Wednesday, September 27, 2006

On the ground & showered, part 2

I'm home. It's good to be home, to see friends and family again, to sleep in my own bed, snuggle my cat. It's good not to be a woman in a suitcase anymore, and to use sinks with married faucets. But I had a grand time and was sad to leave. Hopefully, I will be back again soon.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


A river flows through it...

Arrived in Dingle on Friday. I leave tomorrow, Monday, for Shannon. Tuesday, I fly home from Shannon airport.

Friday I walked along the harbor. The weather and views were lovely. Saw the little tour boats out looking for Fungie, the local celebrity (a friendly wild bottlenose dolphin). Then I saw Fungie, too! No high jumps, but definitely his fin.

Saturday I biked the Dingle Peninsula, on the Slea Head Drive. Approximately 47 km--that's 30 miles! I was actually hobbling when I got back to Dingle; a muscle in my right leg kept spasming. After stretching, a hot shower, and a nap, I felt much better.

I met some great people; I will write more and upload more pictures when I get home.

A river flowed over the road. See my bike parked on the side?

The cuteness of this picture is self-evident.

I took shelter in this beehive hut (clochan, in Irish) while it rained.
As I sat there, hunkered over my sandwich, I had time to contemplate what it would have been like to live in one. First thing I would do it get some small stones to plug up the holes in the roof. I'm sure these holes didn't exist when people lived there, though--they were obviously great builders. The stones were placed, without mortar, at an angle to funnel the rain off the building. The structure narrowed at the top (like a beehive), and across the top they placed large slabs to complete the roof. I found myself wondering, though, if they had fires inside the hut and how they dealt with the smoke.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tralee, tra-la

It has been pouring for days. I've reached my saturation point. I don't mind a little soft weather, but this is ridiculous! Oh well. As they say, it never rains in a pub (which is where I'm headed next).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Today is 20 September and I am in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry. It is raining. Pray for good weather tomorrow for me, as I really want to go to Skellig Michael. Too turbulent today.

Thanks for the birthday wishes. It is really good to read the comments from everyone. My birthday was uneventful...except for the fact that I'm in Ireland!!!!!!

I can't believe I only have 5 days or so left of my trip...

I guess there is a hurricane nearby, and this dreadful weather is the tail end of it. So no Skellig Micheal for me. People say I can go when I come back, but I'm afraid I will never be back! I think, though, after this trip I am more likely to return to Ireland and, hopefully, travel elsewhere as well.

On Wednesday I went to the Barracks, where the Royal Irish Constabulary used to be stationed. Now it is a funky museum of local and national history. Funky, but I enjoyed it. Met a man who said he was the cousin of Michael Collins! It seems kind of extraordinary, but I believe him. Later that day I walked to a stone fort. Really cool. Well preserved, too. There was another fort nearby, and a ruined castle, but I had reached my saturation point and decided to head back on the long walk to my B&B. A woman stopped and asked if I wanted a lift--Hallelujah!

There was a lovely sunset and I relaxed in the sunroom of the B&B, with their cat on my lap. Later I ventured out to a pub and had a long conversation with two old codgers.


Ate Thai food--man, have I missed Thai food! Had a big plate of veggies, which I've been craving for days! Getting a little tired of pub grub.

Walked to Charles Fort on a road/path they call the Scilly Walk...well, you can imagine the joke I wanted to make, but kid at the TI (tourist information centre) had never seen Monty Python, so it would have been lost on him. No, I didn't do the Silly Walk on the Scilly Walk, as there would have been no one there to laugh but me (and I notice I am already prone to talking to myself on long walks on country roads), and, more importantly, I needed to conserve my energy for another long day on my feet. Silly Walks are not very energy-efficient.

As we say in the textbook industry...TK


Solid working-class town. Not especially pretty, but real. Much hillier here than Galway! Walked to and from the Waterford Crystal factory. Skeleton crew on Sunday, but it was still cool. Then there was the extensive "gallery" and gift shop--man, they must really rake it in!

Cashel (Temporarily in Tipperary)

This is a placeholder for the wonderful comments and pics to come (ha ha)...

Toured the Rock of Cashel.

Unfortunately, I lost my notebook where I had been keeping all my notes about experiences, feelings, and people. You can imagine my distress. I still hope to recover it somehow, but I have started another one, anyway. Boo.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I will return to write notes on my travels later. Right now I am trying to upload (takes awhile) before I catch a bus to Cashel at 18:00.

Dublin is much more cosmopolitan than I remember it being 10 years ago. Really feels like a big city. I saw the Book of Kells! Woah. And Killmainham Gaol (jail), where many political prisoners were held. The Newgrange Tomb at Bru na Boinne (pics above) was amazing.


Belfast was a center of linen weaving--check out the old loom!

Botanic Gardens
The so-called "Peace Wall" (in the background) that separates the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican neighborhood from the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist neighborhood where they are close together. The wall (basically a barricade) closed in the evening and re-opens in the morning. It also "closes" on weekends and bank holidays.

I think it's funny these pictures turned out so blue, as I was also feeling blue. Obviously, I'm far from an expert user of this camera...but I'm too busy to learn more than a little bit at a time. I'm grateful for its lend, and, overall, I think the pictures are turning out fine.

Giant's Causeway & Bushmills Whiskey Distillery

Ok, I admit it--I toured the distillery before I went to the Causeway! In the pic, I am holding my "certificate" of official whiskey-taster qualifications (I was quick to volunteer to be one of two tasters; everyone got a complimentary drink, though).

Monday, September 11, 2006


I arrived in Derry yesterday afternoon. I like Derry a lot. Very interesting town, with interesting history. Unfortunately, the Tower Museum is closed on Mondays after September. Some convenient bus services also stop running in August. Oh well. I am going to attempt to see the Giant's Causeway tomorrow and then travel to Belfast. After Belfast, Dublin. I don't seem to be able to upload photos here, so I will also do that later.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Letterkenny on Sunday

Letterkenny has been kind of a bust, but it has been a chance for some down time. Some advice my guidebook gives is: assume you will return to the country. I think it is good advice. There are definitely some advantages and disadvantages to taking the bus. Considered hitching to Glenveagh (pron. Glenvee) National Park, but I am never eager to hitch and I think the timing is just off, anyway. So today I will catch the bus to Derry/Londonderry, in Northern Ireland. Will have to change my money to pounds.

I've been noticing some patterns as I travel. I think I tend to feel more unease upon arriving at a new place; after a few hours or a day I feel increased strength and independence. Not that I think independence is the only way to go--I've gotten very good at asking for directions. Have received help from many strangers. I've become quite gregarious (nothing from the peanut gallery, please). ; )

In stores and pubs everywhere people ask me, "Ya'lright?" At first I was slightly taken aback ("yes, I'm alright. Don't I look alright?), but then I quickly realized it was a way of asking "may I help you?" Now I notice it everwhere. People also say "thanks very much" and "grand." And they ask, "is that alright?" even when there is nothing to do if it isn't alright, i.e., in telling the open/closed hours of the establishment. Shopping in a grocery store is quite fun. I remember this being the case in London, too. There are strange combinations of food (chicken and sweetcorn sandwich) and funny names for things. Over an aisle in Dunne's hangs a sign reading "Nappies" (diapers)! And the candy bars are different. So, of course, I have been sampling so I can report back to you all. I do it for you. Sigh, the sacrifice.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Letterkenny, County Donegal

Saturday, day 6

When Joan and Frank at the Galway B&B heard I was coming here, they remarked that it was very pretty but, "you won't understand a word they're saying up there!"

Arrived this afternoon, but many things are closed--including the tourist information office (the TI was very helpful in Ennis and Galway) and the post office. There seems to be nowhere to rent a bike or a car. No buses go to Glenveagh National Park, where I really wanted to go. I did have a good experience at the bus station, though, where a woman overheard me asking at the counter for help and spontaneously joined in. Then we went to the bus and I talked to the bus driver. Another young woman who was getting on the bus joined in the discussion about how I could get to the park and whether it was too late to try and do it today. Though disappointed, I decided the driver was right, it would be pushing it, so I thanked them and left.

Didn't get my laundry done, but did find this jewel of an internet "cafe" (it's a video store), where 1 hour is 1 euro--much cheaper than Galway! The lady at the hostel didn't think there would be trad (traditional music) tonight, since it apparently goes on during the week. Apparently, Sat is the night for clubbing. But I am too tired and not really interested. I will try a pub for dinner, and maybe music or conversation. Tomorrow, I will see about getting to Glenveagh again, then I will head to Derry, in Northern Ireland.


Though I didn't want to do a big-bus tour, it seemed to be the most reliable way to see Connemara, another area not well served by buses. And, as a woman from Portland and I had talked about in Ennis, I am glad now that I'm not driving. Maybe next time, if I travel with someone.
Kylemore Abbey and the adjacent neo-gothic church.

Talked to some Americans and Italians on the bus. Met Richie, from outside Dublin. Richie taught me a little Irish.

The bus passed a peat fire and many heaps of peat logs (called "turf" in Ireland). Connemara is an area of bogs, and so not much farming can be done on the land. There is livestock, though, and apparently, Connemara ponies are showed professionally and sold to other countries. Saw Irish nomads, formerly called tinkers.

The shadows of clouds on the mountains are like spots on a dairy cow.

Stopped at Killary Harbor, Ireland's only fjord, a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea created by a glacier.

Innismore, Aran Islands

Took the bus to Rossaveal to catch the ferry to Innismore, the largest of the Aran Islands (pron. Innishmore). Upstairs on the double-decker bus, sat next to Maurizo, who had been one of my roommates at the Barnacles hostel in Galway. We ended up spending the day together, biking, learning English and Italian, and communicating in other ways: body language, facial expressions, humor, silence.

Biking up to Dun Duchathair, the Black Fort, was very rugged and difficult. I fell off the bike (but not to the ground) several times and wasn't sure I'd be able to get started again on the rocky path uphill!

Breathtaking view. So quiet, except for the wind and the pounding of the surf. Ancient fort, protected on 3 sides by cliffs. Hard to believe those stones could still be standing.

Gorgeous weather again--I got sunburned! Exhausted and sore, we took the boat back. We saw dolphins on the trip! They were swimming in the wake of the boat. When they leapt, so did my heart. Io sono contenta.


I fell asleep on the bus to Galway. When I disembarked, it was pouring rain and dark. I managed to find the hostel without too much trouble, but I was cold and wet, teeth chattering. My boots, which had gotten soaked on the first day in Ennis and were on their way to drying, tied to the outside of my backpack, got soaked again. The hostel was hot, and I slept fitfully. But the next day, my towel and shoes were dry!

Had a very frustrating time trying to call my credit card company collect. Couldn't do it from a pay phone. Walked to the water to decompress. A black dog initiated a game of fetch with me, first with a rock, then with a bottle! Very funny. He made me laugh and I felt a lot better.

We were blessed with a beautiful day. I took the self-guided walking tour...otherwise known as wandering and getting lost! Walked along the bay, by the commercial/industrial area. There were several individuals fishing, too. Talked to the fishermen. Henry, originally from Dublin, and I talked a long time. When I remarked that he had no bucket, he said, "I've got a bag in me pocket." There were many little fish swimming near the surface, the water was teeming with them. Sometimes a big fish (mackerel) would appear, hunting, and scatter the little fish, who seemed to move with one mind.

River walk
St. Nicholas Cathedral. There was some kind of service going on in a side chapel. Layers of voices, murmuring. The priest changing from high to low notes--eerie. Then the parishoners repeating again and again, "Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and in the hour of our death." Echoing, haunting cocophany.

St. Nicholas Collegiate Church. If memory serves, this church dates back to the 13th century. It smelled old, like cool stone. The accoustics were beautiful. Hummed a few bars of Gaudete. No picutes I could take of the interior could convey the grandeur. I'm not religious, but I see why they built the churches the way they did--they inspire reverence.
St. Nicholas Collegiate Church

I was ready to sleep in my own room, ready to splurge on a B&B. Checked into Petra's B&B on College Rd. Lovely oasis. After a brief rest and a nice chat with Joan, one of the proprieters of the B&B (she also loves animals and has a dog and a cat), I ventured out in search of music and craic (pron. "crack", means fun, good conversation). Ballad-type music playing in Monroe's. Had a pint of cider and wrote postcards at the bar. Met Sean, a fluent Irish speaker from Co. Mayo. He wrote (I didn't have to ask, he just offered) my surname in Irish. He is an organizer/campaigner for a political party related to (?) Sinn Fein.