2 Days in Dublin

Arrived in Dublin on Arthur’s Day – Arthur Guiness’s birthday! So you can imagine the party going on in the streets of Dublin! Since I wasn’t feeling all that great, Wes and my host, Daragh, brought me in food and I rested a while. Then I was ready to hit the streets for a few hours. We had already visited one pub, Tom Kennedy’s, on the way into town. After my rest, we maneuvered our way through the thirsty crowd over to Mulligans’s where I had the best Guiness so far. Made it an early night so we’d have energy to hit the town the next day.

Next morning – we made a brief stop in St Patrick’s Cathedral and saw where people “think” St Patrick’s well was, the place where he did his first baptisms.

Then we walked over to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, a handwritten copy of the four gospels dating back to 800 AD – very colorful Celtic designs throughout. Several other old books are displayed in the library, mostly pocket gospels from the same era (Book of Dimma – see picture below, the Book of Mulling, and a few others). The entire library was quite impressive.

We also visited the National Museum of Archaeology. Since Hugh did such a great job explaining things on our tour, I felt I was on familiar ground. Great museum!

The evening was loads of fun! Wes and I took a literary pub crawl! The two guides were hysterical and performed scenes from Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, plus a few other pieces like a part from Strumpet City by James Plunkett. Of course we heard about James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw.

Before leaving to fly back to Edinburgh the next afternoon, we toured the Guiness Factory – so interesting. I really enjoyed learning about the whole process and viewing some of the old advertisements, and of course, gulping down the best Guiness I’ve had so far!

Wes and I hated to leave Ireland – what a magical place! But we’ll return one day!




Cliffs of Moher

Last night we met at McGanns (right across from McDermotts where we were the night before – Doolin is very small but a great town with awesome music!). We listened to Carol Lynch on the banjo and Geraldine who sang and played the budhran. This is the way to see Ireland …visiting pubs each night and hearing great traditional music!

Today we visited the Cliffs of Moher… What fantastic views – so majestic! (see the picture below 🙂

Oh, and before that we met up with PJ Curtis, a friend of John’s, who gave an excellent talk on the history of Irish Music…I could have listened to him all day! I did buy two of his books and can’t wait to dig into them!

Well, sad to say this was our last day on the tour (Wes and I will be going to Dublin tomorrow). I never imagined I would fall so deeply in love with Ireland…the people have been so warm and welcoming, the land and ruins so intriguing, and the music – the soul of Ireland – has touched me deeply!

And I can’t say enough about John, Hugh, and all the members of our group. That last evening we met for dinner where we we entertained by Tara Howley, a very talented and poised young lady (18) who played the fiddle, concertina, and pipes. Then we had a go around where everyone shared. There were tears, laughter, songs, and many hugs. It was a such a wonderful group of people – so caring! I feel like I bonded with each member of the group. Really…we were so lucky! As Bill put it, “There wasn’t even one stinky member in the entire group”. Needless to say, it was hard to leave. But I don’t think it’s goodbye – I think our paths will cross again, maybe in Ireland so until then… Safe Home, Safe home, Safe Home may you go …..


Magical, Mystical Burren

On the way to Doolin today, Hugh , our bus driver shared more of the history of Ireland during the Iron Age. I purchased Hugh’s book on the archeology of the Burren which we are driving through and will visit tomorrow more extensively. Can’t wait to read his book!

We stopped at the city of Galway to shop a while on Shop Street (appropriate name, eh?). I bought a tin whistle and some bones to play when I get back in the states. Just let me know if you’d like a concert – LOL!

Next day – lovin’ Doolin and the Burren Region ( rocky and ancient)

Last night we heard the best music so far at a pub where “Foolin n Doolin” played (Blackie on the pipes was phenomenal! Pure Magic). And John played two songs with the group (one of my favorites – “Kickin’ this Stone”) – he was rockin!

Today was so cool! We listened to a shepherd as he gave commands to his two sheep dogs (collies) who brought in the sheep and cattle (the youngest, Shep, was like a two year old…so anxious and had difficulty sitting for long!). Both he and Sally were adorable!

After that, we walked up to a medieval ring fort – about 400 of these are in the Burren. A low stone fence was built in a circle and that’s where the well-off families and their livestock lived. Amazing that these stone structures have survived.

Another amazing stone structure we visited today was the Poulnabrone Portal Tomb, about 3500 years old! What’s strange is that the people were not originally buried here but for some unknown reason their bones were brought here (about 33 people’s bones found at this one…..a sacred place…reminded me a bit of Stonehenge. We also saw a wedge tomb (smaller but still intriguing).

The Burren is mystical…I’m loving it here although it is quite chilly!!!! (Bought gloves and a sweater today!). Now I’m off to hear more music and eat some lamb!!! Wish this could never end!20120925-181921.jpg

Lovely Clifden

We’ve been in Clifden, a beautiful little town, for the past few days. We really lucked out – they are having an Arts Festival here so we are hearing some good music! Last night it was Da Danann – the lead singer, Eleanor, was fabulous (such a haunting voice!).

This morning we drove over to Roundstone, a quiet town on the harbor, to shop at some quaint stores…my favorite, of course, was the music store where they make and sell bodhrans (Celtic drums). Since I already own one, I didn’t purchase a drum but I was sure tempted!

We also stopped at a winged monument commemorating the first Atlantic flight made by Adcock and Brown (always thought it was Lindburgh so I need to check this out)…I sure don’t know how they managed to land amidst the rocks and bog! We tried to drive to the actual site but Hugh ended up having to back up quite a ways then turn around (a little scary but Hugh is an excellent driver! No one could pay me to drive on these narrow roads in Ireland!)

After stopping at a grocery store to purchase food, we drove up to the top of Sky Road for a picnic. John sang a few tunes as we were eating (I really love the one about Thomas Francis, his ancestor, sailing to America). Then we strolled down the picturesque road and fed a few horses along the way (one was a Connemara pony – see pic). Connemara is truly stunning!

When we returned to Clifden, we shopped and caught the Gaelic football finals between Mayo and Donegal – Donegal won 😦

Another great day in Ireland!


Achill Island

I just realized that I skipped a really important day – our trip to Achill Island – so let me recap!

One day we drove over to Achill island from Westport. Right after crossing the bridge, we stopped so Tomas McLoughlin, our guide who lives on the island, could hop on the bus.

First we stopped at an old tower house which was owned by the pirate queen, Grainne O’Maulley, who refused to pay her taxes. John sang “Rooks in the Castle”…very appropriate for this site!

Then we visited a holy well by an old cemetery. The wells are supposed to cure you of various ills. (Apparently, it doesn’t always work – Tomas related a story about a man who wiped both of his eyes with the water and developed a bad infection)

We ate lunch at the Bee Hive where a bunch of us bought hats! From lunch, we headed to the beach. Once again I took off my shoes, rolled up my pants leg, and ventured into the chilly waters! Brrrrrrr!!!! I also tried a limpet (kinda like a mussel) when Momi, my fellow traveler from Hawaii, offered it to me – not bad!

After that we visited some old deserted villages (more interesting ancient sites!)

Such a beautiful island and a great day! I’m making memories!!!


Gorgeous Galway

A full day!

We started off by stopping at The Famine Memorial or “Coffin Ship” which commemorates the death of the victims of the 1845-1850 famine as well as all famines. Many immigrated to America at this time and died in route, thus the name coffin ship. So sad! Really puts things in perspective!

Connemara National Park was amazing – such breath-taking views! And the museum was so interesting – the phrase “bogged down” has whole new meaning for me! It’s incredible what they’ve found under these ancient bogs – whole villages, roads, trees, and people!

We stopped on the way there to view the Turf. Landowners dig down to find turf or peat which they dry out to use for fuel. Since the bogs are being depleted, the government has cut down on this – it presents a real problem.

0f course, we have to stop for restroom breaks but even they are great as there is always a pub around the corner! Today, I had the Best Irish coffee ever at one in Leenane at Gaynor’s pub. We also got in a little more shopping. Now I’m not a shopper but my fellow women travelers are having a bad influence on me! One day we all bought cool hats and today we bought scarfs!

Ashleigh falls was another great site we saw today. I especially enjoyed watching a few guys fly fishing – such a great dance! Don’t think anyone was lucky but I did see a few huge salmon leap out of the water! While we were here, John sang a few tunes for us (I especially like “old Scotch Pine” – you know I am a big tree hugger!)

Our last stop was at Kylemore Abbey which looked like something from a fairy tale – a huge castle-looking convent nestled between two mountains, right above a crystal blue lake – postcard quality!

Really…you would think it couldn’t get any better! But Just Wait!!!!!! We topped off our day by seeing The Dubliners! Such fun! They’ve been around since 1962 and still have it! We are very fortunate to be in Clifden during the Arts Festival!

What a day!!!!!!’