What a fun day! But before I get to that, do you mind if I vent and ask a kind of awkward travel question? What’s up with the toilets in Ireland? Last night, as soon as we arrived here, the one in our room stopped fully functioning at a very inappropriate time (‘nuff said, I hope), so we had to ask the hotelier to correct the situation. It didn’t. I think we put 300 miles on the ugly red Kia today, and I didn’t find a single restroom with enough water pressure to handle even a few meager sheets of paper (#1). At home, we have toilets that accommodate everything from a tinkle to a tsunami right at your fingertips. I’ve even toyed with the idea of upgrading to one of those toilets that allows you to decide if you want it to single or double-flush, depending upon necessity. Here, whether it’s a chain pulled from a tank above eye level or a lever that starts what appears to be a small but ineffective version of Niagara Falls, it doesn’t seem to get the job done. But that’s a crappy topic and not at all what I wanted to talk about because today was so the opposite of crappy. So let’s tell that topic to get lost!
We slept until 7:30 – this is a big deal for us, and it felt borderline sinful. Today’s agenda included Kylemoore Abbey and maybe a little more Cliffs of Mohr, but I wasn’t really sure about that part because, as luck would have it (NOT), last night Dan was flicking through the three stations here, and the only movie on was about an Irish father who felt his son was betraying him, so he decided to get even by starting a stampede of the family’s cows. The son, who had really nice teeth, ran to let his dad know he wasn’t betraying the family, but it was too late.
Sonny got to the edge of the cliff at about the same time the cows decided not to hit the brakes, and before Dan could figure out how to use the damned remote to change the channel, I saw Sonny and Dad make eye contact and then Sonny’s eyes get really wide before the first cow helped end the movie for everyone. Since the scene was clearly set on those Cliffs of Mohr, I wasn’t keen on seeing any cows jumping over a cliff. But Elaine, the owner, told Dan there was a nice road that ringed the area, and it wasn’t much out of our way, so we decided to give it a go. First though, we stopped at a local shop that helped ensure Dan and I don’t end up on the Post Office Wall of the Ten Most Wanted in Ireland because we didn’t have exact change for the tunnel toll when we left the airport Monday and headed to Killarney.
Today was all about scenery and not minding if we missed a turn – or six. And six is about how many we missed, but every one of the missed turns led us to something more breathtakingly beautiful than the one before. If you’re keeping up with my photos, you’d better make some popcorn because there are a bunch of them today. We drove and stopped – a lot! I’ll let the pictures do the talking today – at least some of it. In a town called Roundstone, which looked like something out of a postcard or movie set, we stopped in town at a farmer’s market for madeleines and a gooseberry tart. It was so much fun and so mind-blowingly beautiful everywhere we looked that it’s really hard to describe, and I’m sure the photos can’t possibly do it justice either.
Once we had accomplished the drive around the top of the cliff region (I think I’ll have to take a boat ride to really appreciate them from the water up, but after that movie – I’m not in a rush), we headed to Kylemoore Abbey in Connemara. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful beyond words from the outside, and I loved the story that it was built by a man who was so in love with his wife that he wanted to build her a beautiful home, but in addition to being mobbed with people, there were only about four rooms the public could even look into. You couldn’t go upstairs to the bedroom areas at all, nor the kitchen, and other than the dining room and parlor, everything was clearly marked as inaccessible. What you saw was beautiful, but I couldn’t help but think that the 300 people who worked on it, many of whom walked from about 20 miles away, must have been super poor. I don’t think I would have been too comfortable living there. The woman of the manor died of dysentery while on a holiday in Egypt, and her husband brought her home and buried her on the property, then had a beautiful gothic chapel built in her honor. And by gothic I don’t mean with inky black hair, lots of piercings, and spiked leather dog collar, of course.
When we left Kylemoore, we felt like we had spent a fortune to park the ugly car, but we still enjoyed the drive and being together in all that natural beauty around us. And the one stained glass window in the gothic chapel was pretty cool, too.
But I had been hoping we’d end up having time to go to the Sheep and Wool Centre in Leenane, and it was only a few kilometers away – unless you got lost on the way, and I’m pretty sure we did, but it was still a beautiful lost. We arrived at the Sheep and Wool Centre just in time to go on a ‘tour’, which consisted of a ten-minute video about the area of Connemara and the town of Leenane, whose industry had been either fishing or textile. (People! If you’re going to do an informational video about your business or organization, for God’s sake, make it interesting. Three minutes is plenty, less expensive, and much more memorable.) I woke Dan up after the video was over, and fortunately, the rest of the ‘tour’ (the place is only one big room) was terrific. The tour guide actually taught us how to card wool and demonstrated a few methods of spinning. Then she talked about dye-ing (not the Swan Song kind but the other one) using natural materials and fixatives like ammonia, vinegar, and urine. She pronounced urine with a long ‘i’, but I was afraid to raise my hand and say, “You mean like, you use #1 in the dye?) The Sheep and Wool Centre also taught us a lot about sheep, which was a good thing because on our multiple stops whilst being lost, we asked directions of the hundred of Connemara Black Faced sheep who wander along, in, and by the roads, but they suck at giving directions.
Eventually, we left the Sheep and Wool Centre and commenced to head home – in the wrong direction. For miles. But we were so busy looking at the beautiful scenery that we didn’t really notice it. That happened twice more, and each time, instead of getting upset that we’d missed a horribly marked turn (even if they were marked suitably, if you’re not used to looking for the signs on your left, they’re easy to miss), we just had fun and enjoyed the view. Sure, I could have checked my GPS any time, but I’m a little ticked at AT&T right now, and they seem to be charging me a fortune every time I get lost, so I showed them, didn’t I? We just powered through, used a good old-fashioned paper map, and eventually made it back to the town nearest our hotel, where we had a picnic with fish and chips that was, quite honestly, even better than the three course meal we were served last night at the hotel. It seemed so funny and fitting that the silly fish and chips picnic cost less than half of what it cost for one meal last night.
It was a perfect day, and it made me think about how nice it is to go off-agenda once in a while and just get lost. Getting lost today helped make it one of the best days ever, and I have the pictures to prove it. Tomorrow, we’re off to Donegal, but I’m hoping to stop in at the Claddagh Museum/Shoppe before we leave Galway. I’m pretty sure we’ll get lost on the way, and that’s okay. At the Sheep and Wool Centre, we learned a little about the Celtic knots, too, with relation to their different meanings and why they were knitted into textiles, and I found a definition of the Destiny Knot. Since I’m feeling like my message today is to “Get lost!” I thought I’d share the meaning of the Celtic Destiny knot. “Carried as a symbol of hope and faith, it is believed that once you come to a certain time in your life, the knot will unwind, showing you the perfect path your life must take.” I guess you have to get lost a little on the way in order to loosen the threads, so they can help you figure out what you’re meant to be and do. So go ahead, get lost! I hope you love it as much as I did.