Molly & Steve's Trip to Ireland - 2023

You're Very Welcome Here


Donegal - pt 1

Mar 18

Today we slept late, waking up a little after 9 am and thinking we had already missed the hotel breakfast. We threw on some clothes and raced downstairs, relieved to learn that there was still another 30 minutes left before the kitchen closed. We each ordered a "mini-breakfast" consisting of an egg, a piece of bacon, black and white pudding, one sausage, coffee, juice and bread.

After breakfast, we checked out and trudged down the street under a light rain shower and headed out of town, driving to the northwest to Donegal.

The rain continued for about half of our trip, but then blue sky appeared about the time we crossed the border into Northern Ireland. We didn't actually notice when we crossed because there is no "hard border," and this is the way the Irish like it and want to keep it. (Brexit has the potential to mess this up, which is why there are still ongoing talks to find a solution.) In any case, we had been driving in Northern Ireland for about 30 minutes before we even noticed that we were no longer in the Republic. Our route crossed the southwestern tip of Northern Ireland, and since today's destination is Donegal (in the Republic), it wasn't long before we crossed the border again. This time, there were some subtle signs that we'd switched over, i.e. a patriotic statue in the town square at Pettigo.

Down the road a piece, we noticed a change in the landscape, with the green fields we had been seeing giving way to a brown landscape dotted with some rocks and stands of pine trees. When I consulted the map later, I found that we were driving along the southern edge of the Lough Fad Bog, described as an "upland and lowland blanket bog." It is a nature preserve, and indeed we saw very few buildings of any kind for the next several miles. We reached the crest of a high ridge and got a glimpse of the Atlantic coast in the distance as we dropped down the other side to the seaport of Donegal.


A pub in Donegal

We navigated our way to the center of town where our hotel is located, found a parking spot and checked in to the Abbey Hotel. After just a brief stop in our room, we walked down to the office of the Donegal Bay Waterbus and booked a boat ride for tomorrow. (We had wanted to do that this afternoon, but their last tour for the day had just left.)

We were in need of a beverage so walked down the street to the Olde Castle Bar, situated on Tyrconnell Street, just across from the Donegal Castle. While we quaffed our beers, we shared a small meal of seafood chowder, chips and brown bread. The chowder was superb, full of four or five different kinds of fresh fish swimming in a creamy broth. The pub was busy, and the TV was tuned to the rugby match between France and Wales, taking place today in Dublin as part of the Six Nations tournament. The next game - scheduled at 5 pm - is the one everyone is really waiting for: a match between Ireland and England, with Ireland favored to win and clenching a Grand Slam victory (beating all the other teams in the ruby union of the Six Nations in a single season.) If that happens, it would be historic in that it would be the first time ever that Ireland has won the Grand Slam on their home turf.


Seafood chowder


Rugby match between France and Wales on the TV in the Olde Castle Bar

We had planned to go to Mass in Donegal, which was scheduled for 6 pm at St. Patrick's church, just down the street, so we didn't stay at the pub for the Ireland-England game. We figured we could catch the end of it after Mass.

We weren't quite sure how long the walk was to St. Patrick's, so we left the pub a little before 5 pm and started walking - the wrong way, of course. But that gave us the opportunity to see a pretty rainbow above the Gothic-style Church of Ireland before we checked the map and reoriented ourselves. As we turned around and walked toward the town center, this time the rainbow appeared over St. Patrick's church, a demonstration of God's ecumenical largesse.


Rainbow behind Church of Ireland church in Donegal

We were still much too early for the Saturday Mass, so we stopped off in a coffee shop. I ordered a latte, and Steve ordered a "coffee with cream or milk." His beverage arrived with a small dish of whipped cream. Then the waitress brought a small cup of warmed cream and a little pitcher of milk. I'm not sure if that is just the normal response when one orders a cup of coffee with cream or if she didn't really know which one he wanted so brought all the options. He wasn't sure what she'd brought either, and confused by all the options, he asked her, "help me out here. What's this?" So she explained. She must have been amused by our ignorance because we could hear her telling her co-workers about our confusion.

It reminded me of the story of great aunt Agnes Swift's request for a glass of milk from a waiter in the hotel restaurant at a fashionable establishment in London during her visit there in 1911. The waiter took their order, asking them what they wished to drink. Agnes said, "Milk." The waiter seemed somewhat taken aback. "Do you wish the milk hot or cold?" He returned a second time to ask, "Do you wish cow's milk or goat's milk?" "Cow's milk," she responded. He then returned a third time to ask, "Do you wish it in a glass or a cup?" Agnes smiled at him and quipped, "Just wrap it in a napkin."


Olde Castle Bar in Donegal


A perfect pour

After we finished our coffee, we walked down the street to St. Patrick's for the Saturday evening Mass. We thought perhaps the church wouldn't be so full, given the big rugby match, but it was probably about half full, and they have a second Mass tomorrow at 11:30.

From the church, we went back to the hotel and straight to the bar to see the end of the rugby match. Ireland was winning, with about 10 minutes left in the game. The crowd in the bar was in a good mood, naturally, and a huge roar erupted when Ireland scored again with about 4 minutes remaining. With the score standing at 29-16, the hopes for England were extinguished, and Ireland went on to victory. We aren't knowledgeable of the rules of rugby, but it was nevertheless interesting to watch. After the big Six Nations game was over, the TV switched to another game, this one a Gaelic football match, which was even more curious to watch. In this sport, which has some physical contact but not nearly as much as rugby, the players carry a ball which looks more like a soccer ball, but they can pass, kick, and dribble the thing as they try to keep it out of the hands of the opponents.


Ireland wins a Grand Slam

Neither of us was very hungry for dinner, so we ordered only appetizers as our evening meal, which we finished off and then trudged up to our room around 9 pm.

Tomorrow: Maybe we'll get to see some seals on our boat ride around the Donegal harbor and waterway.

Next: More of Donegal

Other stuff

This page was last edited on 22-Apr-2023

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