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A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Oh IRELAND!--Post the Quatre

Gravestone in Sneem

 Fourth Installment

May 7, 2016

Today was Muckross day. Early on, we climbed into pony traps which hauled 6 to 8 lucky tourists each. Ours was driven by a leprechaun with a twinkly smile. We road through lacy green bowers, lovely curtains of lianas and carpets of bluebells and jonquils. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. Everything was the electric green of rain-soaked earth. We even passed fields of grazing red deer and sheep. I couldn't help feeling like those lucky people in Winterhaven who look down on we plodders with their self-satisfied smirks. I tried not to, but it felt funny. Probably I should have concentrated on just enjoying the method of transportation.
The K's (-Lisa) with the Leprechaun driver (OK this one looked like a leprechaun!)

Muckross House seemed to be more of a hunting lodge than anything else. Annoyingly, they wouldn't allow pictures to be taken. It wasn't really a castle, but it was large and full of trophy heads. Some of those stag racks were enormous! Dad would have loved them. We saw the children's rooms. Clearly the people there loved their children. When they left, though, they donated all their toys to the poor.

The only thing I could take a pic of--the Gaelic         
The explanation

The gardens were extensive and gorgeous and again the group forsook me. It was all exploring on my own—hard to really appreciate when I didn't know what was happening with the others—whether they'd leave me there and just go. Turns out Janelle and Ju and I finally met up and after taking pics in the summerhouse, walked home while the rest rode the bus. It had begun to mist and then to rain. It wouldn't have been bad, but Janelle was like a freakin' battleship plowing inexorably onward with few stops.

Muckross Abbey
Luckily one of those stops was at Muckross Abbey. The others on the bus didn't get to explore it. I was, then, glad we'd walked. The abbey was roofless and stone. It must have been horrendously uncomfortable to sleep there. We mucked about in the graveyard and climbed up all the floors and explored every inch of it. The abbey is much older than the house, the house having been renovated several times. That feeling of great age permeated the hoary stones which rose out of the lush green jungle. 

Janelle and I walking home from Muckross
We had a good time swinging on lianas and taking pictures next to the stump of an enormous upended oak. By that time the mist had turned to rain. We took a short cut, which of course is the longest distance between two points. Still now and then pony traps would come up behind us, or bikes. At last we hit the main motorway and walked along it. By that time, because my sleeves were too big to fit in my jacket sleeves, the rain was wicking up my arms. After not long I began to really feel awful. When I finally made it back to the hotel, I lay down and took a nap. Then a bit later I took a jacuzzi and felt better. The damage was done, however. I'd gotten a bad cold and cough.

The girls took off to go shopping when I got out. So, being hungry, I went to Jumping Jacks (sports pub) for a solitary dinner of a roasted ham and cheese sandwich. Man that was lonely. I finally took out my notebook and did a sketch and some little vignette bits for color later. Here are my impressions:

-The hulk of a stone wall rises from a velvet grass blanket. The clop of hooves coming up behind as pony traps pass on their way back to the city. A songbird breaks the flannel-clad silence, the notes sliding up and back down the scale.

-I feel a droplet and am instantly glad I brought the flimsy rain cape, tiny protection against the downpour.

-The rain and the week's end have driven everyone into the arms of the pub. There they find a pint, a bite, and a friend or ten. Because of the pints, the crowd's voice rises like a high tide, lapping at me, but not soaking.

-The walls are covered with rugby and football (soccer) pics, jerseys from Ciarrai (Kerry), Limerick, Cork, and Cavan.

-The Irish tricolor rises above the tables, complete with the Poblacht na H Eireann.

-Men fly back and forth from the bathroom, the trail just in front of me. It's a wet night in more ways than one.

-A football game rages on the TV above their heads, but they pay it little mind.

-Two little waitresses flutter around cleaning after a large party of half-buzzed or snockered men who charge back out into the rain or up to the front to swell the pack.

-The young man behind the till has finally spotted me. He sends a waitress with a side ponytail to bring me a hot ham and cheese sandwich and 3 kinds of potatoes. They sure love “mash” here.

-The air is soup-thick with the hoppy scent of beer and steaming wool, which swallows the creamy scent of my mash, which are now gone.

-When I can no longer endure my painfully single state, I launch myself into the drizzle, a ship hoping, at last, to fetch up against a friendly shore.

Afterwards I went walking and caught up with the girls. They were annoyed that I'd eaten already. Whatever. Mom decided we were celebrating my birthday and she gave me a CD she bought at the Gaelic Roots show. Also we went back to that Murphy's ice cream shop and the wonderful girls there treated me to a free ice cream. The bowl was cool. It was a balsa wood folded bowl with no bottom over which the sides of a paper cone folded. It was the perfect little bowl.

We bummed around looking in shops and buying atrocious touristy things. Again we saw a cool street performer--one of the better buskers I've ever listened to, and so entertaining. He sang happy birthday to me and heckled passersby. 

Insert the Ciarrai shirt story here, which is elsewhere in the blog. 

I think the guys loved their shirts.
(Just a note: The afternoon when we we'd first hit Killarney, we went to a sports uniform shop in a little mall and found nice jersey shirts like the ones we wanted, but they cost 50 Euros and up ($65 American).)

Unfortunately we didn't get to see the antique car museum or the cathedral inside. That's for next time I guess.

May 8, 2016
Each tree was for a fallen fireman

Today was Blarney day. We hopped into the coach and wended our way up into the hills above Cill Airne and thence on the road to Kinsale. Murt had this special place he wanted to show us all tucked away in what looked at first to be someone's pasture. 

We found, in an out-of-the-way, beautiful little place full of flowers and grass and trees, Ireland's homage to the firemen who died in 911. There is a tree planted (and plaqued) for every firefighter who laid his life down for others on that hellacious day. Clear over in Ireland they cared about our guys when their own leaders did not. Much. Lisa even found a tree for a guy she was in a wedding with (she was the bridesmaid, he was a groomsman). It really touched me how much the Irish cared.
Ireland's memorial for the firemen killed on 9/11

We started off again across the countryside towards Kinsale. It was a little fishing port, which we got to knock around in for almost an hour. Mom went to an antique show (didn't really find anything) and I and Lisa went to a bookstore. I bought my daughter's kids some little books about Irish folktales.
Lisdoonvarna--matchmaker capital of Ireland

Gorgeous rose window
After Kinsale with its colorful charm we piled into the van and stopped, almost like it was a whim, at St. Finbarr's Cathedral. Apparently there is usually a charge to go in. But I was following Cathy, whose husband, Ross, had already paid and gone in. She said that she was in search of her husband and paid. I think the guy at the counter thought that was me who said that, because I said I couldn't go in as I didn't have the fee. 
He said, “No worries. Go in and find your husband.” I didn't correct him and went and stuck to the rest of the people in the tour.
See, hear, speak, and read no evil

I love this juxtaposition of illumination and windows
What a gorgeous cathedral! Astonishingly so. It evidently has the most Old and New Testament themed stained glass windows anywhere. They were so VIBRANT with color. Gorgeous! They also had a cannonball on a chain hanging there, and lots of coats of arms and an illuminated scroll bearing the names of those who died in WWII. 

I can't imagine something like that in one of our churches or temples. Also there was a display involving an angel with two trumpets which once sat on the top of the steeple (Moroni anyone?). The story is that when that angel blows his trumps, the people of that town have a one hour jump on knowledge that the Apocalypse is happening. The thing is, I never saw that angel. I'm thinking he has gone to stand atop one of the Temples somewhere. I took lots of pictures there.

Waiting for Vizzini
Silly Jane kissed the stone
Blarney in the spring
Afterwards, we stopped at perhaps Ireland's biggest tourist draw. Blarney castle was actually fun to climb around in. Again, treacherous circular steps up to the towers, incredibly uneven floors, panting climbers, and no roof above. I took pics of several of the signs, climbed everywhere, took pictures out the arrow slits. 

I climbed up with Ju and a few others to kiss the stone. Somehow I don't have that picture, though. Lisa waited with Mom for a bit. I know Mom eventually got to the top, but I stopped waiting for Lisa. So, again, I got forgotten. Somehow they found the dungeon, which I did not. I found the Oubliette, though. I did meet Ross and Cathy in the Poison Garden, though. He did this weird chirp and his wife did too until they found each other. It was really effective. You could hear that chirp everywhere.

Ju and I at Blarney Castle
Anywho, I lost them too. I ended up going into the Rockery and doing the Wishing Stairs thing and seeing the Standing Stones, the Abbey, the dolmen and a dozen other beautiful features of the grounds. Everywhere there were riots of flowers and HUGE ancient oaks. But I'd had it with going everywhere alone, so I walked away back to the Woolen Mill Hotel where we were staying.
Gravestone in Sneem
Standing stones at Blarney gardens

Dungeon at Blarney

After a nice bath, I felt much better. Mom and I launched ourselves into the rain to find a place to eat, hopefully with the girls. Only we never found them and Mom had already eaten. They'd gone for soup for me, but I didn't want soup. I wonder what happened to it.

That night, because it was Mother's Day, we talked to our husbands on the girls' phones. I found out they gave us pie at church and my family ate all of it.

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