Sunday 28 April 2013

Ireland: Day Six - Connemara, Kylemore Abbey and Mayo Country

It is my goal tonight to get to sleep way before 1:00am so I am going to attempt writing this as my day goes along. It's a bit hard as the road is pretty bumpy but that is what autocorrect is for!

I have had a few questions about the food on this trip. Breakfast and Dinner are included almost every day and done at the hotel. Breakfast is always a full Irish one served buffet style consisting of pretty much most hot breakfast foods you can think of. I personally don't like most breakfast items and would feel too full for our busy days, so I have been sticking to croissants, fruit or cereal. From what I hear breakfast is amazing, and people always feel incredibly full. For lunches we are on our own and most people tend to hit pubs for fish and chips. Dad and I have been finding cafes or pubs that offer soup/sandwiches. Dinner is done at the hotel and done as as fixed menu offering choices. So far all of it has been really good. I'm pretty amused by the Irish butter addiction my dad has developed. The man who swears away from carbs and hardy uses any butter that doesn't have the word peanut before it, is eating bread with butter at every meal. Apparently it is delicious and no where near what we have at home.

I have also had some family asking about the bus. It's a brand new coach and we are the first trip on it. It's large - though a lot of guides keep referring to it as the "wee bus" (which none of us get) and there are four of us that just remain in the back. Everyone in the front is part of a seat rotation, so we are called the "riff raff or trouble makers" by the driver. It's enjoyable back here for a few reasons - we can spread out more, sit alone, jump between sides for pictures and not have to see the narrow roads, crazy turns. The bus being new has a few negatives - the clock keeps resetting and there is this awful beeping that comes through the speakers whenever our driver seems to accelerate. Yesterday it was driving me crazy so I listened to my iPod.... I initially did try to theme the music around Irish singers/groups but I had only two U2 songs, the August Rush Soundtrack, the song Galway Girl and some Enya.... So I gave up and put on Zac Brown Band (in other news only 4 more months until their concert!!!!!) The side door of the bus occasionally opens randomly when we stop and today the TVs came down for no reason. The guide does the driving also, and has explained that no one wants a new bus due to the kinks you initially get. I can see why.

The weather has been what you would expect - sweater/jacket weather. We have been lucky to have a few nice, sunny days but even those have a cool, crisp breeze or wind leaving us needing to bundle up. I feel sorry for one woman who brought mostly capris and sandals - I imagine she's freezing. The tour guide is great - he is really passionate about Ireland and you can tell how much his country and its history means to us. He has told us stories about living here, and aspects of daily life in Ireland - taxes, homes, building along with personal anecdotes of things and how they have effected him and his family. We learned a lot about the fishing industry - mainly salmon and how licences have been bought back from people by the country to try and repair the depleting salmon supply.

So on to today, I was rushed to leave because I was helping someone get into their email but luckily it's a day where we are going back to the same hotel so there was no need to pack up all the belongings. They used my iPad to get on, so I ended up not having enough time to take it back to my room, which worked well for this post. I haven't really bought much, yet everything seems to be getting heavier each day. We started off with a quick photo stop at the national famine memorial near our hotel. It was an interesting sculpture to see, somber yet compelling. It is fashioned like a ship and uses skeleton features to represent the number of people who died on the ships while emigrating. We learned a lot about the famine - it's causes, effects, and the work schemes and their impact. We also learn about the famine march and stopped at a monument commemorating that at an area I believe is called Black Lake. The views were incredible - so we had time for a photo stop.

We got held up by some sheep on the road, but continued to make our way around Connemara - an area which is said to be one of the most beautiful/picturesque areas of the country. We drove around the Murrisk Peninsula to get to Delphi and Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only true fjord. We heard about a film called "The Field" starring Richard Harris which was filmed around this area and stopped for photos at a small waterfall from the movie - Ashleigh Falls. I didn't bother getting out at this stop - it was cold, and from what I could see they weren't anything spectacular. Actually it made me smile as we drove past after the photo stop because they reminded me of a "wee" or miniature version of Niagara Falls.

We stopped for a morning break at a Sheep and Wool Centre which had a museum, cafe and store. I opted to spend time in the store, not the museum - big surprise eh? ;) I managed to get some postcards, the obligatory shot glass for my brothers collection and a wool sweater. I liked this very pretty pink one which was a beautiful colour, but it was only 30% wool. I am in Ireland - I am not going to buy something I can get at home. So I kept looking and found a beautiful white wool sweater. I'm glad I kept looking. I made my purchase and headed back to the bus. Dad wasn't there, and as I walked down I joked "No one saw this!" And placed the bag behind my seat. We will see if I manage to keep this purchase a secret. Not that he would really care, but I know I'll hear the usual "You have so many clothes already" speech.

I tried doing some post cards on the bus, bad idea. I apologize in advance to anyone whose postcard looks like a 7year old wrote it. Bus writing is even harder then bus typing. One thing I love about this area is how spaced apart the houses and land are. One thing I am amazed at is how many sheep we are passing. I swear I am seeing more sheep on this trip then I did in Scotland. If I was someone who ate lamb, I know I definitely wouldn't ever again after this trip. I think the difference is there went so many randomly roaming around.

We passed an area where they farmed mussels - that was a interesting to see. It consists of these large barrels placed in the water. It definitely changes the landscape - you have this beautiful water and mountains and then these barrels. Our next stop was a quick one for a photo of the Killary Harbour. It was a nice view, but pretty much the same as we have been seeing. I think sights tend to lose a little bit of their awe factor the more we see. They are all beautiful though.

By the harbour there is a tree with rags tied around it. According to the guide this tree is being claimed to be something it is not. In Ireland there are wells that are steeped in Celtic legend that have healing properties. The idea is you dip a rag in it, wipe the affected area and tie the rag around the bush which is nearby. These bushes are called rag bushes, and around at holy sites. This rag bush by the harbour is one that a tour operator created and has his passengers tie ribbons around. He actually tells them they have a chance of seeing a leprechaun and finding is pot of gold.

According to our guide if you look at a map and turn it around a bit Ireland looks like a bear or buffalo. We did it, and I actually agree. I'll take a photo later and post it. I am also surprised at how much bogland is in Ireland. I never really associated Ireland with bogland but it does make sense due to the amount of rain and water it has.

Our next stop was Kylemore Abbey which is right on the shores of Kylemore Lough. This Abbey is a massive castle that was built by a man Mitchell Henry for his wife. He built her this stunning dream home right on the lake, and the home is amazing. (Brain: when are you building me my castle? It has almost been three years.... ;)

The house has a long history and I bought a book chronicling it because it seems fascinating. Eventually it was taken over by nuns and run as a boarding school. Now is is still used by the church and nuns, but more of an attraction. Only a few rooms are open for viewing but they are beautiful. It's definitely very dark as it faces in to the mountains, but the land and outside are incredible. There is a private chapel down the road but we didn't walk to it due to the rain that started. There is also a walled garden but its up far enough from the house they use a shuttle bus to get to it. They have a cute craft shop but most of the items were overpriced, and a little cafe. Dad bought some Irish music CDs since we aren't really hearing much in way of Irish music.

We headed back through the Maam Valley where blackheaded sheep make up a large part of the population. Then we were back in Westport for some free time --- free time in a city, finally!!! Fact about Westport - its a lovely town which was voted Ireland’s tidiest in 2001, 2006 and again in 2008. A few people are opting to head to the hotel for spa appointments, but I decided not to. If I really want to make use of a spa day I can go in Killarney where we are for three nights or back at home. Initially we were going to stay and walk around the town, but when we drove through most places were closed. It's a seaside town so their tourist season hasn't kicked off yet. It's fine, I was a bit tired anyways. I went for a swim back at the hotel and then had some time to relax.

I plan on getting to bed early tomorrow as we head in to Bunratty.

Photo One: Famine Memorial
Photo Two: Up close look at the detail in the memorial
Photo Three: I think this place is called Black Rock Lake
Photo Four: Me - self photo-ing because Dad stayed on the bus
Photo Five: Why dad didn't get off the bus
Photo Six: Seaside Cemetery
Photo Seven: Scenery
Photo Eight: Famine March Monument
Photo Nine: Mussel Traps
Photo Ten: Killary Harbour
Photo Twelve: Kylemore Abbey from across the bridge
Photo Thirteen: Kylemore Abbey
Photo Fourteen: Up close
Photo Fifteen: Dad and I outside
Photo Sixteen: Dad outside
Photo Seventeen: Dining Room
Photo Eighteen: Me in the Dining room (another selfie - dad went of the guided tour which I never like)
Photo Nineteen: Drawing Room
Photo Twenty: View from the front door
Photo Twenty-One: Dad and I in front
Photo Twenty-Two: Religious Idol way up high

1 comment:

  1. Yay, comments! :D

    I've updated your map:

    By the way, totally jealous about your stop tomorrow at the Cliffs of Moher, or as I'll always know them... The Cliffs of Insanity! It sounded familiar, so I checked wikipedia; fun fact before you go: "The Cliffs of Moher have appeared in numerous media. In cinema, the cliffs have appeared in several films, including: The Princess Bride (1987) (as the filming location for "The Cliffs of Insanity"), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009),[17] and Leap Year (2010)." Take me lots of photos! :D And lol, take 3 minutes with breakfast before you go, and watch that scene (since I know you prob don't remember it :P):

    Love ya, and see you in a week!