Destination: Ireland (Part 1 - west coast, best coast?)
Within six hours after wrapping up semester in Chicago, I was on a plane to Ireland. I was thrilled to have the chance to visit the land of my ancestors, as most of my family tree hails from the Emerald Isle, With the majority of the current Kramer crew meeting up in Dublin (sorry, sis), the decision was made to rent a van and drive across the country, aka an Irish road trip. I never anticipated that all of those trips to sibling baseball games and dance recitals would have prepared me for the week ahead.
Perfurmery, in the Burren
After landing, we headed west to Galway and the Burren. The Burren ("great rock" in Irish) is a rocky territory located in Country Kerry. It is full of rolling hills and seemingly harsh limestone outcroppings. Yet natural flora flourishes, largely due to the warmer and temperate weather that this region sees. 75% of all flower species in Ireland come from this area. We stopped at a chocolatier, aperfurmery (where they make perfumes from flowers growing in the countryside), and lots of ancient stone constructions. An additional pitstop was made at a well dedicated to St. Brigid, who is the female equivalent to St. Patrick in terms of endearment from the Irish people.
The Burren is also home to many ancient tombs, including Poulnabrone dolmen shown below. It is remarkable to imagine how similar human burial practices have remained over 5000 years, and the significance we have put on marking the lives of our forebears with stones (photo below).
Galway is one of the larger cities in Ireland, and was the site of our first Guinness drafts of the trip - there were plenty more to come in the following days. It is an important port on Galway Bay and also serves as a gateway to other spots such as the Aran Islands. During our brief stay at a B&B, I learned is the birthplace of the claddagh ring, very popular with young girls. It consists of a heart held by two hands. If the wearer of the ring positions the heart to face outwards, it signifies that she is open to suitors. Pointing inward, the ring shows that her heart is given to another.
Not that I'm planning on purchasing one of those soon.
Poulnabrone dolmen, "hollow of the millstone," dates back to at least 3000 BC
Our grand tour guide Tony, in Galway
The Cliffs of Moher (also seen the first photo on this post) are a set of steep dropoffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the most scenic sights in the country. However, the rolling fog blanketed much of the coastline, so we walked a bit to get close up view ourselves. The highlight of the day, and the trip, was catching this fellow propose to his loved one, and her answer of "yes." Congrats, you two.
Cliffs of Moher
As we rumbled south from Galway towards Killarney, we stopped at Bunratty Castle. Here, they have preserved the feudal life in a working village, complete with blacksmiths, sheepdogs, and replicated homes (fully furnished circa 19th century). Walking around the grounds was charming, as one could relish the bucolic pace of life. The castle overlooked a river and Durty Nelly's, a pub that has been in operation for 400 years. I highly recommend their fish and chips, finished off with a Guinness. But no time to tarry, as we continued our drive south after visiting for a few hours.
Durty Nelly's, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland. Sits about 10 yards from the castle and dates back to 1620 (or earlier! Everyone has their own story on these sorts of things)
Beaufort Golf Course, Killarney
Next stop: Killarney, a tidy little town in County Kerry in southwest Ireland. The larger part of one of our days involved golfing out in the Ring of Kerry, where we were accompanied by a furry friend for part of the trip (see below). We stayed in the Cahernane House hotel, an 1870's house that had been converted to function as a modern-day hotel. The inside was dotted with many domestic niceties, such a harp in one of the living rooms and the fire, always lit, by the entrance. The home sat overlooking fields with sheep and cows grazing in the shadow of surrounding mountains. This was certainly my favorite place that we stayed all week.
We also came across some "trad" music that mother is so fond of at a pub downtown. It was well attended by both tourists and Irish visitors from other parts of the country. I'm just glad we didn't book a room in the hotel directly above the pub, as there was full-throated singing all night long.
It was here in Killarney that I began to notice slight varieties in the Irish accent of locals. Doing some quick research here, I found that some believe that the British Isles (UK plus Ireland) have as many distinct English accents as do in all of North America (large list here). They all sounded lovely to me.
Beaufort Golf Course, Killarney
Cahernane House, Killarney
Part 2, coming soon.
Ireland, Animal Edition: http://singapat.blogspot.com/2015/05/ireland-animal-edition.html