Ennis, County Clare
Sunday, Sept. 29
Today was the end of our Pre-trip. We left Dingle heading for Ennis. The first stop was in the small town of Anascaul to see the South Pole Inn Museum honoring Tom Crean. He was an Irish lad who joined the British Explorer Shackleton on a South Pole expedition. Because the Irish and the British were not getting along at that time, he could not share the fact that he had been on that expedition as a British soldier. He was honored later. Then, a short distance away we stopped at a small cafe owned by our guide: Joan’s Cafe. She let us in to see it, because it is closed now as she is busy guiding tours.
We stopped in the town of Tralee to visit the Rose Garden and sing the ballad “The Rose of Tralee” and hear the story behind it. Late in the morning we pulled into the small town of Listowel. The local guide, Vincent, was waiting for our group. He gave us a tour of the town and shared the many ways it is connected with the United States. Meanwhile, I sat leisurely in the lobby of the very old Listowel Hotel, enjoying some coffee and the view. The group came back and we had lunch in the hotel before heading out for Ennis in County Clare. It is very close to the Shannon Airport where we flew in a week earlier. We have seen so much: time has flown by.
We arrived at the Old Ground Hotel about 4:00 and by 5;00 We were gathered together for the official briefing for the trip, because now our group had the three new members. Our group is now full with 16 people. Afterward Joan took us on a walking tour to give us an orientation of the town. It didn’t take much, as our hotel is right in the center of town, across from a large church. We ended up in a pub for dinner where live music started at 7:30. It was very pleasant.
Monday, Sept. 30
Today was “A Day In The Life” of an Irish family. The group went out to meet a farmer and we walked in to his place which took about 45 minutes. Joan told me not to go and gave us an alternative plan. We, and another lady with new knees and a hip, took a cab to the public bus station where we caught the 10:30 bus out to the Cliffs of Moher. It had started to rain before we left the hotel, and continued to worsen as the day progressed. It was about a 50 minute ride out to the cliffs. When the bus stopped to let us off, it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. We spotted an arched tunnel into the hill, which turned out to be the entrance and box office. Fortunately we didn’t have to pay since they had a record of us coming in with the group. The wind was whipping through the tunnel, but I pulled out my rain pants and put them on before crossing the next distance to the Interpretive Center, Restaurant and gift shop. What unbelievable weather. After a brief stop in the interpretive center, we headed for the restaurant. From there we could see part of the cliffs. To rephrase that, we could barely see the cliffs through the mist and heavy rain, coming in sideways with the strong wind.`
After we ate,I decided to brave the wind and rain, and walked all the way to the top on one side of the cliffs. It was really all I could do to keep from being blown over. I took the long set of stairs very slowly. The wind was so strong at one point that it almost blew a crunch out from under me. A nice lady at the top took my picture. We were the only ones up there. Eventually, the group arrived from their morning outing, where they had also gotten drenched. Melanie and a few others hiked to the top and back before we headed back to the hotel.
We had dinner together at the hotel, then went to another room where we were treated to a musical program. Three girls, ages 12 - 16, played their harps, violins and a concertinas for us. Two of the girls were sisters and their father was there to move the program along. They talked about their training, which was private, and the music they played and their instruments. It was a fascinating evening with times for plenty of questions. They were amazing girls.
Tuesday, October 1
This morning, the weather was bad enough that the “Optional Tour” to the Aran Islands was cancelled. In its place we were offered a trip to the Bunratty Castle. Paul and I both took this option. While the rest of the group got a tour of the 15th century castle, including climbing up a small circular staircase to the upper floors, I was free to wander around the grounds. It is a large area where they had either original or replicas of old buildings representing the time period. They were all furnished to recreate the period. Then there was another section called the “Folk Park” which depicts 19th century life. Many of the stores in this section feature merchants selling many things, including hand produced pottery, woolen goods and food and beverages. There are also large fenced areas where some livestock is kept for petting, and also two gorgeous Irish Wolf Hounds.
Lunch was in a nearby restaurant called Durty Nelly’s followed by some shopping time at two merchants across the street. Still resisting. We were back to the hotel early so that we could get all packed ready to leave in the morning.
That evening was our “Home Hosted Dinner.” We were split into three groups and dropped at three different homes. Paul and I went with Norm, Barb and Mary Ann to the home of Jerry and Mary. They live in a very old stone house which they bought back in the 1990s and refurbished. It is gorgeous inside. They have both been business people and we had lots of good conversation about a wide range of topics. Jerry was the cook, and the food was delicious. Toward the end of the evening, Jerry explained a little about the game of Hurling and showed us the equipment used. It is a cross between a lot of our games: soccer, hockey, and some others along with a touch of mayhem . Very interesting. All too soon, Joan came to pick us up, at 8:00. We were not finished having a good time and learning about each other.
Wednesday, October 2 we leave for Clifden. More about that in the next post.
Grace and Paul Pitzer are retired school teachers who love to travel and share their stories and photos with others.
Chronicles Grace's journey through breast cancer
Grace and Paul Pitzer
We hope you will keep checking back regularly to see what is new. I'm always out and about with some camera and love to stretch my skills and add to my volume of work.
Motto: "Pack light and take lots of pictures."