Saturday, June 2, 2012

Farewell to Ireland

Map picture


For those of you who have been following our progress on a map, you know that much of our voyage so far has been a complete circle of Ireland. We did start our journey in the south of England, and travelled to “land’s end” or The Isle of Scilly at the southern tip of England, but from that point onward, we slowly worked our way over to Waterford and from there travelled around the southern end of Ireland and all the way up its west coast. We then travelled back towards the UK, visiting the islands of Staffa and Iona, before once again returning to Ireland and the city of Glasgow. Our new cruise then went southward to the Isle of Man, and from there back to Dublin, again in Ireland. So while we did touch places other than Ireland, we also did in fact go all the way around Ireland and I can truly say that I have seen lovely Ireland from top to bottom. Today we are now headed northward going onward in our travels, and we have seen our last stop yesterday in Ireland.

So let me go back to the first day of this, our second cruise. The ship did a “turnaround day” at the port city of Greenock, Scotland. We docked early, and for the entire day there was a constant line of trucks bringing supplies to the ship. We were told that enough food and fuel was loaded onboard to provide the ship for two months. Twenty Nine passengers, including ourselves, were staying on for the next cruise, and so for the day’s activities the ship provided a tour into the nearby city of Glasgow, and in particular a visit to Kelvington Art Gallery and Museum, reputed to be among the best in Ireland. DSC01035Our tour was 4 hours in length, but the drive into Glasgow from the port was around an hour each way so not much time was left to actually “visit” the city. DSC01007Therefore, we made a quick stop at the Cathedral, and drove around for a few minutes before coming to the museum, where we had an hour to tour on our own. Before we knew it, we were back on the bus and headed to the ship – so much for Glasgow.

I was excitedly awaiting our next stop on the Isle of Man! Lisa and I love the hilarious little movie “Waking Ned Devine,” and I knew that it was filmed on the island. So, of course I was expecting to see this quaint little Irish village as depicted in the film, and of course, that is not what I found. The Isle itself is quite large and very modern. The main city is Douglas, while the film was made in the small hamlet of Cregneash on the opposite side of the island.

The main attraction upon our arrival was the upcoming TT Races. Now I had not a clue what that meant, but I was soon to learn that TT Race is the most prestigious international motorcycle race in the world, and has been an annual event in the island for over 100 years. The race is run in a “time-trial” formula, with bikers departing every 10 seconds, and the best time over the course becomes the winner. Most of the island’s main roads are closed for race activities, and all over the island viewing stands were erected, all poles and mailboxes wrapped in padding, and throughout the island, thousands of motorcycles were riding the course for fun. We had arrived right in the middle of “Practice Week” wherein each evening at 6pm the course was closed to the drivers, who were then allowed to make a practice run. Many of the people on our ship went ashore to watch the events and said that it was an incredible sight. During our bus tour, we drove much of the course, and I can tell you that the roads were very narrow and winding. When I learned that the prior evening the current world champion had run the course at an average speed of 131mph, I was dumbfounded. We were in Douglas on Thursday, and the races would take place the following week. Every ferry that arrived was totally full of bikers, and all over the island almost every open field was home to a small village of tents for the guests to stay. We were told that every flight into the island was booked full, and that extra flights had been added all week. This weekend is also a National Holiday because of the Queen’s birthday celebrations, so people had a very long weekend to enjoy their trip to the island.

Our first tour of the day was a four hour bus ride, which is what I call a “spam in a can” tour. We drove, and we drove, and we drove some more until even I started to fall asleep. The morning had dawned overcast with a light rain, and it stayed that way all morning. I can tell you it is difficult to take pictures while holding an umbrella and trying to stay dry, much less walk on the slippery rocks without falling yet again. Our four hour ride included just two stops. The first was to visit the little village of St John’s and the tiered grass top hill known as “Tynwald Hill.”DSC01047 Every July government officials and the public at large gather here to promulgate all the laws enacted in the preceding year. This event has taken place at this location annually for well over 1,000 years, allowing the Isle of Man to claim that it is the oldest self-governing nation in the world! Nearby is a small but beautiful church, which we visited to get out of the rain.

Our one, and only other stop, was in the small mining village of Laxey to see the world’s largest water wheel. DSC01072Built in 1854, it was designed to pump water from the mines below, but today it is merely a tourist attraction. After a short visit, it was back to the bus and off to the ship for lunch.

The afternoon tour left at 2pm and was another four hour bus ride. Again, I was very excited to see the little village where the movie was shot, which I remember was called “Tulleymore.” Once again, we drove and we drove and we drove some more to finally arrive at the small hamlet of Cregneash. Sadly, there is no “Tulleymore,” that was just for the movie. Instead there is this small community which clings to the old ways in an effort to preserve the way in which people lived in the early 1900’s.DSC01088 It is a beautiful little community of white washed, stone-walled, thatch-roofed crofter’s cottages. After walking for almost an hour, I finally located just one location which I recognized from the movie, the little village church. DSC01104So a few pictures later and back to the bus. We then made a brief stop to explore an old Castle, Castle Rushen. It was really of no interest or me and so I walked around the harbor and small town looking for some photographs. Then we again boarded the bus for the long ride back to the ship, which because of the race took a very long time to get through the long lines of traffic.

Yesterday the ship docked in downtown Dublin for the day; two tours were offered. One for a 9 hour drive into the countryside to see some old ruins, a rebuilt castle and a garden, all sounding terribly familiar to what we had been doing for the last two weeks. The thought of 9 hours on a bus was too much and so we opted for a 4 hour city tour of Dublin, which turned out to be quite interesting, even though we had been here before. Dublin is the Capital of the Irish Republic, and is a very modern and beautiful city, rich in 18th century architecture. We visited Trinity College, which is Ireland’s Oldest, founded in 1592.DSC01170 Housed in the magnificent old Library is the famous Book of Kells, a hand illuminated manuscript if the Gospels. The book is believed to have been written around 520 AD. We continued on to visit Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, a protestant church, started in 1191 and rebuilt in the early 13th Century, and then it was back on the bus for a drive around the city. Fortunately, the bus allowed people to depart in the city and take a taxi back to the ship, an option we gratefully accepted. That allowed us to visit the National Art Gallery of Ireland, and to have lunch there. A word on lunch; it was just a standard museum cafeteria, but the food was downright awesome. Soon the huge room was filled with workers from nearby offices, so we obviously picked a popular place, just by pure chance.

The museum, which was undergoing an expansion project, had only part of its collection on display, but clearly they were the signature items and well worth a visit. Afterwards we walked a long way to find a camera shop so that I could get a cover lens for my new camera and then it was back to the ship.

It seems as if it has been a long three days, but it has been fun. I will try to get the pictures up later today, and that will at least catch me up, however briefly.


No comments: