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A Little Bit O' Heaven - Part 1
by Jane Irwin

If it's charm, beauty, and humor you want, go to Ireland. Sure, let me tell you just a little bit about my trip to the land of the hills of patchwork green and people so friendly you want to take them home with you.

For my husband, Bob, who came "to do the driving," and for me, it was a three week trip. Three of our grown children came to spend the first week with us, but our plane landed at 8:00 A. M.; theirs didn't come in until 11:00. Well, no problem. We decided to just drive around, get used to the area, and maybe drive out to the dairy farm where we had rented a cottage. Of course we had never driven a right-hand-drive car.....on the left side of the road.....with a five-speed standard transmission.....shifting gear on the left! (Russ Haggerty's "Driving in Ireland" is a brilliant example of this lovely experience.)

Now, I had done my homework before going to Ireland. I had learned how to pronounce Dun Laoghaire (Dun Leary) and knew that a lough (lock) is a lake. I had even heard about and read about the roundabouts, but that still didn't prepare us to face the traffic whizzing around them and not being able to tell exactly which way the signs were pointing. Needless to say, we got lost every time we went out that first week. Well, it was almost time for our children's plane to land, so we made our way back to the airport.

It should have taken us about an hour to get from Shannon airport to the village in County Clare where the McGraths were going to collect us to take us to the farm and our house. We were almost out of the town of Corofin when the clutch went out and the car would not move forward or backward. While we were all standing outside the car trying to decide which doorbell we should ring, the dearest older lady came out and said, "Hello, dears, are ye having trouble? Come in and use the telephone. Won't ye have a cuppa tea? Or some biscuits? Are ye sure ye won't have some tea? Well, ye can use me bathroom." We fell in love with the Irish people right then and there. She also reminded me of my mother.

After two hours at Bridie's house talking to the car rental company and then waiting for a taxi to take us back to Shannon to get another car, the taxi driver informed us that four of us besides himself was the limit allowed in his car. Bob and I went back to Shannon and our three offspring, who hadn't eaten all day, walked to a nearby pub. (Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.) They all concurred that our car trouble was a good thing because the pub they found was Bofey Quinn's.

The proprietor talked and joked with them and gave them suggestions for good food and entertainment. I noticed later that Bofey Quinn's Pub is mentioned in Frommer's Ireland as being a good place to eat and have a pint. It is! Bob and I finally got back to Corofin with the replacement car, picked up the kids at Bofey's and headed for Kilfenora. It was 6:00 when I called the McGraths to collect us. I'm sure that by this time they thought we weren't coming. Their hospitality made up for all the inconveniences of the day. They not only gave us fresh milk, scones, and two loaves of cake, but Brian stopped in every evening to give us suggestions and directions to some of the interesting sites in the area.

While we were at the farm, we took day trips to the usual places such as Bunratty Castle, where we climbed narrow winding stairs to the top of the castle where, we were told, the women had to stay all the time because of the danger of fighting on the ground level.

We stopped at the popular tourist pub, Durty Nellie's, and saw the spectacular Cliffs of Moher. At the cliffs, there was a rock that jutted out over the ocean and some people had climbed down a hill to sit on the rock....a very dangerous act indeed. In fact, a number of people have fallen off and been killed.

A very interesting experience that we had was at the farm itself....the birth of a calf. The gestation period is the same as it is for humans....nine months, but the birth itself took less than three minutes. Wouldn't that be nice?!! I'm not sure why, but Brian had to help the birth along by attaching a rope to the calf's hooves and pulling him out into the world. The baby was only ten or fifteen minutes old when it tried to stand and within a short time it could walk a little on wobbly legs. The dairy farmer takes the calf from its mother when it is still very young in order to collect the milk for sale. We saw one such mother cow looking very forlorn near our cottage one day and Brian told us she was looking for her calf. It was a touching scene, so I took her picture.

Thursday night is "set dancing" night at Vaughn's Pub in Kilfenora. It is similar to square dancing, but they do a little clogging step called beginnish. Being a square dancer myself, I wanted to get up and try it. My husband's foot was hurting (good excuse) so I didn't get to dance but it was fun to watch. Even our kids who think square dancing is "square" enjoyed the set dancing. There was live music, all fiddles, and contrary to square dancing, there was no caller. The dancers knew which figures to do by the tunes being played. It was very interesting. A few days later, we reluctantly said good-bye to our three young adults.

Please click here for Part 2.

Travelling to Ireland? Please click to return to our Travel Home Page.

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

The Galway Hooker

This unique vessel, with its distinctive curved lines and bright red sails, originated in the village of Claddagh. During the 19th century, hookers supported a significant fishing industry and also carried goods, livestock and fuel. Seán Rainey is remembered for building the last of the original boats, the Truelight, for Martin Oliver who was to become the last king of the Claddagh; as king, he was entitled to white sails on his boat. Since the mid seventies, many of the old sailing craft which were on the verge of extinction have been lovingly restored and new ones have been built. During the summer months they can be seen at festivals such a Cruinniú na mBád - the Gathering of the Boats - in Kinvara.

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