Ireland Day 9 Killarney to Galway
whewwwwwww........I was trying to sleep, and realized that there was no way I would manage it till I sat down and wrote a bit about the last couple of days. Melody, Deborah, Deanna, you keep me encouraged to keep it written when I might just give up in exhaustion. Thanks, really for that.
(Writing on the evening of the 30th). The last two days have been as different as day and night. Yesterday seemed long and dull, with my love affair with Ireland sorely tested by AFC oh...excuse me ABC. Another bloody castle. In Eastern Europe, Melody and I learned that a castle wasn't really a house, it was more like a community fortress. Well, here in Ireland, I have learned that a castle is more likely to be a house, a fortress for one family. Most often in the form of a tower, and they are everywhere! Often in ruins, but also in full fledged Disney mode, with Medieval Banquets and tours of the winding steps and stories of the murder holes.
The steps are narrow and the entry doors are tiny so that only one person can enter at a time. They wind upwards in a corkscrew to the left so that right handed men who attempted to go up the stairs couldn't manage to wield their swords. They have dungeons, with stairs leading downward with the last step being a good 40 feet or so. Your bones break with the drop and you lie there and die. If you are attempting to raid the castle, and manage to get up the stairs, there is a place where the floor falls out from under you and you crash to the bottom, easy prey for boiling oil, or even worse, hot sand and rocks. gee, sounds fun.
The first time we heard these stories at the Blarney Castle they were interesting, but the second time around at Bunratty Castle, it all seemed a bit tired. Maybe it has something to do with me being more than a bit tired yesterday as we visited Bunratty Castle around midday and the Bunratty folk life village.
Morning dawned in Killarney yesterday with dull clouds and a dreary feel to the day. The high point of the day actually came early in the morning immediately after we left when the bus driver took us on an impossibly narrow road to a high point overlooking Killarney National Park that was once a Druid site, and then a Christian site, and now just a beautiful site overlooking Killarney Lake and the Killarney mountains across the valley.
Once we left the beautiful area of County Kerry and Killarney, we spent the rest of the day on the Irish version of a freeway, except for a dip into the little village of Adare. One of the iconic images of Ireland has always been the charming little thatched cottages, but I had no idea what was actually involved in creating and maintaining a thatched roof.
As Isabel said, only the well-to-do can afford such a luxury, with the maintenance requiring up to 60,000 Euros every five years or so from very specialized craftsmen, who are in short supply. Walking the charming town was interesting, and while the thatched roof cottages only date from the recent early 1800’s, they were fascinating. All through the town were lovely gardens and charming cottages.
The story of the burning of some of these historic cottages just last summer was a sad one, with no real date as to when they can be replaced. An old pigeon cove was in back of the visitor center, another very old historic structure.
We continued northwest toward Bunratty, which didn’t appear to be any kind of town anywhere near the castle attraction. The “authentic” folk village was charming and interesting in some respects, with thatched roof cottages, but more importantly, for the first time we smelled burning peat. Traditionally the major heating source for much of Ireland, the peat blocks were stacked like firewood ready for winter.
Isabella had figured out by this time that I was into rocks and geology and she was careful to point out the fossils embedded in the 600 year old slate floors. Once again, tucked away in a corner was another Sheela Na Gig bas relief. The furnishings and tapestries reminded me of you Deborah, and all your love of fine tapestries. It is amazing to me that these incredibly intricate thread paintings can last so long and still be so beautiful. The thing about a tour that can get really tiresome is the timing. The day before, when we wanted to spend a lot of time at some place or the other, we were allotted 20 minutes. Today, at Bunratty Castle, when our tour was completed, where there wasn’t a thing to look at except another huge WalMart of Ireland Blarney Woolen Mills, and an old bridge in the midst of reconstruction, we were allotted three very long hours. I did finally figure out that it might have something to do with check in time in Galway, and the city was just another hour or so north of the Bunratty stop. Mo and I managed to while away the time with a Southwick Amber Ale, another quite tasty beer that was similar to my favorite Alaskan Amber.
The pub on the corner across the street from the castle was called Dirty Nellie's, and it claimed to have been in existence since 1600 something. It was a pub for the officers who guarded the castle, so seemed authentic enough, and the smoked salmon and brie panini I had for lunch was excellent.
By the time we reached the busy city of Galway, with 77K residents and traffic, we were both so dang tired we couldn't stand the thought of doing one more thing. Isabella gave us all sorts of instructions for where to find a pub, which pubs were the good ones, where to shop, where to eat. Really, Isabella?? Although I have to admit, there are a few travelers with us who are shopping wonders, coming back to the bus with bags and bags of stuff and always wanting to find more.
Especially good at the shopping thing is this couple from who knows where, but the woman is Greek and has rocks on all her fingers that are blinding, a laugh you can hear anywhere, and a very fun and friendly and ohgodkeepmeawayfromher kind of personality. Her husband is even louder, and he is the one that always has the Irish Whiskey in his water bottle all day, has made good friends with Isabella who ambles to the back of the bus for a nip now and then, and loves to pull out his wallet to indulge his wife. They spent a few thousand dollars at the Waterford Crystal shop. Actually, before the tour was over, I found myself really appreciating this sweet couple who were celebrating 30 years of marriage with this tour of Ireland.
They have gathered an entourage of party folks who like to bask in their kind of light and drink and shop as much as they do. I heard that at the medieval banquet last night (which we were grateful was an optional excursion so we could skip it), they were the ones chosen and crowned King and Queen for the evening.
When we first arrived at the Harbour Hotel Yesterday afternoon, we looked at each other in dismay. The hotel facade looked like some sort of industrial building, and the view to the east was of a giant stone wall. Once inside, however, everything seemed quite pleasant, and the hotel was very nice.
Mo and I were gratefully on the same page with each other, and at the same moment. We needed down time! After checking into our room, with a nice window that opened, and another huge bathtub, we had jammies on within minutes and were settled in for the evening. We were both perfectly willing to crash with no supper, but room service was available so we ordered a salad and a sandwich and a glass of wine. No shopping, no pubbing, no walking, and finally some sleep in a comfortable bed with nice duvets and decent pillows. The bed situation is funny. We have had everything from one queen bed, to a queen and a twin, and this time three twin beds in a row. Always nice to have a bed to throw stuff on. Sleep was long and sweet, and neither of us felt the slightest twinge at missing explorations of City Galway.
More photos from this day are linked here
Next: Another high point of the trip, The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher.