Hey kids, thanks for taking the time to come by and read my travel blog. It’s been a whirlwind of a day and I’ve been awake for almost 38 hours…so forgive the typos and the tendency to wax poetic.
My dad and sister and I met up with my Grandpa, his fiancee and about seven other McGranaghans at the baggage claim in the Shannon Airport this morning at 7:45am, Shannon time. My Grandpa Bob, a heart attack survivor, was at the front lines pulling bags off the carousel for his daughters. After a while, we all had our bags except for Grandpa Bob’s. We waited and waited, and finally he chose a small blue plastic briefcase that was about the size of a large toaster. It contained everything he would need for the next two weeks. It could easily have passed for a carry on.
While I was waiting for my dad to rent a car, I found a few pamphlets at an information kiosk that interested me: Railtours of Ireland; Hostels of Ireland 2007; and a brochure for the national Donkey Reserve. I ran this last idea by my dad suggesting it was time he started looking at retirement options abroad.
My Grandpa caught wind of the idea of a donkey reserve saying "Why would I want to go to a donkey reserve? There are enough Irish Asses in this world."
He has a point.
I think that anecdote was a good segue into telling you all about the family members who are on this trip. There is, of course, my Grandpa Bob and his Fiancee (the trucker) Becky; my lovely Aunt Rita; Aunt Chrissy (the one who was given away for adoption at birth, but has since reunited with the family); the infamous Aunt Shirley (the one with the bronzed uterus) and her husband the Lawyer/Carpenter, Smitty; Shirley’s children Dawn, and JJ; Aunt Bridgette, the one who looks like Jennifer Anniston; Aunt Charlotte who survived a pancreas transplant almost a decade ago (which is a fabulous story in and of itself that includes a chapter with Charlotte, Shirley and my dad in the Women’s restroom of a McDonald’s somewhere in Georgia) and her mother and law Ruth; and my Aunt Mary and her kids Sarah, Hannah and Danny; and my dad Bob, my sister Mary and I. Danny and Hannah are the only ones of us taller than 5’9”…Hannah’s about six feet and Danny is closer to 6’5”….the lone giant among the little people.
Deep cleansing breath.
When one more cousin (Andy, another one of Shirley’s kids) flies into Shannon tomorrow, he will make us a group of 19…I think.
McGranaghans don't really start out on a given day with a set plan. We usually get a general idea of what we'd like to do and when we get sidetracked, then so be it...as long as Guinness is involved in some way, we are happy. We decided to drive towards the Cliffs of Moher hoping to get there at some point, but not opposed to deviating from the plan at all. We stopped in the small town of Ennis, in County Clare to find some new eye glasses for my aunt Charlotte, who broke her only pair on the plane. I think it is interesting that any family in our situation (ie, eighteen people with an hour or so to kill in a small town in a foreign country) could find an infinite number of things to investigate, discover, eat, learn or destroy. If we are constant in no other way, McGranaghans have one goal, one desire to seek out that singular tie that binds all Irish Catholic families with nothing to do at 12:30 on a Thursday afternoon: to find a bar. As soon as we located an optician for Charlotte, the rest of us set out to find one such establishment that would help us get through the hour. In a desperate quest to find an open pub (with Guinness on tap) we found ourselves empty handed….it was just too early for the pubs to be open. Tempers rose, pockets steeped in Euros burned, fists balled, eyes grew red and we became a mob of angry midgets: sober against our will.
Somehow, about an hour and a half later all seventeen of us found ourselves in the cafe at the visitor's center at the Cliffs of Moher splurging on several eight ounce, screw-cap bottles of red wine and loads of paper cups...sustenance for an afternoon's hike around some of the most extravagant sights in Ireland.
The Cliffs of Moher really are breathtaking. The path from the visitor's center, nestled in a small valley and built into the hills, approaches the ledge of a steep dropoff into a cove and cleaves itself creating one path to the right, which winds up nearly 1/3 mile and rests at the top of a cliff crowned in a small stone look out fort.
The path to the left is steeper, longer, and broader officially ending at a stone wall followed by a sign saying "PLEASE DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT" but unofficially continuing over the ridges of two more cliffs where the path approaches the rocky edges with a heart-racing snugness. Both paths offer spectacular views of each other.
For dinner, we drove back near Shannon to a town called Bunratty and gathered in a pub called Durty Nellys (founded 1620). Somehow we had an entire dining room to ourselves and we filled it with fish and chips and oysters and steak and Guinness and Irish coffee. We ate and drank and told stories and before we knew it we were listening to my Grandpa Bob reciting Irish poetry. He’d memorized a poem just for this occasion: his first day on Irish soil. Ever.
Back at our hotel in Limerick, Mary and I crashed into our beds, but our dad still had a lot of energy. As he scavenged around finding all of the things you usually find in a hotel room (free soaps, ice buckets, room service menus) he opened up the closet and found a terrycloth robe and a pair of pants left by the last guy to stay in this room. Dad got really excited. He’d only packed one pair of pants for the trip. He was overjoyed to see that the pants were JUST his size (which is weird, since my dad has a ridiculously short inseam) so he had a little fashion show for us.