Jane Roper

Writer. Blogger. Hater of Olives.

The Old Country

I confess: I’m not feeling super-compelled to write a blog post. But I really really wanted to get that post-Trump-grief post off the front of my website, because enough already. I mean, not enough with the fury and dismay over our national disaster in chief. I’m still mad as hell about that, and still working hard to fight for what I believe is right and good for our country and our world. (And I’m increasingly convinced the man is 100% batshit nuts.) But it’s time for that blog post to move down the page. So, how about a dolphin instead?

Do you see the dolphin in this picture?

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Just kidding. There’s no dolphin in that picture. That’s a picture taken from the boat we were on several weeks ago, in Dingle Bay, County Kerry, Ireland, on our recent Big Family Trip  while we were out looking for the dolphin — whose name is Fungie.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t generally associate dolphins with the oceans of Ireland. More like seals that turn into children (or vice versa) or fishing boats sunken by evil fairy sea maidens or ghost ships full of viking raiders.  But turns out there are dolphins, too. This one dolphin in particular, Fungie,  has been a fixture in Dingle Bay for years, and loves to come out and swim alongside the tour boats. Either that or he hates the tour boats and is trying to chase them all away. Either way, we did see him  — did we ever — but those pictures didn’t come out very well, as is generally the case with pictures of things like dolphins that appear and disappear very quickly.

So the picture above is much more interesting, really. It gives you a sense of some of the spectacular scenery around us. (As well as the fact that we were not the only boat out dolphin-stalking that morning.)  And I’m noticing for the first time, looking at this picture, that it also appears that the space shuttle is approaching from the upper right. I don’t remember that, though. I must have had one too many beers at the pub the night before.

(If you are truly dying to see Fungie the dolphin in action, and the backs of our heads as we watch him, you can check out this video that The Mister put together, complete with dramatic soundtrack.)

Ireland was, in short, glorious. We spent nine days there, the first few in Wexford, where my parents have been living for most of the year, fixing up the 19th century farm that my great grandmother grew up in, Ballyvarough. While we were there, we attended a family reunion of sorts that my mother had pulled together, with the descendants of my great-grandmother’s six brothers and various other relations. The girls are now penpals with their third cousin. Total strangers until a couple of weeks ago, and yet they share the same great-great-great grandparents. Kind of crazy — and yet so completely common. We’re all so much more closely connected than any of us realize.

 

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The girls at their great, great, great grandparents’ farm. (With small toy sheep.)

We saw some cool stuff in and around Wexford, and took a day trip up to the lovely Kilkenny Castle. Then we headed west to County Kerry. We spent two nights in Dingle, which we loved (See Non-Dolphin Picture, above) then another two in a godawful hotel just outside of Galway.

I knew it was going to be godawful when I booked it, but it had a pool, and a kids club where you could dump — I mean, send — your kids at night to play games and a watch a movie, and at that point in our trip I figured this might be a good thing; I was correct.

From the wonderfully awful hotel, we took a day tripto see the Burren, which is this huge expanse of rocky landscape, deforested by centuries of farming, once home to stone-age people.  Desolate and beautiful.  As an anthropology / archaeology nerd, I love learning about the ancient history of places, and there were lots of chances to do it on our trip. (I also highly recommend the Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford for learning about Ireland’s inhabitants over the millennia.)

See if you can find the dolphin in this picture:

 

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Ha ha. Made you look for a dolphin again.

We also went to a sheep dog demonstration at a farm on the Burren. It was pretty damned cool. Of course, the girls’ favorite parts were playing with the dogs and holding the sheep, which we’d already done for free at a cousin’s farm on our first day in Ireland.

Another one of the girls’ favorite activities:  Playgrounds. Thank God they are still young enough to appreciate playgrounds, and thank God there were a decent number of them around, because it seemed like just when the girls’ energy was flagging and they were getting cranky or fighting like sailors in the back of the car and pushing us to the edge of sanity, a playground would appear like Brigadoon (I know, wrong country) and suddenly, miraculously they’d be bursting with energy again.

After Galway, we headed to Dublin, and from there we flew to London where we spent a few days with my cousin and his family. The girls got hang with their second cousins whom they’d never met before, and they all got along smashingly.  (Now that I’m talking about England, I’m using words like “smashingly.” Which I didn’t actually hear anyone say there — but it would have been briliant if I had.)

The highlight of our London visit, for the girls, anyway, was a visit out to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour, where we got to see many of the sets and props and costumes from the Harry Potter movies, and learn all about how the movies were made. Fascinating stuff.  We forced the girls to go out for Indian food for dinner that night when we got back to London as their way of thanking us.

On our last day, Clio and I took a bus tour around. Note ye authentic British phone booth, which probably never gets used anymore except for pictures like this one.

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Funnily enough, the girls weren’t nearly as impressed by or interested in the little cultural differences — like, say, funny phone red booths, or the fact that there were FREAKING ACTUAL CASTLES EVERYWHERE — as I thought they might be. Granted, we were in Ireland and England, not, say India or Nigeria, so the culture wasn’t dramatically different. Still. They kind of took it all in stride. 11th century lighthouse still in operation? Thatched roof? 800-year-old church built by monks? “Yeah, that’s cool, mom. Can we get a snack?”

So, there you have it. A great trip, on the whole, the occasional, usual kid / sibling dynamics nothwithstanding.  One of the best parts about it for me, honestly, was just being away from the news. Seriously. No social media (for me), precious little email, no TV news  or newspapers. When you’re seeing medieval ruins and cottages abandoned during the potato famines, your current preoccupations don’t seem quite as dire.  Here’s to finding small escapes and moments of perspective while at home on this side of the Atlantic. (Quebec, anyone?)

 

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1 Comment

  1. Mini lewinger

    May 25, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Loved your stories about your trip to Ireland.My only trip there was years ago when we stopped at the airport enroute to America from London. I was there long enough to buy a wool beret and vest which I still enjoy. When will you be coming to New York and visiting me?
    MIMI

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