when Irish eyes are smiling

We flew up to Edinburgh, Scotland for a brief visit to the famous castle and royal street.  After an evening of rest at a smaller castle turned Marriott, we ventured into town in our EuroCar. 

“I have directions to the city center.  You get us to the castle,” my husband informed me.  As we approached downtown he handed me a limited map without the castle depicted.

“Umm.  The castle is huge and visible from anywhere in town,” I told him as I remembered it from a decade ago.  Hoping it still was as I recalled in my fleeting afternoon stopover.

He got a little frustrated but sure enough as we turned a corner the monstrous mid-evil fortress loomed above us.

Saved, I thought.

We wandered around taking in all the history until our stomach’s warned us to eat.  Lunch took longer than usual and four ciders later our pub food arrived.  I actually had veggie sausage and mash.  It was nothing to write home about, but I had to try it. With full bellies and a buzz we shopped for Scottish souvenirs.  Kilts, cashmere and trinkets lined the shops.  We headed back to the hotel, bags in tow.  My luggage was multiplying and we hadn’t even arrived in Ireland yet.

The cool Scottish countryside and my new audiobook “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” greeted me during my morning run.  Heavenly and refreshing.

Our drive through England and Wales to the ferry was a long one, but beautiful nonetheless.  In retrospect it would have been better to fly, especially considering we only had four days in Ireland.  We stopped by a pub in Wales that hadn’t seen foreigners in quite a while.  The cook even came out to greet us, the strangers, with a smile.  A sorry version of “Deal or No Deal” played on the TV.  Instead of models the show had everyday local folks with boxes, not briefcases.  It was comical. “Open the box.”  The box holders stood around an unembellished table. A small box with hand painted numbers was opened.  The banker called.  No music.  No drama.  Deal or No Deal on a budget.

The first night in Dublin was relaxing with some traditional Irish music and good pub grub near our hotel.  The Irish are some of the friendliest people  in the world,  they’re warm and welcoming and almost always want to share a story or ballad.

We  ambitiously drove towards Galway, stopping at a lively village called Tullamore for the best lunch of our adventure with excellent food and atmosphere.  We inquired about a hotel in Galway since this was the only place where we didn’t book previous arrangements.  My husband’s requirements were, “a castle on a golf course, near the ocean with a spa and a good restaurant.”  To my surprise a local resident suggested Glenlo Abbey without hesitation.  It’s a five-star hotel in a historic abbey (OK, not quite a castle) with all the above amenities.  When we arrived at the abbey I pointed out to my husband that the hotel was voted “a best world hotel, 2010.”  We were able to get two rooms for the following night.  In the mean time we found a decent hotel on the Atlantic Ocean for a night.  It seemed like a motel 6 in comparison to what we became accustomed to this vacation.  But it was nice with views of the bay and included a breakfast buffet.

Barb and I laughed about passing the perfect castle during our drive to Galway and the boys didn’t even want to stop for a photo.  It looked like something from Excalibur.  Beautiful in all its glory. Our GPS took us off course, along winding roads and the husbands worried about making it to Galway by nightfall.  The roundabouts were endless.  “But, it’s a perfect castle,” we pleaded.  “Just turn around for a photo.”  They continued navigating in the front of the car as we giggled in our momentary spotting of Excalibur.  Scenes from Monte Python’s Holy Grail flashed through my head.

Glenlo Abbey is a very unique hotel with all the furnishings from the time period.  The side of the hotel had a smoking section in a caboose from the historic Orient Express.  A larger section of the train was converted into a five-star dinning experience.  History was abound.  We chilled out for the night and the following day drove to the wild coast of Connemara.

We passed wheat colored hills dotted with patches of green grass, lakes, pine trees and rock outcrops.  We joked about being in the region where rocks grow. Sheep painted pink, or blue or sometimes both filled the countryside. We discussed the meaning of the painted sheep.  Sheep paintball? Google explains that in Ireland they paint sheep to correspond with the mating season.  The sheep painted both colors were the lucky ones, being mated twice.

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