Bones and Things
Trip Start Aug 25, 2011
47Trip End Sep 26, 2012
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But first, we shall have a little limerick, by my friend Matt.
There once was a student named Carrie
Who lived very southeast of Derry
Her wish for some snow
Was granted, and lo!
Her Christmas will be extra merry!
Yes, it snowed yesterday! Just for a little while, until the rain washed it away, but I do think this will be my first ever white Christmas. I hear I will be spending it on a mountain. There is bound to be whiteness up there!
Since I wrote last, I did a couple of day trips. School is out (almost - I have a singing exam tomorrow), so I had some adventuring to do. On Wednesday I asked Aussie if she wanted to join me for a day trip to the Rock of Cashel the next day, and she enthusiastically agreed. The Rock of Cashel is this grandiose ruin seated high on a hill. Rick Steves gives it three triangles, which means absolutely do not miss. I absolutely could not miss it. We agreed to catch the 9:30 bus out of town, so we left our apartment at 8:30. We waited and waited for seemingly hours before our local bus whisked us away, then ran from the last stop to the main bus station. We bought our tickets just in the nick of time and ran outside, searching for our bus. Where is it? I asked the attendant, and he told me it just left not two minutes earlier. I look up at the giant clock - 9:32. A bus in Ireland that left on time? Did that really happen? I was shocked, telling the guard my disbelief. He laughed in a friendly way, I think. He could have been laughing in an evil way, too. The next bus didn't leave until 11, which meant we wouldn't get to Cashel until about 1:30 and would only have about 3 hours to wander around before we would have to catch the last bus back to Limerick. I'm telling you, public transportation is pretty shabby, but still not as bad as LA!
We huffed for a while. Aussie suggested we ask for a refund and try again tomorrow. Usually tickets are nonrefundable, so I didn't expect great turnouts. I just moped around, feeling total deflation. You know that feeling, when you are psyched for something, only for it not to happen? That was me. Well, we asked the ticket woman if she would refund us, and she did! Then she suggested we go to Galway, instead, since a bus was leaving in about 20 minutes. Aussie and I stepped aside for a moment, discussed our options for about 3 seconds, then hopped back in line, this time ordering tickets to Galway. We boarded our clanky, unsteady bus with plenty of time to spare, and headed off to a new city. Just another spontaneous adventure!
We landed in Galway and stepped off the bus into a winter fairy land of a Christmas market. On my facebook update, I said I got "pumped out" into the market, trying to be creative with my word usage, and meaning "Kabam! I'm there!" type of deal, but later my friends told me that in Ireland, to "get pumped" means something else. Embarrassing moment #528. No matter the word choice, kabam! A Christmas market! Our stomachs growled angrily, so we meandered around the stalls until we decided exactly what we wanted to indulge in. This market seemed mostly manned by Germans, so we ate potato pancakes and giant sausages. We also drank a free sample of hot mulled wine, then we bought some more with a shot of amaretto, served by a very tall and enthusiastic German man in Lederhosen. The girl at the sausage booth was rather grouchy at us, so we concluded that she was the German boy's girlfriend or had the hots for him and was angry at us for chatting with him for so long. The mulled wine tasted glorious, especially since it was COLD out there. I was all wrapped up in my Bulgarian friend's coat and still felt the cold creeping under my skin. Our new German friend asked us if we wanted seconds, but we declined, wanting to see the town a bit. We promised we'd be back!
Throughout the rest of the day, the weather was sporadic. Sometimes lovely and clear and sunny, sometimes rampant winds, sometimes piercing rain, sometimes light and happy rain. Our insides warmed with wine, we started our tour through town walking in the wrong direction. We had a nice tour of neighborhoods for a while, until we concluded that this was definitely not the main drag we meant to find. Off we headed the other direction, past the Christmas market again, and to the buzzing pedestrian street, which was right there next to us at the beginning, all along. I blame it on the mulled wine. Galway is a real city, with normal shops and eateries and housing, but it is also pleasant and attractive, making a nice tourist stop. Galway is a gateway city to another Gaeltacht region, in the province of Connacht. Apparently the traditional music scene is quite lively in Galway, but unfortunately I didn't have the money or stamina to stay overnight. The streets were crowded with walkers. Some man in an orange suit that covered his face was trying to sell Meteor packages, a phone company. I told him I was slightly disturbed talking to someone with no face. The town is medieval, with cobbled lanes and gargoyle covered buildings. We visited two lovely churches, one from the medieval times and a giant one built in the 1960s. A little man gave us prayer cards, which I had no idea what to do with, so I stashed them in my purse for souvenirs. When the weather blustered a bit more than we could handle, we rushed into a flower shop with nice Christmas decorations and admired the smells. Once, I commented, "Ooh, I like that smell, it smells like toasted cheese!" and Aussie pointed to the back room, where a cheese toasty (grilled cheese sandwich) sat looking delicious. We also took a walk around a great pub (just a potty break - no drinks), admiring the decor, found the "Woah! Raging River!" patted remains of the city walls, and browsed through a little museum. During our walk, we stood in awe as guys, braving the bitter cold, splashed around the river in kayaks. While we looked at the architecture and river, Aussie yells, "*gasp!" Wah wah wah wah wah!" I thought to myself, "what the" and looked over to the subject of her strange noises, ducks!
On our way back to the market (but of course we were returning!) we saw some men attach themselves to a gargantuan reindeer puppet and walk away. That sure turned heads. We bought desserts at a French pastry booth (French people at the market, too) and ran for cover into a temporary beer garden structure. By this time, the wind and rain was so torrential that we thought the structure would fly away. Everyone inside looked around, with facial expressions much akin to how they might look if they spotted a missile headed straight towards them. Doors flew open, poles swayed dangerously to and fro, the bar shook, flags flapped. My thoughts - better in here than out there. When the worst of it died down, we braved the outdoors cold and headed to our favorite mulled wine booth. We sipped warm goodness and chatted with our friend for the next hour or so, not without icy glares from the neighboring sausage booth. As we stood there, we watched a TV crew film two guys in suits singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," which I learned will be on RTE 3 sometime soon. Watch it, and look for me judging the singers in the background. I told the German to dance around in the background in his lederhosen, but he wouldn't. At last, Aussie and I said our farewells and boarded the bus back home to Limerick.
The next morning, we left UL at 8 instead of 8:30, ready to explore Tipperary, an inland county, and the impressive Rock of Cashel. The scenery on the bus ride was gorgeous. Hills and forests and lakes and all things lovely. We exited our first bus in a town called Cahil. We had about 40 minutes to kill, so we walked across the street and entered a castle ruin that just happened to be sitting there, beckoning us. 1 euro got us in. Out we went again, onto the next bus for about 15 minutes until we exited in Cashel. Rick Steves calls this town "huggable," and huggable it was indeed. Very small, not much going for it except farmland and ruins. Now that I think of it, I don't remember seeing many houses or flats at all - the town was pretty much just for the farmers. We enjoyed a delectable lunch of chicken and mushroom pie and noodle salads, then tried to find the ruin. "Now where is that thing?" You'd think something so large would be a bit more obvious. Process of elimination brought us the right direction, and there it was, towering over town. The Rock of Cashel was an old church, with original foundations dating from A.D. 300. St. Patrick baptized King Aengus at the Rock in 450. The views from the grounds were spectacular, and the sun shone beautifully! (still ridiculously cold, mind you, but clear skies make any day sparkly!). Part of the Rock is under construction (but of course) but we did have a grand time climbing on walls and laying on sarcophagi. A giant piece of the Rock had fallen off during one of Ireland's storms and just sat there, tempting two adult girls to climb all over it.
From our hilltop, we saw a smaller ruin off in the distance, so, after enjoying Christmas cake (a real thing - some sort of fruit cake cooked in some sort of liquor), we decided to give this other ruin a whirl. To get to it, we had to walk through along a path through a field full of raging bulls. Yes, one bull ran. I held back so that when it attacked, it would nab my housemate, first. She was braver than me. This ruin, once a monastery, was marvelous. There it stood, seemingly untouched, no tourism, no turnstiles, just remains in the middle of a field. We clambered over these walls, too, because, well, why not? As I strolled around the little unkempt graveyard, tombstones leaning this way and that, I saw what I thought was a piece of pipe on the ground and thought nothing of it. A few minutes later, Aussie leans over said pipe and says, "Carrie, I think this is a bone." I walked over and had a closer look. Indeed, a bone, yellow, with dirt-caked hardened marrow inside. Another one stuck slightly out of the ground in a little pathway. Aussie did not like that the bones were sticking out where people tread, so she yanked the other piece out of the ground and dropped both pieces by the nearest tombstone. I picked them up to take a few photos, because that's what you do when you find centuries old bones in the graveyard. I noticed that another tombstone faced the direction where the bones came from, but didn't think of moving them back, but later I concluded that those bones belonged there, instead. Whoops. Hopefully no spirits are angry with us for relocating their bones. I found some more bones sticking out of the grass, this time merely poking at them but otherwise leaving them be.
After we had enough of our graveyard extravaganza, we tried to return to the town center through the cow patty fields instead of on the road, past more raging bulls and horses. We climbed fences, found ourselves in backyards, climbed more fences, and finally were free on normal land. We drank tea as we waited for our last bus to arrive, then went over to the stop. We waited, and waited, and waited. We conversed with a strange lonely slightly inappropriate man ("You have a sparkle to your eyes." Uhhh, thanks?") before just ignoring him altogether, and still waited. A drunk man from the nearby pub kept coming out to check if the bus had arrived yet. Finally, 45 minutes later, someone informed us that there had been a robbery on the bus earlier, so it was held for investigations. It arrived, one hour late, and took us to our next town. We had about an hour to kill so decided to have some warm salty stew at a pub with a funny and friendly little lady server who couldn't figure out how to work the camera on Aussie's iphone. At last we boarded our final bus and returned to Limerick, tired, but happy.
When we returned back to our apartment, we were greeted by one of my Irish housemate's friends who was staying over for the weekend. Oregon, Aussie, Irish and two friends (another who was staying with his mom in Limerick and we've hung with often) and I spent the evening at Stables, one of the on campus pubs. The next day, two more of my housemate's friends came up, and we had a party extravaganza, answering all my remaining stereotype questions about the Irish. We played Wii (I lost dreadfully), ordered kebabs the size of my head, and went out to town. We visited two pubs, one cool pub called the Sticky or Stinky or Something Pig, which had a picture of a pig with Xs over its eyes. I learned that it had just opened that week. Downstairs we went, into a great cozy room with brick walls and a DJ playing great rock music. We chatted and danced, and danced some more. We stayed on until the pub closed, then wandered around the streets for a while. A group of very tall guys stopped us, asking if we watched the X factor finals. Nope. I felt like I was wrangling cats as my various friends were walking in various directions. We eventually wound up back home, but the night continued. The highlight was definitely hearing the boys singing football and rebel songs. I've been corrected. Shouting is a better word. But passionate shouting, I say. The other highlight is when they sang a song about me, with clever lyrics, a refrain, and guitar accompaniment, to boot! The other highlight - man love. Lots of it. Aussie and I both admired all of the head rubbing, embracing, and loving going on that evening. Irish guys have no problem with physical contact with each other. Something I wish men in the states could adapt! I eventually got to bed after 5am, and I learned that the singing went on until 7. When I awoke the next morning, I went into the kitchen and counted three sleeping body masses, looking quite uncomfortable. I had a lovely breakfast of leftover kebab, then went back to sleep until 2:30pm.
Now that I met all these people, I am even more excited to spend Christmas in Tralee. I have friends who I will be seeing on Christmas! They all knew I would be coming even before they met me. They are preparing me for the adventures I will endure. Sounds like Christmas will be marvelous!
Sunday was lazy day. Aussie and I walked to the post office and ate Chinese food, and that was about the extent of my day. Monday was a bit more exciting, though still lazy. I went to town and bought enough sugar to last 42 years, picked up two parcels from home (one with gifts from Sinterklaas and the other with Christmas cookie recipes. Woohoo!), and spent, no joke, 8 hours baking. Eventually went to bed at 2:30am. Tuesday I baked. My housemates and I ate so many cookies so far I am surprised I still have teeth. Wednesday (today) I finished my baking. The cookies look nothing like my mom's. Indeed, they look like a six year old made them, and they kind of taste that way, too. The good news is that my housemates don't care! Ideally, these will last through Christmas so I can take them to my adopted Irish family's place. My Irish housemate took this as a challenge.
Now excuse me as I die of a heart attack. Voice exam tomorrow in the AM. Must. Sleep.
So, you see, this week was quite strange. And exciting. And memorable. Ow, my arteries hurt.