Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Molly's Solo Adventures- Croagh Patrick, Kylemore Abbey & Westport

Today was another gorgeous day in Ireland with breathtaking views that made me ooh and ahh out loud to me and the sheep keeping me company on the drive.

I started out the day wanting to hit up Croagh Patrick, Kylemore Abbey, Connemara National Park and Clifden. It was a lot to try and fit into one day, but I was up for the challenge. I ended the day stopping sort of at Connemara National Park though. Although I'm still uncertain if I actually ever entered the National Park. After more than four hours of driving, I was tired and decided to turn around after I hit Kylemore Abbey.

I was up and out on the early side and first stopped at Croagh Patrick, a place that that is known because of a pilgrimage done in honor of Saint Patrick. Apparently on the summit of the mountain my man Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD and people hike this all the time as some sort of remembrance. I had grand plans to hike all the way up. But I decided against hiking all the way up to Croagh Patrick for a few reasons:

1. The whole thing takes the average person 3 ½ hours to complete round trip. I’m not sure I’d consider myself average. And I had a full day of plans ahead of me.
2. I hadn’t brought any food or water with me and I hadn’t eaten breakfast before I started the climb. I realized shortly after I made my way up the path what I knew before I even started- that was really stupid.
3. It was completely fogged in and there was an obligatory sign saying that if there was fog or if the trail was wet, you shouldn’t do it.
4. The other thing was, as it turned out, I didn’t want to go all the way to the top. I saw the statue of Saint Patrick and walked up about 30 minutes. I got enough of a taste, but in keeping with doing what I wanted, I turned around when I changed my mind.

Not before getting some rad shots:

St. Patrick and Clew Bay in the background

Close-up of St. Patrick statue

The Hiking Trail

Me Deciding the Hike Probably Wasn't Going to Happen

From there I checked out a National Famine Monument which is located directly across the street and is insanely haunting. Some people refer to it as the Coffin Ship. It’s a reference specifically to the people who would crowd onto boats during the Potato Famine (1845 – 1849) and ultimately died because they were in such poor shape not eating or being filled with diseases that ultimately killed them. I’m not going to lie, it was sad and creepy, but it was beautifully done and when I first walked up to it, I had chills. A few pictures later, I got back into the car and took the long way to Clifden.

Last night I asked Eugene where his favorite part of Ireland was and he said the route to get to Clifden. He suggested I go through Louisburg, the long way, and assured me I’d see some of the most stunning landscape Ireland has to offer. I must have forgotten that because as I was driving through, I was completely blown away by the scenery. These huge mountains on either side of me. Then at one point this huge river appeared between this to create such a beautiful picture. Again, I got my camera out to try and capture this amazing scene in front of my eyes, but the pictures just don’t do it justice. Then the sheep kept appearing everywhere. At one point I pulled over to take a picture and looked to my right and saw a row boat just hanging out to help create a picture perfect shot of what I was experiencing.

The drive was a long one though and I had a lot of things I still wanted to do. After making my way through the mountains, I went to Kylemore Abbey. This is one of the most recognizable places in all of Ireland. I love it because I had a poster of this hanging up in my college room my sophomore year of college. But seeing it in person completely blows away anything you see of it in print. I paid the €12 to get onto the property and took a nice walk through the first floor of the Abbey, the grounds and into the Gothic Chapel.

Kylemore means Big Wood in Gaelic and is a reference to the oak, birch, holly, conifers and brushwood all along the lake. Although Kylemore Abbey was originally purchased as a gift from Henry Mitchell to his wife, Margaret Vaughn, it is now occupied by the Benedictine nuns and used as a private school. Not a bad place to go to school!

After walking through the Abbey, I took a short (beautiful) stroll to the Gothic Chapel which was stunning. Mitchell Henry built this between 1877 and 1881 as a memorial to his wife, following her untimely death. It was beautiful inside with stained glass windows and also encouraged you to say a prayer. They had the Prayer of St. Francis out in each pew and I couldn’t help but kneel down and read it. As far as prayers go, I felt like this was resonated with me for the most part.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

As I left the chapel, feeling considerably lighter than when I entered, I walked back to my car and decided I wasn’t going to continue to Connemara National Park and Clifden, but rather, I’d head back to Westport so I could walk around and enjoy my last night there without feeling rushed and stressed for time.

Feeling completely overwhelmed with everything that I saw and experienced today, I was more than happy to go back to Westport for a little R&R before going out for my last night on the town.

I decided to do my own little pub crawl and ended up drinking my dinner (I had a really late lunch). I started at a place called M.J. Hoban where I was one of two people in there. Since the other patron, an Irish man speaking in Gaelic to the bartender, who was also only speaking in Gaelic, I wrapped up some postcards, downed my drink and made it out to my next pub.

This time I ended up at John J. O’Malley’s. Not much going on at this pub either. So I sat around, wrote in my journal, finished my Guinness and made my way across the street to The Porter House where Norman was playing music tonight.

I walked in and immediately felt so happy. Norman called out my name and pumped his fist in the air saying “Obama! We did it. This is Molly everyone.” For over the next couple of hours I was filled up with some of the best singing, harmonica and yes, even the Irish tin whistle playing that I’ve heard on this trip. This one man Patrick, who was also the one playing the Irish whistle, had such an unusual and incredible voice. But I was completely mesmerized and could barely turn away! Norman seemed completely at ease leading the music session, encouraging everyone to join in and choosing some really fun and funny songs to play. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Except when they did last call. That made me really sad. So sad that I tried to see if we could get more to drink.

When it was obvious we wouldn’t be getting another drink there, Norman and I walked over to the Clew Bay Hotel and because I’m a “resident” there, I can get a drink whenever I want. The bar was technically closed, but Norman knew the bartender Jared and he said he’d give us one more drink. At this point I was on Pint #7 and Pack of Peanuts #3. Norman and I talked a little bit more about who knows what, took some more pictures and then when Jared offered us one more pint before he closed up the till, I said my goodnights and goodbyes, pounded a bunch of water, took two Motrin (thanks Amy!) and went to bed with a smile on my face.

I can’t believe tomorrow is my last full day in Ireland. The next two days are really all about traveling so today was really my last day of doing anything memorable here. Tomorrow’s also another day where I have five modes of transportation before my day is done and I’m at the airport hotel. I’m okay with it. Everything here has been a fun adventure and I wouldn’t change it for anything.


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