Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This, That, and The Indescribable

So before I get into today's adventures, a few things I have forgotten to mention in previous posts: 

Did you know that in Ireland ....

....divorce has only been legal 10 years? And today you have to be separated for 4 years before a divorce petition can be granted. Learned this from one of my new Irish gal friends in Kilkinney. 

...When someone dies, the body is laid out for the wake at the house. Still to this day. Not sure if I could handle that one. And the body is never left alone incase....well, not sure what they are anticipating.

...bog, or peat, is still harvested and used for fuel in many areas. This is much cheaper than oil in the winter I'm told. Today I got a whiff of burning peat and it wasn't anything we will see in a bottle at the L'Oreal counter anytime soon.

Okay, just had to share those bits I've learned.  Now I'm settle down with a nice cup of tea (yes tea)..they have these very cool tea pots with all the fixin's in the put in the water, plug it in, and in a few minute's Bob's your uncle. (another saying I've picked up...meaning "there you go") let's move on to The Ring of Kerry.

County Kerry is on the west coast of Ireland, just below the Dingle peninsula. These two jutting out land masses are divided by Dingle Bay. The road that goes all along the coast of Kerry is called the "ring"...because it's round I suppose. Anyhow, it's approximately 180 Kilometers long, and from beginning to end, took our tour just under 5 hours to complete - with several stops along the way.

What was amazing about The Ring of Kerry is the change in topography from one mile to the next. In the beginning you are pretty much at sea level (or so it appears), but by the time you are finished you are up in the mountains surrounded by panoramic views of the mountains, islands, lakes, and moors. To say it's breathtaking sounds so very cliche, but that's about all I can come up with. Mountains, fresh water lakes filled to the gill with salmon (pun intended)...I was just itching for a pole, by the way. There were forests and tall pines, and rocky craggy hillsides dotted with fluffy sheep.

Dingle Bay- across the Water is the Dingle Peninsula


Rocky shores of Waterville

I decided to take a tour instead of trying to drive it myself - for two reasons; 

1. I can better watch the view and had the added benefit of a very entertaining storyteller-tour guide.  

2. There are very narrow roads with drop offs next to cliffs. And I really want to live. The roads in many places aren't even wide enough for two vehicles - and people drive them very fast. At some points when you pass another vehicle it appears that maybe you have two inches to spare. Several times the driver told us to "breath out" so he could pass. :-)

Besides the scenery, I have to say that the highlight of the day, besides the couple in front of me (more about them in a minute)...was the "sheep man" Brendon.  An honest-to-goodness sheep farmer with over 250 sheep, he gave a great demonstration on the border collies he actually uses. It was the most fascinating thing I've ever seen. Each dog is trained but much of what they do is pure instinct. They train for over a year to learn whistles and calls that are distinct to that dog - in other words - if Brendon has all 250 of his sheep out, he can take 5 or 6 dogs and have them all doing something different at the same time, because they all have distinct calls and whistles they follow.  And watching these dogs work was so cool because their body language and faces (if you know dogs) showed they were ANXIOUS to do what they do. Here are some great shots of Brendon and his dogs:

Border Collie sheep dog watching the sheep and waiting on his commands

These are some of the 16 different kinds of sheep Brendon has on his farm. Who knew there were so many different kinds of sheep? Who knew I would find this so interesting? 

We also stopped at an old Bog village - it was an obvious tourist trap but charming none the less. I had heard about bog - the dense, dark peat that is dug up from the ground, dried out and used for heat and cooking. But I had never smelt it or touched it.  To the touch, it's very brittle. To smell it, smells like burning smokey oily stuff. Not pleasant at all. 

Underside of thatched roof

Bog pony

Irish wolfhound

At this same village we got to see a few Irish wolfhounds (massive dogs) and Bog ponies...these are the ponies that have been bred for hundreds of years specifically to work in the bog fields. 

Now, I have to tell you about the couple in front of me in the bus.  You can't, I suppose, get 17 people on a bus and not have a few that just make an immediate and lasting imprint.  The older man and woman were Irish. He had a hairstyle that defies description and this was my view the entire day. But that wasn't the funniest....what was funny was that as the driver was talking and telling stories and describing what we were seeing, the woman was replying as if it were just he and she in the conversation:

(Driver with very thick Irish accent in a microphone) - "So, we are coming upon Dingle Bay..."
(lady) - "That's right"
(Driver) "....and there's a story ya know that's told..."
(lady) "yes, yes..."
(Driver) "'s about a sailor who left for America"
(lady) "well ya don't say!"
(Driver) "...and he wrote a song"
(lady)"that's right, yes"....

And on it went.  Her most common responses were "that's right" and "yes" was hilarious. Those of us in the first few rows who could hear her were all trying hard not to laugh out loud. It was hard. It bonded us immediately. 
The husband to the lady I just told you about. Serious comb-over. 
Had to wear my long raincoat most of the day - wind was harsh and just cool enough to make me enjoy a nice Baileys coffee halfway through the day.  Bought me a set of wellies...those are the rain boots that are so popular here, just love them! I've just about bought every silly souvenir in Ireland for everyone else, but the wellies are for me.

Last night Nancy and I stayed at the Failte Hotel in Killarney, but had serious internet issues so moved across the street today on my own. I'm at the Killarney Towers hotel and internet is working well, thank you very much. 

I decided that I'll stay here another day and so won't  be able to make the Cliffs of Moher this trip. Too much to cover. Tomorrow I'm taking a boat trip - and tomorrow night taking in a concert with Liam O'Connor - heard of him? Looking forward to that. 

Thanks for stopping in, I'll post again tomorrow. I'm off to a night of music and craic. Slainte from Ireland!