Friday, October 9, 2015

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher
We left Galway today traveling through County Clare on our way to Killarney in County Kerry.  We passed through an area known as The Burren. Burren is derived from the Gaelic meaning "Stoney place". We have left the bogs behind and find ourselves in a moonscape of huge limestone crags. But unlike Connemara there is a diverse array of plants including wild roses and orchids which live in the limestone crevices where heat is generated by the limestone. Adjacent to these plants can be Alpine plants. 

The Cliffs of Moher, also in County Clare, are majestic formations towering 700' above the Atlantic. While windy it was clear and dry. We walked beyond the park which had built a safety wall since Wayne was last here 38 years ago onto a farmer's land where we were completely free to wander over the edge. 

To get to Killarney we took a ferry across the Shannon, the largest river in Ireland. Killarney is a market town known for its green hills, laughs, and the Killarney National Park. Upon arrival we immediately went for a ride in a jaunting car also called a jarvey, a traditional Irish horse-drawn carriage, for a tour of the Park. Our driver, Michael, wasn't top of the line. His banter was scripted, and he took 2 phone calls on the short ride. But we laughed with him and the scenery was gorgeous. Clancy was our horse, a type of Clydesdale. We dined buffet style in the hotel tonight. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Thoor Ballylee and Galway

With some reluctance we departed Coopershill. While we had initially planned to revisit Sligo for a trip to The Cat and the Moon shop, it became a necessity when we realized Wayne left his credit card at The Embassy on Saturday night. Fortunately, the staff found it, we shopped a bit and then started for Thoor Ballylee. Thoor Ballylee was WB Yeats tower home with his wife Georgie. Here he wrote many poems about living in the tower and the area.  It was here that his patron, Lady Augusta Gregory, dramatist, folklorist and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre also lived at what is now Coole Park, a 1000 acre nature preserve. 

The Tower was closed for the season, but we enjoyed a walk around the space. From there we went to Coole Park.  Unfortunately our walk to the lake did not reveal 9 and 40 swans. But we did find the autograph tree, a large beach inscribed by WB Yeats, Jack Yeats, and George Bernard Shaw among others. 
Wayne at Thoor Ballylee

Selfie at Thoor Ballylee
Autograph Tree at Coole Park
The remainder of the day was spent driving to Galway, checking into the Ardilaun Hotel, returning the car and having an early dinner. There was a pub at Eyre Square with music where we enjoyed a smoked fish plate and beef stew. We grabbed a cab back to the hotel, and got some tourist information from the cabbie. He suggests Thaffs and Ca Colin(sp) for music and food, the Museum and the Spanish arch and Main Salt Hill, and Oscars for oysters and mussels.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Knocknarea and Donney Rock

Climbing Kkocknarea with Sligo in the distance.

Today we climbed to the top of Knocknarea, near Sligo.  A large flat mesa, it seems to have been a major place of ritual and meeting in the Neolothic era. There is a large cairn on top believed to be the grave of Queen Maeve, 200' long and 40' wide. It is believed to date around 3000 BCE.  WB Yeats refers to Knocknarea as "The land of heart's desire". It took us about 40 minutes to climb the 1078 feet, some of it rather steep, rocky and treacherous to an old lady (or so I'm told). The views along the way of Sligo and Lough Gill are spectacular.  It was very windy at the summit, and we sought the leeward side of the cairn to have our picnic where there was a fine view of the Atlantic Ocean. We ran into David, another guest at Coopershill. 
Wayne approaching the summit and Queen Maeve's Cairn
Back in the car we headed for Dooney Rock the setting for Yeats' poem, The Fiddler of Dooney. The small dale there that fronts Lough Gill was deep and green. We were satisfied to simply reach the Lough, listen to the lake water sounds lapping low on the shore and skip the kilometer walk to the rock. 
Wayne in the glen approaching Lough Gill
Dinner tonight was again at Coopershill. We asked David to join us. He was entertaining enough. A publisher of English origin who now lives in Stockholm, he had a great deal to say about technology, Jeff Bezos and the demise of the printed page. The fare was duck tonight. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Yeats and Sligo

Both of us awoke this morning telling stories of waking during the night because we heard or saw someone in the room. It was totally freaky. Wayne said he actually saw someone near the door. I simply heard the door open. Separately both of us thought we were so jet lagged that we were dreaming and fell back asleep. But now sharing our experiences we're thinking......da da da da.  Simon says no one has ever reported ghosts in the house. 

Following breakfast we picked up our Coopershill picnic lunch and headed to Sligo in search of WB Yeats. Sligo is bigger than your average village with about 20,000 people and seaport town situated on the Atlantic coast. Sligo means abundance of shells so named due to the richness of sea life and the many large minions found there. It is also rich in culture and the home and burial site of Yeats. We were fortunate to find a young man in the Yeats House and gallery who showed us drawings by John Yeats and offered us maps and information. We walked a bit in the area past a very stylized statue of Yeats, found the local museum with Irish history and some small works by John Yeats. 

Yeats House in Sligo

Wayne with Yeats

We drove to a point on Lough Gill where we could see the lake Isle of Innisfree and ate our picnic lunch aided by the company of a very friendly black lab. The lake was a beautiful, clear blue. After, we went to Drumcliff, located at the foot of Benbulbin Mountain.  There is the little church where Yeats' grandfather was pastor and Yeats and Georgie are buried. 
Lake Isle of Innisfree behind.

Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!
Our final destination, Knocknarea, proved too much for the old gps. We tried a couple of routes trying to see the cairn of Queen Maeve of whom Yeats wrote "The Old Age of Queen Maeve". Giving up we headed back to Coopershill for a rest. 

This evening we returned to Sligo for dinner at the Embassey Steak House, a mediocre meal. I had my first Guinness there which I described as, "Guiness! The beer that makes Bud Wiser taste good".  The Embassy is on John F Kennedy Parade which runs along side the River Garavogue. Many other pubs, restaurants and shops are here on this rapidly running river. 
Trying our first Guinness

Friday, October 2, 2015

Boston to Galway to Sligo

We had a fairly easy flight from Logan to Shannon. After landing we took a bus from Shannon to Galway with a 30 minute layover in Innis. In Innis it was dark, drizzling and cold with only a bus shelter to stand under. We were all alone and hoping the bus would really be coming. We had passed many houses on the way to Innis none of which had lights on even though it was 7am by then. But then slowly people began to arrive. By the time the Galway bus arrived, we were about 20. The bus from Innis to Galway picked up a lot of young people either going to work or school. I thought it was expensive for them, 10 euros one way. The Galway City bus station was next to Eyre Square, a big green park, where we found Budget Car Rental. We got the car, dropped our luggage and went next door for a hearty Irish breakfast and coffee. Next we walked to the local shopping center where we met Oscar Wilde and got a SIM card for Wayne's phone. 

We then set off for Sligo and Coopershill B&B. What an amazing place Coopershill is. Simon, the proprietor, is the 7th generation O'Hara to live here. Built in 1774, it sits deep in the old woods surrounded by sheep and deer fields, orchards and a river. The house is a 3 storied Georgian stone structure filled to the brim with taxidermied animals, paintings, medieval weapons. Tonight we had a 4 course dinner that included venison and Irish cheeses. The deer are raised on the property. 

Coopershill B&B
Earlier today at Simon's suggestion we took a short trip to find an ancient (5000 year old) burial site. We ended up at a farmer's house at the end of a very narrow road. He let us park and with great caution sent us up a steep hill filled with much cow dung. We never found the burial site but did get a beautiful view.

Wayne in search of neolithic burial passages.
Dinner tonight was at the Inn and prepared by Christina, Simon's wife. Two other couples and a single man were in the parlor sitting in front of a roaring fire where we gathered before dinner. . We were virtually ignored although I said a very cheerful hello as we entered. Shortly thereafter Simon called us into the dining room. We had venison with a sumptuous cream sauce. There were Irish cheeses and lemon curd for desert.