Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Molly's Epic Vacation- Recap #2

Day 7- Monday, October 7th.
Today seemed like it would could have been another lazy day because we didn't get up and out of Jill's apartment until noon. turned out to be our longest and wildest day in Amsterdam. I returned my bike and got one with a working pedal before Jill and I went to coffee shop (like a real, proper coffee shop, not the ones that Amsterdam is known for) to do some work (Jill) and reading (me). The plan was to see if we could get through the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum in two hours. This is definitely my kind of museum challenge. When push came to shove, however, we opted to check out the Floating Flower Market, a french fry shop- Vlaams Friteshuis and a brewery in a windmill- Brouwerij 't IJ. We got back onto our bikes a little tipsy and went back to Jill's apartment where I met one of her co-workers/friends who introduced me to a peanut butter, butter and chocolate sprinkles sandwich (insane). From there we decided to check out a local dive bar where we had an epic night with two flight attendants from the US. My favorite quote of the night was when one of them said "Great news man. They have Great Balls of Fire on the jukebox." We had a really fun time, stumbled through the streets afterwards to get some clog slippers for my nieces and get some food. It was a great way to say goodbye to Amsterdam!

Day 8- Tuesday, October 8th, 2013.
What a long, but wonderful day. It felt great to be back in Ireland, despite having a truly wonderful time with Jill. Especially after the night I had last night, it was good to be back among a slower (and mostly smoke-free) pace of life. Jill got me safely to the train that took me right to the airport and from there it was smooth sailing until the airport where I picked up my rental car and drove the nearly two hours to Carrick-on-Shannon. I met up with my friend Mick (a musician I met at the Thatch last year who was immediately gracious, friendly and generous) and his wife Diana. We had lunch and then went to their house where Mick and I took a beautiful walk near his home and then took a spin to Kilronan Castle. I had an early night where I went to the Thatch and wrote in my journal and had a couple of drinks while I waited for Percy to close down the pub. Gene is golfing in Lehinch so I will get to sleep in tomorrow. 

Day 9- Wednesday October 9th, 2013.
A big goal of mine on this vacation is to be active. It’s been really easy for me to stick to that. And motivated with that idea in mind, I went on a solo hike by myself up to Knocknarea in County Sligo. It was less than an hour’s drive away and while it was insanely windy at the top, I’m so glad I went. It was one of those things where I took a ton of photos, but it was truly hard to capture just how beautiful it looked. I was so happy doing this walk, feeling so grateful to be exactly where I was in the moment. (Work) life has been really challenging the past few months and this vacation was so perfectly timed. It’s proven to be such a wonderful release from the stress and anxiety that’s been a big part of my life. It’s Wednesday, so I went to the Thatch to listen to music. There were 13 musicians- almost more musicians than patrons. It was another late night with us not getting into the house until after 3am. I brought my real camera to the pub tonight so I could capture some good, quality photos of the musicians. 

Day 10- Thursday, October 10th, 2013.
Tonight finds me in Galway staying with my oldest friend in the world, Robin O’Brien. It’s a nice change of pace from Carrick-on-Shannon (being in more of a city) and of course getting to see Robin, albeit briefly, is amazing. We only see each other once a year, but it’s always easy to fall right back into things. This is a very short visit with her, but I’m looking forward to our weekend getaway together next weekend. I took the long, long way to get here today because I’ve been wanting to check out this place called the Delphi Lodge (Mom- for the record, you’d love it. And I think we should stay here sometime). I’ve tried to stay a couple of times, but either I’m here when they are closed for the season or some group has rented the place out. I asked if I could stop by and I’m so glad that I did because a) it’s fn beautiful in every way possible and 2) there were the most adorable black labs there to greet me upon my arrival. And also, I drove through one of my most favorite parts of Ireland- Louisburgh. Which is just off the hook crazy beautiful. It’s like put your hands up in the air and twirl around like Maria in the hills of Austria from the Sound of Music kind of beautiful. It was such a full, rich, beautiful day and the fact that I got to top it by having dinner with Robin was kinda perfect.

Day 11- Friday, October 11th, 2013.
Today is the start of my second weekend on this trip. The way things turned out schedule wise is that my weeks(ish) have been designed to be relaxing(ish) and my weekends are for trips/planned adventures. My niece Laura is studying in Madrid and when we last hung out together in California, we decided to meet up in Ireland. I’m grateful that the timing works out as such because tomorrow (10/12) is the two year anniversary of when her mother and my sister-in-law, Michele, was senselessly murdered while getting her hair cut at a hair salon in Seal Beach. I’m not sure how Laura will feel on the actual day, but I’m glad we’ll be together. I have some nice things planned as far as seeing Ireland but also ways in which we can honor Michele. Back to today though. I picked up Laura on foot from the bus station and then we slowly made our way back to Robin’s where we got in the car and headed directly to my favorite restaurant in Ireland- Moran’s Oyster Cottage. When we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by a butterfly (Laura and Lisa often think of their mom in the form of a butterfly so it was quite poignant that we were greeted by one- it was the first time I’d ever seen one in Ireland). It was very cool. I love signs like that from those we love who are no longer with us. After our epic meal, we slowly made our way to the Cliffs of Moher, then double backed up to spend the night in Doolin (where I first feel in love with Ireland during my first trip with Kara in March of 2000). We took it easy upon our arrival and then went to McGann’s for dinner (the very place where I met Gene on that trip with Kara) and then a few hours later went to O’Connor’s to listen to some music. It was an early night as we were both pretty tired and have a long day ahead of us with our drive tomorrow.

Day 12- Saturday October 12th, 2013.
Because today is the two year anniversary of Michele’s death, I wanted to make this day special for Laura. There’s a restaurant in Strandhill that I happened to stumble upon last year on the same day- Shells CafĂ©- and thought it was a perfect way to remember Michele. Most of her family and good friends called her Shell, so I knew Laura would like it. We left Doolin and booked it up to Kylemore Abbey because it’s so beautiful and so quintessentially Ireland that I wanted her to see it. From there we continued north until we got to Strandhill. We had a wonderful (late) lunch and then went and had seaweed baths. That was a really weird experience. The seaweed was all slimy and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hang for the full 50 minutes, even with a steam shower to start things off. I managed to relax and enjoy myself. But I think the bottom line is I’m not cut out for the life of a mermaid! After Strandhill, we went back to Gene’s where almost upon arrival he asked if we wanted to go into town for a walk. Jumping at the chance to be active, I said yes and before we knew it, we were off for something like a five mile walk. Luckily I had already warned Laura that you never know what you’re going to get when you hang out with Gene, so she was prepared for us having a walk with no end in sight! Around 9pm I introduced Laura to the Thatch where Percy showed her how to pull her own pint! Laura had the good sense to go to bed around 1130pm, but I stayed until 330am so I could help Gene close the place down. All in all, it was a really nice day, despite the sadness surrounding the date. And I’m really grateful that Laura and I got a chance to connect and spend this time together. 

Day 13- Sunday, October 13th, 2013.
Today turned out to be one of my favorite days of the trip. Shortly after arriving in Ireland, I told Gene that I wanted to go golfing and fishing. Two things he does that I figured I could tag along and do with him. He quickly shot me down on the golfing, letting me know that you have to be playing for at least a year to get onto a golf course in Ireland. So imagine my surprise when Gene asked me what I wanted to for dinner and I accompanied him into town to pick something up and instead we turned into the Carrick-on-Shannon Golf Club! Very quickly- before this, I had gotten up early to go exploring with Laura. We went to Lough Key and Kilronan Castle until I had to drop her off at the bus stop to hop on the bus from Carrick-on-Shannon to Dublin Airport. While I was seriously dragging from only getting about 5 ½ hours of sleep, I really wanted to show Laura a few more things before she was on her way. I had time to take a nap between exploring with Laura and golfing with Gene, which did me wonders. And as much as I wanted to stay in bed when Gene went into town for groceries (which turned out to be golfing), I’m so, so glad I didn’t! The golfing experience was very fun and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the entire time. Gene called my bluff and I had no choice but to give it my all. Now I’m not a golfer. In fact, the only time I’ve ever golfed (if you can even call it that) was when I was in high school and we did some sort of golf rotation in gym class. I remember being better at it than I thought I’d be at the time. But that was at least 17 (gulp!) years ago. We started out at the putting green with a bucket of balls and I did my best to actually make contact with the ball. I did fairly well, all things considering and then Gene continued to surprise me by heading out onto the golf course. I think we probably played about 12 holes in all. Sometimes I just played the role of caddy, and other times Gene let me hit the ball depending on the difficult of that hole. Gene was a great golf partner- not giving me too much instruction but rather just telling me a few things (mostly to slow my swing down and not try and hit the ball too hard- “Let the golf club do all the work.”) that could make a big difference. The biggest compliment he gave me was that he could tell I’m a natural golfer. Which of course made me laugh. I’m not sure when I’ll be on a golf course again, but I’d like to think that I may actually take up golf. After golf, instead of making dinner, we went for a bite to eat in town, then a nitecap at the Thatch and then to bed. What a great, fulfilling day!

Day 14- Monday October 14th, 2013.
Fresh on the heels of my afternoon and evening adventure with Gene from yesterday, I had a full day of adventure with him today. He asked if I wanted to accompany him to get his car serviced promising m that I’d be going to a part of the country I’d never been to before. Not having a single thing planned, but knowing that no matter what we did would be a memorable experience, I said yes, even after learning I’d have to set the alarm and wake us both up at 645am. Ouch. The drive was very pretty, watching the sun come up and the fog roll in and then out. Nearly at the Volkswagen dealership in Portumna, Gene says “Now the bad news is I don’t actually have an appointment.” Naturally. I went knowing full well that this was a very likely scenario, but I didn’t care. Luckily because we got there at about the same time as the dealership opened, Gene was able to get an appointment and off we went to walk for a few hours or until they called him to get his car. He predicted that it’d be ready before lunch time. We headed first for the Portumna Castle and Gardens. Since it wasn’t opened, we could only walk on the grounds. And from there we walked all throughout the Portumna Forest Park. Like for hours. We then walked into town because Gene thought we should get closer to the dealership in case they called. But if we didn’t hear from them before 1pm, it was likely that we wouldn’t hear from them until after lunch at 2pm. Sadly, we didn’t hear from them so we stopped at got a bite to eat in town before Gene led me on a walk in another direction out of town to some lake and then we walked along the River Shannon where we spit out onto a bridge that connected County Galway to County Tipperary. About ½ of a mile long, Gene said “Let’s walk to Tipperary just so we can say we did.” My dogs were barking at this point, we were at least a mile or more from the car dealership and just as we were about to walk to Tipperary, Gene’s phone started ringing and it was the car dealership. Thinking I was being saved from having to walk even ½ mile more in the opposite direction, I was elated. But when Gene hung up he powered on to Tipperary while I followed behind. We finally made it back to the car dealership where I waited in the car only to be kicked out as Gene decided to get a new Bluetooth thingy set up in his car. So off I went into the car dealership, sore and hobbling from walking OVER 12 MILES. We finally made it home around 7pm where I showered and relaxed before having a few hot whiskeys at the pub before falling asleep. 

Day 15- Tuesday October 15th, 2013.
Today was my first legitimate lazy day of vacation. Thank the lord above! I stayed in bed until 11am reading (The Kitchen House), organized my stuff, drove to Drumshanbo to see a new place, had lunch and then came back to update the blog. But, the most special part of my day took place tonight. Thanks to the magic of social media, I realized earlier this week that very good family friends were in Ireland. And as fate would have it, we were going to be overlapping in the same area for two of the days of our trip. So last night I had a wonderful night visiting old friends at Kilronan Castle (my 3rd time to that particular castle on this trip!). Tommy grew up with my father and when we were younger, we spent some of our most memorable times as children with Tommy and his wife Helen and their son TJ. Tommy spoke at my father’s service and as a way to keep my father included in our wedding after he passed away, Steve and I asked Tommy if he’d perform our wedding ceremony. Wearing my father’s formal wear (a kilt, of course), he did a beautiful job and helped make our wedding day so incredibly special. So I was beyond thrilled at the prospect of getting to see Tommy & Helen. They were just a short distance away at the Kilronan Castle so I drove over tonight to meet them for dinner in the bar and we had a wonderful, wonderful time. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and just felt so comforted seeing the both of them. Helen and I got a little emotionally while we were hugging, overcome with fate intervening and bring us together in Ireland of all places. And then at the end of the night as Tommy walked me to the car, he enveloped me in a big hug and said “This one’s from your Dad.” I can’t say how many times I’ve thought of my dad on this trip. How much he’d love knowing I’m here, how much I’d love getting his help taking photos. How much I’d love telling him everywhere I’ve been and all the things I’ve done. So getting to spend time with Tommy & Helen and hearing them speak of my dad (and my mom) was just really special. 


Kara October 16, 2013 at 8:38 AM  

"This one's from your Dad." Waah. But so nice. One of the cows you photographed looks like it wants to kill you. October 16, 2013 at 10:01 AM  

tears are falling...
You deserve this time away and in your most special place on earth. The pictures are spectacular. Dad would be proud.

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