Sunday, June 04, 2006

Reminiscing about driving in Ireland

Driving was probably one of the biggest adventures that Sue and I had along our travels in Ireland. The roads were twisty turny, crazy, scary, unbelievably narrow, treacherous, and fun. And the signs that we saw along the way provided hours of entertainment.

100 km/h? Are you kidding me? That's the speed limit for our national highways. Sure, I'll just take this narrow bridge, with no room for another person, let alone another car, at a cruising speed of a 100. That's grand!

We couldn't figure out what this sign was for. "Warning: Cars diving into the water." Um, ok. Maybe if the sign was the color red and had a line slashing through the picture, it would make more sense?

Careful, that's not a soft shoulder. ; )

Apparently there are no gentle, winding roads in Ireland. Who needed exercise? Those jagged edges kept my heart rate racing.

Of course we had to see one of these!! We never did find a pot o' gold, though. I guess it means we'll have to go back. : )

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Sue and I are back home - YAY - and are reaping the benefits of playing with doggies, catching up with friends, reintegrating ourselves in our home spaces, getting back to work, and all that good stuff! : )

Pictures and last impressions of Ireland are still to come. Stay tuned! : )

Cheers and Guinness!

NB: For those of you who work at Cognos, I've posted a map of our travels at my desk. Feel free to swing by and see what parts of Ireland we covered along our journey.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Traveller Has Tales to Tell...

...and other quotations that Sue and I have seen along this Irish journey.

We've collected these quotations and typical Irish "sound bites" from sugar packets in various restaurants, caf├ęs, pubs, as well as from signs that were posted in places along our way.

We've seen everything from the silly to the more serious.
I think there is something here for everyone. Enjoy! : )

Irish wisdom from a sugar packet

"It's a long road that has no turns."

"Coffee should be black as night, hot as hell, and strong as love."

"Beauty does not boil a pot."

"Good men can often be found wearing worn britches."

"What is strange is wonderful."

"He would put legs under a chicken." (Which means he is talkative)

"The day of the big wind is no time to be doing the thatching."

Pub signs

"When the floor is full, please use the ashtray."

"Be good or begone."

"A friend in need is a pain in the arse."

And a typical Irish legend that has a happy ending...

The Children of Lir.

King Lir had four children, Fionnula, Aed, Conn, and Fiacra. Aoife, King Lir's second wife, was jealous of Lir's love for his children, turn them into swans for 900 years. Only when the church bells rang were they released, where upon they died."

Monday, May 22, 2006

County-Hopping to Wicklow

When we were in Cork a couple of evenings ago, over a delicious Thai dinner and a bottle of Singha beer, Sue and I reflected that we've been on the move a fair amount during this trip. We figured in the last five days, we spent a night in 5 different cities - Doolin to Kilorglin to Killarney to Cork to County Wicklow.

We both felt a wee bit fatigued, and decided to try something new. We decided we'd head to County Wicklow, find ourselves a lovely B&B tucked away in the mountains somwhere, and plant ourselves there for the rest of the trip (except for 2 days that we are setting aside to explore Dublin!).

The idea of staying in one place, having the opportunity to go hiking, take little excursions, and go exploring, without having to pack up our entire belongings and lug them to another unknown city, and spend some of our energy trying to find a place to park, and find a place to stay for the night, sounded like heaven.

So after I dragged Sue around Cork for a shopping excursion, we hopped in our car, and hit the road. We drove about 5 hours, and we went through 5 different counties. We drove from County Cork to County Tipperary to County Kilkenny to County Carlow back into County Kilkenny and finally into Cunty Wicklow. Phew!

We drove through Mitchelstown (which one the "tidy town award" in 2005) to the town of Cashel, where we explored the Rock of Cashel, a huge castle and cathedral that was built in the 1200s. From there, we drove through Kilkenny and into the most gorgeous horse country of Carlow. After Carlow, we left the main roads, and had many adventures finding ourselves in towns that weren't on the map, looking at sign posts with directions pointing to other towns that weren't on the map. With a little green luck, we made our way into the Wicklow mountain region to a town called Laraugh.

As soon as we arrived at this cute Glendale B&B yesterday, there was an audible sigh from the both of us, and we felt pretty at home and relaxed!! This was it! : )

At breakfast this morning, we listened to the weather report. The announcer started off by saying "We haven't had much rain in..." Sue and I looked at each other in disbelief. What? It's been raining pretty much the whole time we've been here!!
Then he finished the sentence off by saying "... in the last 3 hours."

HAHA! That's called making the most of the little things in life. Indeed. : )

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Poetry from the Road

Sue and I have had many moments along this journey that captivate us. We seem to be inspired by nature. There must be something that we see in the rocky edges of a mountain side, the meandering path of a river, the way a waterfall bursts from the lush greenery, that stirs our souls, and inspires us to pause. We often instinctively pull the car over to a safe spot along a narrow road to stop. And pause. To look around. To capture the surroundings with all of our senses. Take it all in. To feel it.

To me, this is life. Being in nature. Experiencing the sunshine. Feeling the wind whipping against my face. Hearing the ocean. Being amongst the boulders of the mountains that have stood as sentries for the Ages. This what it is all about. I feel so connected to the Earth. It reminds me of what is important to me - it brings me back to the simple things in life - the wide open, free spaces, fresh air, light, and our connection to the Earth. When I stand on the top of a hillside, and I fling my arms wide open, I feel so grateful for all the beauty and happiness in my life. I am so lucky - my life is so full and so rich.

And it's in these moments that I am reminded of everything that I have. And it's often during these times that I feel like my heart is overflowing. One way that I often rely on to express my feelings is to write poetry. I thought I would share with you one that I wrote when Sue and I were on a beach in Achill Sound, Co. Mayo. I hope you enjoy it.

slick black bodies
waiting for the gush of white
silouhetted against the sun
crashing against the current
opening themselves to the ocean

-- lml May 13, 06

Beauty in the Burren

Ah, so apparently it is my responsibility to post about the Burren - I do not have the poetic words that Lisa does to express our experiences here but I will make an attempt to describe to you our hike through the lashing rain and wind in the Burren.

Our day started off in sleepy little Doolin in search of something ... anything that was open at 9 am - preferably something that offered hot coffee but that was not to be. The day started off wet as we wandered up the road while waiting, the rain was not coming down all that strongly yet but the wind took care of making sure we got wet. Some browsing in a store for a while and then coffee in a little music shop by a nice warm coal fire helped us dry off somewhat. We looked at the map and tried to determine where we were going to head - there is a trail here - the Burren Way (we have since also found the Kerry Way and I believe there are many "Way's" that cover the entire Irish countryside. It looked like it might be drivable for at least part of it. So after finding a breakfast place and filling our bellies with warm food and coffee we gamely headed out. Lisa bravely took the helm again in the car (not quite sure how it always happens to be her turn to drive when the skies decide to open up...) navigating the narrow roadways - ignoring the posted speed limits (we insist on driving much slower than the posted speed limits - in case you wonder why ... see the previous post about Driving in Ireland) we headed off along the Burren Way (gamely also ignoring the no through road sign part way up the hill).

Unfortunately that no through road turned out to be accurate so we parked the car and headed up the hill on foot. the path was muddy, the rain pouring down, the wind blowing the rain in a horizontal direction but up we went regardless. We marveled at what the cows could actually find to eat up here in the rocky 'moonlike' landscape of the Burren. This was just a short foray into the weather and we headed back to the car to warm up. Once again we found roads not on the 'normal' map but just drove along being amazed at the rugged barrenness of the area - and yet also all the farms that are around here - how on earth do they eke out a living in this terrain?

After a little more driving we found a more likely hiking place and headed up a different section of the Burren Way. How to find the words to describe the Burren? Bare limestone rock, eroded by the Irish wind, rain and weather; flowers growing in impossible locations; trees with branches that grow horizontally because of the constant wind; rock walls everywhere - walling what off from what, enclosing what for whom we are not entirely clear, but they are everywhere. We found what was a collection of buildings at some point in the distant past and sheltered there briefly from the elements - not that it made a whole lot of difference because we were already completely drenched (well actually there was a spot behind Lisa's knees that was still only slightly damp and not dripping). These shelters and walls were made from rocks ... and rocks alone, there was nothing holding them together other than the skillful selection and placement of the rocks one on top of the other. In some of the rock walls the rocks almost seemed to be placed 'willy nilly' but the walls were solid and stood up to time and the elements.

The views from the top were almost unbelievable and, to me anyway, indescribable. There is something about the rocks and the barren, rugged nature of the Burren that speaks to me, feeds my soul somehow.

Turning back to the car, with the wind now behind us any slightly damp place now became soaking wet also. We had to stop taking pictures because our lenses were covered in raindrops. And yet the wonderful thing about the hike is that when I look back on the pictures - Lisa and I both have big huge grins on our faces. Grinning not "in spite" of the weather - grinning "because" of the weather. As our trip continues we grow to appreciate what we see, how we see it, in whatever weather we do see it. Not wishing for it to be any different than how it is. Recognizing the beauty and majesty in our surroundings in whatever form they are presented to us.

Humble and wet ... Lisa and Sue

Friday, May 19, 2006

Impressions of Ireland... week one!

Things that stand out to me in Ireland - so far! : )

Peat - Peat smells a little like sweet tobacco. It's harvested in the bogs (which seem to be throughout the country). It's burned in fireplaces, along with coal. It's quite pungent, and very easy to distinguish, as you pass by houses or villages. I think it's something I will always associate with Ireland.

Guinness - Guinness is everywhere. The smallest hole-in-the-wall pub has a least one draught tap devoted to Guinness. They pour it with the utmost care, too. You fill the glass about 2/3 full, and let it sit for at least 2 minutes, before filling it to the brim. There is actually a Guinness Quality Team that travels around the country and once a month, visits every pub to check the Guinness tap hoses and machines to ensure that the Guinness experience is the finest.

Rain - There are four kinds of rain in Ireland. A soft mist rain that little sprays your face, but doesn't get you wet. Spitting rain that is a bit stronger, but doesn't get the ground wet. A shower that gets the ground wet, and yet you can still see the sunshine. And the lashing/pelting rain that stings when it slaps your face and soaks your clothes. The coolest part about the rain in Ireland, at least from what I've seen, is that no matter where you are when it's raining, you can turn yourself around and see sunshine pouring down from the sky and covering some patch of ground in the distance. The light seems to always be there.

Narrow Roads - OMG the roads are narrow here. And at many points along the way, they often seem impassable by two cars at the same the time. All the while, the speed limits that are posted are for 80 km/h - 100 km/h. Unbelievable! Sue and I just giggle when we approach a very twisty, windy road, with a narrow bridge, with the words "SLOW" painted on our lane, and a posted speed limit of 100. : ) We've also seen the funniest road signs - signs that show cars falling off of cliffs; cars with one set of wheels falling off the edges or sides of roads; warnings about stud fittings, and loose chippings. We saw one that said "Caution, wagons turning ahead." Wagons?? Do they still make wagons? *grin*

GREEN - Everything is green. There is even green in the most rocky, barren lands. And today, while we hiked through some of the 25,000 acres of Killarney National Park, we saw so many shades of green, I thought my head would spin. I didn't know it was possible. Light green, olive green, dark green, forest green, blue-green... all mixed together in the grasses, trees, and lushness that makes up this country.

Sue and I have still another week to travel - yahoo!! - so I suspect there will be other "things" that I experience as Ireland to me. But I thought I'd give you all a little flavor of the country for now.

Travel Update...

After Galway, we drove to Doolin - a little village in Country Clare perched on the edge of the ocean. We spent one day driving and hiking around the Burren (translated as "rocky land") in the incredible lashing rain. (This was an adventure that we will post more about! Stay tuned!) On Thursday, we drove to Killorgin, in County Kerry, and today, we spent the entire day hiking around Killarney National Park - looking at incredible trees, waterfalls, mountain passes, and so much untouched land. Tomorrow, our tentative plan is to head off to explore the Southern part of County Kerry, and parts of County Cork.

Bye for now! L&S

Monday, May 15, 2006

Galway Gals

Galway is called the City of the Tribes, because at one time, there were almost a dozen families that formed an oligarchy in the city. Family names like Eyre, Lynch, Joyce.. these names can still be seen all over the city on Pubs, on statues and monuments, street names, and the like.

Our B&B is located on the very top floor of a restaurant. It's nestled right next to the main funky cobblestone streets of Galway city. You enter a purple door just off Mary street, and climb three steep staircases to get to room #3. It's a tiny little room, with two single beds, and an attached bathroom (luckily!). We are so downtown that Sue had difficulties sleeping last night because we had some rowdy revellers drunkenly singing "Tipperary" on their way home from the clubs and pubs last night.

It's been raining pretty steadily since we arrived here. There's a constant spitting (as they describe it) and once and awhile the skies open for the real shower. Kind of icky dreary weather, but it doesn't stop us from exploring and smiling.

We spent the entire day walking around exploring the city of Galway. We poked in every little knick knacky shop, artisans' craft store, funky clothing and accessory place. We found a museum, one about the origin and history of the Claddagh ring (symbolic of friendship, love, and unity) and a beautiful 3 storey art gallery, complete with live cellist. We saw the Spanish arches, which were remains from the days when Ireland used to trade extensively with Spain. We saw St. Nicholas cathedral - a gorgeous old church in the middle of town.

There were some very funny tombstone epitaphs that we read and took pictures of. Here's one "His death was occasioned by his Top having fallen from him and in stooping to regain it a Car rolled on him in the street."

We also saw an old castle from the Lynch family in the heart of the city that has been converted into a bank.

We are heading to a pub shortly to indulge in some afternoon reading and journaling. As they say in Ireland, it doesn't rain in the pubs!

Be well!
Lisa & Sue