Bathed in Positivity

I’m taking a short break from my series about my trip to Ireland in order to infuse a little much needed positivity into the world.

As I walked around the neighborhood the other day, I ran across some lovely, positive messages from the people who live around me.

Sometimes we just need a few brief messages to bring a smile to our day!

From the Highest Cliffs to the Famous River

Our trip around Ireland was nearing its completion, but the surprises that Ireland had in store for us didn’t stop just because we left the coast. After our phenomenal find on St. John’s Point, we received yet another great tip for a spot off the beaten path. If I learned one thing from this trip, it is how helpful innkeepers are at helping you find the “ins” in Ireland. So many times we would have driven past amazing sights had we not been instructed to go “a wee bit down the road” and find something amazing!

Our innkeepers at Harbour Lights were no exception — I don’t remember how the topic came up, but they told us we should check-out the “highest cliffs in all of Europe.” And of course we had already been to the Cliffs of Moher — but no! That was not it at all. Though the Cliffs of Moher were very breathtaking and awe-inspiring, those were not the highest cliffs in all of Europe.

Sliabh Liag – or “Slieve League” in American – are three times as high as the Cliffs of Moher, and though the cliffs at Sliabh Liag aren’t as sheer as the Cliffs of Moher, they left me dizzy with the immensity of the place.

If you happen to be traveling in Donegal- Sliagn Liag is a must see– beautiful, and far less trafficked by tourists (which is a huge plus in my book).

Like so many times before, it was difficult to leave a place so impressive, but we started to slowly make our way back to the east side of Ireland where our plane would be leaving in three days time.

Cutting inland, we drove through mountains and past beautiful lakes on our way to the lovely town of Carrick-on-Shannon. This was probably one of my favorite little towns that we stayed in. The name comes from the fact that the town is amazingly situated right on the River Shannon – a river with a glorious history and even more fascinating mythology. The Shannon runs from Shannon Pot in County Cavan to the Shannon Estuary in County Limerick where it dumps into the sea.  It is the longest river in Ireland (over 360 km, or 224 miles long), and it was the source of much joy that day!

Our bed and breakfast that night was Hollywell Country House.

The flyer from Hollywell

Like several other places we stayed, I’m not sure if it is still a bed and breakfast. It is listed on TripAdvisor, but the last review was left in 2014, and they do not have their own website.  However, when we were there, it felt like we were staying in a storybook house.

The proprietors and me at the front door

Hollywell was named after the owner’s dog, Holly pictured below.

The house itself was absolute perfection – my father described it as looking like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice would come walking out the front door. The proprietors were very kind people — as were nearly all of the innkeepers we encountered. And they had a very inviting sitting area where my mom found an Irish picture book that she nearly stowed away in her luggage because she liked it so much (just kidding, Mom… or am I?).

Our room at Hollywell

The breakfast room

Me in the sitting room

Mom contemplating how she can steal that Irish picture book 😁

The view from Hollywell into Carrick-on-Shannon

After checking in at Hollywell, we walked across a bridge into the town and enjoyed walking around and going into the shops. My purchase of the day was a copy of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra because I had just finished Julius Caesar a few days prior. My parents razed me for being such a nerd that my “souvenir” was Shakespearean play which most people my age wouldn’t go near. But… I was/am an odd duck – I’m not ashamed to admit it!

The innkeepers told us that you could take a river cruise on the Shannon, so that is exactly what we did. It was the perfect day for it! The sun was shinning, and it was so warm I rolled up my sleeves on the boat ride. The boat was small, but we got seated near the front, and thoroughly enjoyed our time.

The dock

On the river

Getting some sun on the river cruise

We even passed the bed and breakfast on the boat trip, and my dad got a picture of it from the river.

Hollywell from the River Shannon

Hollywell from the river

As our time in Ireland was coming to a close, there was a certain melancholy with us that evening. I feared that though I felt such a visceral connection to Ireland that I might never get back to this place that had stolen my heart and showed me a beauty that I didn’t know was possible. And if you had told 18 year old me (in 1997) that I wouldn’t be back until 2016 I would have probably cried.

I hope you enjoyed the blog this week. If you are new and haven’t read the other posts in this series, I’ve linked them below in chronological order.

Thanks for stopping by! Next Monday’s post will wrap up my first trip to Ireland, and then I will have to decide what adventure to take you all on next.


The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

Dublin: love at first sight

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

Glendalough: My First Love

Waterford: More than Crystal

Blarney: Everything but Kissing the Stone

Kenmare and the Ring of Beara

From the Disappointing to the Magnificent

In Shadows and Sunshine

Surprised by Kylemore Abbey

Happy Little Accidents – St. John’s Point

The Things We Grieve

So many things have been lost in these uncertain times. From loved ones to the simple joys of going to a coffee shop to sit, drink, and read.

The ease of going to the grocery store is long gone- replaced with anxiety and empty shelves. Classrooms and hallways filled with lockers are empty now. Students who dreaded the daily routine now wish for some semblance of normalcy.

I’ve felt acutely aware of all of these things and have mourned various things – from death of a family friend to the smiles of my students every morning.

However, for some strange reason I got a gut punch today for something seemingly simple. My phone sent me a reminder that I purchased a ticket to see a play- and all of a sudden my mood took a nose dive.

Flashback to Valentine’s Day. As a single mom who has been terminally single for the last 11 years, the day has always been a struggle to maintain even a small iota is self-esteem. So this year I decided that I would “treat myself”— spoil myself by buying a ludicrously expensive (for me) single ticket to see a play later in the year. It was a novelty to spend so much on myself and dare to go to a play solo and to a play that I’d never seen before- one of my favorite- Hamlet.

I’ve read the play multiple times and seen nearly every movie version released after 1980– even spoof movies like Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead. And though I have seen over 15 other Shakespeare plays on the stage, I have yet to see Hamlet.

And then came the virus. But I said to myself, This will all be over by the end of April. And then schools shut down. And businesses. And I finally got the email mid-March that the theater was canceling the show. I was sad then. But then I forgot about it.

Until I got a notification on my phone for the show. I’d forgotten to delete it off of my calendar, and just like that, I was suddenly grieving the loss of Hamlet.

So much of our lives have changed. So much has been taken from us. But we’ll be ok. I’ll see Hamlet eventually- and I will even enjoy it more as I remember the time I lost that chance.

We’ll make it through this. We will. And we will be stronger for it.

Happy Little Accidents – St. John’s Point

On this very epic journey of Ireland, the first of many for me, my parents had planned the itinerary months in advance, booking bed and breakfasts along the route we planned to take around the coast of Ireland and finally crossing through the middle, back to Dublin. One night’s stay was left unplanned, though. According to the itinerary my mother typed up, our next evening was supposed to be in Letterkenny, Ireland (no affiliation to the Canadian sitcom that makes no sense to me at all).

When preparing for this blog series I looked at the itinerary and did a double take – a hostel? We most definitely did NOT stay in a hostel. In fact, as I was drafting the different posts for the series, I wrote on this page (it has since been deleted):

A hostel? There is no way we stayed in a hostel– I have zero memory of this. Must ask the parents.

I love my parents dearly, but they are not really the hostel staying kind of people.  And after consulting my journal, I found no reference to Letterkenny or a hostel.

So, as usual the Sunday before a blog post, I talked with my parents about the next leg of our journey in July of 1997. Nope. No hostel. They couldn’t remember why we didn’t go to Letterkenny, but when I read in my journal just before writing this, I remembered why we left. In the summer of 1997 (and July specifically) tensions were growing in Northern Ireland. Protests and riots were in the news, and Letterkenny was very near the border with Northern Ireland, so we decided not to go. Instead, we just decided to drive along the coast and see what we could find.

After leaving Ballina in County Mayo, we continued north up the western coast of Ireland – what I now know as the Wild Atantic Way – we encountered amazing little towns – like Sligo (for more information on the beauty of Sligo, read this blog!).

The most serendipitous part of our trip was happening upon Saint John’s Point in County Donegal. I’m not sure how we happened upon it, but I think we just saw a sign and were like Hey, let’s see what this is. And wow…

We stayed at a beautiful little bed and breakfast called Harbour Lights (no longer a bed and breakfast) – and from the front lawn you could see the water to the north and the south– that’s how narrow the peninsula was at that point. I wrote in my journal that night sitting on the stone fence looking out over the water.

The evening was magical. We decided to just get some groceries at a local store in Dunkineely and have a picnic out on the tip of the peninsula where there was a beautiful view of the ocean and lighthouse.

The evening at the lighthouse was phenomenal. We sat on our jackets and ate our sandwiches and talking. The weather was perfect. To top it off, as we were walking we saw whales jumping and playing just off the coast – probably a quarter of a mile from where were were standing. At first we couldn’t believe what we were seeing – but it was obvious, they were much too big to be fish or even dolphins — it was a pod of whales going out to sea. There were other people out on the point and we kind of looked at each other to see if we were seeing the same thing.

The coastline was breathtaking – watching the waves crash against the rock with the green of the grass and stark white of the walls around the lighthouse and the lighthouse itself.  We walked around for quite some time, and stayed around to watch the resplendent sunset well after 10pm. The colors were breathtaking.

As Bob Ross would have said, this adventure was a happy accident. And much like several of the other places we visited on this trip, I truly never wanted to leave that spot.


Other posts in this series:

The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

Dublin: love at first sight

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

Glendalough: My First Love

Waterford: More than Crystal

Blarney: Everything but Kissing the Stone

Kenmare and the Ring of Beara

From the Disappointing to the Magnificent

In Shadows and Sunshine

Surprised by Kylemore Abbey

 

Surprised by Kylemore Abbey

Leaving County Clare was not easy. Seeing the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher and the phenomenal wildlife coupled with the raw beauty of the coast made it difficult to believe that Ireland could continue to amaze me in more intense ways than it already had.

Oh, how little did I understand Ireland.

As we drove north toward Ballina (County Mayo), we passed through some beautiful landscapes.

We stopped for lunch in Gallway, which I wasn’t very impressed with at the time. I described it in my journal as being “like most cities” with “chain restaurants with their own parking lots.” I’m sorry, Galway! My more recent trip hit me very differently and I enjoyed the scenery very much. However, as an 18 year old in 1997, I found Galway to be very tedious.

Excerpt from my journal about Galway

Our weather this day was beautiful – sunny and warm. The sun does just as much for the beauty of Ireland as the rain. The greens in contrasts with the deep blues of lakes in the valleys of hills and mountains dotted with white sheep seems to shine even brighter beneath the clear skies. We drove most of the day, but I didn’t mind because of the beauty of the scenery.

While we were driving we caught sight of something that made us literally stop in our tracks – Kylemore Abbey. We decided to investigate, knowing nothing about this beautiful castle in the middle of nowhere on the edge of a lake. We were surprised to find out that Kylemore Abbey is one of the more famous places in Ireland.

Originally the home of a wealthy family, the castle eventually became the home of nuns who were displaced during World War 1, and they’ve been there ever since. Indiana connection: The have a partnership with the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana) for their study abroad program!

About a mile up the mountain behind the abbey is a giant statue of Christ with his arms outstretched, as if inviting people to the abbey. Unfortunately we couldn’t go up there because we needed to get to Ballina before dark, so we left fascinated by what we had happened upon.

In Ballina we stayed at Ashley House bed and breakfast which appears to still be operational, though it does not have it’s own website. TripAdvisor has a listing, though with very little information.

The host told us that Ballina was having a festival and that evening was “international night”, so we went into town. The center was blocked off to traffic and different sections were set off as different “countries.” The US section had classic cars from the 50s and a miniature Statue of Liberty. I don’t remember this, but my mother told me that they even had “hotdogs”– but they didn’t taste ANYTHING like actual hotdogs (which is probably a good thing in my opinion). France had an Eiffel Tower and can-can dancers. Germany had an oompah band and copious amounts of lederhosen. It was quite a night!

I checked online and Ballina still has the Salmon Festival– and as of April, it is still planned for the second week of July. Dear Ballina, I hope that you get to have your festival this year because I enjoyed my one night of it!


Other posts in this series:

The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

Dublin: love at first sight

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

Glendalough: My First Love

Waterford: More than Crystal

Blarney: Everything but Kissing the Stone

Kenmare and the Ring of Beara

From the Disappointing to the Magnificent

In Shadows and Sunshine