Mom and the Girls' Trip to Ireland - 2016

Beyond the Pale


 

The Burren

May 18

We started off with a great breakfast at Clareview House, joined by two other guests of the B&B from Devon, England. They are a married couple who are frequent guests here, and the wife was particularly funny. We enjoyed chatting with them. The wife’s quick little remarks set us off laughing. We told her how, on Tuesday, the weather was so cooperative that the rain just stopped every time we got out of the car to walk, and she said, "Well, why don't you go take a long walk today?” (Hoping we could generate sunshine for the day.)

When the conversation turned to our plans for the day, they and our hosts all gave us excellent guidance and tips for a drive down to the Cliffs of Moher, i.e., the best route to take and a place to stop on the way back for dinner. I think they, like we, get excited when thinking about the view along the coast.

The Burren

A view of the Burren

The weather was superb for this day's drive -- the best I have ever had for seeing the Burren and the Cliffs! It was partly sunny, making the green of the valleys even greener and bringing out more shades of that color than I could imagine. I had mentioned at breakfast that my last view of the Burren (with Tom and Sam in 2003) was in the pouring rain, and I looked forward to seeing it on a day without such heavy cloud cover, when it had looked like "a big gray mass." Immediately, the Brit wife piped up, "Well, that's what it is, isn't it?"

Poulnabrone

Poulnabrone

From the B&B, we headed toward Kinvara and then turned south into the Burren, climbing up in the rocky hillsides, with an initial side-trip to the Poulabrone portal tomb high atop the massive stone ridge. This is an ancient site where pre-historic people (i.e. 3800 BC) erected several stones over a burial chamber. The stones are massive and piled in a T-shaped "shelter" with a large slab atop about five or six upright stones. Underneath that, buried in the ground, are the remains of 33 persons dating to a time before the bronze age, before the Pyramids, older even than Newgrange. Besides this, the site itself is interesting geologically. The Burren is a curious ecological mixture, with alpine, arctic and Mediterranean plants existing side by side. Though from a distance it is gray and rocky, up close, the delicate flora are amazing -- we saw alpine ferns and colorful wild flowers between the rocks and crevices (which, we learned, are actually called clints and grikes.) Martha even saw two snails, only because a father with a small toddler barely stopped his little girl from popping one of the snails in her mouth (it looked a little like a piece of brown-striped candy.)

Orchid in the Burren

Orchid

Snails

Snails

Clints and Grikes

Sign explaining clints and grikes

Molly standing on clints

Molly at Poulnabrone

From Poulnabrone, we drove down out of the Burren, treated to spectacular views of Ballyvaughn Harbor, dots of little cottages on long, sloping hillsides, cows in the pastures, and the sun peeking through some clouds now and then to cast light in places and giving the whole vista a magical feel. 

At the Cliffs of Moher, it was busy with tourists. We saw several bicyclists, too, some touring bikes. I thought they must be crazy not only to cycle on the narrow roads but also to endure the many climbs up and down in the area. It was, at times, a struggle for our VW van to get up some of those climbs, and at those places a cyclist would almost certainly have to get off and walk. 

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

It was the final day of a three-day birdwatching festival at the Cliffs, which partially explains the many buses and tourists of all types, but it is also just the start of the tourist season, and the crowds are only going to increase from now through August.

With the handicapped placard in our windshield, I was allowed to drive our car within a short walk to the door of the Visitor's Center to unload the passengers, get Mom in the wheelchair and send them off. Then I drove back to the car park across the road. (There was parking for handicapped access in the lot at the Visitor's Center, but all the spaces were full and there was nowhere left for us to leave the car except in the larger lot across the road.)

We briefly browsed exhibits inside the visitor’s center and then headed out on the path to view the Cliffs. The access routes have been improved since the last time I saw this place in 2003, and it was possible to take Mother in the wheelchair to several spots with a good view of the Cliffs. It is no longer possible to go to the edge of the rocky flat area where Steve and Martha lay on their tummies years ago and looked directly down the sheer face of the cliff (barf.) Micheal, our host at the B&B told us a funny story about two girls who worked at the B&B a few years ago. The girls were from Switzerland, and their mother came to visit, so Micheal took them to the Cliffs during the mother's visit. One of the girls was in a location where she was close to the edge for a view, and the mother (who, as Micheal said, "had no English") yelled to her in German. The other girl burst out laughing, and when Micheal asked what she said, the girl translated: "If you fall off there, I will kill you!"

Off Limits area at the Cliffs

Today this area of the Cliffs is pretty much
off limits to tourists

 

Steve at the Cliffs, 1992

But during our 1992 visit, tourists could stand
near the edge (Steve in blue jacket)

Martha and Steve at the Cliffs, 1992

Martha and Steve, 1992
Looking over the precipice at the Cliffs of Moher

Steve at the Cliffs, 1992

Steve, 1992 at the Cliffs of Moher

We didn't get close enough for our Mother to yell at us, though. At one point, when Sara, Martha and Annis were pushing Mom in the wheelchair up the path, I walked ahead to take their photo. But at that point, Sara reached in to adjust something on Mom's lap, Annis was behind Mom on one side, and Martha on the other. So the

Purse snatchers!

Purse-snatchers!

photo I snapped looks rather like the three of them are accosting Mom and trying to take her purse. We all got silly laughing at that idea, and Sara suggested that we could post the photo on Facebook with a caption that says, "so far, Mom's paying for everything on our trip!"

The sea and sky at the Cliffs were not as still and clear as the day you saw it, but certainly much better than the last two times I saw it. The skies were clear enough for us to see the Aran Islands off to the west and the tip of Connaught to the northwest. We saw lots of birds flying in and out and roosting on the cliffs, but even with a view through the telescope I could not tell if they were puffins. The scale of the 700-foot sheer wall is still as stunning to me as it was the first time I saw it. It mesmerizes people. We stood and watched the waves crash against the rocks below, and I tried not to think about some of the stories Micheal had told us of persons who had jumped from the cliffs.

O'Brien's Tower

O'Brien's Tower

We took several photos from that vantage point, and the view was spectacular in all directions, even behind us where the land sloped down to a gentle harbor dotted with houses in a huge expanse of green stretching off to the horizon (Liscannor and Lahinch.) Off to the north from where we stood, we could look up the steep hill to see O'Brien's Tower. We admired it from a distance, but none of us had the desire to walk the uphill path to reach it.

We did some browsing at the gift shop, picking up postcards and a few souvenirs. I bought a small gold pin of a St. Brigid's Cross that I plan to give to Mother tomorrow for her birthday.

I trotted out to the car park, retrieved the car and drove it back to the Visitor's Center to load up the travelers. It was just a little after 4 p.m. by that point. We had had no lunch, but no one was really hungry yet (considerable Irish breakfast sustained us through the day), but we did get bottles of water and downed those. From the Cliffs, we drove north to Doolin, where we went down to the pier from which the many ferries depart for the Aran Islands. Micheal told me that there are six or seven ferry operators, each making about seven or eight trips a day, carrying 100 to 150 passengers on each trip to the islands!

Doolin

Doolin

The port was not busy with passengers while we were there, but the car park was about three-quarters full, so they were certainly operating that day. We were more fascinated with the surf crashing ashore there but stayed well away from the rocks (I told them about the American tourist who got thrown upon the rocks by a rogue wave about a week ago and was severely injured.) We photographed from a safer vantage point but were just amazed at how, on what really from all appearances at a distance, seemed like a calm day, the sea's power was still impressive. (Click here to view videos of the Doolin port.)

We could see the tower of Castle Doonagore from the pier, and when we got back in the car, we drove up a very steep, narrow road for a better view. So did about five or six other cars, but no one was in a hurry, so wherever a lay-by was available, we'd pull off and take photos. I got my best photo while sitting in the driver's seat and shooting right out the window of the passenger's side. I think that tower is privately owned -- it is very well kept and in a perfect location for adding to the mystique of the whole coastline.

Castle Doonagore

Castle Doonagore

From Doolin we drove north along the coast, upon Micheal's recommendation (and he was right -- the driver gets a much better view if taking that route northward instead of the opposite direction.) I drove it in 2003 with Tom and Sam, but it was a dreary day of steady rain and not nearly as spectacular as today's view. Now and then, I would pull over when I could for photos, and Martha also took several quick snapshots out the window of the moving car. I met a tour bus or a big truck a couple of times, but it always was at a convenient wide spot in the road (whew.)

We wove our way around back through Ballyvaughn and into a little place called New Quay only 10 km from our B&B. It is the location of Linnane's Lobster Bar that Brenda had recommended for our dinner stop. Their menu was mostly seafood, but Mom was able to find a good option of chicken that she and Annis shared. Martha, Sara and I had crab dishes, and they were very tasty -- clearly made from fresh catches.  We all had fairly small entrees, so we had room for dessert -- crème brûlée and a dish of apple crumble shared by all.

Molly, Sara, Roberta, Annis and Martha - dinner at Linnane's

Dinner at Linnane's

A man sitting behind me was a friendly source of answers for our questions -- what was that little shelter we saw along the road? (an old well) How do the farmers provide water for the livestock in the Burren? (It's a complicated answer, but basically comes down to using water tanks to catch natural runoff. There are no rivers in the Burren, and the water flows down through the cracks in the karst topography, does not naturally pool anywhere, and continues out to the sea.) He was very informative and of course naturally curious, too, so he asked about us and our travels. The second question we have gotten nearly every time after admitting we are Americans is "What are you thinking..." And we know that the rest of the question will always lead to Donald Trump and the American presidential election. And his did, too, so then we quickly told him that oh, no -- we didn't mean to say that we are from Illinois -- we are Canadians! He enjoyed that, and the conversation then turned to the world and Ireland's struggle to come out of a bad economic slump. We enjoyed talking to him, and he and his wife wished us happy travels.

We piled back in the car, made the short drive to the B&B and met our host Micheal as we came in. He had been put in charge of the house for the day as Brenda was out to buy a gift for their granddaughter's upcoming First Communion. We arranged details of the breakfast time in the morning, and he said he would help us get the box for the wheelchair in the car (that would be great! Being able to take the box will permit us to leave it at our hotel in Dublin for courier pickup versus making alternative arrangements to return the chair to the rental organization.)

Mom is doing well, but the boot and the angle it forces her to use in walking puts a stain on her back, so that is the part which hurts the most right now. I promised her a back massage at bedtime. I went down to the kitchen to heat up the rice-bag heating pads we brought with us while Sara and Annis helped Mom get in her jammies and in bed. With her foot propped in pillows, she lay on her side while I rubbed her back, hips and legs. She said it felt good.

Tomorrow we depart Kinvara, but we will first go to some sites near Gort and stop by Thoor Ballylee to celebrate Mom's birthday.

 
The Birthday

 

 
Other stuff

This page was last edited on 15-Jun-2016

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