The IGN (Irish Gossip Network) is as strong as ever.
Prior to my trip, I found and reached out to Donal Friel online. He had transcribed old school records from the Ballymichael National School, now an old empty building. These records were of William Boyle and his siblings. William is my wife’s grandfather.
On the trip to Ireland, we stopped at the old school and also saw her grandfather’s home which was across the road. Donal and Noreen Boyle (Tracy’s cousin) were very helpful in getting us to Ballymichael but we had a little difficult finding the actual home and school. So, we stopped and asked a local townsman if he knew where the Boyle home was. He not only knew, but he knew the family as well. After a nice chat, we drove up the road and found our destination.
Upon our return from Ireland, I contacted Donal to let him know we made it to Ballymichael and to thank him for his help. To my surprise, he already knew we made it and that we got lost, and that we were lost on an old (old is relative in Ireland) road near the sea.
Apparently we had talked with one Seamus McGinley, who told a Friel cousin of Donal’s, who, in turn, jabbered to Donal’s father what we had done. Donal then heard from his father about our mini-adventure in Donegal.
Our government drones have nothing on the IGN.
You can drive Street View on Google Maps to see for yourself. It is listed as Cayman House in Donegal, Ireland. The map acts a little weird right now and I have reported it to Google.
One of the joys of traveling is discovering how other cultures deal with common needs. Just about everywhere you go in the United States, you can find a place that has a Restroom if needed. My first need for a Public Restroom in Ireland was at the Airport, and I quickly learned that in Ireland, they are called Toilets.
Now I have heard and used the term toilet in the US, it is often received as a mildly vulgar term or at least a term you said quietly as not to make others unpleasant. Restroom and Bathroom are more acceptable. Though no one is really going to rest or take a bath.
At home, in the confines our house, my Mother would often refer to the “toilet”, meaning specifically the “thone” upon which we sit to do our business. Where as, in Ireland, Toilet has the same meaning as Restroom, or the place that contains the “throne.” So seeing and asking for the Toilet took some getting use to. It also took time getting use to actully using the Toilets as we traveled from place to place, town to town, and pub to pub.
In many US towns we see the signs, “For Customer Use Only.” So far, in Ireland, I have only seen the sign about twice. Often the town center will have a public Toilet. Many Pubs and Restaurants have Toilets clearly marked but often you have to ask the wait staff, where is the Toilet? Everyone is friendly about pointing you in the right direction. No, “sorry, for customer use only.” Though, again, we did see a couple of those signs, so use your best judgement. When I first started asking for the “Restroom,” I got a sort of quizzical, “oh you must mean the Toilet?” look, but then quickly got the information I was needing. It took some time, but now I just ask for the Toilet, plain and simple.
Using the Toilets has been an experience as well. I mean, using the Toilets in the same sense as using the Restroom and not specifically the throne itself. In just about every public Toilet, the sink has two faucets, hot and cold. Yea Ireland! Easy enough, but often only one of them works and it is not the hot. Oh, they might be on opposite side from what you are use to though. And, forget about water pressure, it virtually drains out slowly so you will need to scrub well. And, unlike many places in the US, I have had success finding the soap dispensers full. On the other hand, I have yet to find a paper towel dispenser with even a single sheet of paper towels. You will find a blow dyer quite frequently but it has been 50-50 on it working or blowing warm air. Thus you leave with dripping hands unless you wipe them on your pants. No messy trash cans either, usually because there are none to be found!
Now, actually using the Toilet, that is using the actual throne, is straight forward. Whew! Finding the correct Toilet, however, can be a challenge at first. You may encounter two situations. Seeing a single door mysteriously positioned where a Toilet might be or a sign for Fir and Mná. If you are lucky these will also say Men and Women and often just saying Toilets. Don’t make the mistake of interpreting Gaelic Fir as Female and Mná as Male as it is quite the opposite. However, if you encounter the single door, you are poised with a challenge. Do you enter or wait outside?
Back in the US, a single door toilet usually means you need to wait outside until the user is finished. However, you are in Ireland (one of those places where people drive on the “wrong” side of the road), rest assured, you may be bold and enter that single door. Where upon you will discover at least two or more doors marked Fir and Mná. Getting through those doors will be another adventure however.
Back in the US, you may have encountered the term Water Closet, perhaps you remember hearing old folks talking about the WC? Yep, that was the Water Closet. And in Ireland, they are often just that. A completely enclosed room that is no bigger than your basic entryway closet. I hope your not a big guy, as finding room to stretch out on the throne can be difficult. Trust me, I know.
Once you have finished your business, you will of course need to flush. Simple enough, just use the lever like you do back in the US, however, you will often find it on the “Right” side of the Toilet. And do not be afraid to push hard on that lever. A light push gives you a light flow that may not remove the afore mentioned business. Be warned however, pushing hard on that lever will bring down a torrential flow capable of wiping out a small town. It comes down around the entire bowl like Niagara Falls and from the front and back like a fire hose.
In fact, these toilets would not pass muster in the US as the volume would be a violation of the Toilet Bowl Flow Act. It ain’t water conservation, that is for sure. But it does get the job done! Back home, we often have to use two flushes to get the job done (defeating the water conservation restrictions).
Which brings up an interesting conundrum, why can’t I get that volume and pressure at the sink!
Good luck and I hope everything comes out alright during your travels.
Along the way we stopped in The Claddagh, a shopping area in Western Galway. We had lunch overlooking a spillway leading to the Ocean and saw The Spanish Arch. The Arch was built in 1584 an we are just beginning to learn of the Spanish involvement in Irish History. The Arch was built to provide access to the new Quay or Warf. Many of the streets paralleling water ways include the word Quay.
The Claddagh is one of a few towns who claim the origin of the Claddagh Ring. Tracey has one given to her by her father and Megan will be getting this ring from her mother. There are three ways (some say four) to wear the ring, one way on the right hand and two ways on the left hand. Heart out, right hand, your love has not yet been won. Heart out, left hand, your love is under consideration. Heart in, left hand, two hearts have joined as one.
Another stop put us in Tralee for Pizza and pictures of a local church. By now we are getting use to the small roads and driving on the left side. Tracey and Megan are starting to play a version of Punch Buggy call Punch Tractor. It seems everywhere there are Tractors on the road.
Another gorgeous day in Ireland, this has been getting ridiculous All the Irish are commenting on the great weather. Apparently they have had two bad winters and one nice day last June.
Today is Laundry Day, we went into the town of Clifden to get our laundry done. We had asked our hostess Sinead where we could take care of our laundry and she sent us to the local cleaner. We learned that, here, you drop off your laundry and they clean it for you. So we each dropped a bag of clothes and headed to Connemara National Park for a short hike.
Ireland only has six National Parks. The National Parks & Wildlife Service looks to be simular to our State Parks. Keeping in mind that Ireland is only a third of the size of Colorado (32,595.1 sq mi vs 104,094 sq mi), you gain a new perspective on how magnificent our National Park System is. Connemara NP is only about 7300 acres. Compare that to Jefferson County, Colorado’s largest Open Space Park, White Ranch at over 4000 acres and Rocky Mountain National Park at 415 sq mi or over 265,000 acres. But then, Ireland is one large sheep farm.
We went for a short hike and visited their Nature Center and learned about some of the issues related to Bog Preservation.
After our hike we visited Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden, Tracey’s Aunt and Uncle sponsored preservation of an Oak Tree in the name of Tracey’s mom, Maureen, who passed away in Jan of this year. The Abbey bought over 10,000 Oak Trees and you can sponsor a tree through their Forest Friend’s program. We also toured the Gardens and the Church.
Finally, we drove to the town of Roundstone and ate at Vaughan’s Pub, then stopped at Dog’s Bay Beach. Perhaps only in Ireland can you see Cow’s strolling along the beach!
I woke up today at 4:30am, it was broad daylight, I went back to bed.
We got up at 8:30am and went to breakfast. Scrambled eggs for me and Sweet Pancakes for Tracey and Megan. Then it was back on the road and off to Clifden, Co. Galway. We stopped along the way and saw W.B. Yeats Grave and Memorial where we had sandwichs for lunch that Tracey picked up back in Donegal.
Mostly uneventful, more beautiful country and narrow roads. The weather was absolutely gorgeous! It is so unusual that it is often a topic of conversation. Bright sunny days with no rain. Our host, Jackie, back at Rossmore said that two years ago they had a heavy snow with Ice. The do not usually see Ice. Everyone said that the following summer was going to be nice then. But, alas, only one day of nice weather. Last winter was the same, but this summer is awesome so far. Along the drive, I saw a sign for Ice Cream. It said, “It tastes like Summer… Apparently.” Reflecting the fact that they do not often have nice, sunny summer days.
As we neared the town of Clifden, we saw a Peatbog. Megan was asleep in the car and Tracey did not want to wake her. I said, “How will she see a Peat Bog then?” Tracey said, ” I am sure we will see another one later.” To which I of course said, ” Oh, we can Re-PEAT the experience then.” We take what we can.
We got back to the Rossmore late last night. It was still daylight. A quick check of the daylight times let us know that Dawn starts about 4:10 am Dusk begins about 10:30. Thats about 5 hours of darkness folks!
Then we headed to Glenvar to find Tracey’s Grandmother’s (Rose Logue) childhood home. While there we were able to meet Liam Logue, a cousin of Tracey and had a short visit. From there it was about 30 minutes to Tracey’s Grandfather’s (William “Willie” home in Ballymichael and his Mother’s (Bridget “Biddy” Callaghan) home in neighboring Balloor. In Gaelic they would be, Baile Mhícheáil and Baile Úr.
William’s home is right close to the water, the whole area is devoid of any trees an only has small shrubs. His home is directly across from the now abandoned Ballymichael National School. Thanks to the help from Donal Friel, I was able to find him on on old school roster along with his siblings. His mother’s home is just down the road in the neiboring townland of Balloor. Now a townland in this area is not very big, in this case you might say it was just a couple of blocks away, if they had such a layout. The homes here are scattered about and divided by small rock walls. The roads are narrow and many are unpaved. However, the number of paved small roads is striking actually. I have traveled quite a few back roads in the the States. The equivalent roads would be unpaved dirt roads.
On the way back to Donegal, Megan and Tracey stopped to use the “Toilets” at a Pub. Restrooms are often referred to as Toilets, so you must ask for the Toilet. They also ordered a sandwich for lunch. However the man at the bar could not understand a word Tracey was saying and had to call a coworker to take her order. I missed it but found it funny that the shoe was on the other foot for a change.
Next, we stopped in Donegal. Remember, we stayed in the town of Donegal, in County Donegal. Ballymichael and Glenvar are also in County Donegal and were about two hours away from the town of Donegal. The town is also known for their hats made of Irish Tweed. Tracey and Megan bought Sweaters made of Irish Wool.
Ballymichael was to the North of us. Being on top of the Irish Island it is not all that far from Scotland, William Boyle’s parent’s apparent spend some time in Scotland, but I have yet to flesh that story out.
After Donegal we drove West to see the Slieve League Cliffs. That was a beautiful drive. We reached the top parking lot about 10:00 pm, it was still daylight with almost an hour of daylight left. We headed home before sunset as we did not want to be on the roads
after dark. We are still adjusting to driving on the “Wrong side of the Road.” Tracey drove today for the first time. We will have a lasting memory from this trip.
We left Dublin today. Took the bus to the airport where we rented a car and drove 3.5 hours north and west to Donegal, Co. Donegal. We still need to drive another 3 hours (round trip) to get to Tracey’s grandfather’s location in Ballymichael, Co. Donegal which is practically the top of Ireland.
On the bus ride to the airport, I had a nice conversation with a gentleman who had a thick brogue. I think I understood a little more that half of what he said. We talked about the weather, traveling and taking care of my parents. My parents come up regularly as I am asked what I do for a living. It leads to some interesting conversations about health care and how well we take care of our selves. Regarding the weather, he was commenting on the good weather we were having. We are getting some sunshine during the day and the clouds roll through with a little overcast and occasional sprinkle later in the day. But all in all it is good. I told him that a friend from Michigan once told me that, “If you don’t go out in the bad weather, you don’t get out.” He let out a big smile and told me it was true.
Today we spent an hour and a half on the Waterbus touring the Donegal Bay. Most of the boat was taken up by a touring group of Germans. On the trip out from the bay the guide pointed out many features as you might expect. The information was not presented all that well, but we saw a small island in the bay known as Boyle’s Island (Ballyboyle Island) where the Gaelic Ó Baoighill origins may come from. This really needs to be checked but Boyle is a popular name here. However, on the way back we were thoroughly entertained by the Germans singing Irish tunes lead by our Guide. The fact that he had his CD’s for sale gave us the clue as the nature of his true calling.
We are staying at the Rossmore Manor. Wow! What a view. No photo can do it justice. (again, when I can find a decent Internet connection, I will upload some photos). And lots of green hills covered in Sheep. The water comes almost up to the B&B and it drains with the tides. It takes about 6 hours to drain and another 6 to fill. So plenty of water to be seen and later just a marshy bog.
Today was the first time we drove on the “wrong” side of the road. In the US we drive on the “right” side or so a few folk remind us. The speed limits are fast relatively speaking. Imagine driving the old country single lane back roads at 65 miles an hour except that two cars are going in opposite directions. A bit unnerving. Not all that bad really so far as there have not been many cars coming in the opposite direction. The main highways are an exception but there, the roads are wider and well marked. We only made a few mistakes and kept to the left side…mostly.
Got up an took the bus to Dublin for a bike tour this morning. Dublin City Bike Tours. Apparently Brian, the owner, was the first to start a bike tour in 2010. It was an all American Tour. Two gals, one young man and David from Wyoming. He is orignally from Denver, go figure, travel across the ocean and meet a man from your back yard. He is on a “long tour” that his daughter encouraged him to go on after his wife died from Ovarian Cancer 5 years ago.
We rode for almost three hours with a stop at the Barge Pub for a hot drink. I had hot chocolate. The girls had coffee. The weather was sunny then, later the clouds rolled in and cooled things down.
I will upload pictures later when we get a better internet connection. They are on my iPhone and the connection is taking forever to upload. Speaking of iPhone. We paid for the International Plan on Verizon. $25 for 100mb data upload. I have already used the first 100 and am working on the second. Megan is on it too, but was smarter and turned off Data Roaming, such discipline as she has been sending lots of texts out to her friends. I have been using Google Maps way too much. Today I was much better at saving both data use and keeping my cell battery charged for the day.
Lunch was after the bike tour at Ray’s Pizza, Brian from Dublin City Bike Tours gave us a map he marked up with “the best place to get….(whatever)” mostly food sites. I am sure he worked something out with the owners, but Ray’s was very good.
I have been playing a game of find the American connection. So far, everywhere we go there is something prominent from America. We had dinner at O’Shea’s and they had a sign up for Coors Light. Plenty of McDonalds and Burger King’s. In fact, Dublin is not unlike many American Cities. While we had yet to drive, traffic and the cars are not much different, people all look pretty much the same, perhaps even a bit more clean cut. It is an International City so no stereotyping here. Tipping is not as big and “chips” are French Fries. Lot’s of chips with many of the meals
However, I did see a group of 20 something boy’s that I am pretty sure must have just grabbed a bunch of jackets and sweat suits from a store. I saw them again later, and the cotton sweat suits still had the fold wrinkles in them.
Yesterday, we had time to swing in and get a quick look at Trinity College. While there I was stopped by a woman from the tourist office conducting a survey. We had a great chat about culture, the Irish, and Donegal. We stopped talking when it started to rain and Megan and Tracey were giving me the evil eye to get a move on. Anyway, the woman said that it was hard for her to fill her English and European quotas this time of year but American’s this time a year out number the others 3 to 1.
We had a great time in Dublin, but we are leaving too soon to fully take in all the main tourist attractions. Tomorrow we head for Donegal. At this point, I can see us coming back to Ireland but let’s see how the rest of the trip goes.