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Our Irish "home": a brand-new CitroŽn Xsara
…ire (Ireland) has had a long love-hate relationship with its larger neighbor Great Britain. Back when Ireland was a colony, English and Scottish Protestants came over and settled in various parts of the island (mostly in the north). When …ire finally won its independence in 1922, the 26 Catholic-dominated counties in the south voted to establish a separate country, now known as the Republic of Ireland. The remaining six Protestant-dominated counties in the north voted to remain a part of Britain; they are now collectively known as Northern Ireland. To this day, the Catholics and Protestants continue their conflict over whether …ire as a whole should be independent, united, or English.
With only two weeks here (and a road system nowhere near as developed as Great Britain's motorways), we have decided to restrict our adventures to the southern Republic of Ireland (our main sightseeing wish in Northern Ireland, the Giant's Causeway, was largely fulfilled when we visited Staffa in the Scottish Hebrides). Our itinerary bears little resemblance to the one proposed by Rick Steves, so we are using his Ireland book for guidance only, not for finding accommodations. Instead, we are relying on a freebie book that we found in England, "Bed & Breakfast Nationwide", that fortunately includes Ireland. With the tourist season getting busier all the time, we went ahead and booked our entire itinerary from York. Our schedule looks like this:
This route will take us roughly in a clockwise semicircle from east to west around the southern coast of the Republic of Ireland, then back across the center of the country from west to east.
After our less-than-triumphant arrival in …ire on June 5th, we bypassed Dublin and drove directly to Glendalough (literally, "valley of two lakes"). Here, in a valley surrounded by the Wicklow Mountains, we are staying at the Pinewood Lodge in Laragh (this B&B was actually a referral, after our initial list turned out to have no vacancies). Although we are in two twin rooms, there is a large yard outside for Cameron and Joss to play in. For dinner, we drove a minute into town and ate at the Wicklow Heathers Restaurant.
We are staying here mainly because we wanted to spend our first nights somewhere close to Dublin, but not within the big city itself. We have no specific plans, and are making our excursion decisions more or less based on the unpredictable weather. On June 6th, after a morning of rain and schoolwork, we thumbed through the brochures and decided to try fishing in nearby Aughrim.
Cameron and Joss have never been fishing in their entire short lives. First of all, they don't like to eat fish, so we are only interested in catch-and-release. Secondly, there are not too many fishing spots left in built-up Silicon Valley in California. One of our goals (and promises) was to take the boys fishing sometime during our world trip, and we found a good option. "Angling for All" sounded like just what we were looking for. It offered catch-and-release fishing in a 4-acre artificial lake stocked with rainbow trout, including rod-and-reel rentals and bait.
The three men did the fishing, while Gail took photos and untangled the fishing poles when they became snarled (the boys also wanted nothing to do with putting worms on hooks, so Russell got that job). We originally booked one hour, but at the end of it we were still getting the hang of casting, so we purchased an additional hour. No one ended up catching any fish (a couple of the people next to us did), but both Cameron and Joss became expert at casting their lines. By the end of the two hours, Joss had had enough of fishing, and amused himself with the tub of worms, tapping on the dirt to get the worms to come to the top. (He learned this from the "tap-dancing" birds in Scotland -- who says that travel isn't educational?) Before we turned our gear back in, Joss ritually set the remaining worms free by releasing them into the mud one by one.
A father instructs his sons in the lost art of fishing
The rest of the day was spent on chores (the adults) and play (the boys). Russell took our three boxes of books down to the local post office and finally got them mailed. In an absolute antithesis of our ridiculous experience at the Dublin Airport post office, the woman in Laragh suggested that we write "books" on the outside of the boxes to identify them as such. In an epitome of laid-back casualness, she had Russell put the boxes on the scale himself (it was out in the lobby) and let her know how much they weighed.
Back at the Lodge, Gail spent the afternoon on the telephone between David, our travel agent in California, and British Midlands in an attempt to make progress on our airline ticket fiasco. David confirmed that he had done everything correctly (he had even received a confirmation back from BMI at the beginning of May). In the end, we decided to send an email message to BMI customer service. We're not keeping our fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, the boys were out in the yard with their swords. Mike and Mary, the managers of the lodge, have an eight-year old son; and Cameron and Joss had a lot of fun playing with him and his friend. Our late lunch/early dinner consisted of sandwiches.
Cameron and Joss with a rare opportunity for new playmates: eight-year-olds Philip and Paul
The day passed quickly, but our remaining time seems even shorter. We've only just arrived in …ire, but in only two weeks we will depart. And in less than one month from today -- on July 5th -- we will be back in our home in California for the first time in a year.
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