I'm back in Ireland feeling quite refreshed, relaxed and happy. It's nice to be able to say and feel that way after the past few months of craziness at work and being on the go a lot lately. This is trip #12 and like all the ones before it, it's quite different and already full of adventure. I've been here for a week already and I have another week ahead of me.
Sunday, June 12th- travel day. I had a flight from LAX to JFK that was an hour late in taking off. Which was stressful since I didn't have a long layover. I figured I'd have just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat while making my way to my next flight. Unfortunately, I landed at gate 44 and had to book it to gate freaking 1. So no food for me and definitely no ability to upgrade my flight to first class (there was a slim chance that I'd be able to). By the time I got to the gate, they were already boarding group four, so I slipped onto the plane and sat down in a sweaty, hungry, huffy puffy mess. The flights were uneventful and I didn't get any sleep, sadly, but I had a window seat and loved watching the early morning flight fly over all of Ireland.
|Walking along the countryside|
|A beautiful night in Jamestown|
|Enjoying my first pint of Guinness since the last day of my 2015 Ireland trip|
I follow a ton of Ireland-based photographers/accounts on Instagram and I find that it's a perfect way for me to see a piece of the world I love the most when I can't be here. It helps with the longing and also provides inspiration for future trips. So today's major destination was the Glencar Waterfall that I'd seen various photos of over the years. It was a pretty and easy drive to get there and I was delighted to find that there were just over 200 steps surrounding the waterfall! It was a short walk up to the waterfall and I mostly had the place to myself, which allowed me to tinker around with my camera settings to get the silky effect I wanted of the actual waterfall.
I headed back to Gene's and finally got to see him. As always it was wonderful to see his big smile and be back in his energy. He was in the middle of a project, which I was mostly unaware of from the night before, where he was just trying to prevent the pub from being flooded. As it turns out, he came back in the middle of the night and was working for hours emptying buckets of water. I am so glad I slept through this because I so would have offered to help.
|Making sure the pump is working so, you know, the pub doesn't flood|
Each person who sees me says something along the lines of "You're very welcomed home" or "How long are you home for?" It warms my heart that these people recognize that I consider this to be (another) home for me. And it's crazy that it feels that way for me, but it truly does. I think of all of these people with so much fondness when I'm not here and when I am here, I feel so happy to be in their company and to be dropped into their worlds for just a small bit of time of my year. I hope they know how much they and this place fills up my soul.
|Tuesday night with some of the Thatch's best customers|
The walk itself was really, really great. As I said, this time I did the newly added hiking route and was completely surprised (and ecstatic) to discover that there were over 500 steps built to create the trail up to the top of Knocknarea. It was a bit harder than I had anticipated, but I loved it and was glad to experience this new route.
|There were over 500 of these steps built recently throughout the forest for this hike up to Queen Maeve's tomb|
|In heaven with all these stairs. Sligo Airport and Strandhill stretches before me.|
Once down, I walked some more to Shells Cafe (another place I've been to frequently) so I could enjoy a peaceful moment with a tea, scone and a delightful book I've just started Lily and the Octopus, while waiting for Gene to wrap up his game.
|A perfect afternoon at Shells Cafe in Strandhill|
The music was on point, as usual. There are some musicians that I am used to seeing that weren't around tonight (Mick and Gorgeous George), but my very favorite musician Malachy was there and it was wonderful to hear his songs live. There were some other musicians that I hadn't heard before- Francis who had an unbelievable voice and Dick who was amazing on the banjo. I stood to the side, taking it all in, feeling my soul fill up and as often happens, I thought of my dad and how much he would have loved all of this, and without being able to keep them at bay, tears formed in my eyes. I didn't take many photos, but this one pretty much sums it up of Deasun:
|Last night was a blur!|
|Post-lunch with Brittany in Westport!|
I read about the hike and knew that it'd take about two hours to get to the top and then an hour and a half to get down. I was hoping I'd be moving along a little quicker than the average person, but the hike took exactly that in both directions. And it was really hard. Like I'm glad I didn't know how hard it was. My friend Robin had told me about her experience about it the one and only time she did it years ago. The short of it was that it was one of the hardest things she'd ever done, she hated every second of it and was crawling on her hands and knees at some points. I'm happy to share that I didn't have as extreme of a reaction as she did. I mean it was one of the hardest hikes I've ever done and you couldn't take your eyes off the path directly in front of you for a moment and the last 30 minutes or so are enough to break you as a person. But I loved conquering this hike and was rewarded with beautiful views from every single angle. I thought of my dad a lot as I did this hike. I knew he'd be happy that this was how I was spending my time- that I had the willpower (one of his favorite words) to keep going.
|It was a wee bit windy|
|This was the "path" for the last 30 minutes. It took everything in me to not turn around. Apart from being all loose rocks, it was a very steep climb.|
|Clew Bay- according to tradition, there are 365 islands- one for every day of the year.|
Once back at Gene's I had a quick shower, a couple of pints and was in bed early (early for Ireland Molly is any time before 2:00 a.m.).
After cleaning the pub quickly, we all scattered off in our own directions- Seamus and Percy to run some errands, and myself to read and write at a coffee shop in town. I had a really relaxing time continuing reading Lily and the Octopus and eating a delicious dessert. I walked around town and then came back to Gene's where Seamus was just getting ready to leave and go back to Dublin. He was conflicted about wanting to go and call in to see The Boyd's and I offered to go with him. They live just up the street and in fact, before Gene's house was remodeled with the two rooms in the front of the house, I'd stay at Mrs. Boyd's B&B. She wasn't around, but I had a cup of tea and caught up with her daughter Aileen (one of the first people I knew in this town when Steve and I came for our honeymoon) while Seamus visited with Aileen's father.
One of my favorite things about Ireland is how people just "call in" to see each other. Calling in means stopping by to visit. I've probably written about this before, but each time I come back home, I remember how much I love this. Back home it's just not part of our culture. You don't just stop by someone's place unannounced. And when you do, you're most certainly not offered "a tea and biscuit." It was a really nice visit and one that happened only because I've been mindful to not have every second of this trip planned.
The rest of my day was all about the pub: doing inventory with Gene, going to the distribution center for bar supplies, restocking the pub, yoga (for the second time since I've been here), dinner and then off to the pub around 9:00 p.m. to write out postcards.
In all my times coming here, I've always been exploring on the weekends, so this is my first Friday night in the pub and I'm not sure what it'll be like. According to Gene, during the summer there's always music on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The pub was quiet until around 10:30 p.m., which is when another musician showed up and Gene asked me to tend to the bar while he played music. That lasted for over four hours and I had SO MUCH FUN pulling pints, talking with everyone and trying my best to keep the bar going. The conversations are so engaging, the people on the other side of the bar (many who I'd consider to be friends of mine at this point) are so fun and encouraging (pulling a pint isn't rocket science, but it does require a very specific pour and these guys expect their pints a certain way) and I just couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I had a fantastic night and Gene and I closed up the bar around 2:00 a.m. and off we went to bed.
|Just playing the role of bar maid on a Friday night in my most favorite place on Earth. In other words, IN HEAVEN!|
Saturday, June 18th- Carrick-on-Shannon. Today was another lazy day. I was planning on going into Dublin via train with Gene, but as it turns out, I'll be doing that tomorrow. And again, as much as I'd love to go off adventuring with Gene, I opted to stay put. I read, wrote, caught up on some personal emails, organized all my stuff and then called into Percy to see if he wanted to come with me to clean the pub. I knew he'd just give me the keys, but I didn't trust myself enough to not set off the alarm system. Luckily my request lined up with a break before the "football" started and so we spent an hour getting the pub all set up for what Gene was sure would be a busy Saturday night.
With my chores behind me, I went for a drive around the area, stopping only to take one photo, and then got myself some Chinese food in town before coming back to do more reading and writing. I also caught up on some personal email, opening up my laptop for the first time in a week. It's been great to take a break from technology. I haven't looked at work email and won't until June 27th. I have no desire to even peek to see what's going on or even to see what my current email count is. All of that can- and will- wait.
The pub tonight was a lot of fun. Damien was working behind the bar because Gene was definitely going to be playing music. There were some new musicians that I hadn't ever heard before and I really loved their music and they most certainly kept us entertained for most of the night. Because it got pretty busy in there, I ended up working behind the bar with Damien for about five hours in total. I was flying around the place going from the far room to the bar and back so that people didn't have to get up and I could collect glasses while Damien stayed put behind the bar. Around 2:00 a.m., Damien went home and the bar stayed open for another couple of hours with me running the show solo.
As much as I love being behind the bar, there comes a point when it's actually not fun. And that is when Gene says that you're not to serve any more pints (his theory is that one point means another 30 minutes) and everyone left in the pub wants you to pull them a pint anyway. They all think that Gene won't notice or he won't care or that I'll just do it anyway because it's not really my job. Sometimes I give in, but most times I don't because the last thing I wanna do is piss Gene off.
At any rate, around 4:00 a.m., with a big smile on my face, Gene and I closed the pub and went off to bed for a few hours.
Sunday, June 20th- Gene's to Dublin via train to The Thatch. I didn't sleep that well thinking that with all the Guinness I had the night before and the very late night/early morning, that I'd miss my alarm. So with about five hours of sleep, I got ready and headed out to the door to catch the train to Dublin. My friend Mike is currently traveling with the Rhianna tour (she's playing in Dublin on Tuesday night) and I was gone while he was in Los Angeles. But by a stroke of luck, we were both going to be in Ireland at the same time, so I jumped at the chance to see him.
It's another rainy day. I don't seem to be as lucky with the weather on this trip as I have been the previous two years I've been coming in June. So I don't mind to be on a train for nearly four and a half hours.
My first stop after getting into Dublin is a pub called O'Shea's so I can meet up with Teddy. He's another friend of Gene's that I first met during my New Year's Eve trip back in 2012/2013. We've managed to keep in touch over the years and I was excited to get to see him albeit briefly. He had Father's Day responsibilities, so we had a quick two pints together while we caught up and said our goodbyes. Then I was off to another part of the city to meet up with Mike. We agreed upon The Stag's Head, which is one of Ireland's oldest (and most traditional) pubs.
I can't remember the last time I saw Mike. But I can remember that his laugh is one of my favorite sounds in the world. Our paths crossed, like many people in my life, because of the 3-Day. We have a delicious and easy time catching up- as if no time at all had passed. The two hours we had together went by so quickly and I found myself wishing there were a later train for me to catch. Sadly, there wasn't- I was on the last one going to Carrick-on-Shannon that night and had to say our goodbyes after Mike walked me to the train station.
I spent the train ride to Dublin playing catch-up in my journal and used most of the ride back to read Lily and the Octopus. It also helped keep some of the sadness at bay I was feeling. Father's Day, without my dad, has its ups and downs. Some years it's fine in that my emotions are in check and I'm not overly sad about it. And I thought this year I'd be okay since I was in Ireland. But I found myself being more emotional about Father's Day this year. Sometimes the onslaught of Father's Day wishes on social media is too much. Too much of a painful reminder of what I no longer have. And being in Ireland wasn't as comforting as it has been in past years. I thought of my Dad being here with me, or at least loving that I was here. I thought of being able to share this with him in some way. Of going through my photos with him. Of telling him all about my trips. And I wondered if he were alive all this time, if he would have met me over here and experienced The Thatch. Sigh.
By the time I got back to Gene's I was a bit of an emotional mess because of my book, Lily and the Octopus. I'm not giving anything away here when I saw that Octopus actually means tumor. So you know how the book ends before you even get started. Needless to say, being tired, having an emotional day because of Father's Day, and reading a book about a dog with a tumor is a pretty bad combination! But I managed to pull myself together and went into the pub to hang out with a great group who came in for some Sunday night drinks.
Gene said that Sunday night is oftentimes his favorite night at the pub because it's when the locals come in and there's no music but just hanging out and conversation. And he was totally right. I spent most of the night playing the role of barmaid again and really enjoyed talking with Huey and his wife Marie (I love watching them together- they so clearly have so much fun together and when they get each other laughing, it's one of the most heartwarming things to watch), Allo, Aidan, Padraig, Jim, Claire and a bunch of other locals. Jim and Claire also brought in their black lab, Allie. I didn't think it was possible to love The Thatch any more than I already do and then a freaking black lab is hanging out in there.
This was another one of those nights where we had to kick everyone out. I think the night went until 3:00 a.m. or so. Gene was literally passed out on the bench while I was trying to get everyone to wrap up their drinks. Once everyone was off (I may have had to personally escort a farmer to his truck), Gene and I closed up and it was off to bed.
|This one's for you Dad!|
I started my day with Gene waking me up at 10:45 a.m. announcing that breakfast was being served in five minutes. This was music to my ears. Now I know it sounds like sleeping in when I don't get up until nearly 11:00 a.m., but let's remember I didn't go to bed until after 3:00 a.m. So it's just shy of eight hours of sleep. Which is good for Ireland Molly.
Although I've been coming here since 2000 and am 12 trips in, I still can't get used to the pub culture here. That people come into the pub to start drinking after 10:30 p.m. is beyond my comprehension. As someone who is 100% in bed by that point and most times asleep, I can't wrap my head around coming into a pub to start your night so late. But I get it. Most of these men are farmers and as Gene likes to say "the music starts after the cows have been milked." So I understand that they maximize the nearly 20 hours of daylight hours they have to do their jobs. And whenever that wraps up, then they can enjoy a pint or more. It's nothing I could do on a regular basis. But I feel so fortunate that for two weeks every year, I do get to play in their world and immerse myself into this part of the Irish culture.
So yeah. Breakfast by Gene was wonderful and gave me the energy I needed to clean the pub while Gene puttered around the house getting things in order. Around midday, he left and I ended up going into town with my new friend Sharon. Sharon and her friend Lynne are from South Africa and found out about Gene and The Thatch because it's massively recommended on some RV site. This doesn't surprise me because Gene is insanely generous and accommodating and from what I understand, he doesn't charge for people to park in his lot.
I've had a nice time the past few days getting to know Sharon and Lynne and being inspired by their current lifestyle- traveling around in an RV since April (I believe). Their plan is to keep traveling around for the rest of the year and then possible relocate. I feel fortunate to have crossed paths with them on this trip, and with Gene gone, it's been nice to have other people here (well, by here I mean in an RV behind the pub, but still).
Sharon and I popped into a few stores and walked around the town a bit before I finally got my first 99- the most delicious and creamy vanilla ice cream cone with a chocolate flake placed inside the ice cream. It was as delicious as I remembered from last year!
Back at Gene's I did some yoga, started my blog recap and then went to the pub for a few pints and some great conversation with Damien before closing down the pub with Aidan and Padraig just after midnight. I thought it was funny that I went to bed the earliest on the longest night of the year.
|My view of Gene's backyard as I did yoga|
Not too far from here is a place called Carrowkeel. It's a "Neolithic hilltop passage tomb complex consisting of 14 passage cairns." This was a place Gene and Teddy took me to back on New Year's Day 2013 when I came over with Elisabeth, Kramer and Susie. I remember feeling so happy that was how I was spending the first day of the new year- "hill walking" and being out in nature, even if it was rather chilly.
I was fortunate today that the sun mostly cooperated, or at least that it didn't rain on me because it's been showering on and off all day. The walk itself wasn't bad at all. Although I suspect nothing I do post-Croagh Patrick will ever feel that hard! I had to drive on a really narrow road (photo below), open and close a farmer's gate so the sheep wouldn't escape, and the parked my car at the start of the walk.
It didn't take long to get to the top and I was overwhelmed at just how beautiful it was. I say and think that a lot in Ireland. Sometimes the breath is knocked out of me or I just smile with tears in my eyes at the beauty I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by. And this was no different. On the way there I was listening to the Hamilton soundtrack (thanks again for letting me be your plus one, Cyrena!) so when I got to the top all I kept thinking was "How lucky are we to be alive right now." See for yourself:
|The road leading to Carrowkeel- I was fortunate to not have passed anyone and to miss the TOUR BUS that came while I was still walking!|
With eight days behind me and six days ahead of me, I'm truly feeling relaxed and happy. I miss Steve and Clancy and Katie and the comfort of my own bed and my exercise routine. But I love having little planned and seeing where the day takes me. I love the unexpected adventures I've found and the comfort I've found in doing so much on my own- something I'm not very good at.
Tomorrow Robin and I will meet up and I can't wait to see her for the next few days. And most importantly for her to finally get to experience the Thatch and to see why I love it so very much!