Monday, May 31, 2010

We left Northern Ireland today... reminded that the old enmities that have existed for at least three centuries have not dissolved... We ended the day in Glasgow, Scotland, after a brief stop in Robert Burns home town. After visiting the cottage where Burns was born and where he lived for the first seven years of his life, I walked back past a church to a bridge to get a picture of the famous “Brigadoon,” and on our way back, a wedding party was coming out of the church. The bride’s attendants were wearing big garden-party hats and the groom’s men were in kilts. A piper in kilts stepped brightly and played his bagpipes as the couple made their way to a waiting Rolls-Royce. I remember that a wedding is important to the story in the musical “Brigadoon,” so I’m going to have to go back home and watch the movie.

Glasgow is just as I remember it from almost thirty years ago... busy, industrial, diverse, and a little shoddy. In this land of haggis we had Thai curry for supper. Haggis is definitely on the menu for later in the week.
Everybody at our dinner table tonight agreed that today we experienced a couple of definite “WOW!” moments. Driving around and through Ireland is a bit like exploring an expanded Colonial Williamsburg... historically important and interesting, but hardly surprising. Ireland is mostly what I expected: clean, green, fertile. I like it.
Today we visited a World Heritage site, The Giant’s Causeway. A basalt rock formation that looks like a great field of giant, perfect hexagonal pillars formed many millions of years ago by volcanic action. The ancient Irish believed they were formed by the giant warrior Finn MacCool. I’m not making it up. Mac Cool was cool. He fell in love with a giant maiden on the island of Staffa (Scottish) and built a causeway so he could get to her. The causeway doesn’t go far, but it is spectacular. Wow!

A second “WOW” was my reaction when our bus was detoured down a road above the sea that got narrower and narrower as we drove along it. We were turned off the main road by a police roadblock... and this being Northern Ireland, home to some folks who have been known to blow up things... we wondered what was happening farther down the main highway. Our slim road dead ended on a narrow spot above the surf. Incredibly, the driver managed to wiggle the bus around so we could head back in the other direction and try another route to get to Bally Gally where we had reservations for the night. We got there an hour later than when we were expected.

Peter...manning the battlements.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

We have traveled from Limerick to Sligo today through spectacular Western Ireland... even in the rain this place is beautiful. There is something about the combination of earth and sky and, of course, basic people (I was going to write “raw” but that definitely is not it... and “natural” doesn’t do it... so I’m going with “basic.” I think I am somehow related to everybody here. I actually wouldn’t want to be confined to this island place for a whole lifetime, but I can see how someone born here after having had to move away would never be completely content anywhere else.
The "picture" I saw before I pulled the curtains closed on a ten-thirty setting sun at the Yeats Country Hotel was this sailboat and Sligo in the distance.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I found the picture of the poppy in front of a cottage in Adare. It reminded me of Georgia O'Keeffe who must surely have been Irish.
The road from Killarney to Limerick is so narrow that sometimes when two buses meet they must maneuver slightly off the road to pass. The countryside is unbelievably beautiful... like a movie set. It’s no wonder that Ireland is actually the setting for many Hollywood and English movies. Yesterday we passed through the village where the movie Ryan’s Daughter was made around 1970. Limerick is the setting for Frank McCord’s novel, Angela’s Ashes. We spent most of the afternoon at the Bunratty Folk Park. I expected it to be like Disney Land and almost didn’t go. What a surprise. It was more like Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. The castle above was the seat of the famous King John who was forced to sign the Magna carta... the same King John who was the brother of Richard the Lion Hearted.It's impossible to pass up scenes like the one below, so I've added more photographs to the BLOG today than usual.