Ireland Journal: Arrival and Acclimation

6 10 2009

Since Matt and I haven’t had any time or money (Dear Recession: Please End) to go out to eat recently, I haven’t had any new material for restaurant posts (home cooked meals coming soon). Conveniently enough, I found the journal that I kept when I backpacked around Ireland in the spring and summer of 2001 just the other night and it reminded me that I had always meant to preserve it electronically. So–that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to record excerpts from it every week or so (slightly edited because my 23-year-old self was a bit more skittish with her writing). I realize that it may not be as entertaining to everyone else, but it’s the closest I’m going to get to Ireland again in the near future, and it makes me happy to reminisce.

This first excerpt is from my day of departure from University of Delaware, where my brother was at school and I caught a shuttle to the airport (long story) and my arrival in Dublin.

May 1, 2001

Andrew and I were waiting for the Delaware Express Limo Service to pick me up at UD, totally expecting a van, when a real limousine pulls up to whisk me away to the airport. Picture a limo pulling up to a dorm to pick up a 23-year-old in a backpack that’s almost as big as she is. I wish I had been calm enough to enjoy the bar and TV inside but I have never been so nervous in my life, though if I can survive living in Tokyo for two years, I think I can survive 2 1/2 months alone in Ireland. We’ll see.

May 2, 2001

Well I did it. It’s official. I’m in Ireland. I took a cab from the airport and the whole time the driver was talking to me about two gay Irish actors that started a Theater together in Sligo and an Irish poet that he didn’t care for but that “we” (Americans) gave “some kind of prize” to. He did not know the names of any of these people. What a character. [I am assuming that he was talking about the Hawk’s Well Theater and Yeats.] I got to Alpine House, where I was staying for just that night, in Santry, a pleasant, residential neighborhood just outside of the city complete with kids running around with Super Soakers. One of my main goals of this trip was to stay away from cities because I was sick of them.

[Side note: I did the math very carefully back then when I was deciding where to stay.  The average nightly stay at a B&B was around 20-25 Irish pounds per night, including breakfast.  The breakfasts were so large that I usually did not need lunch, and I would buy some light snacks at grocery stores for dinner–hardly more than 5 pounds each night.  So, my average daily cost for food and lodging (beer not included) was usually around 25-30 pounds.  A hostel could cost around 15 pounds, plus I would have to buy 10-15 pounds of food for three normal-sized meals instead of one large and one small, so it was usually just as cheap to stay in B&B’s as it was to stay in hostels and about 1/3 of the price most are now.  And, I got to eat an Irish Breakfast every morning if I wanted to.]

It was a beautiful day in Dublin, and despite what I really wanted to do, shower and sleep, I caught a bus into the city.  Two friendly locals pointed me towards Eden Quay (pronounced “key”), where I had to catch a return bus. I wandered around a bit and finally alit in O’Neill’s Pub where I survived my first lone meal at the bar: a bowl of soup, brown bread, and a pint of Guinness.


The Aran Islands

3 07 2009

I’d like to take a trip down memory lane this weekend, back to a time when I could pick up and travel for three months without a care in the world. This time was the summer of 2001, before the twin towers fell, before I knew what blogging was, and, obviously, before I had a digi-cam (I apologize for the scanned images below). I spent the summer in Ireland, and I spent some of that time on the Aran Islands off of the west coast. Time went so slow on these islands that I think I left before I arrived.




I was on Inishmore, the big island, for a week. This was uncommon as most visitors took the morning ferry to the island and left on the last one, back to the mainland, at 5:00. I stayed overnight and met some young Irish troublemakers who were camping for Bank Holiday weekend. They took me on a pub crawl (three pubs, one street) and rode me back to my B&B on the backs of their bicycles.

By day I rented bikes and rode around the island. Dun Aengus was the main attraction:


Inishmaan (Inis Meain) is the middle island, and the furthest from civilization. This island warranted a day trip only. I was planning on spending another week, but in half a day I was waiting for the ferry to come back and get me.  The main problem was that I was there during a hoof and mouth outbreak and a lot of the island was off limits (because most of the land was used for sheep grazing).



This was the town of An Cora:


These were the major sites I saw (Synge’s Cottage and Synge’s Chair):



It was beautiful and desolate. Completely desolate. The only pub was closed all day and the only person I saw was peering at me from behind a closed door. It was a welcome change from the hoards of tourists.

The last island is Inisheer (Inis Oirr). Closest to the coast of County Clare and the town of Doolin, this island doesn’t attract the sheer number of tourists that Inishmore does, but there is a bit of civilization: a small cafe with ice cream.  The sites are below and are, in order, the Plassy Freighter Shipwreck, Teampall Chaoimhain, and O’Brien Castle.




Getting to and from the Aran Islands can be tricky, but it’s easier in the summer.  Ferries go to Inishmore from Galway and Doolin a few times a day in the summer and the biggest and fullest boat is usually going there so you can’t miss it. To the smaller islands, make sure you tell the ferry men which island you are going to, or they may skip it. I was the only person on my ferry going to Inishmaan.  Island Ferries goes to and from all three islands from Galway.  Inishmore trips are a few times a day but the ferries only take one trip in the morning and one in the evening to and from the smaller islands year round.  Doolin Ferries goes to all three islands from Doolin.  In the summer the ferries go back and forth a few times a day but from November through March, there is no ferry service.

International Wish List Summer 2009

26 05 2009

Behold: Part 3 of my Summer 2009 Wish Lists. I will either need to have two International lists because it was way too hard to choose 10 destinations only or elaborate and create a full itinerary for each of the ten destinations.  I may do both–stay tuned!

1. South Africa: My interest began in 7th grade when I researched Apartheid and journalist Steve Biko for a school project. Since then I have been intrigued with the country and how it has been portrayed in Hollywood and music. I want to see for myself. I would concentrate my time in Soweto, Pretoria, and Johannesburg.

2. Canada: Fly to Vancouver and take a luxury train across the continent to Prince Edward Island.

Route: Vancouver–>Edmonton–>Saskatoon (Shelly Tambo!)–>Winnipeg–>Toronto.

This trips takes about 3 1/2 days!  More if I get off to explore.  Spend a day or two in Toronto to stretch my legs.

Then hop back on the train from Toronto–>Montreal–>Moncton.

This trip takes one day but I’ll probably make at least a one-night stop in Montreal.  The last leg from Moncton to Charlottetown is about three hours.  The return trip would be a ferry to Caribou, Nova Scotia, drive to Halifax and fly back to Philadelphia.  I’d need at least 3 weeks for this trip.  Thanks.

3. Spain and France: Fly to Madrid, take a train to Barcelona and through the Alps to southern France.  Stops in Perpignon, Toulouse, Carcassonne, and Bordeaux.  Eat and drink.  A lot.

4. Japan: Tokyo, of course, but go for the main purpose of attending the Earth Celebration with Kodo on Sado Island.

5. Ireland: Spend more time in Donegal, climb Croagh Patrick again, spend another week on Inishmore, and a few days in Galway and Doolin.

6. Ecotour of Ecuador and Galapogos Island: I am not a fan of organized tours but my serious lack of Spanish skills may force me to join a group for this trip.  I am also very curious about this new “ecotour” fad and if it is indeed just a fad.  Technically the trip would fall during the winter holidays, because the tour only runs a couple of times a year, but planning now is key.  (I’m talking like I am actually going.  Ha!)

7. Iceland: It’s not as cold as it sounds and what better way to cool off in summer?  With 24-hour daylight, you can see the sights in the middle of the night, if you so choose.  On the itinerary: glacier exploration, Westfjords, and rotten shark meat.  Mmmm.

8. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: I will readily admit that my love of Pirates of the Caribbean affected this choice.  Laugh, kid, even make fun, I don’t care.  I love me some real-life movie settings.

9. China: Dragon Boat Races in June.  I’m participating in the Philadelphia races in October so how neat would it be to see the original tradition in action?  Races are throughout China, but could I still catch the May 28th race in Guangzhou?  Maybe if I leave tonight.

10. Benelux region: Belgium (Ghent–to escape the tourists), Netherlands (Amsterdam–just to see what the fuss is about), and Luxembourg.

Got the travel bug yet?  Itching to book a plane flight somewhere?  Anywhere?  This list of mine is just the tip of an iceberg in Iceland.  My lust for the perfect detailed itinerary now has ten chances to be satiated.  Please take the poll below to help me choose which trip to expand on next:

Roundstone, County Galway, Ireland

5 07 2008

Even if you aren’t a fan of The Matchmaker, starring Janeane Garofalo, Roundstone is a must-stop town on your trip to Western Ireland. Located in the scenic Connemara region of County Galway, Roundstone is accessible both by car or public bus.

There is one road running through the center of town, the same road that runs to Clifden in the West and Galway city in the east. Besides being the location of The Matchmaker, Roundstone is also known for famed local celebrity, Malachy Kearns, owner of Roundstone Musical Instruments, home of the Irish drum, the bodhran; and Mt. Errisbeg, which looms above the seaside community.

Climbing Mt. Errisbeg can be an adventure, if not a physical test of endurance. When I climbed the mountain, it was during the Food and Mouth disease outbreak, that hadn’t seemed to reach the outskirts of the wild West. Using the tiny map in my Lonely Planet guidebook, I found a path next to O’Dowd’s pub and then a small lane by some houses and farms.

I came to a dead end with a house right at the end of the path, with the mountain looming up in front of me. A man standing outside the house joked with me when I asked him if I could go through his back yard to climb the mountain. He said it would cost five (punts) to hire him as a guide and also told me there were a lot of “wild animals” up there. I went through his gate (“just close it behind you,” were his last words to me) to his pasture where his sheep were grazing. The whole mountain was used for sheep grazing and I’m surprised no one was worried about me spreading Foot and Mouth. But I am slowly learning that in Connemara, rules mean nothing.

I made my way up the mountain, carefully avoiding the streams and sheep droppings, and scaring the herds as I walked by them. It was a beautiful mountain with no real path and when I got to the top I could see the entire town and the water down below. The strong, chilly wind kept me from lingering too long at the top, so I quickly started my descent. I should have left a trail of breadcrumbs because I got lost and disoriented on the way down. I couldn’t remember which way to go and soon I couldn’t even see the town for a landmark. Also, there were gates and walls up around me and I couldn’t figure out how to get around them. I feared I was on the private property of people not as kind as the man who offered to be my guide and that they would come out of their homes and yell at me. I made a lucky guess on the direction I had to go in and the man’s back yard and gate was very close to where I was as I made my way back to civilization.

I went to Roundstone Musical Instruments store to browse for the second day in a row. A man having tea said, “Hello again” and I said hello even though I had no idea who he was. He began talking to me and I soon learned that he was the bodhran man, Malachy Kearns, owner of the shop, maker of the most famous bodhrans in the world, a vary prominent man, actually. He makes drums for all of the famous Irish musicians, including the Chieftains. I told him that I was planning on purchasing one of his bodhrans and he proceeded to force me (kindly) to sit and talk with him over some coffee and a delicious cream pastry. He took me over to his collections and pointed out some particularly nice drums. It just so happened that we liked and admired the same one—the skin used to make it wasn’t perfectly white—it had some darker patches running through it—and a painted Celtic design of a bird. Malachy actually gave it to me along with three beaters (“sticks” to hit it with) and a manual on how to use it. It was such a pleasant surprise because we had just met and didn’t even know each other very well. I only had to pay the 24 punts shipping charge to send it home so I wouldn’t have to carry it around with me. I think it was worth around 50 punts, which is actually inexpensive for a bodhran. I thanked him profusely and told him I would stop in the next day to say hello.

I had to find something to do to fill the next day because the bus didn’t come until 4:50, so I wandered into town and back to the music shop. I had coffee with Malachy, two local men, and a Swiss couple who bought one of the only replicas of the Book of Kells (the original being on display in Trinity College in Dublin). The Book of Kells is an illustrated manuscript from the year 800, which makes it one of the oldest books in the world. It is believed that monks on the island of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland, produced the book and moved it to Kells in Ireland to keep it safe from a Viking raid in 806. To buy your own copy of this book would cost $18,000 but a paperback version can be bought for $17.99. Malachy said he wanted to buy one of the copies and display it in his shop and they were all discussing how he could do that (how to display it, how to keep it safe, among other logistics).

After Malachy gave a brief talk on the bodhran and an explanation and a demonstration to a hoard of German tourists, I left the commotion and went to O’Dowd’s Pub for lunch and caught the bus on the way to Oughterard, which is another adventure I might write about later.

Dingle Peninsula: Moran’s Bus Tour

21 05 2008

Being without a car on my solo trip to Ireland forced me to take a lot of day tours run by professional companies. This route of travel is a good option for tourists who are either tired of driving themselves around or too afraid to navigate the winding coastal roads on the Dingle Peninsula.

Moran’s Slea Head Bus Tour (E-mail: Tel: 066-915 11 55 or 915 11 29.–there’s no website!) was scheduled to leave Dingle by the Visitor’s Center at 2:00. By 1:30, people were milling around the pier asking each other if they were in the right place. Most of the time, in Ireland, no one ever knows if they are in the “right place” to wait for organized tours, but no one ever seems to worry about it too much. Sure enough, eventually a man noticed all of the confused looking tourists and directed us to his van.

A wide range of people takes these organized tours and can be separated into two major groups. Group #1: the backpackers who can’t afford a car and are smart enough not to bike along the winding, traffic-ridden, narrow roads that go up through hills and along the cliffs. Group #2: tourists over sixty-five who never step off of the bus.

The tour guide, who doubled as the driver, pointed out the sights and told unique anecdotes. Despite the dangerous landscape (at some points I looked out the window and couldn’t even see the road we were on—only the cliffs) it was the most beautiful I had ever seen. On one side of the road were endless fields of sheep and stone walls that rose up way above us. There were also sheep on the cliff side that, according to our driver, had a short set and a longer set of legs so they could stand easily on the uneven ground. “But the trouble is,” he said, “Sometimes they get confused as to which way to stand and they fall off the cliffs.” (Cue laughter from the old people and groans from the backpackers.)

We stopped a few times, only because my fellow back-seat companions and I would beg the driver to let us off to experience the surroundings in the fresh air. “Sir, could you please stop the bus so we can take pictures and actually feel like we are a part of this awesome landscape?” Well, that’s not exactly what we yelled, but you get the point. He always good-naturedly stopped and the same few of us would get off, probably for longer than the driver or the members of Group #2 would have liked.

Far and Away and Ryan’s Daughter were filmed on the Dingle Peninsula and our trivia-filled driver identified all of the places where the scenes were filmed. Also on the tour were beehive huts, tiny little stone houses shaped like beehives, which ancient people used to live in and still remained. Another ancient ruin was Dunbeg Fort built on the edge of the cliffs, and slowly falling apart and into the water down to the rocks below.

We drove past the town of Ventry and around Slea Head towards Dunquin where you can catch the ferry out to the Great Blasket Island. Our last stop of significance was Gallarus Oratory—touristy but that meant there were restrooms and coffee (and Magnum ice cream bars). To use the restroom I had to pay the one punt entrance fee to the Oratory but I didn’t even feel like walking up to see it up close—I was becoming a pro at distance viewing. We went back to Dingle via the only straight road on the peninsula, because, according to the bus driver, “there are no pubs on it.” (More laughter and groans–get it?)

Conquering The Reek

26 04 2008

I sat in the dining room of my bed and breakfast in Westport, County Mayo, eating the delicious breakfast my hostess, Maureen, made for me, with a German couple and an American woman with her parents. I told them all I was climbing Croagh Patrick. At that point I had no idea what I was in for, the Americans had no idea what I was talking about, and the Germans looked at me like I had three heads—I guess they knew what I was in for. Maureen, the liar, said it was a “lovely climb.”

St. Patrick spent 40 days and nights on the peak of Croagh Patrick, or “The Reek,” and drove all of the snakes from Ireland. The mountain is 765 meters high and for penance, on the last Sunday in July (Reek Sunday), pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick.

I wore sneakers but if you have hiking boots they would be easier on your feet, although people have been known to climb barefoot for religious reasons (or on a bet). Also, bring lots of water and a walking stick—and maybe some breadcrumbs and a chauffeur.

I went into town after breakfast and hopped on the 11:15 bus with one other woman.

When I told the driver I was going to Murrisk he said, “So you’re off to climb the Reek? Mary—this girl’s off to climb the Reek!”

Mary said, “Oh, lovely. I used to climb it every year with my family but now I have a bad back and can’t make the climb. Where’s your walking stick dear? Oh, no. So you don’t have one. Well, I suppose you’ll make it without. I don’t mean to scare ya, ya know. You’re walking alone then, are ya? It’s best not to walk alone. I remember one year woman climbed alone, do you remember this woman, Liam? Now I don’t mean to scare ya, but she never returned home that night and the next day she was found dead, fallen off the mountain. Oh, dear. What a tragedy that was.”

Mary paused to make the sign of the cross and Liam the Bus Driver found his chance to cut in.

“Just be sure to stop in at the pub at the bottom and tell everyone in there you’re climbing up the Reek today. Then stop in when you return so they know you’re OK. If you don’t return, they’ll know to contact the proper authorities. Now, I don’t mean to scare ya, but these are just precautions, love. I’ve climbed the damn thing ten times and I survived every time!”

Liam and Mary dropped me off and pointed me in the right direction. I started getting a little worried when I was out of breath even before reaching the official starting point, which was a statue of Saint Patrick himself. I’m sure they put it at the bottom so less foolish people could take pictures of themselves there to prove they had been without actually climbing the damn thing. Two elderly people insisted on taking my picture a few times before they cheerfully sent me on my way—cheerfully because they weren’t going any further.

After the first five minutes, I caught up with a very smart man from Long Island named Jim, who had brought along a walking stick, and he became my walking companion. We both naively thought that the first thirty minute stretch just had to be the hardest part—no trail to speak of—just a bunch of rocks, most of them loose, on the side of the mountain. We passed a stream, presumably the one the bus driver had told me to stick my feet in on the way down to heal them—and continued to make our way through the rocks. I did not notice much wildlife. I guess they were all smarter than we were.

After stopping for a couple of water breaks, Jim and I saw some fellow pilgrims in the distance. It seemed as though they had stopped to rest and were waiting for us to catch up as they kept yelling and waving in our direction. I waved back and soon we were sitting on makeshift stone seats with two Irish men climbing together—one man in his late 50s and the other in his 20s. They were Charlie and Cathal, respectively, and little did I know how these two men would give me one of the most interesting and somewhat scary days in my life.

After a few minutes of chatting, Jim decided to go on and I, being his constant companion, followed him along with Charlie and Cathal, with Charlie beginning a rhetoric that would continue until I left him later that day. Charlie, being a liar like Maureen, told Jim and I that we were “nearly there.” After another thirty odd minutes of vertical climbing we thankfully came to a flat patch of rocks where the wind whipped around us and Clew Bay and its islands were visible in the distance.

According to Charlie, his friend George, a veteran (of which war I have no idea), lived on one of those islands with his wife and his boat, which none of us could see from there except Charlie.

After that flat stretch we could see the peak of the mountain right in front of us. I said, extremely prematurely, that it didn’t look so bad! God obviously heard me and decided to teach me a lesson at this point. The last bit of mountain took another hour to climb—an hour of pure torture. An hour that made me pine for the easy little lanes we had been through before. This last hour consisted of a trail of loose rocks with nothing to hold on to and nothing to stop you from falling off the side into the Bay below. I was terrified. There wasn’t even any place to stop and rest unless you wanted to slide back down from where you came. Soon, our party was split up, with Cathal in front, Charlie behind him, and Jim and I bringing up the rear. At every turn that we thought was the top, the mountain just kept getting higher and higher. My mind went blank and void of all thoughts except not to fall until finally I saw the chapel—the little white chapel at the top. I’ve never been more thankful to see a religious place of worship before in my life.

As I reached the top, I looked around me and first felt relief and accomplishment. I had done the physically most challenging thing in my life. I had climbed three miles straight up through rocks risking my life and for what? Why had I done this? Well, for one thing I was bored of the town I was staying in. It also sounded romantic.

Those were my reasons at the bottom of the mountain. At the top, I had new reasons. Self-discovery was one. Getting back in touch with my religion that I had forgotten and put on the back burner of my priorities for years was another. Doing something that would make my grandparents proud of me. I did it for the sheer simplicity of it—just a mountain and God and me, battling it out as I climbed and crawled and prayed my way to the top. And my fellow climbers, who were total strangers, had encouraged and helped me achieve this goal. If it wasn’t for Jim, Charlie, and Cathal, I probably would have given up and gone back down after not even climbing half way up.

A mass was being said in the tiny chapel and college-aged men were packed into and spilling out of it as they listened to the priest encourage them to pray and be thankful for the journey they were on. I listed for a few minutes and before I knew it, the three men were heading back down and I used my common sense, maybe for the first and last time that day, and joined them. I was not looking forward to the second half of this trek and at this time I firmly believed in strength and safety in numbers.

The way down the Reek was not any easier than the way up. It was hard on the feet and legs as I struggled not to lose my footing on the piles of loose rock. I must have slipped at least five times but regained my footing with dignity as others fell around me left and right. I did not have control over my feet until I saw the wonderful sight of St. Patrick again, greeting and congratulating us at the bottom. Jim was long gone by now. He and his stick had set off at an alarming and inspiring rate so I was left with Charlie and Cathal as we went into the coffee shop at the bottom. I was in good spirits at this point, as I had accomplished something fantastic, not to mention Cathal and Charlie had just told me how surprised they were that I had actually made it all the way up and down. They thought American women were weak and soft and they held me in the utmost respect for being so tough and displaying my “Irish spirit and blood”.

I was treated to two cups of coffee and surprising stories about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I was in the presence, I soon realized, of two English-hating, IRA-supporting men who told me personal accounts of the British army invading their homes in County Down and shooting people in the street. Charlie told me of a time, twenty-odd years ago, when there was a knock on his door. He was taken into custody by the British army. They put a cloth over his head so he couldn’t see where they were taking him and only took it off so he could look at the pictures they showed him of known IRA members. He said he knew every one of them but lied so well about it they let him go. Their way of “releasing him from custody” was to throw him out of a van on the side of the road.

Cathal started laughing and said, “Remember Jimmy, Charlie?”

“Oh Lord, Jimmy!” chuckled Charlie. “Jimmy was a guy in our town, what a trouble maker he was. He had it out for the police. And the police had it out for him. Every day, Jimmy’d call the police and say, ‘I’m gonna kill one of ya’ t’night!’ and God love ‘em, he always did. He was a fine marksman, eh, Cathal?”

By the time we had finished our coffee and story telling it was 4:30 and they insisted on giving me a lift back to Westport, and since my bus wasn’t for another hour (or more, depending on Irish time), and I hadn’t done enough idiotic things that day, I accepted.

The three of us got into Charlie’s car. I was looking forward to getting back to Westport, showering, eating, and sleeping. But no, with Charlie it wasn’t that simple. He saw the house of one of the hundreds of people he’s friends with and decided to stop for a “short visit.” I started to get a little uneasy. His friend, Herbert, was a naval captain and his wife, Sally, was the cook on his boat. Only Sally was at home when we arrived and she was very scary. Every other word out of her mouth was “fookin” and I don’t think she smiled once in our “short” two-hour visit.

Their house, or “typical Irish cottage” as Cathal put it, was the most filthy, smelly, and overall disgusting home I had ever been in. I timidly sat next to Charlie (where he ordered me to sit) as Sally went off to make some tea. She came back with, surprisingly, very delicious and clean looking sandwiches. Had she just made these? Were they from the store? I didn’t know and didn’t care as it was 5:00 and the last thing I had eaten was breakfast at 9:00 and had just climbed up and down a three-mile high mountain. I started wolfing them down as Charlie kept ordering me to eat (and I did whatever Charlie told me to do).

We chatted with Sally until Herbert arrived. He was a large man, possibly of German descent (I couldn’t place the accent), resembling Santa Claus and a bit less scary than Sally. As we ate our sandwiches and drank our tea, I listened to Charlie recount the most alarming sequence of events. Charlie had recently been arrested because a taxi driver saw a bomb fall out of his pocket and then a building had been burned soon after. So Charlie was awaiting a trial where he was being charged for arson and could get ten years to life in prison. How he was free to climb the Reek with no police escorts, I have no clue. That’s the extremely brief version of a long story that obviously everyone present knew everything about except for me. So I sat there for two hours as Charlie told that story over and over while Sally kept interjecting with “fookin eejits” (this is also what she called the three of us when we told her we had just climbed the Reek).

We finally left that awful home and Charlie and Cathal dropped me off at the Octagon in the center of town after I gave them my address in the U.S. and asked them to let me know how everything turned out for them. They told me they’d write, and to bring my mom back to meet them when she was here, as they were sure that she was “just as lovely and tough as I was”.

I thought about Charlie and Cathal during the next two months I was in Ireland. Every time I did something a little risky, or met a character in a pub, I thought of them and my first brush with adventure on my trip. After I returned to the U.S., normalcy, and unrisky behavior, they became a distant memory until I received a Christmas card in the mail from Charlie. He wrote:

“Dear Erin,

This is to wish you and your family a happy and peaceful Christmas. I hope you are well as I am. My ‘situation’ is A O.K. now thank God. Cathal, my friend, is very ill and I hope you will remember him in your prayers. I intend soon to return and climb Croagh Patrick by way of Thanksgiving, so I will keep an eye out for you! Love from Charles M.”

I haven’t heard from Charlie recently, but every time someone asks about my adventures in Ireland, I get to tell his story.

**iamtheblog has some great photos of Croagh Patrick! Click here to check them out.**