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Monday, 13 July 2009

Catching up

Onwards then from Kilrush and Katie O'Connor's hostel. I should have asked Mary who ran the hostel who Katie was! I just didn't think at the time! So, on my way through county Clare, I stopped off at various places along the coast.
One place I loved was Quilty, because it really reminded me of the Ireland of my childhood, with lots of old traditional cottages, painted white or pastel blue, though none with thatched roofs these days. I found a beautiful little cottage that I loved - it's now my screensaver - and also found that in typical Irish style over the last few years some of the old houses just along the road had been knocked down and new ostentatious houses built in their place!

This was a house along the road!
Some of these wouldn't look out of place in Florida or California, for example, but in an area such as rural Quilty? Mmmm. Not the right place at all. It's sad that the old Ireland is being knocked down and what is replacing it is sometimes brash and more reminiscent of parts of America. Their heritage is gradually being lost. However the boom years in Ireland are over now and perhaps there won't be as much new building in the next few years.

Another stop was at the Cliffs of Moher, where now a subterranean visitor centre and a series of craft shops are more than ready to take your money. Car and coach parks cost you. The visitor interpretive centre costs more, and a climb up O'Brien's tower costs yet more. Where once you could actually walk to the cliff edges and look down to the sea, as we did years ago with Dad - well, we were allowed to lie flat on the ground and poke our noses over the edges while Dad held our feet to stop us going too far - there are now fences and walls to prevent access, and paths and steps and special viewing areas..... and worst of all, hundreds of people milling around, talking into their camcorders, and having their photos taken at strategic viewing points! Oh the scenery is spectacular but it was bliss to be on the road again.

Doolin wasn't far away, and I finally found the road I needed to be on. The place has grown somewhat in the years since I was there last, with new builds all along the road here too, and in the village.

This is how it used to look, probably not that long ago too, and here's how it is now.

The pub I remembered was still there, though I don't remember it serving meals, either inside or outside, at umbrella shaded tables in a designated area across the road, - well it was pouring with rain that visit so I wasn't for noticing anything really - and a few old cottages had been transformed into shops, one selling Irish musical instruments, and books on how to play them; CDs of traditional and contemporary Irish music, and more besides! There was a craft shop and a knitwear shop, another shop selling stained glass ornaments in Irish designs, and another CD shop full of Irish music along with a bit of a cafe. A sign indicated this was the last music cafe before America! Nice garden area to sit out in too! There was also a village shop selling everything for the visitors' needs, including postcards and ice cream, and supplies for the residents. Those definitely were not there last time!

The hostel - new too - was just along the road and over the bridge from the pub. You could see one from the other, and I booked in for the night, getting a small dormitory to myself, as in most of the other hostels during my trip, because of the quietness of the season so far. The hostel manger was Czech, and was keen to talk about his country when he heard I had visited it - a good number of years ago!

I had supper sitting outside the pub in the warm sunshine and later came inside to listen to a session of Irish music with a group of locals playing flute, fiddle, button accordion, tin whistle, spoons.... it was very entertaining, really rousing stuff! My accompanying ONE pint of Guinness went down very nicely with it. It's right what they say about Guinness! It doesn't travel well! It tastes so smooth in Ireland but over here I feel there is a sharpness to it that leaves a bit of an aftertaste.

Next day I was going to drive towards Galway, through an area of limestone country called the Burren, which at this time of year is just beautiful with wildflowers. After visiting the Burren Exhibition and film show at Kilfenora (photo of the church, not the exhibition), I was advised to take the coast road round Black Head if I wanted to see the wild flowers, so I chose that route over the one that takes you past prehistoric tombs and forts - this time.

Heading back to the coast I passed through the town of Lisdoonvarna, where a very unusual festival takes place each year. Single? Want to find a partner? Come to Lisdoonvarna's matchmaking festival in July. It seems to have grown into quite a popular event, with lonely visitors coming from all over the world in the hopes of meeting their someone special!

No time to hang around. I had to get on along to the coast road. Well, the scenery is amazing. It's rock as far as the eye can see, though there are bits of green too, and in a few more minutes I was to see why.

At one spot where cars and coaches obviously stopped and parked up, I did the same and wandered for a good hour over the limestone pavement, marvelling at the bare rock and the clusters of plants that grew in every crack and crevice. It was wonderful, and again I took loads of photos of the scenery and the flowers.......

I have to say I was amazed at this picture. As a thumbnail it looks like a painting of some mountain scenery, but click on it and see how it is actually a photo looking down a crack between two rocks! This was pure co-incidence!

Time was moving on and I was to meet Michael at their village road end at 5.00p.m. Not knowing how long it would take, but guesstimating that it would be about an hour, I continued my journey, round Black Head, past the lighthouse, through Ballyvaughan, into County Galway, pulling up at the road end in Kilcolgan just a few minutes before the appointed meeting time. However, Michael had just beaten me to it.

It's a long time since we last met, but despite his white beard, grown for his role as Santa Claus last year, I discovered, he was as recognisable as ever.

Big hugs, and then we got back into our cars so I could follow him along the narrow road to the new home he and Bernadette chose when they left the Claddagh, in Galway, a few years ago.

Bernadette and daughters, Louise and Mary with ther own littlies were there to greet me and I quickly felt at home again with the family!

Mischievous Jessica must be about the age her mother,Louise, was when I first met her. That's amazing!

(Have I told you the story of how I met this lovely family? Once upon a time...... I'll tell you next time!)

Baby Ella soon captured my heart, a little doll of a creature, with a fine head of the dark hair she was born with, and smiles on demand! Oh those smiles! She looks so alert and makes you think she follows everything intently, taking it all in. What an amazing little 9 week-old!

Michael took me for a little tour of the area, and down to the pier where the tide was high and the children were having a wonderful time swimming and splashing in the water. I was introduced to a few of the adults who had also come down to the gathering point and was shown the boat and a nearby house that belonged to one of them! Michael calls it - the house - "The Sea for Breakfast" which is the title of a book by Lilian Beckwith.
Here's the boat, the taller mast belong's to Pad's boat. I know you can't see it too well but you get the idea..........

.....and here's the house. Not bad, eh?
(Taken from the pier where the boat is moored)

We had supper later when Mary's fiance, Morgan, got home, and Louise, Jess and baby Connor had gone back to their own home. The only one missing is Chris, Lulu's fiance. Catch up with him soon.

What a time we had reminiscing, story telling and catching up on all the years! As Michael said "Where did they all go?"
Where indeed, Michael? Where indeed?

Talk again soon.

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