Before I begin, I would like to mention that my Mom told me my English is deteriorating, which I anticipated would happen eventually. Apologies for this.
Some pictures from the parts of the trip that you have already heard about…

Claddagh Hostel Common Room.


I will start at day two because I gave only a very quick summary of that day.
As you know, I got up in the morning to catch the Cliffs of Moher Bus Tour. I went with my lovely Erasmus girls, and the bus was full of young people, which gave the day energy. It was bright and sunny – a complete change from the night before. We drove through the Irish countryside, out of ‘civilization’ into pure air. To breathe real air! It is heaven.
Our first stop was at Ailwee Cave in the Burren. The Burren is very rocky – it is the worst land in Ireland for farming. This was the land that Oliver Cromwell gave to the Irish people when he was trying to ethnically cleanse the island. There are tons of stone walls and stone buildings, and I think I mentioned that the starkness of the land grows on you. There are apparently lots of plants that grow on the burren that are very unique, and entomologists work in Ireland for this reason.
I digress. Ailwee Cave – I did not go in, but we wandered around on the mountain above and found some of the plants that we knew were a bit out of place in such an environment.
A drawing I did of Elizabeth from Lille, France
We drove through lots of neat little towns, but the one that stuck out for me was Lisdoonvarna. This is the matchmaking town – for centuries, it has been holding matchmaking festivals to marry young people who would not normally meet because of travelling difficulties. There are still festivals, and there is still a matchmaker that lives in the town with old bachelor farmers on his books.

We stopped in Doolin for lunch at a pub. Doolin is known for traditional Irish music, and apparently is full of young backpackers in summer that come for the music. The town feels very welcoming, as most Irish towns do, and I found a music store in which I chatted with the owner and bought a CD (where else?).

Cliffs of Moher were lovely, and I produced some neat drawings there. It was a bit of a French experience, as well.
They have just built a huge, expensive interpretive centre, and the parking prices for coaches in the car park skyrocketed from 5E to 60E. The coach drivers are protesting, so they are dropping off their tours on the highway outside the car park and parking somewhere. It felt quite sketchy to be walking along the edge of a busy highway to get to the cliffs, but it was mostly just amusing.
Before we visited the cliffs, the bus driver told us that a few weeks ago, a woman who had her son on the tour crossed the fences and jumped off of the cliffs with her son. It kind of put a damper on the trip, but no one crossed the fence.
We stopped, on the way home, at a Megalithic Portal tomb. Apparently it is legend that if you have sex on the big stone in front of the tomb, it cures infertility. No one tried it. Amazing rock formations – this is how the whole ground looked!

In the evening, we went to the pub, and I already wrote the important parts of that evening.

That’s right… we went to the REAL King’s Head! Take that, winnipeg! 😉france (loire), germany, and australia

Fabrizio et moi. He was pretty hammed by this time, I think…

Also I dont think i mentioned that he has his masters in classical guitar, although he wrote his thesis on menotti opera. he also has a degree in general arts. (needless to say, he’s pretty old for a young guy…)

Germany, France and Finland doing a lame dance that the Aussi and I taught them… called ‘packing boxes’

In the morning, I went out for tea with the Erasmus girls and said a tearful goodbye. I know I already said this, but I am very fortunate to have met them. I will probably visit Claire, the girl from Nantes in the Loire Valley, at the beginning of April.
This was a travelling day. It was my plan to hitchhike to Limerick from Galway, but after about an hour of trying, I gave up and took the bus. I later found out that almost no one gives lifts anymore in Ireland.

I spent many hours on the bus, and it ended up being a complicated evening of switching busses and waiting for cabs while having pints of Murphy’s in non-touristy pubs in non-touristy towns. Finally, I was picked up by my artist friend, Dierdre, from a town called Kilmallock, and we went home to Kilfinnane.

Her and her daughter, Lia, live in a tiny little cottage with a stone floor, heated with a fireplace. It was a complete disaster – you could tell Dierdre was an artist. But it was the most cozy home I have ever visited, and they were perhaps the most generous people I have ever met. They fed me a dinner of beans, mashed potatoes, and white sausage, and we three women discussed men, and art, and living in general. The neighbours dropped in with their new puppy. I saw pictures of Dierdre’s work. I am amazed at the balance she achieves between beauty and making a statement.
She told me her story in a nutshell… she has always been an artist, and has studied it as well. She has never been married, but she told me that she met her soul mate and they lived in a castle in the country outside of Kilfinnane, with her daughter. She filled the castle with art, and wore many layers to keep warm. J Something happened in their relationship, and she had to leave the castle, but the two of them seem so content with what they have. They hurt, but they seem like the kind of people that really know how to live life well.
(this is a drawing i left with them that i made of an old man at the bus station in galway)
They had to leave early in the morning to go to work/school, but I was able to say goodbye to both of them. I had breakfast and when I stepped outside, I was so stunned at the beauty of their countryside that I cried. Pictures are not nearly accurate enough, but here they are. The air is so pure there, and you can smell the grass and the neighbouring farms.

I spent several hours exploring the area, walking around the town and down some country roads. I found a walking path that went up the mountain that I first saw when I stepped out the door in the morning. It winds through people’s backyards and through cow pastures. I wanted to be no where else – I was perfectly content. Finally – I had mud on my shoes and my lungs felt clean. I sang.

Well, I needed to catch the bus in town, which was a bit of an interesting process. There is no bus stop – it seems that one must find all of the other people on main street that are waiting for the bus, so as to form a group. The bus stops where the group is. Only in a small town!

I arrived in Callan, the town where Julia Zehr (CMU friend) is, at about 4:30pm. She is working in the L’Arche community there, which is a community built to care for adults with intellectual disabilities. Again, I felt honoured to be able to meet all of the people she is involved with, and I felt received so wholeheartedly into their community. At supper, Julia and I and a man named Michael had a theological discussion. Yes! I have not had one of these for months, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it. When I think about it, I do not know anyone in my immediate circle of friends that is a Christian, and it was a breath of fresh air to be with a fellow student of the Bible. And to pray out loud before the meal, and to read the bible out loud! It was beautiful.

That night, Julia took me to Ryan’s, the pub they frequent in Kilkenny. (Even though Julia is sick!) There was some traditional Irish music being played, which was ‘grand’, but I was mortified to find out that they had not even heard of Murphy’s, which is made in Cork! I did, however, enjoy my pint of whatever else they had on tap. (single tear.) It was a great time. The band was fun and at one point, several people in the pub, including myself, were singing along with one of the songs. It felt like a little community in that pub – all ages of people, men and women, and the pub was tiny and absolutely packed.

The next day, she gave me the ‘L’Arche Tour’ – I saw the workshop where they make candles, garden, and weave things, and while there I met one of the community members named Patty who shook my hand, asked if I was named Mary, and then promptly gave me one of the most enthusiastic hugs I have ever received from stranger. I then had to dodge a kiss. Definitely a moment to remember.
I saw the art centre (full of absolutely beautiful artworks)
and also the café that they have opened up recently, which is run by the community members and assistants alike. The café has a unique feel, because they do not exist to make a profit. Once again, an experience of hospitality and generosity.

We took a tour of Kilkenny Castle, which was really fun. The tour guide really knew his stuff, and he was good at throwing obscene amounts of dates and names out and making them seem interesting. However, he obviously did not have a way with children – at one point, it felt as though he was spitting his words at one little girl who was wandering near to something she was not to touch. That made for some amusement.
There were some really amazing artworks in the castle, but we were not allowed to bring cameras in. Boo hoo. Julia and I walked around the grounds of the castle, and I tried to climb the stone wall without much success. We went out for tea and it felt good to have such rich conversation. The conversation – this was the highlight of the trip to Callan for me.

We had a very low-key evening and watched Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst. I don’t recommend it. We saw a sign in the Supervalu window that Ben and Jerry’s Fair Trade Vanilla Ice Cream was on sale, but when we went to buy it for the movie, they were out. Too bad – that would be amazing!

I had a wonderful, warm sleep, and left feeling very rested in the morning.
Bus, more bus, plane, more bus, metro, and home!
It feels good to be back at home, and having to speak French again is probably good for me.
C’etait un tres bon repos.
Back to real life!

The conclusion is – I need to be around nature as much as I need to be around art, and as much as i need to learn and dance and sing. I need green and fresh air.

Do you love an apple? Do you love a pear?
Do you love a laddy with curly brown hair?
But still I love him, I can’t deny him
I will go with him wherever he goes.

When I was single, I wore a black shawl
Now that I’m married, I wear nothing at all
But still I love him, I can’t deny him
I will go with him wherever he goes.

He stood at the corner, a fag in his mouth
Two hands in his pockets, he whistled me out
But still I love him, I can’t deny him
I will go with him wherever he goes.

He borrowed some money to buy me a ring
But he and the jeweller, they went off on a fling
But still I love him, I can’t deny him
I will go with him wherever he goes.

He bought me a handkerchief, red, white and blue,
But before I could wear it, he tore it in two
But still I love him, I can’t deny him
I will go with him wherever he goes.

There’s bread in the oven, there’s cheese on the shelf
If you want any more, you can sing it yourself
But still I love him, I can’t deny him
I will go with him wherever he goes.

Do you love an apple? Do you love a pear?
Do you love a laddy with curly brown hair?
But still I love him, I can’t deny him
I will go with him wherever he goes.