Ethel and I pulled the trigger on some cheeeeep tickets to Ireland a couple months ago; she hadn't been home in over 3 years, so it was past due to visit friends and family. It was going to be my first time to do anything more than to look at Ireland out the plane window on the way to Europe, so I was amply excited to experience a new corner of the globe.
We awake in Reno on our departure day (driving to SFO instead of hassling a connecting flight) to 3 inches of snow. After a quick coffee at Walden's, we make the trip over the Sierras and are met with glorious weather in the Bay. Like, the nicest weather I've ever seen in SF. We drop the Jeep off at Ethel's aunt's house near Ocean Beach, have lunch, and are on our way to SFO.
Unfortunately, I check my email at Marie's house and learn that MIT for grad school is a no-go. While that puts a damper on the day, it's better than finding that out while we're officially on holiday in Ireland. Aside: "what's next" is heavy on our minds and is in progress. Stay tuned.
Our steed for a trans-Atlantic flight
Ethel is floored to hear her name shouted in the terminal at SFO; here was Simon, her old boss from NZ, waiting for his connecting flight from NZ on his way to the UK. With Simon's wishes for safe travel added to our long list, we sit down for a 10ish-hour flight: next stop, Dublin!
Fun with the winglet
Safely in Dublin Tuesday morning, we're greeted by Ethel's mum Jane and sis Emily. Back at their place for an awesome Irish breakfast (my first introduction to black and white pudding, mmm) and the first of many, many cups of tea, we wait for uncle Michael and aunt Mary to arrive for the trip to their farm in County Laois ("leash").
Our steed for the airport trips, a Fiat Cinquecento Sporting edition
Before Michael and Mary arrive, we take a quick trip to Dun Laoghaire ("done leary") for a walk out to the end of the breakwater. It's the departure point for the ferry to Wales, and it's nice to spend the warm afternoon outside.
A rusty navigation buoy boat at Dun Laoghaire
A view across Dublin Bay
Michael and Mary collect us in Dublin, and we take a break from the awful rush-hour traffic for a great meal on the way out of town. I drink my first pint of Guinness in Ireland, and it truly is better. Guinness does not travel all that well, and it's far smoother and creamier just miles away from where it's brewed. After dinner, Ethel and I force ourselves to stay awake for the drive to Laois so we'll have our best shot at beating the jetlag. Predictably, we sleep for 15 hours, awaking at noon on Wednesday.
Our time in Laois is to be dominated by visits with family and friends. Predictably, every one of these visits is dominated by tea.
My first introduction to hurling, an Irish sport. Look at the little ginger!
After betting on the horses Wednesday (the prestigious Cheltenham Festival was on in the UK), we sneak in a run and go with Marty and his kids to Caoch O' Leary's in Ballycolla. Talking to effusive Marty and deciphering his quick accent helps the Guinness go down; I leave there with my fourth pint of the trip tucked safely away in my gut.
Birds in the barnyard
Trees on the farm
Crane or otherwise on the farm
Still on the farm
Horse and chickens
Thursday evening we go for a run from Rachel's house (after cups of tea 8 and 9, causing me to pee 4 times in 45 minutes...) and are then treated by Michael and Mary to Slumdog Millionaire in Portlaoise. We stop at Eddy's in Mountrath on our way back for a couple sneaky pints after closing time...shhh...
Purveyor of eggs and nuggets
Maggie, not used to unfamiliar faces
After my twelfth cup of tea for the trip, sometime Friday morning, we go with Mary to see a mare that they've got in training. Friday night, we gear up for a night on the "town" for a few pints. Abbeyleix is home to Morrissey's, which to date stands as one of the cooler pubs I've ever been in. The atmosphere aids Guinness consumption, and marks, among others, the tenth pint of the trip.
Another part of Morrissey's. I -totally- didn't almost fall onto that hot stove.
I present a perfect picture of a perfect pint
Looking down the bar
Don't mind me
Waiter! There's a Guinness on my table!
After Morrissey's, we retreat to Shearnian's for a quiet whiskey or two; it's another very cool pub.
Poster's seen a few passers-by
Dooley makes hurleys (that's the stick for hurling) in Coolrain. I drink near his sign.
Danielle and Zara out for a walk
Saturday sees us leave Laois, but not before we make a quick stop at Aghaboe Abbey on our way to Billy's house so Ethel can spend a few minutes on a horse for the first time in years.
Headstones at Aghaboe Abbey
Looking out from Aghaboe Abbey
The grounds at Aghaboe
Ethel's first horsey ride in a few years
Above an in-progress motorway
We head for Killeigh with sis Emily in County Offaly. Ethel's aunt Paula lives here with her two girls Ciara and Zoe; they'll be playing host to us for a couple days. After a delicious lunch, we saddle up for a bike ride with Paula up The Cut, a cool mountain (hill) a couple towns away. It's good to get in a single ride over the course of two weeks, although I'm pretty sure I'll avoid rusty SPD pedals at all costs in the future.
Sunday morning sees us taking the girls to Charleville Castle just outside Tullamore, home of Tullamore Dew whiskey.
Walking up to Charleville Castle
Mossy tower at Charleville
A few shots of dilapidated stables on the grounds of Charleville Castle:
A few shots of one of Ireland's oldest and largest trees:
Tullamore also has a swimming pool, so we pay 7 euro apiece and get a few laps in; it's a nice break from our standard daily run! Jane drives down from Dublin to collect Emily. I make the mistake of drinking three cups of tea between dinner and bed. That twenty-third cup of tea for the trip is the straw the breaks the camel's back, and I spend the night feverishly brainstorming about how best to execute moves to far corners of the globe.
On Monday, we go for a nice run in the Killeigh countryside before making the trek to Dublin. This is the day before St. Patrick's Day, so the city is humming with activity. We meet Disco at Temple Bar that afternoon and spend the rest of the day and night wandering around to spots that Ethel knows from her stint in Dublin. Her mate Sinead puts us up in her spare room, so we avoid the trouble of finding good accommodation on the busiest weekend of the year.
Brick buildings in Dublin
River Liffey in Dublin
Outside Butler's Chocolate Cafe
Tuesday is St. Patrick's Day. And we're in Dublin. I've been hesitant leading up to this day, almost entirely because of my prediction of legions of drunken Americans staggering around. You see, we kind of changed it from a religious holiday to a drinking holiday. More on this later.
Green everywhere on St. Paddy's Day
Lined up for the parade
The parade is on today, but we showed up HOURS too late to even have a chance of getting a good spot. Knowing this, we only spend a few minutes pottering around the parade route before heading to Croke Park (80,000ish capacity) for the Club Finals for hurling and Gaelic football, both sports unique to Ireland.
Hurling is an awesome sport. It's like lacrosse but waaaay harder, faster, and more physical. Gaelic football is also great. It's a bit like rugby, a bit more like Aussie Rules rugby, but don't DARE compare it to rugby! You'd find yourself strung up somewhere for even hinting that this Irish sport bears any semblance to that most English of sports...
The following collection of shots is from the hurling match:
Halftime show; don't even ask
Fortunately, Gaelic football and hurling use the same pitch (field), same goalposts, and are even scored the same, so it's natural to combine the two matches on one day.
The following collection of shots is from the Gaelic football match:
Just shy of 33,000 people turn up for the matches, a good crowd, especially considering that these are not professional athletes. They've all got day jobs, the teams are truly club teams, and these throngs of people have turned up to cheer for their local heroes. It's a great vibe, and nobody's even that rowdy.
Bullethole in statue from the 1916 Rising
After the matches, we walk around for a bit and end up at a pub called Bowe's. A few of Ethel's mates come by, and it ends up being our spot for the night. Somewhere between my sixteenth and seventeenth pint of Guinness for the trip, Disco, Ethel and I go in search of kebabs and come back for more good times at Bowe's.
Disco, Catrina, and Ethel at Bowe's
Ethel on the LUAS train
Sure enough, there are plenty of stumbling 'mericans out this night. Strangely, the Irish exhibit a combination of holding their liquor better and staying more in control. This is in stark contrast to my last Paddy's day in Queenstown, where the resident Irish were off their faces by 10 or 11am.
We meet Catrina Wednesday morning; she's in fine shape after ten pints of Guinness the night before. We then gather Disco and head to the museum at Collins Barracks.
Disco's flight back to Deutschland isn't until Wednesday night, so we abandon him at the front door of the Jameson distillery and make tracks for Ethel's childhood home in Wexford. Her dad and his brothers all live within a couple miles of each other, so there are scads of cousins to catch up with, not to mention the loads of friends. Our afternoon in Wexford starts with my thirtieth cup of tea thus far and ends with a run down to the River Barrow and dinner at Lucy's just up the road.
Farm cats part 1 - Three of a Kind
Thursday brings good weather; it's misty but warm, and miraculously still not raining. We pay more visits to Ethel's friends and run up Slieve Coillte, a nice 3km climb to the highest point in the vicinity. We also peek into Dunbrody Abbey; it's old and dilapidated, but some restoration was in progress. What's remarkable about these old abbeys is the precision with which they were constructed.
Dunbrody Abbey from afar
There's been another!
Still inside Dunbrody
Steps to nowhere
Reflection of Dunbrody
Farm cats part 2 - Complete Cast
Farm cats part 3 - On Alert
On Friday we have lunch with Brid and head out to Hook Head to see the lighthouse and to go for a run. There's been a lighthouse here since the 1100s (!) and it's been appropriately updated over the years.
Hook Head Lighthouse
Near Hook Head
Near Hook Head
Old old church near Hook Head
Loftus Hall, near Hook Head
Ethel on the beach at Duncannon
Feeble sun at Duncannon
It's foggy Saturday morning so I head out into the fields for some photos, but it's not as foggy as it had been when we drove in on Wednesday, so I missed a few cool opportunities then. The sun comes out strongly, confirming Wexford's nickname of the "Sunny Southeast." Later on in the day, we drive to Fethard to catch up with more of Ethel's mates, these ones that she lived with in Oz. We go for a gorgeous run out there after my forty-seventh cup of tea for the trip, making it back in time to see the start of the Ireland-Wales Six Nations rugby match.
Foggy trees in Wexford
Foggy field in Wexford
Flower on gorse
Cliffs near Fethard along our run route
Moo-cow near Fethard
Cows and sunset near Fethard
This Six Nations match is a big deal; Ireland starts the match a mere 80 minutes away from their first grand slam in the series in 61 years. Needless to say, this was the event of the day. I wish we'd found a hopping pub to watch the match in, but the excitement is thick enough at aunt Lucy's house. The lead changes twice in the last five minutes of the match, and Ireland hangs on for a huge victory. I wash the victory down with my twentieth pint of Guinness.
Dmitry deep in focus
View north from Slieve Coillte, 271m
View SW from Slieve Coillte
Sunday is our last day in Wexford, unfortunately. The rural pace is nice and we're surrounded by great people. The weather is glorious once again, so I sneak off for a 20ish-km run from the house over to Slieve Coillte and back.
After breakfast at Lucy's, we say our goodbyes and head back to Laois for lunch and to drop off the car that Mary so graciously loaned us for our meanderings. We say more goodbyes there, stuff a huge quantity of gear into Jane's Cinquecento, and head back to Dublin.
Random countryside manor
Jane treats us to breakfast Monday morning before we shove off for the 11-hour flight. As we push back from the gate, raindrops pelt the plane's windows, the first ones we've seen save for a little drizzle one night in Laois. How we survived two weeks in Ireland without rain is beyond me but quite alright. After settling in on the plane, I drink my fifty-seventh and final cup of tea for the trip; the caffeine withdrawals will surely last for days...
These last few photos are out the plane window over the southern tip of Greenland; stunning terrain on all accounts. Some of these have a nice visual effect thanks to polycarbonate plane window, polarizing filter, and gross underexposure. ;)
Safely back in SFO (huge fan of nonstop long-haul flights, by the way), we have a tasty and quick lunch at Marie's, hop back in the Jeep, and do a pretty fair job of timing both SF and Sacramento rush-hour traffic, making it back to Reno in just about exactly four hours.
All told, Ethel got to catch up with loads of people she was way overdue with and show me the places that she called home until she started her travels. I got to see a new part of the world and experience a new culture, and it all adds up to a winning two weeks for both of us!
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