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The Cliffs of Moher and The Killarney Mafia (Ireland Part 2)

November 5, 2007

The Cliffs of Moher were slightly socked-in the morning we visited and there was a slight, misting shower at one point. It wasn’t enough wetness to make you run for cover, but you had to be careful of your camera lens because it was quite windy as well. I got the impression that we saw the cliffs in the weather that they are most accustomed to. So despite my lack of photographs of sunny rocks or damp sunlit moss, I think we had fine weather at the cliffs. Besides, wet, overcast weather always makes colors pop. Everything just seems more vibrant.

There are many steps to climb to reach O’Brien’s Tower at the top of the cliff. We took them slowly and stopped many times along the way to take photographs. You just had to savor being there. I spent quite a bit of time watching the waves crash through a keyhole in the rock face and then retreat again. The motion of the sea has always calmed me.

We braved the winds for awhile more and headed into the visitor’s center. This is the only time in my life where I’ve felt like I was entering a hobbit hole. You actually enter the rear entrance by walking through a circular door in the side of a hill. The center itself is built right into the natural landscape. Inside, the building looks very modern with lots of wavy walls and rounded edges. The virtual cliffs show was beautifully done, but I think I would’ve felt sick if I hadn’t taken my Dramamine that day.

Then we were back on the bus and headed to catch a ferry to Listowel. We stopped in Lovely Listowel for lunch. We ate at a typical pub that had a room upstairs for dining. I enjoyed a Guinness with my BLT panini. I am a Guinness lover so I indulged that love while I was in the land of its birth.

On our way out of the pub while waiting for one of our companions to pay the bill, my mother got hit on by an old Irish dude near the door. He was surrounded by three Guinness empties of his own and another one was going down while he was chatting with mom. “Aye, you’re a strong woman aren’t ya?” he asked her in his strong Irish brogue. My mom, without missing a beat, struck a little pose and said confidently, “I certainly am.” Right on, mom!

There was a small farmer’s market in the square and my mother bought three handmade truffles and we had them for desert. They were scrumptious.

 

 

We drove from Listowel to Killarney where we were to take a jaunting ride to Muckross House in Killarney National Park. On the way to Killarney our tour guide jokingly warned us that we should tip the carriage drivers well because they are locally known as the Killarney Mafia. And you did sort of get that vibe. Our driver was a very salt-of-the-earth type in his own charming way. He was the only Irish person we heard swear the entire time we were there. He dropped an f-bomb and I thought my mom’s face was going to explode from shock. Her expression completely cracked me up.

Our member of the Killarney Mafia did tell us all kinds of stories about the park and he handled the horse well. And he had no love of George Bush, which endeared him to me somewhat. He talked a lot about the trees and the plants and how many of them had been collected by the monks that used to live in the monastery whose ruins we had passed. The occupants of Muckross House continued the tradition and brought back all sorts of trees. All kinds of plants grow in Ireland and as a plant lover, I saw both Arctic poppies and palm trees growing not far from each other–in October.


The jaunting ride ended at Muckross House and we were sure to tip our driver well. We walked around the gardens. There was a fabulous formal rose garden, and one of the best designed rock gardens I have ever seen. My favorite were the rock paths in and amongst the bushes. I imagined playing there if I had been a child in that place.

 

 

Muckross House was what you would expect of a Victorian manor house. It was beautiful with inlaid and ornately carved furniture, hunting trophies, prehistoric antlers, impressive silver, and a row of call bells across the ceiling of the servant’s basement. I drooled over a huge sideboard in the dining room and a giant mortar and pestle in the kitchen. Queen Victoria slept here–on the first floor, of course, because she was terrified of fire.

We left Muckross House and headed to The Malton, our hotel in Killarney. We loved this hotel. There were beautiful marble and chrome bathrooms and a king-size bed with fine crisp linens. We spent two nights in this hotel and we ate two dinners here. The food was fantastic again. Three course meals…bree stuffed puff pastries…Kerry beef with potatoes…risotto…lamb…apple crisp…mmm…

After dinner we walked down a pub-lined road, listened to a street musician play a mean penny whistle, and got a firsthand look at Irish rugby fans in their natural environment.

*Stay tuned for How to Make Irish Coffee a.k.a. The Ring of Kerry Breakfast

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