Ireland Memories

Friday, June 6, 2008 - written by Resa Mayor

Ireland pic 3

It was 7:50 a.m., and as I awakened bleary-eyed from 2 hours or so of sleep, I heard the Aer Lingus flight attendant announce that it should be a pleasant day in Dublin at a mere ‘46’ degrees Fahrenheit. I noticed Shauna Hausle behind me, already eagerly snapping photos from her window seat, and I too looked out, noticing a coastline coming into view. There was a lighthouse on a peninsula, followed by rolling hills blanketed with velvety green fields outlined with groves of darker green trees. In the distance I could see mountains, blue-gray shadows along the horizon. Before long, there were cattle and sheep dotting the hills. This first impression of Ireland was as picturesque and as perfectly serene as I had hoped it would be.

After a brief landing in Dublin, our plane headed on to our destination of Shannon. We anxiously left the plane and were greeted by some wonderfully familiar faces. Rollie and Cindy Jean, looking rested and happy to see us, from their recent visit to England, were joined by our dear friend, Jean Redpath.

We were soon introduced to our tour director, Chris Fox, and driver Patrick. Chris laid out the day’s plans, and we soon were introduced again to the beautiful countryside, this time from a closer roadside perspective. Cameras began clicking from both sides of the bus, trying to capture a bit of the glorious greenness of the landscape.

On the way to Galway from Shannon, we passed through a small town of Ennistymon. (How you pronounce it, I couldn’t tell you.) But Chris told us it would be like many of the small villages we would encounter with its pubs outnumbering the churches, and storefronts stitched together, brightly painted with whatever colors of paint might have been available.

It wasn’t long till all of us passengers began to realize that we had no ordinary bus driver on this trip. Pat maneuvered about as gracefully as one could, with a 30 ft or so long bus, through the winding narrow streets of the town. But as he approached a corner that required a left hand turn that must have been about a 75- 80 degree angle, I think we all held our breath. People on the sidewalks immediately cleared a path, and with barely inches to spare, Pat rounded the corner to a relieved and cheering bus. But little did we know, this would not be the last time he would show his fearless talents.

Ireland pic 4

As promised we arrived late morning to the Cliffs of Moher. As we stepped off of the bus it was definitely windier and colder than it had been in Shannon. This was June 6th, right? I was glad we weren’t visiting in a cooler season. Cold, a bit hungry and needing to use the facilities, Brenda Rucker and I opted for the virtual reality exhibit and lunch first, climbing to the top of the cliffs second.

As breathtaking a view that the cliffs were from a distance, they were all the more magnificent the higher we climbed. Scenes from “Wuthering Heights” came to mind. Amazingly, I warmed up quickly as I climbed the many steps up the cliff side. About half way up we were happy to see that there was a harp player set up to entertain us on a stone landing. She was not only an accomplished musician, but this brief concert also gave us an excuse to catch our breath and rest our aching muscles. We snapped a few photos of crashing waves against the rocks and circling gulls. We continued on to the top, and were definitely rewarded with even more fantastic vistas of cliffs and sea. This was a lasting impression that would be recalled in my mind’s eye later in the week, when we sang “Away from the Roll of the Sea”.

Realizing that limited time remained to view the gift shops and visitor center, we hurried back and then on to the bus. We journeyed ahead to Galway, where we were thrilled to know a welcoming bed awaited those of us who opted for an afternoon nap before dinner, at the Oakwood Arms.

The Oakwood Arms would come to be the hotel of our trip that most closely represented what I would have imagined a country inn in Ireland to be. With its rich, warm wood tones, its coffered ceilings, vaulted archways, and stained glass windows, we definitely could feel the allure and charm of the Ireland that was awaiting us.

Resa Mayor