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Public sculpture at the harbor in Dingle.

We made it back.  We returned Friday night, dragged our butts on Saturday, but seem to be back to normal today, more or less.  :)  So this is my final Ireland 2003 installation (but I'm thinking of hiking in Europe with Ramblers Holidays (http://www.ramblersholidays.co.uk/) next year, in case you're concerned about never getting another holiday e-mail from me.  )


The last big part of the trip for me was Tralee and Dingle on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.

Jeff on Fergie in Dingle Harbor


Tralee is just a nice little town at the head of the Dingle and Iveragh penninsula.  A great location from which to go into the Dingle Penninsula or the Ring of Kerry (both very popular driving and touring sites).  Wednesday was, finally!, a sunny warm day.  No rain, no wind.  Tina and I walked downtown and checked out the visitors center and found somewhere to drop off the laundry. 


Jeff joined us and we went on the search for a take-away shop for lunch.


When you're not looking for a take-away (carryout) place, they're everywhere.  When you need one.....45 minutes later, we walked out of a little alleyway with sandwiches.  We headed to the large rose garden around the visitor center and enjoyed our sandwiches on a bench in the sun in front of our fountain.


International fact:  small children around the world can't resist a fountain.  Parents around the world can't resist making funny faces at their children or make strange noises to try to get the kids to look up at the camera.  They don't make the same strange noises around the world, but they all make strange noises.


The rose garden is lovely, though most of the roses have not bloomed yet.  They look like they'll bloom about the first of June.  The yellow roses that were out, though, had the most intense aroma I've encountered in a rose lately.  Quite wonderful.


Tina decided she was ready to go back to the city museum and go through their tour.  Jeff and I decided we were ready to take a nap in the sun.  So, Tina went sightseeing and Jeff and I laid down on the grass and slept for about an hour.


International loitering.  Ya gotta love it.


Tina found the exhibits at the city museum maybe just a little cheesy but what the heck.  Jeff and I found the nap just perfect.


Afterwards, we retrieved the laundry and the car and went to the Blennerville Windmill, a restored grain grinding windmill.  It had an interesting display about the experience of sailing across the Atlantic as an emmigrant in the 19th century.  You had to want to get out pretty badly, is my conclusion, to risk that trip.  A lot of people had no choices left and a lot of them died on board or soon after arriving in North America.


The exhibit also told the story of the windmill from the perspective of an English landlord, which was different....


Thursday, Jeff took the train to Cork to see the Beamish Brewery.  Tina and I drove back to Dingle to catch an archaeology tour.


I was glad we'd enjoyed the sunshine on Wednesday because it was quite gray and drizzly on Thursday.  It took me almost an hour to make the 30 mile drive.  Getting my purse strap wrapped around the clutch pedal, while driving, didn't help....but those are some skinny twisty roads, I gotta tell you, too! 


Plus, I'm slow.


The tour had a dozen people on it.  About half of them were American.  The two in the back with Tina and I were and Englishman and an Australian girl.  The girl was doing a year long ramble through Ireland and Europe.  Europeans (and I guess Australians and New Zealanders) are more likely, post college, to travel.  They may not own much (stereos, cars, homes) but they see the world before they settle down and start accumulating a family, stuff, and debt. 


We rambled all over the Dingle peninsula, viewing ancient and more recent sites.  We saw a manor house converted to a gaelic girls boarding school. 


We saw Ogham stones (they marked boundaries and graves before the introduction of the Roman alphabet). 


We saw the excavated remains of 1st millennium monastic site, which fascinated me. 


We saw an intact 11th century oratory (chapel).  It's really cool.  Built out of stone with no mortar.  The rocks are angled against each other in such a way that the chapel is still snug (and dry) 1000 years later.


We saw a graveyard that has gravestones from the 3rd century to the present.


We would have rambled more, but the weather was fairly crappy.


The old monastic sites fascinate me because of what they suggest/show/document about how different the Christian Church was 1,500 years ago.  There was a major shift in the 11th and 12th century in how monasteries functioned within the community and it points to a major shift in the church's understanding of itself as an international organization and how it responded to the split between the eastern (Orthodox) and the western (Roman) church. 


That and the Protestant Reformation (16th century) had the most dramatic effects on the church worldwide, from my perspective and we live with the fallout from both of those changes in our daily lives as Christians today.


This sort of thing intrigues me. 


Yes, I'm strange.


Afterwards, Tina and I had pizza (the Irish, unlike the New Zelanders, do pizza the same way Americans do, which is just so comforting on a gray rainy day!).  Did a bit more shopping.  Boy, I could hardly resist blowing my budget on woollens.  Those sweaters are so thick and comfy looking....  Then we headed home.


Our challenge on Friday was, of course, getting our suitcases closed.


But we did and made it to Shannon, probably the most unattractive part of Ireland.  Industrial and very....airport-ish.  I used to love airports.  They suggested all the places I could go and all my traveling fantasies.  Now they represent endless lines, cramped seats, and too many discomforts.


Ah, yes, but they get me to lovely places like Ireland, so I guess I'll keep going, eh?


It was hard to come home.  Ireland (or is it just vacations in general?) was relaxing.  It's far less urban (though I really enjoyed Dublin).  More rural, slower, smaller towns (smaller roads!), and less hustled.  Was it just that I was on vacation or is the fast pace of life in and around DC too much of a wear on my system? 


I don't know.  But I'm glad I went.  Ireland has city charms, fabulous history, wonderful culture, and a beautiful landscape.  Plus friendly people.  If you get a chance, take the chance to enjoy it some time.

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Public sculpture at the harbor in …
Public sculpture at the harbor in…
Jeff on Fergie in Dingle Harbor
Jeff on Fergie in Dingle Harbor