Updates, 2014

Oh, hey, yeah, I meant to tell you that I finished my “cleanse.” Remember, I was doing Whole 30 23, and I cut out all foods that had anything to do with grains, dairy, legumes, sugar and taste. I ate a lot of chicken and a lot of sweet potatoes. Remember that?

No, really, it wasn’t that bad. For 30 23 days I ate according to a certain plan in the hopes that I would kick some bad habits and finally get over sugar. Unfortunately that never happened. What I did do was endure to the end, the whole 30 23 days (the end being the day we had our professional headshots taken, and when I realized that my cheeks looked exactly the same as they did 23 days previous, I quit), and then jump right back into the foods I had always eaten, sugar included. Probably what spurred the quitting on day 30 23 were the dry heaves I got from a single bite of the same chicken and sweet potato I had eaten three days a week hence. I tried my best to choke it down but the moment I felt a revolt in my throat, I knew I was done with Whole 30 23.

Funnily enough, once I added back in all the foods, I never once felt like I was going to ralph. I guess I have a stomach of steel because by rights I should have felt miserable at the first bite of sugar but I didn’t. I do get sleepy when I eat sugar now, so I am diligent in trying to avoid it. Some other weird things happened to my palate, though. I can no longer eat regular mustard. It tastes like horseradish, and I’m about as fond of horseradish as I am raw onion. I can also no longer eat parmesan cheese. It tastes moldy and sour. Gross, quite frankly. These are two things I loved once so I’m slightly ticked off that Whole 30 23 gave me those aversions instead of the Beyonce booty I so richly deserved.

I have a few other updates and items of note.

Kidd

This is my headshot, the professional one I had to have made and the same one I was so snarky about. Look at those cheeks, would ya? Also, do you see how pink I am? That’s even after the photographer did some editing with color and whatnot. Martie and I are doing some corrections there, and tomorrow you can read all about it on her blog. I’ll link to it in the morning. Once you lament over my pink cheeks, have a gander at my hair. Martie does such fabulous work. Someone told me today that big hair belongs to the 80s and to Texas but I call her full of poop. The bigger the better. I’m so sorry that the beehive is passé. I’d rock that in a heartbeat.

I’ll be out of town next week on my fancy tropical cruise. Lest any of you thieves and robbers decide to remove my home of its valuables, please note that I have a roommate, a neighbor and two vicious attack cats, all of which would risk their lives to defend my home. I mean, in theory anyway. I’ll take loads of pics, hopefully none of men in Speedos, for your viewing pleasure. I’d treat this trip much like the Ireland trip with a post for every day that I’m gone but being as how Woney and I plan to spend every day viewing the ocean over our toes in a hammock, I doubt those posts would be of much interest to you.

A final note – have any of you read The Moonstone? Four years ago, I joined a book club. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, honestly, the way I read. I’ve attended this club nearly every month for four years and read some books that I would never recommend. Seriously, we pick some of the strangest books but almost every month there is a lone person who loved the month’s selection. The rest of us have strong opinions of them, not many of which are good. Eighteen months ago we read The Grapes of Wrath. Rather, it was supposed to have been read eighteen months ago. While I enjoyed it, it did take me nineteen months to finish it. I’m currently doing that with The Moonstone. Tonight we are to have a deep and philosophical discussion about the book and I will be able to do that but only about the first 350 pages, of which there are 667. The whole point of this, though, is to ask for other book recommendations. Anyone got anything good they recommend? I can only promise that nine out of ten of us will hate it, but we still might like to give it a whirl.

Y’all miss me next week, would ya?

And Then The Alternator Died

image 3

You see that second hood up, there? The blue one? That’s my car, in the shop again.

image 4

When does one decide to call it quits with a car? This is not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking. At what point do I say “uncle” and quit spending money on this car that is determined, it seems, to break every part in itself? Thus far I have spent 2/3 of the yearly money I would have spent on car payments. I guess if I come out even $5 less than what I would have spent in a year, I’m okay? I was rather hoping that I’d have time to actually save the money over the year and THEN put it back into my car but I guess that’s what I get for hoping.

While I’m in this lovely mood, I’d like to remind you that it is winter. You probably already knew that, what with all the blizzards and the snow and the busted pipes. And the electric bills that send you to the poor house. Because of winter, I’m behind on my posting. I’d like to tell you that lately I have had a life and have had no time for writing but that is a big fat lie. Lately I have had library books and a cozy sofa and warm blankets. Because it’s been cold, instead of going out to find some life, I’ve stayed home with Murphy and Seamus and read some really good and really bad books. It just sounded better to say I’ve had a life.

I am over winter. Over it. Winter can go F itself. It is the middle of March and I’m tired of the whiplash I’ve gotten from the wardrobe changes lately: fuzzy socks and a scarf! Shorts and a t-shirt! Two layers of sweatshirts! I’m roasting in these long sleeves! I’d like for the weather to pick a season and gradually work its way towards it, doling out each temperature range in small but steady bursts, like how nature was intended to perform back in the good old days when I was a kid.

At this point, when all of you are feeling mighty sorry for me, I suppose I should go ahead and tell you that my girls and I are going on a cruise soon. Woney, Squash and Nurse Bananahammock planned a trip to somewhere tropical for the four of us, but since I didn’t really plan it, I’m not sure where exactly we are going. One morning we were emailing and someone said, “Hey, we should go on a cruise.” The rest of us said, “Sure, let’s start looking at options.” I said, “I’m going to lunch. Be back soon!” Off I jetted and when I came back an hour later, they had all emailed and said, “Great, I’m glad we picked a place. Let’s book this afternoon?” Of course I said “Yes!” and then mailed off a check and just last week, I thought, “Huh. Perhaps I should see where we are going so that I can ensure I pack the appropriate clothing.” You know Woney and I never get the weather right so I don’t even know why I’m planning a seasonal wardrobe.

I keep thinking of the cruise with longing (and for the record, I just looked it up and it turns out we are going to Mexico – ooh, tropical!), and then am reminded of other trips I looked towards with longing: the tropical cruise Woney and I took two years ago that was not tropical at all, the trip to Ireland that was tropical much to my dismay, the drinking party that was my 40th birthday in Miami with my sisters.

IMG_1063

Actually, I didn’t intend for the Miami trip to be one giant drinking party. I intended for that to be a lazy, lie on the beach kind of trip and when I look back, that is what I fondly remember. What I had forgotten was the fish bowl margarita the three of us split, and the shots we took, all million of them taken in one night. I also forgot about our photo shoot on Ocean Drive and our text messages. Wait, here:

IMG_1011

Y’all, I sent that to Coach the first night we were in Miami. I did do a recap of that trip when we returned, but realized that you got the Pollyanna story and not the “Jimmie, Martie and The Squirt Had Some Drinks And This Is What Happened” story.

This is what happened.

IMG_1026

Martie is good at taking pictures. That is the caption for this photo.

IMG_1016.JPG

The Squirt found a car she liked. Bow chicka wow wow.

IMG_1014

Perhaps we liked the shoe? I wish I could explain it.

IMG_3347

This was what the whole trip was like. Laughing, just like this. And also, the trip was like this:

Pretty.

Warm. Sunny. Relaxing. I’m mourning the loss of that while I look at my frozen, brown yard and/or my broken car. I do love me some hoodies but I’m ready to not wear them every day. While winter is just ripping through here like a kid in a candy store, I’m dreaming of fruity drinks and swimmy suits and tanned legs. Until I go spend the rest of the money I don’t have on my third car repair of the year, I’ll sit here in this fancy schmancy McDonald’s and dream of my tropical respite. Please, God, let it be tropical. I just want it to be tropical.

UPDATE: My car repair was only $250! I can afford that! I took it over to 5th Gear Automotive in Hermitage and I Highly Recommend them. I offered to kiss the owner right on the mouth but with his wife sitting there ringing me up, I decided to withdraw my offer and hand over my debit card instead. I’m not destitute!

Snow Day!

We had a snow day last week.  A snow day in Tennessee, whether we get ¼ inch or two feet, means that everyone buys milk, eggs and bread in bulk and piles up on the sofa under 14 blankets with some hot chocolate and a nose spray to wait out the blizzard.  No one and I mean NO ONE gets on the road.

This is what happens at my house on a snow day:

Text exchange between Jimmie and her neighbor, Luke.

Jimmie:  Okay, Lucas.  When can I go to work?

Luke:  Hold on.  Let me check the roads. (Can y’all tell he’s being snarky?  I can tell he’s being snarky.)

Jimmie:  Are you still at home?

Luke:  Hell no.  I left at 5:45.  Made it in 25 minutes.  Did 55 mph.

Jimmie:  So you just basically called me a girl and a drama queen.

Luke:  Yep.  Get going.

Jimmie:  God, I’m the best neighbor.  You are so lucky to have me.

Luke:  Yes I am.  Good luck.

For the record, I made it work just fine.  Had some French Toast for dinner.  Was fabulous.

Dublin, One Last Time

It was a monumental trip and it was almost over. A lot of emotion there, but all of it good. Sleep came easy for us that night – a good thing since we had a long day ahead of us.

The next morning Woney and I were up early. Neither of us wanted much for breakfast and so had made an agreement with our B&B hostess the night before – no traditional anything in the morning, please. Well, perhaps some toast would be nice but otherwise, no breakfast. Toast was had and off we took.

As we were packing the car one last time, we had some serious regrets about all of our shopping the last 12 days. Woney was having difficulty lifting her suitcase into the boot despite her extensive and effective workouts with Tony. I was having the same difficulties wrangling mine into the backseat. We were also suffering from some angst as we looked at the passenger side of the car. “Wonder how much we’ll get charged for all those scratches,” we mused. “Wonder how much of an overage fee we will pay to get our bags on the plane,” we fretted. “How many bottles of liquor did they say we could take” queried Woney, who had spent most of her money at Jameson.

And then for one last time, Woney and I traveled with Gwendolyn through the roundabouts, over the roads with no shoulders, next to sheep and after getting lost only once, we made it to the rental car facility. The shuttle driver grunted mightily as he transferred our bags from the car to the bus, and Woney and I held our breaths as the inspection was done on the car. That little guy had been out partying with his friends the night before and was seriously regretting his overindulgence in tasty beverages, he told us. Perhaps his hangover clouded his vision or perhaps he took pity on us or perhaps every car comes in with some damage on the side, but he swiped our ticket and sent us on our way, no damages assessed. Happy sigh.

We made it to the airport in short order and once there began the long process of getting our bags checked. It came as no surprise that our bags exceeded the weight limits. Rather, Woney’s did, and by so much that there was not a fee high enough to let the bag on the plane as it was. We did some creative maneuvering and unpacking and wearing of hoodies and eventually, Woney’s bag weight was decreased to a limit that still required an exorbitant fee to be allowed on the plane, but at least it was coming with us.

Next up was customs and after getting lost one last time in the airport, we made it to that queue. Having never been through customs before (or not remembering the last time, it had been so long), I was unprepared for my customs agent. “Is that a pillow,” she asked with some suspicion.

“Yes,” I explained. “I needed it. Can’t sleep without it.”

At this point, she took all of my documents, spread them over her desk and settled in for a good chin wag. As she kicked back in her chair, elbow hooked over the back, she asked, “Drink any Guinness? What did you think?”

Just like that, I was in a panic. I hated Guinness, and opened my mouth to say so but then noticed that no one else was having a meaningful conversation with their customs agent. Everyone else was zipping merrily through, and Woney was already done with hers and waiting for me at the exit. If I told the agent that I hated it would she find me guilty of something? Were they going to search me? I had a pillow and a melted chocolate bear on me but I felt so guilty! She was looking at me funny.

“You visit any farms? Touch any livestock?”

“How much liquor did you bring back?”

“Did anyone else touch your bag besides you?”

“Did you bring any organic material to the airport?”

She asked every question without looking me in the eye, like she was casually trying to find out something from me. I had nothing to tell her but my palms were sweating and it took me forever to answer every question. I had been pretty huffy about Air Canada days before and I was sure she knew that. I was also certain that I was going to be stuck in Ireland without Woney because I stole Dana’s Dr. Pepper jumbo lip gloss in the third grade. I don’t remember Dana’s last name or really what she looked like but every bad thing I’ve ever done was coming to mind. I kept wiping my hands on my pillow and answering everything the agent asked. I could feel my already pink cheeks becoming pinker and I just knew I was going to be arrested but for what I didn’t know when finally she scooped up all my stuff and handed it over. “Have a good flight,” she said and waved over her next victim.

With weak knees I made my way over to Woney who said, “Trust you to find the one person who wants to yap for half an hour.” I could barely breathe.

Eventually we boarded the plane to go home. As we flew, we made a few lists of things we wanted to remember and gifts we wanted to make sure got to the right person. We napped. We ate. We watched bad movies. We wiggled. And eventually we arrived at home. My bed never looked so delicious.

As a recap, I’ve prepared a little list of notable tidbits in case you got lost along the way or didn’t want to read everything I wrote. This was my trip.

How many cities were my Number One Absolute Favorite Cities of All Time? Kilkenny, Westport, Galway, Trim, Blarney, Doolin. So, six. Six Number One Absolute All Time Favorites.

What was my net hoodie purchase number? Only two as Woney is fierce when she tells me no.

How many Best Lunches Ever did I have? Three

What was my net weight loss over the course of the trip? .5 (you cannot be more shocked than I was)

How many boys offered kisses? Two

How many boys did I actually kiss? One (I do have standards)

What was the best chocolate shop? Yes

How many times did you get lost? Ask Gwendolyn. Bitch.

How many pieces of toast have I had since I’ve been home? Three, all of them strangely disappointing.

And finally, how many good memories did I bring home? Oh, thousands!

Y’all, there is not a thing I would have changed about our trip, even the weather. It was glorious. I Highly Recommend Ireland. It is far cheaper to go than you think, and I’m telling you, please make a plan for it. Or if not there, please make a plan for something. There’s so much in this beautiful world to see. Go see it! Take your Woney and go see it! Then you can be one of those annoying people like Woney and me who say in every conversation, “Yes, when I was in Ireland I did that, too.” Really, that never gets old.

Woney and Jimmie

Woney and Jimmie

Next Stop: Our Regularly Scheduled Programming!

Trim

We were settling in and just as we were drifting off to sleep in this very cushy, very plush, very large B&B, very much opposite the one in Doolin where we were terrified we’d hear someone having echo-y sex, we heard the couple in the bedroom above ours begin an amorous, rhythmic, thumping party that we could not ignore. “Go on with your bad selves,” I thought. And then sighed. Every silver lining has a cloud, I guess.

The Great Sex Fest: Ireland, 2013 ended shortly and very soon after that Woney and I were jolted awake by thunder and the smell of rain. We leapt out of bed and immediately beat a hasty path to the driveway. We stood there like turkeys, staring up at the sky for endless minutes, just waiting for it to rain. It did – six whole drops. That, friends, was the extent of the relentless Irish rain we’d heard so much about. Six drops in eight days.

The next morning brought another traditional Irish breakfast. Yay. Woney and I shoved our food all around our plates and opted for a piece of toast with a token bite taken out of other offerings just to make nice. The toast was fabulous, though! Really, very good.

We loaded our car with our ridiculous suitcases and my ridiculous pillow, and then thought to check on all of our purchases we had been lugging around since day one. Remember Lulu and Wilhelmina? They had been cruising around in the boot (Irish word! I’m so cultured!) for eight days and I was worried that the heat had done them in. Lulu was fine. Looked just like she did the moment Woney finished painting on her coconut bra. Wilhelmina, on the other hand, suffered facial damage. The sun had melted her little teddy bear face into itself and so she looked a lot like she had Bell’s Palsy. Poor baby. I was planning on breaking her up into bite-sized pieces to share at work but I was bitterly disappointed that she didn’t last longer so I could have first shown her off intact.

We headed into Trim for our last day and night in Ireland. It was a solemn drive. We were both a little sad and a little quiet, feeling thrilled at the prospect of home but also somewhat melancholy that the trip was nearing its end. The B&B we were scheduled for that night was perfect in that the husband-half of the proprietor couple, Mike, was such a talker! He gave us loads of things to do for the day, none of which involved scenic drives or castles.

Trim, on the way to Newgrange

Trim, on the way to Newgrange

Traditonal Irish Countryside

Traditonal Irish Countryside

Our first stop after delivering our heavy bags was Newgrange in County Meath. We had seen pictures of it, sort of, and knew that it was a really old monument, sort of. We were intrigued to say the least and hopped in the car to seek it out. We found it eventually and discovered that it was a religious monument, sort of, and that it was built in 3200 BC, sort of. Really, not a lot of information is known about it, but scholars agree that it most likely was created as a passage tomb and had something to do with the Winter Solstice. An entire demonstration was done to show how light enters into the structure during Winter Solstice which lasted all of seventeen minutes from start to finish. I personally feel that the decades it took for Newgrangians to build that mound seems like a lot of time and effort for a seventeen minute light show once a year. Honestly, because so little was known about it I was slightly uncomfortable being there so all pictures you see here are Woney’s handiwork or taken off the internet. It was a neat thing to see but if you want more information on it, I recommend Google.

Credit: Station House Hotel Newgrange Monument

Credit: Station House Hotel
Newgrange Monument

Credit: Woney Monument Entrance

Credit: Woney
Monument Entrance

What really got me jazzed, though, was the sheep/wool/spinning farm we stopped by on our way out of Newgrange. We saw a sign that said “Souvenirs” and you know Woney and I took that turn! Turns out it was one of the best memories I have of Ireland. We visited the sheep on the farm, and then watched a woman comb the wool, card the wool and then spin yarn from the wool. Smelled terrible in there but I loved it and bought all kinda presents for people in her shop. That is the part of Ireland I am going to miss, the interaction with the people.

Woney and I also got really jazzed about something else that day. I’m embarrassed to even tell you this. I can’t believe I’m still typing it. But we had seen some McDonald’s signs here and there and also signs for something called Supermac’s. It wasn’t until the last day that we realized Supermac’s was Ireland’s version of McDonald’s. It took a sign reading “Supermac’s: More Irish than Ronald” for us to get it, and since we were feeling very cultured and classy, we decided Supermac’s was our lunchtime choice. For the first time in eight days we had the opportunity to get a fountain Coke. Do you know how good fountain Cokes are? Do you have any idea how much you will miss them when you can’t get one anymore? I think lunch was pretty good, I cannot recall, but that Coke? Man, it was delicious!

Westport 3

Later that night, Woney and I had a quiet dinner at a local club house recommended by Mike. We talked about everything we had done over the last eight days. We continued to plan our move to Ireland. We still talk about that, actually. We made lists of all our purchases for customs and we packed our bags for the last time. As we were reading that night one of us would sniffle a little and then the other of us would sigh. It was a monumental trip and it was almost over. A lot of emotion there, but all of it good. Sleep came easy for us that night – a good thing since we had a long day ahead of us.

Next stop: Dublin, for one last go round!

Westport

Doolin was assuredly my favorite place. The people. The views. The chocolate. The Cliffs. Oh, those Cliffs. I’m not sure I will ever get over them.

Woney and I had gone to bed the night before, exhausted and spent but full of the experience of the Cliffs. The fire on my face made me crabby and tired, though, so I was ready for some rest. Anyone having truly experienced a proper sunburn knows of what I speak. The next morning as the sun came up, Woney and I awoke, and as we sat up in our respective beds to greet the day, Woney said, “Oh, Jimmie, your poor face.”

As she said it, I realized that the fire had not gone away overnight. Not only was my skin tight and a violent shade of red, it was also puffy from sleep. An excellent look for a woman in her forties. After we showered and I attempted to cover my lobster face with makeup, Woney and I headed down the stairs for our traditional Irish breakfast. I have to say, if I never see another egg again it will be too soon. A few days prior I had started picking my way through the breakfast, indulging in the tomato, the bacon and of course, the toast. Toast! I’ll never get over toast. But the egg and the sausage were grossing me out anymore. Blergh.

The proprietors at our B&B were lovely people, and as we were leaving, the husband, doing his B&B duty, began pointing out the authentic castle and gorgeous coastlines we should visit on our way to Galway. “No!” Woney and I both yelped, much to his dismay and surprise. We explained that authentic castles and scenic drives were no longer of interest to us. We were full. We could take no more eggs, no more castles and no more coastlines. I thought longingly of my umbrella that had been packed away in my suitcase since the beginning of the trip, just waiting to be opened for the first time. I was yearning for a cool breeze and soft rain and any kind of break from the heat. My face was on fire and I just wanted to experience some gloom, some damp. So no, gorgeous sunny coastlines were no longer on my list of things to see. Try explaining this to an Irishman who has lived his entire life in a state of gloom and rain and for once, has experienced a sunny break in his traditional gray life. Just try. It will not go over well, I assure you.

I think it was safe to say that Woney and I were tired. Woney had been doing a lot of driving and I had been doing a lot of passenger seat braking and reading of maps (wrongly, of course). This trip was thrilling, no doubt, but we were wearing out a little. We drove into Galway with this fatigue. We parked our car and schlepped out of it and trudged our way onto the brick streets that pave the city center of Galway.

Let me segue for just a bit. Once, when I was 19, I visited Sienna, Italy with Auntie Anne, Madre, and Martie. What a gorgeous place that was! The streets of Sienna were paved with bricks which gave it an old world feel – accurate as Sienna is old world. Sienna, at the time I was 19, was also full of military men, much to the delight of Martie and also me. We found ourselves some Italian boyfriends, Martie and I, and spent a happy two days in Sienna speaking the language of like on the brick-paved streets with two gorgeous military men, Luigi and Alessandro.

It think it is safe to say that brick-paved streets evoke fond memories in me and I’m telling you, the moment I put my foot on that brick street in Galway, I was shifted back to my time in Sienna. The excitement I felt there rushed back into me and suddenly, I was no longer fatigued. With a spring in my step, I trotted around Galway with Woney for the better part of the morning. She was pretty springy, too. We found Galway to be marvelous and truly, I was happy to experience it in the sunshine. Had it been raining we would have missed the man who made the most astonishing balloon figures, I conceded. It was fascinating to watch him create an Elmo with googly eyes and a Superman with a six-pack set of abs out of long skinny strips of rubber. We would have missed the street performers and the street fair where we spent exorbitant amounts of money on gifts for our friends and family. I had my first Irish tea at a sidewalk café. We had lunch at McDonough’s, a place we’d been hearing about since we left New York City. Go there for fish and chips. Don’t even waste your time having this dish anywhere else. McDonough’s. Make note of it.

Galway 2

Galway 3

Galway 4

With some regret Woney and I drove out of Galway that afternoon and headed for Westport. Days before we had begun to make pipe-dream plans to move to Ireland. Every city on our path was evaluated based on our pipe-dream criteria (are the people nice, how are the pubs, is there a dentist office). It didn’t take us long to realize that Galway would fit the bill nicely. So yes, we had regrets about leaving. Until we got to Westport.

True to form, our B&B in Westport was gorgeous! The proprietor was a sweet, shy woman and the city was just as friendly as every place we had visited thus far. Woney and I were thrilled with our first floor room as our ridiculous suitcases were becoming increasingly heavier the more we shopped.

Westport 14

Westport 15

We were even more thrilled when we learned from the sweet proprietor that there was a spa nearby that offered the fish pedicures we didn’t even know we wanted. Fish pedicures! Do you even know what that is? (Martie and Daisy – I am cautioning you to stop reading right now. Really, stop. This will turn your stomach.) Tiny little piranha-like fish in a tank rush to the dead skin on your feet and chew it off. We’d heard about it but being as how it’s not legal in the States, Woney and I had never dreamed we would get to experience it.

Westport 18

Y’all, experience it we did. With some trepidation we booked our appointment, made our way into the city, cleaned our feet, and then stared with wide eyes into the fish tanks. The fish were so . . . . tiny. They looked harmless. They just kind of flittered around in the tank, being lazy, being fish. Woney and I perched on our respective benches and on the count of three, plunged our feet into the tanks. Oh. Oh! OHOHOH! Those tiny harmless fish did turn into little mini-piranhas. In a frenzy they swarmed to our feet, like little leeches, and attached themselves to the dead skin on our feet for 25 minutes. It was such a strange sensation, like a tickling, buzzing, leech-y feeling. We loved it. Absolutely loved it! Highly Recommend Fish Pedicures.

Westport 2

Later that night, Woney and collapsed into our beds, totally happy with our experiences that day. We were settling in and just as we were drifting off to sleep in this very cushy, very plush, very large B&B, very much opposite the one in Doolin where we were terrified we’d hear someone having echo-y sex, we heard the couple in the bedroom above ours begin an amorous, rhythmic, thumping party that we could not ignore. “Go on with your bad selves,” I thought. And then sighed. Every silver lining has a cloud, I guess.

Next Stop: Trim!

Doolin/Galway

I heard another couple come in the front door of the B&B, thump down the hall, have a conversation, and my last thought before I drifted off to sleep in that echo-y loud no-privacy B&B was, “Please, God, don’t let them have sex. We’ll hear it ALL and I just can’t take that.”

The night passed uneventfully and to my knowledge, no sex was had. Woney and I packed up our suitcases after another traditional Irish breakfast, complete with toast, and headed into Doolin proper. It was a 2.5 minute drive and that’s only because the road narrowed to a single lane and we had to wait for a car to first pass over the bridge.

We’d heard that an Island tour existed, that you could see the Cliffs of Moher from a boat, and I’ll tell you, the heat was such that a windy cruise was of great interest to us. I was sweating buckets and it was barely 9:00 a.m. I desperately wanted to walk the Cliffs, to hike them the old fashioned way but the cruise was cheap enough and enticing enough that we pushed the walking off until later. Woney and I purchased our tickets and then went shopping to amuse ourselves until the boat departed.

Y’all, I use the term “shopping” loosely. There were perhaps three stores meant for shopping in Doolin and one of them was a wool shop. It was 90 degrees – thus the very idea of wool shopping was abhorrent. The chocolate shop, on the other hand, was awarded our business and we spend an inordinate amount of time in there because quite simply, there was nothing else to do.

Sign Reads: Dangerous for Bathing Beyond this Point

Sign Reads: Dangerous for Bathing Beyond this Point

Moo.  That's Gaelic for Moo.

Moo. That’s Gaelic for Moo.

We eventually wandered our way down a pretty long road to get to the boat docks and finally, our boat came. First we visited the Aran Islands where we had the best lunch of our entire lives.

Best Lunch Ever

Best Lunch Ever

We took a horse and buggy tour of the Island and again, attempted to amuse ourselves with the rest of our time by shopping. If you guessed that there was really no shopping, you’d be correct. The local population of that island is about 300 people, give or take five. One man was selling pieces of slate on which he hand-carved Gaelic symbols and letters. He was quite popular with the 300 citizens and managed to do a tidy business as all the tourists with money burning a hole in their pockets emptied them into his ready hands.

View from Aran Island

View from Aran Island

Shipwreck on the Island

Shipwreck on the Island

Our Pony, Jack

Our Pony, Jack

See the rocks in the field?

See the rocks in the field?

The farming families who live here move the rocks from the field and build the paddocks.  Millions of rocks, hundreds of paddocks.

The farming families who live here move the rocks from the field and build the paddocks. Millions of rocks, hundreds of paddocks.

Just because it's pretty . . . .

Just because it’s pretty . . . .

Next we hopped back on the boat to visit the Cliffs. It was here, on this boat, that I blistered my nose so badly that the skin hardened into a protective covering like a cicada. I didn’t realize that was happening because of the wind and the beauty but when Woney said as I took off my sunglasses, “Wow, you look like a raccoon” I wised up.

I didn’t mention much about either of these jaunts because again, Ireland is just such a beautiful place that I’m going to let it speak for itself. I will tell you that the Cliffs are so massive that when you approach them from the water and you try to look up to see the top of them, you can’t. The sheer magnitude of them will make your breath catch in your throat and you’ll realize just how small you really are. Absolutely gorgeous. Woney and I just breathed it all in, as much as we could take.

Cliffs from a distance

Cliffs from a distance

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Free Standing Rock

Free Standing Rock

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Moher Rock

Moher Rock

Moher Rock - Every white dot is a Puffin.

Moher Rock – Every white dot is a Puffin.

Limp with all the beauty we had experienced, Woney and I drug ourselves back down that long road to our car and drug ourselves out of Doolin. We both made a half-hearted attempt at offering to walk the Cliffs with the other but I could already feel my skin beginning to puff up from the burn. Woney could see this for herself and so we made our way to Galway for the night. We were exhausted. Even if Hugh Jackman dressed in full Wolverine gear had streaked naked through our B&B I would not have noticed. (This might be a lie.) I was completely satiated. I could not take in anymore.

Doolin was assuredly my favorite place. The people. The views. The chocolate. The Cliffs. Oh, those Cliffs. I’m not sure I will ever get over them.

Next Stop: Westport!

Ireland

Ireland

Doolin

We felt like we were somebody as we sat in the parlor after dinner reading our books and nibbling on excellent Butler’s chocolates, passing an evening in the way the royals do. It was such a lovely day. We went to bed that night sighing over our good fortune.

I’d love to tell you that our good fortune extended through the night but to do so would be a lie. Woney and I were cozy in our beds, snoozing away, dreaming in limericks in the middle of the night when out of nowhere, a blaring buzzing horn began to echo through the halls of the castle. Woney and I leapt out of bed, hearts racing, instantly alert. We frantically scrambled around for a moment, Woney tripped over her suitcase and faceplanted on the carpet, and we headed for the door.

An interesting point of note is that when in Ireland, you should become accustomed to using a real live skeleton key to lock and unlock every bedroom door in all B&Bs and Castle/Hotels. At night, you lock yourself into the room with the same skeleton key you used to unlock the door when checking in. This little nugget of information would have been useful to remember before we jammed our fingers into the locked doorframe and creatively spouted words that would make Madre blush as we tried to dutifully make our smoke alarm exit. It took us a moment, and after we calmed down we donned the fluffy castle robes left for us in the armoire, utilized our skeleton key and exited our room.

Perhaps it is because Americans are drama queens or perhaps everyone else lodging at the Castle/Hotel was out whooping it up at the pub at 2:00 a.m., but Woney and I were the only patrons to follow protocol for smoke alarm blarings. We wandered the dark, quiet halls in our snazzy, fluffy robes for a few minutes and then deciding that we were in no danger, headed back to bed.

The next morning brought another traditional Irish breakfast, this time with toast, and I made my rounds saying good-bye to the castle. We lugged our ridiculous suitcases and my ridiculous pillow down three flights of stairs and out to the car to take off for another day of sight-seeing.

Jimmie and the Castle Dog

Jimmie and the Castle Dog

The Bunratty Castle was on our list. Before we could get there, we had to cross a body of water, and that meant a ferry ride. Woney drove our tiny little car onto the ferry, grabbed a hoodie and made for the top of the ferry. I think we both just wanted an excuse to wear a hoodie more than anything but for a few minutes, we saw Ireland from the middle of the water. Awesome. Of course I don’t have a picture because I am a moron.

Our Mini Car

Our Mini Car

At this point, I’d like you to remember how I alluded to some foreshadowing in one of my earlier Ireland posts. I’d like you to recall the mentions I’ve made re: our getting lost. Oh. My. God. You guys, I am embarrassed to even tell you this, but despite our having specific directions on how to find the Bunratty Castle from the ferry, we got lost. “It’s right next to Durty Nellie’s,” everyone said. “Right next door. Can’t miss it.” Well, miss it we did, at least four times. Finally we just parked at Durty Nellie’s and said, “We’ll go in and ask.” Thank the Lord we didn’t because we would have been laughed right out of the joint.

The Bunratty Castle is, quite literally, right next to Durty Nellie’s. They share a parking lot. Our problem, see, was that there was a giant hedge between the two and Woney and I never dreamed that a hedge would hide the castle. We are Philistines. Good for us that we saw it as we entered the parking lot, and so we made our way sheepishly to the castle.

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle

The castle was nice. Very authentic. Kind of full of rocks and stones and drafts. We traipsed up and down the spiral staircases and checked out the bedrooms and narrow windows but honestly, Woney and I were castled out. We attemped a few “oohs” and some “aahs”. At best they were halfhearted. Lunch, on the other hand, was of great interest to us and so we made our way back to Durty Nellie’s for the absolute best toasted cheese and ham sandwich I have ever had or ever hope to have again. I’m very sorry that experience is over.

After Bunratty, we headed for Doolin. The next day would bring our tour of the Cliffs of Moher so taking a scenic leisurely drive was of interest as we really had nothing better to do. We simply followed signs to Doolin, having decided that Gwendolyn was an idiot, and remember how I alluded to some foreshadowing in one of my earlier Ireland posts? I’d like you to recall the mentions I’ve made re: our getting lost. Oh. My. God. I’m not sure how we did it but Woney and I ended up in the middle of the back of beyond. Twice. We were on roads that were closed. We were on roads that did not exist. We were on roads that just followed a never-ending circle. Finally we broke down and asked Gwendolyn for help and do you know what she did to us? Took us into people’s driveways. Took us on bicycle paths not meant for cars. She took us around the same road we had already been on. Twice. It was exhausting. I wish we had a Map My Run feature on at the time because I’ll bet the aerial view was ridiculous, like a corn maze except worse.

Eventually we topped a hill in the middle of BFE and Woney said, “I know where we are.” How she did that I will never know being as how neither of us had ever been to Ireland before, but sure enough we drove down the hill and straight into Doolin.

View from the top of our hill

View from the top of our hill

Here ends the exciting part of my story. Doolin is a very boring town full of very nice people but that’s it as far at the town goes. There’s no shopping. There’s a pub or two but nothing super exciting. I’d like to tell great stories about how wonderful the people were and aside from our bartender, Carmel, and her friend Aine, I can’t. Carmel was fabulous to Woney when Woney got her foot stuck in some tar on the super boring road in the super boring town and for that Woney is forever grateful. I could wax poetic about Carmel all day, really, but seriously, this town was D-E-A-D. I think all their energy goes into the Cliffs and the Cliffs alone.

Woney's foot that got stuck in tar, soaking in a Coke bath (which incidentally, did not help)

Woney’s foot that got stuck in tar, soaking in a Coke bath (which incidentally, did not help)

We checked in to our B&B for the night and for once got a room on the first floor. I’m sad to report that again, here ends the exciting part of my story. This B&B was the most impersonal, institutional, dreary B&B we had encountered thus far. Our room was so tiny that we both could not stand at once. Everything echoed in the room and down the hall as there was no carpet, no rug, no soft surface of any sort, including the proprietor who was minus a personality. After we had some dinner and drinks with Carmel and Aine, Woney and I were tired and scooched into our tiny twin beds. I heard another couple come in the front door of the B&B, thump down the hall, have a conversation, and my last thought before I drifted off to sleep in that echo-y loud no-privacy B&B was, “Please, God, don’t let them have sex. We’ll hear it ALL and I just can’t take that.”

Our Mini Room

Our Mini Room

Next Stop: Galway!

Tralee

Sam was the king of the Maranatha House, you could tell, and no matter how heavy the suitcase or how ridiculous the pillow, Sam parked himself right in the doorway, right under your feet, to ensure that he got at least a moderate pat as you walked by. What a lovely place . . . .

The next morning, true to form, the owner of the Maranatha house served up a traditional Irish breakfast with but one deviation. We had no toast. NO TOAST! It was a rough morning, leaving the pretty, pretty house and with no toast to boot.

Woney and I lugged our ridiculous suitcases and my ridiculous pillow down the Barbie staircase, across Sam’s napping place in the middle of the doorway and loaded up our car. We noticed as we were leaving that the other patrons of the Maranatha house, mostly Americans, seemed to be having trouble with the narrow roads in Ireland like we were. Like our car, most of their rentals had some scratchy marks alongside the passenger door but unlike us, they had had some run ins with what appeared to be barbed wire. Big holes dotted their doors and trim pieces were missing left and right. It was with great pride in our (Woney’s) driving abilities that we drove off, ready for the sight-seeing we had planned.

This will not surprise you, but Katherine from the Mena House had given us some tips for this day as well. We were driving to Tralee to stay in a castle for the night (and let me add here: Castle, yay!). The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive on the way to Tralee, well known for its gorgeous views but less known for its awful traffic and toothpick hairpin roads. Katherine instructed us to head for the Dingle Peninsula instead, claiming that it was a better, less harrowing drive with views that rivaled and even surpassed those across the Ring of Kerry. When I get to that point, I will most likely not write much. I will most likely just post a bunch of pictures. You’ll see why.

This also will not surprise you, but Woney and I got lost on our way to the Dingle Peninsula. On our way to getting lost, we ran across a sign that read: Toy Soldier Museum Ahead. We continued to run across signs for this museum every time Gwendolyn took us on the wrong path (bitch), and we ultimately decided that we needed to visit this Toy Soldier Museum. Plus we had to pee and they offered a bathroom on one of the signs. Y’all, this was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done/seen in my life. Woney and I wandered around this concrete building completely in awe, watching these people cast all those tiny metal figures you see in your traditional Toy Soldier Museums. We watched a lady hand paint some of them. We even made our own and while we were proud of them, our talents extended nowhere near theirs. Woney and I will never be master Toy Soldier Museum employees is what I’m saying. Man, that was fun.

Tralee 2

Hand-crafted Chess Set

Hand-crafted Chess Set

We got back on the road, on our way to getting lost again, and eventually found ourselves driving along the Dingle Peninsula. Breathtaking is not a word that even comes close to describing these views. Wait, here you are:

Dingle 41

Dingle 38

Dingle 32

Dingle 40

Dingle 17

Dingle 24

dingle 15

Dingle 22

Dingle 14

Dingle 11

Dingle 28

By the time we drove it all, Woney and I were completely saturated with beauty. We could not take in another sight. Every few feet boasted a scenic overlook and we stopped at every single one of them. There’s not a solitary hill crest or rock or ocean wave that is not documented at least three different ways on our cameras. Also, sheep.

Isn’t that gorgeous? By far, this was my favorite thing we had done. If you ever go, the West Coast is the area you want, I’m certain of it.

Our final destination for the night was the Ballyseede Castle. Getting lost was becoming an art form for us – we pulled an illegal u-turn more than once to get to this place, but again, as we drove down the long drive and the castle came into view, in our breath caught in our throats. It was beautiful. The interior was beautiful. Our bedroom was beautiful. The grounds were beautiful. The dinner was beautiful. We felt like we were somebody as we sat in the parlor after dinner reading our books and nibbling on excellent Butler’s chocolates, passing an evening in the way the royals do. It was such a lovely day. We went to bed that night, sighing over our good fortune.

Tralee

Tralee 16

Tralee 8

Next Stop: Doolin!

Blarney

Kilkenny was exactly the Ireland we wanted. That was what we went to do and see. It was absolutely perfect and I will go back . . . . .

Woney and I, having gotten squiffy the night before, enjoyed a restful slumber at the Mena House and then trooped downstairs for breakfast. Planning all our stays in Bed and Breakfasts was an excellent idea, I thought to myself. Katherine, the absolute most helpful person I have met to date, was also an excellent cook. She offered us the full Irish breakfast (with toast!) and while we turned up our noses at the blood sausage, we accepted the rest.

During our planning conversation the day before, Katherine insisted that we visit the Rock of Cashel. In all of our researching we had never heard of such a thing, but Woney and I are adventurous if nothing else, and Katherine had already proven herself knowledgeable. We said our good-byes and set off to see this lump of limestone that was something akin to the famous Giant Ball of Yarn, at least in my head.

You guys, I will probably say this a lot, but I’m telling you, if you get the chance to see the Rock of Cashel, go. From a distance, it’s a modest-looking stone building resembling a church in serious ill repair. Up close, that’s exactly what it is. The stonework, however, dates back to the 12th century in places, and the history there is incredibly rich. The Rock sits atop a hill overlooking some of the most gorgeous Irish scenery you’ll ever see. Grave markers surround the area, and stone walls are everywhere. It felt peaceful and more importantly, it felt chilly and foggy and still – exactly what we wanted. The moment we stepped out of the car, Woney and I looked at each other and said, “We need hoodies!”

Cashel

Cashel

View from Cashel

View from Cashel

I wish I were a better photographer. My pictures don’t do it justice.

When our tour was sadly complete, Woney and I set off for our next adventure, still talking about that Rock. We were looking forward to good things, though, as Blarney Castle was next. Item two on Woney’s bucket list was kissing the Blarney Stone, something that I had no interest in doing.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Also Blarney Castle

Also Blarney Castle

“So, you’ll kiss the Blarney Stone, won’t you” people asked me before I left the States.

“Naw,” I said. “The locals pee on that.” I was certain it was true.

“But, Jimmie,” Woney said, exasperated, “it’s the Blarney Stone. You can’t come to Ireland and not kiss the Blarney Stone!”

“Naw,” I reiterated. “It’s been urinated upon. I will pass.”

And pass I did, although I did take the hour or so to climb the four stories of spiral, stone, incredibly narrow and slippery stairs to get to the actual kissing point. That I Highly Recommend unless you are afraid of heights, afraid of close spaces or it’s raining. Blarney was a beautiful castle, and truly one of the most authentic ones we saw, but again, I will say that the heart of this city is the people. When you spend an hour in line with strangers climbing slightly treacherous stairs to put your lips on a rock upon which someone has peed, you are no longer strangers.

Kissing the Stone

Kissing the Stone

Woney did the deed after layering on several coats of lip goo to protect her lips from the urine, and I took pictures. Getting down the stairs was a much quicker and also much scarier process as we really had no one to block our fall if the stairs proved too slippery. We walked out of there content, though, and safe and ready for our next adventure. We also walked out of there slightly sweaty. The gloom and the chill had long vanished, replaced by the sun and its heat.

View from the Top of Blarney

View from the Top of Blarney

The Jameson Distillery was the third and last item on Woney’s bucket list and since we were close, off we drove. We made a slight unexpected detour in Cork and both promptly decided that we were not fans. If I never go back to Cork, I will be alright. Jameson is near Cork in Middleton which I’m sure is a lovely city, but this being probably the hardest driving day we had, we didn’t notice much about it. And being that Woney and I both took the Jameson Master Taster lesson, we didn’t much notice it when we left either. Kidding! I’m kidding! We only had three watered-down, very weak shots. Casey, again, that shot was for you. Cheers!

This tour was fun and I do Highly Recommend it. I also Highly Recommend shopping in the gift shop (hello, Dammit Todd). Jameson gifts are perfect for those friends that you missed purchasing chocolates for at Butler’s.

I Bought this for Dammit Todd, Not Really

I Bought this for Dammit Todd, Not Really

I alluded earlier to an unexpected drive through Cork. I wish I could allude to the multiple other unexpected drives through cities but honestly, Woney and I got lost so many times that day, I couldn’t even tell you where we were. On our way to the B & B for the night, the Maranatha House, we made such a number of wrong turns it bordered on ridiculous. Our GPS director, whom I shall call Gwendolyn, was beyond frustrated with us. “At the roundabout, take the third exit to somethingorother and continue straight for .7 kilometers” was a standard speech. Gwendolyn was kind of a bitch. She was relentless and had no idea where we were either.

We did make our way to the Maranatha House but not before we questioned our every step and turn. The more tractors we met on the road, the more remote we realized this house to be. Exhausted and frustrated, we finally arrived at the Maranatha sign. All of that exhaustion and frustration instantly disappeared as we rounded the bend and caught sight of the house. Oh, it was beautiful, inside and out! Every room was decorated like a fairy tale: swags of heavy velvet over the windows, swaths of gauze surrounding the beds, round mattresses with pink heart-shaped pillows. Woney and I were given a choice of the rooms and we ran back and forth across the hall, desperate to pick the best one. We settled on one finally and moved in for the night. I loved the excess of it, the pinkness of it and it wasn’t until I woke up out of a dead sleep that I realized what the house reminded me of – Barbie’s Dream House! Our hostess must have had her own fantasy as a child and was lucky enough to make it a reality. Perfect house for honeymooners and perfect area, too, as the only things of note in that area are the pretty bedrooms with the fancy beds, and everyone knows that’s all honeymooners care about anyway.

Woney's Bed

Woney’s Bed

My Bed

My Bed

One last mention about lovely things to see: Sam. Look at that face.

Sam.  A Good Dog.

Sam. A Good Dog.

Sam was the king of the Maranatha House, you could tell, and no matter how heavy the suitcase or how ridiculous the pillow, Sam parked himself right in the doorway, right under your feet, to ensure that he got at least a moderate pat as you walked by. What a lovely place . . . .

Next stop: Tralee!

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries