Monday, July 23, 2007

Ireland, Day Two

The second morning in Ireland, Monday July 2nd, Mom and I awoke to a gentle rain. We had a “proper” Irish breakfast in the dining room of the B&B then took a cab into town where we picked up a tour bus out to the coast.

The rain was on and off all day, and many of the stops weren’t all that remarkable other than they were convenient places to get a cuppa and use the restrooms. What was marvelous about the day trip, and we were overjoyed to discover the same marvelous nature to all our day trips, was that the driver was a wealth of information. He talked about everything we passed, slowed for photo ops, and shared stories with us in between. And when he didn’t talk, he played the hokiest “Irish” music I’ve ever heard!

I didn’t get any pictures of our first stop. It was a crafts store in the western region of county Galway. Shortly after leaving there, continuing on our drive North and West, we saw some of the famous Connemara ponies

Connemara Ponies

…as well as some of the famous regional Swans.

Connemara Swans

We stopped periodically on the nearly-unused roads just to get out and stroll. There we saw what the wild Irish countryside really looks like. So many rocks in this region the only way to get them out of your fields is to stack ‘em up and turn ‘em into walls!

West Coast Walls

Old houses (in ruins) next to newer houses, still in use

West Coast

And just some generally cool photo ops (look, Ma, walls AND ruins!)

West Coast

Ok—this is completely my silliness—I think the idea of hand-cut peat bricks is so awesome, and I love the smell of burning peat. Most peat is machine-cut anymore, but someone back here in the Western counties is still cutting by hand. Here’s a photo of the bog with stacks of peat bricks drying beside it:

Peat Bog

Finally, our destination for the day was Kylemore Abbey. While the order of nuns currently living here are from the oldest Irish Benedictine Abbey (their history goes back nearly 340 years), they have only lived in this building since 1920. Prior to that, it was a privately owned castle-residence. Currently, it is an international all-girls boarding school.

And it’s breathtakingly beautiful:

Kylemore Abbey