Saturday, September 15, 2007

What I Did On My Vacation: Ireland

How to sum up two weeks in one blog post? Would have been better to keep up to date daily as I've done with holidays in the past, but we brought no computer and only accessed one briefly at a home in which we stayed. I didn't write a word either. Mostly, unless we were asleep, things were happening. In that way, though it was only two weeks, it felt like a year, and though it was Republic of Ireland, it felt like we had traveled galaxies.

First the backstory. This was my second trip to Ireland. When I was 18 and graduated high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland (and other places in Europe) with my high school friend. We spent a good part of the summer there, including traveling around rural Ireland with her uncle the priest. All of her relatives were amused that I was the one, with my red hair, who looked Irish, although, in fact, I'm Jewish by heritage. Well, her brother, a budding photographer, took photos of us at the airport. Six years later, John and I celebrated our wedding. This trip was John's first time anywhere in Europe. He turned 60 on September 3, our Labor Day, and being Somewhere Else would help him to deal with it. Well, it was apparent that if we were going to wait until we could afford a European vacation, we were never going to go. So off we went anyway.

These pictures I'm posting here are John's -- well, except for this one I took of John on the john, on a toilet hole we found on the fourth floor of Carrigafoyle Castle. These were just the snaps. We brought with us a suitcase apiece and one probably bomb-proof case of John's studio camera with digital back (16 megapixels). So in addition to these, he did some serious picture taking. Oh, he wanted castles and we found castles. When he is occupied in this way, there's no hurrying him up. Here's a picture of me being patient/bored while waiting for him to capture every angle and shadow in the Glendalough monastery.

We arrived in Dublin and stayed in a B&B for the first two days and then John's cousin Ursula picked us up and brought us to her sister Geralyn's. Ursula lived in the same apartment house as John in Brooklyn when they were small and has been to the States many times and we know her well. She's a successful playwright and fiction writer and we have always gotten along. As we got into Ursula's car, she looked out and said there's Roddy Doyle walking down the street. He was carrying a newspaper and his groceries.

The really, really sad thing is Ursula and Geralyn's brother Michael was dying. He was fading, we knew, as we left, and John got to see him and squeeze his hand on one of his last days. When Michael was 8 and John was 16, Michael idolized him, so it was so important. Yes, he did die, and we cut short our travel in the West to come back for the service in Glasnevin cemetery. Michael was a staunch atheist and insisted on being cremated, so the service was different to all. Hundreds packed into the chapel -- SRO. It was amazing, like a scene out of a movie, only we were in it. And most of the folk were related to John. He met uncles and cousins and cousin's progeny. Did I say that his mother was one of eleven?

Before we returned to Dublin for Michael's memorial, we saw Dublin for five days and then left for points south and west. Dublin is a vibrant and bustling place, where the old and the new are side by side. Gone are the days of poverty and hardship! Yeah, it was our luck to visit Dublin when the Euro was at its highest. Here's a flower stand on Grafton Street, the street where, it's said, Dubliners go for retail therapy.

When we left Dublin, we rented a car. I should say John did the driving, and it was terrifying. Not only do they do everything entirely in reverse from the way we do, but the roads are often incredibly narrow. Here's a picture of what was supposedly a 2-way road in Wicklow County. When someone comes the other way, you back up. These roads were actually less terrifying than the ones that were wide enough for opposing traffic that would whiz by you at terrifying speeds -- no shoulders -- we often brushed the high hedges along the side of the road.

In Wicklow, we visited the above-mentioned monastery and took a three-hour walk around a lake. In Kilkenny, we visited the castle and cathedral and climbed the round tower. Also got to hear some trad music. Here are some Kilkenny snaps. We went to Kilarney, a tourist town if there ever was one, and from there, like everyone else, drove the Ring of Kerry.

On the Ring of Kerry we found the picture-perfect castle John was looking for -- Ballycarbery -- overgrown with ivy and crumbling. That was also where I slipped on a cowpie and fell (fortunately, not in a cowpie). We came back in the glowering twilight, careful not to hit meandering sheep.

We went from Tralee to Listowel to Tarbert and took a car ferry next to a trailer filled with terrified longhaired horned sheep and drove to Ennis. There we stayed one night in a guesthouse built in 1650 and then headed back to Dublin, or more specifically, to Howth where stayed with another cousin. This is the Howth, as Robert reminds me, of Molly Bloom's monologue: "...the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head ..."

Our last day in Dublin, a cousin, Tadgh, who seems to know everyone who is anyone in Dublin, took us around, full of stories about teaching Arnold Schwarzenegger to say "I'll be back," in Irish...

That night, we dined with four cousins in Trocadero, a photo-lined restaurant that caters to the theatregoers and actors. They did not hurry us out and gave us free drinks. By the time we got back to Howth and then packed, we had less than four hours to sleep.

We never got to see any theatre -- it seemed enough to be in our own movie, and anyway, the timing wasn't right. (The following week there would be a production of Synge's "Playboy of the Western World," a version Roddy Doyle was involved in that was supposed to be provocative and experimental.) I did get to see a street performer who mimed the James Joyce statue pick up his take for the day and stride home. I got into one argument about poetry and bought a Seamus Heaney collection and a book on Irish birds.


Peter said...

Gorgeous pics!
Welcome back.

Anne said...

It sounds like a terrific trip -- except the funeral, of course, but then it's good that you were able to be there to share in that as well. Thanks for sharing a bit of it all with us!

Jilly said...

wow thanks for sharing that.