The Roving Richards

A family on the move

Connemara

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We had another okay breakfast and headed out of Galway for a loop through Connemara.  For an absolute change it was sunny today, actually sunny! Probably because I had dressed the girls in long-sleeved shirts…. The drive was very pretty.  There were these little lakes everywhere and peat bogs. We stopped to view a lake and then stopped again later to see this monument.  As it happens, it was a monument to nothing, with another, newer monument to nothing behind it. Across the highway was “the best craft shop in Ireland” so we went to have a look. It was really nice, and we bought Mark a t-shirt of sheep under umbrellas and the girls each got an Irish dancer doll. I had to laugh at the guy working the shop, he told us that we needed to be careful, the sun in Ireland is so strong you can get burned in just a few minutes.  Uh, dude, you’re a red head, you have no built in protection, and the sun is like that everywhere! It’s just sunny so infrequently he hadn’t figured that out. Next we passed the Dan O’Hara house and museum and stopped to have a look. They had recreated lodgings of the pre-historic Celtic people, a cute puppy that followed us everywhere, and a really good museum about the history of the area, more details on the potato famine, and the politics around everything. After we’d looked at the museum for a while the girls got restless (knocking a picture off a wall!) so we went into the AV room for a presentation.  This time it was an actual movie on a video and really good. They talked about the biology of a peat bog and showed how they harvest the peat. They also talked about Dan O’Hara (the subject of an Irish ballad) and his sad story. He was a “broken hearted farmer from Connemara” who was forced to leave his farm during the potato famine. Basically, at that time the farmers in the area had one cow that they would breed and give the calf to the landlord for rent. To feed their families, they grew potatoes (all that would grow in the rocky soil). During the famine they had no food for their families and also couldn’t pay rent. He managed to get the fare to go to America on a “coffin ship” (cargo ship) where the conditions were like a slave ship. His wife and three of his seven children died on the journey, and when he got to New York he couldn’t support his kids and so he fostered them out. He made a living selling matches on the street corner, and died alone. Sniff sniff. It made the famine more real. They also had a line in the movie that made both Mark and I laugh, and Genevieve wonder why. They were talking about how Arabian horses escaped from shipwrecks off the shore and mated with the farmer’s ponies, creating “Ireland’s only indigenous horse”.  I think they need to go to the dictionary and look up the meaning of indigenous! They had restored Dan O’Hara’s house but it was the same traditional farm house we’d already toured at Muckross and Bunratty, so we skipped that part. Next we went to Clifden for lunch. It was a really cute town and we had a nice lunch at a pub there, and ice cream afterwards. Next we drove to Kylemore Abbey, which is now a Benedictine Abbey and girls boarding school but once was a manor house. The grounds and setting are beautiful. Genevieve and I enjoyed playing “snotty Victorians” in the formal garden. The little chapel was nice, apparently it’s got Ireland’s largest bat colony in its roof but we saw no signs of the critters. The thing I liked best about Kylemore is it will make such a perfect threat to Genevieve and Charlotte through their teenage years – shape up or I am shipping you off to a convent in the middle of nowhere in Ireland (but alas, I see on the website the school will be closing in 2010)! As a side note, the Heritage Island guidebook saved us at least 20 euros at Kylemore and Dan O’Hara’s house. To complete our loop we followed Rick Steve’s instructions on finding a good peat bog. Apparently we weren’t the only ones, there was another car nearby with a woman “jumping up and down on the peat to experience the bouncy texture”. We really liked the peat bog, and it provided a dramatic setting for our best photo of the trip.  We continued back to Galway and hit Salthill so late, and we were so tired, that we just had dinner at McDonalds. Mark went to check email (Shadow well on her way to recovery) and we were all off to bed. This day was one of my favorites in Ireland, maybe because it was sunny?

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