Co. Clare::Ennis and back to Parkduff Cottage — Day 9

The Clare Museum

The Clare Museum

Today we drove to Ennis to buy more groceries. Ennis is a market town and the largest town in the area. We also visited the tourist information office, hoping to visit the Clare Museum. No luck — on Sunday it closes at noon.

Outside the museum we met an ex-pat from the States who seemed to have picked up the loquaciousness of the Irish by association. She told us pretty much all there is to know about her life, but she also gave us some ideas on things to do in the area. It’s almost jarringly painful to hear an American accent while in Ireland.

Poor Clare

Poor Clare

After the tourist information office, we walked around Ennis for a while, taking some photos. We probably went overboard, teasing Clare about being in COUNTY CLARE. I think she got the point.

Ennis Friary

Ennis Friary

We then visited a 13th century friary, a bookstore and then found a pub/bar with food and ate lunch.  Finally, we bought groceries and drove back to Parkduff Cottage.

Andrew

Andrew

Clare

Clare

Dean and the two ones on the smelly sofa

Back at Parkduff Cottage we built a [smokeless] peat fire and made dinner. Gregory, the owner of the cottage stopped by to make sure we had settled in. We requested some more peat and more towels (we only had 3 when we got there).  He told us about some places we should visit, including a local pub called O’Looney’s. After dinner we watched a little television and then went to bed.

More day 9 photos on Flickr.

Parkduff Cottage, Co. Clare — Day 8

In front of Tralia House

In front of Tralia House

We bid farewell to Tralia House amid a small crisis of a flood in the laundry room. We hope the next tenants have a fine a time as we had there. Despite the flooding, Áine and Liam were gracious and accommodating. They snapped our photo outside the house and allowed us to take a photo of them, making us first promise not to put it on the Internet as they were outfitted for cleaning and not a photo shoot.

We drove north to the Shannon River, hoping to visit Glin Castle. We drove up and down the road, and only glimpsed at the castle. We are not sure how to actually visit it. (It seems that it is a hotel now)

Window at Parkduff Cottage

Window at Parkduff Cottage

We then took the ferry over the Shannon River from Tarbert in Co. Kerry to Killimer in Co. Clare and drove north to our next cottage. After a few hours of driving along the Atlantic coast we arrived at Parkduff Cottage. Gregory Rynne, the host of Parkduff Cottage sent me excellent directions in an email, but we were not sure how we’d meet up with him to actually get into the cottage. Luckily they are a trusting lot there in Doonbeg, because the key was in the door so we moved in and then drove to Quilty to buy a few supplies.

Andrew Loves the Beach

Andrew Loves the Beach

The weather was very mild all day and the sun shone brightly.  The house needed airing, so we opened up all the windows and doors. The previous tenants were heavy smokers.

Clare Loves the Beach Too

Clare Loves the Beach Too

Dean drove the kids to the beach (that was supposed to be walking distance away) while I made a meal of Irish smoked salmon, cream, leeks and pasta.

Dean picked me up and I went down to the beach with them. Andrew decided that we had to go to the beach to watch the sunset after dinner. We agreed that was a good idea.

Our first dinner at Parkduff Cottage.

Our first dinner at Parkduff Cottage.

Dinner was surprisingly good but Clare was not impressed. Ah well, can’t please them all.

Sunset in Doonbeg

Sunset in Doonbeg

We did watch the sunset (which ended up being the only one we saw all week) which was quite lovely. We ended up not going down to the beach, but watched the sunset from our sun room — the nicest part of Parkduff Cottage.

The kids loved Parkduff right away– in fact they liked it better than Tralia House. Clare liked the cottageness of it. I think Andrew liked being so close to the beach. They also liked the fact that the television had better reception than the one at Tralia House. Dean and I were uncomfortable with the dust and cigarette smells coming from the curtains and furniture. The house had not been dusted in a very long time and cob webs hung everywhere. Dean made a joke that I should email Gregory and tell him we’d settled in and named all the spiders.  We preferred Tralia House.

More Day 8 photos on Flickr.

Co. Kerry::Skellig Michael & North Leg of the Ring of Kerry — Day 7

Rainbow on the way to Portmagee

Rainbow on the way to Portmagee

This morning we got up around 7 am so we could leave by 8 and get to Portmagee by 10 am. Dean had arranged transport to Skellig Michael on Wednesday — our hosts let Dean use their telephone and found us a lot of information about the trip such as the best place from which to sail and the best transport companies.

The drive to Portmagee from Firies is the northern section of the Ring of Kerry.  The views were spectacular — we even saw a rainbow, but not more than much of what we’d already seen in Kerry. In fact the view from the upstairs bathroom of our holiday farmhouse is as nice.

Portmagee waterfront

Portmagee waterfront

Joe Roddy himself, the captain of the boat that we’d booked to transport us to Skellig Michael, greeted us as we pulled into the parking lot at Portmagee — a small port town named after one of the most notorious smugglers of the 18th century.  It basically consists of a few pubs and colorful buildings in front of a large dock. Captain Roddy shook our hands, assured us it was going to be a lovely day and told us to stay warm in the car for another 20 minutes, then come to his boat.

On the boat before the trip

On the boat before the trip

We all donned our foul weather gear, even though the day was sunny and reasonably warm. We knew the air on the sea would be much colder. And wet. I counted my layers and realized I was wearing 8 layers, starting with a Damart long sleeved thermal shirt and ending with a waterproof parka. Then we headed to the boat.

Boats speeding towards Skellig Michael

Boats speeding towards Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael is a mile wide piece of rock that stands 7.5 miles off the coast of south-west Ireland. That in itself is interesting, but the reason people visit the island is because at the top of the rock stands a very well preserved 6th century monastery. About 15 boat companies are allowed to land on Skellig Michael, transporting about 12 passengers each. Weather often causes the cancellation of the trip and even on a calm day, like today, the sea is rough.

We boarded the boat and Joe Roddy handed out rain gear. I declined mine, declaring, “I’ll be fine.” Mr Roddy replied, “You won’t be fine.” To which I replied, “I have 8 layers on!” He handed the rain gear he was offering to me to someone else and walked away mumbling.  Later he came back and gave me rain pants, which I graciously accepted.

As we pulled away from the dock, the sun shone down on us, and in my 8 layers of clothing I felt deliciously warm and was confident the boat ride would be a piece of cake. It was a piece of cake at first — no waves, calm sea, little wind. I was ready for this trip.

Soon, however, the boat sped up and we were all sprayed with seawater. Up and down, up and down. Splash, splash, splash. We slid around  as the boat raced 12 miles over the waves.  It was quite scary.

Landing on Michael Skellig

Landing on Skellig Michael

After what seemed like forever, riding the waves, the boat docked at a huge  pointed rock sort of shaped like the letter M. Up the side of the rock were a set of steep stairs with no railing. I’d about decided not to go up to the top at this point, fearing the steps, but then noticed another path leading around the island, and remembered that the stairs we’d be climbing were not the same stairs as the one the monks climbed.

Clare and Andrew on Skellig Michael

Clare and Andrew on Skellig Michael

Joe Roddy informed us that he’d be back to pick us up in 2.5 hours. We removed our loaner gear and as I handed my rain pants to the captain he smiled and said, “You’re the one who wasn’t going to wear these,” and I replied that I was glad he insisted I wear them.

A trio of puffins on Skellig Michael

A trio of puffins on Skellig Michael

Puffin silhouette

Puffin silhouette

Clare and Andrew were out of the boat and on the island ahead of us, but we met up with them as soon as the puffins were visible. Hundreds of seemingly tame puffins stood around on the rocks and vegetation. Others flew overhead and below as we walked up the stairs. While these stairs seemed safer than the ones I’d seen earlier, it was still a struggle to keep going sometimes. I had to not look over the side, as much as I wanted to see the flying puffins. There were few railings, and huge drop-offs to the sea, hundreds of feet below us. I was glad Andrew was out of his clumsy stage, but didn’t give much thought to where the kids were — I was too concerned with putting each foot in front of me for the 600 or so steps to the top of the rock.

Dona on Skellig Michael

Dona on Skellig Michael

When I finally reached the monastery, I wondered why I’d been worried about the difficulty of climbing up 600 steps. I should have been worried about falling off the top of the 600 steps.

Two beehive huts on Skellig Michael

Two beehive huts on Skellig Michael

Several “beehive” huts, some dry-stone walls, a graveyard and a vegetable garden stand on the top of Skellig Michael. A very informative docent told us about the monastery and the people who lived there. We walked around and took too many photographs. It was so worth the boat ride and the walk, being in this ancient place.

Little Skellig

Little Skellig

The boat ride back was actually worse, but I was less scared. We stopped at the smaller Skellig Islandthis one is a gannet sanctuary and is white with smelly bird guano.

Joe Roddy chatting with <strike>captives</strike> passengers

Joe Roddy chatting with passengers

Back at Portmagee a flying bird gave us a welcome back package in the form of a poo.

We drove home and when we got to the house, Liam’s car was blocking the driveway. An elderly man in a heavy woolen sweater and wellies walked up to us and explained that Liam was taking the cows to be milked. He told Dean to drive the car into the driveway and then drive our car in afterwords. I talked to him for a bit and learned he was Liam’s 87 year old father. He told me he was born and grew up in the house and that his older brother had lived there and only recently died. He also told me he had another brother who lived in America.

Norman ruin near Tralia House

Norman ruin near Tralia House

Later, while Dean took a nap, Liam stopped by to apologize for leaving his car in the drive. We chatted a bit about our day and Liam told me that he was going to put up some barn owl nesting boxes soon.

While I’m sad to be leaving Tralia House, I’m anxious to see our new place. It can’t compare — but will be different — being by the sea. We will rest a little more there as well.

More Day 7 photos on Flickr.

Co. Kerry::Inch Beach and environs — Day 6

Dean and Andrew on Inch Beach

Dean and Andrew on Inch Beach

Today we did go back to the Dingle Peninsula. We stopped at Inch Beach first because the sun was showing. Even so, it was chilly and windy. The beach is huge — long and wide. It may have been low tide. We walked along the beach for a bit, then Dean wanted to head to the dunes.

Dean on a Dune at Inch Beach

Dean on a Dune at Inch Beach

These dunes, which are the largest I’ve ever seen, had no signs warning of environmental impact if trod upon — so Dean and the kids climbed to the top of the nearest dune. I hesitated, then followed them. I passed bya  couple of people sheltering from the wind. The dunes were so large that I didn’t see the people until I was nearly on top of them.

Colorful snails lined the path — clinging to reeds or just sitting in the sand. I picked up one from the sand  and saw that it was alive.

I met up with Clare at the top of a dune and saw that behind that dune, dozens more spread towards the road.

Dean and Andrew were resting in the bottom of a dune and claimed it was warm.

After climbing for a while I walked back to the beach, but Dean and the kids continued their exploration of the dunes at Inch Beach.

I later read that Ryan’s Daughter was filmed there.

Andrew inside the South Pole Inn

Andrew inside the South Pole Inn

Andrew outside the South Pole Inn

Andrew outside the South Pole Inn

We then drove towards Dingle Town and stopped for a late lunch at a bar called the South Pole Inn that was once owned by Tom Crean, one of Shackleton’s crew mates on his Antarctic adventure. Andrew is reading a book about the voyage for school so we snapped a few photos of the inside and outside.

Scary driving in Ireland

Scary driving in Ireland

After lunch we tried to find Minard Castle, but the road there was blocked.

After the Dingle drive we stopped at home for a couple of hours then took the kids to a pub in town that advertised live music. It must have been too early, because no one was playing anything. (Later we discovered that “Trad” didn’t start until 10 pm or later — too late for us).

Back home we had a simple pasta meal and retired early to be able to areise for our Skellig Michael trip the next day.

More Day 6 photos on Flickr.

Co. Kerry::Part of the Ring of Kerry — Day 5

Torc Waterfall

Torc Waterfall

Today was quite mild, temperature wise. We drove to Kenmare, via Killarney and stopped off at Torc Waterfall for an hour hike through the park. It was lush, green and mossy.

The Lakes of Killarney as seen from Ladies View

The Lakes of Killarney as seen from Ladies View

The drive to Kenmare was beautiful. There was less traffic than I’d expected along this stretch of the Ring of Kerry. Spectacular views, the occasional ruin and plenty of sheep.

Kenmare is a busy little town. Yesterday seemed to be market day as a number of tents were set up with folks selling goods. The woman at the tourist information center was from the States though. We’ll have to let that one go.

Kenmare Stone Circle

Kenmare Stone Circle

We ate a much needed late lunch of sandwiches, soup and chocolate cake at a small cafe in town, then toured the town’s stone circle — the largest in the Southwest Ireland.  Then we walked to a secondhand bookstore and browsed for a while. It was drizzly by this time and I got to try out my new green raincoat.

Back at the car we drove onto Sneem, then drove back a different, much more spectacular way through the mountains.

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Monkey Puzzle Tree

We stopped in Killarney for more food and supplies and where I photographed a fine specimen of a Monkey Puzzle Tree that stands in the front garden of a house on the N71.

Back home we had leftover coq au vin over rice. Pretty good for a quick meal.

Birds (and other wildlife) seen today:

  • blackbird
  • wren
  • swallow
  • song thrush
  • robin
  • 3 Irish hares

Tomorrow we plan on maybe heading back to Dingle to see Inch Beach. There is a pub there that was built by someone in a book Andrew is reading for English.

More Day 5 photographs on Flickr.

Co. Kerry::Killarney National Forest — Day 4

View from Muckross House - Muckross Lake (?)

View from Muckross House - Muckross Lake (?)

We awoke late again this morning. We ate a late breakfast of eggs, potatoes, beans and toast. Then drove to Killarney National Park. I wanted to see the yew forest. I’d asked about the yew forest earlier in the week, but the woman at the tourist office desk was vague about its location, but suggested that if we went to Muckross House we’d be fairly close. I also mentioned it to Áine, and she didn’t offer suggestions on its location, probably because she didn’t know exactly where it was either.

Muckross House Through the Roses

Muckross House Through the Roses

We drove to the park and toured Muckross House, a huge mansion built in the Tudor style and decorated in the Victorian style because the queen herself once stayed there. The folks who owned Muckross when Victoria and Albert and some of their children visited did so, in part, because they hoped they would be given more land or a title after the visit. Unfortunately, however, a few months after the visit Albert died and Victoria went into mourning. She forgot about her visit to Muckross House and the owners, who had sunk a small fortune into the preparations for the visit, ended up in poor financial state.

Muckross Traditional Farms -- farm house

Muckross Traditional Farms -- farm house

We also toured the tradional farm, which is like a small Williamsburg, near Muckross House, then headed along the Muckross Peninsula to the Yew Forest.

I’d seen photographs Reenadinna Yew Wood online and really wanted to experience it for myself. I felt a little guilty, because tourism is actually killing this magical place, and it is one of only three existing yew woods in Europe. I kept on reminding Dean and the kids to be careful and not step on the fragile roots of the trees.

Yew Wood

Yew Wood

As we walked along the Muckross Peninsula I saw what looked like the photos I’d seen, and every so often I’d exclaim, “I think this is it!” Then we’d walk on some more and I’d proclaim we’d found it again. Finally we saw a grove of evergreen trees upon a mossy hill and I knew we’d found the yews. Someone noticed a cave within the grove of trees, and despite my warnings about killing the trees by stepping the roots, Dean, Clare and Andrew all headed towards the cave. After some cajolling, they enticed me to the mouth of the cave, but I refused to go in. Soon my family disappeared into the cave and I fancied the fairyfolk might take them away to fairyland to be slaves.

No such luck.

Mouth of Cave in Yew Wood

Mouth of Cave in Yew Wood

Soon I heard excited voices on the other side of the hill and was distressed to see them STANDING ON THE ROOTS OF THE YEWS in this ancient yew grove. Their excitement got to me, so I tried to go through the cave once again, but before I could get into complete darkness, my claustrophobia forced me to run back out the way I came in.

After a few more times in and out of the cave, my reckless family stomped on even more yew roots and wandered deep into the yew forest while I wrung my hands and apologized to fairy folk under my breath.

Eventually they returned and we continued our walk along the peninsula. Farther down the yew wood was even denser and mossier, and thankfully fenced off so the roots were protected from wandering American feet.

The cliffs

The cliffs

On the walk back to the car we found a detour with steps leading into the forest. I was tired, but the kids ran on and came back with tales of water, more steps and cliffs overlooking the lake.

We drove home and thought we’d eat dinner at a pub — but the pub in town didn’t serve food and even though the publican told us how to find a place that served food, we chose to go home and cook a chicken we had in the fridge. We made coq au vin.

Dean and I drove to the pub while the chicken was cooking and spoke to a local who old us the weather might improve tomorrow and that the houses in town were all owned by folks who couldn’t afford them and never went to the pub because they couldn’t afford the cost of a pint.

Back home we had dinner — not bad — and then played cards.

More Day 4 photos on Flickr.

Co. Kerry::Dingle Peninsula — Day 3

On Monday, July 7, we drove to the Dingle Peninsula. First, however, we drove to Tralee — the town made famous by the song, The Rose of Tralee. Don’t worry if you’d never heard of the song — neither had I. Here’s a version of it.

In August women from all over the world compete for the title of The Rose of Tralee.

Anyway, we got some cash in Tralee and a few groceries at a Dunnes store. I also bought some slippers. Dunnes has groceries and clothes. I guess it’s kind of like a Super Target or Super Walmart.

After Tralee we headed out to the road to Dingle. We first passed some mud flats with shorebirds. I would have liked to stop to see the birds, but roads in Ireland are not conducive to just stopping. Clare was asleep at this point. I think the jet lag was catching up on her.

As we drove further out to the end of the Dingle Peninsula we saw mountains in the distance and the shore was to our right — one beach hosted huge waves and a number of surfers.

View from the Conor Pass -- Dingle Peninsula

View from the Conor Pass -- Dingle Peninsula

Clare woke up when we got to the Conor Pass which, according to the Dingle Peninsula website, is the highest mountain pass in Ireland.  It was pretty amazing, and a little scary as Dean navigated the curves in the road.

Sheep on the road -- Conor Pass -- Dingle Peninusla

Sheep on the road -- Conor Pass -- Dingle Peninusla

At one point we saw some sheep on the road, so we stopped and admired the scenery and Clare chased the sheep.

After that, Clare, Dean and Andrew walked — despite the gale force winds — to the top of a hill. I was too tired, or cold or apprehensive of the height to accompany them.

After our brief break we drove onto Dingle and had a lunch of cheese, bread and fruit. Irish cheese is delicious — creamy and filling. We looked around at the shops in Dingle, but everything seemed too touristy.

Doorway to Dunbeg Circle fort

Doorway to Dunbeg Circle fort

After Dingle, we drove to Dunbeg Promontory Fort, not too far out of Dingle, towards the end of the peninsula. We watched an embarrassingly amateur video about the fort in the visitor’s center and toured the fort. Had I known the fairy folk may have built it, I may have had more interest in it.

Afterward we drove to some “beehive” huts — more “fairy folk” homes.

Gallarus Oratory -- Dingle Peninusla

Gallarus Oratory -- Dingle Peninusla

We drove on for a while, stopping to look at the Blasket Islands. These islands were evacuated in the 1950’s and hosted many poets and writers. We missed the Blasket Island Info Center, but did go to the Gallarus Oratory which was an early Christian church.

We then drove home, through Dingle and stopped briefly at Inch Beach where Dean and Andrew checked out the beach and Clare and I examined slugs.

For dinner we cooked pork chops braised in Druids Celtic Cider with an apple and brown bread dressing. Clare made killer mashed potatoes.

Dean retired early and Clare, Andrew and I stayed up to listen to Prince Caspian and watch the news. The weather man seemed so sad that his prediction was nothing but rain, rain and more rain.

More Day 3 Photos on Flickr

Co. Kerry::Killarney National Park — Day 2

A Cathedral in Killarney

A Cathedral in Killarney

Dean and I got up at 10:00 am this morning — although I was awake from 2:30 – 4 am. Andrew was awake from 3 – 5. Clare and Andrew got up at 11.

We decided to visit Killarney today. It is only a 15 minute drive away and we figured we needed an easy day and drive.

We had to first visit Liam and Áine’s house because we were having trouble with the keys in the doors. The front door was impossible to turn (we didn’t want to break the key) and the back door lock was sticking too. We didn’t want to lock up and then not be able to get in when we returned.

Ross Castle, Killarney

Ross Castle, Killarney

They followed us to the house and after a few minutes and a few sprays of WD-40, fixed the locks. Then they lead us to Killarney where they’d planned to visit that day as well. We met the rest of their children — the twins, Evelyn and Ruth, and their toddler, Maeve.

Ferns in Killarney

Ferns in Killarney

In Killarney we toured St. Mark’s Cathedral, then walked to Ross Castle and took the tour there. Ross Castle was one of 3000 castles built during the 1500’s. It was restored in the 1970’s, thanks in part, to an Irish American from Philadelphia.

We walked back to Killarney by way of the River Walk. Along the river are primitive looking plants — horsetails and ferns.

Clare and Andrew playing Connect 4

Clare and Andrew playing Connect 4 in the lounge

Back in Killarney we stopped in a cafe for a mediocre meal, then we shopped for food at a Tesco and walked back to the car. We’d not realized that it costs money to use a cart in a grocery store nor the 22 cent (50 cent — usd) surchage they put on plastic grocery bags in Ireland.

Back home we played cards, then had a quiet evening in the lounge after the kids had turns at driving a stick shift and steering wheel on the right along the gravel driveway.

New birds I saw today were:

pie-billed wagtail
Goldfinch
Jackdaw
hooded crow

More Day 2 photos on Flickr.

Tralia House, Firies, Co. Kerry, Ireland — 12:45 pm — Day 1

Inside our rental car

Clare inside our rental car

We landed around 6:30 am, rented a car, got euros (not enough) and headed off to County Kerry and our first Self-catering accommodation, Tralia House. At the car rental booth we had a bit of a hassle about insurance, but I’d heard that renting a car in Ireland was tricky because they tack on so many extra fees. The explanation is that there are more cars about now and the roads are not very good, thus more accidents. The car rental companies don’t want to be stuck with large bills so they require renters to pay up-front.

The drive down to Kerry is better left forgotten. In retrospect we should have not attempted to drive 5 hours after very little sleep. Dean opted for a manual transmission, and of course the Irish drive on the left side of the road, so it all made for an interesting ride.

The road to Firies (pronounced fi-rees) from Dublin is beautiful. We saw a few ruins along the way and once I saw a fox in a green field.  I also saw wood pigeons, magpies and a swan.

Ballina, Co. Tipperary

Ballina, Co. Tipperary

We stopped in a small town called Ballina, which is on the southern tip of Lough Derg. Dean had a half hour nap, I had 40 winks. Clare took a stroll around the area.

We drove into town, but coming back was frightening. The narrow roads and parked cars (in the roads) and crowds of people walking (in the roads) caused much anxiety (a taste of things to come?).

We continued our journey to Tralia House and were doing fine until our GPS insisted we go through a roadblock. We avoided it, but she insisted we turn around. We ignored her the third time and then got very lost. Either the GPS was pouting, or the roads we traveled were not mapped. In any case we ended up on some very narrow roads that would have been scary to drive even if Dean wasn’t dead tired driving an unfamiliar car in a foreign country on the wrong side of the road.

We eventually found Farranfore, the small town with the roadblock again and asked for directions to Firies at a food store. The cashier, a friendly young woman, was very helpful and showed us, in-person — she left her cash-register, the road we needed to turn onto to get to Firies. She said the next town we came to would be Firies.

We returned to the car and drove the road as directed. Before too long we arrived at a tiny town (with lots of new development), parked in a pub parking lot called The Stands Bar (which used to be Johnny’s Bar — I’d seen a photo of it online) and phoned Áine (pronounced on-ya) to let her know we’d arrived. After a little confusion on the phone, probably resulting from my accent, I spoke to Áine who said she’d be right there.

Tralia House

Tralia House

After waiting a few minutes we saw her car (she described it as an Audi Jeep — but perhaps the Irish say Jeep when we say SUV?) and followed her the mile or so to Tralia House. When we turned down what looked to be a dirt road, but was actually a very long driveway, I was a little concerned, but when I saw the two story yellow house in person, the concerns disappeared completely. It was more beautiful than in the online photos.

Áine showed us the inside of the house, explained how the hot water and power shower worked, and told us about places to visit in the area. When we explained that we hadn’t exchanged enough money at the airport to settle with her, she immediately asked if we needed some Euros to tide us over! We said we had enough for a day, but thanked her for her offer — we just couldn’t pay for the house yet.

A cozy fire at Tralia House

A cozy fire at Tralia House

Áine’s husband, Liam, arrived then, with a bag of wood for the solid fuel stove. He also left a bucket of coal in the shed if we wanted to use it as well. He showed Dean how to light the fire. Áine and Liam stayed for a while, talking about places to visit. They offered us the use of their phone for when we needed to make reservations for places and encouraged us to “call [on] them whenever we needed to — their house was around the corner. Áine even offered to buy us a chicken to cook, or even one already cooked, for dinner — or drive me to the store to get one. We told her we brought some food from home, and were planning on having a simple meal, then going to bed.

Kitchen in Tralia House -- our first meal

Kitchen in Tralia House -- our first meal

We ate our first meal in our first house in Ireland — Annie’s Mac and Cheese with canned tuna. It felt like dinnertime, but was only around 3 pm in Ireland.

Áine and Liam are possibly the nicest hosts I’ve ever met. Later that evening Liam came back with a map and a handwritten note from Áine about some of the places we’d discussed to visit. He also brought his eldest child, a son called Patrick. The also brought two extra bicycles.

Dean, Clare and Andrew took a bike ride while I stayed at the house and looked at some birds.

I saw several rooks (that have a roost in the large tree behind the house — probably more than 20 nests). They are loud and when they loose their feathers (which they often do) the feathers fall to the ground like “whirlybird” maple tree seeds do).  I also saw a winter wren and swallows. I also heard a bird with an American Robin-like song, that may have been a thrush.

A curious cow, just outside our front gate

A curious cow, just outside our front gate

I watched the cattle walk from their field to get milked and shot a few photos and a video of them.

When the kids got back they showed me where they’d been exploring. We saw a pile of rubble that may have once been a house (or perhaps it was from the house we were now staying in — it had gone through a major renovation recently). We also saw a couple of old buildings, one looked like it was once a home — with two rooms and a fireplace. We disturbed the rooks, who were sent flying and cawwing.

Dean, at my request, had gone into town for a bottle of wine. When he returned we had a glass of wine, then I cooked some scrambled eggs and Irish rashers (which Áine had bought for us at my request) for dinner.

After dinner Dean went to bed and the rest of us took showers. I’d tried to take a bath, but the water never got hot enough to actually bathe and the radiator in the bathroom didn’t work. Too much cold for my taste.

The weather is reasonable. Sure, it’s in the mid- to low-60’s, but when the sun shines it feels warmer. We also brought plenty of warm clothing.

The kids and I went to bed after Dean. Andrew crashed at 8:30, I succumbed to my exhaustion at 9:15. Clare held out until past midnight (at which time, she informed us, it’s still light outside).

More photos of Day 1 on Flickr.

Airplane — 5:45 GMT — We’re almost there

Sunset or sunrise on the way to Ireland

Sunset or sunrise on the way to Ireland

The kids took photos of the sunset (or sunrise).

Dean had a little nap. I did too, on the pull-out tray and even began to dream, but now my neck hurts.

According to the flight info, we’ve got about a half hour to go. I don’t know how Dean is going to be able to drive the five hours to the house.

More airplane photos on Flickr.