Switching Gears

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Dingle, Ireland

Journal writing, at times, feels like a part time job. I write pretty consistently for myself and then every now and then I realize it has been awhile since I’ve written for the blog. Presently I am sitting in a diner1 in Dingle, Ireland with Candace, killing time with coffee and writing until it’s an appropriate time to eat lunch – afterward the shops should actually be open and we’ll poke around a bit before our 4pm bus.

That’s right, our bus.

Our original plan had us spending a week walking from village to village along the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland.

What we weren’t counting on was our bodies disagreeing with this plan.

Candace arrived early last Monday and we hit the ground running after breakfast: The Book of Kells and the Long Room at Trinity College, The Charles Beaty Library, the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery.

There’s a picture of me from my 2006 visit to the Guinness Storehouse with two Hollins women and now another (unflattering, but eh) of me and Candace during my 2011 visit. It’s hard not to notice the difference.

Guinness Storehouse, January 2006 (I'm on the left)

Candace & Amy, Guinness Storehouse May 2011

However, one thing that did stay the same was that we did not have enough time (or patience) either visit to leisurely finish our whole pint of Guinness.

Hollins women do not waste: both times, the majority of our pints were chugged to completion before moving on to our next destination.

This time around, our next destination was the Old Jameson Distillery. The museum aspect itself does not come close to that of the Guinness Storehouse, but the guide was more than charismatic enough to make up for that. He asked for a handful of volunteers to do taste comparisons between Jameson, Scotch (Johnnie Walker Black) and American whiskey (Jack Daniels). I, of course, fell on that proverbial sword for the group. (I’m hoping that my distaste for the Johnnie Walker does not extend to other scotches, as Scotland and their distilleries are next on my tour.)

That night, back at the hostel, the girl in the bunk below me slept with the window open. When I woke up after a night passed with less than 40F air on me all night, I had a horrid head cold. Those of you that know me know that colds travel to my chest pretty quickly and I get a hideous, lingering cough that will possibly still be with me w hen I return to the States at the end of this month. (Where I hear it’s a reasonable temperature.)

Three buses later, the two of us were in Camp, a small village2 on the Dingle Peninsula where we would start our walk.

That following morning, Candace woke up with the flu. You know, that miserable condition of near constant nausea, running to the bathroom for one end or the other, and general misery.

Lookingat her misery made me slightly nauseous in sympathy.

Thinking rest as the most important cure for this crud, we took the bus to the village we would have walked to and slept away most of the afternoon.

The following morning I felt great and C felt worse. So we spent the morning readjusting our plans. We extended our stay in Dingle by a day, canceled the rest of our hostel/B&B reservations for our walk, and replaced them with three nights in Killarney to allow for more exploration of County Kerry before picking up the second half of our itinerary in Doolin (near the Cliffs of Moher) as planned.

So, no walking.

After one more day of rest, C and I did a quasi driving tour around the Peninsula to see at least a portion of the sights we would have seen while walking. Then we did a short walk to the local lighthouse. I must say I prefer walking – activity aside, the views are so beautiful that through the window of a car it just seems less real. We’ve fit in a fair amount of walking here and there post switching gears. Honestly, it’s still hard to believe it’s real.

Yesterday we took a ferry out to the Blasket Islands. The main island used to have a village on it, but it was abandoned in 1953 and the village is rapidly being reclaimed by nature. We had a picnic lunch among the ruins, with a view so beautiful that you might think I photoshopped it.

I didn’t – my photoshop skills are not this good.

View from our Picnic Spot

There were rabbits on the island, lots of them, grown large without any predators. And sheep of all sizes, shaggy and loosing bits of wool all over the island. I’m unsure if nature reclaimed them as well, or if there is some absent shepard who cares for these last island inhabitants when he can. There were also three very friendly, very shaggy mules who may or may not benefit from this same absent shepard.

While waiting for the ferry to pick us back up (well, more appropriately, the small raft to pick us up and take us to the ferry, as the water is too shallow for the ferry itself), I scrambled along the rocks like I did as a child in Maine and watched the seals.

There were four of them, all different shades of gray-brown and I watched them long enough to tell them apart. It’s easy to understand the origin of the Selkie myth. Seals, in their playful yet serious watchfulness, seem to have the answer to some question of life – a question I have yet to even ask.

This one took a liking to her watch.

When we’re not wandering about desert islands, talking to seals (and mules and sheep), Candace and I are experiencing the best of Irish food and drink: namely Irish coffee, soups, and dairy products.

Irish dairy, particularly here in Kerry, is the best I have ever had. I have toast in the morning just as a vehicle for the butter. The cheapest sandwich sliced cheese in the grocery store is amazing. Murphy’s ice cream here in Dingle is hands down the best ice cream I’ve had in my entire life (I don’t even like ice cream that much). I actually broke down and bought their recipe book and intend to get an ice cream maker when I get home in my continued fun-employment.

Applications for taste tester positions should be made below.

1Diner vs. Cafe as defined by the amount of hangover cases on a Sunday morning.

2 One church, two pubs and a building that was a gas station/coffee shop/laundry mat/fitness center/hair salon.

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