OUR IRISH HONEYMOON

We surprised everyone — except ourselves — when we announced our plans to honeymoon in Ireland. “Neither of you is Irish,” they said, foreheads wrinkled. I’m not sure why everyone here and there assumes the only reason to go to Ireland is to look for “roots.” While we were there, we were often asked why we’d come and on hearing neither of us is Irish, would get looks of puzzlement. Then, they’d look again and ask “Are you sure?”

Somewhere in Ireland

Somewhere in Ireland

It was a great place for Americans. There’s strain between the Irish and English for longstanding historical reasons, but they have nothing but smiles for Americans. From Dublin to Sligo, Shannon, Galway, Cashel and all the lovely towns in between, people were friendly and welcoming. When they learned we were honeymooners, we were treated to rounds of drinks and offered the best accommodations. Avoiding big hotels, we stayed in bed and breakfasts which we found using the National Tourist Board guidebook and a map.

We’d zero in on a destination and phone ahead. After a while, it began to work the opposite way. Wherever we landed, we’d see who had a room and stay there. We always found someplace nearby and each home was spotlessly clean and comfortable, although tiny by American standards.

Cong and Garry

Cong and Garry

Our first stop after Shannon was Cashel. The bed-and-breakfast was a little pension. In the shadow of the Rock of Cashel, adjacent to the ruins of a medieval Dominican church, the location was perfect. We stayed two nights, then headed for Dublin.

Dublin was magic. Once we found our feet,  it was a city of music and wonderful company We’d been planning to stay two nights, but stayed five. There were evening’s at Foley’s, where Irish music played every night and we all joined in, each in our own key. There were the pubs, where the Irish Coffee was always strong and the folks eager to wish us well and advise us on our itinerary. We shopped, sang, and drank, not necessarily in that order. (Note: Probably you should shop then drink.)

We listened to stories, told some of our own, and would gladly have stayed another week or more.

From Dublin, we drove cross-country to Sligo. As we entered Sligo, the rain began to pelt down. For perhaps five minutes, it poured. Then, as the rain slowed to a drizzle, in front of us appeared a brilliant double rainbow. Welcome to Sligo. Our destination was a bed and breakfast called Rathnashee, which we learned means “fairy ring.” There’s an earthwork fairy ring in the field adjoining the house. I chose it because it had a room with a private bath, was on a main road (we never stopped getting lost, but we did learn to enjoy it), and had a library. Books are my weakness. Maybe my strength too.

Dublin, September 1990

Dublin, September 1990

The parlor of the house was a library, mainly the history of Ireland and Sligo in particular. Evenings, by the warmth of a peat fire, we settled in with a pot of tea and a plate of cookies. We read about Yeats, the Great Hunger, and the long, often tragic history of the north. In the course of events, Garry discovered he did, after all, have Irish roots, while I dreamt of fairy circles and magic mountains.

GarryInnisfree

Garry at Loch Gill, at the Isle of Innisfree

Sligo is bursting with magic. You can feel it as you explore the ancient earthworks, standing stones, cairns, and castles. I became convinced that the “Little People” live there still. Loch Gill, “where lies the Isle of Innisfree,” has its own magic.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

by W. B. Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

We spent a grand afternoon exploring the recently restored Park Castle. The crystal waters so clearly mirrored the sky that those viewing the pictures we shot that day have trouble telling which is water and which is sky. Later that same day, while heading toward Knocknarea, the mountain top cairn of the legendary Queen Mab, we met Gordon Winter, ex-spy, author, and local character. We were photographed in close encounters with his pet chickens, sipped tea in his kitchen, and bought an autographed copy of his latest book “Secrets of the Royals.”

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Throughout our vacation, the weather never stopped changing. The sun shone, disappeared and reappeared in rapid succession. Wind blew, and clouds rolled in, and it rained. A few minutes later, the rain stopped, the wind died, the sun came out, the temperature rose, and just as you had taken off your jacket and put on your sunglasses, you’d realize it was raining again.

We took our sunglasses on and off twenty times an hour, and took our jackets on and off almost as often. The second morning in Sligo, we awoke to pounding rain. I peeked out the window to see another rainbow, even brighter than the one we’d seen on arrival, in the field across the road.

Rainbow over Sligo

Rainbow over Sligo

By the time we went to breakfast, the sun had come out, but by the time we finished breakfast, it was drizzling. Irish weather. It never rained all day, but rained a little almost every day. We learned to ignore weather and so whatever we had planned, counting on the ever-changing skies to give us enough clear weather to tramp through a ruin, scale a castle wall, or walk down by a riverside.

Marilyn at Loch Gill

Marilyn at Loch Gill

After three days in Sligo, we traveled down to Connemara. One afternoon, we drove to Cong, where John Ford shot “The Quiet Man.” Ardent movie buffs, we literally climbed over fences and wended our way through sheep pastures.

Garry always greeted the sheep by reminding them how good they would taste with a bit of mint jelly. I thought in terms of sweaters and tweeds. We tramped through the pastures until we found the “quiet man’s cottage.” We recognized it by the little stream the runs in front of it … the location, the picture perfect location. But the cottage was a ruin.

Nowadays the Irish Tourism folks are advertising it as “restored.” Having seen it in 1990, there was nothing to restore. The foundation was barely visible. A few pieces of wall, but otherwise gone. They may indeed have rebuilt it, but it was no restoration. Hey, we’re talking Hollywood, so you don’t care, right?

The setting is as idyllic as ever, though, and the stream still flows past the cottage door and under the little bridge. Clearly the movie was the biggest thing to ever hit the town. Cong is full of Quiet Man memorabilia, and the local residents full of anecdotes and memories.

Cong, September 1990

Cong, September 1990

Our time was almost up, and as we continued down along the coast, we began to realize that we would really have to go home. The idea was so depressing that we stopped in the nearest pub for solace.

Cong and Garry

Cong and Garry

The only part was driving. Keeping left was a problem. The roads were another. Narrow, a terrifying mix of blind curves, roaming sheep, and meandering cattle, locals drive these narrow roads at supersonic speeds. On roads hardly wider than our tiny compact car, we were passed, after which we felt obliged to check if the door handles and mirrors were still attached.

Irish Signs

Somewhere … but where?

Eventually we stopped worrying where we were or how to get someplace else. We let the road take us where it would. We knew whenever and wherever we stopped, we’d find a good pub and friendly faces.

We hoped we’d go back again, but other places called and the years ran faster than I believed possible. But we remember.

Post Script:

Yeats' Grave in Sligo

Yeats’ Grave in Sligo

When we got home, we were visiting Garry’s folks, showing the photos to Garry’s Dad until he stopped us. It was the pictures of Yeats’ burial site. “Those are your people,” he said, pointing to a group of stones slightly behind Yeats’.

“Our people?” asked Garry.

“Your grandparents were from Sligo,” he said. “My mother,” he clarified. That explained the very light-skinned red-headed grandmother Garry remembered.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asked his father.

“I was waiting until I thought you were old enough,” his father explained. Garry was 48 at the time.


Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap – What’s your dream tourist destination — either a place you’ve been and loved, or a place you’d love to visit? What about it speaks to you?



Categories: Holidays, Photography, Travel, Vacation

Tags: , , , , , , ,

39 replies

  1. That was a little bit of heaven. Thank you for sharing such a beautifull memory, your pics and words together not to mention you both look so happy!

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  2. What wonderful memories and pictures. I’d have loved to have seen Ireland I’m sure I’d have loved it as much as I did Scotland and the tiny bit of Wales I’ve seen. It turns out that one of my cousins on my father’s side now lives in Sligo. It sounds a lovely place. You and Garry look so young in those pictures. 🙂

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    • I spent some time in Wales on an earlier visit to England. Never made it to Scotland. Garry, on his travels, spent time in Scotland several times and liked it very much.

      He always loved Ireland best. I believe that’s why he suggested it as the place to Honeymoon. It turned out to be a wonderful choice. I don’t know what I expected, but it far exceeded whatever expectations I’d had. Especially Sligo 🙂

      We were a lot younger. I never imagined I’d think of my forties as youth, but these days, looking back, it was young. When we had hair, before everyone went white or gray and arthritis hadn’t grabbed us so firmly. Glad we did it!

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  3. Loved the trip and loved the photos. The ending was just the best though!! 🙂

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  4. When I go to Ireland, I am looking for Darby O’Gill.

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    • While you’re searching, don’t miss the pubs of Dublin. I think the pubs — Dublin in general — and Sligo, Park Castle, Loch Gill and Innisfree were the high points of the journey, but everything was beautiful.

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  5. Did you manage to kiss the Blarney Stone? We went to Irland too and loved it.
    Leslie

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    • We had been intending to go the Blarney Castle, but the traffic getting there was bumper to bumper. So, we took off in a different direction. We didn’t see many popular tourist venues, but we went other places we would not have found but for heavy traffic in the south. We didn’t plan exactly where we were going or how long we would be there. It worked out very well. If we liked a place, we stayed awhile. If we didn’t, we moved on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Perfect way to travel!
        We went with our older daughter and our granddaughter. Our daughter drove becasue of the left side of the road also we had a stick shift car. They drive like mad men over there.
        It was a ot of fun.
        Leslie

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        • I was really glad we didn’t get a stick. I’ve never shifted with my left hand, and we had enough trouble not driving into ditches because we were having trouble calculating the distance to the edge of the road. They do drive like … crazy people. It was terrifying. But also … fun.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Great picture of you and Garry together in your matching “tweed” Jackets.., you appear to be made for each other.

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        • We certainly did enjoy shopping together! Garry still has most of the tweeds he bought in Ireland. They are Harris tweed. Those jackets are indestructible and timeless. Turned out to be great investments. In the picture, I’m actually wearing one of Garry’s jackets. I was cold! We had shopped in Dublin, but we got the best stuff in a tiny shop in a basement shop across from a pub in Donegal. I wish we hadn’t shopped in Dublin first, but who know we’d find such wonderful clothing in a tiny rural town on the north sea?

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      • A classic real life example of Bogie’s “The stuff dreams are made of..”

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  6. Some day (maybe) I’ll visit the Emerald Isle. I’m fairly sure that I’m of British, German, and Scottish roots, but I usually tell people that I’m Irish from the tips of right fingers to the bend in my right elbow… on St. Patrick’s Day. Ha! No, I’ve always wanted to go because I think it’s a beautiful place to visit. Thanks for sharing your visit, sounds like you had a great time.

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    • It’s a beautiful place to visit and friendly. The friendliness was noteworthy. Everywhere we went, everyone was more than merely pleasant. They asked us about ourselves and as far as we could tell, really were interested in the answers. It was a wonderful experience … my first visit, but Garry had been there several times before. I highly recommend it!

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  7. Loved the memories and yours brought back an avalanche of my own. I spend several months in Ireland about the same time you were there. I loved it so much. The road sign cracked me up. Oh do I have driving in Ireland stories! 🙂

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    • Fortunately, most of Ireland has English road signs, but that area only had them in Irish. The map was in English, so there I am trying to figure out what it says. The holes in the sign are bullet holes. Apparently we were not the only people confused by the signage 🙂 I’d love to go back. It was great. I spent a couple of months in England and Wales in the 1979. Ireland was more fun, but the British Isles have a lot of magic.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ireland, friendliest nation on Earth, and the Guinness is great, happy life

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  9. Was away for a while after personal commitments. I loved the magic you created with your words and wonderful pics. I agree with angloswiss, you and Garry look great together though I mentioned it earlier. I wish to visit all these beautiful places someday. 🙂

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    • Ireland is wonderful. It may BE the friendliest country on earth and if it isn’t the greenest, it sure comes close. I’d love to take another trip there … unlikely, but I can dream. We were a lot younger back then. I look at the pictures and say “wow,” we had HAIR!

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  10. What a wonderful story and a great read. I was fascinated from the beginning.

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  11. Wonderful and I have never been there. My best schoolfriend had an Irish mother from Newry on the border. She is the same age as me and often goes to Ireland to visit family. She has been everywhere, but mainly the northern part. Through her I have got to know Ireland and its ways. I called Mr. Swiss over to see your wonderful photos. You and Garry really look great. You havn’t changed a bit over the years, well perhaps just a little bit, but I havn’t either. Great memories. We didn’t do a honeymoon, but over the years have compensated with trips to strange places.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you ever feel up to it, it’s worth a trip. Compared to England, Ireland is incredibly hospitable. Downright welcoming. And fun. The drivers are slightly insane, but that’s no so much a complaint as a warning: you may THINK you’ve seen crazy drivers, but until you’ve been on the edge of a road in Ireland with a sheer drop to the sea, you don’t know the meaning of fear!

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