Tuesday morning and time to make plans for the day. As this is my third visit to Ireland and Mike’s fourth, we have learned a few short cuts for making the most of our precious days here. In the interest of friendship, I will share some of this local knowledge with you. Let’s begin.
1. Never, never, never waste any time on your hair. No matter how it starts the day, the second you step out of your hotel, your hair goes to hell in a hand basket. No one cares. Very few Irishmen wear a hat. So, you will be at the mercy of the weather and the weather is not terribly merciful. More than likely it is softly raining, or it is just about to begin, or with any luck at all, you are out in the ten minutes between the previously mentioned “soft rains.”
2. Forget about fashionable boots. Yes, in London and all other major European cities, you wouldn’t go more than twelve hours without pairing your boots with every ensemble you might care to walk out in. Try those same boots in Ireland and you are likely to have twisted some lower extremity, making walking painful. City, country, suburb, you will not go a block without having to navigate over bricks and cobblestones. These are hard enough to travel while wearing a sturdy, lace up shoe with a solid sole, making any other shoe choice unwise. Truth be told, don’t worry about much fashion at all. Ireland is a country filled with sensible citizens, who understand that an oversized sweater and gore-tex anything will see you through the day, from start to finish.
3. Pay absolutely no mind to what the day looks like when you wake up. This works both ways. If it is misting at 8:00 AM, the clouds will break by noon. But, do not be fooled by a brilliant, cloudless morning. The sort of morning that arrives in twenty-seven shades of green, birds singing and the air clear and golden, can break your heart by noon. As Mary tells me, Ireland is a country of many weathers. And, reread point number one to see what this means for your hair.
4. But, most importantly of all, pay absolutely no mind to points 1, 2 and 3. Just get your self outside and inhale deeply. Always have a sweater and raincoat in your backpack, run your fingers through your hair, and prepare to tuck in somewhere if necessary. You’ll have no trouble finding a pub with a coal or turf fire burning and a steaming bowl of fish chowder to ward off a chill. You might also manage to find a pint or two.
|Yes. He's Irish!|
Paying careful attention to points 1 through 4 above, Mike and I decided to head out to Muckross House for a day of touring. Rather than a bus tour, we simply grabbed a taxi and had the driver deliver us to the estate. Our driver, Tim, was a lovely senior citizen, filled with lots of suggestions for enjoying the day. I think that’s what he was saying. Every sentence was crammed full of “Yup, yes, yes, yes, indeed, indeed a grand spot, yes, yes, yes, for sure.” And, just like in the US where those from Maine have a hard time understanding a Louisiana drawl, Ireland is filled with regional accents. If you have no problems in Dublin, your ear will be sorely straining to catch even half of what is said in other quadrants of the country. So, Tim was interesting. He deposited us at Muckross House and promised to return at 4:00 to collect us.
We did all the tourist things at Muckross, starting with a trip up to Torc Falls in a jaunting car. Spectacular! The jaunting car is one horsepower and the horse was a black and white Irish Cob named Patches. We were the first passengers of the day for Patches and the driver, and I’m not totally sure the driver had recovered from the previous nights ration of Guinness. Mike paid the thirty Euros for the trip and was tempted to give the driver an extra five for a bath. Patches was a bit “fresh” in the morning air, making us grateful for the blanket the driver tossed over our knees as we smartly trotted out way to the falls and back.
Muckross house is a magnificent country home. The estate was built in the 1860s and, along with its 24,000 acres was given to Ireland by the third owner, creating the Killarney National Park. The house’s history and furnishings are closely tied to a visit by Queen Victoria just three months before the death of her husband, Albert. The original owners spent six years preparing for the royal visit and many of the specially commissioned furnishings, draperies, and wall coverings are still in place. The tour of the house is very interesting because you are able to visit every nook and cranny, giving you a good peek into life in the Victorian era. The nursery, the kitchens, the bathrooms, the billiard room, and all the other living spaces are open for accompanied tours.
Nothing like a day in the park to work up an appetite for a wonderful dinner at the Stonechat nestled into an alleyway off the main street in Killarney. The air and the meal and the wine insured another great nights sleep.
|Our Rental Cottage|
Wednesday morning is all about packing and waiting at the curb for Mary! She drove down from Labasheeda to pick us up in Killarney. After only one snafu with a flat tire, she arrived and we headed out to Dingle. The drive was gorgeous but we were all feeling a bit weak with hunger by 1:30. The need for lunch found us at Inch Beach and the most delightful café sitting up above the beach and dunes. The surf was a bit tame, so we only saw a few dog walkers enjoying the day as we looked out from our perch above. Fish and chips and a pot of tea fortified us for the remaining drive to Dingle. I claimed the back seat for myself, as driving along cliffs and up winding roads through the countryside is not my favorite thing to do. I pump an imaginary brake pedal and grab onto any handhold I can find, sucking in my breath at every hairpin turn. Mike and Mary happily chatted away, oblivious to me. Fortunately, to my mind, we arrived in Dingle while still in the upright position. After stopping at a local grocery store for a few necessities, we found our holiday house and settled in for the next ten days. Perfect! Woot? No internet? How refreshing! Let's go find our dinner!