July 10th, 2013
This day started early. Well, I don’t think it really started since I’d been flying since the night before. But I arrived at the Shannon Airport around 5:30 a.m. I expected to nap on a bench until my ride (Mike from the B&B) could arrive around 9 a.m. Instead, he was there by 6:15 a.m., totally shocking me and giving me a glimpse of Irish hospitality, right at the start of my trip.
I was somewhat out of it—I wasn’t sure how long I’d been awake—so making conversation was difficult. My brain just wouldn’t work to answer simple questions like, “Does Ireland look like you expected?” or “How was your flight?” or “How many fingers am I holding up?” (Okay, he didn’t ask that last one, but I probably would have given him a glassy-eyed stare, if he had.) I apologized to Mike, and promised I would be better able to speak after just a wee bit of sleep.
So, even though I was half-brainless, we made a quick stop at Bunratty castle, because it was so close to the airport. I had mentioned Bunratty in my book, so I was excited to see it, first-hand. It’s an impressive sight. I had to laugh at the name of the pub, Durty Nelly’s, located right outside it’s walls. As we walked past the front of the pub, there were two men on the front deck. Mike asked them if they were open (not likely, as it was before 7 a.m.) and they laughed and said they’d just finished their shift! (I discovered during my stay that people there stay up really late! I fit right in :))
Once we left the main highway it was about an hour of driving on country roads. I wouldn’t say they were really two-lane roads—more like one and a half lanes. So every time a car was coming toward us, I secretly wondered if we would both fit on the road at the same time.
Someone in an online review had called Mike “a walking wikipedia of all things Irish.” And she was right. He was able to fill the hour of driving with interesting facts and tidbits about the areas we were driving through. He asked if I’d like to see the town of Millstreet (the inspiration for my fictional town of Millway) before we went to the B&B. I agreed, although I was so brain-dead by that point that I knew I may not remember it later.
But then I had a thirty-second panic—what if the town I’d chosen to model my fictional town after, was ugly? What if it wasn’t the quaint Irish town I had pictured in my head? I reassured myself that was why I’d chosen to make it a fictional town and I could make it as cute as I wanted. My momentary fear was unwarranted, though. It’s a lovely little town:
The above pic is the view leaving the town and heading toward the Coolefield B&B, where I made my home for a week.
After meeting Pam and the kids at Coolefield B&B (you can see the B&B here), I took a much needed nap. Afterward, Mike thought I’d want to see Mountleader. And he was right. It was probably one of my favorite places during the week, although I never made it back after that day. He explained that the Leader’s had been a prominent family in the 18th and 19th centuries. The great house in now in ruins but the land is beautiful and with the Pride and Prejudice movie rolling in my head, I could easily imagine what the house and grounds may have looked like in their prime:
Mike insisted on taking a picture of me in front of the Leader home, saying that my friends and family would want to see me in some of my pics. I reluctantly agreed. I always love having my picture taken. Especially after I’ve been awake for 28 hours! 😉
This is one of my favorite pics from my trip. It’s the view from the front of the once-great house. I can just imagine the “ladies” of the family setting up their easels beside that tree and painting the countryside. Makes me think of a quote from the aforementioned Pride and Prejudice:
“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”
“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”
“Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time without being informed that she was very accomplished.”
My how times have changed. Of course those ladies were accomplished in those things. What else did they have to fill their days? But I digress. Back to my first day in Ireland…
Next we went to see Tubrid Well, a Holy Well right in Millstreet. I’d never seen a well that looked more like a pond. (Is that the same as a spring? I don’t know. May have to google that.) It was a peaceful place where many catholic pilgrims come to pray for healing. There’s a grotto where people have left crutches and other things to show they’ve received healing. As tradition dictated, I took a sip of the cool, flowing water.
Another thing I learned during my time in Ireland was that everyone knows everyone, somehow. See the couple sitting on a bench way on the other side of the well? As we walked out, Mike struck up a conversation. The couple, Donal and Ann, didn’t live in Millway. But it turned out that Mike knew people Donal knew and they talked for a good half an hour. I didn’t understand most of what Donal said, so I just laughed when Mike laughed and played along as best I could. I know there was talk of kilts and bagpipes. Something about playing in a band. And that was about all I caught. Then a woman came in with her elderly mother, and of course, both Mike and Donal knew her! Mike says, “It’s a small world…if you talk.” I like that. (Expect to see that quote in book #2!)
The rest of the day was spent resting and getting settled. And drinking lots of tea. That night there were 23 teenaged girls from America and their two leaders, checking in. They were from the People to People organization. They arrived after nine and Mike thought it would be funny to introduce me as the neighbor, Mary, and tell them I did an amazing American accent. I hate “tricking” or “fooling” people. I’m not good at keeping up a joke or charade very long. But I went along with it because I was on an adventure and trying new things. Well, it was hysterical to see their reactions to my “American” accent, knowing they had it backwards and the real trick was my Irish accent. I could’t keep it up for long and fessed up that I was from New York. All laughed and I have to admit, it was so funny that it was one of the highlights of my trip. Next time you see me, ask me to re-enact it. I promise you’ll laugh.
Well, that’s day one. I don’t know how quickly I’ll get posts written about each of my days in Ireland, but I plan to show you pics from the whole trip. So, stay tuned 🙂