Holy Sheep

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Europe » Ireland
July 22nd 2008
Published: July 28th 2008
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After our late night pub crawl, it was hard to get out of bed today. We finally made it thru the shower and down for breakfast. Siobhan did not disappoint this morning and our breakfast was delicious. We gathered our things and Eammon checked us out of Taur Beg. Eammon was a great Irish character and I think he wanted us to stay and chat with him for awhile. We got ourselves together and on the road. We headed back thru Rossaveel towards Connemara. We decided that today would be Holy Day, or the day we would hit some of Ireland’s most well-known Catholic hot spots. It so happened that many of these were within the beautiful Connemara region in the upper western part of the country. Connemara is known for the marble that is excavated from its land and is also the part of the country where James Joyce grew up. We set out toward the north and immediately started to enjoy the green scenery and views of the ocean and small lakes dotted throughout. With all that greenery comes a lot of sheep. For some reason, in this part of Ireland there is a no leash/no fence law imposed on the small, grass-obsessed, dim-witted animals so it was only a matter of time when we saw several eating right along the side of the road with nothing in between them and us except the hood of our car. We and these free-roaming sheep came together in one frightening moment on a curvy mountain road in Connemara…yes, folks, we almost hit a sheep. He got an eye-full of the bumper of our champagne -colored Peugeot and Amy and I uttered a few words that should be not used on Holy Day, let’s just say. Luckily, Eileen was oblivious to this scene as she was preparing snacks for us from the back seat. We apologized for our foul language and just drove on. We made a spot at one of Ireland’s six national parks—Connemara National Park. We were surprised and pleased to see that admission was free and we were quite glad to get out of the car for a brisk walk in the beautifully groomed trails. Connemara is also known for a particular breed of pony that thrives there and Amy was hoping that meant that herds of them would be neighing and galloping all through the park but the snippy park ranger at the visitor center pulled the plug on that fantasy and pointed her toward the park’s three tamed ponies munching grass peacefully in a fenced-in paddock. A few “klicks” up the road from the park’s entrance sat majestic Kylemore Abbey, the next stop. The abbey was originally a castle built for the beloved wife of a wealthy English doctor a couple of centuries ago. It is nestled in the woods at the bottom of a mountain right on the edge of a glassy lake. After the doctor's wife died after contracting something nasty during a trip up the Nile, it was sold to some Benedictine nuns who were looking to leave Belgium and they still live in it today. It is also a boarding school for young people from all over the world. Tourists are permitted to tour several of the rooms as they would have looked in its castle days as well as the small Gothic-style church built back in the woods for the family’s private use—it was gorgeous! A quick shuttle bus ride took us to the walled Victorian gardens on the grounds, where we strolled among the herbs, ferns, and flowers under a light misting rain. We were joined there by throngs of tourists fresh off a couple of large touring buses and we all were silently grateful that we had our own car to take us on our way. Our next stop was Croagh Patrick. Croagh Patrick is the hill that Saint Patrick climbed up and from the top he drove out all of the snakes from Ireland. It is a place where the devout go --pilgrimmage style. Many even make the two-hour climb on the rocky trail to the top in their bare feet (and some say that the truly devoted do so on their knees). The trip from Kylemore Abbey was not very long, but I did have two head bangers in the car…they were falling asleep on me as I was driving with only one eye open. When we arrived at Croagh, I immediately switched off the car and passed out for 20 minutes…. You see, we should also mention here that today was also the day that we finally discovered the source of our constant yawning and general drowsiness while on the road….we first thought it was just the old “fresh air poisoning” that we used to always experience up at Camp on Lake Ontario and then we just figured since we had all been so stressed out right up to the minute we got on the plane to come here that now that we were here we could relax and enjoy being away from the hot, humid summer back home and the long hours spent at work…but then we figured out the real reason. …the scones in Ireland are laced. Yes, it is true…the scones we have been enjoying so much at breakfast and at mid-afternoon tea breaks, we decided, must be laced with Quaaludes and that is why we were so overcome with sleep even just hours after waking up in the morning and just after our 3:00 p.m. tea breaks! We again attribute the sleepiness of this day to the quaaludes in the scones we had at Kylemore Abbey…yes even the nuns are up on the latest barbiturate recipes. While Amy and I cut wood (snored) in the car, Eileen stopped into the visitor center and started up the hill. When we woke, we wiped the drool from our chins and started up the hill. As I said before, pilgrims regularly climb this hill as a penance for their sins. About ¼ mile up there is a sign that outlines all the steps that need to be taken in order to absolve your sins….(see picture). Amy and I climbed just past the sign and then had to turn around as it was getting late. We enjoyed the beautiful views, sheep and small river on the way down. When we got back to where Eileen was waiting for us, she introduced us to a woman named Mary that was also sitting and waiting. Mary had arrived at 1:30 with her friend and they had both started up the hill together. Mary didn’t get too far before she had to turn around, but her friend had gone all the way up to the top. He was doing this pilgrimage in his bare feet and it was now approximately 7pm… she had been waiting for almost 6 hours. We hopped back into the car and drove thru the cute town of Westport on our way north. We decided that we should try to make it to the Sligo area tonight in order to shorten our driving the next day. When we arrived in Sligo, we did not have accommodation and it was somewhat expensive to stay in town so we headed North to Drumcliffe and pulled into the first B&B that we came to. Eileen went in and arranged for the rooms as Amy and I unpacked the car. We put the bags in the room and headed to Davis’ restaurant for dinner. We had a lovely dinner and then headed back to the B&B for the night.

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