Saturday, June 30, 2012

EireLandings ~ Part Eleven ~ Cloudy in Killarney

Fisherman Painting in the
Dromhall Hotel Killarney
Fisherman Needlepoint
in my spare bedroom
       At the top of the grand staircase in our Killarney Hotel was the painting of a classic Irish fisherman.  I kept looking at it and finally took a photo as it reminded me of a needlepoint I did for my dad quite a few years ago.  It took me a year after my father's death to bring it home with me.  I felt as though I had gotten to know the man with the woolen face while I was working on it and his Killarney oil counterpart seemed to speak to me as well. 

        Killarney charmed me - our stroll through the drizzle in the late afternoon didn't dampen my enthusiasm for this lovely little jewel.  A few trinkets purchased and then back to the hotel for dinner and a spell in the adjoining pub later.  With a short sleep we were up early with the usual routine of luggage out and then breakfast.  Then we met in the front of the hotel for a Jaunting Cart ride to the Killarney National Park.  Yes, it's a completely touristy thing but we just HAD to do it!  We met our Jarveys (drivers whose families go back in the business for generations) and boarded our carts.  Thankfully Favorite Youngest Aunt and I got into one with a cover as the drizzle had picked up into a steady rain.  Favorite Daughters were in another cart and braved the open air.  We trotted through the streets of Killarney to the entrance to the Park - the mist and the rain adding to the experience.  The Jarveys are pure Irish humor, it's definitely part of the job description!  Quips and jokes along the way, totally natural banter, kept us entertained.

"Can you see the mountains up ahead?" asked our Jarvey? 
"No", we said.
Said he,"Neither can I!" 

       The Killarney National Park is 23 square miles of lakes and forest, a place for walks, bicycling, and horseback riding as well as the jaunting carts.  It is a botanist's haven with virgin oak and multiple species of plants, flowers, lichen, trees, and mosses.  We were surprised to be told that one species that is considered an invasive pest plant is rhododendron and a lot of time and effort is spent controlling it.  Here in the US, rhodos are sought-after flowering shrubs!  In the park, it takes over much like the dreaded kudzu vines in our American South. 

250 Year Old Melting Furnace
The Mountains not seen
Oh, the daydreams....

Ross Castle

       Our turn-around destination was Ross Castle on the banks of the Lower Lake.  Dating from 1500 it was "probably" built by local Chieftain, O'Donoghue Ross and later abandoned in 1649 at the approach of Cromwellian General Ludlow (those guys again!). 

       As we turned around and headed to the exit the views continued to impress.

Another peaceful lake view

      It was a lovely hour, peacefully punctuated by the rhythmic clip-clopping of the horse's trotting along the lane and the gentle humor of the driver.  The sites of times ancient and merely old in the misty rain inspired thoughts and wonderings about the daily lives of those who inhabited this land in each preceding generation.  As in other places along our way this week, I made another small deposit into my pocket of hope for a return to see more of this almost ethereal land- and water-scape.

Charming Thatched Gate House

       We arrived back at the hotel and traded our Jarvey and Cart for our Guide and Bus and headed off for our next, and the most anticipated, adventure of our trip.  Would Favorite Youngest Aunt, at nearly 86, make it up Blarney Castle to kiss the stone?   Watch this space...
       There are three Lakes in the Killarney National Park: the Upper, the Middle, and the Lower.  One of the Park's hidden treasures is the 15th century Muckross Abbey, ruins of a Francsican Monastery that was destroyed in 1562, I wonder who could have done that...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Seventh Inning Stretch

The next installment of EireLandings will be coming soon so keep checking back!

       SO, in the course of all American baseball games is a moment known as the Seventh Inning Stretch.  It's my favorite part of the game when everyone in the stadium literally stands up to stretch and to follow the bouncing ball on the big screen to sing the anthem of baseball:

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and

Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I ever get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.

       Naturally there are other verses that no one knows because the only really important part is the chorus.  Even people who don't like baseball know this chorus and in a group, sing it with gusto (see EireLandings ~ Part Four).  Personally, I'm not a big fan of sports in general.  I'll tune in if it's a championship of some sort, Super Bowl, World Series, College Basketball's Final Game of the Final Four - more like a check-in during the late part of the game IF it's a team I have some vague interest in and, IF it's a close score I might even watch to the end (Welsh Rugby Union actually winning against England). 

       But none of this has anything to do with what I'm writing today.  The phrase occurred to me, the song came roaring through my head and so I'm beginning with it as way to get it out of my head - and, to say it's another short interruption of the Ireland travelogue.

       In the course of each trip I take, there comes a point halfway or so, that I think I'm enjoying the place, the people, the hotel, the ship, the tour, or whatever, and I could just keep on doing it forever - I don't care if I ever get back.  Usually by the next day I'm beginning to think that it will be just fine when it's time to go home.  

       And it was so with the Ireland trip and it is so with writing about the Ireland trip. There are moments when I think I could write about it forever and then there are the moments when I look forward to the next piece which brings me - and you! - closer to the end of that segment and looking ahead to what crosses my brain next. Also, I needed the stretch time. 

      After a great weekend with Favorite Oldest Granddaughter, age 7, for her dance recital and just hanging out, I came home on Monday and one of those bolts from the blue hit.  Favorite Oldest Aunt, age 92, fell and broke her hip Monday afternoon.  The rest of the week has been a blur of hospital waiting, surgery delays, surgery waiting, errands running, phone calls making, etc., etc., etc.  And much more to come.  The GREAT NEWS is that amazing woman that she is, she's doing very well.  A retired nurse anesthetist, she knows the drill.  She's alert, calm, in overall good mind and health, and is trooping through the hoops.   I am tired but relieved for the moment.

        So, life brings frequent reminders of how fragile and fleeting it is.  In a heartbeat, a nanosecond, a blink of the eye, the game changes.  It's time to make time to have a giggle with friends, make that phone call and email I've put off, write the note that's overdue.  It's time again to connect with those from whom I've been too long away, time also to make amends with some, and to reconnect with myself.  The travel is great, it feeds my energy and my imagination.  Home, wherever those I love are, is what feeds my soul.  Have you made your calls?  Pay attention, it all goes by so fast. 

The days can be long, but the years are short. Feed your soul...

Monday, June 11, 2012

EireLandings ~ Part Ten ~ First, A Sea Tale

From a German manuscript
       After we crossed the Shannon Estuary, and before we met up with the Goats of Killorglin (see Part 9), we passed through the town of Tralee (of the famous "Rose of Tralee" song).  We were treated to stories of Brendan the Navigator who was  born in the latter part of the 5th century near Tralee. Brendan, became a monk founding monasteries all over the northwest of Europe and the largest in County Galway at Clonfert. 
       OK, so this could be just another monk story but copies of the Navigato Sancti Brendani from the 9th century detail Brendan’s many sea journeys, some for Christian conversions and starting monasteries, the usual job of a monk-in-charge.  But notably, the detailed voyage narratives say that he and his crew of monks got as far as what is now North America and back again. Skeptics, of course, were not impressed with the tales of the boat (known as a currach) being “raised up on the back of sea monsters”, that they “passed crystals that rose up to the sky”, and that they were “pelted with flaming, foul-smelling rocks by the inhabitants of a large island on the route.” 
       In 1976, a British navigation scholar, Tim Severin, built a currach from the details in Brendan’s writing and left the Dingle Peninsula following Brendan’s route. The currach was made of ox hides tanned with oak bark and stretched over a wood frame, sewn with leather thread and smeared with animal fat for water resistance. Now there's a boat ride I would look forward to!  He wintered in Iceland, as did Brendan, and then made it to Newfoundland proving, at least, the possibility that Brendan got that far.  Naturally Severin and crew encountered whales, icebergs, and Icelandic volcanoes.  It is also known that the Irish traveled these seas some 900 years before Columbus and perhaps the Navigato was a source of Christopher's inspiration.

       More recently, Ogham stones  dating from between 500 and 1000 A.D. have been discovered in West Virginia.  Ogham is an ancient Irish written language using a series of vertical and diagonal lines and other carved symbols that contain a defined grammatical structure.  Could it be from Brendan and the boys?  No one knows but someone brought them or carved them there...

Second, Ring-ing in Kerry 

     Misty drizzle seemed a perfect backdrop for our taste of the Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland’s southwest. It’s a long established tourist route of 112 miles that rings all but the farthest points of Valentia Island and the Skelligs. The circular route is most famously known as The Ring of Kerry.

        Because of the twists and turns of the roadways, tour buses and larger vehicles must travel counter-clockwise and smaller vehicles take the clockwise route. There are moments looking from the bus window on the left where the road seems to fall away leaving only a breathlessly deep drop into the valley below.  

      The landscape changed dramatically as we moved from southwest to northeast.  From the predictably aged:    

Chapel remains among the gravestones

to the thoroughly modern: 
Wind Turbines


The Ladies' View
       The Ladies' View is named for the Ladies in Waiting to Queen Victoria.  The Queen and her court came to Ireland and travelled the Ring of Kerry on their journey to visit Muckross House, now part of the Killarney National Park.  By the way, the Burns family went bankrupt and lost the house from hosting the Queen so think twice before you invite Royals to your house.

The Mountains of the Ring

       The wild gorse and rugged mountain terrain melted into the stunning views of lakes and glacial engineering.

Moll's Gap cuts through bogland
Coastal Views

Grave of Unbaptized Infants
from the time of the Famine
      The scenery was spectacular, even in the mist, fog, and rain.  Or, perhaps because of it.  And, as always, there was a somber note.  We stopped to see the grave of infants who died during the famine.  Because they were unbaptized at death, they were put together into a specific site that is protected by a fence.  Just a sad few of the million who died.   

       We had a morning stop for shopping and free Irish coffee - and they were not messing around, it was potent!  Designed to encourage more spending?  At our lunch stop, we were ready for a pot of tea, hearty soup and my favorite brown bread.  We had a glimpse of the mystical Skellig islands, of which Skellig Michael, also known as Great Skellig is yet another ancient monastic community, this one boasting a 1,000 year old stairway carved into the rock.  Little Skellig is nearer to the mainland and both islands are inhabited only by seabirds these days.
       Our guide gave us some interesting trivia about the area as we travelled.  The Black Valley community at Barfinity Lake, one of the Lakes of Killarney, was the last place in Ireland to have electricity installed and it wasn't until the 1970s.   Charlie Chaplin often vacationed in the little town of Cahersiveen which we passed through and in the town of Sneem, there is a plaque commemorating the frequent visits of Charles de Gaulle!
Hotel in Killarney

       There are so many more photos and details gathered in a 112 mile trail.  Some may feel it tedious, I was entranced and enchanted and would love to have the means to go and take the time to dig a bit deeper in the auld sod.  We pulled into lovely Killarney (Cill Orne) and were surprised that our expected Holiday Inn had changed to an elegant older hotel with the grand staircase I was certain I would have in my house one day (when I was about 7 and decided I'd be a princess). 

       Time for a stroll through town in the drizzle before dinner.  Ta!


      Some of the information on Brendan came from

Personal Narratives and all personal photos on this blog ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Thursday, June 7, 2012

EireLandings ~ Part Nine ~ Good Beer and Old Goats

Does this really need a caption?
Just one more thing in Ennis ... (or maybe two) to close a good day.  It's a charming little town.  The hotel we stayed in was part of a 13th century abbey that survived Henry the VIII's dissolution siege but of course dear Jolly Ollie Cromwell got it in 1651.  It had a brief return under Charles II before it finished its work at the end of the 17th century. The large conference room gives a sense of some of its monastic past.
Hotel conference room

       An early luggage call, then breakfast, and we were again on the bus at 8:00 a.m.  We rumbled past yet another Daniel O'Connell statue (they are pervasive in the Republic of Ireland) but this one has a particular importance.  Daniel was elected by an overwhelming majority to be the Catholic member of (the British) Parliament from County Clare in 1828 and this statue marks the spot where the public meeting first selected him.  Because he was Catholic, he could not take his rightful seat until 1829 when the Parliament passed a law granting Catholic Emancipation. 

Daniel O'Connell, "The Liberator"
On the site of his selection for Parliament
       O'Connell had organized rallies of up to a million people in the early 18th century which led to his election and historic legacy.  To say O'Connell is "important" in the history of The Republic, is grossly inadequate!  There is a statue and/or a street named for him in nearly every town and city in the country.

Ferry on the Shannon Estuary
       Our first destination of the morning was a drive by Clonderlaw Bay to Killimer where we crossed the Shannon Estuary by ferry.  I discovered almost immediately that it is quite difficult to take notes in a moving bus (I have a flair for the obvious).  I did manage to capture a few things that are nearly readable - one is that there are quite a few towns in Ireland with the prefix of "Kill" which is the phonetic pronunciation of the Irish/gaelic "Cil" and refers to a monk's "cell."  (Lots of monastic stuff in a country once known for large families, jes' sayin')  We arrived at the dock and had a chilly but swift crossing. 

       We reached the town of Killorglin on Dingle Bay and                    
we learned of one of the most popular festivals in the country, Killorglin's "Puck Fair".  For three days in August, King Puck, who happens to be a wild goat caught in the mountains, is honored, celebrated, and carried through town in procession on a high platform.  Claimed as the oldest commercial event in the world, the fair includes  a variety of activities including a livestock sale negotiated over a pint or three.  Allegedly dating from pre-Christian times, the fair may also have roots in a stampede of wild goats that warned the town of an impending English attack (probably that Cromwell gang again).  
       At Killorglin we joined the 100 mile panoramic drive around the famed "Ring of Kerry," Ireland's southwestern tip.  It was a rainy, chilly day, perfect for a restful drive through the ancient countryside to take in the striking views of the mountains and the lakes.  More to come...

       Valentia Island is the most westerly point in Ireland and was the location of the first transatlantic cable laid between Newfoundland and Europe.  The first message was in 1858 and the cable remained in use until 1965.





Saturday, June 2, 2012

June Bugs and Bits ~ Travelogue Interruptus

       If you are waiting for EireLandings Part 9 (and I do hope you are!), it will be along.  For the moment, the month of June has reached out to me from the calendar and needs a little attention.

      SO, here's a bit about what bugs me in     

       As a child, June was the magical mystical month of beginnings.  The days grew longer, the summer began, and the freedom from the rigors of school made even rainy days bright.  The lovely lightning bugs (aka fireflies) arrived with their glowing tails twinkling in the barely dusk, growing brighter as the darkness deepened. Whoever saw them first sounded the call.  Mayonnaise jars were readied, holes punched in the tops for air and blades of grass were added as if for food.  The capturing began - how many could you get - enough to be able to read by in bed?  Any left by morning to release?  Sometimes yes, mostly no.  

   As I got older June meant the opening of the pool at my dad's WWII and Korea Veterans Club with early morning swimming lessons in ice-like spring-fed water that turned us blue, followed by all day sunbathing that turned us red. Later it was swim-team practice and 50 laps a day (if you didn't lose count on purpose or not).

       Then there was the Sunday in June before my Tuesday graduation from high school.  A baccalaureate service at the school - a sort of not-quite churchy program of music (some were actual Protestant hymns) by the choir (of which I was a member) and the school orchestra.  Lots of lining up and nice things said, applause, and family pride (I don't remember any of mine being there actually) but most of that part has faded from my memory. 

       But what came after remains, in its sweetness and in its startling turn of events days later. 

       My first crush, from 7th grade, was but long since a good friend who made me laugh along with the group of others I had become part of including my new crush and real-time boyfriend.  First crush came to take me for a ride on his motorcycle - more accurately, I was at his house with the group and he offered.  My father was out of town and my mother would never have permitted but his girlfriend didn't mind.  Off we went into the sunny afternoon into the back roads of the wooded valley - up and down hills, around curves, my hair blowing and we laughed all the way.  It was glorious.  And then...on Friday as he rode that motorcycle to work, he was hit broadside because he jumped a red light at a busy intersection.  He died a few days later, age 19. 

       Jump ahead 15 years and his mother, who treated me like one of her own, died two weeks after my first husband who died ten years and a day after our son's death - all in June.  At one point someone I thought I was madly in love with even married someone named June! And there is also the birthday of the best love of my life, a date that will live with me forever as I had hoped he would.  June and I have a complicated relationship. There are other months, of course, that have dates that are better or not so good, but, for me, June seems to lead the year.

       And is about to be summer again. 

       All the dates come, receive my heart's acknowledgement, and pass by in 24 quick-moving hours.  The sun is bright once again; I haven't seen the lightning bugs yet this year but I will be looking, albeit without the mayonnaise jar. 

       If you've been paying attention you know that I just came back from an amazing journey through Ireland with my two grown daughters and two aunts ages 85 and 92. (If you haven't been paying attention it's not too late to catch up!)  Today I Skyped with my 18 month old granddaughter who squealed when she saw me and blew kisses.  I got a text from my 7 year old granddaughter yesterday who is waiting for me to come next week for her dance recital, "Only 6 more sleeps, Grammy!" I spent time with my 7 year old triplet nephews this week, one who has a broken arm, one who has strep throat, and the other who is just fine.  Lunch on the Riverfront with a friend, a great film with another, and the possibility of a chance to do some serious and fun consulting work with other friends.  The Greek Festival is next week and the Jazz Fest the following, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Longwood Gardens outdoor theater, patient escorting at the Veterans Hospital, reading the lessons at the 8:00 o'clock service - there is so much to do to celebrate life. 


       "Life is for the Living!" announced my late mother loudly one day from the depths of her dementia.  And so it is, and so I am alive, and I intend to live with every fiber of my being and my spirit.  SO, it's June and I have much to celebrate.