Our 24 Day Itinerary

Day 1 Dublin to Marlay Park 7 miles
Day 2 Knockree 12.5 miles
Day 3 Baltynanima 11 miles
Day 4 Glendalough 8.5 miles
Day 5 Moyne 13 miles
Day 6 Tinahely 9.5 miles
Day 7 Kilquiggan 8 miles
Day 8 Clonegal 13 miles
Day 9 Tonduff 11.5 miles
Day 10 Graiguenamanagh 12 miles
Day 11 Inistioge 10 miles
Day 12 Lukeswell 16.6 miles
Day 13 Piltown 11.5 miles
Day 14 Kilsheelan 12.5 miles
Day 15 Clonmel 11 miles
Day 16 Newcastle 13 miles
Day 17 Clogheen 13.5 miles
Day 18 Araglin 12.5 miles
Day 19 Kilworth 12.5 miles
Day 20 Ballyhooly 13 miles
Day 21 Killavullen 7.5 miles
Day 22 Ballynamona 9.5 miles
Day 23 Bweeng 11 miles
Day 24 Millstreet Country Park 19 miles
Day 25 Millstreet 6 miles
Day 26 Strone 14 miles
Day 27 Muckross 12.5 miles
Day 28 Black Valley 12.5 miles
Day 29 Glencar 14 miles
Day 30 Glenbeigh 8 miles
Day 31 Cahersiveen 13.75 miles
Day 32 Portmagee 15.5 miles

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Please check out my updated and slightly modernized blog at ....


Blogspot has been good to me over the past three years, but it's a bit cumbersome, slow, and is looking more and more outdated. I'll continue to blog (sorry!), but you'll just have to get used to finding it in a different location.

Time for a Guinness!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

So Close and Yet....

I got up at 7:30, showered, dressed, and packed. I made it downstairs in time for the 8am shuttle to the airport, which was only about a mile away. The Irish Rain Gods were giving me one last dousing before I went airborne. The sky was dark and grey, much like my mood. I was homesick for both my home/family and for Kerry.

I made it through security, customs & immigration, and whatever the hell else by 9am. That's a fecking record because you have to wait through three different queues and go through three different screenings before getting to your gate. Oh, and you have to fill out paperwork regarding what you've brought back with you. The government official I had didn't bother to ask me a damn thing about what I'd been doing in his country or what I was bringing back or whether or not I'd handled livestock (there are serious issues regarding transferring contagious diseases), as soon as he saw that I was from Islamorada, he started asking questions about the airport/port of entry that may open in Marathon. He's looking to transfer, see, and he thought I might be of help. I told him to use me as a reference. And that worked. I'd neglected to fill out my paperwork, handed him and empty form, and he grinned like a dunce and let me through. Maybe this day will go smoothly after all!

I found my gate in short order and checked the time. I had nearly two hours to kill, but even I knew it was too early for a pint. Good thing, because my only choice for food/beverage was a stand named "Irish Meadows". It was full of damn tourists; mostly Americans. My least favorite flavor. I bought a monster-sized water. Hydrating is key on long flights. One sip of clear stuff for every pint. It's scientific fact. No need to look it up, just trust me. I also bought an OJ (I wasn't back in the States yet, so I knew it would still taste good.), and a blueberry muffin.

I found a table for four, covered with empty coffee cups, dirty plates, and other crap. I pushed it to the side and opened the juice. I nearly spit it across the Irish Meadow when I discovered it was made with "extra pulp"! No. I don't do pulp. Argh. I recapped it and left it there for the next bum. I devoured the muffin, picked up my trash, and went for a walk. I knew I was in for a lot of sitting and my legs don't like that, especially after a trip of long bouts of walking. I went up and down, up and down, so many times, I knew who would be sitting where the next time I came through. When that got old, I went into the ladies room to brush my teeth and well, use your imagination.

Unfortunately, I'd wandered into the men's room. (First time this trip! I usually do this at least three times.) I abruptly turned around, but got my roller bag and monster back pack caught in the bags of an incoming man. We were hopeless stuck and a backup of men trying to get in/out quickly ensued. When I managed to untangle myself, I think I blurted out a very loud "for feck's sake" and stormed off, red in the face. I hate finding myself in the men's room. At farty-seven (yeah, that's how you pronounce it), you'd think I'd have learned to look at the goddamned sign on the fecking door.

I headed for my gate which was FULL to overflowing. Literally. I counted eleven infants/babies (by this I mean unable to walk yet) and at least a dozen walking toddlers. Oh Jaysus. I love babies, but not on planes. Babies on planes are worse than the clap. Not that I've any firsthand knowledge of the latter, but it seems right. I watched as the proud mothers exchanged the adoration for each other's offspring, always followed up with "how old is he/she?" Moms of small babies/toddlers must ALWAYS respond to this question in months. For example, the mother of a two-year old will reply, "She's twenty-five months".  A yearlng's mum will say her child is eleven months. Its code and it means something. Don't take this lightly. (In full disclosure, I did it too.) Women's ovaries control this particular phenomenon. Don't try to understand it and don't try to change it. Ovaries are powerful feckers.

As I was about to implode from all of the crying and whining and bottle-making, our Aer Lingus representative apologized for what would be a "short" delay and told us to come back in tirty (yes, tirty) minutes for an update. I went for another walk. Anything to put some space between me and the crying ones...anything except another men's room. Tirty minutes later, we were told to come back in another tirty.

Two-and-a-half hours later, we were on our way. I watched two movies and read. I was sitting next to a man who left Dublin fifty years ago and moved to Queens. He's lived there ever since and considers NYC his home. I didn't trust him much after that. I found out later, that my gut was right. He nicked my breakfast bar! I shit you not. About an hour before arrival, we were given a cucumber and mayo sandwich (um, no) and a breakfast bar. My neighbor devoured his sandwich in short order. I asked him if he'd like mine, too. He graciously accepted and put it in his carry-on, beneath the seat in front of him. He also slipped his breakfast bar into the side pocket of that bag. I left my breakfast bar on my table, I figured I might need it later. When I got up to use the ladies/men's room, I left the bar on my seat. It wasn't until we were deplaning and I saw two breakfast bars in the side pocket of his carry-on, did I realize he'd taken mine. I said nothing, but found it irritating nonetheless. If he'd asked, I'd have given it to him. While we walked off the plane, I considered slipping my hand into the pocket and taking it back. That's when I realized how tired I must be.

We landed about three in the afternoon at JFK and my connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale had left at two. While still in the air, my Dougie had been trying to get me booked on the next flight, which was scheduled to leave about 3:45. He sent me a text to that affect, told me to go to the Jet Blue counter, and demand to be put on that flight - they wouldn't allow him to do it over the phone. When I got to the counter, they handed me a boarding pass....for a flight that left at 6:45pm. I asked about the earlier flight and they looked past me and said, "Next!"

Welcome to America.

I was exhausted, the whirlwind was finally catching up with me. I called Dougie to tell him the new plan and was surprised to find tears in my eyes and a voice that wouldn't work. Yep, I was tired, which meant I was crying. Oh shit and feck, too. Dougie assured me we'd figure it out and told me to relax, find a place to sit and have a pint. Thankfully, JFK has more beverage-serving options than Dublin. I found one near my gate and sat. And sat. And sat. After twenty minutes, no one would serve me, despite my repeated, "Excuse me" attempts for service. I realized why. I looked - and smelled - homeless. My t-shirt and the long-sleeved sun shirt I wore over it were stained with...heaven knows what. My hair was...clean, but tangled. No make up. Flip-flops exposed my battered feet and unattractive little toe with black nail.

I took the hint, gathered my bags, and kept walking. I found an open-air sort of bar, with seats inside an actual gate. I thought I might have better luck there and I did. There didn't have Guinness or Carlsberg on tap. I settled for a Bud Light bottle. It tasted like dirty water. I got a call from my baby girl, the first time I'd heard her voice since I'd left home. It made me even more homesick and, in spite of her exuberance about Central Park and all of the exciting things she was doing, I was a wet blanket. I apologized and she told me to cheer up. I cried again after we hung up. Jaysus, woman, pull yourself together.

I arrived in Fort Lauderdale about ten. The last shuttle to the Keys had left at nine. I was too tired to rent a car; I knew I'd never be able to successfully navigate a two-and-a-half hour drive home. Gracious friends in Miami offered to let me crash with them, but again, I didn't feel capable of the fifty-minute drive in a rental to their house either. In the end, Dougie found me a room near the airport, with 24/7 airport shuttle service, and food service until 1am. I need to pay him for his travel agent services.

I arrived in the hotel, a Sheraton, which was very nice...and gigantic in comparison to what I'd gotten used to in Ireland. The lobby was about the size of Kenmare. I dropped my bags in the room and called room service (I couldn't take any more ungracious looks about my appearance/odor). Once it arrived, I took a very hot shower and crawled into bed where I ate half of a chicken quesadilla and drank a glass of wine. I didn't watch TV or blog or do anything. I ate, turned off the light, called Dougie to say goodnight, and crashed. It was about midnight. I may have cried again...I was soooo close to home and yet, so very far away.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Last Hurrah

I went to bed early last night, uninterested in hanging with the large crowd gathering below in the pub. I've had great success and met so many kind and wonderful people on this adventure, but my sole purpose for coming these last three-hundred-fifty miles was to spend time with a ninety-five year old man. He's not well and I can't see him, so I'm turning in early so that I don't have to think about it. What's more distressing than not being able to see Padder is that no one seems to understand or appreciate the journey I made for one special old man; not even Joe. I'm sure I'm overtired and not seeing things as clearly as I could, but it seems that no one else is terribly sad about Padder's deteriorating health.

"It's what happens, no bother," is what Joe said.

In spite of the loud, raucous laughter coming from below, I drifted off to sleep quickly. As always, the windows were open to let in the cool night breeze. I had dreams of Yoda last night...or was it Padder. Hard to tell the difference. I believe they are equally wise.

Although I know that breakfast comes with the price of a night's stay at Joe's, I sneak out the front door and head into town. There's a breakfast place at the top of the hill, just past the newstand. I don't recall the name, but last summer I had boxty for the very first time in that quaint little shop and it's been calling my name ever since. My mouth waters as I make the short walk. Boxty is...sort of like leftover mashed potatoes, mixed with Irish magic, shaped into cakes and fried in butter. It's very healthy, low fat, and good for your heart. It is not the equivalent to our version of the potato cake. It's a potato cake on steroids and crack and meth and sugar. In part, the difference is due to Kerry butter, the other parts remain a mystery.

My stomach threatens to shrivel up and die (yeah, right) when I discover that the place is closed on Sundays. Sad as I am, it makes me glad to recognize how important family time is to the Irish. For example, it's now half nine and nothing in town is open yet except the church and the newstand. People are enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning with the families - the way it should be. With boxty out of the question, I head back to Joe's for toast and coffee.

Today is the HUGE semi-final match between Kerry and Cork. I soooo very much want to see this game, but it begins at two and I'm planning to catch the one-something train to Dublin, which gets in about four-thirty when match will be over. There's no chance of watching it on the train. I feel slightly cheated. (Aren't I a greedy article? I feel that's what my proprietor from the farm in Black Valley would have called me.) I've already had so much adventure, you'd think I'd be happy...but like every spoiled toddler, I want more.

Over my last cup of coffee, I pull up the Irish Rail schedule one more time. The last train leaves Wesport (about half and hour away given the road construction) at 5:45 and arrived Dublin at 9:10pm. If I take that train, I could extend my stay in Newport, put off going to Dublin for a bit longer (not a big Dublin fan), AND see the match. That was one of the easier decisions of the past few days and my heart feels lighter for having made it.

Joe's wife lets me store my bags in the office (I don't want to occupy a room when I know it needs to be cleaned...and de-stunk) and I head out to enjoy a typical Sunday morning as a local. I wander back into town, the grocery and a coffee/scone shop have opened. I decide to check out the church, but then remember what day of the week it is and realize that's a bad idea. I keep wandering as I realize the only things I've brought back for my girl are stones and shells that I've collected. Nothing else. A small miracle happens when I walk past a small gift shop as the owner is opening. I found a little something for her there that I think she'll love, but I can't tell you what it is just in case that adorable little thing is checking up on her mum. Anyway, I feel better knowing I have a little something for her. Dougie is getting a bear hug and a home-cooked meal - that's the best gift I can give him.

I'm antsy. I feel like I should have my pack strapped on with a destination in mind. I don't feel right just wandering at a snail's pace, but remind myself that's what this day is about. I see an old man reading the newspaper on his front stoop and that gives me an idea. I head back to the news stand and sort through the options. Like the States, there are too many choices. How much news could there be?

I choose the fattest one, a small bottle of OJ (I never drink the stuff at home. I don't like it, but here it tastes yummy.), a Diet Coke (I think this is number three since leaving home), and a chocolate bar. I'm feeling reckless. I carry my treasures down to a small park by the river and sit at a picnic table. The sun is out is full force and I'm too warm. I strip out of my long-sleeved shirt which smells reminiscent of a barn, and drink my cold OJ as I skim the front page.

This is a good time to point out that the Irish, much like the English, don't fancy very cold drinks. They don't use ice as a matter of routine, nor do they chill drinks much, if at all. I prefer very icy, cold Diet Coke and have been fantasizing about a big 'ole glass full of ice and my favorite soda. Fantasizing about a drink is weird, but that's what a lack of ice and cold drinks can do to a girl. Before selecting a soda, I felt each and every bottle, trying to find one that had even a slight chill. There were all the temperature of an armpit and who doesn't love that?

I drink the juice first because it, unlike the soda, has a bit of a chill. It's down in three gulps. I open the soda and sip it as I go through section after section of the paper. The tide is coming in and the river's edges are expanding. The town is slowly coming alive as the church bells ring and there's a short traffic jam as parishioners rush home to start their day. Families with small children arrive at the adjacent playground. Every time a child shouts "mummy!", I look up in case it's my own. Old habits never die. Families on bikes meander by and the pubs start putting out umbrellas over the tables outside their doors. One minute, the sun is beating down on me and then the Irish Rain Gods decide enough is enough. An enormous black cloud comes out of nowhere, morphing the sky into something straight out of Independence Day. I know where things I headed. I gather my trash and paper and head for Joe's. I almost make it when the sky opens. I'm drenched but smiling. I love how quickly the weather turns.

I step into Joe's coffee shop, where I had breakfast. After serving it's guests, it opens to the public and serves food and take-away until mid-afternoon. I order a cup of coffee (something I also never drink at home) and hunker down by a table near a window. Fortunately for me, there's an available plug so I charge my phone, sip my coffee and dive into the sports section to read the trash about today's match. God, I love the Irish newspaper! This is a snippet from just one article about the Kerry/Cork matchup:

"At hafltime, as the Derry lads trooped, shell-shocked, back into the changing room, manager Matt Trolan met them with the immortal line, "Shit in the nest again lads, cup of tea in the back room."
As Eamonn Coleman put it afterwards: "That's what's wrong with Derry teams. Far too fucking nice."

Cork have been far too fucking nice for far too long. High time they got off their knees today and justified their nickname. Otherwise, they face another decade of tea in the back room at half time."

I don't suppose I need to tell you that would never appear in an American paper. I also probably don't need to explain that the journalist was suggesting that Cork services Kerry in the back room on their knees, but I wanted to anyway because it tickles me to do so. Historically, Kerry has spanked Cork time after time while Cork just sits back and takes it. Everyone is betting that the same will happen today. Having been a Miami Dolphin fan for most of my life, I'm not so quick to jump on the bandwagon. Sometimes, the team everyone knows will win ends up getting the game handed to them. (Just ask Tom Brady about my team. When he's done crying, he'll explain it to you.)

Joe's pub opens at one and I'm the first one inside. I want a good seat. I order a pint and get mentally set to deal with a big crowd, the majority of whom I suspect will be routing for Cork. I remind myself to keep my joy quiet; no loud outbursts. (That's not easy for me when it comes to football. Ask my family and dogs.) At half past, I'm still the only one in the pub. When throw in happens on schedule, I'm still alone. Then I realize that Mayo doesn't give a rat's ass about Cork or Kerry. If Mayo was playing, there wouldn't be a seat in the house, but these people have better things to do.

I shout and yell and jump and clap and have a good, 'ole rowdy time all by myself. The bartender is an adorable girl I remember from last year. She laughs at my antics, but doesn't say much. Joe comes in twice when I'm yelling at the ref. He shakes his head and goes back to work. In the end, it was a tie. Unlike in America, ties aren't allowed - the two teams will rematch next Sunday. (Dougie - can we get this on TVsomehow?) As I feared, all that negative press spurred the Cork Rebels (yes, that's their name and the fans wave Rebel flags...odd, but true.) to get off their knees and fight. It was a great match and I can't wait for the rematch.

My cab comes early, I don't get a chance to say goodbye to Joe, and just like that, Newport is lost in the rear view.

I spent three hours+ on a train with a young mom and two-year-old from hell. She was tired, the poor thing, and screamed, kicked, and cried from Newport to Mayo. Guess what's even better? When the trolley finally came by ninety-five minutes into the trip (yes, I was counting the minutes), they were out of wine and the two beers that they had were room temperature. I bought a water and tried to pull a Jesus, but was unable to turn that mineral water into merlot.

I arrived Dublin and got into a taxi. I arrived at my hotel around ten, changed into different smelly clothes and went downstairs for food. The bar was semi-busy, but I didn't speak a word to anyone. The vibe was definitely not Kerry; no one was interested in small talk and telling stories. It felt very American-city and it didn't feel nice. I took my food to go and ate in my room.

It's midnight. I have to be up by 7:30 to catch the 8am shuttle to the airport. Tomorrow will be a long day, but at least I'll see Dougie and the boys (Mr. Bear and Boozy). Lauren is still on her NYC adventure and doesn't come home until Wednesday. Now that Kerry is far behind me, I just want to get home. I'm homesick and miss my family.

I'm ready to go.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


As my solo adventure comes to a screeching halt, my head is filling with two lists...one of all of the things I miss about home and the second is a list of all of the things I'll miss about Ireland. Reconciling the two seems nearly impossible from my current position, but I'll get it sorted one of these days.

What I miss about home:
My family - including Mr. Bear and Boozy
A glass filled with ice and then Diet Coke (I haven't seen ice cubes since leaving home)
Cooking for my family
Properly cooked beef
Hot sauce
Salt, pepper, and other seasonings
Dolphins and manatees
Sleeping in the same place each night
Food Network, The Cooking Channel, and Netflix
Clean clothes
Always having a car at my disposal

What I'll miss about Ireland:
Lush, green countryside
Donkeys, cows, horses, sheep, and goats
Farmland and barns
The musical sound of the Kerry brogue
Gaelic football
The homey atmosphere of a proper pub
The ability to trust complete strangers without a care
Delicious beer
Irish brown bread
Kerry butter
A slow, deliberate breakfast on old china
Newspapers that print "fuck" and "shit" and "dick" as if they were everyday words (oh wait, they are!)
Stores (including groceries) close early and open late to allow for family time
Having to slow down to allow sheep and goats to cross the road
Hearing the sound of livestock coming through my window at night
Chilly Irish rain
Windy, one-lane roads
Traditional Irish music sessions
Castles, ruins, churches, and abbeys
Ancient cemeteries full of Celtic crosses
Having to burrow under heavy covers at night to stay warm while the wind whips in thru the window
The Irish people's view of the human body (women don't have to be a size two to be beautiful)
Rugged, isolated coastlines awash in crashing waves
The unpredictable and ever-changing weather
A culture that embraces exercise (cycling, walking, running, football) as much as beer drinking
Irish humor
Irish manners
...but most importantly, I'll miss my heart because I left it back in Kerry.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Observations and Lessons Learned

As I spend my last night in western Ireland on this trip sitting in my room, eating a sixteen euro dinner consisting of baguette, salami, emmental cheese, and wine, I thought it might be a good time to share some of the tings (yes, tings) I've learned and/or noticed. It took me a few weeks to gather all of this very important data and I'm sharing it with you for free. You are welcome. You may thank me in the form of plane tickets back here to conduct more research.

Warning: if you're easily offended, this is not the post for you. Don't say I didn't tell you.

Here goes:
- You've heard me piss and moan about the Irishman's inability to measure distance on several occasions. I finally found a Mic who could adequately explain the phenomenon. I must credit Derry From Kerry, The Beer Man, with this brilliant unveiling.

The Irish Mile is a regular mile plus a little bit more, but often that "little bit more" is longer than the original mile.

- I recommend not ever asking for "a ride". I strongly suggest you ask for "a lift". A ride is something that refers to an act between two consenting adults and has nothing to do with a vehicle, unless of course you're still in high school are are NOT my daughter. I learned this lesson the hard way. Trust me. No asking for rides unless you're ready to be ridden. There is no getting around this.

- Irish men are prematurely grey. It's not a bad thing, because although it's obscenely unfair, we all know that salt and pepper hair can actually make a man even sexier, but it does not typically have the same effect for women. The vast majority of these boys are grey in their early turties (thirties). Is it the Guinness? I need to conduct more research.

- A proper Irish goodbye on a phone is a grand thing to witness. Both parties will say "no problem" at least twice, but usually three or four times, regardless of the content of their conversation. That will be followed with "bye, bye, bye" - said very quickly - when speaking with a casual acquaintance. When speaking with a close friend or family member, there must be at least five "byes". There are no exceptions to this rule and this only happens over the phone, not in person.

- The Irish are a horny lot. I could go on for pages on this topic, but I won't. Trust me. Viagra should be outlawed in Ireland because these Mics shouldn't have access to it. It's similar to giving diet pills to an anorexic. Guinness makes these men see double and feel single.

- Mayonnaise is a food group. It's served with chips (fries), roasted potatoes, sandwiches, cereal, toast, candy. Okay, maybe not that bad, but the amount of mayo in Irish cole slaw is unfreakingbelievable....and it's just fine with me.

- There are two sizes of Irishmen. Fit and trim or fat. There is nothing in between. I know this seems like a gross generalization, but I believe it to be quite accurate. There's a large contingency that runs and cycles religiously and then there's another that is allergic to exercise. I cannot apply this same generalization to the women of Ireland.

- Irish cheese puffs are not the same as American ones. I can't decide if they're good or not. More research is needed on the "Cheese flavor maize snacks".

- The speech of the Irish changes drastically when they are in groups. Speak to one Irishman and if you've an ear for it, you'll understand him fairly well. Let one of his mates join in and you might as well put in ear plugs. Not only do they speak much more rapidly, they throw in slang that most of us don't know, perhaps a few Irish words, and then some bullshit just to add to the confusion. The Irish are great tricksters and love to fuck with your head.

Forward, March!

I went out for a quick pint with the Killarney guys. They were hilarious and did everything within their power to show me a good time, but my heart wasn’t in it. I went back to my hotel and weighed the options. I’m not sure how long it lasted, because I woke up with the lights on, contacts still in my eyes, around 1:30am. I peeled out my contacts, killed the lights, and crawled under the covers.

I got up at 7:30 and packed. I still didn’t know where I was going. I had three choices, as I saw it. I could spend six-plus hours on a train and then find a way to Achill Island, where I had a room booked, or I could take a train to Tralee and then bus to Inch, where an inn said they might possibly have a room available but wouldn’t know until about 3pm, or I could train to Dublin, where I’d be assured to find accommodations.

Problems with those options:
- One of my top priorities for this trip was to return to Minard Castle in Annascual on the Dingle Peninsula. Without a car it would be difficult. I had to see Minard again…however, the entire peninsula was booked. I checked EVERY B&B/inn/hostel in Dingle, Annascual, Inch, and Dunquin. Nothing was open. Traveling there without a guaranteed room seemed foolish.

- Getting to Achill would mean an entire day of public transportation. It would also mean spending one  only night, getting up and finding a way back to Westport before having to spend another entire day using public transportation to get back to Dublin. That isn’t a good use of limited time in the Motherland.

- Going to Dublin would mean ….being in Dublin. Ick. Enough said.

In the end, I chose the option I liked least; a full day of travel. I’d booked a room for two nights on Achill and they’d given me their last. I’d already screwed them out of one night the day of the dreaded accident; I felt guilty about screwing them out of another.

I  had a cup of coffee and brown bread and got a cab to the train station. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that Killarney’s station isn’t like Dublin…there’s just a few benches and a toilet. No vending machines, no newsstand, no pub. I had two hours to sit and wait. As luck would have it, an older couple came and sat next to me. They were from County Clair and had recently celebrated their fifty-first wedding anniversary. 

“I said I do and got fifty years,” the husband joked. 

He had four teeth in his mouth. His wife laughed, just like she probably always does when he makes that joke. They were adorable and brightened my mood. By the time the train arrived, we’d talked about all kinds of things. I helped them stow their bags in the overhead, although they didn’t like to ask for help. They had booked seats, which means their names were displayed on the digital readout over their seats. As soon as they were settled, I left them to find a seat. I had to wander through four carriages before I found an empty one.

The train from Killarney to Mallow was a little over an hour. I grabbed my bags and jumped off. A few minutes after my train pulled away, another came into the station. I rode that one to Portoloise, then another to Portarlington, and then took a fourth to Wesport.

It was on the last train that I met an amazing person named Emmett Heneghan who, among other things, runs a surfing school in Mayo. He will be the first person to circumvent the Motherland on a paddle board!!! He paddles an average of seventeen miles a day, usually about four or five miles from shore. Unless you’ve seen some of the rough sea conditions around Ireland’s coast, including weird tide actions, you may not be able to appreciate the magnitude of his accomplishment. It’s absolutely incredible. He was on a short break as he waited for the weather to turn more favorable.

Anyway, while I was schlepping cross country in trains, Dougie was back home trying to find a place for me to rent a car in Wesport. Turns out, Doug and Emmett suggested the same place. Unfortunately for me, by the time the train arrived, their offices were already closed….and the last bus had already gone. It was a choice between bagging Achill altogether (where I knew I had accommodations) or try to find something in town and leave the Achill people holding the bag. I didn’t think that would be very nice, so I spoke with a couple taxis. Fifty euros to Achill was the best deal I could make. When he found out where on Achill I actually wanted to go, he added another tenner. Sixty euros for a taxi made me ill, especially because none of these guys take plastic. It's cash or nothing. I was beginning to get nervous as my euros dwindled down to mostly coins. I have to find an ATM...soon.

After ten hours of travel in two taxis and four trains, I arrived at Lavelle’s Seaside House tired, hungry, and eager to walk around or swim or something other than sit. My room had a lovely double bed – very high off the floor – and two windows facing the street. I changed into clothes that may have been moderately less stink y(remember that I left home two weeks ago) and headed straight for Mickey’s Pub, which is attached to Lavelle’s. So, yeah, my idea of exercise became pint lifting rather than walking.

After ordering a pint, I asked for a menu. I'd seen a sign for fresh crab claws on the front door and the idea of local seafood made my stomach growl. The crabs would have to wait - they'd stopped serving food at 6pm, so I had a bag of crisps. Who needed real food? Real food is overrated. Besides, just ten short hours before, I’d had two pieces of brown bread and butter.

Two locals sitting a few seats down began chatting me up, asking questions about my travel. (These Irish are very suspicious of a woman traveling alone, but they sure do want to talk all about it.)

“You’re a bit of a queer hawk, there.”

That seems to be the general consensus. They don’t like the idea of a woman traveling alone for whatever reason. I don't care. They can think what they wish.

The bartender was a cute young boy who reminded me so much of Peanut when he was younger. Turns out, his name is Paddy Lavelle and he’s seventeen. Paddy Lavelle! I shrieked and told him that was my name, too. He was less enthusiastic than I’d have liked, but then again, he’s a teenager. Then I showed him a picture of Peanut and he didn't think he looked anything like my gorgeous son. Funny, though, his uncle was one of the locals next to me and he agreed that the resemblance between them was uncanny. Paddy shook his head and left the bar to throw darts until he was needed again.

Eventually, I met Paddy's mother and her sister, his aunt. The whole family works at Lavelle's/Mickey's. It didn't take long before they pulled me into the fold. We sat round a big table, making craic. I laughed so hard that my face hurt from smiling. About ten-thirty, the aunt and uncle took me with them to a pub down the way. The sunset was beautiful; the sky fierce. We only stayed for a pint and lots of laughter before going back to Mickey's. It was nearly two when I begged off. I headed for bed, they ordered another round. More power to 'em!

Paddy's aunt put her number in my phone before I left. She wanted me to cancel my booking in Newport and instead come with them to their house to spend the next night. From there, they offered to take me to Dublin where they were heading on Monday to pick up their son. The kindness and generosity of the Irish never, ever ceases to amaze me. It was a tempting offer - they were a LOT of fun and it would save me a lot of money - but I'd booked a room with Joe quite a ways back and I really wanted to have a pint with him and Padder. In the end, I didn't have to make a difficult decision about what to do because in her slightly intoxicated state, Linda had buggered the number when putting into me phone. I wish them all the best, thank them kindly for their friendship, and hope to meet them again.

I slept until 8:30, showered, dressed, and then wandered to the dining room for breakfast. Since I’m no longer walking long distances, the bacon buddy is a thing of the past. Fruit, toast, and coffee. Nothing more. (However, that toast is slathered with fresh Kerry butter. I can’t get it at home, so I’ll indulge while I can.) The dining room was full of runners eating low-calorie breakfasts. There was a half-marathon that morning to raise money for cancer research. I slathered my butter without shame while they nibbled on granola and yogurt. While entering my butter coma, I tried to come up with a more cost-effective way to get to Newport. I didn't want to spend another sixty euros on a cab. Eventually, I found an online bus schedule indicating that there was a bus at noon from Achill sound to Newport - perfect! I asked Paddy's mom if there was an island taxi that could run me down to the sound. Five minutes later, a car arrived with two blokes inside. The one in the passenger seat hopped out, put my bags in the backseat, which was full of car parts, food wrappers, and empty soda bottles.

We had fourteen minutes to make the bus. When I asked the driver what the chances were that we'd get there on time, he told me not to worry, if we missed it, he'd follow it to the next stop. (Would that happen in the States?) We drove a one lane "road" through some fields among sheep and cows, the two of my car-mates doing one helluva stand-up routine. John was the driver and half-owner of a taxi business and Owen operates horse-and-carriage tours around the island. They were both lively and entertaining. As I nearly shit my knickers every time we almost hit a sheep, they seemed oblivious to the potential disaster waiting to happen. We made it to town with four minutes to spare....then we discovered the bus had left at 9:15 that morning.

Aw crap. I asked John if he had time to drive me all the way to Newport. He said he would - for a fee of thirty euro - but he couldn't take me for about forty-minutes because he had a run to make on the other side of the island. I didn't mind one little bit. Spending time with John and Owen was a much better option that sitting on a bus. 

Yay! Another adventure was unfolding. John drove me all over the fourteen-mile long island, checking out cliffs and ocean vistas, views atop mountains where the wind nearly flung me over the side, and finally the castle tower that belonged to Ireland's Pirate Queen, Grace O'Malley or Granauile. Her clan built the tower in the early 1400s, but she used it as one of many strongholds along the western seaboard as she dominated the waters in the mid 1500s. Unfortunately, I was unable to get in, although there's no door blocking entry. My way was blocked by a locked gate. I asked John and Owen if they thought I could get away with climbing over. John has lived on Achill for his whole life and failed to understand my fascination. He said I could see it just fine from the road. I explained that I wanted to touch it and be inside it. 

"Fecking crazy is herself."

Reluctantly, I got back into the car. I'm grateful to have seen it at all. If not for John and Owen, I'd never have gotten close.

Three and a half hours after picking me up, the boys delivered me to Joe Reid's Black Oak Inn in Newport. I hugged them both goodbye and eagerly went inside to see Joe and enquire after his uncle, who I was so anxious to see. Unfortunately, Joe was out, so I stowed my bags and headed down the street to a pub for some lunch. Lauren, Doug, and I had been there before. It's comfortable and has really decent food. From there I found an ATM (I feel relieved) and then walked a mile and half or so to a cemetery. Eventually, I wandered back to Joe's and waiting for him to arrive while I had a Guinness and began working on this blog. I'd gotten behind during the  rental car accident drama.

Joe just walked in and I was happy to see him. We shook hands and I asked after Padder. I was saddened to learn that his uncle is unsteady on his feet and uses two crutches (maybe he means canes?) to walk. I asked Joe if he thought he might be up for some company, just for a few minutes. He said he'd call and find out. Unfortunately, Padder has the flu and is bedridden. I can't see him. I'm this close and I can't see him.

I extended my trip just to come to Mayo to see Padder because I realize my opportunities to see him are limited. He's less than a mile away, but...I hope Joe tells him that this American came a long way just to hear his charming Irish brogue and see the twinkle that still sparks in his grey eyes.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Friends in Right Places

Leave it to friends like Mr. Mike Griffin, aka Bob The Horse's Owner, to help me make lemonade out of a shit storm.

After showering and putting on CLEAN clothes that I've not seen since I left them in Killarney ten or twelve days ago, I walked back into town. Mike had planned accordingly, and when I neared the village circle where the horses and carriages congregate to drag tourists all over town, they all started singing. All of them. I've no idea what they were singing, but it was heartwarming. Who can feel sad with fifteen or twenty mics who smell like horses and leather all singing at the top of their lungs. Then they gave me some more words of encouragement and sent me to Murhpy's for lunch and a pint.

I normally enjoy being in pubs - even alone - but today's events have left me feeling a bit out of sorts. I'm not complaining and not trying to whine. I'm just not myself. I wandered around town for a bit, bought a Sudou book. and then headed back to my hotel to crash for the night. Pints with the guys no longer sounds like fun.

As I headed for the roundabout, the clopping of horses hooves got closer and closer. I stopped and stepped aside only to find Mike and Katie! He told me to get in. He and Katie wanted to show me around. He asked where I wanted to go, so I suggested Muckross Castle, if it wasn't too far for Ms. Katie. He pished and said that she loves the castle. (I highly doubt she gives a feck about the castle, but it was nice of him to say.) He sang and told lousy jokes in between my questions about training horses.

We arrived at the castle, which was beautiful. He said he and Katie would wait while I had a look-see. The sun had come out again (it does that on occasion) and the sky was beautiful. I tried to hurry because I knew they were waiting but...it was a castle. I did my best to make it quick and given my record, I did pretty well. When I returned, I asked if I could just pet Katie for a bit before she had to work again. Mike told me to have at it.

Ms. Katie is Bob the Horse's sister and much larger. She's also more friendly and - if it's possible - smells better than her brother. She was very affectionate and rubbed her forehead against my...um...chest...over and over. Eventually, Mike admitted that Ms. Katie has a bit of a boob fetish. I told her to go right ahead and do what she wished; I'd much rather get felt up by a horse than Mr. Happy Hands any way!

Turns out that Ms.Katie also loves mint livesavers. Mike keeps rolls of them in his pockets and she nibbled at them until he takes them out and hand feeds her two or three. She did have lovely breath.
After twenty minutes or so of loving on - and being loved on - by Katie, Mike drove me back to the village square. We said goodbye for perhaps the fourth time today, but this time I gave him a bear hug and didn't let go until it was awkward. Then I hugged tighter.

I came back to my room to put together a solid plan for tomorrow. I feel like today has been wasted. I've taken two buses, a taxi, and a horse carriage ride but haven't accomplished anything. I didn't put in any miles on the road and I wrecked a car. I feel restless and a bit blue.

Then I smell my hands. They were full of wonderful horse and leather smells. It makes me feel better. Then I remember that I somehow managed to make good friends in this small village so far from my home; friends that look out for me and are trying to make me happy. Then I look out my window and see the mountains and know that I climbed over them. I have much to be happy about.