Tag Archive | Trip to Ireland

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.

Enough to Go Around

When we were in Ireland, we enjoyed the little breakfasts that we had at Flannery’s. We always got seated in the little area where the sun rays shone through the sheer curtains. That area was a little bit more private than the crowded, large dining room. Just moments after we were seated, a waiter brought hot coffee, fresh cream and hot toast. We had the option of getting hot food from the menu or buffet, but we always chose the cereal, rolls or yogurt. The only sort of fruit that was available was canned prunes and canned grapefruit. Luckily fruit juices were offered too!

After breakfast, we called a cab from the hotel desk lobby. Our cab arrived shortly after we called. When our cab driver discovered that we were from America, it seemed as if he felt like he was doing us a great favor by telling us about some new up and coming politician from Nevada who could hopefully whip our country back into shape. In his jolly way, he couldn’t believe that we never heard of the fellow. He also mentioned that it was funny that visitors could get lost in the small town of Galway. We didn’t mention to him that we had gotten lost a few times!  Instead we just chuckled. When we told him we enjoyed seeing the Cliffs of Moher the day before, he really didn’t think it was that big of a deal, really…  We guessed that when you live right next to such a grand thing, that maybe you take it for granted?

Galway City Cathedral

After we got dropped off at the Galway City Cathedral and figured out which door to enter, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful stone walls. I admired the craftsmanship of the building that was dedicated in August of 1965. We sat down in one of the pews about 15 rows back from the altar and joined about 50 other people, which was a good showing for a Wednesday. A priest from Scotland said mass, and it was a little difficult for me to understand his thick accent.  The mass was so short, that by the time I began to understand the priest, it was over!

When it was time to receive communion, there was not an orderly formation to get in line like we are used to. People just went on up to the communion rail whenever they pleased, which was all at once. It all worked out fine, because there was enough to go around to all who were there.  After mass, while we were getting a better look around, a group of people were saying the rosary. Their lilting voices echoed off the stone walls.

Next, we explored the area along the River Corrib:

If we found a place we liked, we just stuck with it.  We went to The Cellar (again) for lunch and visited more shops where we bought trinkets and a chocolate candy bar.  We took our candy to Galway Bay and hung out there for a little while and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.  Unfortunately, the day cooled off to give us a chill.  We ventured back to Flannery’s.

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After dinner at Frank’s Bar, we shared a delicious mixed nut, chocolate cheesecake.  We were happy that there was enough to go around.  We planned the next day when we would have to get back in the car and head to the cottages at Spiddal. Katie needed to pack for her trip to London, and Dad and I were going to go to Dublin to explore the city on our own.  I was sad that our visit with Katie was going to be over so soon.

Our time together was going by too fast and there wasn’t enough to go around.

All Turned Around

After learning how to do something one way and having that something get all turned around can lead one to a weird feeling of confusion. That’s how it was when we were driving in Galway. Roundabouts snuck up when we least expected them, and we were lucky that we always remembered to go left. If one way streets are clearly marked, we couldn’t figure out how. The old familiar way of telling the direction of one ways didn’t work because the cars parked facing different directions.  Plus, we might have felt better about our whereabouts if we had a map. The car rental place ran out after the busy summer season! The hotel gave us one that looked like a place mat from Perkins waiting to get colored.

After we parked by the bay, we talked about how driving was a bummer. We agreed that all the times that we were not in the car were the best times.  So we left the car in its parking space, and did a lot of walking!

A beautiful day greeted us:

Katie showed us the way around.

We visited a beautiful church, Our Lady of Galway.

We walked to Eyre Square, ate lunch at The Cellar and wandered about the shops.

After we found the car and got back to the hotel, Katie recommending going to King’s Head for dinner.  A nice cab driver took us there.  We ordered lamb stew and fish and chips which were both delicious.  We explored Eyre Square some more and found a crowded pub with some gentlemen singing while being accompanied by an accordion player.  Things were quite lively at that pub for a Monday night!

Having our daughter show us around a place that was unfamiliar was a different and new experience.  Thankfully it was a more comforting way of getting all turned around!

Home Away From Home

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Ireland was so welcoming, that it felt like our home away from home. When we checked into Flannary’s and saw that the room that the staff thought was ready for us wasn’t quite ready, we went back to tell the receptionist. We ended up getting a larger room with an extra bed. Now we had one double bed and two twin beds. Dad said, “One for each of us:  Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear!”

Since Papa Bear and I had traveled for hours and were awake most of that time, Papa Bear stayed in the room while Baby Bear and I went to the hotel restaurant. The restaurant was crowded for that time of day. Everyone seemed bubbly as their conversations seemed to bounce off the walls. As we looked at the menu, even though we longed to try an Irish coffee just because of its name, we decided to get a Bailey’s coffee instead.  We knew it would taste better to us.

The waiter looked our way every once in a while in between waiting on tables. When he checked in with us, I admired his lilting voice. Most times I could understand the Irishmen, but when the men talked very fast, it was difficult for me to understand. I was glad to have Katie there to translate for me, even though they were speaking English!

Because Katie and I hadn’t had a good sit down chat for quite a while, we talked for a couple of hours! Lately our only means of communicating had been through Skype or sending in-box messages every once in a while. Not knowing what was new in her life was quite a change for me since I was used to hearing from Baby Bear almost every day.

When Papa Bear joined us, we decided to stay at the hotel restaurant for dinner since the food appeared to be quite good. When Sean delivered our entrees, it was like the comforts of home to sit down and eat a warm meal of roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies. Papa Bear liked his fish and chips, and Baby Bear enjoyed a plate of pasta.

As we munched away, a gentleman who was sitting at the bar, suddenly busted out in song. We had no idea what he was singing, but the Gaelic words and melody were a hit amongst the crowd.  His act of bursting out in song didn’t seem like it was anything out of the ordinary to the staff or customers.  His serenade only lasted a short while, and then he was gone.

As we finished up our meal, it felt like a blessing to have the car safely parked in the lot having survived the travels of our first day.  We were glad to get ready to settle in and get a good night’s sleep on a bed!

Mama Bear’s bed was “just right!”

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A Sight for Sore Eyes

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I stumbled out of the car and briskly walked towards the door. I was so relieved we arrived. A series of moments had taken place to get me to that door, and I think maybe the seed was planted by the TV show, The Gilmore Girls. Rory, the main character, always talked about how she wanted to backpack through Europe. As my daughter Katie and I watched the show, Katie often commented on how she would like to go to Europe someday.

I would say, “Oh, but that’s so far away. You really wouldn’t want to go that far away from home.” Katie was often reminded about traveling to far away places when her classmates from grade school and high school travelled away on mission trips. “I didn’t even want to bring it up because I knew you and Dad would say no,” she told us. She was right about that.  After Katie went off to college, she hinted about travel abroad programs to Rome and Greece.

“Oh, but that’s so far away. You really wouldn’t want to go that far away from home for that long,” I repeated over again and hoped that something would distract her and make her want to stay. Or I said, “How about you do a short trip, like your sister.” Laura traveled abroad for three long weeks when she was in college. But, Mom’s idea of keeping Katie close to home was not an option for the determined young lady. Katie informed us that she went to a travel abroad meeting at school. “I am going to go to Ireland,” she announced. “The director is awesome, and I think I would learn a lot.” A plan to go to Ireland was smart because of the Irish roots Katie inherited from her father.

It was funny how the orientation meeting for parents and students was on St. Patrick’s Day. I wore my shamrock scarf and my husband dressed in bright Irish green colors. Katie told us that we looked like we were going to a party. As we learned more about the trip, the better we felt.

Next thing we knew, Katie was packing her one suitcase and one carry on that would have to last her for a semester in Ireland. It was hard for me to imagine how such a fashionable young lady was going to manage with one suitcase. As she scattered all of her favorite clothes on the bedroom floor and resolved to eliminate the unnecessary items, I still marveled how her dream of traveling abroad wasn’t even going to be stifled by having to abandon about 90 percent of her wardrobe!

When Katie stood in line with her future travel companions to check on her suitcase at the airport, I realized that the hardest part of being a parent is the letting go. But letting go doesn’t mean that we couldn’t go visit! I never thought that I would be one who would travel abroad, but my husband and I set about making plans.

Soon we were on an airplane to Philadelphia and then on a flight to Dublin. We flew over the Atlantic Ocean at night and having had a very busy day, I longed to lie down, but there was nowhere to go. I thought about how beds were underrated. I snoozed a bit until I was woken up by bits of turbulence or fellow passengers who were coughing, snoring or emitting unusual odors.

Thankfully, the sky started to light up and we saw how different the clouds looked beneath us. They seemed more compact and fluffy! As we went through the cloud bank, and the patchwork quilt of greens and browns greeted us, we felt lucky to see a land that was unfamiliar.

We ate a quick breakfast of eggs, sausage and potatoes and wondered why the breakfast menu offered pudding. We didn’t order pudding, but later Katie told us that Irish pudding is pig’s blood mixed with some other stuff like grains and looks like sausage!

We found the Go Bus, got on board and traveled through the sleepy town of Dublin along the Liffey River. After we went through a long tunnel, we were able to enjoy the countryside. I said, “This is the longest I have ever traveled to see someone!”  We snoozed off and on, and in between we spotted cattle or sheep happily grazing amongst the many colors of green that are divided by stone walls.

When we arrived at the bus station in Galway three hours later, we were surprised that we had to pay 20 cents to go through the turnstile to get to the bathroom. It’s the first time I had to pay for such a visit. The words, “I like to live in America, everything free in America,” a song from West Side Story kept running through my head.

My husband called the rental car company and a very nice young lady came to get us to deliver us to our rental car. We carefully paid attention to how she drove on the right side of the car, but on the left side of the road. It was scary how the traffic came at us from what we thought was the wrong direction. The pedals on the floor are the same as in the US, but everything else was backwards. We could not find signs identifying the names of the streets. The driver pointed out that sometimes they are on the sides of buildings or stuck on stone structures!

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By the time we were in our rental car and ready to go, I prayed that we would make it safely to our destination. My husband drove, and I think I was glad it was not me.  It took a while, but we found our hotel which was quite crowded with people trying to check in. When we got to our room, we grabbed a few items from our suitcase to deliver to our daughter, went to reception to ask for directions and headed out.

I felt cramped as we drove along because the streets are quite narrow and don’t have shoulders. It always felt like we were going to hit the curb, and I hated that I felt like a driving instructor as I had to remind myself and my husband to stay on the left side of the road. The travel book that I read before we left said that driving in Ireland is stressful; I wished that the author would have elaborated that point a little more because I missed seeing how beautiful the sky and mountains were and the pretty bay that we passed by because I was worried about everything! When we saw the sign we were looking for, we scooted over into the driveway, got honked at, passed by a parking lot, and found the cottage with a big sigh of relief.

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We rehearsed the procedures of putting the car in park. I got out and knocked on the door. We arrived at the time we predicted. When Katie greeted us, I thought to myself, “You are really a sight for sore eyes.” We hugged and I knew that all that it took to get to that door was going to be worth it. Not only to visit with our daughter but to be in such a beautiful place.

The journey to that door helped us discover that our children’s dreams can be and often are contagious!

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine