Thursday, July 04, 2013

Ireland Day 7: Yeats Country

I managed to explore a little bit of Bundoran early Wednesday morning. I found the post office in town, and managed to get a couple of disposable cameras, as my camera battery finally died. Naturally that is the one charger I forgot to bring.

Today's trip was to Yeats country. We started at Drumcliffe, driving past Benbulben Mountain, which is breathtaking. While we drove along, Niamh gave me a short lesson in Irish place names. Anything with "Bally" refers to a town, "Dun" refers to a fort, and "Kil" refers to a church. Town centers are referred to as "an lar".

Drumcliffe was incredibly beautiful. I half expected Yeats' grave to be hidden among the other headstones, but it is right near the church. The church has swan door handles, and if you go inside, you have the opportunity to write down the names of people that you would like the rector to pray for. Outside there is an authentic Celtic Cross, that is also a Christian High Cross, with a carving depicting Adam and Eve and the fall of man. Niamh told me that she once photographed it at sunset on a clear day, and it was spectacular. You can see Benbulben very clearly from the graveyard, and can get some magnificent shots of the mountain. Yeats specifically asked to be buried here, and it's not hard to see why.

We next headed off to the falls at Glencar. Supposedly you can see fairies at the falls. We only took a quick walk up and back, because we had an appointment to take a boat tour on Lough Gill. In the parking lot was an ice cream truck. As I mentioned before, ice cream cones are called "99s", and generally are smaller than the massive American ice cream cones, and have a small flake of chocolate stuck in the side. They are made with fresh cream, and are so much better than any ice cream I've had in the states. We had to enjoy one before getting back on the bus.

At Lough Gill, there are the remains of Parke Castle, and you can take a boat tour around the Lough (Lake). Within this lake area is Innisfree, the isle made famous by Yeats' poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree". They provided us with Lyons gold label tea and some scones with Irish butter as we sailed around the lake for an hour. The guide pointed out various sites, including Innisfree and the cairn at the top of the mountain where Queen Maeve is supposed to be buried--upright, so she can still keep an eye on Ireland. There is also a stone "giant" laying in the mountains with his head in Leitrim and his feet in Sligo. The guide also recited Yeats' poetry as we went along. The "Stolen Child" was recited more than once on the trip, and sticks in my mind:

Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand

For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand

We took a quick tour of Parke Castle when we got off the boat, as admission was free that day. After taking a group photo and passing a retinue of cute Irish boys, we got back on the bus and headed to Sligo for some shopping. Sligo is another town with a bad reputation that is not deserved. The town is absolutely gorgeous, and the point of the trip was to do some shopping. A couple of us stopped at Hargadon's Pub, where we sampled some Franciscan Well Shandon Stout. Like most microbrewed stouts, it had a bit of a coffee flavor, and was excellent. I finally got myself a new Aran wool sweater from Dooley's, and was able to use my Fexco card, so I can reclaim the tax when I go back to the airport. VAT is very high in Ireland and Britain, so it's worth it if you can do it.

We returned to Bundoran, and I went to dinner with a few people from the trip at Madden's which has excellent food and service. I had to have an Irish coffee, now that I knew it was an Irish invention and not an American one. I went back to the hotel, and ran into Bill, who asked me to pop by Brennan's pub down the street. Brennan is owned by Nan and Patricia, two older ladies whose family has run that pub for 3 generations. Their niece apparently teaches at Drew, and is an assistant department chair at Kean. They were very sweet, and we stayed at talked to each other and the locals until it was nearly closing time. All in all, it was the most satisfying day of the trip so far. But there are still another 5 full days to go.

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