Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Week 19 - All Over Ireland

Monday was a magical day! We had to be ready to leave at 6:45 for the bus to the airport. We’d be flying on a little bitty plane (I’m talking so small that they weigh you and tell you where to sit) to the smallest Aran island – Inisheer (Inis Oirr in Gaelic). Some of the group were nervous about the flight but it was less than 10 minutes long and I was unphased. Here’s a pic of the entire plane from the back seat where I was sitting. Talk about a new experience!

It took 3 planes to get us all over and then we went out on a tractor tour of the island. We stopped at the shipwreck of the Plassey, which happened in 1960. The island is so small that you can see the wreck from just about any high ground on the island. The island had the same rocky geography of The Burren that we’d stop at on day 1. Our guide told us that the soil was all made with manure and seaweed, which I believed because there were no trees on the island. None. It was rocks and grass mostly. The tractors dropped us at the art center where we had fresh baked scones and tea then watched a movie about island life. Then it was on to class to learn more Irish knitting stitches, focusing on ribs since we’d already done cables. From class we walked down to the pub, where we had lunch and time to listen to music. I ended up outside on a bench knitting and playing with the dog that hangs at the pub. According to the teacher’s daughter, his Irish name, which I can’t remember, translated to Belly. He certainly mooched well, getting a nice piece of brown bread and butter I had in my bag. The ferry landing was right across from the pub and that was our way home. It was sunny, for once, and the trip was a pleasant way to ease back into normal life. And the icing on the cake was finding my luggage in the room when I got back. But talk about a buzz kill – Andrea’s didn’t come. I showered and changed into new clothes, which felt heavenly. When I walked in to dinner, everyone clapped. Another delicious meal was the end of a perfect day. Magical doesn’t begin to convey what it was like. I choked up on and off all day because I felt so lucky to be having such a day.

The next day was a driving day. We were on our way to our next hotel – Rosleague Manor, which would be my favorite, by far, of all the places we stayed. It’s an old country estate in the middle of nowhere that’s been made into a four star hotel with a wonderful restaurant. Loved it! After a gorgeous and sometimes scary ride along the cliffs, we arrived at Rosleague and had our Show & Share in conservatory. Check out this room. Talk about my version of perfection! And the food there was amazing. There was nothing not to like. The day after we got there we had a class (Shadow Knitting by Jean, which I’d already done on the Devon trip so I just sat and knitted my socks) in the conservatory then had the afternoon free. I missed a step that morning and had fallen in a full sprawl in front of the hotel manager and a guest so I was not up for a long walk in the country, which is what most people did. Jackie and I sat in the front room and knitted by the fire all afternoon. We ordered a pot of tea and relaxed the afternoon away. It was perfect and I’m sure the rest helped my knee. But the best part of the day was when Andrea’s luggage finally arrived SIX days after we had given it to American. Sheesh!

Thursday was our morning at the Leenane Sheep & Wool Centre. We’d had to choose between a sheep dog demonstration and a natural dyeing workshop. I’d been torn but ended up at the dyeing wishing I’d been at the dogs. After dyeing with natural stuff, I was sure I’d keep going with my kool aid and food coloring. Oh well. After lunch in the café there, we headed to the town of Clifden, where we had time to shop and grab dinner before the bus picked us up. We all ended up at Guy’s Bar for dinner, which where Philip and Jean recommended, and I took a break from the meat and seafood fare so far and had chicken a la king over pasta. It was yummy.

Friday was already day 7 of the trip! We toured Kylemore Abbey (I found a friendly cat in the greenhouse so got my kitty fix) and then got on the bus for the long trip to Dublin. There was lots of knitting time and I was sorry to leave the country. Our hotel room in Dublin was tiny compared to Rosleague and we were in the city. I’m sure it was fun but I’m always happier in the country on these trips.

To orient us to Dublin, we did a green bus tour on Saturday, which went all around the city. We were outside on the top level when it started raining. There wasn't room for all of us under cover so I put up my umbrella and toughed it out. I got a bit soggy but I'd live. Our tickets were good for 2 days and allowed us to jump on and off anywhere they stopped. Andrea and I stayed on past our starting point and headed to the National Gallery. It was a wonderful museum that was just the right size to see in a couple of hours and it had a wonderful gift shop. We then hopped back on the bus and headed towards one of the yarn shops in Dublin – The Constant Knitter. I found all kinds of fun yarn – not Irish specifically but dirt cheap European yarns that cost way more in the US. We walked back to the hotel from there, which was a bit of a trek but we stopped at a church to see a shrine to a saint (that’s Andrea’s influence) but also hit the thrift shop and used book store run by the nuns, where I got cute little sugar bowl and a book for the plane ride home. Nice! Dinner was at the hotel. When I got undressed at the end of the day, my brand new jeans had bled color when they were wet and my underwear was blue. Too funny.

A tour of Trinity College by a snarky philosophy professor was first up on Sunday followed by the Book of Kells. It was open to boring pages (I wanted to see the fancy illuminated pages) but the library was totally cool and I scored some great stuff in the gift shop. After stopping for a snack at Bewley’s, a famous Dublin coffee house, we met the crew back at the hotel to head to the Guiness brewery. We had a guided tour and ended with my first Guiness in 30+ years in the Gravity Bar at the top of the brewery. I totally enjoyed relaxing there, waiting for Andrea to arrive after her lesson on pulling the perfect pint. Everyone scattered from here to do their own things but we lingered over our pints chatting with a couple from St. Louis. We then took the green bus back, which took quite a bit of time but was free, and then hit Marks & Spencer’s for sandwiches for dinner (it was about half way through my last trip that I felt the need for some less extravagant food too) and Avoca, where I scored more stocking stuffers and souvenirs. We watched TV and had a hotel picnic for supper, which was a nice end to a busy day.

A wonderful week, n’est-ce pas? It started on Inisheer, population ~300, and ended in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, with lots of country time in between at Rosleague. And since we both had our luggage, those woes were over. And we still had a week to go. Yay!

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