Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bicycling in Ireland Part II

We stay in Limerick an extra day because of the dreary rain. The Fallon twins, from Boulder, recommended we see Bunratty Castle. It was also a good time to wash clothes.

We take a bus to the castle. Quickly, we become engrossed with this beautiful area where this very primitive castle has lived since ll00. In every bedroom there was some kind of painting of Adam and Eve in temptation. What a passionate people, I thought. Seemingly, so much more than the English. Pictures are taken from the top of the castle overlooking the River Shannon and all the glorious green as the day opened up into welcoming sunshine. We hope the pictures of this amazing castle will turn out to share with our daughters. We were delighted to see so many different mushrooms abundant in the park around the castle.

Leaving Limerick we head for Gort and our first fifty mile biking day, surprising ourselves even in the pouring rain. We stop at the first B & B, Mrs. Diveney’s.
She shows us to an already warm bedroom filled with beautiful antiques. Usually, to get warm after biking, especially in the rain, we would have to get in bed and huddle together with all the covers available. Or create our own passionate heat. But this day, already enjoying our warm room, Mrs Diveney invites us down to the fire, a real “turf” fire in the dining room. This is cultivated as an age-old form of heat made from peat and cut into brick-like shapes. As we’re warming ourselves even further by the fire, which has its own unique scent, another guest arrives. This is a woman on sabbatical in Dublin doing research on James Joyce and his women. One of the main reasons for being in Ireland was Bill’s passion for Irish literature.
Also at Mrs Diveney’s, I finally figure out how to use a bidet, very comfy and refreshing.
Why haven’t we brought over more of the wisdom and sensibilities from the Old Country?
As we leave Gort, we head for WB Yeats Tower – Thorr Ballylee. Its partially vine covered stone tower is attached to a white cottage trimmed in green. We tried not to mention our disappointment that the place was closed. Although, we were grateful we could visit this lovely spot, holding memories of beauty for us.
Some afterenoons we took solace and sustenance at the inviting local bakery. I remember one in a tiny village on a hillside, the radio was on the BBC. Janis Ian, the singer was being interviewed, she has such a beautiful resonance to her voice and has always been a favorite. Still I was surprised, here she was, right at this moment in time.
Leaving Yeats Tower, we head for Galway, twenty miles away. A fairly easy ride, but they nearly always get to be too long before we arrive at our actual destination.
Galway turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, maybe because of the drizzly weather and the tiny, dismal B & B we stayed in.
We rented a car to go to Connemara. The wind was incredible, at least fifty miles an hour and blowing rain or water off the Atlantic. The road was more like a winding lane, very wavy and dippy. I was the designated driver, as I usually was throughout our marriage. Bill was paranoid about driving on the wrong side of the road. So we start out the Salthill Road, headed for Clifden. We scooted through as fast as we could go, which was only 35 miles per hour, but seemed like surely it was 60, with our little Ford Fiesta. Letting the back seat down, it conveniently held our bicycles. We were very excited being on a new adventure in such a wild and seemingly different and desolate area.
Arriving in Clifden finds us in the usual search for food. We found a packed pub which had just run out of the Irish stew Bill had wanted. He got the fish & chips instead. I had vegetable soup and delicious brown bread.
We came back to Galway, into the sunshine, after spending a stormy day in Connemara, making it seem like an even more wild and beautiful place. It reminded us so much of Colorado, with its mountains, rolling plains, evergreens and spaciousness.
We stayed in Salthill at Mary McLaughlin’s. On Saturday Mary serves a huge breakfast. This is the time in my life I’m introduced to steel-cut oats or Irish oatmeal, which I still love. The oats help send us off to the Cliffs of Moher. This has truly got to be one of the most beautiful and dramatic spots on the earth. All around, the countryside and villages are just as I had dreamed they would be. One village was Ballyvaughan, village of the vaughans. Bill’s Mom was a Vaughan. He is now convinced both sides of his family come from Ireland. The Cliffs are incredible, one feels as if we were just dropped into a movie, such drama. We check out a beautiful spa with a natural hot springs at Lisdoonvarna. It was mostly closed, but one of the employees told me they do quite a bit of massage, using heat and working with specific areas for arthritis. I had just graduated from the massage school in Boulder and was interested in how massage is practiced and received elsewhere.
We head back to Galway, starving for lunch. We’re almost back in town before we find a place. Lunch was a really good creamed soup, I got a smoked salmon platter. Bill finally got raw oysters. Even though they were very small, the pub had won lst place in the Oyster Festival.
We spent our last evening in Galway talking with Mary, mostly about the Irish and what a rowdy bunch they are. We attempt to join them as we walk into Salthill for a few ales in a very smoky establishment.
It was actually sad leaving Mary McLaughlin. I honestly think she had tears in her eyes saying goodbye to us. A very high-spirited and entertaining lady, she was.
We met a couple there from Miami, who we later ran into in Dublin at the Book of Kells at Trinity College. After an 8:00 AM breakfast, we ride our bikes into Galway, catching the 9:30 train to Dublin.

No comments: