Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tramore to Killarney

Reginald's Tower
Today, after fitful sleep - not Sue, she's sleeping like a log - we made an early call to Waterford, the home of Waterford Crystal, known the world wide. What isn't as well known is that but for a concerted effort by the town, it would have been no more. The company was devastated but the collapse of the Celtic Tiger and bankrupt, announced it would close. Virtually the whole town decided to keep the business running and trade their way to a dividend. It's too early to tell if they will be successful but you have to admire their determination.

While Sue took in much of the wonder of the beautifully cut glass, I wandered along the banks of the River Suir, getting some lovely early morning shots. Reginald's Tower caught my eye. This stone structure was probably built somewhere around 1260 when King John visited Waterford, which was then Ireland's most important port. It is all that remains of a stone wall which fortified Ireland's oldest city. A tower had first stood on the same spot, originally built in wood by Ivar (or Ragnall), the son of the Norse King of Waterford.

After Waterford, we had  a rather long leg into Blarney for lunch. 

Ignoring the offer to kiss the Blarney Stone because a) there were too many steps for Sue and b) I hardly required additional blarney, we found the nearest pub and spent most of our 90 minutes there. I tried my first Murphy's and what a good drop it is. Again, this alone time with each other was the best part of our day.

The last drive of the day took us from County Cork into County Kerry and an arrival at Killaney. Like much of what we have seen in Ireland, green fields, hedges for fence lines, old buildings, churches, funny looking sheep and cows ... that's when the road side trees and bushes permit a view, which isn't often. Late in the afternoon, we were taken in traps - small carts drawn by horses (sorry Sarah ... if it helps, we thought long and hard before going) - through the Killarney National Park and out to Ross Castle on Loch Leane. The park was all land donated to the Irish state by USA Senator Arthur Vincent in memory of his wife Maud. It was a very rustic, authentic ride, including the commentary by our Irish driver. His lines were rehearsed and well used but never the less entertaining. The smallest amount of gloss was removed as he took calls on his mobile but it was still a bright spot. At Ross Castle, we watched some black birds circling and landing on the old castle parapets.

At the hotel, I did the washing and Sue dolled up to go to the Irish National Folk Theatre. Would have loved it normally, but I needed some time to myself. As a result, when I came down to dinner and the only company in the restaurant were four of the biggest moaners on the tour, I waved politely and with no knowledge of Killarney walked out the door and turned left.

Lucky choice, for not far down the road I came to a pub with a single bar and two old blokes sitting at it. I order steak and ale pie and a Guinness and sat back to enjoy the solitude ... which was soon broken by an argument between the old blokes. After my pie left the plate, I went to the bar and ordered a second Guinness and made a comment about the old blokes and asked how often they came in.

"I've owned this pub for 35 years and they've come in every night except the night Patrick's wife died ... and that was because his sister wouldn't let him ... and they always argue about the same thing! Would you like to meet them?"

That was the start of two of the best hours of my life. One was 86 and the "not as old as him" and we talked about poetry and Ireland and Australia ... and on and on. One of them kept leading me along - much to the amusement of the people who had been filling the bar - and would then allow me to make a fool of myself. Toward the end, I caught him at it and called his bluff, at which he turned his back on me and wouldn't talk to me. His mate told me I had offended him. When I offered a Guinness by way of apology, her turned back to me with a big, toothless grin and said "I was hoping you might say that Oz."

It was fabulous circuit breaker as I have been starting to dislike the tour.

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