Ireland November 2016
Let me introduce you to my very dear friend Peggie, whom you might already come across in some of my other blogs about KILIMANJARO. Peggie and I have been friends since 1996 when we first met starting high school together in Cape Town, South Africa. Peggie was a recent immigrant from Hong Kong along with her family, and I had moved to Cape Town from the Northern parts of South Africa. Peggie and I had cross over classes and were good friends, but didn’t often socialize together at that stage. One of my first memories of Peggie: was a biology assignment. We had to plant sunflower seeds and successfully grow a sunflower plant. I will never forget the majestic Sunflower plant Peggie brought to school oneday and I stared at in in awe! It was huge!! My sunflower plant was a wispy pathetic looking stalk with barely enough chlorophyll to classify it as a living organism. My barely limp Sunflower hung its droopy head in sadness while Peggie’s magnificent sunflower beamed with yellow brightness across the room. I was so jealous.
Yes, I promise I’ll get to story of us in Ireland soon ;)
Peggie left our school mid-way through high school to attend another school in the area and we lost contact over the next few years until the advent of Facebook! So, we slowly connected again and said a few hellos in passing on Facebook.
Come around to 2011 and Peggie decides to randomly wake up one morning and make a great big announcement on Facebook that she 'feels like climbing Kilimanjaro, who’s with me?!' Me being me of course, says 'I will!'
and so, that amazing adventure begins so please read all about I here KILIMANJARO
Back to our Irish Adventure!
After about 6 months of being in Ireland - isolated and away from everything and everyone we knew, it started to get pretty lonely. Peggie started to talk about the fringe possibility of visiting me sometime in the late fall of 2016. Eventually Peggie phoned one day and said she has seen this amazing flight price with Ethiopian airlines and should she come? My answer of course was 'YES!' - Well to be honest I was at first in disbelief and I thought she was joking around! Poor Peggie - took her quite some time to convince me that she is coming for real! And it all happened so fast. I had an itinerary in mind as we had travelled around quite a few areas in Ireland already and I knew some of the best spots. We were on budget so I spent some time looking for the best deals for the activities we wanted to do. Peggie booked a car online and left the rest of the organizing up to me.Over the years as our friendship got so strong that we are now practically family. I am Peggie’s White Chinese sister, and she is my Chinese White sister...! In 2016 myself, my husband, daughter and mom all immigrated to the Republic of Ireland. This happened for a myriad of reason that I will discuss one day in an opinion section of this website, so please tune in from time to time.
I begged Peggie to first make a stop to some of our local supermarkets back in South Africa to buy some of our favorite South African treats that we really started to miss and crave. So, Peggie went to the supermarket and kept sending me snapshots of the particular food items we wanted to verify if that’s the correct item! I am very grateful for her efforts.
The day finally arrived and Peggie set off from cape Town for Dublin airport. She arrived early in the morning at Dublin and picked up the car and drove on the long highway straight down to the area that we live in County Clare. Peggie arrived at exactly 9am at our doorstep and we were dancing from one foot to the other in anticipation of her arrival! Excitedly I opened the door and there was my dearest friend in all her smiles with a big welcoming hug! I hadn’t seen Peggie for almost a year and a half at that point, so it truly was a great reunion. My Mom hadn’t met Peggie yet so she was also thrilled to meet her! My daughter Lisa, was absolutely ecstatic but more so probably because of the potential treats Peggie had hidden in her 2 massive suitcases! After smiles and greetings and settling in, Peggie offloaded a suitcase worth of amazing treats, sweets, biscuits, crisps, biltong and wine from our native South African land. It was so nostalgic for us to sit down with a cup of tea and a well-deserved rusk from South Africa.
Not wanting to waste a single second of the precious yet short time we had together, we ambled our way up to our local little supermarket to show Peggie the delights of the farmer’s market held every Friday. Traditional Irish fare, and home cooked goods served with open air traditional Irish music. After purchasing few Irish breads and preserves, we made our way home to have a very well deserved lunch. Dragging ourselves away from the riveting conversation and story swopping, Peggie and I took my daughter Lisa to her local preschool for the afternoon. Not wanting to waste too much day light as the sun was setting earlier in November, we drove to a local castle called Dromoland Castle, barely 10 kilometers from where we live. Dromoland castle is not as old as most of the castles in Ireland but its set in a magnificent property with beautiful lakes and forests. Turned into a hotel and a fine dining restaurant along with Golf courses and splendid wedding and ballroom venues. We parked the car at the back of the hotel and made our way up to the main entrance to go and treat ourselves to some afternoon tea at the fireplace. What a treat. Afternoon tea suddenly became Irish coffees - I mean who can’t resist the lure of an Irish coffee in Ireland! As well a platter of afternoon tea delicatessens. Sitting by the roaring fire and admiring the castles decor, we sipped on our Irish and reminisced about the good ‘ol times while also planning the rest of our trip. After pulling ourselves away from the warm fire, we visited Dromoland Castles manicured gardens, which is an amazing sight however slightly less so in winter.
We returned the to the car and made our way back toward home, when I suddenly announced to Peggie that we should visit Quin Abbey before it gets too dark as I’m sure she would love to see the old abbey and church graveyards. There are hundreds of abbeys across Ireland but Quin abbey holds a certain appeal. When we arrived in the small village of Quin, we noticed that the weather had turned slightly and looked perhaps as if it were going to rain. Luckily, we had brought umbrellas so we sauntered off towards the abbey. Sludging and trudging across half a kilometer of mud and cow patties, we made our way to the magnificent Quin abbey only to discover that the main gate was locked! There was no one in sight and it was starting to get dark, so Peggie and I started to make out way back to the main road. As we trudged down the sludgy path again it started to rain buckets and the wind howled! Our umbrellas were turned upside down, and we had to bow our heads and huddle together like hunchbacks to make our way back without the umbrellas turning in the wind! Eventually crying with laughter, I might add, we made it to the small road that crossed town and looked up the see a small pub with a bunch of old curious Irish men staring out at us! We giggled to ourselves and made our way across to the pub hoping for a warm fire and a sundowner! Upon entering the quaint old pub, we were welcomed by some friendly old gentlemen who were completely bemused by us two girls walking out there in the rain and battling the wind! They must have had a good laugh at the two of us battling across the pathway in the mud, rain and wind. Peggie and I sat at the fire to warm up and conversed with the locals - while Peggie decided to try her first Irish Guinness! Not my cup of tea though - way too bitter!
Pulling ourselves away from the toasty fire - yet again - as we had the evening planned with other activities - we said goodbye to our new-found friends and made our way back to Ennis. It had started to rain quite ferociously by now so we were taking it rather easy on the roads. Ireland like the UK, has a roundabout almost at every corner, so we were navigating these circles at every turn and rather hard to see weather. Although I must say the rental car lights were rather too dim for my liking. At one of our last roundabout turns Peggie barely missed the curb as it was so difficult see!
We headed back home and after some catch up with my daughter and mom, Peggie and I freshened up and called a taxi to take us to the center of Ennis for dinner. We asked to be dropped off mid-town but as we exited the taxi, the rain was pouring down so we dashed into the nearest pub we could see! So, we ended up in a lively bar called Knox Storehouse. After ordering some food and cocktails we enjoyed some good music and more catch up, Peggie had started to get tired as it had been a very long but satisfying day. We made our way home and crawled into bed in anticipation of the adventures for the next day. Lisa didn’t allow us to go to sleep immediately so we sat up and told ghost stories about the house we live in, as some pretty bizarre stuff has happened there! Poor Peggie didn’t want to returnn to her room, so she stayed in our room until she fell asleep!
The next morning I accidentally overslept and Peggie woke me up with a big smile and full of exuberance for the day ahead! Heading down to breakfast, we planned the day ahead. Unfortunately, the day came to a screeching halt when I developed one of my debilitating migraines! I was so mad at myself. I hastily popped a migraine kit and slept for 3 hours to get over it. I woke up feeling marginally better and Peggie and I set off towards the cliffs of Moher.
The windy road to the coast didn’t do much for my head and stomach but we made it! The weather was sort of playing along for a change, it wasn’t raining but it was cold and windy. Wrapping up warmly we set off on the long walk to the cliffs of Moher and ambled up along the cliffs. It was a magnificent site to behold, and I would recommend anyone coming to Ireland to take a visit.
Setting off again after a few hours, we drove along the coastal road toward Galway Bay. Driving through the amazing autumn colors and scenery eventually we entered the Burren, a magnificent geological phenomenon unique to Ireland.
As the evening came and the sun started to set, we headed towards our Bed and Breakfast in the heart of Galway. We had booked our B&B through a really great website called BOOKING.COM - what I loved about them was that we could cancel at any point and change around as we needed to without getting charged or having to commit to a deposit. I would really recommend anyone to give them a try next time you plan on taking a trip.
I was a bit exhausted at this point so I quickly took a power nap while Peggie walked to Galway city for a look around. I woke up about 8pm with a start as the full moon was shining right onto me through the window. I felt tremendously better than I did earlier, so with great fevour I jumped out of bed, got showered and dressed and waited for Peggie’s return from souvenir shopping!
Peggie cam back and saw that I was miles better so we excitedly walked back to the Galway City center and looked for a place to get a good Irish traditional meal! It was a Saturday and the city center was lively and full of street musicians at every corner. Galway is also a must on any Irish trip – it has a unique charm and a great nightlife. We popped into a local pub/restaurant on the main walking streets of central Galway and sat down to a scrumptious meal! A band suddenly started playing in the pub and they started off with a cover of The Fury’s Lonesome Boatman. This brought back so may nostalgic memories for me, as I grew up listening to the Fury’s and I used this particular song as the introduction to my wedding march. The band launched into a variety of traditional Irish music and popular covers. We eventually got up and drifted closer towards the music! Peggie ordered her first Irish whiskey in Ireland! Feeling much better myself we sauntered off on the bustling walking street towards another pub I had frequented with my husband as they usually played traditional Irish music. And boy they didn’t disappoint! An incredible 3-man band with vocals similar to the Fury’s and traditional musical instruments was such a treat to hear! The pub was packed, and the atmosphere was invigorating. Peggie and I met some friendly and furry locals, and much humor was to follow! IT was fantastic! Leaving this pub after the music set, we visited another bar called Richardson’s on the edge of Eyre’s square. A different charm, with an older gentleman playing away on his guitar, reciting favorites like Galway Girl and the like. Feeling tired yet inspired, Peggie and I walked back to the B&B to get some well-deserved rest for the night. Another successful day on Ireland, even with the rocky start to the day!
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