Archive | January 2014

The Day We Became Senior Citizens

“Do you know how to get to Trinity College?” a young lady asked Mike while carefully folding her map.  Mike quickly swallowed a bite of almond croissant that we bought at Hansel & Gretel’s, a little pastry shop close to our hotel.

“We were just there yesterday,” he said as he pointed the way.  Suddenly we were all talking as we realized that we had just met fellow Americans. The young lady and her husband are from San Francisco and the lady’s mom and sister live in Michigan. They travelled to Ireland to find the mom’s grandparents’ home. They talked about the long road they traveled before they reached the quaint, little house.  We laughed when they mentioned that they didn’t like their driving experiences.  By the time they made it to their destinations, dusk had settled in so they had not gotten very good looks at what they had traveled so far to see. Of course they wanted to know what brought us to the Emerald Isle, and we explained that we were there visiting our daughter.  Talking with them was like seeing old friends who we had not seen in a long time.

After we said our good-byes, Mike and I walked in the direction of Stephen’s Green, a public park that first opened in 1880.  We opened the umbrella as raindrops started to fall and took a couple of breaks from the rain by standing in bus shelters.  Just before we reached Stephen’s Green, we stood under the awning of a fancy hotel.  We watched a group of men get ushered toward a bus.  They carried golf clubs, wore argyle knee highs, golf caps and rain ponchos.  The down pour of rain did not have any affect on the golfers’ happy smiles.

Stephen’s Green was just across the street.  The first thing to greet us were very large swans.  We took a long stroll around the park beneath our tiny umbrella and enjoyed all the sights.  The rain did not bother us at all.

We got a little turned around on our way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  We asked a lady and her mother for directions. The Irish ladies walked with us for a short while.  The younger lady announced that “we really do not pay attention to the traffic lights” as she scooted her mom along.  They narrowly escaped a fast-moving car. I wasn’t shocked to hear that announcement since a few people had darted out in front of our car when we drove in Galway.

They pointed us in the right direction and we walked a few more blocks.  When we approached the cathedral, we were amazed by how large it was.  There was a line at the entrance, and we knew there would be a small fee to help with the upkeep of the 800-year-old building. I requested two tickets, and when we looked at our receipt, we noticed that the cashier had given us the senior discount even though we had not ask for one. Secretly, I thought it must be Mike who was making me look old!  🙂

We were just youngsters compared to the age of the cathedral!  People spoke in hushed voices as they shuffled about. The stained glass windows were very intricate and made of the tiniest pieces of glass I have ever seen.  I did not realize that we would see tombs, monuments and grave slabs.  Some of the history was carved into the walls and the statues were quite beautiful.  We definitely got our money’s worth!

After visiting the cathedral, we walked to the Guinness Storehouse. We paid for our tickets at a machine and debated whether we should push the button for senior citizen.  We guided ourselves very quickly through the tour, made it to the top of the building and had our pint of Guinness which was the best Guinness I ever had. It was standing room only.

Lunch was at Manning’s Deli. I ordered the sandwich of the week which was turkey with stuffing, cranberry mayo on toasted brown bread with a side salad of spinach, beets and almonds. Mike had a Spanish omelet and a very large cream puff.  As you can see, my lunch was delicious.

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All that walking and fresh air made us ready to find our way back to our hotel. We hurried by some of the people who were walking on the street.  We passed by an older gentleman who was holding onto a younger woman. As I rushed by, I felt like I was crowding them and said, “Sorry.”

“That’s all right love,” the man said sweetly in his Irish brogue!

We saw this beautiful castle which is now a government building.

After a very long nap, we found a restaurant called Blarney’s where I ate a very large plate of spaghetti and Guinness meatballs.

The next morning, we took this picture from our hotel window before we left.  We like to call it Moon Over Dublin.

Now we hope to go back for another visit when we really are senior citizens!

New Place to Explore

The first time it rained when we were in Ireland was early Thursday morning. A soft bit pitter pattered on our hotel window. We took turns getting ready and headed out to the rental car. Not too many souls were about that time of day, and the wet roads were made to look even darker by the rain.

After we strapped ourselves in the car, I quietly prayed. Maneuvering windshield wipers was the least of my worries. Curbs frightened me because the streets were so narrow. I wondered if we might have scuffed up the tires a smidge. The further we got away from Galway, the fewer curbs there were.

After we passed through the small town of Barna, we kept on the lookout for the Park Lodge Hotel sign. As we drove by it, we realized we missed it! We turned around and found our way after being sure to stay to the left.  The cottages were quiet because most of the kids were traveling with friends or family during their break. Cottage No. 4 felt cold. Katie kindly offered us some instant coffee. Even though earlier Dad and I talked about going to Spiddal for breakfast, we decided to stay and sip warm coffee instead. We snuggled in blankets while Katie packed for her trip.

After a short time, the sun crept up and chased the rain away. I walked around the playground hoping to spot some fairies, but none would show themselves to me. I found a magical tree living behind the cottage. Vines intertwined around it and were part of it. It looked like a process that took many years.

When I went back inside, Katie was ready to go. Katie’s friend and traveling companion, Sarah, came over. Sarah had been traveling around Ireland with family members who visited her too during that week. While we drove back to Galway, Sarah told us about her family adventures which included driving incidents similar to ours, day trips and stories of good food at local restaurants. Their excitement about going to visit friends who were studying abroad in London was contagious.

Mike and I dropped them off as close as we could to the bus station. We pointed the way and quickly told them to have a good time. Our farewell had to be brief because we were sitting at a stop sign. They grabbed their luggage out of the trunk. When they slammed it shut we were jolted into a quiet mode. I turned back to watch them walk along the street. Each bouncy step showed the world how excited they were to be going to a new place to explore.

Mike and I were ready to explore a new place too. We went back to our hotel, ate a quick bit of breakfast, packed up our things and returned the car. No one noticed that the tires might have got smudged, and the lady said we did a good job of filling up the tank. We did not admit that we did not even fill up the tank. We just did not drive the car that much! A friendly chap from the rental company gave us a ride to the bus station.

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I let out a sigh of relief, and we relaxed on the coach happy to let someone else do the driving. Soon we were out of the town passing by mazes of stone walls where cattle, sheep and lamas lived.  A few hours later we got dropped off by the Liffey River in Dublin. Our luggage bumped behind us as we pulled it along the streets keeping pace with others who were rushing about. College kids were mixed in with business people. Once in a while we saw little kids being pushed in strollers bumping along the way too.

When we entered O’Callaghan’s Mont Clair Hotel, the beautiful woodwork was a pretty sight to see. We didn’t stay in our cozy room very long. We had a great map and were able to find our way around easily. No car was needed because everything we wanted to see was within walking distance. The Temple Bar area was busy. We had a lunch of Guinness beef stew at O’Shea’s while watching firefighters stand in the street. The waitress told us that before we arrived, there was a little fire at the massage parlor across the street. The firefighters stayed a long while, I guess to make sure that the fire was really out. They watched the passersby just like we did.

After lunch, we walked along cobblestone roads and found a busy little bait shop amongst all the bars. We heard the song, Galway Girl, entered the Temple Bar and had a pint while listening to the singer. Most of the seats were full even though it was earlier in the afternoon.

We took another stroll and found a restaurant called The Elephant’s Castle. Many women were there enjoying glasses of wine. Only a few men could be spotted amongst the crowd. We ordered chicken wings and were surprised to see that they were so tiny. The large plate was plenty for us to enjoy.

We went back to the comfy hotel and watched some fascinating TV shows about gypsy weddings and authentic Irish cooking. We admired the reporters on the news broadcasts who weren’t afraid to ask people difficult questions during interviews.

I wondered if we would be lucky to have another sunny day on our last day in Ireland. All the beautiful and pretty warm days were not what we expected while traveling there. Whatever the next day brought, we would be happy to explore a new place.