The drive to Dublin was thankfully uneventful. We checked in to our B&B–Aida Boyle’s house in Upper Rathmines called St Judes. It was a grand old Dublin home with 13-foot-high ceilings, plaster trim decorating the ceilings and a massive marble fireplace…and a goose down comforter. Love my Dublin!
We spent the last few days of our trip walking all over the city, like I’ve done a hundred times before. Stopping in Bewley’s for lunch or breakfast with white coffee, taking a rest and getting a pint in the Foggy Dew, evening hours in the Long Hall, and just enjoying walking these grand old streets.
We would be out until 4 a.m. at the discos with Nick and Catherine. Dancing and singing at the bar below the Harp. We knocked over a table dancing to a Neil Diamond song. Nick: “See your man there? He’s been coming in here for two years and hasn’t grown a stitch. It’s like two eggs in a hanky, that one“.
Another sunny day in Dublin–watching the kids busk on Grafton street and enjoying pints in McDaids. Tomorrow, we were heading home via London, Reykjavik and Baltimore…
On Wednesday, 9/29, we left Dunquin and drove out of Dingle through Ballyferriter and over the Connor Pass. There is a bold goat on the pass who sticks his head in the car windows for treats and scratches his back by tilting his horned head back. We took the car onto the ferry and crossed the Shannon into Co. Clare.
We sat outside in Doolin in the grand sunlight just after arriving. At a picnic table with a Smithwicks and a Ritz. The sun felt so good as to splurge on a huge meal at the Lazy Lobster later. We watched the cows graze in the field behind us as the sun went down.
Our room #4 at Killilagh House was conveniently located…next door to the post office, 30 seconds to McDermott’s pub, 40 seconds to the Lazy Lobster–and it had the best scones I’ve ever tasted…plus a shy Jack Russell in residence!
I would call home that night…and hear from a phone booth in tiny Doolin, the toilet of 523 Southcrest crash when it was dropped during renovation. From so many miles away, I could hear it, and the stress in my mother’s voice. She was beside herself with the mess.
Back to the pubs for some tunes. Music, ceol and craic…this is Ireland!
I’d hoped to go out to the Blaskets. But the weather did not permit the boats to make the effort.
Instead, I visited a graveyard where several of the Blasket characters are buried. Deep holes sinking into the graves and crooked old grave stones. Two magpies and rain.
Later I sat at the desk in the B&B Gleann Dearg (room #1) in Dunquin and stared out at the Blaskets–coming and going in the clouds and mist. Like some sort of vision that can’t quite get into focus. Sometimes, you could see the ruined cottages out there. Sometimes the sun would shine there.
One day I would get out there. But it wouldn’t be this trip.
The Blaskets are a group of six islands…at one time, home to over 175 people. Now they are abandoned, evacuated in the 1950s for safety. An entire way of life, ended.
Why are the Blaskets semi-famous? In a span of seven years, a variety of autobiographies and stories came to life from the islands–detailing a fading community and culture. Translated from Irish to English–these were hard lives. Sometimes the three mile journey to mainland Ireland could not be made–and that was still true as I witnessed. There is no electricity, no trees. Only beautiful green slopes and deserted, collapsed stone cottages. Some descriptions I’ve read: “The Great Blasket looks so close you could reach out and touch its field walls and stroke the grass on its muscular mountain slopes. There are other days when the great island shrinks to half the size and withdraws itself far out into the Atlantic, aloof and infinitely untouchable. At all times, this island has an appearance of mysterious self-containment and otherness, totally at odds with the visible relics of human occupation and cultivation.” And in the words of Tomas O’Criomhthain about the culture and community there, “the like of us will not be seen again“.
At the heritage center, a letter said “I was inside with an old widow a few nights ago…well she had three lovely rooms in her house, her children are all in America now and only one son that’s a man here, but not in her house. Imagine her sitting in the corner alone, thinking and looking at her empty house which her grandchildren should be playing and she knows that she will never see her dear ones again…”
The islands were evacuated in 1953. Homes in Dunquin were given to the cast offs. It must have been hard, to look out to sea every day and see their past there on the Great Blasket.
We left Dublin in our black Ford Focus around noon. It was the day of the All-Ireland Finals (Cork vs. Meath in Croke Park–Meath would win). It was a sunny day as we listened to Radio Na Gaeltacht and cut across the country through Laois, Tipperary and Limerick, arriving into Dingle around 5:30 p.m.
Of course, I longed to be studying Irish again. I daydreamed for the time to come here, immerse myself in the Gaeltacht, and study at this cute little desk overlooking Dingle’s harbor in our Alpine Guesthouse (room #6 again). Such a romantic notion.
We got out around town in the pouring rain. Got a phone call from Mark…”Ms. Sweet-i-cums” ripped open a pillow and a VCR tape cover…Riley, Riley.
We did a bit a of a pub crawl in Dingle, stopping our shopping to take advantage of toilets and refreshments.
Bryan was on the prowl for an “A” tin whistle and we both hunted for sweaters for our “mammies” as one shopkeeper called it. She told us she had six kids ages 11-24, and when we left after gabbing with her for a little while, she exclaimed, “Take the rain away witch-yas!” Heard Tom Jones doing “Burning Down the House” and Sheryl Crow “All I Want to do is Have some Fun” throughout the day in various pubs. Also saw lots of dogs.
Probably the best scene was the herd of sheep coming down the street. I heard them before I saw them…lots of little hooves on pavement, tiny bells and their questioning eyes when they stopped in front of me–surrounding me–waiting for the whistling shepherd to guide them past the cars and sidewalks full of people.
And the light of County Kerry. God bless that light! It’s like the light from heaven spilling onto earth.
We left Iceland on a 7:51 a.m. flight to London…a 3 hour flight and one hour time difference. Then a 1:15 p.m. flight to Dublin. Just a hop, skip and jump. Of course, Heathrow is there to hobble you. We lost 2 of 3 bags through Heathrow. The one that made it with us to Dublin was the one full of dirty clothes. Gotta love that!
We arrived on a not so typical sunshiny day. We checked into our B&B, room #6 at the top of the stairs in Mrs. Crofton’s Garville Manor, in Rathgar. First things first…laundry. And then we took the bus to Grafton Street and Bewleys. It was an amusing ride listening to two teenage girls cat-calling out the bus windows–“fashion police”, “Hey Casanova…”, “well, hello there…”
Great, comfortable meal at Bewleys with mugs of white coffee…God how I love Bewleys!
We ran into Siobhan there (she worked with Bryan at the Duke in Chicago). Small world.
Headed down the quays to visit Nick and Catherine’s. We sat and talked to them for awhile before going back into town to meet Siobhan and a friend for drinks at Brogan’s at the Olympia. Stayed just past last call and hoofed it all the way back to Rathgar in a light mist because there were no taxis. Things have changed here. The buses run longer, the city is jammed with traffic and there’s clearly money in the system
Elderly Mrs. Croften shocked us in the morning with her comment “It’s a long walk after a few jars”–and doubled over laughing at her own joke.
Rainy days then. Typical and accepted. They make for good pub days, and just fit this beautiful old city. I checked in on the familiar places. The Foggy Dew has lost it’s ambiance–it’s expanded now, and bursting at the seams with the young crowd. Temple Bar is extraordinarily posh. The quays are high end. Is this the same place that only 5-10 years ago was not exactly safe?! Smells the same, sounds the same, buskers still on Grafton Street, still quiet just inside the walls of Trinity, still soft seating at McDaids, still the Haypenny Bridge and the Liffey, and the sales people on O’Connell Street Bridge and around the GPO. And still the playful wit and sarcasm…but it’s more polished now. We took in Juno and the Paycock at the Gaity and then met Shane and Jackie for a full moon Saturday night in Dublin–and caught the last bus home.