Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Blarney for Bardiac

I'm sort of falling behind in writing about my travels, both here and in letters to my family. I came "home" Sunday afternoon on the bus and felt utterly tired and disoriented. For one thing, my sleep was all over the place, and for another this isn't home in some ways (of course), though it's delightful. And then I had to be ready to teach three classes on Monday, in addition to attending the morning lecture (I don't HAVE to attend that, but it's always interesting, and it's a good example for the students who are taking the morning lecture class and supportive of the people teaching that class, so I do), and attending a lecture given by a faculty member in the evening (again, I don't HAVE to attend that, but I value being a supportive member of the community, so I do).

Anyway, the Abbey planners have ways of planning to add class days here and there, and then have days off elsewhere. Thus we'd had an extra day of classes the week before with a Thursday schedule, so we didn't have Thursday class last week.

I had signed up for the Abbey trip to Ireland, and we left after dinner on Wednesday and took a bus to the ferry, a ferry across, then a bus to Dublin for breakfast, and then more bus to Blarney, where, yes, I kissed the Blarney Stone. I figure I need all the help I can get as far as gifts of gab and such, given that my chosen profession involves a fair bit of talking and getting other people to talk.

Here's how it works. First, you walk to the castle/ruin thing. Then you walk up stairs and more stairs, up a spiral staircase. Naturally, this being a big tourist spot, there are a lot of tourists in front, behind, and all around. The you walk up some more stairs until you get to the top of an open wall thingy.

Here I'm looking across at where the Blarney Stone is, except you can't see it. The thing is, there's a sort of inner place, and then an outer wall, with an 18-24" space between in this one area (obviously, they're attached elsewhere). I'm thinking that at one time castle defenders could have looked straight down on people trying to climb the walls and shot arrows at them or something? (On the other hand, it seems like a bad idea to have this sort of gap at the top of a castle so that anyone who gets up that far can crawl in. I wonder if anyone ever got up that far?)

The Blarney Stone is a rock on the inside of that outer wall across the gap. Fortunately, they've got this well-figured out for the tourists. First, there are two guys there whose job is to help you and take pictures. They've got a mat there, so when you go to kiss the stone, you aren't lying on wet rock.

And they've put iron grates around the outer wall part there, and in the gap, so you pretty much couldn't fall down it if you wanted to. Nor, I suppose, could invaders crawl up inside very easily.

When it's your turn, you lie on your back on the mat with your head slightly over the edge, then grab the metal bars and pull yourself out so that you can reach the stone for a quick kiss. Then you push yourself back and try to get up without being any less graceful than necessary.

As you look at it in while you're standing in line, you also have to hope that no one with the flu has gone up just before you.

Here's what it looks like from underneath. That way you can actually see the grate thing, the outer wall thing, and the heads of the helper guys. You can also get a sense of how high the castle thing is that you go up before you get to it.

And now, I hope to have gained the gift of gab. What better gift for someone in the business of professing about literature and stuff?

After Blarney Castle (and the park and stuff), we went on to Killarney, reaching there in the afternoon, in a sort of damp but not quite drizzling weather. I walked a bit, and found a tourist office, went in, and asked the very nice helper person what they would try to see if they had only the afternoon. The helper person suggested the local cathedral and Ross Castle up in the park. She also gave me a really useful map, so off I went. I wasn't too thrilled by the cathedral. (I think after some I've seen, it's going to take something really spectacular to rev my engines.)

But Ross Castle was cool. You walk up a couple of kilometers, through the national park (where I saw a herd of red deer!), which is absolutely beautiful. (See, a park gets me when a cathedral doesn't. I may be biased. I was able to go on a castle tour, fascinating in itself, and also spectacular, because the castle looks over this lovely lake.

In the park, they have something called "jaunting cars" which are little horse drawn cart things with seats, which go through different areas, including on a circular route between the castle and a convenient place in the city itself. Happily, one was there near the castle when I got out of the tour, and even more happily, it had been hired by a couple of students from the Abbey, so they were willing to share the ride back to town with me.

I had a very nice dinner at a pub recommended by the driver and went to sleep.

The next day, our coach took us around the "Ring of Kerry." We stopped every 45 minutes or so, including at a Bog Village. Sadly, while I understand what a "bog" is, I'm not quite sure what makes a place a bog village, other than being near the bog.

But thanks to the magic of the intertubes, I've learned a little bit!

Anyway, the Ring was very relaxing, with lots of naptime and pretty scenery, and not much walking.

The next morning, we left for Dublin, where we spent the afternoon. It wasn't long enough, I don't think. And, of course, it was drizzling rain. I used a hop on hop off bus thing, and rode around a bit, and also got to see St. Patrick's Cathedral, where I visited Jonathan Swift, and then Trinity College, where I visited the Book of Kells.

I seem to be disappointed by visits to see books, mostly. Usually, you're in a jostling crowd of people all trying to view one or two pages of some wonderful text under low light and in a case that protects it well but doesn't make it easy to see.

I got plenty damp, and went to get my room, went up and went to sleep without dinner. (Fortunately, I am not wasting away.)

In the morning, we were back heading for the ferry bright and early. You drive into the ferry on the bus, then get off and go up a bunch of stairs (our buss was on floor five, but the seats were on floors 8 and 9 or something like that). I took this picture from inside the bus as we were going in.

Once in the passenger part of the ferry, you have three basic choices: a couch thing, which would be ideal, because you can stretch out, but which are taken up quickly; a roundish seat, which is pretty comfortable if you pull another up and curl between them a bit; or a "recliner" which doesn't recline nearly enough for me to actually get any sleep.

The first time, I tried to sleep on a recliner, but eventually found a roundish seat and actually got some sleep. The second time, I went for the roundish seat and alternated between reading and sleeping in pretty good comfort.

We went through Wales, and went through a tourist trap of a town known primarily for it's really long name, and then headed home.

This weekend, I'm going on the school trip to the Lake District! And I am NOWHERE near ready. :(

Before I go I need to:
grade several short papers (and print out some of them)
reread Faustus
reread some Herbert
do laundry
recharge my camera battery and such
teach two classes



  1. Lovely that the weather cooperated with you in Ireland. I used to live there--part time in Kerry--and am now feeling quite homesick.

    I've been reading with pleasure your escapades, though too swamped to comment. Nice adventure!

    Re: the bog village. The key is the turf. It's the raison d'etre for the village.

  2. Enjoy the Lake District... hope you get some sun. It's lovely.

    As for Llanfair PG, I once bro ke down in a rental car there, and when I called the place for assistance, I told the person at the call center the name of the town, and she said What? I said it again, and then added, trust me, the tow truck driver will know Lllanfair PG, and would rather not have someone misspell the whole name!

  3. I believe that the hole-type-thingy you're describing is a machicolation! And I only know that because The Wife was reading an architecture book a few months ago and wondered about the pronunciation of said term.

    Behold! A link: