Trip Post #3: Doolin and Ennis

Mary's 4On our fifth day of the trip, we took a bus to Doolin, a teensy little village on the west-coast of Ireland. We arrived at our bed and breakfast, Riverdale Farmhouse (above), and our host, Mary, treated us to some warm home-made scones and tea. It was a really nice treat after being out in the chilly, windy, rainy weather.

Before we headed into town, I met the farm’s horse:Horse Doolin 5I went into her pen because she was far away from the gate when I got there. When I approached her, she walked away from me and went back up to the gate where I just came in. I stayed where I was, and she came back over to me, made a “harrumph” sound and swung her head toward the gate (which translated to a very obvious “Come with me, you idiot human.”), and walked back to the gate.

I figured out that she was saying, “The only use I have for you is to be fed by you, so get back out to the other side of the gate and feed me the grass that I can’t reach. You dummy.”

So I followed my instructions, and she allowed me to pet her once in a while in between fist-fulls of the nicest grass I could find.

Horse Doolin 4“More food, dummy!”

Horse Doolin 1

Horse Doolin 2“And you stopped feeding me because…?”

Horse Doolin 3

“*Sigh* There better be some grass in your hand when I look back.”

After I had fed the horse every single blade of grass I could find, we took the 20 minute walk into town.

Doolin 1

Doolin 2

Doolin 4We passed a sweet little garden center, and talked with the nice guy there:

Doolin Garden Center

Artichokes 2Artichokes!

There’s this type of rose there, Sanders’ White Climbing Rose, that smells like the best smell on earth.

We continued into town, where I overheard a visitor’s center clerk complaining about a group of male travelers who couldn’t figure out their lives. “When men travel without women, it doesn’t work.”

After walking for a while, we stopped for a rest at the Doolin Hostel, and had a treat.

Treat Doolin 1

Treat Doolin 2

Doolin Treat 3This mix-in hot chocolate was one of my Aunt Lyn’s highlights of the trip. 🙂

After our treat, we continued through town, and checked out the shops.

Doolin^ That is pretty much “town.”

We kept going, and reached the coast, where we could see the Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher Portrait 3Wait, where are the Cliffs of Moher?

Cliffs of Moher Portrat 2Oh, there they are!

Cliffs of Moher 6

Cliffs of Moher 7

Cliffs of Moher 1

Cliffs of Moher 4After that, we visited the ruins of a church, which were now basically a cemetery.

Church Doolin 1

Church Doolin 2Then we had dinner at McDermott’s pub, featuring traditional musicians.

Pub Music DoolinWe were seated at a perfect table just in front of the musicians, but we had to share the table with whomever needed a spot. We ended up with a really nice French family, with whom I had a fun half-French half-English conversation.

After the family left, an older American gentleman sat in the seat next to mine, and shared life wisdom with me. Things like, “Invest in mutual funds.” “Get married before you’re 30” (Oops!) and “Don’t blow your money on a new car and a fancy coffee every day.”

In the morning the next day, we had a delicious breakfast (poached eggs, toast, warm scones, and tea) at the farmhouse, and Mary drove us to the bus stop in town.

While on the bus to Ennis, we overheard a man who was perturbed that he hadn’t been picked up at his usual stop (which wasn’t an official stop). When the driver asked him how long he’s been using that stop, he said, “I’ve been standin’ there my whole life!” “Have they been lettin’ ye on there yer whole life?” Angry Irish men 🙂

Anyway, we arrived in Ennis, and checked into our lodging, The Rowan Tree Hostel (an excellent hostel):

Hostel EnnisAfter checking in, I set out on my own to check out the town. Not five minutes into my walk, two tourist guys stopped me to ask if I knew a good place for dinner. Umm…I just got here. :/ It was a theme throughout the trip that people kept asking me for directions. 10 people in total! Apparently I look like a friendly, approachable, knowledgeable local. 🙂

After checking out the shops in town, I met Aunt Lyn at the hostel for some bruschetta at the Rowan Tree Hostel Cafe, which had beautiful Rowan wood floors dated from 1740.

Then we checked out the Ennis Friary, which was originally built in the 13th century.

Friary Ennis

After shopping a bit in town, we had dinner at Brogan’s Bar and Restaurant (which stops serving food at 6..???), and who promised to have good live traditional music.

Dinner EnnisServing food on a wood tray was a popular thing in Ireland/UK.

The musicians were good (I suppose? I really don’t know), but they didn’t know one another, and they didn’t seem very seasoned (they would just chat with each other between tunes and talk through what they should play next).

And there was no singing.

Oh well.

We got to do laundry at the hostel, and putting on all three of my sweaters warm from the dryer was one my highlights of the trip. jk

Laundry Ennis 2It really was pretty great, since I was cold basically the entire week.

Next up, England!


Trip Post #2: Galway

…The adventure continues! Still in Dublin, we got breakfast at a place called Roly’s Bistro before catching the train to Galway.

Once there, we checked out the main street with pubs, touristy shops, and buskers.Galway

Thought this guy was nifty:

Galway BuskerHis little marionette was HIM. Exact same clothing, even had the same tattoos. He was “playing” to prerecorded music (see the speaker behind him). The motions were very lifelike (nodding his head, the hand on the neck of the cello, etc.). And the change hat is a tiny handmade cello case!!! Very cute. If you’re interested, he has a facebook page (the little sign in the cello case tells us): “Galway Puppet“. He apparently also makes alter-ego puppets for people.

Since the weather was yucky, we ducked into a cafe called Mocha Bean, and got a yummy treat:

Treat GalwayYUSSS

After walking around a bit more, we had dinner (vegetable soup and a cheese toasty) at Finnegan’s restaurant, the oldest building in Galway.


We were beat (and rain-soaked), so we headed back to the hotel (The Victoria, we wouldn’t recommend it) for bed shortly after dinner.

The next day, we had breakfast at our hotel, and took the windiest, coldest, longest walk along the sea to the Promenade (a little west of the Galway city center).

Inlet Galway

River Galway

Ocean Galway 2

Ocean GalwayIt was pretty and all, but damn was it cold and windy. Did I mention that it was windy? It was windy. And cold. And it rained on us sometimes.

I did get to meet a little dog that was bouncing around near his human’s campsite. He was really sweet, though I couldn’t get a great picture because he wouldn’t hold still!

Dog GalwayAnyway, continuing with our walk, we discovered that some COMPLETELY INSANE PEOPLE were swimming in the sea. THE COLD WINDY SEA. In the photo below, you can see tiny dots in the water, and those are people. Crazy people.

Swimmers GalwayAfter our windy (WINDY! And COLD! And WINDY!) walk, we treated ourselves to the cutest afternoon tea at a place called Cupan Tae.

Cupan Tae Galway(See the bush? It was windy.)

Look how cute!

Cupan Tae 4Everything was cute!

Cupan Tae 2

Cupan Tae 3I don’t think you understand; those are cucumber sandwiches on a tiered china cake stand. And scones with jam and clotted cream! And mini cupcakes! And I guess there was tea or whatever too. Basically, we were in a Jane Austen novel.

We took a little rest in our hotel since we had walked about 10 friggin miles already. I don’t know how many it was, but it was like double because we were walking into the wind.

Then we did some site-seeing around Galway, including visiting seemingly the youngest cathedral in all of Europe (it was built in the 1960s). Holy crap! I was kidding, but I just googled it to verify the date, and the website literally says that it is “the youngest of Europe’s great stone cathedrals.

And we were all “Umm..if we wanted to see a church from the 60s, we would have visited ANY CHURCH IN AMERICA.” So we had dinner.

Monroe's GalwayI kept trying to find a pub in Ireland where I could listen to traditional music, and I kept failing. See the pub above? This is where we had dinner. See that lovely sign advertising “Ballads and Traditional Music…NIGHTLY!”? It’s a LIE. There was a nice EMPTY little stage taunting us, but no musicians in sight.

But the staff were very nice, and I had the best fettuccine alfredo I have ever had and could ever imagine. (In Ireland? I know!)

I also got a plum tart from a nearby bakery. It was called “The Gourmet Tart Company”, so I obviously couldn’t ignore it.

Plum Tart GalwayIn my ongoing quest to find traditional music, we went to “Tunes in the Church” at like the oldest church ever, St. Nicholas’ Church, which was built sometime around 1320. The performance involved three musicians: a concertina player, a flute player, and a bouzouki player (like a guitar), and a sean nos dancer (Old Style Irish Dancing; older than the style I do).

Musicians GalwayIt wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, because I wanted singing, but they were very skilled musicians (though, I can only say that because other people said it, not because I know anything about performing music), and watching the sean nos dancing was really fun.

By the way, they performed on the top of a tomb-thingy. It looks like a stage in the picture, but that is a very large mausoleum type thing that was half above the ground and half under the floor of the church. But our guide was quick to point out that the actual grave itself was far below the church, so no one was technically “dancing on a grave.” Whatever you say, dude, whatever you say.

Next up, Doolin and Ennis!

Trip Post #1: Dublin

IrelandI just returned from my trip to the British Isles with my Aunt, Lyn. I’m going to recount our adventures in a few posts, and here’s the first one! Dublin!

We arrived in Dublin at about 6am (which was the middle of the night for us), and had no idea how to get to our hotel. After taking a few different buses, we finally reached our hotel, The Intercontinental, in Ballsbridge, a suburb of Dublin.

We forced ourselves not to go to bed, and went into the city. We visited Grafton Street, where there’s usually a lot of hustle and bustle and fun buskers, but it was a bit quiet when we went (too early and not great weather).

“On Grafton Street in November
We tripped lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine where can be seen
the worth of passion’s pledge.”
-Raglan Road

We got some brunch at Le Petit Parisien, a very quaint little cafe/patisserie with French staff.PastriesI was so tired that I literally felt drunk. My head was spinning, the world was spinning, my body felt like it was vibrating.

But we soldiered on, and took a Hop On Hop Off bus tour of the city. (I only fell asleep a couple of times.)

If you visit Dublin, I’d recommend getting the Freedom Pass. It includes unlimited Hop on Hop Off and any city bus. We used the heck out of it.

Freedom Pass 2After the bus tour, we got a treat from Hansel and Gretel, a super cute little pastry shop we saw in the morning (we planned out our treats diligently throughout the trip).

Hansel and Gretel 1

Hansel and Gretel 2

Hansel and Gretel 3Then we allowed ourselves a little nap at the hotel. After dragging our bodies out of the deepest, most delicious sleep, we forced ourselves back into the city.

I wanted to find a pub that would be playing traditional music (one of my main reasons for going on the trip), so we landed at Oliver St. John Gogarty in the Temple Bar area.

Pub Dublin 2I had a delicious dinner of vegetarian lasagna (which ended up being a frequent menu option throughout the trip), which came with salad and fries (almost everything in Ireland came with salad and fries.)

Dinner DublinAunt Lyn wanted to try Guinness, so we asked the server for a little taste of it.

GuinnessI don’t like any alcohol, so I knew I wouldn’t like it.

I think Aunt Lyn had had higher hopes.

Lyn GuinnessAfter listening to the musicians for a while, we went home for some much needed sleep. We hadn’t had a real nights’ sleep in over 36 hours!

On day 2, we had some breakfast at the same Parisien place, and took a long trek out to Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison. It’s a popular place, and we had to wait about an hour for a tour (though by the time we were done, the people in line were waiting for 3 hours!).

Gaol 3Our tour guide, Kevin, was great, and I got a kick out of every time he said “execution” or “executed” (which, considering the history of the jail, he said a lot) because he put an unusual amount of emphasis on the first syllable, “EHX-ecuted”.Every. single. time.

Anyway, some things about the jail.

Above the front door is a design (you can see it in the picture above, where the light fixture hangs above the door) with snakes and chains. Apparently, the snakes symbolize crime, and the chains symbolize justice.

Here’s a clearer depiction of it:

Gaol 5

Gaol 4The jail was built in 1796, and was intended to be a more progressive prison than any other at the time. Rather than large open rooms that housed a bunch of prisoners, each prisoner was meant to have their own cell. The designer had some sort of motto about reform that I can’t quite remember, but he basically believed that prisoners needed three things: silence, solitude, and something else…reflection..? in order to improve, so he designed the jail with those things in mind.

I think that’s a bunch of hogwash, and also, most of the prisoners appeared to be people just stealing food because they were starving (including children as young as seven), and political rebels, who, ya know, kinda had a point. So they didn’t seem to need “reform” so much as a “decent shot at life.”
Gaol 7The spiral staircase above is pretty, but it was built specifically because it’s difficult/impossible to go up and down quickly, so it was easier to control the prisoners. The guards used a regular, efficient staircase across the way.

Gaol 1Above is the door to Eamon de Valera’s cell, who eventually became president of Ireland.

Here’s the interior of a cell:
Gaol 9

Gaol 8^This is the inside of a cell door. They all had the peep hole with the oval carving around it on the inside. It’s meant to remind the prisoner that they are always being watched (by guards, but also by God or some figurative element like their own conscience). Basically, it’s meant to freak them out.

Here is the inside of a cell which one of the prisoners painted:

Gaol 6The painting is by Grace Gifford/Plunkett, who was imprisoned in 1923 for getting involved in political rebellion, and who had just 8 years prior married her husband, Joseph Plunkett, in this jail just a few hours before he was executed for leading the Easter Rising. Whoa.Gaol 2The area above was the “exercise yard”, where apparently prisoners were forced to walk in a circle with their hands behind their backs, looking down at the ground for an hour a day. For exercise.

The guards also made the prisoners turn a crank in their cells for no purpose other than to keep them busy. If the prisoners turned the crank too quickly, the guard would adjust the crank via a screw, which is why the prisoners ended up calling the guards “screws”.

“To begin the mornin’
a screw was ballin’
‘Get up ya bowsie, and clean up your cell!'”
-The Auld Triangle

After the jail, we went to The National Museum of Ireland to see bog bodies, which are ancient human bodies that have been recently discovered in excellent condition, having been preserved by the special conditions of the bog soil. We’re not sure why they were killed (it appears that they were all killed, rather than dying naturally), but it was probably ritual sacrifice.

Get ready for some pictures of some stuff.

This man was killed  between 362 BCE and 175 BCE:

Bog Body 1

Bog Body 2

Bog Body 4^He was wearing that leather armband when he was killed.

This man died between 392 BCE and 201 BCE:Bog Body 6^That is HAIR!

After that delightful exhibit, we got a pastry and took a nap at the hotel.

That night, we enjoyed a dinner and performance called “An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies” at the Brazen Head Pub, apparently Ireland’s oldest pub (from 1198).

Brazenhead Dublin 2We had a lovely storyteller, and two musicians (the storyteller called them “crusty old men”).

Brazenhead DublinBack to the hotel for about 2-4 hours of sleep for the night (yay jetlag), and then onto Galway!

Irish Fair

Hooo boy this weekend was busy!

Saturday, I went to the Irish Fair.

Got to see some sheep herding:

Photo (23)

Petted some Irish Wolf Hounds:

Photo (22) - Copy
Dat face!

Listened to some traditional musicians:

Photo (20) - Copy

And danced!


Then I went to a family get-together, where there was some kayak racing:

Photo (27)

And my nephew snagged my phone and took a selfie…

Photo (29)…and this really artsy one of me:

Photo (30)After that I worked on plans for a Renaissance Fest dress (yes, I’m going to attempt to make one).

Sunday, it was back to Irish Fair for more dancing!

Once more with feeling!

Photo (31)

And then I saw a Fringe Festival show! Ack! A busy weekend! I love summer because of the weather and because there are so many fun things to do, but I prefer the pace of winter. I need a weekend.