Ireland: In a Flash
After nine months of independent travel, I flew to Ireland for a few days. But not before my friend Sarrah who I stayed with in Colindale, England, packed a tuna fish sandwich with sweet corn for my trip to the airport. Some might think “tuna and sweet corn”? Please be sure to try it before questioning this combination!
I wanted a “holiday from my holiday”. I did not want to worry about where I would rest my head or how I would reach my next destination. I thought it best to take a tour – Paddywagon Tours. Ok, maybe I just wanted to make sure I had a designated driver – after all I was in Ireland! Leaving from Dublin in a twenty-passenger bus, painted green with leprechauns on the sides, I was ready for my ‘holiday’. The bus driver, Conner, had a fowl mouth and cursed every other word as he spoke.
Riding a tour bus is like seeing the landscape in a slideshow flashing quickly past me, as I hoped to imprint the memories into my brain. I recall a flash of green grass, a flash of rock, a flash of color, which disappeared as I blinked. The first flash was Phoenix Park. The largest enclosed park in all of Europe, including wild deer, the Dublin Zoo, sports fields, and the residence of the President of Ireland and the US Ambassador to Ireland. Yet, with only twenty minutes, we were dropped off at the Papal Cross and the helicopter landing strip that was built to welcome Pope John Paul II in 1979.
I suppose the trouble of organized tours is the sacrifice of time. The bus bounced passed the bog lands – swamp-like lands that are common in Ireland – we arrived at Clonmacnoise, a monastery that sits on the banks of the River Shannon. The tombstones had Gaelic Crosses – a mix of Pagan and Christian ideas. But after an hour we returned to our green leprechaun painted bus for more random stops, which included the bog lands “angel” sculptor and Larry’s Old Pine Village – a miniature town built in Larry’s yard.
Flash – we arrived in Galway without anytime to explore the city before we had to push off again. Another stop to stretch our legs at the Holy Wishing Well. One wish, as I closed my eyes, my back to the well, the stone must hit the water without bouncing off the well wall. I tossed the stone over my right shoulder as I made my wish and hold my breath. I made it! I felt a sense of relief, the others cheered, and my wish came true. I made it!
Flash – the Cliffs of Moher – for those of you who have seen “The Princess Bride” – I was standing before the ‘cliffs of insanity’. The waves crashed violently against the edge of Ireland as the wind whipped around me. As we jumped the rail to get a closer look, some of us peered over the edge, a sheer drop – 230 meters. I stood back quickly as I took a deep breathe to ensure my life was still intact. The wind had not tossed me over the drop, but it continued to push and I returned to safety as I climbed back over the railing. The rain began to drizzle as we returned to the bus. We embarked on another slideshow presentation as we traveled towards Killarney.
Flash – the river Shannon, the ferry ride, grey skies, and cows, as water falls from the sky. I stood at the edge of the ferryboat. My face glistened with the drops of rain – green pastures flanked the river. Something was missing the emptiness of dwellings, a flicker of solitude embraced the river. At that moment, I wondered why people flock to a city – crowds, concrete, buildings, the smell of garbage – I returned to my moment of solitude and peace. The backdrop included greens, blues, and grays, which bled like a Monet painting.
In Killarney, a horse and carriage awaited for a splendid early evening journey through Killarney National Park. This national park stretches across 25,000 acres and has a mere 700 remaining wild Red Deer. The park is also home to Ross Castle, which sits on the banks of the Lough Leane waters. This 15th century Tower house was used as army barracks in the 17th century and only recently open to the public.
Flash – Mustang Sally’s for a dinner celebration. A couple from Australia celebrated their anniversary. “Cheers!” to the happy couple. The Kube, a posh bar with mood lighting, served pricey cocktails to the group before we swaggered down to The Grand, a local watering hole for drinks and dancing. The group mingled with the locals and other tourists. The watering hole became crowded, the dance floor expanded, loud music shook the walls, and the group was lost in the masses.
The next morning, I heard the gossip. The Australian couple lost each other in the crowd. The man was last seen leaving the club with another female while the Australian woman staggered back to the hostel with girls from the group. The next morning, the hostel worker said he opened the door for the Australian man around 6 a.m. I never saw the couple again; they took a different bus in another direction. I wondered how he was going to dig himself out of that mess?
I was blessed with a new bus driver and tour guide. The tour guide was a red headed Irish lad who also spoke fluent Spanish. The two of them created an energetic ride through the Irish countryside, which included the Ring of Kerry. So many stops, but Dingle was my favorite location in all of Ireland. Dingle is a simple town where you can still hear the Gaelic language when the locals walked through town.
Dick Macs, an old pub with a shoe repair counter on one side of the long narrow parlor, displayed old leather shoes and antique hand tools on the shelves. This pub had character oozing from its walls with the stench of beer and the regulars who enjoyed retelling their stories to anyone who would listen. The locals retreated to the back room; Erin, Ray, Ian and myself were allowed to follow.
Four Dingle residents joined together to create Irish jigs weekly to honor one of their band members who had been diagnosed with cancer. Four years had passed since his deadly diagnosis and he still continued to play Irish tunes. I ordered a Guinness and savored the creamy smooth taste that reminded me of an ice cream shake. I chose to relax with the Irish music, and ordered more Guinness. Dingle was the “holiday from my holiday”.