09-30-2015 The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher

Ireland Day 10

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-9 This morning dawned with the view from our hotel window of the stone wall with the cemetery behind it misted by fog.  Somehow the good night’s sleep and lack of doing stuff had re-energized my spirits and I wasn’t the least bit concerned about the fog.  This was our day to see the Cliffs of Moher, another extra excursion, one where the tour company was careful to warn us that it could be completely fogged in.  I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it, and if the fog lingered throughout our morning, I would just take misty foggy interesting photos of the invisible cliffs.

IMG_5234 In addition to the Cliffs of Moher, we were to explore the Burren.  With my trusty book on Irish geology, I had read about the sandstones and limestones of the Burren, perused the photos and the diagrams and stratigraphy but nothing really prepared me for the drama and wonder of this limestone uplifted plain adjacent to Galway Bay and gateway to the Aran Islands.  Who knew.

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1) The route toward the Burren and the cliffs followed the coast along Galway Bay, with fog making everything misty and magical.  We passed the Flatley pub, owned by Michael Flatley’s parents, (creator of Riverdance) and stopped in another charming little village for a coffee and a rest stop. 

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-13  Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-17 I expected to be enthralled with the cliffs, but had no idea that the Burren would be so magical.  The fog stayed with us for most of the drive south and west toward the cliffs, and yet as we went higher and higher into the wild landscape, the fog began to lift as well.  Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-8 Burren means “rocky place”, and it is an understatement.  The limestone plateau and glaciated mountains are some of the rockiest I have seen other than Southern Utah.  Most fascinating are the fields, all beautifully fenced with gorgeous limestone walls that were built from rocks gathered in the fields. 

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-26 The soils are extremely shallow above the limestone, so in order to make something that could grow grass, farmers cleared the rocks, built the fences, and then covered the fields with seaweed and sand to make soil.  I couldn’t figure out how they kept them from being salty, other than the high precipitation leaching out the salts, and the process was completed over centuries.  Now the fields for the cows and sheep stand in sharp contrast to the extremely rocky and stony surrounding landscape.

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-44 On the coastal portion of the Burren, we stopped on a cliff overlooking the sea to climb up into the Burren rocks.  It is a karst landscape, with the limestone dissolved by rainwater and has underground caverns and tunnels that are filled with air.  Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-45 This air comes in from the warmer areas along the shoreline and heats up under the ground, making the Burren much warmer than it should be based on its location.  Plants grow here from alpine to mediterranean in the grikes (deep cracks) between the clints (distinct blocks of solid limestone).  Botanists come from all over the world to study the plants growing here.

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-35 Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-41 Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-42 We had a great time climbing and hunting for tiny flowers, breathing in the magnificent ocean views to the west.  I could spend a lot of time in this place exploring. Even with the sunshine , it was still a bit windy and chilly so Mo and I were happy for jackets and scarves which we haven’t had to use much so far on this trip.

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-50 Not far from our stop at Black Head, we came to the beautiful visitor center for the Cliffs of Moher.  It is a newly built center, with a ton of parking for the big tour busses that must be a huge part of the Irish economy.  Built into the side of the mountain, it reflected the green mindset of much of what we have seen in Ireland.  It is a very green country, not only in color but in its commitment to the environment.

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-59 Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-60 Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-63 Mo and I decided to begin our time at the cliffs with a visit to the center, but before we had much time inside, Isabella found us and said, “You need to get outside while you can since the fog has lifted and it could always come back”.  Best advice of the entire trip so far!

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-67 Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-71 Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-77The Cliffs extend for several miles in both directions from the center, with paved trails that go both right and left.  We randomly decided to go right, and it was an excellent choice since we saw the iconic sites that I have drooled over in photos ever since I knew we were going to Ireland. Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-100 The cliffs are more than 600 feet high and are famous for their swirling winds that can blow people right off to the sea below.  A few years ago, Ireland built beautiful walls from the local slate to keep people safe from their own folly.  I would have been grateful for those walls if it had been windy or wet, but with a dry trail and very little wind, we felt just fine walking the narrow packed dirt pathways adjacent to the cliffs.

I can barely describe how this felt.  The paths are worn into deep soft green grass, with only a few places that have steep limestone steps to negotiate once it leaves the “official” pathway and becomes the “Burren Trail”. Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-84 From a high point, I suggested that Mo go ahead so I could get photos of her on the cliffs from a distance, and then I would go and she could return and get some of me.  It was a great plan, with photos that show the magnificence of the cliffs with each of us in turn looking very tiny next to the drops.

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-89It was probably the most exhilarating hike I can remember.  Mo and I hiked the Na Pali coast on Kauai and this was every bit as thrilling and a whole lot easier without the steamy heat.  It is a world class iconic landscape, like seeing the Grand Canyon or Yosemite.  What an incredible treasure.

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-81 This is the first night I have been especially frustrated with having no access to my photos to share with you. (Aren’t you glad you are reading the blog?!) I didn’t take the phone on the hike, which I have sometimes just to get a photo or two to put on facebook, but I suppose a phone photo of the cliffs would be a sad imitation anyway.  In fact, I think any photo would be a sad imitation of the real thing.  Put it on the list of ten things to see in the world.  Really.

Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (1 of 1)-105 The drive back to town was gorgeous as well, with the fog lifted and the sunshine illuminating all that wild landscape that we couldn’t see this morning.  The limestone steps of the Burren are huge mountains, glaciated in the last Ice Age, with the soft green valleys below a stark contrast to the rock.

This time, when we got back to the hotel, we didn’t linger long, and without even a change from our hiking boots, we took off walking toward the Spanish Arch, the Latin Quarter, the Pedestrian’s and Eire Square.  It was my goal to try an oyster in Galway, home of what are called the best oysters in the world.  Most pubs and restaurants have oysters, but I had hoped for something steamed or fried for my first time. 

quays pub Instead we landed at the Quays pub where they served fresh, raw oysters on the half shell. I ordered one, and it came with Tabasco, horseradish, and lots of lemon.  With a glass of Guinness for support, I loosened the little slimy squiggly thing with my fork, covered it with the stuff, and tipped up the shell.  I had no desire to actually taste it, much less try to chew it!.  What a surprise!  It slid down so fast there was no taste at all really, except for the incredibly delightful fresh smell of the sea beforehand.  Once it was down I looked at Mo in shock wondering…what is the big deal either way??  It happens so fast and there isn’t any real taste either.  So I have yet to see the lure of raw oysters, but maybe someone who loves them can tell me why they are so wonderful.  And yes, I will have to ask MBZ from Texas who swoons over Galway oysters, if she chews or what.

1-09-30-2015 Burren and the Cliffs of Moher After the little appetizer, we had fresh haddock fish and chips that was perfect.  Lightly breaded the way we love instead of that greasy beer batter stuff, it was the freshest sweetest white fish I can remember eating.  Served with a tasty salad of cole slaw and cucumbers and a whole dish of tartar sauce, we both managed to eat the entire portion and most of the wonderful chips (fat french fries) that are so prominent here in Ireland.

After dinner we found the  historic Spanish Arch,  the obligatory swans on the river, just two of them when we arrived, and the busy life on the pedestrians where folks were laughing and eating and walking and pubbing.  IMG_5248IMG_5255 Checking out a few of the pubs was fun, but after awhile they all begin to look the same.  They are lovely, though, with many small rooms and “snugs” and incredibly dark wood everywhere.  Most of the pubs we have been in have several bars on different levels and pretty cool art work. IMG_5280IMG_5253 IMG_5254 IMG_5261 IMG_5281I just can’t imagine all that drinking being the focus of life, which it definitely is in Ireland.  Probably not just the drinking, but all that laughing and singing and socializing must be a big part of the draw.  At 7 in the evening however, the party atmosphere hadn’t really begun in earnest, and my batteries suddenly ran out completely as we headed back to the hotel.IMG_5282

My mind is filled with the day, the cliffs, the rocks, the green fields and sheep, the sea.  Somehow the pubs take second place to all that, but I am still glad we found fabulous fish and that I finally ate an oyster.

Next: Another magnificent day at Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey

09-29-2015 Killarney to Bunratty Castle to Galway

Ireland Day 9 Killarney to Galway

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1) whewwwwwww……..I was trying to sleep, and realized that there was no way I would manage it till I sat down and wrote a bit about the last couple of days.  Melody, Deborah, Deanna, you keep me encouraged to keep it written when I might just give up in exhaustion.  Thanks, really for that.

(Writing on the evening of the 30th). The last two days have been as different as day and night.  Yesterday seemed long and dull, with my love affair with Ireland sorely tested by AFC  oh…excuse me    ABC.  Another bloody castle.  In Eastern Europe, Melody and I learned that a castle wasn’t really a house, it was more like a community fortress.  Well, here in Ireland, I have learned that a castle is more likely to be a house, a fortress for one family.  Most often in the form of a tower, and they are everywhere!  Often in ruins, but also in full fledged Disney mode, with Medieval Banquets and tours of the winding steps and stories of the murder holes.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-60 The steps are narrow and the entry doors are tiny so that only one person can enter at a time.  They wind upwards in a corkscrew to the left so that right handed men who attempted to go up the stairs couldn’t manage to wield their swords.  They have dungeons, with stairs leading downward with the last step being a good 40 feet or so.  Your bones break with the drop and you lie there and die.  If you are attempting to raid the castle, and manage to get up the stairs, there is a place where the floor falls out from under you and you crash to the bottom, easy prey for boiling oil, or even worse, hot sand and rocks.  gee, sounds fun. 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-63

The first time we heard these stories at the Blarney Castle they were interesting, but the second time around at Bunratty Castle, it all seemed a bit tired.  Maybe it has something to do with me being more than a bit tired yesterday as we visited Bunratty Castle around midday and the Bunratty folk life village.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-2 Morning dawned in Killarney yesterday with dull clouds and a dreary feel to the day.  The high point of the day actually came early in the morning immediately after we left when the bus driver took us on an impossibly narrow road to a high point overlooking Killarney National Park that was once a Druid site, and then a Christian site, and now just a beautiful site overlooking Killarney Lake and the Killarney mountains across the valley.

Once we left the beautiful area of County Kerry and Killarney, we spent the rest of the day on the Irish version of a freeway, except for a dip into the little village of Adare. 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-21 One of the iconic images of Ireland has always been the charming little thatched cottages, but I had no idea what was actually involved in creating and maintaining a thatched roof.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-24 As Isabel said, only the well-to-do can afford such a luxury, with the maintenance requiring up to 60,000 Euros every five years or so from very specialized craftsmen, who are in short supply.  Walking the charming town was interesting, and while the thatched roof cottages only date from the recent early 1800’s, they were fascinating.  All through the town were lovely gardens and charming cottages. 

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-28 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-29 The story of the burning of some of these historic cottages just last summer was a sad one, with no real date as to when they can be replaced. An old pigeon cove was in back of the visitor center, another very old historic structure. 

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-45 We continued northwest toward Bunratty, which didn’t appear to be any kind of town anywhere near the castle attraction.  The “authentic” folk village was charming and interesting in some respects, with thatched roof cottages, but more importantly, for the first time we smelled burning peat.  Traditionally the major heating source for much of Ireland, the peat blocks were stacked like firewood  ready for winter.  01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-41

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-39We did enjoy the castle tour in spite of the Disney feeling.  It was nice seeing the local school kids who emerged from their tour just as we approached for ours.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-46Isabella had figured out by this time that I was into rocks and geology and she was careful to point out the fossils embedded in the 600 year old slate floors.  Once again, tucked away in a corner was another Sheela Na Gig bas relief.  The furnishings and tapestries reminded me of you Deborah, and all your love of fine tapestries.  It is amazing to me that these incredibly intricate thread paintings can last so long and still be so beautiful.01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-48 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-50 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-5101 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-64 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-65 The thing about a tour that can get really tiresome is the timing.  The day before, when we wanted to spend a lot of time at some place or the other, we were allotted 20 minutes. Today, at Bunratty Castle, when our tour was completed, where there wasn’t a thing to look at except another huge WalMart of Ireland Blarney Woolen Mills, and an old bridge in the midst of reconstruction, we were allotted three very long hours.  01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-70 I did finally figure out that it might have something to do with check in time in Galway, and the city was just another hour or so north of the Bunratty stop.  Mo and I managed to while away the time with a Southwick Amber Ale, another quite tasty beer that was similar to my favorite Alaskan Amber.

The pub on the corner across the street from the castle was called Dirty Nellie’s, and it claimed to have been in existence since 1600 something.  It was a pub for the officers who guarded the castle, so seemed authentic enough, and the smoked salmon and brie panini I had for lunch was excellent.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-7401 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-68 By the time we reached the busy city of Galway, with 77K residents and traffic, we were both so dang tired we couldn’t stand the thought of doing one more thing.  Isabella gave us all sorts of instructions for where to find a pub, which pubs were the good ones, where to shop, where to eat.  Really, Isabella??  Although I have to admit, there are a few travelers with us who are shopping wonders, coming back to the bus with bags and bags of stuff and always wanting to find more. 

Especially good at the shopping thing is this couple from who knows where, but the woman is Greek and has rocks on all her fingers that are blinding, a laugh you can hear anywhere, and a very fun and friendly and ohgodkeepmeawayfromher kind of personality.  Her husband is even louder, and he is the one that always has the Irish Whiskey in his water bottle all day, has made good friends with Isabella who ambles to the back of the bus for a nip now and then, and loves to pull out his wallet to indulge his wife. They spent a few thousand dollars at the Waterford Crystal shop.  Actually, before the tour was over, I found myself really appreciating this sweet couple who were celebrating 30 years of marriage with this tour of Ireland.P1040827

They have gathered an entourage of party folks who like to bask in their kind of light and drink and shop as much as they do.  I heard that at the medieval banquet last night (which we were grateful was an optional excursion so we could skip it), they were the ones chosen and crowned King and Queen for the evening.

IMG_5283harbour-hotel-galwayWhen we first arrived at the Harbour Hotel Yesterday afternoon, we looked at each other in dismay.  The hotel facade looked like some sort of industrial building, and the view to the east was of a giant stone wall.  Once inside, however, everything seemed quite pleasant, and the hotel was very nice.

harbour-hotel-galway-18-560x360I can’t believe that I didn’t even take a photo of our room, but with one bed instead of our three this photos is a pretty good rendition.

Mo and I were gratefully on the same page with each other, and at the same moment.  We needed down time! After checking into our room, with a nice window that opened, and another huge bathtub, we had jammies on within minutes and were settled in for the evening.  We were both perfectly willing to crash with no supper, but room service was available so we ordered a salad and a sandwich and a glass of wine.  No shopping, no pubbing, no walking, and finally some sleep in a comfortable bed with nice duvets and decent pillows.  The bed situation is funny.  We have had everything from one queen bed, to a queen and a twin, and this time three twin beds in a row.  Always nice to have a bed to throw stuff on.  Sleep was long and sweet, and neither of us felt the slightest twinge at missing explorations of City Galway.

More photos from this day are linked here

Next: Another high point of the trip, The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher.

09-28-2015 The Ring of Kerry

Ireland Day 8 The Ring of Kerry

I am going to be incredibly challenged today to make an attempt for this writing to be even close to adequate to describe our day with no accompanying photos. (Once again, emails had no photos, but now you get them with the blog). I guess it will suffice to say that The Ring of Kerry rivals, and in our opinion even surpasses our beloved Oregon Coast, and even the iconic Highway 1 to Big Sur.The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-54

I think the biggest difference is the ability to actually see the ocean and all the islands and coastline from the sometimes high and always very winding and narrow road.  Riding in a big tour bus wasn’t the least bit troublesome, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be someone in those little cars fighting for space on the road with those busses.  And yes, busses!  Lots of them. 

IMG_5190 Tourism is huge in Ireland, and especially so in this magnificent landscape.  Joanne, (my friend who is babysitting Mattie and traveled in Ireland with her husband driving the car)you will be happy to know that they have widened and improved the road a bit, so we decided that it wouldn’t be that difficult to drive, even with the left thing.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-29 It is actually the morning of Day 9 as I write this, and after smashing all our stuff back into the suitcases and putting them outside the door, I have about an hour to try to finish what I had no time to write yesterday.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-6 It started early, with another Irish breakfast (Gak…so glad I like Muesli and yogurt) and on the bus early to fresh strong breezes and beautiful shifting skies.  The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-5 Within a few minutes of leaving the hotel, we stopped at the Moriarity shop at the foot of the Dunloe Gap, made even more dramatic by the flying clouds in all shades of gray and white against the blue skies.  We commented yesterday that we haven’t experienced anything even close to air pollution so far anywhere in this country, even Dublin.  The air has been perfectly clean and fresh and gorgeous everywhere we go.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-4 The shop fit right in with the elegant and expensive vibe of Killarney, with luscious Donegal tweeds, Irish linen, soft woven plaid throws, and anything your heart could desire from Ireland on the higher end of good stuff, opposed to the kitchy stuff in the souvenir shops that are everywhere.

Again, hard to explain the moment, but the wild air and shifting skies, shadows on the granitic mountains of Killarney to the south, the sound of Irish music lifted me to a place of happiness that was much like what I felt last winter hiking in Joshua Tree.  It is a wonderful feeling that I don’t remember from my younger days, a deep unreasonable happiness that is so in the moment and so not related to anything going on in my head.  I do love that feeling and treasure it when it comes so surprisingly.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-7 Once we left the shop, after a few more miles we stopped at The Red Fox, a classic pub with another view of the mountains, where Irish Coffee and Baileys were served at ten in the morning.   It had a great feeling to it, with a couple of hundred years of history behind it to help offset the hordes of tourists and the gaggle of tourist busses parked outside.  I loved it.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-9 The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-11 Sad to say, Mo is dealing with a throat thing, so I hope that the hot Irish coffee might have helped it feel better. With only half an hour to absorb the vibe, we were again on our way following the north to south route around the Ring.  And yes, in spite of the gorgeous scenery, and excellent stops, this day felt like a tour, a rushed tour, where it was impossible to see the entire thing without feeling as though there was no time to linger and really enjoy it.  Ring of Kerry is a destination for sure, with at least a week to two to hike, kayak the lakes, walk the coastline, enjoy the towns, drink in the pubs, and languish in beautiful and very expensive bed and breakfast establishments.

Ring of Kerry Before long the expanse of Dingle Bay stretched out before us, with several stops along the way for photos.  Thank goodness we weren’t relegated to moving shots through the reflections of the bus window glass.  The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-14 Another stop at a craft shop specializing in woolens included a wonderful performance put on by the sheepherder Brendan Ferris and his prize winning sheep dogs.  I heard comments from folks who had seen similar shows throughout Scotland that weren’t nearly as wonderful.  The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-26 These dogs are not only well trained sheep dogs, but are agility champions in the UK and Ireland.  We were introduced to several breeds of sheep, with their wool and meat  used for different purposes, and I was tickled to see how well those sheep were trained too.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-28 Watching the dogs work the sheep on the backlit hillside had a strange effect on me, one repeated throughout the day.  I cried.  Big silly tears and that stinging feeling behind the eyes.  Ireland seems to affect me on an emotional level that is completely ridiculous, and completely without explanation.  It  is a nice feeling, a welling of emotion, triggered by a shepherd calling his sheep, an Irish jig, blooming heather, and most of all the wind off the Atlantic Ocean.  I had no idea I would respond this way to Ireland, thinking it was just another nice destination for us.  No clue.  Still don’t get it all the way, but whatever the source, it is delightfully fun for someone like me who enjoys feeling things a lot.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-35 The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-36Continuing along the coastline, with photo stops at the high points overlooking the ocean, we came to the town of Waterville, much like the coastal beach towns along our own coast, if a bit more charming in the warm afternoon sunlight. We are entering the world of famously good Irish seafood, with lobster, oysters, clams, crab and all sorts of fish the highlight of the menu. Another reason you would love to visit County Kerry, Killarney, and The Ring of Kerry, Deborah.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-43 The fish and chips fragrance wafting from the small town was so enticing, but Isabella had something a bit more special in store for us.  Down the road, at the most famous high point of the Ring drive Scarriff Inn Vista Bar and Restaurant overlooks the sea in all directions.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-64  It was what is referred to here as a “self service”, but this one was really nice.  They specialized in traditional Irish food, with Irish Stew with excellent lamb, and Shepherd’s Pie being the main items on the list. 

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-61 The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-62 We opted for the Shepherd’s Pie, a good ground beef stew topped with mashed potatoes and cheese and topped off under the grill, served with two excellent side salads, the wonderful crusty rolls that we are seeking out whenever we can find them, and a glass of red.  Lunch was accompanied by tables along the window with the warm sun lighting up the beautiful dining room, and views to forever across the Atlantic and the coast in both directions.  The food was fabulous, the view was perfect, it was an excellent place to enjoy the Ring of Kerry.

 The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-51 The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-55 The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-56 Afterward we continued south, with expansive views of ancient Celtic forts, sheep on the hills, brilliant reflections on the ocean, green green grass, and finally to the small colorful village of Sneem.  With only a short stop, we still had time to walk to the river, eat a homemade ice cream cone, and find a geotour shop on the square that seduced me with rock samples, geology walk brochures, and yes, a big fat book of Irish geology.  I am in heaven, my favorite kind of tour book, so worth the euros and the weight.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-73 The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-75 Mo and I both loved Waterville and Sneem, and decided that we could easily spend two weeks to a month here right on the Ring of Kerry, staying at a B&B in Sneem, and there are plenty to chose from.  Sneem has weekly geology walks, gorgeous wildflowers, beautiful hikes in the hills and along the coast, great food, a wonderful small village feeling that was so enticing.

The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-78By late afternoon we were descending through the Molls Gap and down the winding mountain roads past the gorgeous lakes of Killarney National Park into the town of Killarney.  Isabella was so proud of her plan to drop all of us off in town for more shopping before the bus returned to the hotel, a few miles from the town center.  Several of us rebelled, shopping being low on our list after a long day riding, and Mo and I saw just enough of Killarney to find an ATM and a taxi stand.  The trip back to the hotel was 12 Euro, but worth every penny since it gave us two full hours before we had to be ready to catch the bus back to town for our evening entertainment.The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-83

Most folks on this tour are paying for the tour organized and sponsored Castle Dinners with Irish Entertainment, very expensive, and often with preset food that isn’t all that great.  We have skipped those in favor of the scenic tours that we couldn’t see any other way.

Yesterday, however, our bus driver and Isabella suggested a special show in town called Celtic Steps, and with free transportation and only 27.50 Euro for the show, we thought it would be a good choice.  Good choice is an understatement!  The show with lilting Irish music, bodhran drumming, Irish violin, and a young woman with a beautiful voice singing haunting songs in Gaelic was incredible.  And yeah, I cried.  I cried when she sang, I cried when the step dancers tore up the stage, I cried when the two men did that competition drumming thing with the bodhrans.  Go figure.  As I said, Ireland makes me cry.

 The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-88 The Ring of Kerry (1 of 1)-89  Celtic Steps was like a mini Riverdance, with less than a dozen people, but they were so incredibly good, such fabulous musicians and entertainers, full of stories and songs and fabulous dancing.  We got home by 11, and fell into bed exhausted, but still had trouble falling asleep after all the energy of the music and the breathtaking beauty of the day.  I have managed to get this finished in time to go catch the bus this morning.  Whew!  We will be heading north toward Galway today, with a stop at Bunratty Castle..ABC…”Another Bloody Castle” where there is  a small authentic folk village with demonstrations of early Irish life.

I do hope I have some energy left to actually explore Galway a bit this evening and find some of that great seafood.

I just realized that in all the excitement about seeing the Ring of Kerry, I forgot entirely that I started my day at 2:30 AM, setting the alarm to wake me in time to see the total lunar eclipse of the Supermoon.  IMG_5180 The skies were crystal clear, with brilliant stars and no clouds anywhere.  Even though there was some ambient light from the hotel, I still managed to set up my little travel tripod on the picnic table to watch and try to photograph the beautiful moon.

Supermoon Eclipse (10 of 15) It was just a little bit chilly, but the winds smelled wonderful, and the only sounds were the leaves around me rustling as I watched the moon turn from brilliant to just a sliver and then to a dusky red orange. Great way to start the day, and I even got a couple of hours of sleep after going back to bed.

Next up: Bunratty Castle and Galway….my least favorite day of the trip