keepin' it real in Ireland!

Also in Killarney, we opted to wash our laundry.  Our only option was to have it laundered.  There are no do-it-yourself joints there.  It cost us a hefty sum, too- 12 Euro a load.  

Our favorite Bed and Breakfast was in Dingle.  
Connor Pass House
The lady of the house's name- Kerry. 

The home and grounds are pristine, the landscape almost tropical looking, the breakfast-  Amazing!
Irish Soda bread is served virtually everywhere with breakfast but Kerry's was the best.  We stuffed ourselves silly on it.

Hers was the first shower we had with real pressure and heat.
It was divine.
When I think of my stay there, I think of warm wooden floors, the soft colors of the room, the window open (no screens or mosquitoes in Ireland) allowing the pleasant whisper of Irish breeze in, taking soothing showers and awaking to a relaxing breakfast. 
Connor House Pass.  Remember it.

Irish food is served in large quantities for the most part.  It's hearty and real.
Even when I purchased a few junky snacks, they were made better over there.

These peanut 'M&Ms' tasted SO much better than our version.

These Doritos were made with better oils and ingredients in general.
Same brand, better quality. 
Ireland is careful about not using hydrogenated fats.

Vegetables are sold fresh in each town, and butcher shops are everywhere:

We rarely saw beef or chicken for sale- mostly lamb and pork.
The vegetables were of the variety locally grown- a lot of potatoes and carrots, cabbages, leeks, beets and turnips.

Breads were freshly made and not packaged for the most part.  They were delicious and you had to purchase them before noon or they'd be sold out!

We learned from our cab driver in Shannon to eat a large lunch instead of dinner as the same food almost triples in price after 4 pm.

We ate well on this trip- no complaints there.
Except for one: virtually ever restaurant had Irish brown pepper.
It became a source of amusement for us as The Man of the House would grab it and begin to season his meal, only to remember in horror that:
It tastes and smells slightly of manure.

The notorious pepper:

In order to wrap up this long post, I will leave you with some of our favorite meals.  (Our fresh fish meal in Dingle was eaten in such delighted haste that I forgot to snap a photo.)

 Lunch in Shannon at the Oakwood Arms...

Breakfast in Doolin....waiting for our traditional Irish breakfast...

Seafood chowder in Dingle....
The. Best. I've. Ever. Had.

My sister's favorite tuna sandwiches. 
They put corn in them and the effect is marvelous.

Ham and cheese sandwich in Killrush.
This restaurant became a favorite of ours thanks to the proprietor.  
An American lady from New Jersey , she married an Irishman and relocated, opening Kelly's Steak and Seafood House.
It was fun to meet someone from familiar turf!

My salad at Mac's in Killarney.
Great place, great atmosphere. 

 And last but not least, in order to show once again the quality care they put into their food;  
may I present the Irish corndog, purchased at a convenience store: 

There you have it.  The rest of our amazing trip squeezed ever so tightly into one post. 
May your eyes not be weary, may your mind not spin and may you all have a chance to visit Ireland!
My own pathetic crack at an Irish proverb.

This Irish lass is signing off...

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