Sheep and Shamrocks

 

I can’t believe how quickly time is flying by now that the air has warmed and the sky is blue again. After what seemed like months of rain and cold and little spring, I’m not going to complain about 85 degree and sunny days here in Boston!  It’s such a beautiful time of year!

It’s amazing to me how slowly winter seemed to creep on… and on. Looking back on it I realize now that I didn’t feel well for 6 months; when you figure that’s half of a year it seems really startling.  I’m so grateful that feeling better though is correlating with the nicer weather.  There’s nothing that I’d love to do more than just play hooky all summer long and go to the beach and have FUN!

Alas, I did just return from a week of fun; an annual mother/daughter trip to Ireland. My Mom and I have been traveling together since I graduated from high school in 1995 and she took me to NYC for a weekend of theater and shopping.  Ever since then we’ve tried to do trips and though we’ve had to miss some years, this vacation we think was our 17th together!  We’ve done local things like the Berkshires and Maine, as well as Charleston, San Francisco, and Arizona.  We’ve also done some international things too like the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Belize, Peru and Iceland.  Since we hadn’t traveled for an entire week together in over 5 years (since before I got married) and with the winter being as difficult as it was on all of us with my health, we decided to go abroad again and hit up Ireland.

I had heard nice things about the country but didn’t know much about it except for sheep and shamrocks. Now that we’ve returned I can confidently say that it is a lovely country and I would nudge anybody with wanderlust to go explore there.  We stayed at an old schoolhouse converted into a small hotel, and we spent about a day and a half in Dublin—a perfect amount of time—(it’s not the prettiest city but they do have wonderful museums, pubs, and woolen shops).  We spent one whole day sightseeing; the Guinness Factory with drinks at the Gravity Bar with 360 degree views of the city; the Chester Beaty Library where we saw a Torah and other religious artifacts; the Writers Museum (cool for my Mom and I love who love literature); the General Post Office which had a beautiful exhibit (and a film almost as boring as Antietam) about the 1916 uprising, a huge part of Irish history; the Hugh Lane Gallery (too modern and sparse for my taste, but did enjoy seeing a reconstructed Francis Bacon studio and film/interview regarding the artist); and eating burgers in a pub with a beer garden called Murphy’s.

Driving out towards the countryside was beautiful, and we drove through Galway to a town called Cong where we stayed at a well-known castle called Ashford. Immaculate grounds, beautiful views of a lake, lunch outside, an early morning horseback ride (English saddle!  And my horse Willow was a “muncher” so I spent much of my time trying to get him to stay on the trail but he was a total sweetie pie) and petting the “dogs of the castle” which were Irish wolfhounds and loved to have their bellies rubbed—was spectacular.

We soon stopped at a little café on the side of the road expecting cuteness as you can only seem to do in Europe. Owned by a mother and daughter (how very appropriate for us!) we sampled a cheese board of local cheeses that melted in our mouths and fresh salad and tried elderflower for the first time.  We drove on to the Cliffs of Moher (the Cliffs of Insanity backdrop used for one of my very favorite movies, The Princess Bride) and took a boat ride underneath the cliffs to get the full scope of just how tall they really are!  705 feet at the highest point!  Lots of birds live underneath the cliffs because they have no predators down there so we got to see things like Puffins.  Afterwards we continued driving on until we got to out next stop, a hotel next to a national park that would be our “home base” for the next couple of days.  From there we did the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, oohed and ahhhed over Inch Beach with the cars being able to drive right up seemingly to the ocean and the sound of sheep baaing up on a hill.  We went to a farm and fed baby sheep and held a baby goat.  On our hotel property were lots of sheep, cattle (black Kerry cows, adorable) and deer.  We fell asleep to the lull of baaing sheep at night.

And my Mom and I?  Well, we travel so well together.  No stress!  We want to do the same things, we’re always on time, we’re flexible and can go with the flow, and we both like a combination of sightseeing and some R&R.  We laughed and talked and ate and drank and then laughed some more.  (We also inevitably end up giggling whenever we take selfies). I am the luckiest woman alive to feel that my Mom and I are the best of friends.  Somehow, my Mom has managed to be a mother and a friend all rolled into one since the day I was born, and I love and respect her for it immensely.  Along with my hubby, I could never live with cancer if it wasn’t for her taking such good care of me in so many different ways.

Oh, on to food and shopping, too important to miss if you’re traveling with us girls.

Murphy’s (different Murphy’s) ice cream only found in Ireland should really come to the States. No artificial flavors and the cookies and butterscotch flavors just melt in your mouth (they’re also known for their sea salt ice cream which we didn’t love, but what an interesting concept!).  Great sweaters and the Jameson Distillery was a fun way of trying out different whiskeys.  I ended up with a cocktail of whiskey and ginger-ale and fresh lime.  Between a Guinness and a Whiskey though I would go for the beer.

The people—the NICEST that I have ever encountered. In all of my travels I have had some great experiences with locals, but the Irish really take it to a whole other level.  We never heard a car honk the whole week (unless it was our driver or a taxi beeping at somebody else to say hi, sticking their hands out the window and grinning widely shouting to each other in cute Irish accents).  On those long, narrow and windy roads very often only one car could fit at a time and it was never an issue who would back up and let the other go (whereas in the States I can only imagine how many middle fingers would be given in a situation like that).   Oh, and last but way way not least, the chocolate over there is SO MUCH BETTER than anything that we have here!

Now that we have been home for about 5 days, it’s on to planning our next adventure.  SHL and I need some time away, just the two of us, to regroup and recharge.  It’s been a long winter, and cancer among other things have depleted me.  Thankfully, travel is a possibility in my world, and it feeds my soul.

 

 

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