25 06 2013

We’ve been home for a few days now and have had some time to reflect on our adventure in Ireland.  Unfortunately, much of our reflection time happens at about 3:30 am; we are having a hard time getting over jet lag.

We have much to be grateful for and many memories to treasure. First, a big thank you to our Camino/Concordia University friends for dreaming up a tour of the high holy crosses. Ireland would not have been so high on our list of places to explore if it wasn’t for their encouragement to go. It was so good to deepen some friendships and make new ones.  We also learned a great deal about early Christianity in Ireland, about their political history and how the two are woven together and affect the lives of the Irish in their day-to-day lives.

Ken stumbled upon the Iron Donkey touring company during an internet search.  I’m sure it was a God-thing. Our tour guide, Wilma, was so helpful and pulled together a wonderful tour for us.  She sent us to places we would not have thought of on our own, made sure we had good places to rest at the end of the day and even kept track of us while we were travelling.

Finally, we have to thank the Irish people.  Wow!  I can only hope travelers to Canada can say we, as a people, are as helpful and friendly as those we came in contact with in Ireland.

A small part of us will remain on the Emerald Isle.

My favourite picture, this may end up as a poster, hanging in our house.

My favourite picture, this may end up as a poster, hanging in our house.


Saints, Scholars and Scoundrels

20 06 2013

I am sitting coffee shop in Dublin, it’s our last full day in Ireland. The rest of our group left this morning, we were up early this morning to say good-bye. We will miss them but I am determined to enjoy the last day of our trip. The coffee shop is necessary, the Internet access in our hotel totally sucks!!

In the last three days, we’ve spent a lot more time with those who are long dead. Our search for holy crosses tends to take us to cemeteries. Always interesting, sometimes inspiring and I confess I’ve seen enough of them. This one is my favourite. imagePartly because the church it is in is being so lovingly renovated by local residents and is obviously very much treasured by them. Partly because it’s in such an out of the way place, we had to ask directions twice. It’s not often that a group of “tourists” can find something our driver had never seen before! We owe a huge thank you to our bus driver, Owen. He was so patient with his Canadians. I’m sure he feared for the health and safety of his bus more than once.

I very much enjoyed the Cliffs of Moher. Even though it is a definite tourist destination they are so large they could dwarf an almost infinite number of people. 214 meters of amazing!image

Our last official stop was at Newgrange (sp?). A popular tourist spot, but they do good job of controlling numbers. Only supervised tours and limited numbers allowed. We actually went inside the tomb. I managed to suppress my claustrophobia and I’m so glad I did. Carbon dating puts this tomb at 5200 BC. The Irish are proud of the fact that this is older than the pyramids.image

As I reflect on this trip, there is one thing I know for sure…NO MORE HOSTELS! (I’d rather sleep in a tent and use a thunder box!)

Through Prayer and Hardship

17 06 2013

Other than the weather, yesterday and today were very different.  Yesterday we circled the Ring of Kerry.  The views were spectacular, but sharing “our” space with the many other busloads of tourists was, for us, a strange and not entirely comfortable experience.image

We did see Skellig Michael, or at least an interpretative display of the Skelligs.  These are two very small islands just off the west coast of Ireland.  In about 400 AD they were inhabited by a group of monks wanting to be closer to God.  They felt they could do this through prayer and hardship.  They certainly got the hardship.  Between the ocean and my fear of heights, I’m not keen to even visit either of these islands.

Last night, before bed, we had a short service in our guest house for whomever wanted to attend.  Sharing communion with our fellow travelers was a special experience.

Today we went back to “off-the-beaten track” sites.

Narrow roads on a bike are one thing, but for a coach, even a small one, they are a real challenge. Owen negotiates them with with skill and style.

Narrow roads on a bike are one thing, but for a coach, even a small one, they are a real challenge. Owen negotiates them with skill and style.

A high holy cross sharing space in a cow pasture, round towers and monasteries abandoned years ago. We also returned to the Burren and revisited some of the landscape we cycled through 2 weeks ago.  I’m glad we had the cycling experience, the landscape was much more dramatic from a bicycle.

Sharing historical sites with the cows.

Sharing historical sites with the cows.

Tonight we are in Kilfenora, at, of all things, a hostel.  When this place showed up in the itinerary, we looked up the hostel in Kilfenora.  Their web page describes the place as having a variety of rooms, dorms, couples, families.  After my Camino experience, I vowed to never stay in a hostel again. My assumption was that we would be getting the more private rooms.  I was wrong.  This has been a Spiritour fail. Particularly since we know, there is a town with reasonably priced accommodation only ten minutes away.

We are booked here for two nights.  If it’s a really bad night, we will be moving to a hotel tomorrow.

Wait Five Minutes

14 06 2013

People in Ireland will tell you if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes because it will change. They lie. The weather today has been particularly frightful. It rained the entire day, sometimes a gentle rain, sometimes a hard rain, usually windy, always cold.

Our plan for the day was to tour the Dingle Peninsula, an area of Ireland with amazing views and some really interesting history. Being good sports, the group set out in high spirits–a bit of rain isn’t going to stop us! We picked up our guide in the village of Dingle and began our tour. our first stop was at some markers where we learned to read ancient Gaelic. We explored a promontory fort, a safe place for a family and their livestock. Our raincoats kept the top half of us dry but did nothing for our legs, by this time we are soaked. Fortunately, beehive huts and ring forts can be seen from the bus.

We then pretend to see some marvellous ocean/island views through the mist, but are far more interested in soup and tea for lunch!

After reluctantly leaving the relative warmth of the cafe, we stop at yet another site. The 700 year old church is a marvel of engineering and amazingly water tight. The walk to the site made up for the dry church, we waded through a river to get there. I was very grateful for the rubber boots I borrowed. Because my feet were dry, Ken did not have to share the hair dryer to dry out his shoes.

By mutual consent, the group skipped the last historical site and instead of  exploring the town of Dingle we came back to our guesthouse early for more hot tea, dry clothes and a warm bath.

There is only picture which can describe this day. Yes, this man (Gary), is indeed wringing out his socks!image

High Holy Crosses

13 06 2013

Yesterday, we left Dublin and began our search for high holy crosses. Surprisingly, it is a bit of a search.  Somehow, Ken and I have managed to find ourselves on another adventure that is not quite mainstream. Even the bus driver has admitted he’s never driven for a tour quite like this one. The crosses are not popular tourist sites, can not be found using GPS and are accessed by roads as narrow as the ones we cycled on.

But they are truly impressive and really old, well over 1000 years old.image

imageimageBetween yesterday and today, Wednesday and Thursday, we have seen 5 crosses in 3 places. We also visited a monastery, toured Cashel Rock, and found time to consume some Guiness, cider and several good meals.

We are learning to adjust to the schedule of a bus tour. Being able to talk to other people is great, we’re enjoying the renewal of old friendships and the beginnings of new ones. But, having to wake to an alarm and wait for the group is very different.

We’ve been gone for three weeks now, even though there is much to see and do in the next week, I look forward to home.

Sweet Molly Malone

12 06 2013
imageIn Dublin’s fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”
“Alive, alive, oh,
Alive, alive, oh,”
Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.
She was a fishmonger,
But sure ’twas no wonder,
For so were her father and mother before,
And they each wheeled their barrows,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”
She died of a fever,
And no one could save her,
And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone.
But her ghost wheels her barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

We Explore Dublin

11 06 2013

We were looking forward to this day. We met the rest of the group and  officially began phase 2 of our trip. It began with a bus tour.

We explore a garden.

We explore a garden.

The required old church.

The required old church.

Find our son-in-law's relative.

Find our son-in-law’s relative.

We admired several statues.

We admired several statues.

And finished with dinner at the hotel. It was not a late night as most of our group was jet lagged and exhausted from travelling. Hotel wi-fi is still horrible, but this coffee shop has great Internet and the least expensive tea we’ve found in Dublin. This post is only a day late!