Hi guys, I’m back!
What you mean you didn’t notice I was gone????
Well, yes, I spent nine days in Ireland with three friends, and I enjoyed it a lot. Can’t say it was a relaxing kind of holiday. Every day a different location, you know. And I’ll admit I didn’t enjoy Dublin as much as I normally do, there simply wasn’t enough ‘downtime’ for such leisurely activity as enjoy the city. But it was a fantastic holiday, nonetheless.
It all started last year when Melinda – my American friend from the Mohawk Nation – told me she and her husband were going to celebrate their 25th anniversary in Ireland. Brandon was born in the US, but his parents were both Irish… and still, he had never visited Ireland before. It was going to be a special event.
I visit Ireland every year, so I said, “Hey, we can meet there!”
Then a German friend of mine, Isabella (actually, her mother is German, her father is Italian) said she would come. We had talked for years about going to Ireland together, and this seems like an excellent occasion.
So our little group was formed. As Melinda said, kind of sounds like the UN.
Where did we go?
We met in Dublin on Tuesday 8th and first thing, we discovered our mobiles didn’t properly work in Ireland, especially Melinda’s. She was the first to arrive. I had a hard time finding the hostel in Temple Bar. Yes, I had a map, but I discovered afterwards that it wasn’t accurate, and you have to know this about Irish: don’t ask them for direction. Really. Then I discovered I couldn’t contact Melinda and Isabella was still on the plain. After going around Temple Bar for a few good times, I stumbled upon the right street. At that point, I had a hard time finding the right door, which was a very slim one in between two pub windows. It was a nice place, though. And it was a nice sunny day. My friends all complained that I advised them to bring warm clothes. I said, “Just wait!”
We left for Limerick the day after. I had never been to Limerick before, and I’m sorry to say the city didn’t quite impress me. Everything seems to be so new. Most Irish towns I’ve visited have a main street lined with colourful little houses. Here there were large boulevards and modern buildings. At least, this is the part of town I visited.
I liked the castle, though. There is an exhibition inside – a rather new one, if I understand, laid down merely last year – about the history of Limerick in general and of the castle in particular. What I liked the most were short videos shown throughout the castle. They ran on tv videos placed vertically and showed actors in customs talking about life in the castle. There was the mason master, the blacksmith, but also the soldier and the constable. Every character had his own personality and told a little bit of history and let me tell you, all the actors were so good! I liked it because they really managed to make us feel what people must have felt, especially during the famous siege.
Ring of Kerry
Thursday 10th we went on a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry. I had never been there before, but I had heard about its beauty so often.
It is beautiful, but if you ever go, don’t do a 1-day tour. That isn’t the way to do it. The tour is very long, which means you pass most of the time on the bus and the breaks are few (in comparison to the actual journey) and very short. We usually only had 15 minutes in one location. You see why it doesn’t work…
That was really a shame because the scenery is breathtaking. So many places and so diverse. Also a lot of history. Only, going on such a fast tour, in the end very little remains in you, because you don’t really have the time to absorb the place. Really a pity. I suppose this means I have to go back. I’m sure I’ll cope with that.
Cliffs of Moher
Friday 11th, Cliffs of Moher.
I visited the Cliffs once before on my first visit to Ireland in 1998, and they stayed in my heart. That time, I arrived at sunset, it was a beautiful day, with low clouds and golden light filtering through them. That is how you imagine Ireland to be and I remember to think, “So, it does exist!”. It was just enchanting.
So when I was planning this holiday, I immediately decided the Cliffs of Moher would be part of the itinerary. I longed so much to go back.
This time – it was a horrible day, weather-wise. It rained from early morning, all through the 2-hour journey, all through the boat trip, and by the time we reach the top of the Cliffs it was raining cats and dogs, I’m telling you. I’m afraid my friends were a bit disappointed. But I loved the Cliffs, all the same, their mood and their mystery and their power.
I’m just sorry that we didn’t really visit the Burren. I only had a glimpse at the Burren last time. I remember a lunar expanse of flat black stones. I wished so much to visit it with more ease. Well… next time.
I’ll be devoting one entire post to the Cliffs as a response to Celine’s One Day Challenge, so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for an accurate report – also of the unexpected way that day ended (I know, I’m evil).
Saturday 12th we went back to Dublin, and we went on the Ghost Tour that night. Always such a fun experience. I had been on the Ghost Tour twice before, and although actors and stories had been different every time, I’ve always really enjoyed the tour. This time our guest was a ghost from 1300 Dublin during the Black Plague. He gave us an eloquent depiction of infested Dublin, with plenty of gruesome details… though recounted in an entertaining way, mixed with a few proper ghost stories.
There was a group of some ten girls all dressed up in 1920s attire. They said they were trying their dresses for a wedding which will take place on Halloween. I swear they had the best of time.
Rock of Cashel
At last! I’d been trying to visit the place for years, and always something got in the way. Some six years ago I went there with a friend. We found such a terrible storm that we didn’t trust climbing to the rock. We found shelter in a pub, the Brian Boru, such a nice place, where we had a delicious lunch. I remember seeing a post outside shaking in the storm like a twig. When the storm died down, we did climb to the rock… but it had been closed.
This time we went for lunch before going up to the rock. I was hoping to find the Brian Boru again, but I couldn’t see it on the road. Most places were still closed, but walking away from the main square, the owner of a pub called to us from across the street where he had been chatting with a friend, “Looking for food?” It was slightly early, but he opened for us and would you imagine? When I entered, I saw the name of the place on the wall. It was the Brian Boru.
It had been raining all morning, and it was raining when we entered the rock. It didn’t sound great because most of the visit would be outside, but as we started off, the rain stopped and progressively the day brightened up. It ended up being beautiful, in my opinion.
The Rock of Cashel in such an inspiring place, so full of history and atmosphere. Took me a long time to go, but it was worth it. Really it was. Isabella told me, “At last, I see Ireland as I expected it, a ruined castle, green meadows, blue skies and Celtic crosses.” I told her she shouldn’t have such stereotypical view of a country, but I was happy she was finally enjoying herself: she was so disappointed by the Ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher I felt guilty for having taken her there.
(click on images to enlarge)
We spent the last days in Dublin, with me acting as a guide. I always enjoy being in Dublin, it feels like a second home to me, though it also makes me sad seeing how many things have changed since I lived here. Many places I loved no longer exist, including the Bewelys Café in Westmoreland Street, the place where I worked longer in Dublin. It has been closed down for years. This time, it was opened… there’s a Starbucks inside. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Starbucks, but that Bewelys still had the historical shop, with an old counter, and the first room was still furnished like in the 1920s, with marbled era top tables. Nothing remains of this. There was also an early 1900s rooms (the first shop) in the back. While looking for my hostel the first day I passed by the windows of that back room. There was a new sign on top, The Fleet Hotel, so I hope the 1900s still exist, with her wooden panelled wall and the fireplaces, and the velvet boots. I really hope so.
I also saw so many empty shops (and not only in Dublin, unfortunately). When I lived in Dublin, Ireland was in an economic boom. The first time I was there, I found two different jobs in a matter of one month, without any effort. The city burst with people and activity, there were lots of Asians and Spanish and Polish. Doesn’t look like these people is still there. There are actually fewer people around, I noticed this the first time a few years ago. It’s a bizarre sensation.
I have a special attachment to the Spire. She was being built just the years I worked in Dublin. I was there the day her basement was raised (I saw it happening) and I was there the day the peak was put in place (it was, would you imagine, a grey rainy day), so I can say I saw her being born. I remember many Irish weren’t particularly happy about the Spire, it cost a bunch of money, and it doesn’t really do anything useful. Though she does stand on the site of Nelson’s Pillar, that was bombed and completely destroyed by the IRA in 1966, so it’s a memorial too. But for me… it’s Dublin.
In the city, we visited the two cathedrals, though there were songs performed in Christ Church, so we didn’t enter. We visited the James Joyce Center, which I had never seen before (I’m not into Joyce at all, but it was interesting learning more about him). Melinda and Brendan ended the afternoon in a pub while Isabella and I had a good chance at visiting the Trinity College and its library where Brian Boru’s Harp is kept (I do have a pic of it, but it’s so bad I’m not showing).
Tuesday 15th, last day in Dublin, we visited Kilmainham Gaol. I visited the historic jail on my first visit to Dublin, and it left me such a strong feeling. So let me tell you, if you can only visit one place in Dublin, let this be it. There’s a lot of history and passion here, I think here’s where you can really touch a part of Ireland’s heart.
I’m going to devote a post to Kilmainham (guess what!) so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for that tale too. Evil, I know.
And so, now I’m back with some 740 pics in my camera (don’t worry, I won’t share all of them!) and a few things to tell. I hope you’ll stay tuned.