Settling In

The first couple days of travel are kind of weird. The time change from Minnesota to Ireland is six hours. That’s a big difference. You can find a bigger difference in time if you want to. For instance Tokyo, Japan is eleven hours ahead of Minnesota. But six hours is plenty for me, thanks. So it takes a couple days to get used to gaining or losing hours in your day. Once you do, you start to feel normal again. It’s called Jet Lag for lack of a better term. Actually, it’s called Jet Lag Disorder according to the Mayo Clinic website. So it’s perfectly acceptable to be a grumpy shit for the first couple days of your trip because hey, you have a bona fide disorder!

One of the first things you get introduced to when you go to Ireland is the world famous “Full Irish Breakfast.” I never heard of it until I went there so I’m not sure how world famous it is but, whatever. Apparently the Irish are trying to project the idea that they are a hardy bunch. You will be told, “You have to get the full Irish breakfast. You got to eat like the Irish.” Now I don’t know about anyone else but if I, “Ate like the Irish” I’d weigh 600 pounds and have coronary disease. I’m pretty sure the Irish don’t eat like this every morning. And here’s why. The typical Full Irish Breakfast consists of: Bacon rashers, (which is ham) streaky bacon, (which is bacon) pork sausages, fried eggs (or scrambled), white pudding, (which is nether white, nor pudding) black pudding, (which is nether black nor pudding) toast and fried tomato. Sauteed mushrooms are also sometimes included, and baked beans, hash browns, liver, and brown soda bread. Don’t forget the fresh fruit, coffee, and of course, tea. Oh, and orange juice. I have witnessed Americans try to eat all that thinking that’s what the Irish do. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Oh and by the way Black pudding, is Blood sausage. White pudding is Blood sausage without the blood. Just sayin’. So then, after your typical Full Irish Breakfast you’ll have to walk to the next town to feel better.

And so we moved on to Killarney National Park. The photos pretty much say more than I could.

The Jaunting car rides are there because there are no motorized vehicles allowed in the park. The ruins are from an old Friary all hand built by monks from stone. The waterfall is named Torc waterfall. A Torc is a piece of ancient jewelry worn around the neck and I’m not sure how that relates to water but, it was beautiful.

Torc

Killarney National Park is situated just Northeast of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks which is the tallest mountain range in Ireland. We didn’t come close enough however, to get good photo’s of them. And my recollection of what I saw on what days is a little fuzzy so I may get things a wee bit out of order. From Killarney we drove to the Dingle peninsula. At the end of the peninsula on Slea Head is the furthest Western point of Ireland and subsequently, Europe. Also off Slea Head lie the Blasket Islands. From Wikipedia: The islands were inhabited until 1953 by a completely Irish-speaking population and today are part of the Gaeltacht. (Irish speaking areas) At its peak, the islands had 175 residents. The population declined to 22 by 1953. The government evacuated the remaining residents to the mainland on 17 November 1953 because of increasingly extreme weather that left the island cut off from emergency services. The evacuation was seen as necessary by both the Islanders and the government. You can take a boat out there to explore but if bad weather comes, (which happens often) you could be stuck there.

Southeast of the town of Dingle a number of Ogham (pronounced Om) stones have been found. Ogham is an ancient alphabet dating anywhere from the 1st century B.C.E. to the 6th century C.E.. When it was deciphered it was found that most of the writing were personal names.

Ogham Stone

Now of course, you can buy necklaces, bracelets, hats and tee shirts with Ogham writing on them. Also near Dingle is Inch Strand. “Inch” is the Anglicized word for In-ish which means Island in Irish. Inch Strand is a beautiful beach that used to be an island.

Inch Strand

We spent two nights in Dingle to get a little down time from so much traveling. Dingle, a town of about 2000 people seems to be made up of a series of pubs, B & B’s, churches, restaurants, more pubs, and hotels. Nice town though.

Dingle also has its very own Bottle Nose Dolphin. “Fungie” showed up around 1983 and has been there ever since. He is so easily seen in Dingle harbor that regular boat tours are taken every day to photograph him. I think that’s enough excitement for now. After Dingle, we head North.

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Ireland Trekking

Whew! We crammed a lot into one day. The Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, and Gougan Barra. I slept good that first night of the tour at Gougan Barra hotel. Gougan Barra is situated in the Shehy Mountains which I thought was pretty cool considering my wife’s maiden name was Sheehy. From there we drove to the town of Bantry, on Bantry Bay and saw Bantry house and garden. And from there it was on to Glengarriff. It is also located on Bantry Bay in Southeast County Cork. At Glengarriff we took a boat to Garnish Island, or Illnacullin in Irish.

Bantry House

Garnish Island

Garnish Island is a 37 acre rock in Bantry Bay that was transformed into massive Italian gardens. Tons of top soils, stone and trees, and plants all had to be carried over on boats. It was actually pretty amazing. On the way there we found seals basking in the sun on small rocks jutting out of the bay.

We drove through the Caha Mountains and the scenery is just amazing. The entire Southwest of Ireland is all mountains and rocky Atlantic coast. At the town of Kenmare we found the Kenmare Stone Circle. We were told that there are 180 stone circles all over Ireland. There are a lot of theories but no one seems to know exactly what they were for. More than likely they were for religious purposes as they predate Christianity by a couple thousand years. The one we saw at Kenmare is estimated to be 4500 years old. Not only was Ann raised Catholic but she was very much interested in and attuned to a spiritual side that could only have come from her ancient history as an Irish woman. The Kenmare stone circle would have found her meditating in the middle of it. I left the rest of her ashes that I brought with me under the alter stone.

Alter stone at Kenmare

We stayed in Kenmare that night and had a feast at our hotel while listening to traditional Irish music (Trad). You can find Trad all over Ireland, probably more for the tourists than the locals.

One of the things I noticed about the smaller towns I visited was how clean they were. No trash in the gutters, no broken signs or crappy abandoned buildings or houses. Clean and tidy. And though everyone drove as if their butts were on fire, I didn’t see and banged up cars. The only American vehicles I saw were Fords and Harley Davidson motorcycles. All other cars were either Asian or European. I even saw cars from the Czech Republic and Romania.

It is interesting that when you travel outside the U.S. you find that people are much more, “worldly” than Americans seem to be. I’ve known many people who knew almost nothing about U.S. government, or current events or even our own history. They are concerned about their immediate lives and families and not much else. With the small amount of travel I have done I find Europeans are much different. They seem to know much more about their own history and what’s going on in the world around them. And they seem to care. They have an opinion on everything and are willing to discuss and even argue their point of view, over a pint of course. It’s refreshing. The U.S. is isolated geographically from every country except Mexico and Canada and a lot of people think of Canada as just another state. This could be part of the problem. We have a tendency to think of the rest of the world as so far away that they don’t really concern us. In Europe, many other countries are just a couple hours away and many people know more than one language. The concerns of other countries are much more close and immediate and in that respect are their concerns also. I wish more people could travel. It really helps open your eyes to what is happening in the world. Well in the next article, I’m on to Killarney National Park.