Monday, June 29, 2015

The Emerald Isle



Hi there.

It's been a while, hasn't it?

I feel a little bit rusty writing this post - I'm squeaking like the Tin Man as my fingers flutter over the keyboard. 

Good golly, I miss blogging. I miss sharing my thoughts and my stories. I miss planning the photos I want to use in each post. I miss connecting with all of you. I miss all of it.

But I had to take some time off. I hurt my arm in early fall and have had a difficult time shooting anything with my big, heavy camera. I've had to rely on my iPhone camera. Blech. I don't care what anyone says about their cell phone camera, it is NOT as good as my Nikon. 

Without photos, I was lost. My words went away. My heart wasn't in it anymore. My voice disappeared.

My friends and family have been wonderful. No one has pressured me to start blogging again (what does that mean?) but people have made tiny comments like maybe, someday, you'll blog again?

And now that day has come. 
The Man and I have had some adventures while I was away from blogging. We traveled across the pond and celebrated our twenty fifth anniversary and my fiftieth birthday in Ireland.

Two very good friends came with us and we had a grand time. We rented a car and a cottage - the most beautiful cottage in the most beautiful seaside town on the east coast of Ireland. Each day, we drove all over God's creation on that Emerald Isle and came home at night to a warm, cozy cottage overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was real.

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I was enchanted by the gorgeous red vines climbing a most spectacular hotel designed to look like a castle. A rather large castle. We stopped to visit on our way to the cottage after we landed in Shannon. We walked the grounds and gardens, took lots of photos, and then snuck inside to use the powder rooms. 

But it wasn't a real castle. And I wanted to see a real castle. 

So we got back in the car, driving on the left (wrong) side of the road, and took off in search of a real castle.
We looked in the travel guides we had with us and found a castle not too far from where we were. The castle was a little bit off the beaten path and it took a some time to find it. We kept driving past the road we were looking for and must have turned around at least three times. These are not easy roads to turn around on - very narrow and stone walls along each side, with no shoulder at all. Once we got on the right road, we drove up to the castle and found parking.

We had some trouble finding the "front" door. It was a castle, for Pete's sake. It had lots of doors but none of them were open. We kept trying doors until we found one that opened. Calling out "hello!" as we walked in to a foyer area, we didn't see anyone around. No sentry waiting to collect an admission, no security guard, no one at the entrance at all.

We kept walking further inside, finding room after room to explore. Signs on the walls helped us to figure out what each room was used for and when it was built or added on to the castle.
The colors on the tapestries in the dining hall were stunningly vibrant. Being a needleworker myself, I was thoroughly taken with these fabrics and could have stayed in there admiring them for hours. My companions were not as entranced as I was and they kept moving. I had to run to keep up with them. Can't be left behind in a hundred bazillion room castle.

We worked our way through several more rooms, reading signs as we went along. After a while, we heard a voice a few rooms away. A gentleman came around the corner and found us exploring.

"Aaach! Ye canna be in here!" he exclaimed. "We are closed!"

Oops. That might be the reason why most of the outside doors were locked.

He went on to explain that the fire inspector was completing his annual inspection and no one was allowed inside while that was happening. We didn't see the need to tell him that we had already toured a whole lot of rooms. We apologized profusely, smiling and waving as we left.

We came into Ireland with a bang.

Trespassing.
We got back on the road and headed east, toward the ocean, to find our cottage. We drove through several small villages, stopping in one of them to pick up some groceries. The market was much different from our markets in the United States. Not as much variety to choose from. Meat was very expensive. We walked around for a while, looking at different things, picking and choosing a few items for breakfast and snacks. Beer and wine. Chocolate. 

You know. The essentials.

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We had lunch across the street from the market and got our first taste of fish and chips. We chatted with the owner and found out that her brother in law lives in the U.S. just a few towns away from us.
It really is a small world.
We finally came to the {very} small village we were staying in and found the restaurant where we were to meet the owners of the cottage to get the keys. They also own the restaurant which has a bed and breakfast attached to it. Apparently they are very successful business people in the hospitality sector. 

The wife greeted us warmly, full of smiles and good cheer. Everything was going smoothly until she said something about us checking in TOMORROW. 

What?

I reminded her that we had corresponded with each other, confirming our arrival date. She was very gracious, certain she had made a mistake, and checked her email account. 

She discovered that we had, indeed, arrived on the right day. But she had forgotten we were coming and had booked the cottage for that night.

Gulp. Now what?

She told us their bed and breakfast was full up and the other cottage they owned was being used. She offered to put us up at another bed and breakfast for the night. We had no problem with that, as long as we had somewhere to sleep for the night.

She asked for a few minutes to make some phone calls. We waited outside, walking up and down the road admiring the scenery. Every view was a postcard view.

Beautiful. Green. Rolling hills. Sweeping views of the ocean. Rocky cliffs.

After a bit, the owner came out and had good news. The couple in our cottage was leaving early and she could have it ready for us in a few hours. Her husband suggested we visit the Cliffs of Moher while we were waiting. He gave us a map and off we went.
We walked for a couple hours along the cliffs. Literally.

There are no railings or fences along the edge. The Man and I got brave and went as close to the edge as we were comfortable with. He stood.

But I'm not confident enough in my ability to NOT fall off the cliff so I sat down.

These views kept taking my breath away. I think we could have walked forever along that narrow path, looking out over the ocean and soaking in the gorgeous scenery.

The farther we walked, the fewer people we encountered. Most of the tourists only walked a short distance from the main viewing area. Not us. With our two active, outdoors-y men, T and I found ourselves walking and walking and walking. Eventually we found ourselves walking alongside some pastures that belonged to a local farmer. 

We looked at each other, eyes wide open. "I can't imagine owning farmland that abuts the OCEAN. And neighbors the CLIFFS OF MOHER!"

Surreal.

Our roadside view while we were waiting for the rental situation to work itself out.

If you look down the road, you'll see a white building with some red trim at the end. One of the local pubs we hung out in during the evenings. That one was a particular favorite. Great local feel to the place and the trad music was fantastic.

My favorite dish? Cabbage and bacon. The bacon is thick cut and looks and tastes just like ham. And the cabbage was mouth-watering. I had it several times while we were there.

Tasted almost as good as my Nana's.

Almost.
Our next door neighbor.

She came over to visit any time we were outside.

The only thing separating us was a {very} low stonewall. I was sitting at the picnic table when I took this photo.

Up close and personal. She was a very friendly gal.
Our wonderful host and hostess left us a basket of homemade treats to sample. Breakfast for several days. And a welcome one at that. Breakfast is hard to come by in Ireland.

But I'll leave that story for another day.



2 comments:

  1. I didn't even know until now that you were blogging again! Welcome back, and happy anniversary and birthday! I've missed you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've missed you, too, Val! So good to be back....

    ReplyDelete