The end is near!



Like a couple of old but still valuable coins, my brother and I were collected from our Killarney hotel at 7 a.m. by a man in a van. He drove us to Limerick to meet up with the tour bus. Someone else got the seats in the first row, so we sat on the left in the second row. I know the hung-over man in the front seat appreciated having such a nice view to sleep through on most of the tour. We contented ourselves with seeing what was left.


The Up and Down Castle


Bunratty Castle has experienced a number of ups and downs since 1270 when Robert De Muscegros built the first fortress near the Ratty River. Literal ups and downs. After being raised, razed, and ruined (history’s three R’s) for almost 700 years, Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker took on the daunting task of  shortening his name to  7th Viscount Gort. He then restored and refurbished the castle (in 1954) so tourists would have some interesting places to leave their money when visiting Clare County. It worked. Tourists visit Clare County, they leave their money there, and they find it interesting.


Bunratty Castle

Giant deer antlers in Bunratty Castle


As was, is, and ever will be my wont, I gawked a lot. Viscount Gort furnished the castle with medieval furniture and tapestries, and visitors are free to roam about and try to remember to take some pictures. Tapestries from the 15th century and antlers of giant deer decorate the walls of the Great Hall. Giant deer with antlers up to 24 feet wide once roamed the Irish countryside. Thankfully, some of them died in bogs, those Irish scrapbooks of early history. The folks who run Bunratty Castle not only let you photograph whatever you want, but they also have a website that shows the Bunratty collection. How’s that for Irish hospitality?


Thatched-roofed house in Bunratty Folk Village


After visiting the castle we wandered through the folk village on the castle grounds. We didn’t have enough time to see all of the grounds because we needed to head to our next stop.


I never found out what this door was alarmed about. I wasn’t alarmed even once at the Bunratty Folk Village.


I saw this Irish agitator at Bunratty Castle.

I can resist anything but temptation.”


We stopped in Doolin for lunch at O’Connor’s Pub and stumbled into a chocolate shop nearby called The Chocolate Shop Doolin, makers of Wilde Irish chocolates. I don’t remember much after that. I know money exchanged hands and I was holding a label that said 70% dark chocolate. I remember, too, that the chocolate was organic fair-trade. (As you probably guessed, the chocolate was named in honor of Oscar Wilde who made the famous statement about temptation.)


The Cliffs of Moher


On our last day, the weather turned warm and sunny, mostly. To the southwest, some kind of cloud convention was going on, but they hung around the horizon and didn’t head our way. The bus driver said the tour group on the previous saw little of the Cliffs because of the fog.


When we un-bused, everyone un-sweatered themselves, and headed lemming-like toward the cliffs.  In spite of the grand weather, I managed to take quite a few bad pictures, but also captured some with a ridiculously blue sky and sea.


Cliffs of Moher facing the cloud convention

O’Brien’s Tower on right is the highest point on the Cliffs of Moher


Part of the cliffs were cordoned off to make sure the tourists go over to that part. We made sure to do so ourselves. I made both my camera and purse hold my hand but managed to lose my coral windbreaker, which I had slung over my purse because it was a one-shirt day.  Thankfully the windbreaker didn’t jump over the Cliffs; it just jumped down on a walkway to get a closer look. Before we left, I checked the lost and found, and someone had turned it in.


Let’s Rock!


As we headed for Galway to catch our train back to Dublin, we stopped at The Burren, which means “rocky place” in Gaelic. Geologists, scientific Rock Stars, call the limestone landscape ‘karst’: a rocky place full of fissures, cracks, caves, and sinkholes, which sounds remarkably like my brain. Unlike politicians, you can’t find much dirt in the limestone bedrock, yet it hosts over 700 species of plants, both those that grow in arctic and alpine areas of the world and those more typically found in the Mediterranean.


The Burren

Fairy tree


As our bus hurtled forward to Galway on the motorway,  the driver pointed out a fairy tree on our left. He even slowed down a bit and explained that the controversy over moving the fairy tree had delayed the building of the roadway for ten years. In the end, the tree won, the non-fairies rerouted the roadway, and the Irish moved on to other controversies. Since I was sitting on the left, I had a clear shot of the tree, which I didn’t get. I’m still mastering the skills of photography: digging in my bag for the camera, turning on the camera, looking through the viewfinder, seeing total blackness, removing the lens cap, looking through the viewfinder again, and trying to remember how to adjust the f/stop, shutter, aperture, and speed dial. If you want to see the tree of controversy, you have to visit someone else’s blog, someone like Paz, who obviously has mastered that tricky speed dial on his camera.


Back to Dublin


In Galway, my windbreaker, tried of being slung over my purse, left me again, seeking solace in the arms of a stranger. If you happen to be Galway and see someone wearing a coral windbreaker, say hi for me, and tell it I’m sorry.


Thankfully we picked up something to eat on the train because when we got to our downtown Dublin hotel, it was after 9 p.m., and we couldn’t find a place to eat.


Farewell to charms


Like a bowl of Lucky Charms slurped down by an adult who should know better, our time in Ireland was swallowed up by the calendar.  My brother left Dublin the next morning to return to Budapest, and I retraced my route via ferry and train back to London to a hotel near Heathrow. The following day I flew back to the States and stepped off the plane into the waiting arms of the TSA, and finally my husband.


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(Note to any reader who is still here and did not stop reading, even though I went on and on, post after post, about my vacation until you were ready to scream because you were sick of it; and the only way you could calm down was to eat lots of chocolate, or drink wine or Guinness, or all three at once; and then you were really sick: I almost promise I won’t write about it again.)

36 thoughts on “The end is near!

  1. I loved the series. I have wanted to visit Ireland and I kind of did through you. It was free although I didn’t get to taste the chocolate. I still have my windbreaker but it’s not coral. Great posts! Can’t wait until next year!

    • Thanks for reading the whole series, Kate. Sorry you didn’t get to taste the chocolate. I would suggest just going to their website and looking, but somehow there’s something that smacks of voyeurism in that.

  2. It’s been lovely traveling with you! What a gas it would be to do so in person. Such a vivid sense not merely of place, but of place EXPERIENCED in a particular, fond, and quirky way.

  3. I’m so excited – I have a chance to read your blog today and all of the posts I have missed (this is better than back to back HouseHunters International episodes on HGTV).

  4. Very happy to read of the wonderful trip, to get to know the places through your eyes… and to enjoy the adventure accompanied by your sharp humor. It has been a great pleasure.

  5. I live in Limerick. My sister lives in Clare. As I write there is a Limerick-Clare hurling match underway – but we are united – she is from Limerick so she wants Limerick to win and to hell with her neighbours and children. Sorry for the bad weather and tourist traps – and the horrible over-priced train food – mind you I agree with you about the Kerry sheep herding offer – that’s be well worth a fiver. I hope you enjoyed your Celtic tour nonetheless – any sign of the ancestors?

  6. Hurling sounds interesting; I’d like to see a game. I hope Limerick wins, just for your sake.

    I realize that Ireland wouldn’t be half so green if it didn’t rain a lot, so having those 3 days of nicer and nicest weather helped me get over the one rainy day. I loved the visit and hope to go back some day.

    We did not make it to Templemore where my grandfather is from, and I rarely saw my maiden name anywhere. From what I’ve read they were more from the Kilkenny area. If and when I go back, I’d like to spend a bit of time in that area.

    • Kilkenny is lovely – it can be annoyingly arty but pretty nice all the same! They have an annual comedy festival called The Cat Laughs which I always think sounds good.

      I am not a great hurling fan – but then again I’m not a great fan of any sport – I know about it by osmosis due to having a husband and three sons who love sport. But I do sort of approve of hurling in theory. Anyway, the good news is that Limerick won but my husband told me, just this morning, the bad news is that Limerick have been drawn against a very formidable team in the next round – coincidentally that is Kilkenny! You and I must become sworn enemies for a while (I’m not sure when – I’ll let you know)

  7. poetprodigy7

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading about your adventures, especially in London (I teach English literature and am working on a PhD, but still haven’t managed to hop the pond, sigh).

    Thank you so much for generously sharing your stories.

  8. Oh, I really loved your vacation posts! You saw many of the same places we visited on our trips, but you take much better photos. Thank you for sharing them. We did get to my grandfather’s family’s home, and there were gravestones from both sides of his family. Very strange to see. That was the purpose of our trip-to take my mom to the area where her father’s side of the family came from.
    Where will you be vacationing next? I hope to share a vacation with you in Budapest!

    • I’m so glad you liked the posts. How wonderful that you got to find some of your ancestor’s graves and take your mom.

      No vacation plans right now. I’ve been to Budapest three times, but since that’s where my brother lives, we use it as the launching off place, so I’ve seen some, but not really a lot.

    • I have to say that the weather at the Cliffs of Moher was remarkable, so I was pleased. I need to give Dublin another chance. 🙂

      Some people leave their hearts in San Francisco; I leave my windbreaker in Galway.

  9. Whoa! What did they feed that deer to get the antlers so big? Miracle-Gro?

    Thanks for the great trip through Paris, London and parts of Ireland. I hope your grandchild got to be in pigeon paradise. 😉

    • The giant deer roamed around Ireland and other parts of Europe until their extinction (around 7000-10000 years ago. Amazing.

      The grandchild thoroughly enjoyed all of the pigeons, and the other day, at a nearby petting zoo, got to hold several pigeons. Dreams do come true.

  10. Yes. I enjoyed your posts. Your pictures are beautiful. Frankly, I liked the pictures you had Much better than the pictures of the Fairy Tree on Paz’s site. Maybe if you had got a picture of the fairy tree it would have looked as good as the other pictures you took, and not so Ordinary. I was disappointed that it didn’t look more… something else (since it was the object of so much controversy for so long.)
    I hope you get the opportunity to travel more and share the experience with us again. It’s been fun.

    • The fairy tree looked quite ordinary, but I think the fairies prefer not to draw attention to themselves, so I don’t think I could have done much, other than to sprinkle some Photoshop fairy dust on it.

      Thanks for reading.

  11. One of these days I need to go there. Such beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing. I love how your windbreaker wanted to get a better look so it jumped onto the path, lol. Great, funny stuff!

  12. Thanks for this!! Our good friend told us we ought to go to Bunratty when my big sis and I were in the British Isles for the first time decades ago. Didn’t get the chance. Yet! So it’s extra nice to visit vicariously with you. Hurray!

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