Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ireland 2014, Part III: The Abbeys.

See part II and part I!


September 22


Day 4: Saw the lovely Holy Trinity Abbey and bought Irish wool in Adare, before finding a sweet pub for dinner and music on Galway! We also found an intriguing take on Irish history...
 — with Mandy and Bethany.

Remember my flat tire from yesterday? I envisioned at least a couple of hours of finding a mechanic with the right tire (I mean "tyre") and then sitting there waiting for it to be done. I'm pessimistic when it comes to cars. Because I don't like my vacation plans ruined or delayed (who does!), and because when I'm on a mission, I can't sleep or relax, I insisted upon getting up at the crack of dawn to just deal with it. It could not have gone more perfectly! The hotel manager called a mechanic in Limerick, who had the tire I needed in stock. I annoyed a few commuters by driving 20km/h under the speed limit, but I got there safely. While I waited, very friendly men told me all about the beautiful places in their country that I should go to next time. Just about twenty minutes later, I was on my way!

I've been to an Irish mechanic! Got my car all fixed.
 — at Mid West Tyres LTD.

After finding my cheery companions, we left our musty hotel for good and spent a couple of hours in the beautiful Adare. In a bookshop, we found President Obama in an Irish history book:

We drove by his ancestral village earlier, which we discovered by googling the Barack Obama Plaza. It appeared to be a very nice gas station. 

My main goal for the trip, as far as souvenirs go, was to find Irish wool. I totally did. They didn't have much yarn, but it was gorgeous. I asked if it was actually local wool, and she said, "oh my brother-in-law owns the mill! But the sheep weren't all Irish--pure Irish wool is too rough." Good enough for me! I wish we'd visited Kerry Woollen Mills; apparently it's been making yarn for over 300 years! I got a ton of the Aran knitting green fleck and I'm going to knit myself a sweater. :)

This was pretty cute.

We visited the lovely Holy Trinity/Trinitarian Abbey, which was founded in 1230.

That bag is entirely filled with wool, and
took up my entire backpack as one of my carry-ons on the plane home.

After a stroll through a park (where we met a puppy), we had lunch in a fun pub and then drove north.

 We were first pretty unimpressed by Galway, but that is partially due to the fact that we had to use the bathroom really badly, drove around and around before finding a decent place to park next to a mall (which *surely* had bathrooms), then literally walked the entire length of the mall before finding the bathroom, which cost 20 cents to enter and would ONLY take a 20-cent coin. Life significantly improved after that.

Deciding that anywhere would be prettier than the mall, we started wandering. We wandered into a bookstore, which didn't have my other main souvenir goal, but they suggested I try Charlie Byrne's just down the street. Guess what? I need to mail a package to Canada soon:

The streets only got cuter, the farther we wandered. Hunger soon dictated that we pick one of many beautiful restaurants that promised live music. 

We pretty much found the best one. They had good food,  drinks, and access to the WORLD.
So happy for Guinness and free WiFi!
 — with Bethany and Jessica.

The evening got even better when the music started! Two super talented gentlemen played fantastic rock with that terrific lilting Irish folk influence. It was open mike night, and every person who played the guitar or sang was great.

Jess and Beth's future husbands... If Glen Hansard comes in, I'm never coming home. Sorry Bob
 — with Bethany and Jessica.

Mandy is ever helpful.

Our journey ended that day in Castlebar, at the Breaffy House Hotel. It was mildly spooky in the dark, and the room was pretty sterile, but it did not smell like mold. It's the little things.


September 23


Day 5: Lazy rainy day in the (not) hopping village of Castlebar. Besides ice cream, the highlights were definitely the food at Bar One, the GPS' insistence that we take the 30-minute, cow-pasture route home instead of the 10-minute, two-cars-could-actually-fit-here route home, and the Ballintubber Abbey. The Abbey was constructed in 1216 on the site of a well used by St. Patrick for baptism in 441. THAT IS A LONG TIME AGO. Side note: Pierce Brosnan got married there.
 — with Mandy and Bethany.

Tuesday was our only real rainy day. It was also our only day without any sort of plan. Too bad we were in Castlebar, a small town that is definitely not set up well for tourists. It was kind of like being a tourist in Los Alamos on a Tuesday, I imagine! Though Castlebar totally wins in the restaurant department. We had lunch and coffee in a cozy spot, visited a few shops, and ate some amazing ice cream.

The chocolate "flake" makes vanilla soft serve 12309 times better.

We tired of Castlebar itself and drove off through cow pastures to the Ballintubber Abbey. It was built in 1216 (almost 800 years ago!), on the site of a well used by St. Patrick for baptism in the 430s or 440s  (like over 1500 years ago!!). The abbey also has the distinction of being the site of Pierce Brosnan's wedding.

The Sean a' Sagart Tree, under which the "notorious priest hunter" is buried. 

St. Patrick's well?! It wasn't marked, so probably not. :)

Bethany knows an awful lot about sheep, it turns out!
I absolutely love visiting old abbeys and cathedrals in Europe. So beautiful. So peaceful. (Especially the ones in remote villages accessed by narrow cow-pasture roads. Westminster was ah-mazing and anything but peaceful.)

As the rain poured, we drove back into town for dinner. We ended up at Bar One, where the sticky toffee pudding WAS TO DIE FOR. I intend to make it soon. The GPS was really, truly, not our friend going home. On the way to town, we followed the hotel's instructions and got there in ten minutes. On the way home in the dark, the GPS took us in what we're certain was a giant square around the hotel, through more pastures, on literally-only-one-car-fits-here roads. It took over half an hour. Oof.

That's enough pictures for one post! I will conclude next time. :)

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