Saturday, July 18, 2009

Welcome to Glastonbury, England

Spiritual Journey of the Heart with Ronna Prince and Donald Backstrom.

There are 24 of us on this trip – two camera people – Skip and Pamela – both live in Sedona. Five others of us from AZ – Janice, myself, Corrine, Karen and Joyce. Three from Texas, one from Iowa and I think the rest from the Chicago area which is where Donald is located. Oh and Eulinda who is from the UK via Grenada. And Toril who is from Norway. I think that does it.

It’s been a constant on the go type of trip. Something I’m not used to and in the beginning, I pushed myself – I was usually at the end of the group whenever we walked or climbed and I was very OK with it. I like to take my time to look at everything, and I need to walk at my own pace. The first day we climbed up this very muddy hill to Cadbury Castle which isn’t a castle anymore – just the place where it once stood in Somerset. Didn’t think I was going to make it and had to hold onto Ralph. When they said get rain gear and boots, I didn’t think we really needed them, but turns out we did. I had my gym shoes on and they were inadequate at best. We drove around that day and climbed some more – I’ll tell you, had I just gotten off of an international flight like the rest of the group, I would have been really pissed, so I’m glad we were well rested. First night we all had dinner at George & Pilgrims built in 1470.

Monday – Wednesday we spent the first part of each day at the Chalice Well in the classroom. This is a lovely place with beautiful gardens and a waterfall of springs with the most delicious water – comes out of the tap – very smooth – tastes like silk, – beautiful to walk the gardens and meditate.

My first really spiritual experience happened at St. Michael’s Tor. It is a 521 foot climb up to the Tor (tower). When I finally made it to the top, I went into the Tor and sat down. I looked up to what others saw as a window but I saw an old women with a cane – it’s a place where you come to give things up that don’t serve you. I closed my eyes and soon saw a beautiful emerald green. Soon it was surrounded by a beautiful purple, her aura. When I opened my eyes again – I saw black swirling around the white of the outline of the women – which was actually open to the clouds – then I saw a red swirl. Very amazing experience.

My second experience was at the Glastonbury Abbey. As we sat on the lower level I looked to the other side, closed my eyes and saw a beautiful deep purple. As I turned my head from side to side I saw red panels – three on each side. I asked Donald, one of our leaders, if there was a fire inside because of the red I saw. He said he thought the fire was on the other side of the grounds. We walked upstairs and as we were leaving there was a sign about what used to stand there. Donald saw it and pointed it out for me to see – it was a color rendering of what the inside used to look like and the back wall was a deep purple, the exact color I saw, and each side had three panels of red, the same color and shape I saw. Very, very cool. I must have been there all those years ago to be able to recreate it in such vivid detail.

The crop circles were great too. I had heard of them but didn’t really know what they were all about. 95% of the world’s crop circles appear in the 5 mile radius of where we were in Avebury. There is a field of crops, a wheat field. The farmers go to sleep and the entire crop would be there. The next morning there are these incredible crop circles. You can definitely tell the difference between the ones that are man made and passed off as the regular circles and the one that couldn’t possibly be man made with such intricate details in such a short period of time. Supposedly it comes from energy. We saw circles that were brand new in the last few days. Truly amazing. Most farmers leave them up for about a week and let people walk freely around. New crop circles are posted on the internet as soon as they appear so that's how the people know where to come. Then about a week later they are gone, as the farmers need to harvest the crops.

Saturday in Ireland - Our last day

Woke up and had our last Irish breakfast and it was very good. Then headed out to find Janice’s roots – this time we google mapped it out – but since we didn’t have exact addresses, the inn owner told us to take another way – she asked her husband for help but every time he suggested something she told him he was wrong – typical interaction - and he said he just does what she says – very funny couple. Anyway, you can’t miss the …. Sign and you turn there and go to there and turn there, etc. Of course we did miss the sign because it wasn’t there – but we finally made it – we were 90 minutes past our schedule, the first one we’ve had all week, but we had a few stops before we needed to be at the airport by 5. We stopped in an antique shop and had a great conversation with the owner and his son…… who told us he had a book that lists all the irish families from the early 1900’s from longford and he offered to look up mullaley (Janice's family name) and send Janice what he could find. Then he asked me my name and I told him, then said Russian jews – I doubt if you have any in your book – and turns out he’s half jewish – klein – and his son was in Dublin dating a jewish women and there is the only synagogue in Ireland – sorry we missed it. Anyway, great conversation, but Janice had what she needed and we stopped at the market – got a local paper and some food and headed out for new grange – where Janice thought the hill of tara was located. Turns out it isn’t there – and I found it just because my thumb was right there when I was looking for directions so we headed there first. We had been told this was a not to miss site. Arrived there and I wasn’t impressed. I guess when you’ve seen all we have, it’s going to take a lot to impress me. We climbed the hills and read about what happened there in the 1600’s and earlier. Lots of dead people, of course and it was creepy. Lots and lots and lots of sheep and sheep shit that we constantly stepped in – couldn’t help it. But we did find a very nice gift shop, only the second place in Ireland that we actually thought was nice enough to buy anything – I found a great book about spells and Janice found a couple things. Then we went to the book shop - which contained tons of old books and we were fascinated. I found the first 4 volumes (out of 5) of “the works of the right honourable lady mary wortley montgu", printed in 1803 and these volumes are actually from 1803. It’s by the first women to travel by herself and write about it. Can’t wait to dig in. I got it for only 20 euros. He said there is also another book all about her life that he has at home but I might be able to find, along with the 5th and final volume. Janice also found some very interesting books.

We took so much time in the shops that we decided to head to the airport in Dublin and skip New Grance – figured we would be there extra early – it was raining hard by this time and the windows were fogging up – we made it to the airport but got lost trying to find the rental car place as it was not with the rest of them, sue had no more $$ in her phone all of a sudden so we couldn’t call and everyone we asked for directions didn’t have a clue or gave us incorrect ones – so for the next 45 minutes we circled the airport – and finally found it, dumped the car, hopped on the shuttle and got to the airport one hour before our flight – we were kind of wet and pooped by that time but the fun was just beginning. Let’s just sum it up by saying NEVER fly on Ryan Air – we heard it was a great bargain airlines – Sue saw it on 60 minutes – but it turned out to be a horrible nightmare and what was advertised for 35 euros ended up costing us so much extra - 40 euros each to print our boarding passes since we couldn't print them ourselves, 105 euros for 3 pounds extra weight on janice's baggage, and more for other things - much more than a regular airlines that would have taken us to Heathrow, where we needed to be, instead of Gatwick where we had to pay another 85 pounds to get to our hotel at Heathrow – we were both beyond our wits end –

checked into our hotel which promised to have a laundry – but no – it’s a dry cleaners that can’t possible get our laundry done by the time we need to leave. Got to the room, ordered room service and now Janice is crashed. I have a huge suitcase of dirty clothes and only one more outfit to wear so tomorrow is a must for laundry. And so ends our wonderful adventure in Ireland, a place we hated to leave and loved so much and had so much find in. Signing out from the Sheraton Heathrow at 12:37 am -

Friday in Ireland

Another Irish breakfast, this time buffet style to accommodate the crowd. It seems like a vacation spot for the Irish. Then headed to the spa to go into the outdoor Jacuzzi. However it was raining pretty hard and I didn’t like it. Also the spa was fully booked for the weekend. Now after much needed showers we are headed to the place of Janice’s heritage, Langford. At least we thought we were – decided to take the sea side roads which were very beautiful. Then, out of nowhere, the topography changed from beautiful green everywhere to only rocks, the most unusual formation of rocks everywhere – looked kind of medieval and it turns out it was – it was the Barrans – we finally had to stop even though it was raining – so we could take pictures – Janice continued to walk and found the sea at the end of the rocks. It was really the most amazing sight. We were so astounded by the sites it took us at least 2 hours to drive probably 10 miles.

Then the houses started appearing, very sparsely at first, but up on the top was a building of sky blue – and we stopped there – turned out to be the most fabulous pub – now run by a 4th generation son – started in early 1960’s and there are dollar bills posted on the walls, all signed by different visitors. There are also American police patches from many cities – one from Phoenix, and another shelf of American sports caps – one from the cardinals. Very cool – we had a bowl of chowder which was very good, being on the seaside and all. The owner was great – asking us what we would do to make the changes in the bar that he wanted to – should he move this wall? How about putting a small alcove under the stairs, and so on. Truly a delightful stop.

Then on and on we drove – until we were rather tired and definitely needed food. It was 7:30 and we weren’t sure where we were going to end up for the night so we stopped in ….. at an Italian restaurant for dinner – turns out it’s an Italian sort of town – after dinner we tried to get a room at a couple of b and b’s in town but no luck, so we began driving again. Soon we ended up at the bayside area and went to a very large hotel there – but they only had rooms for 85 euro per person for the night and wouldn’t deal since there was a wedding there for the weekend. We had seen a few b and b’s on the way so we started back and happened on the most beautiful sub division I guess you would call it – huge beautiful houses on lots of green land overlooking the sea – but the two b and b there were not home. We finally did find someone home but no rooms – the wedding in town and all – so she sent us back to the main road and we tried a few more down the road to no avail. Finally we found one that had two separate rooms and there we went. Sue got an internet connection and posted everything from the trip before this day. Janice crashed.

Things We'll Always Remember About Ireland

Rain is the mainstay here – it could be sunny one moment, and usually lasts about a moment, then raining the next second – mostly grey and cloudy.

It doesn’t get dark here till almost 11pm.

We see the same logos that we see in the US only with slightly different names. Petmania (for Petsmart) Welworth (for Wolworth), TK Maxx (for TJ Maxx) , Pennys (not JC).

There are more betting places in each town than there are pubs.

The traffic laws here only apply some of the time and the Irish are much more trusting than we are - they ask you to pay, on your honor, after you leave the parking space – which is why we’ve saved money on parking.

Tipping is not expected here – they are happy to be working and that’s enough given the state of the economy.

Dublin has slipped from the 10th to the 25th most expensive city.

They have take away which is carry out to us. No doggie bags.
When Janice asked for one, they had no idea what she was talking about and when she told them, looked at her like she was crazy.

Off License = liquor store.

There is NOTHING like Irish butter

Hurling is a game, not puking

They have the best ice cream in the word and we had it almost every day – it’s vanilla soft serve in a very small cone.

Fookin or f oh oh kin. The Irish use this frequently.

There was only one day without rain when we went to the cliffs – two days it rained like crazy, other days it drizzled on and off. No really sunny day – might have come out for a minute one day.

People only go 1 – 2 towns away so they don’t know how to give directions

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tursday - The Cliffs of Mohr

This morning Tursday - not Thursday - we took it easy – Irish breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, croissants. Again we sat next to the only other residents of the hotel – a lovely Irish family with tree children – 2, 4, and 6. The two year old had strawberry blond hair and was so cute. Speaking of strawberries, yesterday we bought a small basket of Wexlow strawberries for the princely amount of E7. At the current exchange rate, that’s a lot of Euros.

We didn’t leave until 1:00. Turns out it’s not such a long way to Tipperary. We stopped at a bakery in Tipperary for crunchy bread and sweets, Irish butter, salami, and turkey at the market and we had ourselves a feast in the car trying to figure out the way to Limerick. Passing thru Ballysimon. On the way from Tipperary to limerick, and so begins another day of road travel for our dynamic wild boomer women duo.

Now that we’ve both had a day behind the wheel, today with Janice at the helm, it is much smoother and so far no peeing in pants because of something that happened whilst driving incorrectly and scaring the pee out of the passenger. Except – once again, Janice did hit the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal, something she did about 150 times the day before yesterday. Sue, on the other hand, only hit it wrong twice, however, she did take out a curb or two or tree not to be confused with an actual tree.

We got directions to Limerick (or at least we tried). Again, the Irish have an interesting way of giving directions. There is no straight way since there are so many round abouts, but they direct you to go straight, this time keeping the Golden Vail (a landmark in town) on your right shoulder – however sue was thinking it was her right and made Janice turn left. This is a big city – Limerick is – has shopping malls and everything. Very busy town – the arrows on the road were put there for Janice.

On the way to the cliffs of mohr – since the garmon bitch broke (our name of affection for our horrible GPS) about an hour into our trip the first day, we’ve been winging it, which is why we’ve seen so much of this countryside. Roundabouts – what can we say about them except they are frequent and plenty – just arrived in county Claire. Now Shannon town. We keep driving and driving but again, with no road signage we are just keeping faith that we will eventually arrive at the Cliffs before it’s too dark – and Rick Steves said they close at 6:30 or half 6 as the Irish say. We finally do make it up and find it’s open till half nine.

And so we begin the climb. First we go to the right because we see a small castle of sorts. A hefty climb and then we are there – so beautiful – we climb up to the top of the castle up very steep, very thin circular staircase, then pay 2 Euros for going up but the view is amazing – it’s the highest point at the Cliffs. Janice finds her family crest, the Mullalys, and purchases it for 20 euros. No Barenholtz, Dubrinsky or Krohns – guess they didn’t have too many Irish Jews back in the day, as there are only about 1,000 in the whole country today.

Next we go to the left which is very long and we climb. This is amazingly beautiful. One wrong step and you are down hundreds of feet. The water in the N. Atlantic is a beautiful emerald green with the waves crashing up against the cliffs. Again, too beautiful for words, you just have to see the pictures which don’t do it justice, so you must go to Ireland to see these sites.

Left the Cliffs at half 7 and our priority for this night was an internet connection since we haven’t had one for two nights. Laundry is getting higher on the priority list. We find a wonderful place with a full spa with over 30 treatments, the Falls Hotel in Ennisymon County Clare. It has a lovely sitting porch and tables and chairs in the gardens below. It is the busiest place we’ve stayed in Ireland so far. They told us it was $75 per person and when I asked if that was the lowest price, she said $55 was the lowest she could go, so we were in. The room was newly updated in our favorite color – purple with green accents. Very contemporary and very comfortable beds. We headed down for dinner – we keep getting to places just as they are ready to stop serving – 9pm, but we got to order. The restaurant was high above overlooking a waterfall that leads into a stream and more waterfalls with cranes and burros walking amongst the guests. At the highest point was the remains of a castle. These remains are usually part of cemeteries, which this was too.

Janice opened the packet of katshup with her teeth and it squirted on her face. Another episode of riotous laughter, but Sue was wearing her Depends this time. The entertainment for the evening was about to start and we were looking forward to it. It turned out to be one man who played canned music and sang, the worst singer alive. He must have thought he was a cowboy of sorts and sang only the worst country/western music – all to the same beat and mostly the same tune. Sue couldn’t take much more and urged Janice to eat up quick. One of the best meals in the country so far. They are not known for their food.

Then we headed to town to have another pub experience, however we were disappointed again. The street we parked on had two pubs and lots of cars. We went into the noisiest one, hoping for fun. Instead the back area was filled with people celebrating a birthday. We had a drink at the bar but no one was up to talking with us, so we went to the next bar – walked in and everyone looked up at us – they were all at the bar - all elderly gentleman and one very trendy lady at the end of the bar with her younger guy. They too, were not very friendly. Sue had another shot and we went back to the hotel.

Wednesday - the Rock of Cashel

When we woke up, Sheena cooked us a wonderful Irish breakfast – fried eggs, tomatoes, bacon, sausage and black and white pudding which is not really pudding at all – it looks like perfectly round sausage but it’s really pig parts and the black is with pigs blood. Janice enjoyed the black pudding very much – sue couldn’t even take a no thank you bite.

After breakfast we headed out with sue behind the wheel – oh what an adventure. Janice took exception to the fact that Sue squealed every time a car went past us on the right hand side when Sue was driving, scaring the piss out of Janice . Janice stated that Sue turned the car into a lawnmower by trimming the hedges on the left whenever a car came in the opposite direction. Mostly we laughed so hard that Sue did pee her pants and had to stop at a restaurant to change (I know - TMI - but it's a huge part of the trip and the fun we had. We stopped at a pharmacy to get Sue some Depends (actually mini pads) because it was obvious to both of us that there was going to be a lot more laughing and peeing. Janice avoided this by stopping to pee every five minutes.

We got directions from someone at the pub the night before – and we tried to follow them, but signage being what it is here, we ended up touring every single small town, which was definitely a delightful outcome. We had lunch in Carlow at a fast food place of sorts (they even had Quarter Pounders on the menu) where sue got a pizza and Janice got chicken and fries. Then we got directions to the rock of cashel from the lady working the counter – she had to make sure we understood, so at least 5 times, using her hand gestures she told us to go “all da way true” the town. We ended up in Portilouse where we came upon a very nice butcher who let us use his toilet (as they call their restrooms) and gave us directions to cashel but wanted us to go to a place he thought was nicer 10 minutes past it. We promised to go but never made it because by the time we finished at the rock of cashel sue was very tired and cranky (and bitchy according to Janice) and just wanted to go to sleep.

The rock of cashel – so beautiful – too hard to describe in words so just look at the pictures or better yet - get your ass on a plane asap and see this place.

Our priority for finding a place this evening was for Sue to get a massage, and a laundry if possible. We spent the night at a beautiful 250 year old country estate outside Dundrum not far from Cashel. It was filled with the most beautiful antique furniture, massive sized rooms with large furniture, each room different from the last. Our sleeping room was huge with 3 twin beds. It had a spa and Sue arranged to get a massage at 8:30 pm while Janice went to swim, sauna and Jacuzzi. We all felt much better and had a nice sleep.

Tuesday 7/7 Driving around the Wicklow Mountains

First stop is the place I came to Ireland to see – the only place I’ve seen in a movie that I said I had to go to – from the movie PS I Love You, when Hillery Swank gets lost walking and the beautiful Gerard Butler comes her way – they are standing in Wicklow Mountain Park. Well, it proved to be that beautiful and more. Rolling hills of green grass in beautiful patterns almost as if an artist had carved it out and painted it, so perfect are the patterns of landscape. Janice drove the first day and I had to get used to being the passenger on the left side of the car, where it seems that you get way too close to the edge of the road, or in this case, the landscape on the side – and I kept leaning to the right as if that would help. Also kept yelling at Janice to move the car more to the right, but it was where it should be. Just took getting used to on these narrow rolling roads. Janice did a good job with the driving but every time she went to make a turn, she turned on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal. It became the funniest thing and we laughed until I peed. The first of many many hysterical laughing sessions on the road in this beautiful place. Also the first of hundreds of “oh my god” that we uttered as one or the other of us noticed the new scenery first as we drove along the rolling hills.

Stopped in Glendalough – and saw a horse and buggy, the only one in the place, so never missing an opportunity to take a ride, we hired Jimmy to take us down to the lake. Jimmy had to be 80 if he were a day – the sweetest man, all dressed up. We sat in a carriage that was 120 years old. He regaled us with tales of the area and as we passed people, everyone called and waved to Jimmy. he asked us if we would like to see a beautiful waterfall and of course we said yet – it turned out to be more like a leak in the floor and Jimmy cracked up.

He told us the story of Kathleen, who was the lover of St. Kevin. When Kevin turned to the monastic life, her grief was so large that she threw herself into the loche, turning the loche the color black with her grief. Janice said to Jimmy that no man is worth that, but Jimmy didn’t seem to agree.

Signage leaves a lot to be desired – hard to figure out where you are and where you need to get to, with no mileage whatsoever, so we ended up in a small town called Rathdrum, a very quaint town, brightly painted store fronts, each a different color. This is birthplace of Charles Stuart Parnell, an Irish patriot and they have a beautiful park in his honor. We are staying at a lovely B & B called Glebe with our host Sheena. We were the only guests and paid 35 euro each for this lovely fully restored house. They are only open to guests in the summer as the house does not have insulation and it cannot be added since this is an historic house on the register.

We walked to get some dinner in a bar where we watched the Michael Jackson memorial service on a big screen TV. After dinner we headed to the local pub, called the Cartoon Bar, which is covered with hand drawn cartoons done by a local. Cartoons on the wall and characters in the chairs. We met up with a very handsome guy called Sean Murphy who bought us a round and told us a tall tale about the drunk in the bar – said it was his father Leo. Leo, was a stinking drunk and between his slurred words and his Gaelic accent we couldn’t understand anything he said except Viagra in between his slurred mumbles. He kept telling us we should stay at his house since it wouldn’t cost us anything. He grabbed Janice’s boob on his way out as he tried to kiss her and tried to kiss me on the mouth – but thankfully I turned my head. Sean said that he was 45, was never married and had no kids. We told him we couldn’t believe that such a handsome guy was still single. He insulted us Americans in several ways and said fooken a lot.

After they left, we were talking to the two ladies next to us at the bar – they turned out to be mother and daughter – and the mother was Sean’s sister – said he has 4 kids and Leo was not his father – just a neighbor he watches over and his girlfriend is Grace the bartender – which I kind of suspected. All in all, a fabulous evening getting to know the locals. In the morning Sheena made us an amazing Irish breakfast.