Ireland, part two

Did you miss Ireland, part one?  Well, here it is.

So, as our week in Ireland continued, we fell into a rhythm.  We knew which seats in the Martin Family Tour Van were our favorites, what we would most likely see out the windows while we hopped between destinations (sheep), what we liked to drink at the pub (cider? yes. Guiness? no.)

On the other hand, what we saw out the windows of the van, besides the sheep, changed a lot.  For a country the size of Maine, the landscape is surprisingly varied.  Beaches, mountains, cliffs, pastures, lakes, cities.  We saw it all.

After leaving Dingle, we headed north, toward Doolin.  On the way, we stopped at Bunratty Castle.  We had skipped Blarney, because Rick Steves told us to, but felt the need to see at least one more castle, as Ireland is famous for them.  (You know where else is famous for them?  Belgium.  We’re getting really good at castles.)

Doolin, our home base for the evening, is tiny, and yet well known for the traditional Irish music played in its pubs nightly.  Irish music is something I didn’t know I loved until I got to hear it live in Irish pubs.  As an American, my only exposure to Irish music was what gets piped into bars on St. Patrick’s Day (or, as a Navy pilot’s wife, what gets played nightly at McGuire’s in Pensacola, FL between choruses of “Kiss the Moose”).  But, in Ireland, pub music is different and a regular part of the local’s world.  For instance, in Dingle we spoke to the hotel owner about who we had seen the night before and not only did he know the girl we saw only by her description, he also knew her father and what instruments he played.  In Doolin, the B and B owners we stayed with explained that the front door would be locked that night when they went next door to listen to music, which was an almost nightly custom.  Following their lead, we headed out for the evening with plans for dinner and music and weren’t disappointed.

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The musicians don’t usually have a stage.  Most sessions are played at a regular restaurant or pub table.  You’ll see an empty table with a reserved sign on it.  When it starts to fill with pints of beer, you know the music is going to start soon.  The musicians drift up, one at a time, unpack an instrument, and play.  No speakers, no amps.  One guy starts, and the rest join in when they can figure out the melody.

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From Doolin, we drove out to the cliffs of Moher.  Also known as the Cliffs on Insanity from the Princess Bride, or, more vital to this family, the cliffs that hid the cave where Voldemort hid one of his horcruxes.  We chose to see them first from below.  By boat.  We bought our tickets in town before heading to the cliffs.  Bad decision.  Do yourself a favor.  Should you have plans to visit the cliffs by boat, go to the dock first and check out the wave conditions.  Evidently, three days before we were there the water was smooth as glass.  The day before we arrived, however, the boats didn’t even go out because the waves were just too big.  Fear of losing passengers overboard, and all.  Let’s just say the ocean hadn’t yet calmed down when we arrived.  Most of our Martin Family Tour members were cool with it.  A few of us were not.  Three of us felt bad.  Two of those felt really bad.  One of us threw up.  Two of us vowed never to get on a boat again, ever.

Check the wave conditions before you go.  Seriously.

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From above, the cliffs were amazing and much easier to look at, as the horizon stayed in one place.

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Our next destination was Galway, an average city.  It got a “meh” from me, but we were there mostly as a home base for a day exploring the Connemara area.

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Connemara, on a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic, is wild.  Like mountains, trees, lakes and sheep wild.  We drove and hiked through on a drizzly, windy day, which seemed perfectly matched to the terrain.  A bit of hiking felt good and leg-stretchy after long days in the car.  My favorite part?  The sheep here come and go as they please.  They are all tagged, so I suppose they are occasionally rounded up but they seem to spend most of their days wandering the hillsides (and roadsides) and picking around the broom bushes, which were in full bloom.  Not a bad life for a sheep.

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Our final day saw us back in Dublin.  By this time, Ben was ready for someone else to take the lead so we hopped on an open topped tour bus and watched the city go by, stopping only once at Trinity College to say we saw the Book of Kells and the Long Room of the old library.

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And to think, we only saw the southern half of Ireland.  I guess that gives us reason to go back one day…

To recap:

People in the Martin Family Tour Van: 7

Seats in the Martin Family Tour Van: 13

Days in the Martin Family Tour Van: 7

Sessions attended: 6

Whiskey in the Jar versions heard (including in the Martin Family Tour Van): 5

Sheep spotted: countless

Pictures taken (by me): 1100

Irish beers tried: 7?

Irish beers appreciated: 1 (we’re used to the Belgian stuff)

Seasick family members: 3

Really seasick family members: 1

Geocaches found: 3

Times an Irish accent was attempted: 4

 Times Gaelic was read correctly: 0

See you again, Ireland!  Slán go foill!

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