Category Archives: Our Ireland Holiday

Weekly Photo Challenge – Vibrant

With the overcast week we have had, I did not find a good photo opportunity for this weeks challenge.  So I reached way back into the archives to our honeymoon in Ireland to find this vibrant picture.

An Droicead Beag (The Small Bridge). The most colorful pub in all of Dingle.

An Droicead Beag (The Small Bridge). The most colorful pub in all of Dingle.

Back in 2010, we visited this vibrantly colored pub in Dingle, Ireland.

A Vibrant Group Inside

The people inside were just as vibrant as the walls outside.

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For more colors of Vibrant, please visit:

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Descent

My wife and I have been to Northern Ireland twice, and one of our favorite places is The Giant’s Causeway.  But just down the road from the causeway is another stop that is just as amazing, and also quite an adventure.

The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

The bridge itself does span quite a descent, but that is not why it makes this weeks challenge, it is the descent down to the bridge.

Descent to Carrick-A-Rede

Those people at the bottom of the steep stairway are my wife and myself.

Journey to Carrick-A-Rede

And that first step onto the bridge also presents quite a view of a descent.

Descent off Carrick-A-Rede

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For more photos of Descent, please visit:

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

I am going to return once more to one of my favorite spots on the planet.  (Although I will have to admit I have a whole lot more exploring to do.) All of the picture below are from our honeymoon trip to the Emerald Isle.  These are from Northern Ireland, an amazing place known as The Giant’s Causeway.  If you are ever in Ireland, make the time to visit.  And stay in Bushmills.  I hear they make some good whiskey there.

Horizon Pathway

The Giant's Causeway

The Giant's Causeway

The Irish Horizon

What the heck, one more for good measure.

The Horizon Around the Rock

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For more pictures of the horizon, please visit:

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The Honeymoon’s Over! (No way)

In Ireland, those who live in Dublin claim their fair city as the quintessential Irish town.  No place is more Irish than Dublin.  The entire rest of the country has united to disagree.  As I have stated before, Dublin is the Manhattan of Ireland.  Only they get it.

Our honeymoon trip was drawing to an end, with only ONE more day in Dublin city.  I personally like Dublin, but it is a city.  So if you’re used to quaint Irish towns that would make gorgeous postcards, Dublin is going to be a huge letdown.

Dublin is actually going to be an even bigger letdown when you have a 2 hour ride that turns into a 4 hour ride.  So as we left Cashel, we drove into the interior, where all the treacherousness was, to find out, it was indeed there.  Even on the bigger carriageways, there was ice all over the place, and to me, Dublin seemed like a wonderful place to ditch the blasted car and walk or take cabs.

Dublin has a lot of history, clearly, and a lot of interesting sights to see, if you decide not to take a long nap when you get there, which is what we did.  So of course, we ended up in the pub, getting a terrible bite to eat while we planned our night.  We had two choices: go see the book of Kells at Trinity College, or go the Guinness Brewery.  We slept through everything else.  Well, what would you do?

The Guinness Brewery is actually fascinating.  There are five floors of Guinness making history and information.  We gave a cursory glance to the screens, oohed over the water displays, and made our way to the tasting area for a quick shot of beer, where we joined all of the college kids who paid the entry fee to sit in the tasting area and drink all of the samples.  How lucky are they?  I went to school in the capital of beer (Milwaukee) and our brewery that turned a blind eye to this was Pabst.  Pabst.  (Until Lakefront Brewery came along – but I digress).

We made it through the rest of the floors, until the top, which can be one of the more spectacular sights – the Gravity Bar!

I have been there at all hours of the day – and the best time to go is at dusk.  We were there at night, so we couldn’t really see the 360 view that the entirely glass-walled bar provides high above Dublin.  Tom sort of got the idea, but by this time, it was just a crowded bar.  We decided to hit the gift shop and continue our night in an area unknown to me, but recommended by our cab driver.  I didn’t think Tom was a Temple Bar kind of guy, so we took his recommendation.

I will admit that I am kind of a finicky eater, so I take time choosing a restaurant. I don’t know why.  In the 5+ years that Tom and I have been dating, he almost always wins the better plate award.  I have expressed this to others, and they have observed this bizarre, and slightly unfair phenomenon.  So, it doesn’t really matter, because no matter where we go, he will have a good plate, and I probably will not.

Being the good sport he is, we walked around for a long time, because we don’t have reservations on a Dublin Saturday night, stopped at the ATM, where Tom found another reason to hate Dublin: the gypsies and panhandlers beg literally from under the ATM.  They sit right under the ATM, and no one chases them away.  So in order to get money, Tom had to use the ATM with a gypsy right at his feet.  (I like to think I would have given him a little kick.)  And then I picked the ANTI-Tom restaurant.

It’s over a year, but I believe it was tapas.  And since I lived in Spain, I love all things Espanol.  I was Espanol before Madonna went through that phase.  Tom likes tapas, but we don’t like the same ones.  It didn’t matter, this place was trendy and bad and crowded and not the type of place we like at all.  Especially the bi*ch who, when Tom adjusted his chair after using the restroom told him to watch it and gave him the ugliest look I have ever seen on anyone in my life, truly ever.  I almost got up and socked her in the eye.  It was a super-crowded restaurant, and Tom did apologize, profusely.  And she was just plain rude.  In the words of one of the greats, Hannibal Lecter, “Rudeness is unspeakably ugly to me.”

We ditched that place with a quickness – bad food and bad people and made our way, to, you guess it!  The Pub.  Once again, we took a stroll before we decided on a place, and it ended up being ok.  Except it looked like a crime scene – which it wasn’t – it just had yellow construction tape all over the place, even in the men’s room.  Only us.

We spent the night with a very few leisurely pints observing and commenting on the regulars, spending our last night like weary Dubliners.

Later on, Tom told me he wasn’t a fan.  I told him we were tired, and we really didn’t see or do anything except watch the inside of our eyelids, and the bottom of our glasses.  I will try and convince him next time!  Or the next day when we had a 6 hour delay at the airport!

Cold, Hard, Cash(el)

Although we considered staying an extra night in Dingle, because it’s AWESOME, the voice of reason, Tom reminded me that these long drives don’t agree with me, and it would be best to get on the road and find our next stop.

Confession time: I’m the most disorganized person on the planet, EXCEPT when it comes to vacation.  I’m like the Clark W. Griswold of Ireland.  My time there is limited, and I must maximize my opportunity and take advantage of ALL there is to see and do and drink and eat and talk.  I spend months researching the B&Bs, I use Google Maps to plan the route, I cross reference the B&Bs on an excel spreadsheet and I chart possible restaurants, detours, places of interest, and in this case, potential stops for our “Fly by the seat of our pants night.”

Tom and I have been planning a trip to Ireland for years, and way long ago, he asked, “Why can’t we just get in the car and drive, do we really need an itinerary?”  I probably rolled my eyes and definitely scared the shit out of his with my resounding “YES!”  You need one, because Ireland kicks so much ass, that you would stay in the first place you stopped for the time, and end your trip only having been in one place.  You need an itinerary to keep you moving, because Ireland is like drinking at Finley’s during the day when there’s a game: You start early, intending to leave early, you maybe think you might go to dinner or meet some friends that live in the city at another bar, but when it all comes down to it, you’re there at closing time with Kevin and Laura and maybe Julie, with just the one bar to show for your visit to the city.  The entire nation of Ireland is like this.

So we approach the car (I’m eying it balefully because I hate the bastard), “with no direction known” and exit Dingle for our treacherous ride over the mountains, and listen to the jerk on the radio telling us NOT to drive in the interior of the country, it’s far too dangerous.  We have to go to the interior, because we have to get to Dublin to catch our flight in two days, and the only way to Dublin is through the interior.  So we drive in the general direction of Dublin.  Tom mentions Cashel, but I would like to get to Tullamore, where the roads are extremely treacherous.  This drive would not be exhausting, but irritating, as it is windy and rainy but people are scared of snow, so no one on the road travels over 20km/hr.  The two hour trip to Cashel takes about 4 to 5.

As we get closer, Tom thumbs through the guide book for ideas.  He mentions an estate in Ireland.  We have no map of this part, so we follow the signs for Cashel, hoping to run into signs for the town where the estate is located.  We do find signs, and find ourselves on the worst nightmare an American tourist in Ireland could imagine: the one lane country road.

Here’s another little helpful tidbit about driving in Ireland: the don’t just post the main arteries – if there’s a way to take a one lane road, two hairpin turns, and a footbridge to a locale, they will post signs stating that this is the direction, if it will, eventually, get you there.  This was one of those times.  After meandering the snow and ice covered one way path, a few run-ins with a milk truck, and some serious stress level in the car, we ditched the estate idea, and decided just find a home for the night and some pints.

I dropped Tom off at the local tourism office and circled the perimeter of the downtown area, located right blocks away from the main attraction – The Rock of Cashel, which is not really a rock, but a former castle and monastery, among other things.  I could bore you with historic details about St. Patrick banishing the devil from a cave and the rock landing in Cashel, but let’s just say it’s really cool old broken stuff with amazing views in the middle of town.

The Cashel Tourism Office was Closed!

I collect Tom from the tourism office, where he had no luck, and we decide to go door-to-door, slightly less like Jesus and Mary, in search of a bed for the night.  All around the rock are tons of signs for B&Bs.  The first one is full, the second one is closed for the season, and finally, I take him to a third where we get a room.  We grab our stuff, head upstairs, relax, take naps, hit the potty, etc and make our way out to hit the town.  Before we leave, Tom looks in the nightstand (Why? I don’t know)  and locates the Book of Mormon.  Even if you’re not Irish, you probably know that most of the country is Roman Catholic -divorce was legalized in 1995 and you can forget about abortion.  Leave it to us to stumble upon the only Mormons.

Once again, we wind up at a large dinner we didn’t need but was extremely delicious (we might be the only people to have gained weight in Ireland), and hit the pubs.  We walk around a bit, a little leery, because most of them don’t have windows and we don’t know what we’re getting into because we can’t look in.  This is common in Ireland, but we just haven’t become accustomed to it.  We end up at the end of the main street, have one beer and leave.  It was like the Bennigan’s of Cashel.  We don’t like them here, so why bother?  We then select a gamble, meaning we can’t see inside, but it looks ok, and if it’s not we can always gamble on another pub.

The town itself is an interesting mix of ruin and commerce.  One of our favorite sights was an cool, old, broken, building with an Indian restaurant jutting out of the side of it.  They can’t tear it down, because it’s historic and protected, so just add on the Indian restaurant.  So just imagine a quaint, picturesque town with charming storefronts and lovely ruins, with a grocery store in the bottom.  It’s pretty hilarious.

So in we go to our second pub, and it’s fairly similar to Sean Thornton’s stop at his first pub in Ireland, in that he ordered a beer, and tried to make polite conversation and at first, no one responded.  Tom and I scored a table by the fire (big bonus – it was cold that day and these people are not crazy about heat) and the TV so that we could watch the local rugby game.  Just wait it out- they’ll talk to us – we learned that at Dick Mack’s.  At some points, I tried to discuss rugby with the guys at the next table and was met with extremely curt answers.  Ooookay.  So then I go outside for the bathroom and a smoke.  In places where bars are old, bathrooms were considered a luxury, so most of them are add-ons or in other buildings not connected.  The smoking area is under a heat lamp between the two buildings.  As I exit, I note that the gentlemen from the next table are out there and I decide to join them.

Having visited Ireland right after their smoking ban was effected, and dealing with it in Chicago, one thing non-smokers might not know is that they are social havens.  People banned outside to smoke join together, sometimes even longer than they intended.  Apparently these guys didn’t get the memo.  I got a lighter, and a curt nod.  That’s it.

I walk into Tom and said, “We need to break them.  We have to wait it out.”  And we both get that tired look on our faces.  He says he thinks it’s going to be an early night, and I agree.  We’d had a late night last night with Sean and Fiona and all of their shenanigans.  Which means the curse was broken.  As soon as you claim that it’s not going to be an early night, out comes the whiskey and the singing, and that’s exactly what happened.  Our taciturn neighbor, as it turns out, was not named Curt, but Jerry, and I convinced Tom that we didn’t have a far walk and he should enjoy his favorite vice, some good Irish whiskey.  Jerry and I eventually became friends, and we closed the bar, as per usual.  Not wanting to break tradition, we went to Abrakebabra for some late night food we didn’t need.  After a mild issue with a drunken teenager (way worse than us), we stumbled into the night and onward to our confirmedly weird hosts.  When we mentioned their name earlier in conversation with our new friends, they said the family that runs our B&B was strange.  In Irish terms, that could mean they are serial killers.

We wake up late, after setting the alarm, and head down for our Mormon breakfast in an interestingly decorated room.  We linger a bit over coffee and oatmeal, eggs and yogurt, and decide to pack up the car, and make our way to the Rock.  As it is literally just down the block, we will walk.

CLOSED DUE TO WEATHER.

And when we got back to our car, we had a parking ticket.  But that didn’t stop us from taking some pics and having a good time.  Now it has become a goal – one day we will make it there – and we will get inside!

Broken Old Shit

Please don’t let the title fool you, it is a term of endearment!

While traveling around Ireland, one of the things you will see an abundance of is broken old shit.  And almost all of it is very, very cool.  From the biggest cities, to the smallest of back road towns, they all have their own heritage sites that are protected as part of the history of Ireland.  They can be as complex as a castle, or as simple as a wall that has managed to stand for centuries, long after people could no longer inhabit them.

The Irish Countryside is painted with some very cool broken old shit.

As you drive around Ireland, it would almost be impossible to take pictures and document all of the broken old shit, because each one you see is more interesting than the last, and to stop at each one would add hours or days onto a trip.  But luckily, almost anywhere you do stop will have its very own broken old shit to see.

This is the Broken Old Shit that was just outside our B&B in Doolin.

At least for me, the best broken old shit we saw, was also some of the oldest.  Scattered in the mountains of the Dingle Peninsula are a number of ringforts, or Beehive Huts, that are built only of stone and have survived since the very early days of Christianity.  The site we visited was called Cathair na gConchuireach, and it was estimated to have been built somewhere around 1200 AD.  The forts were built by a method known as corbelling, were interlocking layers of flat stones are placed a circle, with each layer moving a little closer to the center, so that the end result looked like a stone igloo or a beehive.

Maureen stands outside one of the Beehive Huts at Cathair na gConchuireach.

As we walked among the ruins, I couldn’t help but think of the life these early people led.  The pamphlet we were given told us that this site was thought to be a single family farm, with living quarters, storage, and a place for worship.  Although their lives may seem almost barbaric by our modern standard, their simple way of life came with quite a view.

Looking down at the mouth of Dingle Bay from Cathair na gConchuireach beehive huts.

Our time with the beehive huts was cut short, because our trip needed to continue.  But we would soon find ourselves face to face with the king of all broken old shit.  Next stop, The Rock of Cashel.

Sean and Fiona

At a point when most people would toss in the towel and head for the hills, Maureen and I decided to continue our night in Dingle after being kicked out of Dick Mack’s.  It was not for lack of being served that we decided to continue our night, but more accurately was because of being over served that we made the decision to follow one of our new friends Sean onto an afterhours bar called An Droicead Beag, or The Small Bridge in gaelic.

It can easily be said that An Droicead Beag is the most colorful pub in all of Dingle, but this would not be some sort of metaphor.  The outside walls are painted bright yellow, so that even late at night, it is not a difficult place to spot.  A sign by the door announced nightly live music, although this night it was not traditional Irish music, but a single fellow with his guitar.  The inside of the pub was more in line with what we would see in a standard Irish Pub back home, but it was still not as Americanized as some.  We quickly ordered our pints, and found a place to set a spell, then we would meet the first person on our trip who took an honest disliking to us.

An Droicead Beag (The Small Bridge). The most colorful pub in all of Dingle.

Her name was Fiona, and to honest, she probably had no good reason to like us.  Because Fiona liked Sean, and Sean didn’t feel like liking Fiona that night so he let her know that by introducing her to us as his cousin, giving a Irish angle to the term “kissing cousins.”  And thus would begin our entry into a bizarre love triangle – with Fiona trying to get on Sean, Sean trying to extricate himself, and the two of us just wanting more pints and somehow caught in the middle – likely Sean was using us as an excuse – he couldn’t leave with her because  he “had to entertain his American friends.”  Or maybe not, we didn’t really care.  But since we were there, and caught in the middle, why not enjoy the soap opera?

As the pints continued to flow, and the singing and the dancing continued on into the night, somewhere along the way we lost track of Sean and Fiona.  It is possible that Sean succeeded in slipping out the back door.  It is also quite possible that Fiona was triumphant in her persuite.  The ultimate outcome really doesn’t matter.  Somehow I doubt that this honeymooning couple from Chicago made as much of an impression on Sean and Fiona as they made on us.  They are forever now a part of our lives, eventhough we will most likely never see them again.

Sean and Fiona. Kissing cousins at An Droicead Beag?

Ain’t love grand?

Dingle All the Way

It looks like we may be returning to Ireland, so it would probably be a good idea to finish the tales of our last trip before a new one begins.  Although we still have some time, our next adventure is scheduled for Christmas 2012.  Next year will be my parents 50th anniversary, so instead of throwing a big party, my sisters and I asked them if they would like a trip to Ireland.  They were thrilled with the idea, and of course we will be tagging along to help them fully enjoy the Emerald Isle.  Looking back at our own trip, the one place I would say should not be missed on a return trip would be Dingle.

Located on the southern part of the east coast in County Kerry, Dingle and the entire Dingle Peninsula face Dingle Bay, leading out into the Atlantic Ocean.  Historically, it is a fishing town, but these days the principal industry is tourism.  It is not a big city like Galway or Dublin, but it is also not as small as Bushmills or Doolin.  With a population of around 2,000 it is almost the perfect size for travelers who want to see the best of Ireland without being overcrowded.

Our view of Dingle Bay from inside our B&B, The Greenmount House in Dingle.

We stayed at a great B&B that was listed as just outside of town called Greenmount House, although their idea of outside of town was just a few stumbling blocks uphill from the main street.  Even at the end of the night with more than just a few pints of Guiness in us, it was still a pleasant walk home.  We arrived in Dingle in the late afternoon and had time for a walk in the cool November air before we headed to Greenmount House.  We staked out possible places for dinner and a night cap, then decided on a nap before our night out.

Much like Chicago in the winter, the sun starts to set around 4:30 on Ireland in November, so by the time we napped and showered, it was already dark as we headed out into the night.  To be honest, I do not remember the name of the resturaunt we stopped at for dinner, but as with most places we ate at it was a warm and friendly spot.  Since we were on the bay, I decided on seafood, a very nice white fish that was indeed fresh and delicious.  Maureen opted for what would become our favorite Irish dish, the Guinness Pie.  After we ate and consumed a couple of pints, we headed out into the night to find a place to rest our traveler’s feet, and we chose a most unopposing little storefront called Dick Mack’s.

Before we departed for Ireland, Maureen had informed me of a therory she had about drinking with locals in Ireland.  Basically, you need to convince the locals of your serious intent as a drinker, and it will usually take two or three pints before they open up to newcomers, so you need to buckle down and order a few pints and wait them out.  This was indeed the case in Dick Mack’s.  Officially, it is a haberdashery, as many pubs in Ireland have dual purpose, but other than the Guinness, there was really nothing very haberdashery about the pub.  At first glance, it looks like the type of place your mother warned you to stay out of, with dirty floors and a side bar made of planks of wood, but we ordered two pints and found a place to sit and talk in the near empty space.

After two rounds, it looked as if we may have failed, as our longest conversation of the night had been with a Porchagese sailor that was mostly conducted in broken Spanish that I could not understand at all.  I suggest we move on, but Maureen insisted we wait them out for one more pint, so we ordered again.  And at that point her theory took hold, and suddenly we were making a whole room full of new and interesting friends.

To call the group at Dick Mack’s an eclectic bunch is a bit of an understatment.  A bit like the Island of Misfit Toys, the crowd that gathered in the back room around a small table near the fireplace gave the appearance of a cross section of lost souls, but were one of the more open and welcoming groups we would meet during our stay.  With names like Paddy and Sean, and an older woman we knew only as The Queen, it would end up being our most authentic night in Ireland.  We sang songs, and listened to people recite poetry, and Paddy played the tin whistle.  That little back room with the fireplace became our home for the rest of the night, except for the occational trip out back to the restroom, or back up to the bar for another pint.  That is until our bartender finally told us we had to leave.

At that point, with more than enough warming fuel in our blood, we probably should have called it a night, but we decided to follow Sean up the road a little.

Next stop, An Droicead Beag.

Our eclectic little group gathers in the back room at Dick Mack's in Dingle.

Give Me Moher

What can be said about the Cliffs of Moher that hasn’t already been said?  They are spectacular, magnificent, and breathtaking.  They are majestic, imposing, daunting, yet haunting.  They pull your body closer, almost like a magnet.

You may recognize them from The Princess Bride, also known as The Cliffs of Insanity.  The Man in Black (aka the Dread Pirate Roberts, aka Welsey played by Cary Elwes) climed them in search of his lady love.  Clearly this was the work of same bad digital imaging, but you get the idea.

(This is the part of the blog where I confess that I hijaked Tom’s post, because clearly, only a chick would know certain things.  We all got tired of waiting for him to continue, so don’t be surprised if I finish the honeymoon stories).

According to the Irish Visitors Bureau, the Cliffs are usually at the top of the list of most visited and photographed places in Ireland, with more than 1 million people having visited there in 2006.  I didn’t make it there in 2006, I was busy wooing a certain gray guy.

Having been there in years past, it was interesting for me to see what had changed since the last time, because in visiting places I had seen before, I can almost track the progress of places visited before and the Cliffs are no exception.  Long gone are the John Wayne days of the horse and buggy and the stone cottages.  Ireland modernizes daily.  I had regaled Tom with stories of the Cliffs, of clambering out to the edge, and hanging my head over the cliff, camera in hand with whomever was my travel companion.  I’d told many people about a girl from Italy, in a gorgeous priceless pink suede coat, after seeing me with my head over the edge, had me help her lay right down in the mud, coat and all, and inch her way to the edge, camera in hand.  Sure there was a fence, but it was an old stone tablet, that looked like a prop from The Ten Commandments – easily scaled and it served more as a step stool rather than a deterrent.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who attempted and succeeded.  I hung my head from this very cliff.

Unlike the Rope Bridge, where I swore my head off, this was something I was confident I could do, I’d done it five times before, even helping others to accomplish the same feat.  When Tom and I spent lazy evenings on the deck, planning our trip over a few (too many) beers, we decided we were doing the Rope Bridge, AND getting a shot of us hanging from the Cliffs.  It would be my favorite memory.

The morning of, Tom and I arrived – me still being a little sick of the car and the treacherous roads.  The Visitor’s Center that had just been started during my last trip had been completed, and things were a little switched around – the parking lot was moved across the street, there were these giant steep stone steps up and down the length.  Much like rest of Ireland, the Cliffs had modernized.  The edges had been rendered completely unreachable by actual fences.  You could almost hear the beer bottle of our plans break on the new concrete.  Dear Bord Falite, You Suck!

Doing what we do, we managed to roam the length, looking out by O’Brien’s Tower,  sharing bits and pieces of trivia.  The Cliffs were not busy that day, there were maybe 20 or so people.  We decided to walk to the opposite end, where the trail began, behind a fence that we were not supposed to cross where others were already walking.  The trail was closed, yet along the path, they had placed viewfinders, I guess thinking, if people are going to break the rules anyway, we might as well make a few euro out of the deal.  We arrived at the end of the trail with a few girls from Italy and saw one of Tom’s favorite signs.

As you can tell from the photo, no one pays any attention.  Because here’s our version:

Thank God!  At least one thing hasn’t changed!

Doolin by Night

Although a very, very small town, Doolin is a destination that seems to be a favorite of many travelers to the Emerald Isle.  Its location near the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands certainly help with the popularity of the town, especially considering that Doolin is one of only three ports with ferry service to the islands.  There are also a number of outdoor activities available around Doolin including cave exploring, rock climbing, and surfing.  But by far, the biggest attraction to Doolin is that it is considered by many to be one of the best places to hear and enjoy Traditional Irish Music.  That was what brought us there.

When we finally got the car up the icy incline to our Bed and Breakfast, we met up with another couple named Tom and Peggy who were also staying at Seaview for the night.  They were from Boston, and although they were fans of the wrong Sox, they were pleasant enough to talk to and exchange travel stories with.  They were doing a castle tour, actually staying in various castles around the Ireland, but decided to take a break this night to travel to Doolin.  Like us, the attraction was the traditional music.  Also like us, they were disapointed to find out that there was no music to be found in Doolin on a Wednesday night in November.

Traveling in the off season does have its advantages.  For the most part, I really don’t like to be around large crowds of people, and we were spared having to rub elbows with some smelly guy from who knows where.  The down side is that things tend to be closed.  It reminds me a little of the great Bicentenial Tour of 1975.  Yea, I know.  The Bicentenial was in 1976, but my father being quite the thrifty guy, much like his son, thought we could miss out on the overlarge crowds of people flocking into our country’s capital by going a year early.  The only problem being that many of the star attractions were closed getting spruced up for 1976.  It was not quite a Griswald ending, although I do remember something about our Family Truckster being towed while on the National Mall.

No music in Doolin on a weeknight was one of the concessions we had to make for our offseason trip, although it really had no affect on our ability to have a good time that night.  Once we had cleaned up from our day of travel, it was just a short walk down the hill and across the bridge to Fisher Street and the spot where our poor tired asses would rest for the next few hours.  Our hot spot for the night was a quiet pub that we spotted from the window of our room.  Dinner and pints would be had at Gus O’Connor’s Pub.

The pub was fairly empty when we arrived, with just a few locals gathered near the entrance.  We decided to just eat our dinner at the bar insted of taking a table or booth, and of course I ordered a Guiness to go with my meal.  Maureen ordered the fish and chips and I ordered what they called a traditional bacon and cabbage, although I was tempted to order the Guinness Stew yet again.  Both plates were very good, and we had our fill.  By the time we finished, Tom and Peggy had arrived with another couple.  They were an older couple from Australia and traveling on a retirement trip through Europe.  We joined them at some chairs by the fireplace and talked about life and our travels.  Although we had missed out on the music, the conversation and comeradery lasted into the night, spurred on by a few more pints of course.

Around 11 o’clock I decided it was time to try and give the kids a call.  Since we had left, I had not talked to them.  The phone we picked up in Belfast was capable of calling to the States, but timing was not always the best.  I figured the best time to call would be between 10p.m. and midnight, that would be between four and six back in Chicago.  After four because I had to make sure the kids were home from school.  Before midnight because I needed to make sure they could understand me.  As I walked out into the cool night air, I looked up at what I knew had to be a spectacular sky.  There was not a cloud in sight, or at least none that I could see.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t really see any stars either, since I smashed my glasses just hours after we landed in Ireland.  At first, I was a little irratated at my bad luck, but I quickly reminded myself that this was just another reason why we would someday need to make a return trip.

The phone call was brief, but I did enjoy hearing the surprise in Molly’s voice as she realized I was calling from so far away.  And the quality was amazingly clear.  This crappy little throw-away phone, bouncing a signal off a satilite somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean was getting better reception than I ever got back home in Chicago.  I would have talked longer, but I knew we only had limited time available on the phone.  I promised them we were behaving ourselves, really only half a lie, and then headed back inside to warm up by the fire.  Another pint of Guinness was sure to speed up the warming process.

Surprisingly, Maureen and I were the last of the three couples to depart Gus O’Connor’s Pub that night.  We stayed for one more pint after the others had left, and then wished the bartender and a few remaining locals a good night before we headed out into the cold.  As we walked back up the hill, I was suddenly very aware of how quiet it was in this nearly deserted little town this late at night.  There was almost no wind, but our voices seemed to carry across the chilly air itself.  There were no sounds of cars or people or any type of creature big or small.  I could see how some might find this all consuming quiet somehow creepy, but to me it was just soothing.  At this point in time, we really had no care at all in the world.  No jobs, no problems, nothing at all to worry about.

That is until we found ourselves at the bottom of that steep icy driveway with more than a few pints in us.

I believe it was my time to let a few key words slip.

Doolin the next morning

The Morning After - An icy look back on Doolin from our B&B.