Monday, April 22, 2013

Dear Enniskerry...

It's our last full day in Ireland. We are enjoying ourselves, but once in a while we mention missing home, our pets, normalcy. So there was a lot of driving with a few stops along the way as we headed to Enniskerry.

We were not expecting this. Hollywood, Ireland.

Wicklow Mountains.

The Irish, like Mainers, just leave their ruins around for others to enjoy.
(Ahem, B52 bomber site outside Greenville, ME.)

The blue sky in this picture lies. It was raining, I swear to you.
One of the things I truly wanted to see in Ireland was Glendalough (Glenda-lock). It's a 6th century monastery founded by St. Kevin. It's nestled between mountains, beside running water and lakes. People are still being buried there today. Luckily it started pouring as soon as we pulled in, so all the bus tour people scattered and we had the joint mostly to ourselves. 

Round tower c. 900
I was busy taking pictures when I heard it--a little voice nearby.
Say what? I didn't know there were sheep right beside me. And how stinkin cute are these babies?
Oooh, look out! The beginner photographer is getting all serious with B&W...
Gienna indulged me by waiting while I tried to attract the sheep ("I saw you holding up grass for them to eat [as though they're not in a field of free grass]," she said). But no dice. For some reason, they don't care about me at all. It's become hurtful.
Just a couple more inches, little sheepy.

How can you ignore me like this?! Are you French sheep?

Aside from the tourists, this is a quiet, beautiful spot.
As we drove further through the Wicklow Mountains, Gienna almost drove us over a cliff to our death when we both turned to stare at the thickest set of ankles on a woman we had ever seen. If it hadn't been completely rude, I would have had her back up for a picture of those damn ankles.

Eventually, we landed at our final destination. Coolakay House.
Seriously cool view from our room. The weather changed every 3.72 minutes.

A few minutes into our arrival, the lovely owner, Yvonne, casually mentioned that the B&B is also a sheep farm.


She told me to go on up to the barn to see the newest lambs and the last moms to birth. She didn't have to tell me twice. See you in a bit, Gienna!

What happens next is a little fuzzy--I entered the barn and saw several moms with their babies. And one ewe on her side, legs up in a funny way. She was moving kinda funny, and then she jumped up. On the hay was a newborn lamb. So I didn't see it "emerge," per se, but I was there to see this little one enter the world:

Possibly my favorite picture of Ireland. This sheep hated me.
And here, in this set of barns, I FINALLY was able to touch many sheep. Babies and mamas. I was in my glory, and poor Gienna had to come get me from the barn and remind me that we had a plane to catch.
By the way, did you know that if you check "yes" to any of the did-you-touch-livestock questions on the reentry forms, you get to go into a special line at Logan and receive a free shoe cleaning? Thanks, Customs! My shoes were filthy before that.

Okay, so my final thoughts on Ireland:

The food is fantastic! I had one sub par meal during the whole trip. Oh, except for the bacon. The "bacon" in Ireland is not what you're expecting. The Irish must not wake every morning thinking, "Bacon: It makes everything better."

The give-it-five-minutes joke we have about the weather in New England cannot stand up to the finicky weather in Ireland. You may have bought a bikini for your vacation. I bought a serious raincoat, wool hat, and umbrella. And used them each day.

The wind is enough to drive a woman mad. Sinead O'Connor, I totally get it. I frankly had no idea how to be pretty in Ireland. I slept in cozy B&Bs each night and still looked like a filthy homeless person during much of each day. I blame the wind and rain.

Even though the Irish are talkative, they still seem a bit impressed by boisterous Americans (by impressed, I mean they don't approve). And folks appear to either have a great respect for or great animosity toward Americans.

People are still leaving in large numbers. The rows of empty pubs and storefronts on the Kerry ring because of the economy speaks to a 150-year tradition of emigrating. The boom that ended a couple years back is present in the large housing developments left unfinished and abandoned. I sincerely hope for better days ahead. The Irish are beautiful people, and they deserve good fortune.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dear Kilkenny...

It's day seven. Gienna has become very adept at driving on the left and is now working on avoiding pot holes. I’m feeling more comfortable and I no longer go into a state of involuntary rigor mortis every time we get a little too close to a car, wall, cow, etc.

And this is all good because I may have typed in the wrong county into our GPS today, putting us a bit out of our way. Did you know there's a Cashel in just about every county here? Neither did I.

We stopped at a 13th c friary to take pictures.


Seriously? We need to have this conversation?

At one point, I came around a corner to find an older man, wearing cap, cane, and rain coat, just standing there. He spoke as soon as he saw me.

--Have you any family buried in there?
--No, we just stopped to take pictures because it’s so beautiful.
--Where are you from?
--[Looking me in the eye for the first time] We all have great symat'y for everyone in Boston.

We talked a while longer. His daughter runs a pub in town, and he plays in the band. “There are four people in the band. Last time we played, 11 showed up. Take it as it comes, I s’pose.” And then he walked away, just like that.

This picture, of a town near the friary, would have looked awesome on a sunny day, about a mile closer.
Our main objective of the day was to see the Rock of Cashel. Do you want to see what it looks like? So do we. It closed because the weather was so bad it was unsafe. (raises fist to sky) IRELAND!!
This is pretty much all we saw of the Rock of Cashel. But as the story goes, even the bishop moved out of the castle and into the town because the weather was ridonkulous up there.

So off to Kilkenny, a cute medieval town. Dinner at Matt the Miller's and some Irish music presented by these guys. They were fantastic singers.

Another pint done and dusted.

For those with less discerning taste, there's the blaa blaa blaa sandwich shop.

Derelict cottage on 2 acres for 50k euros. Anyone want in on this with me?

I thought, sweetly, that these places, all over Ireland, were some sort of modern convenience for printing books because there aren't any B&Ns around. Gienna set me straight. This is your local bookie.

At last, my Irish boyfriend.

One for Gienna too. Slainte!
I am nursing a cold at this point. And between the beer drinking each night and the cold, I figured I was probably starting to saw serious wood each night. But Gienna says my snoring is soft and sweet. She's kind that way. (Meanwhile, she's started tossing F bombs at me in her sleep. Girl is scary!)

I checked out St. Canice's Cathedral, built in the 13th century next to an 8th century round tower. I did not climb the tower. I'm carefully conserving my energy for beer drinking.

How cute is this n-scale model of 1642 Kilkenny from the view of St. Canice's?

At this point, I saw something that made me cranky.
This lucky bastard got to hold a little lamb.
I came here to this cold, rainy island, in part, to hang with sheep. And they're everywhere! But impossible to touch. So for days now, they've been so close, but so far away. I won't lie--I've been a little heartbroken. Don't furrow your brow--some girls like handbags; I like sheep. And I remain ever vigilant.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dear Kinsale...

"I hated chairs."
"And MASH."
Wait, did you say Cheers?"
"And Two and a Half Men."
"Now wait just a minute. You can't hold that against us."

The man who started this incredibly deep conversation was sucking on a lollipop, so I knew it wasn't going to get much better. Gienna and I had ducked into a bar downtown and found ourselves in hostile territory. I shit you not, the bartender gave us our beers and then removed himself from the bar, hiding behind a half door. I get the distinct feeling Kinsalians do not like Americans very much. Or maybe they save their smiles for summer tourists.

"What are you writing about?" asked Gienna just now.
"I'm writing about how people in Kinsale hated us."
"But we totally won them over," she said. "I smiled aggressively at the men on the street. They smiled back."
"I think they grimaced."

So, miracle of miracles, the sun came out today. And I did something I swore I wouldn't do--I kissed the Blarney Stone. And I fucking hate heights. Unpleasant.



Fifteenth century graffiti is fascinating. 

I wish I could have bought one for each of you.
I won't lie--Gienna and I are feeling preeeetty strong these days.

Fantastic jewelry shop that I could have spent days in: Stone Mad Gallery. A couple of my
friends would love this place--I'm looking at you, Robin and Noelle.

Cha-ching! Mama's got a couple new rings...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dear Killarney...

So Gienna and I looked out the window this morning and thought, "What a perfect day for sightseeing!"

One thing I really like about tour companies in Ireland is that they will come right to your door to pick you up in the morning/drop you off in the afternoon. And the drivers are sometimes the best part of the tour.

We decided to do the Ring of Kerry because it seemed sacrilege to skip it.

I think this is a famine or bog village. Save your five euros. This smithy dude? He stands still, but the recorded sound of clanging comes out of a speaker behind you. Sigh.
Gienna taught me how to make water look creamy. Always wondered how to do this.
I hardly think this is necessary. Maybe they should also have a sign with rain on it.

Just hanging with Charlie.

Our motley bus crew
Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting named this Ladies View [of Rain]

Our bus driver
In talking about a portion of land around the national park, the bus driver told us that several hundred acres were passed down to a daughter who became a nun and donated the land. "Can't help but think if I married that girl all this would be mine and I wouldn't have to give these damn tours."

He also took us through a famous kissing bridge. "If you kiss under this bridge, your love will last forever. Though my wife and I have been separated 10 years now, so screw that for an idea."

He sang Drop it Like It's Hot.

He told us about the roads in Dingle. "They were voted worst roads in Europe. You get through there, your hubcaps are gone and your flask is empty. Welcome to Dingle!"

John O'Neill, you cheeky bastard!

At night, we went to a pub in Killarney to listen to some music. It was early in the evening, and I noticed the news on the TV behind the bar. And that's how we learned about the events around the Boston Marathon as it was happening. Everyone in the pub started to watch quietly. And we haven't been hooked up to the Internet except at the B&B, but Gienna was able to get online through her phone for a little time. And the first thing she found was a post on facebook from a good friend who works in Copley saying she's okay. And we both quietly teared up at our table--tired, homesick, and full of questions. And everyone in the pub was watching the two girls from Boston wipe away tears.

And at a time like that, you have options. We opted not to watch CNN repeatedly state how much they didn't know yet. We straightened out, took a deep breath, and ordered more beers. We enjoyed the singing and talked to the people around us. We clapped our hands and decided to deal with it all tomorrow. I got my picture taken with a professional Santa Clause. Because if Santa can't take away your troubles, who can?