Archive for June 2017

When there’s a pony involved, Suz is happy   2 comments

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So you can see what the highlight of MY Saturday was!

But we’re not there yet. Since these bloggedies are for me to enjoy when I forget I’ve written them and come back to re-read in ten years, let’s go back to the start of the day with yet another good night’s sleep (most of my Ireland sleeps were lovely) and woke to grey skies. Managed to get out t he door earlier, and lo and behold, for the the first time since we arrived at Gramarye Cottage the sun burst out as we drove off, and we left in sparkling sunshine, which was magnificent. It didn’t seem possible for our little slice of heaven to be even more magical, but Ireland keeps on giving in that department.

We drove to Leitrim Village and found the canal Eugene had suggested. He hinted that we might see otters, which we didn’t, but other than that it was wonderful, one of those little humble hidden gems that people aren’t going to divert to from doing the Big Attractions, but totally rings our weird little introverted chimes. We opted for the longer walk, the 10k, and set out still enjoying brilliant skies and wildflowers that positively seemed to glow.

There are paths on both sides of the canal, and in some places water on both sides of the paths so there were zebra stripes of water and path, splashing and chuckling and being all wet and lush and all shades of green and flowery and ripply and spectacular. Occasionally we’d pass stands of woods so dark they seemed to lead to another dimension, and which breathed out air 20 degrees colder than that on the warm sunny path. Ireland magic being what it is, few of the photos we took of the Dark Realms came out showing anything close to what they looked and felt like in the Outside World. But the legends of pookas and kelpies take on a new resonance when you stop and peer into one.

We were lucky enough to come upon a lock just as boat was waiting to go through. A lovely young man who had passed us in his car, presumably when he got the call from the boatman, was closing the water gates and opening the sluices, and we got to watch the whole shebang. Living on the C&O Canal, one of the world’s best, means we’re no strangers to towpaths and locks, but the ones by us are charmingly defunct (and I like them that way, don’t get me wrong) so it was nice to see one operating as locks have for lo these many years. A young man sat nearby in a silver Mercedes smoking cannabis.

By the time we got back it was, of course, raining lightly but still pleasant. We sat on a picnic bench in the parking lot and ate the wraps I’d packed for us, and chatted with an Irish couple who were vacationing in their Winnebago from County Meath, and whom we’d watched kayaking more or less on our route.

Weird Suz note- they offered us a ‘nice fresh cup of tea’ and I went into Unprepared Introvert Panic, stammering something about having to be somewhere and fleeing for the car. I asked David later if I’d been rude and he said yes and that it would have been nice to have tea and chat with them. And of course it would. But I shrieked that he needs to step in when he sees me making social faux pas and rescue us both, I just can’t be relied upon to behave rationally when People are involved, now, can I?

We WERE still in search of an internet cafe for our doomed quest to download our Baking Show, so after escaping the terrifying social situation I took a rare turn at the wheel and got us to Drumshanbo, where we indeed found a cafe, but no wifi. But we had really good coffee, and baked treats (David’s vanilla cupcake was great, my G/F S/F caramel square was super disappointing, what did I expect, duh?) We also tried to get some more euros from a bank machine which rejected us rather snidely, and surprisingly, since Capital One had told us we’d have no problem using it. And to be clear we never did have a problem buying stuff, but it never did give us cash. We were a little concerned as we still had several days ahead and our cash stash was dwindling.

But little woes were easy to put aside, because this took us up to the time for my much-anticipated trail ride. We got there early (how could I stay away when we were right there?) and my horse was being used in kid’s birthday party, so David settled in the car with my hotspot to have a nice technology catch-up. I picked out a helmet and sat in the office bouncing like a 7 year old, and when two girls like unto my Younger Self offered to show me around the barn I practically skipped after them. The talkative one had an accent my poor old ears just could NOT decipher (and possibly a speech impediment) so luckily for me the other one quietly translated when it became clear that I wasn’t going to get it. But the bottom line was that we all spoke Horse and it was just too fun. Lovely horses, but much like the Warwick Riding School of my childhood, standing on concrete with no bedding. The manure was mounded into astonishing hills, they must have trucks come cart it away. The school horses are mostly field kept, I gathered, so the only ones who live in are the boarders and the one school horse on ‘box rest’, which I suppose isn’t much of a treat. Finally it was time, and the very nice and kindly instructress got me mounted on my lovely piebald Gypsy horse, Curly. As it happened, both the girls who were showing me around said Curly was their favorite, but that he could be ‘a wee bit lazy’ and liked to eat grass a lot. Also that they had both ridden him in their lessons earlier that day, so while I did find the poor fellow pretty lazy, he was actually probably just plain worn out. But oh oh oh, how marvelous it was to sit in a saddle, fiddle with the stirrups, find the rhythm, and look at the world from the vantage point of a long neck and two ears.

After years on Nik I found it odd to have to use my legs that much, and a fair bit of the ‘tickle stick’ as the trainer called it too. He had a nice walk and trot, but died out as soon as he could possibly manage it, and no fault to the hardworking fellow either. I rode a little in the nice indoor under the watchful eye of the instructor, and was thrilled beyond measure that a) I hadn’t totally lost it and b) my knees and the rest of me too didn’t scream with pain. I’ve never forgotten how horrified I was to get on April after years of not riding and not being able to post, and I was pretty sure it would happen again, but no! The video David took of me didn’t even look half bad at all.

A somewhat sullen young woman called Amy got on a chestnut, and the two of us headed out. I was pretty thrilled to be the only one on the trail ride, and once Amy figured out that I could ride reasonably well she warmed up a little. We trotted along a small road and out onto the main road, and through a roundabout, all of which had my Little Girl squeeing with joy as this was the sort of trail ride I took so many, many times as a kid, with the traffic courteously letting us by, and me feeling like a queen, aboard a nice pony. We made our way through some new construction and then onto a lovely, lovely green path by a river, with the trees arching over us in leafy Irish bowers. There we bumped it up to a canter, which also felt comfortable, familiar and (under the circumstances) positively thrilling. Amy’s horse was slower than mine so old Curly kept dropping out into a trot, but I was still on Cloud 9.

Which was, incidentally, the name of *my* pony at WRS. So I wasn’t actually on my long lost and much beloved Cloud 9. But you get the picture.

Then we went back to the barn and past it to an upland trail through a nice field (muddy, but everything in Leitrim County is muddy) and had a few really nice canters, with the clouds skirling above us, the grass blowing around us, and mud flying up into my face, just like the Olden Days. I was in heaven. It was raining by the time we made it back to the barn, but I still had 10 minutes or so, so I joined in the kids’ lesson going on and did Round the World, to my own surprise and the amusement of the instructor. Then I tried to get Curly to give me a last canter around the ring, but he was so not into it and I didn’t have the heart to get after him, since he’d just given me a literal dream come true.

I dismounted and walked him back to the barn in the middle of the kids. The owner came out and asked how the ride was, and pointed out that my helmet being on backwards wasn’t a great sign. I was embarrassed, and so were Amy and the instructor for not picking up on it, but I tossed it off with ‘it started off right but the ride was so wild and wonderful it blew my helmet around!’

I was thrumming with delighted joy the whole way home, where I cooked us a splendid feast of roasted Irish potatoes and steamed broccoli with butter and cheese, and soda bread.

Then a night of writing by the fireside, a hot bubble bath and lots and lots of reading.

I’m not sure you can have a day much better than that.

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Posted June 29, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

All’s Well That Ends Well   Leave a comment

The next day, Friday, tried to be that one obligatory blah day that even the best vacations often get, but it finished up marvelously in spite of itself. Started off luv’ly, a late sleep with the now-standard vivid dreams. I was thrilled to see the faery gardens flooded with brilliant sunshine, especially after last night’s magical FM ritual, but alas, it didn’t even last until I’d finished my first cup of coffee, and that was the last we saw of it the entire day.

Even without the internet to distract me it took me an hour to drink my coffee, have breakfast and do my obligatory morning puttering (which seems to be a necessity even when I’m not at the farm.)

David wanted to go the Folk Museum in Ballinamore, but I really wanted to get my ride in before the weekend crowds, or at least get it scheduled, so we got ourselves together and headed off to find the Hayden Equestrian Center in Barnacoola, one of the places mentioned on the many convenient brochures left for us in the cottage. I had tried to call, but our phones didn’t work in Ireland (yes, AT&T and I have had Words about THAT fiasco) and there was no reply to the text I sent, but I wasn’t sure if it had gone through. Next step- just go there, right?

Half an hour and lovely drive later (albeit down the now-familiar-but-still-terrifying tiny tiny country roads) our GPS guided us smartly- smugly even- to the stable. We passed a school on the way, which still blows my mind. There were houses scattered along all the roads, we really never saw anywhere in Ireland that was devoid of humans, but it didn’t seem NEARLY enough for a school, and you couldn’t get a mom van let alone a school bus down that freakin’ road. What do they do, parachute them in? Everyone drives? Kids – gulp – WALK to school? From miles around? Through fields? Surely children aren’t allowed to walk on those roads where the speed limit is 80k and the visibility 6 feet if you’re lucky?

It’s an unsolved mystery, as is Hayden Equestrian Center. The facility looked lovely from outside the big, firmly-closed iron gates. I got out to see if there was a bell or intercom, which there wasn’t, but as I poked about the gates woke up and slowly creaked open for us.

So you’d assume that someone saw us and let is in, right?

The barnyard was deserted, and there was no sign of anyone at the house near the gates. I got out and was immediately accosted by two tiny aggressive furiously yapping dogs. The white woolly one desperately wanted to bite me and kept bumping my leg with his nose, while the Jack Russell-y one contented himself with yelling madly from four feet away. A sign said ‘Office’ so I followed it, leaping and making futile screeches at the dogs, but it was locked and no one responded to my knocks.

I made vague gestures to David which were meant to say, “No answer, I’m going to look around” and which he pretended to understand.

I note that he didn’t get out and rescue me from the dogs. Just want to put that out there.

Call into the equipment shed. No answer. Nor at the very nice indoor arena. Half a dozen or more heart-stoppingly beautiful faces looked at me from a pen in the barn area, mostly of the white Connemara-ish variety, but they gave me no information on how I could climb aboard one of them.

Finally I got sadly back in the car, shaking my pants free from the wretched dogs, and we set off on plan B (or is it C?), the Moorland Equestrian Center, putatively half an hour away.

Or so we thought.

The GPS dumped us in the middle of Drumshanbo, where there was clearly no Equestrian Center, and pretended it was okay. We tried to call, but again our phones were of zero use. So we parked and thought we’d have some lunch and ask the locals for directions, but after we’d walked a block there was a big sign with an arrow. Excited (well, I was excited) we got back in the car and followed the arrow, but there were no more signs or arrows or anything vaguely resembling an Equestrian Center, other than a very gross and off-putting stockyard that looked like the last lap for any animal unfortunate enough to end up there. David saw a road he thought might be it, but there was no sign and we blipped past it and drove on. And on. And on.

It was gorgeous country we were driving through, but my inner 9 year old who had been SO excited at the prospect of getting on a pony was utterly broken-hearted. But what could we do? We finally admitted defeat and turned around to have that lunch we’d thought about back in Drumshanbo. Maybe at least we could find somewhere with wifi and persuade the Great British Baking Show to download to my Ipad. (That never happened the entire trip.)

At the sandwich shop the waitress told us were ‘about a minute’ away from Moorlands (we were in the middle of a dang town!!), so heartened by this news and some thumping good club sandwiches and chips we set off again, this time on foot, and you know what comes next, right? Sure enough, it was down the road David had thought it was on. The first thing we saw were two fat glossy golden Halflingers in a field of knee-deep emerald green grass. Next thing you know I had a reservation for 5 the next day for a trail ride with walk, trot and a ‘wee canter’, and I was literally as happy as a little girl.

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Not EVERY horse there is a piebald gypsy horse, but an awful lot of them are, including Curly whom I was to meet the next day.

Next we went (finally) to the Folk Museum, which is actually NOT in Ballinamore, but Ireland is casual with directions. The Museum was simply delightful, not just for its displays but because we got the sole attention of tour guide Eugene, who was one of the few folks there who exuded the affable easy charm I was expecting of the Irish people. I’ll refer you to FB for the pics we took of it. Wish we’d taken more than one of Eugene.

Then it was home for tea by the waterfall, a walk around the Faery Woods, dinner by David, and I took a solo walk in the rain after dinner, as it was still full light at 9:30 at night.

And Bob’s yer uncle, we’ve made it to the weekend!

Posted June 24, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

The moons of summer (woo woo alert)   3 comments

The moon was elusive in Ireland, cloud-wreathed as our visit was, but I’m so happy that the full moon of Skiraphorion, my Rose Moon, my power moon, did put in an appearance or two. The night before it was full it rose silent and golden over the castle at Ballinalacken, lighting up the vast fields of grasses and wildflowers. The sky was so light between the moon and the outrageously late sunset (still light lingering at 11:30) that no stars were visible, just the moon and an occasional bat winging through the bright air.

In the months before the trip I carefully collected rocks, mostly from the mountains during hikes but also some from my little farm, and some crystals I’ve had lying around in bowls for who knows how many  years (I’m fond of rocks.) The kids laughingly refer to it as the ‘rock exchange program.’ The plan was to gift Ireland with some rocks infused with our local energy, especially from the nature spirits of the farm, and to bring some Irish rocks back to the various shrines here.

Well, my bag of rocks, lovingly wrapped in a soft bag and put near (I could have sworn IN) my suitcase disappeared. No Maryland rocks made it to Ireland. I was bummed, but what you gonna do? I took a libation vessel and some nice digestive biscuits and made my offerings (and apologies) at Ballinalacken, where the signs I got back were immediate, positive, and fairly amused. I was at the gates, after all, and Hermes was there.

The Gods of Ireland are not mine, and I can’t say as I got a big sense of them, or a deeper understanding of them, or got any clear messages from them. But I sure felt welcomed by them, and by the local spirits, at least for the most part. There are for sure and serious some dark pockets of energies there, ancient Things that humans are wise to leave unmolested. But the sweet scents, the timely rainbows, the whispers of laughter on the wind, the occasional sounds of bells from deep inside a hedge- the wonder was greater than the fear.

The night we arrived at the cottage was the full moon, and it was completed lost in thick clouds. Nonetheless I had an enchanted evening exploring the gardens and introducing myself, and settling into the warm welcome of Gramarye Cottage.

But the next night, the night technically after the FM, the clouds parted, and I was off to the gardens. I took a cup of cream and a bowl of candies, with no clear idea of what I was going to do, and just let it move me. As I lit the candles in the little hut on the deck the moon lifted herself up from behind the hill and the towering old growth trees to the east, and I was drenched in silver.

What I said and did will remain between me and Them, but I’ll carry it in my heart forever. It was a ritual beyond words, performed in a faery forest, in a land steeped in myth and magic. I stood in places so black I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, my heart pounding in fear. I fell into a thorn bush and left blood. I danced with rustling shadows until my blood coursed and my skin became transparent. My shadow, cast on the living waters and moving flowers, was beautiful. I spun silver webs from my fingertips and tangled us all in them.

Afterwards I slept like a baby.

Posted June 21, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

From cave to cottage   Leave a comment

We were a little sad to leave Ballinalacken Manor. We loved the castle, the grounds and the gorgeous countryside, and there was so much more to explore. We decided that next time it’ll be 3 nights, not just 2, in an area we want to get to know. 5 nights would still be a good amount to spend in the cottage.

The Burren country of Clare and Galway is so glorious. We didn’t make it to the Burren itself, but I’m so glad we got to meet, however briefly, the windswept fields and rugged shoreline. I don’t think I mentioned in my earlier entries that at one point I walked behind the manor house just to explore, and found some beautiful woods full of trash, with an old stone cottage or summer house decaying into bits. It felt blighted, totally out of place with the manor and castle and the broad expanses of wildflower fields in front. I did a cleansing, and hope it helped. But that was the only thing that jarred. The rest of the area was simply incredible, and I had some intense, moving, magical experiences.

After another pleasant but forgettable breakfast we loaded up and headed for Doolin Cave, our final Burren stop before heading to the now-eeky prospect of Leitrim. It’s a very nice cave, and the guide was charming and knowledgable, and I think one of the owners of the property. It was a pretty big group and I was near the back so I missed some stuff. It was raining (naturally) but what I grooved on almost more than the cave were the gardens leading to it, complete with enigmatic goats with Satanic eyes.

If you’ve been to Timpanogas in Utah, or Luray in Virginia, or even our own little Crystal Grottoes in Boonsboro you’re not going to have your hair blown back by Doolin. I like caves (although I’d never spelunk, the story and pictures from the crazy people who discovered this one could give you nightmares) and I really liked the huge centerpiece stalactite around which this feature is built, but nothing else was particularly memorable.

I gulped and offered to drive so David, who was feeling much improved but still not 100%, could sightsee. We had walked down the road we were about to drive so I already knew how narrow it was, but I couldn’t expect the poor man to do all the driving for the rest of the trip, so I figured I’d better bite the bullet and get it done.

I’m so glad we opted for the coastal road. It was absolutely spectacular. Unfortunately we didn’t take any pictures at all- I know, those of you who are FB friends are amazed that I put the camera down for a minute, but, you know, driving on those roads is not conducive to spontaneous photography, especially in light but persistent rain. I’m sure the cliffs and rocky beaches and flower-filled little villages and high pastures and brooding forests are equally awe-inspiring in the brilliant Irish sunshine, maybe even more so, but after a lifetime of eerie and often downright frightening Celtic myths and faery tales, seeing this landscape wreathed in mist and rainbows was something I’m not likely to forget, even with my crumbling brain. I adjusted fairly quickly to the roads, and while I couldn’t gaze about at leisure, I certainly saw enough to fall under the spell of what I later heard called the Wild Atlantic Coastal Area.

Eventually we hit the freeway for a long stretch, which wasn’t as scenic, but really, whatever parts of Ireland are ugly, we never came across. Even the miasmic woods behind Ballinalacken were beautiful. And I tell you true, it was a relief to just drive on a real road for an hour or so, without trying to dance the impossible place between thick hedgerow scraping the passenger side and the oncoming lorry.

Then it was off the nice roads and onto little roads. Tiny roads. Silly ridiculous roads barely as wide as the farm lane that leads to Moonshadow, but with speed limits of 80k. The country turned to rural farmland, seriously Shire-ish, which is a type of country that makes my heart go pitter pat, but it was pitter patting more from sheer nail-biting terror that I might encounter an oncoming car. Fortunately it almost never happened.

Our luck ran out when we were well into Leitrim, and our Google Maps dropped us. Not totally, but it started to bug out, and we were so very relieved to have both the printed maps that David had sensibly made before we left the U.S., and the emailed directions from the cottage owner. David took over driving, and as usual stayed calm (carefully, studiously, determinedly calm) as my anxiety rose.

Flipping rapidly between the maps, the GPS and my email, we made our way mostly by trial and error to and through the town of Mohill. It really isn’t very far from there to the first turn off, but tired and worried and in the rain it felt as if we had to be on the wrong road. But no, there was the (defunct) Murphy’s Ale House on the corner exactly as Kerry-Lynn said it would be, so we turned off onto a road so tiny it had grass growing up the center. Eventually we came to the yellow house as expected, took the sharp left we were supposed to make, and were on a road even tinier. Expecting to get crushed by a tractor around every (blind hairpin) turn, we came to a point where we could either go straight or go left. David started to go left, but I shrieked that we hadn’t reached a landmark and had to go straight. He started to say that the road seemed to bear left, but, probably more to stifle my bleating than anything else, backed up and went where I thought we should go. We ended up in a farmyard, inched our way a little further on and came to a living Kerberus, three enormous boxers who glared at us with unblinking eyes and were so closely packed they really did seem to share a body. Then they started barking. Then they came at us. If I’d been driving I’d have had that Jetta up and over one of the fieldstone walls, but David smoothly backed her up and turned her around in the (unwelcoming hostile) farmyard (probably inhabited by cannibalistic psychopaths) and got us out of there. We went the way he originally planned (and the next day I could see that yes, the road such as it was actually did bend that way, but don’t tell him I said so) and on past another house and more hedgerows and a few farm fields and pastures and then into thick dark wet forbidding woods while the road kept getting tighter and tighter, and our poor little Jetta’s proximity alarms kept going off, and my hair was standing up straight on my head. And then it happened. The road sign we looked for, Tour de Hubert, was there before us. One left (the car dinging madly) and there was the cottage.

Out in the rain, fumbling to read the code for the lock box off my email, unpadlock the gate, get the wretched car into the rather ugly little back yard, and finally we hauled our tired wet jangle-nerved selves and our various boxes and bags into the high-ceilinged kitchen of Gramarye Cottage.

My first impression was mild dismay. As I said, the backyard where the car went was nothing like the amazing photos I’d seen online, and the cottage was chilly and felt damp. It was super cute, but without luxury, and while I’m not a luxury-needing gal, I was feeling a little fragile after the harrowing last 10 miles or so of our journey, and the soothing whispered elegance of the Merrion was suddenly something I wanted desperately.

We did some basic unpacking and poked about the cottage. We were pleased to find plenty of wood ready to start a fire in the wood stove later, and to my great delight, a bathtub, since I had thought I read in Tripadvisor that it only had a shower. The upstairs bedroom is reached by a ladder. The downstairs master bedroom bed was surprisingly small (a ‘three quarter’ which I’d never heard of before) but the heat fired up with a reassuring rumble, the kitchen was pretty and super well-stocked, and the little living room inviting.

But we hadn’t passed through any towns big enough for a real grocery store, so had to venture out again and find the Tesco in Ballinamore, about 20 minutes away, another tense and nail-biting drive. We had been to Tescos in England and liked them, but this one is ghastly. It’s in the ugliest building I’ve ever seen, almost insultingly ugly. You would have to work at it to plan something so aesthetically displeasing. You walk underneath a low roof to get to the door, and then realize you have to go back outside (in the rain) to get a cart, and then realize the carts are locked together and you have to have a 20c coin to get them, which we didn’t have. But a lady who had walked by us before with a very typical Irish no eye contact and no smile heard us meeping, and came and put a coin in and pushed our cart at us, brushing off our stammered and effusive thanks. (More on the Irish people in a later post.)

The store is dismal, dank and none too clean, utterly without windows or any source of natural light, and everyone in it seems miserable from the shoppers to the check out clerks. A lot of the food was past the date, and some had been opened and partially eaten. When we got the checkout we discovered that Ireland doesn’t give bags (and really, good for them, but we were caught pants down). Luckily David spied some boxes and we grabbed them and made our escape.

We’d hoped to find somewhere in town to eat, but there was nothing appealing, only bars. So we slogged back home and cooked our own dinner, which was good, I was just so not into it.

But before I started cooking, and while David was building us a fire, I decided to go out and check out the gardens, the faery gardens I’d fallen in love with online, and see if I had made a good choice or doomed our vacation to the dismal backwater everyone in Ireland seemed to think it would be.

And that’s when the magic happened.

I’m not going to describe the gardens here and now. I’ll refer you to my FB page (and I’ll soon have them sorted into albums, I don’t at this writing) but even wordy people like me can’t get everything into words.

Those two acres or so are jam-packed with fae, with magic light and dark, and with ancient spirits. I’ve never seen anything like them. I knew right then that I was going to do a lot of magic while I was there. When I came in I had a hawthorn leaf in my hair.

While I was in the bathtub a Goddess image formed on the window, made of steam.

We realized that David had left part of the charger at Ballinalacken so not only did we have no phone or tv or wifi, we also didn’t even have the capability to charge our various devices. We’re not that plugged in, or so we thought, but it seemed a bit Luddite even for us.

But also pretty exciting.

Posted June 20, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Last day (seriously out of order)   Leave a comment

I’ve been handwriting faithfully so at SOME point this blog will get all updatey like, but this is the first real wifi I’ve had in EONS but I’m also bushed and have several thousand photos to dowm and upload (you’ve been warned) so a quickie will ‘ave to do for now.

I’m luxuriating on the fat fluffy duvet of the giant bed in our room at the Dunraven Arms, looking out the window onto a mystifyingly busy street while David Facebooks. It’s telling that after a week with no TV that we haven’t yet pounced on the flatscreen hanging enticingly on the wall- but boy are we hitting up the data.

The cottage was fantastic. Wait’ll you see the (thousands of) pics. The cottage itself was cozy and cute and comfy, but the gardens…..oh, the enchanted fairy gardens…….. but no. That’s another post. Today we said goodbye to the cottage and left the final offerings to the local spirits and tried one last time to entice the local cats to come have a skritch (declined as always) and loaded up our annoyed little VW (which HATES the rural areas) and headed back to civilization.

In the same grey drizzle that has been our constant companion for the whole trip. The song needs to read, ‘When Irish Skies Are Smiling ” because when the sun DOES come out and some heartbreak blue sky emerges it”s angel choirs and somersaults. Ireland is glorious is rain, mist and storm, no lie, but oh, the giddy joy of sunshine was a rare delight during our stay.

We had a good if uneventful run to Limerick County, punctuated only by a nice lunch in a town whose name I’ve already forgotten (huge mugs of steaming hot strong Illy coffee and a sticky toffee pud with cream for afters) and a stop at a woolen mill outlet where we went a little mad. For a girl who can’t sew a stitch, I sure do lose my tiny mind over textiles.

Adare is by far the biggest and busiest town we’ve encountered since leaving Dublin, and after the wet green fields and forests of Leitrim with its tiny villages, this is a little bewildering. There’s at least three gorgeous ruins in walking distance, not one of which we can actually get into. There’s a castle which promises renovations and kid-friendly interactive displays which sounds like the only kind of castle we’d avoid like dysentery. If I ever get done blogging we’ll hit one of several (several! A choice!) bistros for dinner, and then watch some mindless blissful tube and go to bed early (we have to leave before our already-purchased breakfast in the morning…..boo.)

But it doesn’t feel like *our* Ireland, which is silly, because our trip started just over a week ago in a thriving bustling metropolitan capital.

I wish tomorrow were over. It’s been such a dream trip, but travel days just get harder and harder. I want to be back on the farm, with my critters and my familiar things. Bonus if there were kids there but there won’t be.

Do I sound whiny? I’m not, really, just catching up with myself, as my beloved Wendy says. And gearing up to say goodbye to Eire, with its fae  and rushing waters and flowing green and alien birdsong and ancient spirits and brooding stone and beautiful horses and enigmatic Gods.

My brother Richard posted today (reposted actually) about his and his wife’s experience here, especially with the folk of Ireland, about which I have all these thinky thoughts, but I’m drooping and need to close.

More bloggety blogging anon. And did I mention the photos?

Posted June 13, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Wind battered and enchanted by stone   Leave a comment

i am so sweetly exhausted. This vacationing is hard work. I’ll be the rest of June recovering from it, and only then if it’s finally summer when we get home.

we’ve identified a tweak to make in future vaycay plans. We really need 3 nights in each place. Naturally one wants to see all one can. But sometimes one needs to slow down and enjoy each bit of the day, and that requires more time to breathe. 2 days in Dublin was okay, but another day here would have been perfect. We’re not going to see the Burren, or the Whatsit Dolmen, and we both need a really long sleep in.

however, of course, it’s very possible that the enchanted cottage will give us all that and be jewel-perfect for all 6 days. I’m clinging to this despite the determination of every single solitary Irish person we meet to deflate our excitement over it. The Dubliner with whom we chatted on the beach of the Aran Island today? ‘Leitrim? You know that’s the smallest county in Ireland don’t ya? There’s bliddy nothin’ to do in Leitrim.’ The waitress who brought us our pizza this evening. Her- ‘How long will you be here, and then where will you go.’ Me (brightly) ‘We leave tomorrow for Leitrim County.’ Her (smiling) ‘Oh lovely.’ Me (delightedly) ‘You’re the first Irish person I’ve met who didn’t make a face and go ‘Leitrim?’ Her (smiling even more prettily) ‘Oh, I was in my head.’

fuck.

well, whatever happens in Mohill (and I’m sure it will be INCREDIBLY MAGICAL), today worked out perfectly in spite of itself.

being a little tired and draggy, we decided we’d skip the Aran Islands and the Doolin Cave and the Burren and just (just) do the cruise under the Cliffs of Moher and then go scramble around on top of them.

Which really is a Day.

but after a hair-raising drive along roads no wider than a rabbit track we found ourselves at the ticket desk in the charming village of Doolin with a no-nonsense Irish blonde former runway model telling us firmly that the Cliffs cruises were cancelled due to the dangerous winds, and that we would take the 1 o’clock ferry to the Aran Islands, have lunch and explore for a few hours and then come back to Doolin. We acquiesced meekly, and requested permission to go to the Cliifs in the hour and a half we had to kill.

no, said she, it would be madness to go at that hour, it would be tour buses everywhere and we’d have queue to hike the cliffs or even get a wee cup of coffee, and we didn’t want that, did we?

So we obediently went to park at the dock and then explore Doolin.

only the dock was too far to walk back to Doolin and the ticket dispenser for the dock parking was maddening and then the diabolical wind blew our freaking parking slip INSIDE our dashboard and we practically had to disassemble our VW to get it out and we didn’t have enough time on it anyway and had to get another one but it refused to recognize our credit card and the wind was trying to send us skyward like Mary Poppins and our coffee was wearing off quickly.

hence our lack of spending $ in Doolin’s lovely sweater shops.

so we trudged around the astonishingly wild and wonderful shore near the docks and took some photos and tried to keep our hair attached to our heads and twice visited the surprisingly nasty public loos..

side note- Irish loos tend to be very nice as a rule. The unexpected exceptions are the ones on the dock in Doolin (gazillions of tourists! Put in better loos!), the PAY toilets at the bigass mall in Dublin (!!!!!??????) complete with surly attendant, and the terrifying one off the highway. But all in all, Ireland does right by those of us who need to pee. Oh, and last thing, I visited my first public gender-free restroom at the C of M that had actual men in it, and it was horrible and embarrassing and violating. I’m kidding. It was the biggest non-event of the day, although some of the men looked freaked out.

wow. This is shaping up to be the longest blog post ever. Good thing for you lot it’ll be my last one until we get home. The enchanted cottage lacks not only tv and wifi but even cell service, so who even knows if we’ll make it out alive?

after all, it’s in Leitrim.

eventually we boarded the Rose of Aran, quickly checked out and rejected the dreary lower cabin with its tiny clouded portholes, and made sad moues when we saw the nice upper seats were all taken. So we opted to stand like stalwart stanchions in the fo’castle, clinging to poles in the howling gale.

about 30 seconds into our voyage it began to spit. Then drizzle.

and then it rained.

howling winds, 12 foot swells, and driving rain.

but we’re tough. We had on jeans and thick hoodies and our awesome Columbia jackets. We could take it.

after a minute and a half I said, ‘let’s go downstairs,’ BUT the silver lining to this was that the rain had already driven all the other wimps downstairs, so the upper deck chairs were wet but empty. And, more to the point, shielded by the cabin, so less wind. Along with two other staunch couples we huddled on the slick bucking deck, watching the Deadliest Catch waves with awe and cradling our freezing paws in our armpits.

from time to time the wind would blow a puff of air, redolent with diesel but blessedly warm, into our faces. I breathed it in like it was Bermuda oleander.

but a little bit of me was in ecstasy. Even back at the dock, watching the remorseless waves crash and shatter on the sharp rocks, part of me was dying to be in it, part of that inexorable force, the sucking in and the bellowing forth of the Great Mother Ocean. Either I was a sea creature in another life or I’ve got ancestral memories of being in the primordial soup. Maybe it’s the same thing.

we arrived eventually, and the rain stopped, and the sun chased the crazy wallowing schizophrenic Irish clouds, and we were met at the Island dock by a flock of charmingly persuasive Aran Islanders with insanely appealing feather-footed draft horses seducing us with their accents to take buggy tours of the island with them. We beat them back manfully, probably only because we were wet and freezing and in desperate need of sustenance.

michael clopped up behind us as we trudged toward the pub and almost prevailed. In 30 feet we learned that not only would he take us round the island for only 15 euros apiece, cheaper than any other, but that he’d been a fisherman on the isle his whole life and missed it bad, but because of a bum leg had to make his living this way now, and while his horse Murphy was a fine companion there’s nothin’ like the sea when it’s in your blood, and it’s not always like it was today, why often it’s smooth as butter, and see that beach? On a fine summer day you’ll see a hundred people on it, and swimmin’ too, and no clearer and cleaner water will you find, and maybe after a cup of tea we’d change our minds and go for a wee tour with Michael and Murphy?

well, between this and the beguiling way he had of clacking his dentures while he talked, I was putty in his hands. Plus Murphy. But David is made of sterner stuff, and remained resolute, even after lunch when we were feeling fit again and M&M pounced on us. And such a walk I would have missed!

but first lunch- a plain tavern where you help yourself to fruited water and order your food at the bar. Then you sit, and girls with accents recognizably Irish but different enough to be almost unintelligible bring you heavenly hot vegetable soup with divine homemade soda bread and sweet creamy butter, and BLT that defies description, and crispy spicy hot potato wedges with sweet chili sauce and sour cream. I’m not sure, but I fear I moaned aloud a few times during lunch.

after dodging M&M we made our way up to the wonderful and mystifyingly unprotected castle on the hill. Gorgeous, and not so much as a polite sign requesting one to refrain from vandalizing it. I can’t believe it has survived lo these many years of 6x daily ferries full of tourists, let alone the local yout”s.

side note- we encountered several gaggles of girls ala Doc Martin, with bright skin and malicious eyes, clutching lacrosse sticks and freezie pops. Clearly there’s a school on the island, and a bumper crop of pubescent nymphs, but not an adolescent lad to be seen. We think they must ship them out when they hit puberty, like FLDS.

on the far side of the ruined fort we saw the true magic secret of the island. There were hints before we got there. A wall of vertical dry-stacked stone so remarkable and unusual we stopped to take several photos of it. Some picturesque fieldstone-bounded paddocks visible from the sea.

but not until we topped that great hill did we discover that the entire island, probably 2 square miles, is entirely comprised of an intricate labyrinthine mosaic of emerald paddocks bounded in hand-laid unmortared fieldstone.

i don’t think you have to be a farm geek like me to be hogwalloped by the Aran Island walls. Yes, I get a boner over the tractors at the ag shows and moon over vinyl fencing, but these little patchwork gems go beyond FFA wannabe status.

go to my F B and look at the pics. That’s all I’ve got to say. Not all of them. I know I went a little crazy. But I think you’ll agree at least a little that a hand-stacked locally-dug impeccably-crafted beautiful wall is something every yard should have.

I want to live there and watch Jazzie happily munching that lush grass bedotted with brilliant wildflowers with the sea wind blowing her forelock out of her one eye.

well, dears, david has been asleep for an hour and I’m beat. It’s 11:30 pm here and I’m sitting at my big window looking out over the field of wild flowers in front of the Manor, which I can see because daylight hasn’t quite faded and a fat moon is up. I’m tempted to go wander in it, but I want my bath, and I haven’t uploaded today’s photos yet, and I’m going to have to talk about the Cliffs of Moher another time.

did they use the C of M in The Princess Bride? Cuz they should have. They are truly the Cliffs of Insanity, and they want to kill us all. But that’s a tale that will have to wait.

Good night, dears!

Posted June 6, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

From east to west   2 comments

another deep sleep featuring excellent dreams. At one point I was watching two girls, maybe 8 or 9 years old, riding a pair of horses (not ponies.) they were galloping up and down hills, soft hands, firm but light seats, just lovely, and the horses were having as much fun as they were. I SO wanted to tell them what a good job they were doing, how proud I was of them. But they didn’t come close enough.

huh.

but I digress. I have travel things about which to blog!

today wasn’t even a Big Adventure Day, it was mostly a travel day, but in Ireland even transition days are leprechaun-kissed.

we had another faboo breakfast (French toast and an egg for me, Irish buttermilk blueberry pancakes with bacon for David), another regretful glance at the sybaritic pool, and we were off. The Merrion was delightful, if a little too too for a gypsy like me. When I went bouncing through the lobby yesterday in my jeans and glitter and sparkly purple hat the gal behind the desk arranged her face into carefully crafted neutral lines. And true tell, the other women my age were impeccably coiffed and made up, and wearing shoes and bags that whispered ‘saks, sweetheart.’

but I guarantee you not a one of them had as much fun as I.

the footmen were much more cheerful, at least once you got ’em going. I’m sure they’re actually doormen and porters, but the top-hatted head honcho footman had wonderful buck teeth just like the White Rabbit, so between him and the Cinderella atmosphere of Suz in Dublin, footmen they became. The footmen had trouble summoning a cab for us, as the already impossible Dublin traffic was further snarled by a Women’s Mini Marathon (don’t ask me, I have no idea) and it sent them into a tailspin. 3 or 4 of them were bouncing in agitation in front of the hotel, conferring madly, assuring us they’d get it sorted (we were fine), calling and texting and conferring some more. Finally two of them perambulated all of our bags, over our protests that we could manage, out past the closed street to the insanely busy intersection.

jack insisted on waiting with us (‘to poot yer bags in the boot, ya see’) so we spent a pleasant 20 minutes talking politics (trump is not popular in Ireland), economics and weather with this most delightful gentleman who is now my most favorite footman.

a cab pulled over near us and disgorged a startling number of young women, right as a very stiff and proper Garda walked past us. He leaned into the cab and gave the driver a thorough dressing down for letting a girl open her door into the traffic. He didn’t break into an Eddie Izard ‘Na then, Sunny Jim, wot’s all this?’……..but it was close. I was charmed. He was so young and erect and earnest.

there were way more police in evidence on the street, maybe just for the marathon, but probably because of yesterday’s terror attack in London. 😒

But finally we got loaded into a cab and whisked off to Hertz, with another delightful cabbie who glanced quickly in the mirror at me after letting slip a ‘fookin’ ‘ell’ and expressed astonishment that anyone would choose to vacation in Leitrim County (‘ there’s nothin’ there! Everyone who ever lived there moved to America or Australia! Unless its peace and quiet you’ll be wantin’. I suppose it’s good for that, maybe.’)

david got us efficiently out of the city, which wasn’t too awful as the Hertz place is on  the edge. But the poor fellow, although he was feeling better, just couldn’t stop coughing, so we stopped at a nice convenience store and bought water and switched seats. Left hand driving came back easily enough, and the highway is a breeze. We missed our northern route exit, and dithered for a while about trying to find it again. Highways are very much the same everywhere so we were a little concerned about missing seeing Ireland, but it was drizzly and it just seemed easier to stick with our GPS, so that’s what we did.

it was a very pleasant drive despite the rain, and surprisingly pretty. When it was time to stop and pee again and pick up emergency digestive biscuits we switched seats again, and just in time as the roads turned ridiculously tiny and twisty and I would have died. As it was I had my feet braced against the floor and was leaning madly towards the center as if I could shift my side from ploughing through hedgerow and fieldstone as we careened through the countryside almost as crazily as when Wendy drove us in England.

cuz that girl is plumb loco.

but we arrived, shaken but intact, and ever since I’ve been basking in the glow of being the brilliant person who found this place.

it’s very late now,and breakfast is served distressingly early here, so I’m going to refer you to my avalanche of Facebook pics and pass on describing the Castle.

but a word about dinner. They emailed us to tell us their chef was outstanding and suggesting we make reservations lest we risk disappointment. The owners and one zippy young German waiter did the entire dining service, which was somewhat erratic, but it was one of the best meals of my life. Eat there if you find yourself in County Clare near the Cliffs of Moher. Seriously.

our waiter solemnly informed us that we should lay our silverware just so to indicate being finished. We thanked him just as solemnly, and after our dessert (which he talked us into….’creme brûlée iss only pooding, no? Iit’s like nozzing. Ffft!’ With a flick of the fingers, just so. How could we say no?) we stacked every piece of silverware we could find and left him a big tip.

an after dinner walk in the long, ecstatic but COLD summer twilight, and we came in semi-regretfully under the dreamy waxing moon. I slipped back out to make libations of thanks to my Gods and love offerings to the nature spirits and David’s ancestors (to my sorrow I can’t find the stones I collected for MONTHS to bring as offerings on this trip!) but I got such wonderful loving signs of approval that I guess it’s okay.

jeez it’s late! No more tonight!

Posted June 6, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized