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16 June (Friday): Departed GNV via ASA. approximately 2 and 1/2 hours late. Delta phoned/emailed (Thanks to Dude's 'Heads-Up' to REGISTER) -- to say that the 3:30 flight had been "resceduled" for 5 PM. But, when I phoned the ASA desk at the airport, the desk clerk said that the flight had only been DELAYED, "by about 30 minutes." To be safe, we arrived about 2PM and immediately checked in. I asked if that delay was STILL only 30 minutes and was assured that it would be, "30-45 minutes, TOPS". Never saw THAT gentleman again. We boarded the flight to ATL around 5 or 5:15. My ATL layover was dramatically cut, but I had built in a pretty comfortable cushion. The Delta flight, ATL to EDI departed about (an HONEST ) 45 minutes late, but our 9:05 arrival at EDI was more or less on time. SCOTLAND
17 June (Sat): We met up with my wife's two cousins in baggage claims, as they apparently arrived from Cork, via Aer Arrann at about the same time as we did. We had agreed to meet here in Edinburgh as it represented a convieniently interesting NEUTRAL location -- someplace where all four of us could relave and enjoy the common experience of being Strangers In A Strange Land. All of my wife's Irish cousins (and THESE TWO in PARTICULAR) have always been EXCEDINGLY generous and hospitable, every time that we've visited and we have always worn ourselves out, trying to reciprocate, whenever any of them have come to the States. We were determined that these two days would give all of us the chance to just RELAX and enjoy each other's company, as NEITHER guest, nor host. After collecting our luggage and clearing Customs, we took a tea/coffee and snack break in the arrivals hall, whilst I gathered data from the Tourist Office and availed myself of the ATM. Not having seen each other since April of '06 (phone, letters and emails just REALLY aren't the same as Face-To-Face), we spent about an hour, just catching up on the news and gossip. We took the Airlink Bus into the city proper and were deposited at Waverly Bridge, only a few blocks from our reserved accommodations. It was cool and rainy on arrival to EDI but by the time we left the terminal the sun was out (mostly) and it was well into the 60's.
Elder York Guesthouse, 60 GBP Sterling per night, per room, B&B, booked via www.visitscotland.com Both rooms were ensuite, though not ALL are. They are located at the corner of Elder Street and York Place, in New Town, within sight of the Bus Station. In the US, that might cause some trepidation, but the location was quite safe, convenient AND pleasant. The only drawback -- entry from the ground floor accesses a daunting climb up THREE Floors to the office/ dining room / manager's quarters/ kitchen and three of the guest rooms. All other guest rooms are even further up and there is NO lift. Since it was only about 11 AM, they only had one of our rooms available (on the "MAIN") floor. The cousins, defering to our age and my wheezing from having hauled two large, heavy bags up the staircase, volunteered to take the second room (on the next floor up) which we were advised would be ready 'in an hour, or so'. We dropped everything in our room and then headed out to explore. When we discovered that a highly recommended Itallian Deli (VinCaffe, 11 Multrees Walk ) was practically on our doorstep, we opted to do lunch there. I must confess that we found it rather overpriced and nice, but unspectacular. Maybe, it was the items ordered (sandwiches) and/or the time of day?
We walked down to Princes Street and I popped into the local Vodaphone shop to 'Top Up' my SIM and then we crossed to the Scott Monument for a quick pix of the kilted piper busking there. Then, we were off on an open topped, double decker Hop-On/Hop-Off tour, picked up at Waverly Bridge. We rode it all the way around, for the full, hour and a half. By that time, my wife and I were toast -- the overnight flight was taking it's toll -- and the cousin's, having had to be at Cork Airport by 6 AM, were tired, as well. We walked back to the Elder York and retired for naps.
Two and a half hours later, we hit the street showered, refreshed and ready to go. I know lots of people don't/can't/won't do the first-day nap thing, but it works for us, with only MINOR glitches -- like, for instance, we managed to leave our camera in our room. So, sadly, the only evidence of our trial taste of HAGGIS (Yes, you HAVE to TRY it -- when in Rome ...) was recorded by my Cell phone camera. We wandered through the Park reclaimed from the former North Loch, then scaled the MANY steps through one of the CLOSEs to enter High Street. After spending a liesurely hour or two drifting in and out of shops and watching the buskers and street performers (not all of them REALIZED that they were performing, of course, making it all the sweeter).We had our evening meal at a busy but not over-crowded little bistro that included the requisite HAGGIS as a starter. The prices seemed reasonable (can't say for sure, as Cousin N beat me to the check) and the food was tasty. Afterwards, we strolled further down the Ryal Mile and slowly made our way back to our rooms, calling it a night sometime around 10 PM.More to come ...Bob
MORE: HELLO, GOOD-BYE AND UNRELATED COMMENTARY
"Hello, Sister Susie -- It's been so long, since I saw you.
A year ago, last Tuesday, though
I'm always thinking of you."
Though rain HAD fallen during the wee hours before dawn, the morning sun burst through the windows, enticing us outdoors, to revel in the joyous glow. After a hearty breakfast, we did just that -- bidding 'Adieu' to Baltimore and making our way north, to Skibbereen, where we stopped to purchace some fresh fruit, a rhubarb tart and some sweets for our scheduled afternoon tea. We wandered through some shops and also purchaced two fine replacement Cork sport jerseys (these were for Hurling). Moving on, we detoured to the Barn Gallery on the SE edge of Drimoleague. This was the source of the two large prints of Castle Donovan that we had purchased during our April '06 visit. The resident artist was away, but her husband runs a rather impressive business resurfacing and restoring antique porelain sinks, toilets and bathtubs-- particularly those of the CLAW-FOOTED variety. He opened up the small studio for us and we bought four small prints (5x7?) of local shops, personalized by the addition of different family names (we chose O'Driscoll and McCarthy -- my wife's G-Grand Parents). I think they were about 10 or 12 Euro each, mounted and unframed. Then, we made our way to Cousin U's 'week-end' home.
Cousin U was born in Drimoleague. She and her family lived there until she was about 12. Then, persuing greater opportunities for their children, her parents sold the family farm and purchased another, in East Cork. About a year and 1/2 ago, U bought this modern, three bedroom, two bath, semi-detatched house, as a Country Retreat. Mostly, her parents use it on their frequent trips to vist family and old friends. The side garden (yard, to us Yanks)is just marginally large enough to qualify as a separate building site -- which made the purchase ammendable to her husband, the builder. Not, that they have any CURRENT plans (or time) to do so .... U had decided to stay over, in Drimoleague, in order to do a little 'up-keep' and cleaning -- and as an excuse for a short, last visit, with us.
We had a pleasant visit, for about two hours or so, including a tasty and robust lunch. During one of my sojourns outdoors for a smoke, I managed to finish up the last bit of mowing. Using the European Electric mower was, uhm -- EDUCATIONAL, but I DID manage to get it done without running over that 220 Volt power cord! We made plans for her to join us in Florida for my father-in-law's 90th birthday, in March and then reluctantly parted company. We had already phoned ahead. It was time to make our way "Over the Mountain' to Coomleagh.
"I'll take a little time
To see which way the wind blows.
But if you give me a Sign,
I'll keep you in mind."
I chronicled the drive in a previous Trip Report (The Great Sheep-Shearing Debacle in June of 2004), but some commentary IS called for. Driving out of Drimoleague, you pass through Deelish and turn north, to pass the ruins of the ancient stone keep of Castle Donovan. That narrow, steep and winding "road' (bohreen) is NOT for the Faint-of-Heart, or the 'Green Blur' tourist -- It can NOT be Rushed through. There is abundant flora and fauna -- life both wild, and domesticated -- Sheep, cattle, fox, deer. In my opinion, Foot-for-foot, there is no finer drive in all of West Cork. There are also incomparable vistas, but none are more spectacular than from the Crest of the Hill, near the small sign that simply states: Mealagh Valley.
"Lough Bofinne/Castle Donovan - 24km (15 miles)
Driving out of Bantry by one of the roads to the east one encounters one of the famous trout fishing lakes of Ireland. Four miles further on, the ruins of O'Donovan Castle is encountered as well as the famous mound of rocks signifying the tribal seat. By taking the road to the north past the Castle one enters the Mealagh Valley noted for its concentration of megalithic monuments. "
To the south, the mountain tumbles down through miriads of patch-work fields -- past Drimoleague, past Skib, and even, past Baltimore, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, beyond. From that lofty height, distance reduces Castle Donovan to a mere pin-prick intrusion onto the landscape. On a clear day, you can see the water. Before you, the path descends through precarious turns and switchbacks, to the valley floor that runs East-West. A small stream runs through it, fed by trickles and torrents that spill down, creating miriads of gushing waterfalls whenever it rains. A packed, dirt (and often, muddy) oval encircles the outer edge of the valley floor- separated by the relatively flat flood-plane of the stream. Surrounding THAT, the land rises equally steeply, to the North and South. To the West, is Bantry -- the Bay also visible on a clear day. To the East is the imposing, and even more harrowing path to the top of Nowen Hill. From THAT summit, a sharp eye on a clear day can view Cork City, Killarney, the Bearra and Mizen. We, however are not so fortunate. Sometime along our way, without our notice, the clouds had formed -- thick, and gray -- and chased the sun away. STILL .... It is a sight, to behold, IRRESPECTIVE of the weather.
AN ASIDE: Once, years before, we had stood beneath the Pylon atop Nowen Hill, enjoy the views. It was a bright, crystal day. In the valley to the west, a low fog began to build. I remember standing there, watching the white fluff churn and tumble its way up the side of the mountain until it gently spilled over the ridgeline like soapsuds from an overflowing washing machine. It crawled and bubbled along the ground until the grasping tendrils clung to my legs and feet. (Think of shredded cotton, stretched into fibery whisps that are very nearly transparent.) As we made our way to the car, I could barely see my feet. It's one of those images that will never fade -- I'll always remember the day that I walked atop the clouds.
As we scaled the steep, rutted driveway to Sean's house, there was with a certain bit of of trepidation. He is an 82 year old bachelor that has lived alone for most of his life. The modern world intrudes only lately into the Meleagh Valley -- and only LIGHTLY, into Coomleagh. The other Cousins tell us Sean is VERY unpredictable. Sometimes, he is welcoming and gracious, but other times, he is querrulous, rude and inhospitable.. As the house comes into view, the question is quickly settled... Sean has planted himself outside, in a chair beside the door facing the driveway, in anticipation of our arrival. It's a GOOD day. We have an EXCELLENT visit.
A few hours later, after tea and a brief stop at one of Sean's neighbors, we follow the twisting route out of the valley, East, past the base of Nowen Hill and make our way to Macroom. From there, we turn North, onto the R583 to Millstreet. Drimoleague is where my wife's Grandmother was born. Her Grandfather was born hereabout. This is North Cork -- more sedate and civilized than West Cork and more warm and inviting than East Cork. We check in to the B&B (Knockdrish 35E PPS). This is where we spent our first-ever night in Ireland, back in '99. It's not a GREAT B&B, but it is comfortable and familiar and we like it. We've stayed three or four times, over the years. Oddly enough, we have always been given the exact same room each time -- without requesting it! Guess it was meant to be.
We head out for dinner at the Wallis Arms and then take a drive out to Rathmore, Co. Kerry, to find out what time Mass is held on Sunday morning. It begins to rain, just as we are entering Ballydaly. It comes in waves -- occassional short bursts of hard showering that punctuate the regular, atypical, "soft", misty air. After a brief stop at the Petrol Station across from the church, I drive back into and through Millstreet, and make my way South and East, to Knocknakilla, upon the side of Mushera mountain. It's about 9 PM. There is no traffic. We have the mountain and the collection of stone rings, stone circles and standing stones to ourselves. Here, There Be Giants. Here, They Raised Up towering stones, that were ancient, when the Pyramids were new.
I park the car across the road and step out into the wind and the misty rain. I light a cigarrette, lean against the slick, wet-shiny, glossy -black Passat and listen to the wind, trying in vain to decipher the stories it has to tell. I think about the ancestors. I think about their lives and their deaths -- reciting their names in a litany, like a chant. I think about the day when my children will stand hear, calling out MY name, as they scatter the ashes and I wonder if the wind will take up THAT tale.
This time, I don't laugh at myself. This time, it doesn't feel like arrogance.
I get back into the car and drive further up the mountain to Saint John's Holy Well. It IS the Eve of the Feast of Saint John, after all. It seems only fitting to draw off a bit of water from the well. Besides, it's reputed to be a cure for warts! As we drive back to the B&B, the rain slacks off. By the time we park, it isn't even misting.
The air is HEAVY with moisture, though. The Wind carries the promise, the very real threat of heavy rain, to come. Sure enough, the sound of it lashing down, wakes me, just before dawn. But as I lie there, listing to it, the sound of the wind dashing the rain against the tile roof lulls me back to sleep.
"Will the Wind ever remember
The names it has blown, in the past?
And with this crutch, it's old age, and it's wisdom
It whispers, "No, this will be the last."
More To Come
"Sean took my wife aside and apologized that he wasn't able to show us his 'suprise' as planned. Don't tell any of his cousins, though. The last time that we mentioned that Sean had apologized to us for not spending enough time with us, one of the older cousins - with a look of shocked disbelief on her face, crossed herself and said: "God save him. He must be near death."The Irish, on whole, DO have a WICKED sense of humor, but I swear that she seemed totally sincere.
While many might be / are amazed by Sean's treatment of my wife and I, I am not. My wife's father Jack is our Irish link. His father was born in Millstreet, and his mother came from Drimoleague. Back in the early 70's all Jack's siblings made their way to Ireland, except for him. With nine children to raise, he could spare neither the time, nor the money. For his 40th wedding anniversary, all of us chipped in to give them the money to go, but Chernoble happened and the US bombing of Libya and they chose to travel domestically, instead. In 1999, my wife demanded that WE go to Ireland and we bullied and cajoled Jack into coming with us. He was 81 and his eyesight was growing pretty dim, but he finally made the trip, to the great joy of the Irish cousins. The next summer, we took Jack and his wife with us, again.Now, in 2005, Jack is 87 and nearly blind. That monumental a trip is beyond him. But Sean has great affection for us, I've no doubt -- because WE brought Jack Doody "home"."Bob
MORE: SUNDAY, 24 JUNE -- THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN'S
"ALL THE WAYS YOU WANDER -- ALL THE WAYS YOU ROAM
ALL ACROSS GREAT OCEANS -- ALL ACROSS THE FOAM
THROUGH THE FARAWAY HOUSES -- THROUGH THE SUNSETS ON FIRE
SEARCHING FOR THE ISLAND -- OF YOUR HEART'S DESIRE"
A DAY OF DISAPPOINTMENTS -- A DAY OF REDEMPTIONS
Morning dawned dimly -- gray, heavy skies obscuring the sun. After checking out of Knockdrish, we made our way through town with great regret. We hadn't met up with Sean Radley, revisited Coomnatush Falls, nor eaten at Nibbles. Though we DID have an excellent meal at the Wallis Arms, Jerry O'Connor is no longer the chef in residence. I wouldn't have the opportunity to definitively locate An Shrone this trip. Nor, would I be able to research needed info on the Big Houses of the area during the late 1800's .....
We DID stop by the Turbrid Holy Well (second largest in all the British Isles) and I DID manage to keep my record streak alive for yet another year --- Since first coming to Millstreet, in 1999, not a SINGLE DROP of rain has fallen upon me, when I have been in the TOWN! Our local acquaintances find that AMAZING!
Still and all, I would GLADLY surrender that dubious privilege, in exchange for some of my missed opportunities. Ah, well. Guess I'll just have to do all that NEXT time!
This day is the Feast of Saint John. It is ALSO the 127th Birtday of my wife's Grandfather (also named JOHN). His family was living in the Townland of Ivale, in the town of Kilcorney at that time. There is an Ivale Cross on the old Butter Road. It is visible from Knocknakilla. The Catholic Church in Kilcorney is relatively new, however -- probably built in the 1950's -- so John never stepped foot inside of that building. We've been to Mass in Millstreet, but for this occassion, we chose to attend the Service in Rathmore, Co, Kerry. It's construction was completed in early 1865 (though it has been thoroughly remodeled at least twice since). Though John might never have entered THIS church, either, his PARENTS were married here, on 21 May, 1865. It was rainng lightly, as we parked toward thetop of the hill, on the side road next to the Church. Inside, we made our way down the center aisle to the 7th row back on the left hand side, as we face the altar. No one knows why it needs to be those particular seats, but my father-in-law specifically remembers that his father ALWAYS sat in that location, regardless of whatever church they might attend. It is a habit still observed. During our first visit, in 1999, AND throughout the Cemetary Tour, in 2000, Jack made it a point to occupy that pew, in every single church that we took him to. It just seemed appropriate to do likewise, this trip. The most often repeated saying throughout the Mass was "I THANK YOU FOR THE WONDER OF MY BEING". Not having been raised Catholic, nor having Converted, I don't know that this is normal and customary, but it CERTAINLY seemed appropriate!
It was raining heavily as we left the church, but it had pretty much stopped by the time we made our way into Killarney. We parked in the car park beside the Tourist Office and then madeour way up High Street and on up College Street, drifting in and out of the various shops in search of gifts we had been requested to obtain AND those that we WANTED to purchase. Our time in Killarney was bitter-sweet. We had planned to meet up with Ciaran Wynne and perhaps hear some of his new music, but he had been detained by an over-abundance of performance bookings in Amsterdam. So, yeah -- MORE regrets.
It rained briefly, two or three times while we were in Killarney. In fact, it rained, periodically, pretty much all the REST of the day. We drove out from Killarney and took the Limmerick road (N23 to Castleisland and the N21, from there) with a longish stop in Adare, at the Tourist Office. Busloads of French, German? (they MIGHT have been Scandinavian) and Japanese tourists arrived about the same time, so it was a BIT hectic. We browsed the shops, grabbed a light snack and had the Tourist Office book us accommodation in Ennis. Given our somewhat gloomy mood and the likelihood that the less than pleasant touring weather was likely to persist, we decided to drop my planned detour into the Connemeara and West Mayo. It would have been a pretty ambitious two days of driving under IDEAL circumstances -- we didn't think it would be much fun to view all that we wanted to see through foggy, water-spattered windows....
So, with MUCH regret, we changed our plans.
The 'ADORABLE' (my wife's word) young girl from the Tourist Office was enthusiastic, helpful, extremely pleasant AND Irish. We wanted to stay 'close-in', but the Old Ground had no vacancies and everything else seemed a bit too far out of town. As she was browsing the on-line listings, she became quite excited by pictures of a new, 'Boutique Hotel' called the Ashford Court. She thought that it looked "so lovely that I want to go stay there!". It priced out at 118 Euro for the night, with breakfast included. Given the young lady's endorsement, how could we refuse????
I've never really spent any time IN Ennis. We have only passed through, enroute to someplace else and that was back, before the spiffy, new bypass system had been well and truely implemented. Given that, once we arrived in Ennis, I found myself quite lost. A quick phone call to the hotel provided excellent, turn-by-turn instructions and we quickly found our way. The Ashford Court IS a brand new hotel, but it is in a very old building and there is MUCH construction and remodeling going on, all around it. I would guess that the structure was originally an automobile dealership and repair site, given the layout and location.
www.ashfordaccommodations.com Having said THAT -- the hotel was WONDERFUL and we would NOT hesitate to stay there again. The room was large, with an enormous bathroom, complete with a full sized tub and it boasted a real, US sized, King Bed that was VERY comfortable. They also have elevators!! It was a FAIR walk into the center of town, (perhaps four blocks?) but not overly long, even given the drizzly nature of the weather. We did a quick walk about town, suprised by a large, highly visible police (Garda) presence. Later, after reading some of the signs, we decided it was because we had just missed some sort of Festival. We made our way to Cruise's Pub for a delightful evening meal in the back bar, but regretably, they had no music scheduled, on the night. However, as we exited the front doors, we heard the sounds of live music emanating from directly across the street, to the King's Bar, which had obviously either just been built, or been EXTENSIVELY remodeled. The poster advised a trio was scheduled to perform Trad, this evening. But, when we took seats at the bar opposite the musicians, there were SIX performers. The group was billed as "Eileen, Colm and Foo" -- and, indeed, the young man playing the guitar was indeed, Asian. He was also quite talented. The rest of the impromptu sessiun players were locals, I believe. There was a painfully shy young girl from Sixmile Bridge that buried her head in her concertina, but never missed a note; a fellow that accompanied Eileen on the fiddle, clearly taking his cues from her playing and a short, skinny, old gentleman that acted stereotypically like the matchmaking character from the Quiet Man, that alternated between dancing, quaffing his Guiness and astiduously keeping the beat on a wooden block. Colm alternated between playing the fiddle and the flute. It was also at the King's Bar, that I became a BIG fan of Bulmers.
After a couple of hours, we made our way back to the hotel in the drizzly, gray twilight. I hardly noticed.
And, I had very few regrets.
" IN A GARDEN OF DAISIES
IN A CIRCLE OF LIGHT
SEARCHING FOR THE ISLAND
OF YOUR HEART'S DELIGHT."
More to Come
MORE: 25 JUNE - MONDAY
AMONG SAINTS AND SINNERS ALONG THE HARD ROAD
"AND IT'S A LONG, LONG WAY THAT WE HAVE COME
YES, IT'S A LONG, LONG WAY THAT WE HAVE COME
---- LONG MAY WE RUN"
The included breakfast was at JULIANO'S RESTAURANT, on the ground floor. Service was impecable and the food was delicious. As we made our way north, the radio informed us as to the REAL reason that there had been such a significant Garda presence throughout Ennis. Apparently, late Saturday evening, an altercation had broken out during the waning hours of the Festival (whatever it was)and a young man had died after being stabbed. I'm not sure, but I think that I remember hearing that he was a member of the Traveller's, but my memory isn't positively clear, on that. In any case, while the news was certainly disheartening, it doesn't change my opinion about our stay, NOR about Ennis as an enjoyable and worth-while destination.
We by-passed Galway and continued North. It was a cool, hazy day and we passed through occassional, light, 'misting' showers. It was, as they say, a "SOFT" day. We hadn't been this route since 1999 and we were shocked by how built up Claregalway had become. We only just barely recognized the pub we had eaten dinner at, the night we had stayed at Cregg Castle (sadly, SOLD, now and closed for buisiness as a B&B). From here, we headed on, to Knock. We exited the N17 and followed the signs into the village. There was a sign, for Parking to the Right, but the lot looked to be a pretty fair hike from town, so we continued on for another block and then turned, driving straight through the town (the Shrine Complex to our left) on the Main Street. All the on street parking was filled, so I turned right following another PARKING sign and drove around into a HUGE car park only to discover that it was one and the same as the FIRST sign had indicated!
We walked through a number of little shops and stalls (only about half, of which, we actually open), where we purchased a number of small items -- Large, oversized Rosary Beads for my wife's parents, small, plastic Celtic Cross shaped bottles, for Holy Water and a nifty little hard storage case for aforementioned beads. There were also music CDs and regular, non-religious, Tourist items on offer. After availing ourselves of the Public Restrooms,we walked out of the shop area and found ourselves beside the Tourist Office. Then we cross the street and entered the Knock Shrine Complex.
I call it a COMPLEX, because it is. It comprises ACRES!!! There are a number of different churches, a Museum, gigantic outdoor Rosary Paths where the faithful can perform 'Rounds', a GIGANTIC Celtic Cross and a long bank of spigots set up to dispense Holy Water at the press of a button. The sky was gray and foreboding, but bright. We visited the Museum (I think it was 4 or 5 Euro each -- the ONLY charge levied while there, although I did see a few Collection Boxes, for donations for various funds). Even as a non-Catholic, I thought the Museum was quite interesting, informative and time well spent.
My wife went into the main chapel and lit a candle, while I observed a large group of Nuns reciting their Rosary as they did 'Rounds' circling the chapel. Then, I attempted to assist my wife in filling the assorted bottles that she had purchased with Holy Water from one of the MANY fonts. There is a nifty, stainless steel spigot that tapers to a narrow nozzle. After you press the uncappe bottle to it, you press a round button and the water streams into the bottle. I don't know if the button is meant to be a 'Press and Release', or if I didn't have the bottle TIGHT to the nozzle, but in a fraction of a second, the bottle was full and I had been THOROUGHLY sprayed! Holy Water dripped from my hair, my brow, my glasses and my nose and chin. Fortunately, I WAS wearing my waterproof coat and I had it zipped up, against the chill ...
Even though no Priest was involved, can I count that as having been Baptised into the Catholic Faith???? As I've said before, I was raised as a Methodist. Still, and all, it can't hurt to 'hedge my bet' and claim multi-denominational , can it? I'm reminded of the old Dave Barry joke, from YEARS ago, on PBS:
"The Priest comes, to give Paddy his Last Rites. He leans in, and says, "Do ye renounce Satan and all his works?" Paddy doesn't reply. The Priest asks again, even louder. Finally, he's practically shouting -- "Paddy! I'm after knowing, do ye renounce Satan and all of his works?"
Paddy glances over, uncomfortably and mumbles, "Ah, Father. Do ye really think I'm in any position to be antagoning anyone?"
After I manage to shake the bulk of the water off, we left the Shrine and walked up and down the main street. Every other shop sold either souveniers, religious items, or housed an eatery. We popped into one of the latter, for lunch. After a meal of delicious hot soup and toasteds, all washed down by steaming hot tea, we dropped into the Tourist Office to arraingeour night's accommodation. We had tentatively decided to stay somewhere in the vicinity of Bundoran (The 'Bath', of Ireland), but the Tourist Office had NO B&B listings for there. It's not that there aren't B&Bs in Bundoran -- it's just that they do such good business that they don't feel the need to pay the 10% Commission to the Tourist Board. The helpful woman DID find us a room on the Bundoran Road, just south of Ballyshannon, at TEEVOGUE for 36 E PPS.
With our accommodation arrainged, we set out from Knock, rejoining the N17.and made our way north, through Coollooney and Sligo. En route, we passed Carrowmore and the stirring sight of Maeve's Tomb. On our only previous trip this far north, in Feb of '02, the weather hadn't been MUCH worse -- it was quite cool (MAYBE 60 F -- probably less), gray and rainy (though, mostly, only lightly), with only rare, brief glimpses of sunlight. Shortly after leaving Sligo, I told my wife that SOMEWHERE nearby was Yeat's grave. No sooner had I said that, we passed a small sign, announcing same, and pointing to the right, as we navigated a banked curve. Fortunately, there is a turn off / parking area IMMEDIATELY past the site, which I used to turn around and return to the Drumcliff Church Yard. There is a good sized car park on the grounds, and a large, inverted, "J"-shaped graveyard. There was no charge to enter, nor to park. The long 'leg' area contains numerous High Crosses, most notably, the Drumcliff Cross -- which is located just beside the driveway. Across the N17, in an otherwise empty grass median, is the remnants of a Round Tower. Yeat's Grave rests in the short 'leg', the inscription facing the finely maintained, traditional Church of Ireland chapel, that rests in the "bowl" of the "J". There is a long, narrow tea room and gift shop, mid-way between the Drumcliff Cross and the chapel.
We opted to enjoy tea and pastry snacks, as it was starting to rain, but it was a SMALL sacrifice, as they were excellent and appeared to be 'home-made'. About that time, our daughter called to check in on our progress and update US on what was going on on the home front. I took great delight in describing our surroundings and our English Major was envious beyond words. I also told her about my newest scheme -- to bring her daughter and our son's son to Ireland, for their tenth birthday (they're only two, now -- 9 days apart.
After our break, the clouds parted and the sun broke through, giving us unparallelled views of the shore as we made our way into Ballyshannon and found our way to our B&B. It sits on a little hill on a short, elevated drive that runs parallel to the road, facing the coast. There are, I think, three B&Bs, intermingled with three or four private residences. We saw a tour bus there, apparrently dropping off two or three people at each of the other B&Bs (though none, it seems, at TEEVOGUE. We were VERY happy that we had pre-booked, in Knock! Had we waited, I'm sure there would have been two more people from that tour bus occupying OUR bed that night, as when the bus departed, there were still passengers aboard.
After a pleasant greeting by our hostess, we made our way down to Bundoran for a drive through, but the clouds had thickened up by then, casting a cold, gray and rather desolate atmosphere on the landscape. It didn't help that most of the shops had already closed for the evening. It reminded me of visiting a resort town, like Lake George, NY, either a few weeks BEFORE Memorial Day, or a few weeks AFTER Labor Day. We felt like we were just missing some big, busy event. After securing a good, but unremarkable meal, we returned to the B&B and had a lively discussion about Ireland in the sitting room, with a couple from California.
All in all, it had been a VERY good day -- and a very SPIRITUAL day, as well. Where else, but in Ireland, can you view so many MONUMENTAL ICONS of our world, in the short span of a just a few hours? We saw the ancient cairn at Carrowmore, the modern Catholic Shrine in Knock, the natural wonders of spectacular blue waves crashing onto the (briefly) sun-drenched, rugged shoreline and at Drumcliff, the early Christian Round Tower and High Crosses, the chastely elegant beauty of the old Protestant Chapel, and the elegantly sparse Literary monument that is the final resting place and last words of William Butler Yeats...
Yeah, it was a GOOD day.
"AND IF YOU TAKE THE LONG WAY
IF YOU TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME
DOWN WHERE THE MAGICIANS
AND THE DREAMERS ROAM
THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS OF MORNING
THROUGH THE VALLEYS OF NIGHT
SEARCHING FOR THE ISLAND
OF YOUR HEART'S DELIGHT"
More to come .....