Ireland: Shannon Cruise, Dublin Walkabout, and Farewell Dinner

On the last day of our Best of Ireland Trafalgar Tour, Handsome and I packed dirty laundry in our suitcases. We also packed up mementos. With thirty euros left to spend, we boarded the bus for the day’s travel. Our guide, Ann, and our faithful driver, Pat, herded us into our assigned seats. We headed off toward Shannon, which in Gaelic is Sionainn.

By our eighth day together, our tour group has swapped names and stories. Two couples celebrated anniversaries. Bel had a birthday. Many in our group are retired. Handsome has told them how much he wishes he was retired. A few have asked him medical questions. Some have learned that I’m an author and asked for business cards.

Gar and Ruth will spend more time in Ireland thanks to a conference. They are paleobotanists and university professors.

Professors of paleobotany were on the tour.

Nancy and Earl shared our amusement and confusion over how to operate the showers and the lights in the rooms. In some of the hotels, the lights will not go on unless the room key is inserted into a slot on the wall. As for the shower controls, well, one of the hotels offered instructions.

Tub and shower instructions.

Ann taught us the meaning of craic as an acronym.

  • C = coel (music)
  • R = rince (dance)
  • A = amhran (song)
  • I = is (and)
  • C = comhra (conversation)

We have done our best. Because of the spotty WiFi, people pulled their faces from devices and socialized. It was lovely and refreshing.

On the Shannon River Cruise, I learned that Richard from Texas was adopted. Thanks to using one of the popular DNA test kits, like Ancestry and Me, he discovered half-siblings he didn’t know existed. Adopted young, he has been on a journey to reconnect with lost family. He approached me to chat because he wanted to discuss how to write his story to share with his family. So, during my recess from writing, I am again reminded that stories are everywhere. Next month, I resume writing. These few weeks off have energized me.

Shannon River Cruise.

Our driver, Pat, delivered our luggage to the hotel every day while we visited castles and villages.

Our guide, Ann, said that 1% of all road taxes goes for artwork, such as sculptures on the roadways. We saw a bronze elk, orange triangular sails, multi-colored silhouettes of horses and cows and lamb and deer, and a metal Chieftan on horseback. The Chieftan reminded me of a character from an HBO series called The Game of Thrones. The sculpture reminded me of The Night King. Oh, and when we passed the Aryn Islands, I thought Ann was calling them the Iron Islands. The map corrected me.

When the bus dropped us off for time in Dublin, Handsome and I marched straight to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. The line was about sixty deep, but we were inside in fifteen minutes. Cameras, flash or no flash, are not permitted in the room where the Book of Kells lies open beneath the protective glass. The vibrant golds, greens, blues, and reds are astounding. Preserved so long, this precious manuscript deserves preservation. Scripture comes alive through the illustrations and artistic calligraphy.

An illustration from the Book of Kells, courtesy of Trinity College.

Above the viewing room is the Latin library collection. Someone mentioned that the room was used in a Star Wars film. Display cases in the middle of the chamber show different types of damage to books with examples: humidity, rodents, vandalism, accident, and fire.

Trinity College in Dublin.

Trinity College.

The Trinity College library where the Book of Kells is housed.

Trinity College Library. These volumes are in Latin.

Trinity College.

The farewell dinner gave us time to reflect on the tour and trade photos. I taught one lady how to use iPhone’s airdrop feature. Those who got to know Heather, traveling solo from South Africa, urged her to move out of South Africa because of the increasing violence against whites. White farmers are being driven off their property; their families were beaten and killed. She said she is seriously considering moving to England. I pray she does.

Best of Ireland tour group.

The tour group was made up of Americans, Australians, a South African, and Canadians. It was a joy to explore Ireland with them.

Recommended reading on Ireland:

  • Trinity by Leon Uris
  • Seek the Fair Land by Walter Macken
  • Light a Penny Candle by Maev Binchy
  • The Big Wind by Cecil Woodham
  • and the poetry of W.B. Yeats.

May your neighbors respect you, trouble neglect you, the angels protect you, and heaven accept you.

Ireland: Writers and Architecture and Dublin

Ireland has fascinated me since childhood. I wanted to visit the island inhabited by leprechauns and fairies. As an adult, I am astounded by the impact of Irish writers on the world. Ireland is an island of approximately 32,600 square miles with a population of six million. And yet, where would storytelling be without Bram Stoker, C.S. Lewis, Oliver Goldsmith, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Frank McCourt, Maeve Binchy, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and James Joyce? The list goes on, but these are my favorites.

Finally, I traveled to Ireland. Though I doubt these great writers gained their skill from walking the land or drinking the water, I nurture hope that the influence of this island will rub off on me. Having finished my third novel, I’m enjoying a month off before beginning my fourth. This is a time of renewal and rest.

Handsome and I toured Ireland by Trafalgar bus, jaunting cart, and foot. Here’s how the first day went. The signs at the Dublin airport were in English and Gaelic.

signs in English and Gaelic at Dublin airportFound a Pringles dispenser. Love those chips (crisps).

A Pringles dispenser at the Dublin airport.

The first people we met in our tour group were Nancy and Earl from Ottowa. The bus driver, Pat, loaded up our gear and deposited us at the Ballsbridge Hotel. There, we met our guide, Ann, who narrated a driving tour of Dublin.

Home to 1.3 million, Dublin is the capital of Ireland. It is situated on the eastern side of the country with the Liffey River running through it. Each of the twenty-four or so bridges is different. To learn more about them, see Dublin bridges.

Trafalgar Tour Guide Ann

Trafalgar Tour Guide Ann.

Ann taught us about Georgian architecture. The size of the windows reveals the importance of the rooms. The lower floors had the largest windows and the higher floors the smallest ones.

Georgian architecture showing windows

Windows shrink from the bottom floor to top floor.

The decreasing size of the windows also gives an illusion of height. Homes were taxed by the number of stairs leading to the main door, so the wealthiest had them. In addition, the wealthy had a servant’s entrance door under the stairs. Many of the doors were painted in bold, bright colors.

Georgian architecture with servant entrance below stairs

Servants entrance is below the stairs.

Trinity College

Trinity CollegeWe passed Trinity College, where the Book of Kells is kept. A national treasure of Ireland, the Book of Kells was copied and illustrated by monks. We got to view the document later in our tour.

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.

We stopped for photos at Christ Church Cathedral. Streets in the trade or guild section were named after the kind of work done there. Cobbler Street, Cook Street…you get the idea. Lastly, we stopped at the Glasnevin Trust and cemetery, where we learned about Irish heroes O’Connell and Micheal Collins. We enjoyed drinks and snacks at the cafe there. Jetlagged and exhausted, we collapsed in our non-air-conditioned room at the Ballsbridge Hotel. The area known as the Dublin 4 postal code is apparently the 90210 of Ireland.

Michael Collins memorial.

Elegant monuments.

Our guide at the cemetery gave us history and lore.

The Gaelic alphabet has only twenty letters. Dublin in Gaelic is baile átha Cliath.