Sunday, June 21, 2015

Adventures in Ireland- Trip 11 Recap #2

Friday June 19th 
Molly and I got an early start on our day since we had a long day of driving ahead of us. After being spoiled by staying mostly put at/around Gene's, being in the car for as much of the day yesterday was a jarring change. And today had us in the car for a bit longer. Our goal was to get to Listowel. From Galway that's about a four hour drive. So we said our quick gooddbye's to Robin (I'll be back on Sunday) and got out of town.

Our first stop was Doolin. Because I hate going by this sweet little village when I'm nearby. I've had to do it before and it's so sad. Plus I wanted Molly to see the place where I met Gene and fell in love with Ireland.

From there it was to the Cliffs of Moher. Being Molly's first time in Ireland, I knew this was a must see on the list of things to show her. The fog was rolling in as we were headed south, and even when we were warned at the entrance gate that visibility was low, I was still totally shocked when we arrived and couldn't see a thing. Molly and I suspect we couldn't see beyond 8 - 10 feet in front of us. This happened during my very first trip to Ireland back in 2000 when I was with Kara. But we had the luxury of going back the next day and getting a clear shot of the Cliffs. This time with Molly though, we had one shot and it just wasn't happening. Luckily she was a very good sport about it and we were both laughing at the bad luck of not being able to see ANYTHING. So. We headed south.

Since it was such a crappy day with no sunshine or much of a view on the drive, we opted not to take the scenic/coastal route. Which is a shame because it was one of my favorite parts of the trip last year. We made the best of it and made our way into Limerick where we had really good pizza and salad for lunch before the homestretch to Listowel.

Listowel is where the Corridans are from. During last year's trip I met a few of my father's distant relatives and when I booked this trip, I reached out to them and arranged to meet up with Con and Catherine again.

Molly and I showed up for dinner at their house and had a delicious home-cooked meal and some wonderful conversation. I still can't get over how welcoming they've been to me- both this year and last- and any guest I bring along with me. It's so comforting to be in their company and they make me feel very welcomed. Con is such a sweet man and Catherine is so loving. Being with them is comfortable and truly nice. And it's really lovely that they make the time and open up their house to me. I hope I'll have an opportunity to repay the favor some time, but I'm not sure that'll happen.

Catherine reached out to another family member, Patsy, who met up with us at John B. Keane's pub (at 9:45 p.m., right about when Molly and I were about to fall asleep). Patsy's the oldest brother of the three "cousins" I met last year- Joe, Hanora & Gerard (he's the one who closed down the pub with me and Elisabeth). It was wonderful to meet Patsy and very nice of him and his wife Mary to come out. Patsy believes that his mother and my dad's grandfather were first cousins. I don't know what that makes us, but I'm told all Corridans are related.

Saturday June 20th 
Having to set an alarm for a second day in a row was hard. And it was even harder to get up when that alarm went off at 6:42 a.m. In order to see my family and go to Skellig Michael, this is how we had to do it. Luckily we had a relatively early night (early in Ireland means 11:30 - midnight, which is very late in my normal life, but that's the way it goes here) and I only had two drinks (and none the day before). So that helped.

We made the hour and a half drive to Portmagee, an adorable port village along the Ring of Kerry and right across the bridge from Valentia Island. I'd actually been here a few years ago with Katie- only to use the bathroom. I remember because the bathroom was so nice it had won an award. Remember, Katie?

Skellig Michael has been the number one adventure that Molly and I have both been looking forward to during this trip. It was definitely some place new for me and I've seen some unbelievable photos on Pinterest and Instagram that made me add it to my list of places to see in Ireland. The boat ride was 45 minutes and then we were dropped off around 10:15 a.m. and were told to be back at 1:15 p.m.

It's impossible to explain what this experience was like. My photos barely do it justice. But first I'll tell you a little bit about Skellig Michael:
  • It's an island in the Atlantic Ocean, about 12 kilometers away from Portmagee
  • A Christian monastery was founded on the island at some point between the 6th and 8th century and was continuously occupied until it was abandoned sometime in the 12th century
  • It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996
  • There are roughly 600 stairs you have to climb to get to the monastery, so if the weather is really wet or windy, you won't be able to climb the rocky, steep, old stairs in bad weather
  • Only 13 boat lincenses are granted to tour operators who run trips between April and October as long as the weather cooperates
  • And probably the most interesting bit is that they filmed Star Wars (VII) last summer for a few days
Apart from the intense climb, there is a ton of wildlife. In fact, when we got off the boat, we saw two or three dolphins putting on quite a show for us! And we saw so many puffins, gannets, arctic terns and fulmars. 

I warned Molly that I was likely going to be scared doing this. The photos I saw online made me anxious as I'm not a big fan of heights and felt like this would be pushing myself a bit too far outside of my comfort zone. The "pep talk"/reality check we got from a guide named Eamon, whose job it is to scare the bejesus out of people, nearly gave me a heart attack. He warned everyone to be very careful, letting us know that this wasn't Disneyland and you had to be very careful. He said it's a dangerous place and two people have died within the past few years and many more getting injured each year. "In fact, one person got injured just last week." I know it's his job to make sure he warns us properly, but still. That was intense!

Once we were properly warned, we started the 600ish stair climb up to the monastery. I wasn't worried about the physical aspect of this as stairs is kind of my thing back home. But it was the whole fall to your death option that was freaking me out. Luckily I pretty much just kept my head down and stuck to one side of the stairs and took it slowly. That helped me not freak out and get to the top, with plenty of opportunities to stop for some photos.

On the way up I realized I was likely going to have a problem going down. Because when you look ahead, you look at the ocean and how very far of a fall you have. Plus I had Eamon's words echoing in my brain "This is not Disneyland. This is not a safe place." Yikes.

At any rate, we explored and looked around at the monastery. Took photos and truly enjoyed what we had just done. I can't tell you how many times either myself or Molly said "WOW" or "This is unbelievable" or "I'm so glad we did this." In fact. I'm pretty sure it'll go down as my most memorable Ireland adventure. It was unlike anything I've ever done before.

We gave ourselves about 30 minutes to get down, which was good because I absolutely had to take it slow. I was seriously sweating it. Thank Gods Molly was there because she got on the left side of me so I could hug the right side of the stairs. At a couple of points I really had to talk myself through super steep walks down the steps. You can see for yourself in the third photo just how steep the decline is!

Holy crap just looking at that photo above gets me anxious all over again. I had to take it slow and not look at anything other than the step I was walking down. That helped me stay focused on the one thing I had to do- put my foot on the very next step. Whatever. It worked!

Once safely back on level ground, we made our way to the boat and then got a mini tour of Little Skellig. It's home to over 30,000 pairs of Gannet's- Ireland's largest seabird- making it the second largest Gannet colony in the world!

Riding beside the island you see thousands and thousands of these birds. We were also treated to a few seals, which was totally unexpected.

Back on land, Molly and I then drove around Valentia Island. We were originally planning on spending the night there, but we need to be in Cobh tomorrow and that's nearly three hours. So we arranged to stay at Loch Lein tonight in Killarney, which is owned by Catherine's brother Paul who I believe seems to have the most information on the Corridan family. (He oversees this family blog called Corridan Connections.) Because Paul and his wife Annette run a hotel, I wasn't able to see him when I was around last year, but he did put me in touch with Catherine and the other family I met up with.  At any rate, we bagged on spending the night in Valentia and instead drove around the island and I'm so glad we made that change. Valentia Island is small and we saw nearly everything we wanted to in the couple of hours we spent driving around.

And holy heck was it gorgeous! Katie and I wanted to do this a few years back when we were doing the Ring of Kerry, but we just couldn't make the timing work. I'm so glad Molly and I did this. On the advice of Con last night, we checked out Geokaun Mountain & Cliffs, and were rewarded with some unbelievably beautiful sights. The Fogher Cliffs were so beautiful and the sun decided to come out, so Molly and I kept saying that it partially made up for the Cliffs of Moher being totally fogged in.

The entire drive around Valentia Island was beautiful and made us gasp and want to take a ton of photos. I'd highly recommend this drive to anyone coming to Ireland.

I've been to a lot of beautiful parts of Ireland, but I'd be hard-pressed to choose a county more beautiful than Kerry. After picking our jaws up off the ground, Molly and I made the hour's drive to Fossa (just outside of Killarney) and checked into Paul's hotel, Loch Lein. We didn't know what to expect, but it's by far the nicest place we've stayed at in Ireland. I didn't think this day could get any better, but I just had the most amazing bath and we've been in for the past few hours relaxing, catching up on computer time and organizing photos and it's been heavenly. I haven't met Paul. But we'll do that tomorrow morning during breakfast and before we head out to Cobh.

This entire day was one amazing and beautiful sight after another. I felt alive and grateful and happy and in awe of how much beauty there is in this world. That I get to see it and live it is something I don't take for granted. That I get to share all of this with Molly makes it even more special. But jaysus, holy shyte, this may be the most beautiful pocket of Ireland I've been to. And that says a lot because I've been to a lot of pockets of this country!

Sunday June 21st
Molly and I had a heavenly stay at Paul's hotel last night and we both felt incredibly refreshed and clean and happy when we woke up this morning. I had the best bath and Molly had a shower that dreams are made of (her words), which helped us both sleep easily and comfortably.

After breakfast, Paul said he wanted to show me some work he's done on the family tree. He promised to keep it brief and not bore me to tears. I told him he could go on and as much as he'd like. When Paul returned he brought out a massive roll of paper that spanned nearly three feet and had four generations of Corridans with tons of impressive information on all the different lines of our family. I did my best to take photos so I can go home and copy what Paul outlined. But holy heck, what an amazing resource to have and I'm so grateful to Paul and his father (now deceased) who have pieced all of this together.

After saying our goodbye's and promising to send along information on my family and all the Corridans I know really well to Paul, Molly and I took off for Cobh. This was another place I was looking forward to checking out as I'd never been before and have seen unbelievably beautiful photos of the cathedral and the colorful buildings.

Cobh did not disappoint! I wanted to get a more complete photo like I'd seen online, but in order to do that, I think I would have had to either be in a boat or made my way to Spike Island just across the way. So this is what you get instead, which is still beautiful and colorful:

As you can see, we were lucky to get a sunny and warm (for Ireland) day. It helps make the photos look even more colorful. We didn't have too much time in Cobh because Molly's train to Dublin (via Cork) was leaving at 1:30 p.m. So we made the most of our time walking around, getting a drink and grabbing a bite to eat. My friend Magic John who I know from the Speakeasy back home in Santa Monica grew up here and all of his siblings are still here. If I'd been in Cobh for longer, I would have made sure to meet up with some of his family, but instead, Molly and I took some advice on where to have a pint and where to get a good meal. Which was helpful since Cobh has a lot of dining and drinking options. 

Here's a photo of me and Molly enjoying our last pint of Guinness together on this trip:

And then another photo of us in our Irish caps (how good does Molly look in that?): 

After dropping Molly off at the train station, I high tailed it to Galway so I could spend a little more time with Robin. Unfortunately her work schedule got in the way of her coming to play with me and Molly down in Kerry and Cork. And I couldn't imagine not getting more quality time with her. I love spending time with Robin and this evening was no exception.

We chatted and caught up on things from the past few days and past few months. And then walked into town to get some Japanese food and gelato and then walked to the Crane Bar for one drink before going home for the night.

Tomorrow I go back to Gene's for the next few nights. I'm hoping it'll be relaxing, especially after the running here there and everywhere. I just looked up all the places I've been since leaving Gene's on Thursday and we've driven just over 500 miles. So it'll be nice to get back to being in once place for a few nights. Nothing about being at Gene's is usually relaxing. It's a lot of other things (funny, unpredictable, memorable), but not relaxing. But I'm hoping I can fit in some Molly time and play catch up with some running, reading and writing in my journal. Regardless, I know it'll be a great time and I can't wait for part three of this trip to begin!

(Part one was Sunday through Thursday when Molly and I were at Gene's. Part two was Thursday through Sunday/today when Molly and I were exploring in Galway, Listowel, Portmagee, Skelling Michael, Valentia Island, Fossa, Cobh and back to Galway. Part three will be tomorrow/Monday until Thursday/Friday when I'm at Gene's. And there may be a part four when depending on when I go to Dublin. That's currently up in the air. I'm not sure if that'll be Thursday or Friday afternoon).


Anonymous,  June 21, 2015 at 4:51 PM  

Why not come to Donegal?? Tony.

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