Monday, March 18, 2013

Limerick, Miss Austen (and Castles, too!)

Saturday, March 16th & Sunday, March 17th

Days 4 & 5 in Ireland

I combined these two for a very valid reason, the main one being that Saturday was supposed to be our "Castle Day." Because, really... don't you, like, have to have a Castle Day whilst trekking through the Emerald Isle?  The morning began fantastic. We rose early, fed the wee one, and headed out to Co. Galway and Portumna Castle. Now, Portumna is closed until April, and we knew this, but for the sole sake of pictures AND since DH has grown accustomed to scaling castle walls...

The drive leading up to this place reminds me of something out of The Duchess (Kiera Knightley & Dominic Cooper). Gorgeous stretch of green, well-groomed lawn. Can't you just imagine a game of cricket or rounders out there? In full 19th century garb, of course. Whilst the Prince Regent looks on, respectively, because of course he would have paid you a visit if this was your ancestral home.

Lord knows I would have.

All right, now, since we could only see the front and DH imagines himself an elite photographer (he really is quite good, actually), we felt it necessary to try and see the side and rear of the place (that's the picture you see above). Bear in mind that high hedges surround the place, not to mention people's residential homes. Can you imagine living directly next to a castle?! Anyway. Through the process, we discovered this.

Portumna Friary from the 15th century. I know, right? AND we actually got to walk through, around, in, and out this one. Woot! But wait a minute... how come the camera's not working anymore?

Uh huh. Roll in the panic of having a dead camera battery and having forgotten to bring the charger.


But it really turned out to be OK.

One, we took a wrong turn--no, really... it gets better--and found this:


Ballaghmore Castle in Co. Laois. Partially destroyed by Cromwell's forces in 1647 (that great English oaf!), this beauty was restored in the mid-19th century by a man who found gold on the land. But he was shot by an angry tenant. Yeah. So the castle sort of sat in wait for a long, loooong time until a descendant of its original owner purchased it in 1990 and restored it to what we see now. Grace was lovely, and FULL of historical knowledge. My research glands salivated as though she dangled a piece of Cadbury chocolate before my eyes.

Truly, I can't imagine a better way to venture off the paved road.

Though we went from store to store in town centre to town centre searching for this special Nikon battery, whilst simultaneously receiving the, "Um, uh... we don't carry big cameras like that. You might wanna try..." bit, we wound up in the big, shopper-friendly city of Limerick.  If you've seen Becoming Jane, you may remember these lines (the whole scene is great, but my point is made by 00:22):

So, Limerick! Beautiful city. A little bit tight like Galway, but it also has a lot more shopping centers, kind of like our malls. After hitting a couple of no-go's--I spotted another Boots!--DH finally saw a tiny store in the town centre who was a certified Nikon dealer. Hallelujah! But by the time we bought our bonnie new charger and returned to the road, we were ready for a meal, a warm peat fire, and bed.

And so our story continues on Sunday. Now, I really wanted to attend worship services. Especially since it was, you guessed it, St. Patrick's Day and we're in Ireland and I couldn't wait to sing Irish hymns with the locals. But the church in Galway was way further than I originally anticipated, not to mention our sense of direction has tended to lead us (as I said before) off the paved road. Choosing the safer route, we ate breakfast and headed back to Portumna. This time I made a video, which I tried to upload on YouTube, but the internet here is not at all akin to ours back home. As soon as I can, however, I'll get that posted for you guys.
This is just for you, Jenn-la Lynn.
Afterwards, we hit the road for Cashel, Co. Tipperary and the Rock of Cashel. Every town centre was bedecked to the nines with St. Patrick's Day festivities. Ribbons, flags, people garbed in head-to-toe green, some with crazy-dyed hair. For all you Americans who may have imagined St. Paddy's being a bigger day in America, well, you are sorely mistaken. It is HUGE here. And the Irish people couldn't be prouder. Especially for the foreigners visiting their land on the biggest holiday of the year (besides Easter).
As for the Rock of Cashel... here's a little history.  The Cashel of the Kings, St. Patrick's Rock or, as the Irish affectionately call it, Carraig Phadraig, is said to be the site of the King of Munster's conversion to Christianity by St. Patrick in the 5th century. The 400's, y'all. Wow! In 1101, the fortress was donated to the Church, and it is from that century and the next when most of the buildings we see today were constructed. The ancient Celtic symbols alone, carved into almost every pillar and wall, made the trip worthwhile.
Down the hill from the Rock, positioned in the midst of a great field, sat Hore Abbey. As is common with most of these monuments, most of the top was missing. But the structure and graveyard was breathtaking. I promise, when the misting rain began and the wind started howling, you could hear the spirits of old humming through the ancient stones.
On to our final destination (besides the cottage, because we do have to sleep!): Cahir Castle, Cahir, Co. Tipperary. This amazing landmark, featured in the film Excalibur, plops itself on the rushing waters of the Suir River. This was by far my favorite. For one, it's been restored beautifully by the government (which, I have learned, the castles privately owned by individuals do not care for in the least. Hey, the government has more money than they do! Not fair!) and so the great hall and most of the rooms have been set up much as they would've appeared in the 13th century. This place totally got my Muse goin' strong. She adored the ceilings, winding stone stairwells, the tiny gated cells, and the grand fireplaces. The courtyards, too. Many a heroine took a turn about those lush lawns during our hour-long visit.
Coolest thing? Cannonballs are still lodged in the stone, where the 6th Baron of Inchiquin laid seige in 1647. At the castle bookstore, I picked up two books on medieval history, a steamed milk for DS (he is getting SO spoiled!), and called it a day.
Pizza and chips completed our journey, and we went to bed at a relatively decent hour.
Next? More castles and who knows what else! Apologies if the post was too long, lovies. Have a beautiful day! :)
Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

P.S. On Sunday, while driving down one of the 50 gazillion country roads, DH said to me, "Oh my gosh, honey! I'm doing 49 in a 50! I am out of CONTROL!"

Erin Go Bragh!



Andrew Leon said...

>grumble grumble grumble<
I want a castle...

Bonnie Rae said...

I want a castle too! Glad you guys are having such a magnificent time. Next time, we should plan a trip for all six of us!!

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