Back to my Roots

After Galway we hopped onto a bus and headed toward Castlebar, which was the home of one of my 3x great grandmothers (A fun fact is that we have 16 sets of great-great-great grandparents). I must say, for anyone considering travel to Ireland, we were quite satisfied with Ireland’s buses. They were clean, on time, and all that we used were equipped with Wi-Fi.

During our stay in Castlebar, we were lucky to have a friend from our trip to London five years ago drive us around, and our hotel was located close enough to the town that my two-year-old hip was able to walk to dinner and the library with little effort.

While at the library, I was introduced to a woman who allowed me to view the contents of a large box containing inventor Louis Brennan’s stuff: photographs, letters, a ruler (I learned at that moment that Ireland did not go metric until 1965), his will, and a small notebook with Louis’ notes on his inventions. Dad was able to show the librarian and me how those drawings became the prototype of his gyroscope. I had a grand old time photographing the contents of that box to later add to my family tree.

We walked past Louis’ childhood home, which leaves no doubt that Castlebar’s famous inventor had once resided there.

After a lovely Chinese dinner (You probably know we are not traditionalists when dining out), we headed to the cemetery, where we noted that the Brennan grave site truly was the biggest monument in the Old Castlebar Cemetery. Sadly, so many of those buried there were children.

Louis’ wife’s family’s final resting place was sadly overgrown with tall grass and weeds. Dad was happy for the fence, because he feared I would be attacked by a critter or two if I ventured inside. There were stairs leading down to the vault at the side of our grave. Our guide told us that children used to go down there and play. (Creepy!)

The following day after a lovely breakfast at McDonald’s (I am not kidding. It was quite impressive, but more on that another time), we met our friends at the Peace Park and then were taken on a lovely tour of the Mayo Heritage Centre before heading into town for the presentation of the Bible.

More on Castlebar another time.

Off to Ireland: All Aboard to Galway

Once we finally decided to plan a trip to Ireland, I researched the best way to travel there for us. The options were to:

  • Choose one of the many tour companies, which will plan your itinerary, arrange your transportation and hotels, and provide many of your meals. My cousin Ellen choose this option and was quite happy with her trip.
  • Rent a house and car and do it all yourself, which my sister Ellen did twice and was clearly satisfied since she returned a second time. Since Dad had gone to the Emerald Isle two times on business and destroyed two tires while driving on the left on Ireland’s extremely narrow roads, he quickly nixed that idea.
  • Reserve hotels in a few locations and book several bus tours and individual tours.

We chose the third option and were extremely happy with the companies we chose, the flexibility to eat our breakfasts and dinners on our own, and loved sitting back and letting someone else do the driving

As soon as we arrived in Dublin we caught a cab to the train station, obtained our pre-purchased  tickets to Galway at a kiosk, and plopped ourselves into the very comfy seats, across from two other seats separated by a small table. I sat across from TB Tammy, who coughed and wheezed her way across Ireland while hogging all my feet room. I hoped to stay healthy.

Across the aisle sat the professor and his lovely bespectacled wife Ginger, who intently worked on their crossword puzzles in The Star “newspaper” while enjoying their morning Heineken and Bulmer beer. Dad and I sipped our coffees and I snacked on a muffin. I could tell I would love Ireland.

Galway is a great little harbor city on the west coast, where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Galway is filled with an abundance of restaurants and shops, where you can always find someone singing or dancing in the streets of the Latin Quarter. During our three-night stay, we sampled great Irish pub food such as fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, as well as delicious Indian and Thai cuisine.

 

Despite our exhaustion from our 7 1/2 hour flight across the pond, we forced ourselves to stay awake, knowing that we had a full day tour planned the next day. When we returned to our hotel, we relaxed in front of our faux fireplace with great anticipation of what was to come next.

 

 

Lovely, Lovely Ireland

I recently went on a trip to Ireland, which is why I have been silent for the past few weeks. This vacation knocked another item off my bucket list, so I have a lot to say about my adventures to the Emerald Isle—more than can be said in just one post.

My first observation is that referring to Ireland as the “Emerald Isle” is truly apropos, because almost everywhere I went, with the exception of “The Burren” (more another time), the landscape was covered with lush green grass. I guess there is something to be said for rain, because my lawn here in South Carolina is an embarrassment compared to what I viewed there.

As I mentioned in a previous post (The Best Places to Pee), I am not a fan of American bathrooms, which are severely lacking in privacy, because people waiting for a stall can easily peak while you leak because our doors are just not tight enough. Observe a typical Irish stall:

I smiled while waiting for a stall to become available when I visited the famous Cliffs of Moher. It appeared to be a typical bathroom—lots of stalls and sinks—and a bit of waiting, but when the door opened up, out popped a man who headed to the sinks to wash his hands. It was a coed bathroom, and guess what, the sky did not fall and no one gave him a glance. I wondered how Vice President Pence and his wife, “Mother,” would react if confronted with a similar scenario.

Most of the toilets had two buttons to flush—regular and super charged. Sometimes you just don’t need the extra boost, so why waste water?

Moving on… I never saw so many sheep in my life. Cows came in a close second. The hills were alive with visions of mostly white sheep grazing peacefully in the fields and occasionally causing our tour bus to come to a halt while they crossed the street.

Irish kids really like blue hair, and they are into the puzzling-to-me-fashion of the ripped jeans look. I just don’t get it!

While all the restaurants were thankfully smoke-free, the same cannot be said for the streets. It appeared to me that there is just a lot more cigarette smoking going on in Ireland. That was disturbing and unpleasant.

Most of the people we met were extremely friendly and were particularly interested in expressing their distaste and puzzlement with our president. When we visited the town of Castlebar, they expressed hope that Joe Biden would become our next president, particularly because he had visited there in 2016 since he has roots in the area. It was personal for the townspeople. They even had a flower with his name.

On the return train from Belfast, two young women who were seated opposite us explained their shared shock with the rest of the world on hearing the election results. This led to an explanation of the disparity between the Electoral College results and the popular vote, which puzzled them even more. They just shook their heads in confused amazement.

During a cab ride in Dublin, when our driver learned we were from the South, he just assumed we were Trump supporters. When he learned otherwise, he asked us how the voters in the Bible Belt could support such an immoral, uncaring, heartless person. We agreed that we were perplexed as well.

A surprise to me was learning that some Irish people speak only Irish. I wrongly assumed everyone spoke English, and some spoke Irish as well. All the signs are in both English and Irish. It is an interesting language to hear and reminded us of the Hebrew language in which many sounds come from the throat, sounding to me like someone trying to clear their throats of phlegm.

And for those whose drink of choice is iced tea, I must say that while it was never a problem getting hot tea, I never saw what we in the south call unsweet or sweet tea. But Guinness is everywhere!