On a cold February evening in 1999 I met my future husband in a pub on Main Street, Clifden. By the end of the year I’d moved to that little market town on the Atlantic, where I spent the next four years before moving back to Australia.
As little towns in Ireland go, Clifden’s not bad. Being a tourist town, there are pubs, boutiques and restaurants a-plenty. It’s a vibrant place full of tourists, and you’re always close to beautiful sandy beaches. But in winter it suffers the full force of the Atlantic weather and the tourists disappear along with a good portion on the locals. It’s just you and the mountains. And the lonely bogs.
Sky Road View
One of the best things we did when we first arrived in Ireland was purchase a one year family pass from Heritage Ireland. For €60 we got a year’s worth of monuments, castles and manor houses.
We purchased it on our visit to Tintern Abbey and Colclough Walled Gardens last September down in Wexford. Since then we’ve tried to visit as many Heritage Ireland sites as possible, though there are many more that we didn’t manage to get to. Some of our favourites were:
- Tintern Abbey
A Cistercian abbey, founded c. 1200 by William, the Earl Marshall, and named after Tintern in Wales. It was occupied until the 1960s by the Colclough family.
This year’s parade was our first St. Patrick’s Day Parade here in Dublin. Of course, having grown up here, I’ve been to my fair share of Dublin parades, but not for a long time. Not for twenty years or so.
Looking up the east side of Parnell Square towards the Abbey Presbyterian Church. Well, I am. He’s looking down O’Connell Street. It’s that visual contrajuxtaposition that makes this picture work.
They throw a decent parade in Brisbane and we’ve been to a few of those over the years, though I fear that the Irish Club on Elizabeth St. won’t be there when we get back. So going to the parade here had long been on our agenda, and we weren’t going to miss it come rain or shine. Came shine, mercifully, and on the Thursday morning we drove into town and parked in a street of unsalubrious aspect between Mountjoy Square and North Circular Road.
We’re on a mission to see more of Ireland, to go to the sorts of places, which, if we ever thought about at all when last we lived here over ten years ago, we would have dismissed as the sorts of places tourists went to. Places with castles and visitor centres, or interpretive centres, whatever they’re called. Back then the new Ireland we were interested in had sushi trains in the Purple Flag Area behind Grafton St., and the Pavilion redevelopment in Dun Laoghaire. It had roads bypassing old midlands towns like Loughrea and Moate so that all of us Celtic Tiger cubs could get from the M50 to Galway quicker (although the public jacks in Loughrea would surely be missed by those who used to ply that route). Even the ferry to Aran was a new catamaran made in Perth, Australia, with TVs and wifi, a step up from the odoriferous fishing boat Dad and I went out there on in 1982. This year I’m travelling with my own kids (and Tina, of course) as tourists, and we’re on a mission. So we end up going to places like the Ferns, in Co. Wexford.
The holiday season is well and truly over and we’ve all settled back into our Dublin routines: the boys in school, myself in college and Ralph working in town. We’re still on a bit of a high after our wonderful tour around Portugal and Spain over New Year’s. If you’re not from Australia or New Zealand you’ll find it hard to appreciate our amazement and delight that when living in Europe you can fly, or drive, and be in another country IN A COUPLE OF HOURS! Endlessly amazing.
Dublin has been having a pretty mild winter, though quite stormy. December was one storm after another and constant, dreary rain. January has been a bit colder, but with some fine days (or parts of days) and the storms not quite so regular. The boys are still hoping for some snow but so far there’s been just a little smattering on the Dublin mountains which disappeared in a day or two.
Dublin, itself, hasn’t been too much of a culture change for us. We are halfway through our planned stay here and settled in fairly nicely. Like in Brisbane, we’re living in a house in the suburbs so I thought I’d do a light hearted comparison between the two. Continue reading
We’ve been keeping pretty quiet lately since our last weekend away in Kerry. After school/work/study during the week it’s tempting to just relax on the weekends. We’ve settled into a routine of strolling down to Dalkey village for coffee and a visit to the library on Saturdays and then spending the afternoon reading the papers and just generally relaxing. Sunday occasionally we venture out for a drive or excursion.
Striking a pose by the river
We looked on Couchsurfing recently for options for a two-day midterm break stay somewhere in Ireland, and Bert from the Netherlands got back to us. He lives just outside Abbeyfeale, in the county of Kerry, or ‘The Kingdom’ as they like to call it down there, so we thought: why not? That was far enough away to make it worthwhile going for the Sunday and bank holiday Monday, and there’d be plenty of things to see en route, so we accepted, and he confirmed, and that was that. We were going to stay in Bert’s cottage just over the Kerry border with Limerick, barely a stone’s throw from the river Feale.
Gap of Dunloe