Ireland Memories

Saturday, June 7, 2008 - written by Gina Hesterberg

Today started great: sunny, warm, and beautiful (so much for that rainy, cloudy Ireland weather). After having great breakfast at the hotel, we were to be packed and on the bus by 9:00 a.m. However, due to an alarm malfunction, Kathy and Pam were missing when we did the head-count on the bus, and had to be awakened (oops!). To everyone’s amazement, it took them less than 10 minutes to get ready and packed and were on the bus by 9:15 (WOW! Very Speedy!).

We were on our way to Bunratty Castle, just a short drive away. Christopher was going through his usual list of “did you remembers” when Pam realized that she didn’t have her purse, which had her money and passport in it. Chris and Pat were told of the problem and then much to our surprise, Pat, our extremely fabulous bus driver, did a U-turn in the street, to which he was awarded a blistering round of applause. Pam hurried in and got her purse, and then we’re finally on our way to Bunratty Castle and Park.

Ireland pic 5

We had 2 and a half hours there, but it was so beautiful, it could’ve been longer. Just outside the castle before going in for the tour, we stopped for our first group photo. Once inside the castle, while waiting for our tour to begin, we sang a couple of songs, Nellie Bly and Irish Blessing, and sounded pretty darn good. Another tour group had joined ours for the castle tour and seemed to really enjoy our singing! During the tour of the castle we learned that although there had been some updating and restoration work, it was all original stone and authentic furniture. One of the more interesting things we learned about the castle was that it had a “murder hole,” just above the entrance, through which rocks and hot animal fat were thrown onto unsuspecting and unwanted guests.

The grounds were lovely and had several examples of buildings that would have been used long ago. We were to be back on the bus by noon, ready to head up to Galway. When we arrived at Galway, Pat drove us around the city, again displaying his remarkable prowess driving the bus. He took us down extremely narrow streets and took corners that even surprised the people walking down the sidewalks. Everyone was very impressed with Pat’s driving.

We stopped briefly to have a quick peek at “Big” St. Nicholas Cathedral. It was stunningly beautiful with its Galway Granite and stained glass throughout. A quickie that was well worth it! Next we were off to downtown where we were allowed an hour of freedom. We all scurried off in different directions, some of us seeking bookstores, some seeking ATM’s, some seeking eyeglasses repair, and some seeking music stands (by the way, thank you Jerry!!). While making my way back to the bus, I saw a small group of us that had stopped to help a guy whose car was stranded in an alley. Rollie, Howard, Jim, Frank, and Ken pushed his car from the alley to the street so he could get a jump start. Cindy and Pat even kept watch in the nearby travel agency office for a few minutes so the guy working there could help outside. Way to save the day, guys!

Ireland pic 6

Finally, we were off to check into the hotel, have dinner and get ready for our first concert at Saint Nicholas,( fondly called little St. Nicks’). Attendance was sparse but extremely enthusiastic. We sang well. Jean also performed, and it was such a complete joy to listen to her beautiful voice and witty stories again. What a treat to have someone with her outstanding talent perform with us, but best of all to travel and befriend us. (Thank you Jean!).

There was a very animated gal (lass) that knew the words to several of our songs and sang along with us. One song that she sang along with us was our “Song for the Mira,” and afterward gave us a standing ovation. After the concert, this gal spoke with Julie and several others. She told us that she was here, in Galway, studying violin; but her Grandma, who had just recently passed away, had lived in Nova Scotia, and she had spent several summers there; and it is one of her most favorite and cherished places on earth.

Another compliment we received about the show was from Patrick (who, by the way, listened to most of our performances). He told me that he has heard and sang the song “Molly Malone” all of his life, and he had NEVER heard a more beautiful version than the one we sang that night. Coming from an Irishman, that is truly a compliment. After the performance, several people decided to stay downtown and enjoy the Galway night life, and I am told that everyone had a really wonderful time.

Gina Hesterberg