Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ireland 2011 - Chapter 7 - Heading Home

It was our last (*sniff*) day (*sniff*sniff*) with our friends, Mary and Bernadette, and our driver, Danny. Our 7-day tour was almost over, and my mom and I were sad to leave them and head out on our own once more. I was dreading having to get behind the wheel again, this time with a standard shift - I was used to being chauffeured around!

We had such a fantastic time on our Driftwood tour. If you ever plan to go to Ireland, check out their website - it's a great, stress-free way to see the country.

It was a misty, rainy day when we visited Kylemore Abbey but that didn't diminish the beauty of the place. Built as a home in 1867, it has been owned by Benedictine nuns since 1920 who ran it as a boarding school until just last year. What a lovely building and setting!

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland

We took a short walk along the lake to the beautiful Gothic chapel, which looks like a cathedral in miniature.

Gothic chapel at Kylemore Abbey

The interior is filled with delicately carved cream-colored sandstone.

Interior, Kylemore chapel

In the south transept, stained glass windows depict the virtues of Fortitude, Faith, Charity, Hope and Chastity.

Kylemore chapel

The 6-acre Victorian Walled Gardens at Kylemore Abbey have been restored in recent years, and we really enjoyed learning all about their history. Only plants and vegetables that were grown in Victorian times are grown in the garden today.

Victorian walled gardens at Kylemore

After a warming cup of tea in the Tea Room, we headed on our way, to Galway Airport where we said goodbye to our buddies, hoping to meet again some day.

Hurricane Debbie was heading for the western coast of Ireland by the time we hopped in our rental car and headed for our B&B in Salthill, just outside Galway. The winds were so wild that it made it hard to walk along the Promenade, Salthill's oceanside walkway.

The Promenade at Salthill - Look at those flags standing straight out in the wind!

It was fascinating watching people jumping off the old 1950s diving platform into the churning water below.

The diving platform at the Promenade, Salthill, County Galway

It seemed kinda crazy - I mean, the air temperature was in the 40s, the wind was whipping, and the water temp was frigid! While they were jumping into the bay in swimsuits ...

... I was dressed like this!

We stayed at Marless House, just a block from the water, and were greeted by the owner with afternoon tea. Curling up on the sofa in the parlor, after braving the blustery weather outside, was really cozy and nice.

We spent the next day up the coast, in Westport and toured that area a bit, but the hurricane was scheduled to make landfall there the next day, so we headed south again and decided to revisit the Burren before making our way to Dublin.

Near Ballyvaghan, County Clare

Hurricane Debbie was stirring up some good-sized waves along the coast.

I couldn't resist stopping again at Fanore Beach, the place where I had wanted to spend a whole day earlier in the trip. I had the beach entirely to myself this time, and it was wonderful! There's nothing that speaks to me more than a stretch of sandy beach and crashing waves.

Fanore Beach, County Clare

I just had to take a picture of my Merrel hiking shoes that I wore every day for two weeks. They were wonderful!

We said goodbye to the Burren for the last time and turned our car towards Dublin.

The Burren, near Doolin, County Clare

We spent our final day in Ireland touring downtown Dublin. The "Hop On Hop Off" bus tour was a lot of fun and a great way to see the city. We visited the National Museum of Ireland to see a special display of Celtic crosses, which have always fascinated me. These were castings of the originals. Their size and intricacy really impressed me.

Celtic crosses at the National Museum

Our final stop in Dublin was at Trinity College...

The bell tower at Trinity College

I was really anxious to see the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Four gospels, created around 800 AD by Celtic monks. I remembered being impressed when I studied it as an art major in college, but seeing a picture of a manuscript page projected on an 8' x 10' screen couldn't prepare me for seeing it in person. The pages are only 9" x 10" and the details are so intricate, it looks like some of them must have been painted with a single hair! Simply incredible!

The Four Evangelists, from the Book of Kells, photo courtesy of Brian Keller

We were up early for our flight home the next morning. I could hardly sleep anyway, I was so excited to get home! Two weeks was a l-o-n-g time to be away from home and family. We flew eight hours from Dublin to Chicago, had a three-hour layover, then another hour and a half flight to Pittsburgh. By the time we landed on our home turf, I was almost beside myself with anticipation.

When we hurried into baggage claim and I saw my daughter Sara, with baby Nicholas, sitting there waiting for us, I ran over, grabbed him, wrapped my arms around him, and hugged him tight. Nothing could feel better than that baby did at that moment. Sara laughed as I started bawling and saying, "I just missed him so much!!!"  It was so good to be home.

Mom and I, with Nicholas, home at last!

Have you enjoyed your virtual tour of Ireland? I hope so. It's been fun for me to look back through my photos and remember all the wonderful experiences we had. I'm still working on finishing up the sketches I did while we were there, and I'll be posting them sometime soon.

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On a final note, someone asked about the camera I used for my Ireland photos. It's the same one I use for everything, a simple point-and-shoot by Canon, the Canon Powershot SD4500IS. I used to carry around a larger, fancier camera, but decided I wanted the convenience of being able to keep my camera in a pocket or purse, so I did some research and decided on this one, mostly because it's really good in low-light conditions. I never need a flash when photographing Nicholas indoors, and rarely when shooting pictures of window treatments for my business.  It's fully adjustable and has lots of nice features and specialized settings.


  1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip. Your trip compared to my son's shows the difference between two adult women and six 20-year old guys... they can tell you where all the good pubs in Dublin are - and how late they are open! :0)


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