Galway, Donegal and Connemara, Horses, Blue Skies and Cottages: My Trip To Ireland Day Eight Part One  

Posted by Heidi

Day Eight began with a trip into Galway.  Our tour guide explained to us that the floor at Galway Cathedral is made of the red (really orange) and green Connemara marble which is in very short supply.  These days it is produced into mostly jewelry and a few larger pieces such as vases and bookends.  We did not spend much time at the cathedral but I did get a photo of the floor (which really is beautiful).

Mary and I love churches but this one was built in the 1960's and didn't hold the same allure for us as most of the others we had seen.  We were far more interested in getting a better look at the fisherman we spotted standing in the River Corrib as we drove into town on the bridge above them.  It was really quite striking, much more so in person than in the photos.  The roar of the water was quite impressive and much bluer than it looks below.

Detail of the above photo (see the house to the right of the bright blue awning) given the dry brush treatment.

I think we were in Galway for all of 45 minutes.  We then headed into Donegal which had a very different vibe than any other Irish city we had visited.  Downtown was quite small but it had a variety of more modern style shops rather than traditional. We took very few photos here because we spent most of our time shopping and looking for gluten free food (I was feeling pretty food deprived, in general, by this point).

Donegal had some architecturally interesting buildings.

This blue one was a multi level clothing, jewelry and china store.

We were in Donegal for about an hour and a half (I think I had Irish Rocky Road for lunch--yum!) and then we headed for the little factory where Connemara marble jewelry is made.  We had a tour and I was very taken by this piece of tile that looks almost like a landscape painting.

The factory was really quite tiny and we walked through a narrow room that was lined with tables and workers on each side.  Many of them were high school aged kids.  We spent most of our time in the showroom but everything was far too expensive for our budget.  We hadn't been to Belleek yet and that was where I intended to drop most of my blunt (spend most of my money--hey, I write regency era books, doncha know) so we just looked.  Then we went across the street to the museum.  I thought that the vintage and antique pieces pictured below were far more interesting than the ones currently for sale.

The museum smelled like heaven thanks to the peat fire that was going.  Note the angel face set into the niche on the right.

Dry brush version of angel face detail . . .

Another room featured this glorious statue of Mary and the Christ Child.  I am not Catholic, nor were my ancestors (in short, it is not in my blood) but I do think this is beautiful.

I couldn't resist snapping a picture of some dried out peat logs to show the Irishman I married.  After all, peat logs ARE in HIS blood.

We then drove to this lovely spot where there was enough room for the coach to pull over and we could get out and take photos.  It was a glorious half hour and I took way more photos than perhaps I should have.  However, this looked exactly the way I have always pictured Ireland to look.  So little of it actually does, at least not the parts we spent most of our time in.  We were happy to see all that we did but Mary and I would love to rent a cottage right about here and live in it for at least a month.  (Actually, Mary said that if someone would just toss her some food a few times a day, she would literally live right here.)

Dry brush version of a detail of the photo above . .  .

I just love the photo above but I think I love this one below even more.  She is surrounded by so much beauty and yet she is still the most beautiful thing in the picture.  It was a half hour of pure happiness for her.  One of the horses came up and actually licked her camera.  She was in heaven.

Here is some of the gang taking photos while I was taking photos of the pink house behind the tree (natch).

Dry brush version of detail of the above photo . ..

Really, we would have been happy to stay right here . .

It would have been so fun to just hop on its back and gallop away.  (Next time:  Cong--the city in which The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara was filmed.)

The Cliffs of Moher: Day Six Of My Trip To Ireland  

Posted by Heidi

Day Six began with a hike up the Cliff of Moher.  702 feet at their highest point and five miles long, they are prominently featured as the Cliffs Of Insanity in The Princess Bride.  They, however, presented me with a major source of anxiety.  My first problem was the weather:  this was high on the list of things my daughter wanted to do and it is not uncommon to find the weather so wild that there isn't much to see.  Considering she was paying for the entire trip, I was concerned that the outing would be a bust and she would regret the entire trip, the expense, bringing her mom along, the whole nine yards.  My second concern was whether or not I would be able to make the climb.  Two climbs, actually.  When you arrive, there is a paved path to the right as can be seen above, and a dirt path to the left which follows along, in and out, as seen in the photo below.  We chose left.

Below is Mary on the wall with a view of the path to the right--next to her, in the distance, is O'Brien's Tower, an ancient look out building.  (She destroyed the shoes she is wearing later that day in the clay mud of Doolin Cave.)

As we climbed higher and higher, the view changed.  And our heads swiveled, back and forth.  This is to the left, again.

To the right again.  The weather was wonderful but not perfect.  Mist and clouds did interfere with the possibility of sparkling photos.

To the left again.

We only had a few hours to spend at the cliffs so once we got to the first peak (a feat I was gobsmacked to have accomplished) we walked down and went up the paved path along the cliffs to the right.  This is a view from there--but not back to where we had been--off further right again.

And then back to the left from the cliffs on the right.

And the right again (why do I feel like an opthamologist?)

We were thrilled to have free wifi at the top of the cliffs.  We had trouble getting online for pretty much the entire trip.  After we arrived back at the bottom and boarded the coach, we rode to the Doolin Cave.  We had to walk down a few steps to get through the entrance but that was nothing compared to the 100 steps we had to descend before there was anything of interest to see.  I worried a bit about those same steps on the way up but I had done both sides of the cliffs so I figured I would survive.  (I did, but just barely.)

Our group split in half and Mary and I were part of the second group.  This left us some free time to wander around a bit before we entered the cave and enjoy the countryside.

Detail of the above picture using the photo shop dry brush feature.

Below is the longest stalactite that has been discovered and what we came to see.  By this time into the trip, I had used over 80% of the photo space I had available on my camera and we were only half way into our trip, so, I was very conservative with my photo taking.  I decided I could look at pics online, all of them sure to be better than mine, if I had a yearning to refresh my memories as to the cave.

I was not so frugal with my pics of things that interested me more, however.  An internet search of castles in Co. Clare did not yield the name of this ruin which was very far into the distance (this one features a dry brush treatment).

Below is a photo of a house I took that has been given the paint daubs treatment via photo shop.

This photo of Lemenagh Castle was taken through the coach window in a downpour, only one of two we experienced our entire trip.  This one has had the water color treatment which magically made many of the raindrops disappear.  I'm a fan.

After we left the cave, we headed for The Burren, which is a huge area of rocky ground.  We visited a smoked salmon facility (so not my cup of tea) and then we headed for The Dolmen, an ancient burial site.  HERE is a link to photos of it--it was too wet to get out my camera.  I donned my rain poncho for the first and only time we were in Ireland and we headed out to see the Dolmen.  Of far more interest to me was the man, dressed in a long wool hooded cloak, seated under a large umbrella at a table.  He made items out of the Ogham alphabet by pounding into metal.  Mary got a necklace with her name on it--just a series of lines that one reads from bottom to top.  What fascinated me was the fact that he was out in such inclement weather.  I suppose one gets used to the rain there.  We were so lucky to have such great weather at the Cliffs of Moher.

When we got back to the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, everything was calm and lovely again.  We headed out for Dunne's, our favorite Irish chain store, in search of some food for dinner (apples, gluten free Jaffa cakes and Magnum ice cream bars--we went all the way to Ireland and didn't even go inside a single pub--what were we thinking?) and new shoes for Mary to wear for the duration of our stay.  Next time:  some of my favorite photos of our trip and probably our favorite day of the trip--Galway Cathedral, the beauties of Connemara, and Cong, the quaint Irish town where The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara was filmed.