Afterthoughts

AfterthoughtsI’m home now.  It’s good to be back in my own home with Chris and in my familiar life.  Our Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 & Ireland 🇮🇪 trip was just 2-1/2 weeks long but I feel like I’ve been away for much longer, as is normal when one is away and doing a lot. Two countries, 6 different places, which meant… 6 times to pack and unpack, 6 different showers and toilets to figure out, 6 new beds to hopefully sleep well in, 6 new kinds of electrical switches and outlets, more stairs to lug luggage up and down…. but also…. 6 opportunities to take in great new experiences, vistas, history, people, local culture and food, and local beverages.  Traveling is tiring and can be hard but Mary and I decided it was more important to stay positive, go with the flow, and enjoy the moments.

Before you decide to do the same trip we did, may I suggest the following, based on our experiences:

* make sure you have a good electrical adapter  (do not get the Samsonite one!).  I would bring two next time

* once you arrive at your quaint hotel / Airbnb check the nightstand drawer and any other drawer to find the hair dryer

* take some time to learn the shower fixtures in each new place, especially if you wear glasses and can’t see once you’re in there.  Holy craic!  You will also need to have your glasses on to figure out the light fixtures.  It’s all part of the adventure, or at least the experience.

* check insurance rules if you plan to drive. Do you have that letter from your credit card insurance that, duh, we should have known about, but no one told us??

* Just know before you set out on your drive, you will not get clear instructions and directions from the easy going Irish car rental guy or anyone. They aren’t being eejits, just how they do “tings”.

*driving is tricky enough in Ireland especially with signage in Irish first then English below.  Once you actually find the directional sign you’re looking for among the 10 or so signs, you’ve likely gone around the roundabout and got off on the wrong exit.  Having a good navigator and a good GPS is key (thank you Mary!)

*driving is tricky (repeating this).  The Canadian driver’s inclination when driving on the “other side of the road” is to drive too far over to the left.  I learned that if I kept checking my sideview mirrors to ensure I was close to the centre line and basically centred, it really helped.  Your eye’s perception then becomes accustomed to where you should be.

* plan to be in good physical shape before carrying your bags up and down those staircases if you stay in the quaint older centrally located hotels or b&b, not to mention the miles of walking you’ll do.  Or just get a hotel with elevators.

* on the physical condition topic, wear a GOOD pair of walking shoes, preferably waterproof. It will rain.

* on the physical comfort topic, wear layers, especially if doing a tour, say, to the Aran Islands during a storm bringing  strong winds and hail blowing horizontally. Example of layers: camisole,  sweater, fleece jacket, gortex jacket, thin wool scarf, wool headband.  You can always take layers off and juggle them with your personal bag, water bottle, and all the souvenir bags you are carrying.

* whatever budget you have, plan for it to be blown. Everything is expensive whether you are spending pounds or euros.  And let’s face, who isn’t tempted to spend away when it’s not in Canadian dollars. It almost feels like it’s someone else’s money.

* research the attractions you think you might want to see so you don’t arrive at the Kilmainham Gaol, say, and they are not allowing people in and you learn at that time that you should have ordered your tickets well in advance online.  (I should have read the Rick Steves Ireland book).

*do take a good walking tour with local guides leading the way.  They are “free” (tip is requested), and they are so very informative, interesting, and entertaining.  History lessons in simple sentences with anecdotes and being on location.  I learned so much.

My final remark is to say that I will keep so many wonderful memories through this blog and through all my photos, and maybe even in my head.  Thank you for following along with me!

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Dublin – Fair City (Evening)

Mary and I did our own version of an Irish pub crawl this evening – our last evening.  All we wanted was an Irish Coffee and maybe a bite.  You would think that would be simple in Dublin on a Friday evening, no?  No!  Mostly because it was Friday evening and pubs are crowded.

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First we asked Carluccio’s and they said “yes”, but then the guy checked and said “no, try Bailey’s around the corner”.

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Too crowded….keep walking…

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Even Mary’s was too busy….

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This looked like a good possibility, but no breathing room inside.

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Desperation will have you going to the M&S rooftop cafe.  Clearly no liquour license since we were the only ones there.

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Mulligan’s!  That was recommended as a good pub.  But couldn’t squeeze through the first layer of people.  Keep crawling…

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Kehoe’s was also a recommendation, but obviously 500 other people got the same recommendation.

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The Dingle Whiskey bar has whiskey.  Just no coffee.

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SUCCESS at the Duke!!  We found 2 stools and a server who was available to serve us.  Two good Irish Coffees and a dessert.

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Thank you Dublin! We can go home now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin – Fair City (Day time)

Our last 2-1/2 days have been spent in Dublin, and we leave for home tomorrow, Saturday.  Dublin has been non-stop as there is a lot to see and do.  I find it a very(!) crowded (mostly tourists) city as I guess most of the action is within a couple of square miles.  Our hotel is in a great location between Trinity University and St. Stephen’s Green, if you are familiar with the city.  We are about one block over from Grafton Street – the pedestrian ‘shopping’ district, and an easy walking distance from Temple Bar, the noisy tourist drinking area. (That’s essentially what it’s become and in the evenings I imagine it to be mostly a young tourists party place).  See the green blotches I added to the map below to indicate our hotel location, Temple Bar, and Grafton St.

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There are no shortages of pubs and it was recommended to us not to go to the pubs that you look for on Tripadvisor’s ‘best of’, but rather, go into any pubs that are busy. They will be good. And they are!  Good and busy.  Actually we have never been disappointed with any food or drinks or service on this trip.  Yesterday’s supper in the Italian restaurant across the street and today’s Last Supper in the Irish pub were excellent.  The Irish lamb stew with a pint of Guinness cured what ailed me.  In Dublin, all that was ailing us was the miles and miles of walking, and sitting down to a good meal or even a tea, is the best reward after a long day.

Yesterday we did the hop-on hop-off bus but it was somewhat disappointing. There are many stops on the route that hold little interest to us, or anyone it seemed.  The most popular stops are not always easy to get into.  But our bus driver/tour guide was very entertaining – even singing Elvis songs between his narrations.  He had a great singing voice mercifully!

Today we did a 3 hour guided walking tour.  The Yellow Umbrella walking tour is an excellent way to go deeper into understanding the Dublin and Irish history & culture as the guides are locals who are very knowledgeable and passionate.  Our guide provided a lot of interesting information along our tour: the Viking beginnings of Dublin, the introduction of Christianity, the centuries-long British rule and the Protestant / Catholic, political / religious hostility including the Easter Rising in 1916 to end British rule in the Republic of Ireland.  It was all fascinating in the way he explained it especially as we were standing in and seeing the places of some of these historical moments.  He spoke to us about (and in) the Irish language and the importance of it in the heart of Irish culture.  In the 3 hour tour, we also learned about the significance of the geography of Dublin, the importance of the Queen’s visit in 2011, being the first British monarch to address the Irish people on their turf and in their language.  She began her address in Irish: “A Uachtaráin agus a chairde” – “Prsident and friends”.  This seemingly small act was very important to the Irish people and to the relationship between the Irish and British.

The only thing left on our Ireland bucket list is to have an Irish coffee.  We will hopefully do that this evening, or I will just have to return sooner than later.

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Of course there is an Irish whiskey museum…..right by our hotel too!

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Not exactly sure who Sir John Gray is, but the pigeon on his head and the Spire in the background on O’Connell St. made for a good shot.

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View along the Liffey River from O’Connell Bridge.  O’Connell St. is a main street crossing the main river.

St. Stephen’s Green – beautiful park near our hotel.

Photo #1: Dublin Conference Centre.  Can you guess the shape of the glass part of the building? Photo #2: Parliament.  Photo #3: St. Patrick’s Cathedral which I totally thought was Catholic and where I was praying and Mary lit a candle a la Catholic practice only to find out today that it’s Protestant.  Oh well.  I guess the prayers will still be good, won’t they? 🙂

Best ever Irish Stew and Guinness at O’Connell’s Pub late in the afternoon

To be continued….

 

Roundwood House

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018

We left Galway this morning to take the train to Portlaoise (Laoise is pronounced leesh) to stay for one night in Roundwood House.  It’s a beautiful old Georgian country estate in County Laois, surrounded by woods with very old trees, fields, and old stone wall fences.

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I’m sitting alone in the drawing room by a crackling fire.  There are people in this house but it’s completely silent where I am at this moment; a peaceful respite in my travels.  The House belongs now to Paddy and Hannah Flynn.  Paddy is the son of my good friends Noreen and Pat Flynn in Waterloo and it’s through them that we came here.  See the link to read some interesting history on this house. http://roundwoodhouse.com/history/  Paddy’s blog is a must-read as well! http://roundwoodhouse.com

Mary and I spent some time exploring the grounds, with Rococo the yellow lab leading us on our walk of the perimeter of the property.   We checked out the out-buildings (see the library photos below.  Frank, Hannah’s father and previous owner, is quite a book collector).  We saw their ducks and hens and rooster free-ranging about the side of the house.  We explored the ‘barn’ with art still hanging from a recent culture weekend. (Photo below).

Dinner is at 8pm every evening and the guests sit together in the dining room at a communal table.  This makes for a lively and interesting meal time!  We shared a delicious meal (seriously delicious) with 10 others. There was an Irish couple – he, a retired Anglican priest – celebrating an anniversary.  There was the judge from Ottawa and his retired physician wife, traveling with her brother and sister-in-law to explore their roots.  There was a lawyer and wife from Atlanta, but live 6 months in Cabo San Lucas Mexico.  Then there was a couple from Washington state – he, a cancer researcher and she a firefighter originally from northern Ontario.  We all talked retirement, careers, politics, gardens, families, and there was a lot of discussion about the love of animals – particularly pet dogs.  One woman owns several beloved horses.  The cancer researcher has his deceased yellow lab and golden retriever pictured on his business card.  They all expressed love for their pets through exchanges of stories.  Perhaps Roundwood House appeals to a certain type of guest – animal lovers first, then world travelers, and anything else next.  As I was listening to and observing the guests, I was imagining that Maeve Binchy created her novels out of experiences like this….these strangers who came together at a meal, shared stories from their corner of the world, and parted feeling as friends.  I felt like I was in a Maeve Binchy novel!

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Labasheeda, Co. Clare – My People

One of my purposes of going to Ireland was to visit the ancestral town of my family on my father’s side.  Labasheeda is a sleepy little village on the north shore of the Shannon River.

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We took a ferry across the Shannon River from Tarbert and then it was a short drive to Labasheeda. The crossing to the other side of the Shannon, from Co. Kerry to Co. Clare, was emotional for me.  Seeing the beautiful shores of Clare approach had me thinking of my ancestors who lived here and who had to leave here.  Few remained after the potato famine.

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I had planned to visit the local pub, go to the cemetery, and find any other sources that might give me some information into my family history. Once in Labasheeda, we realized that the local pub (which was my first choice for meeting and greeting the locals who would remember some deceased relatives) was in the back of the little general store and not really a place 2 Canadian visiting women would saunter into.  So we walked a bit and decided to go into the Post Office / lottery office / bill payments / all other services office.  I explained to the friendly clerk my purpose here, and she asked what my name was.  After I told her ‘Moloney’, she said “oh we might be related.  I’m a Moloney”.  Go figure!  We chatted for a few minutes and she said she should call Joan who would have a lot more information for me.  Joan came over and she explained that she knew my last remaining relatives Miko and Katie (pronounced Mike-oh and Kattie) Moloney.  She gave me lots of details about them as she told stories.  I should have recorded this moment.  She told us where their home used to be situated, and where their “vault” was in the cemetery.

On the road to the cemetery we “accidentally” ran into a man and woman who happened to run the B&B that used to be the old schoolhouse which in fact I was looking for, as the building is a photograph in our family history book.  The schoolhouse B&B overlooking the Shannon is just lovely by the way; I would definitely consider staying there.  The couple (of whom I didn’t get the names) invited me in to look at the schoolhouse / B&B.  It turns out he also knew Miko and Katie, and provided further stories.  He said that he went to school with Miko and they were childhood friends.  These are the moments for me, that fulfill me and made this Ireland trip so worth it.

Some images of Labasheeda:

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Next 3 photos are the B&B (former schoolhouse that was attended by our last known relatives, Miko and Katie)

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Dingle All the Way

We just returned this evening, from an amazing drive from Galway to Dingle yesterday and back today.  Well, the drive itself wasn’t exactly amazing, (factor in driving on the other side of the road, sketchy directional signage, narrow roads, many kilometres, Flinstones rental car…). We started out Sunday morning with little (very little) instruction about the car itself or with any concrete directions (“yes just get on the N86 to get out of town”). We promptly got lost and turned into an industrial car park to try to get our bearings. An elderly woman was walking her dog by us so we rolled down the window to ask her how to get to the main road out of town, the N86. She hummed and hawed and uhmmed and “oh-deared” and explained that she had been out late last night and had quite a bit of “the drink” and her head wasn’t clear. After lots of thinking out loud she did end up giving  us a few helpful tips.

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That driving time you see on the map is a lie.  It actually took 5hr 30min but we did stop in Adare and Tralee, and we drove through Limerick because I wanted to see what Frank McCourt was talking about.

The Dingle Peninsula certainly was amazing!!  I am completely enamoured with the town of Dingle. We stayed in a most charming B&B in the centre of Dingle town, “An Capall Dubh” as it’s named.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who plans a trip there

Photos: Dingle shops and their exteriors

This morning we drove the Slea Head drive – this is the loop around the perimeter of the Dingle Peninsula.  I couldn’t stop oohing and ahhing while I was driving!  It’s so tempting to stop and take photo after photo instead of just enjoying the beautiful views.

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I will return to this area….it’s a promise.

 

GALWAY CITY

Today with nothing pressing on our agenda, we could sleep in (7:45am for me!  That was a treat).  We decided that today we would give Galway all of our attention since tomorrow we are heading down to the Dingle Peninsula, then Monday, we are spending some time in my paternal family’s ancestral area in and around Labasheeda, Co. Clare, on the north shore of the Shannon river.  On that topic, today at the Tourist Info centre in Galway, the young man we were chatting with asked where my family was from.  He knew Labasheeda and said his good friend is from there.  I asked where I might go when in Labasheeda, to ask about any possible information on my family.  “Well the pub is where you would go, and just start asking people in there”.  That’s where i was going to start anyway.  🙂

Outside the tourist office, Galway’s version of “hop-on, hop-off” tour was ready to leave so we hopped on.  This would give us a good chance to see and learn about any important and interesting sites we hadn’t yet seen in Galway.  It turned out that there really is only one stop at which to ‘hop-off’ and that happened to be in Salthill, right outside our apartment building!  There was a recording that came on every so often to provide some information of a particular highlight, otherwise it was music – and not all Irish, although  I am now familiar with the song Galway Girl by Steve Earle (or Ed Sheeran). I find all these little experiences so humorous and endearing.  We stayed on the little train and continued back to the centre of town.

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I would not recommend the Galway pedestrian shopping streets on a Saturday unless crowds are your thing.  There is an open air market that we checked out, then we stopped in at McDonaugh’s for their famous fish and chips.  I asked for a Guinness as well, to round off my meal. They don’t serve alcohol, so  I was told to go 2 doors down to the pub to get my Guinness and bring it back here.  Um, okay.  So that’s what I did. It was good – a slightly different taste from Guinness at home.

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Photo: Irish health food.  There is fish in there.  My dad would give us some Guinness when we were feeling run down.  Medicinal.

Including a couple of photos in Galway’s historical area:

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The weather was lovely by the afternoon so we finally had the chance to take the seaside walk back to Salthill.  So picturesque.  We walked by the Claddagh district.  Description from the Internet: “The Claddagh or ‘An Cladach’ meaning ‘the shore’, is a notable area in Galway, on the western side of the city. The Claddagh was once an ancient fishing village, dating from the fifth century. This community, most of whom sold their daily catches at market near the Spanish Arch, lived in thatched cottages. They sailed in the famous Galway Hooker boats and spoke Irish. They even had their own king, who led the fishing fleet and settled disputes in the community.”

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The Claddagh district is the origin of the Claddagh ring, which is a traditional Irish ring representing love-the heart, loyalty-the crown, and friendship-the hands.  I now own a beautiful Claddagh ring (thank you Chris!).  Internet photo example of a traditional Claddagh ring:

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Photos of the views back to Salthill:

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You can see the Burren across the bay.

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Salthill.

Tomorrow morning we are picking up our rental car.  When at the car rental office today, we expressed some anxiety about driving on the other side of the road, the rental agent said “Just say some prayers.  You’ll be fine”.  Sounds encouraging.  So I’m praying to St. Christopher (is he still working?) and St. Patrick.  Any other suggestions??