Random ramblings about our 9-day trip to Ireland…
The trip got to an extremely unillustrious start when I had to drive the manual transmission rental car off the lot. I drove a manual only once before and it ended with flames coming out of my nostrils; but since I rented the car under my name, I had to be the one to drive it away. If I were on TV, it would have been something like this: Interesting. Oh, OK. I get it. Hmm. Oooops. NOW, I get it. Beep. Beep. Beeeep. Beeeeep. Beeeeeep. Beeeeep. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. By the time I killed the car for the eighth time without having moved out of the parking spot, I moved onto Czech… which signals the beginning of an Armageddon. What can I say? It wasn’t pretty.
Over the course of our trip, I am proud to say that I became, according to David, a shifting ninja . However, getting the car moving from first gear without inflicting deadly hiccup seizures on it remained a challenge. Thus, anyone who had the audacity of making me come to a stop was doomed by my evil twin to a future of boils, cavities, and some serious diarrhea.
Say what you want about Marge, Marge was an automatic.
Due to the Catholic v. Protestant conflict, Belfast is divided up by about two dozen forty-five-foot tall walls that separate the two groups. Some of the walls have gates to allow flow of traffic during the day but they all get closed at night. Residential areas are strictly religiously segregated and most of them are controlled by paramilitary groups.
There are Catholic doctors, Catholic car dealers, Catholic pet shops, Catholic barbers, etc. and similar shops for Protestants. While the unrest began because the Protestants wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK and the Catholics wanted to join the Republic of Ireland, now the conflict now is simply religious. The irony is that apparently hardly anyone actively attends church. You are simply born Protestant or Catholic and you spend the rest of your life hating the other. The two groups don’t interact unless completely necessary and most go through life without ever having spoken to a member of the other group. It is absolutely insane.
That aside, we also toured the dock where Titanic was built and that was amazing.
Giant’s Causeway is a natural wonder of thousands of interlocking hexagonal basalt columns and the birthplace of David’s mom’s grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The grass is so green it is blinding. The combination of the black basalt, green grass, blue ocean, and white clouds makes you feel like walked into a postcard.
This rope bridge connects the Ireland mainland with a small island offshore that happens to be smack in the way of migrating salmon. So, every year local fisherman put it up to get to this magical bounty and stupid tourists pay 4 euro to pee their pants crossing it. I am starting to seriously doubt my intellect because I keep on spending a lot of money to climb an obscene number of stairs and stand at unpleasant heights. I must admit that David had to come back for me and help me cross. The swaying was … not good. At least, I did not require a boat to come get me because I was unable to cross back–as apparently many do.
Bru Na Boinne
Bru Na Boinne is a Neolithic site of passage tomb monuments that was built over 5,000 years ago–several hundred years even before the famous pyramids at Giza. The passage is very small compared with the size of the monument but it engineering is awe-inspiring. The roof of the tomb chamber is a dome and at the winter solstice the sun enters it for only a moment to bring promise of life and bounty for the next year.
Dublin was a little disappointing because its main attraction–pubs on every corner–we simply could not appreciate. Sections of the riverfront are charming though. Anyway, we both agreed that we prefer Cork.
Glendalough is a national park about 20 miles south of Dublin. The name means a valley with 2 lakes. We went on a three-hour hike that took us around the larger of the lakes along the very ridge of the surrounding hills. It was stunningly rugged and breathtakingly beautiful. We walked around hundreds of sheep and wild goats and even came across several herds of deer. Since some of the deer were male deer with serious antlers, we armed ourselves–I carried two big rocks and David had his camera tripod. We were laughing at ourselves the whole way. We had a grand time.
The famous Waterford crystal is made in SE Ireland. Neither of us had particular interest in touring the factory. However, we did peek inside the store that was filled with enormous chandeliers and exquisite glasses that I cant imagine anyone drinking out of.
The Rock looks like a dark castle but it actually is a medieval abbey. It is a natural fortress, a limestone outcrop that stands above the surrounding countryside and gives clear views for miles around.
Legend has it that once upon a time St. Patrick was preaching to a sinful crowd and in his preaching vigor, he slammed his pole into the ground. Sadly, before getting to the ground, the pole went through the foot of a local king who stood next to St. Patrick. The king, thinking he was being cleansed by St. Patrick, did not even make a sound—not even a beep.
We kissed the fabled saliva-drenched rock that is perched on the top of a tower reached by a hundred life-unfriendly winding stairs. To kiss the stone, you lie down, bend completely backwards at 90 feet above ground, show everyone your underwear, and holding onto a safety grill you make out with thousands of strangers at once.This less than graceful act supposedly gives you the gift of gab–not to mention some juicy bacteria.
The Blarney Castle is located on extensive and gorgeous grounds which, among other things, feature a “poison garden”. This garden is designed to educate about poisons in traditional and some nontraditional garden plants. It was absolutely fascinating. I could have spent hours there but David did not think it wise. BTW, did you know that rhubarb leaves are poisonous?
Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive around the Iveragh peninsula and a must for every tourist. The drive is about 200 miles long and takes you through picturesque towns like Kenmore along the rugged cliffs of western Ireland.
As a surprise for David, I booked us a room in the Lake Hotel with a view overlooking an old castle ruin on shores of the lake. In the morning, we got up to admire the mist sprawling across the lake with the mountains towering in the back, the ruin sitting so peacefully on the shore…when suddenly a herd of deer came to drink from the lake. I will never forget that sight. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not on a page of some fairy tale book.
Dingle Peninsula cannot be described in words. All, I can say is that I want to move there, become a sheep farmer and live a utter life of happiness.
Limerick is a large modern city with a medieval Castle. Good for shopping but not touristing really.
Cliffs of Moher and Galway
Cliffs of Moher are truly stunning but tourism has turned them into a circus with a parking lot that charges 6 Euro per person and shops that are after the rest of your money. So, we decided to trespass and admire the view from the neighboring fields along with some very confused cows.
As always, love you all.