Friday, October 11, 2013

Lough Derg

Go eat at the Wooden Spoon, Mary tells me. One of my favorites.

And I listen to her. Why shouldn't I -- she lives here, on the shore of Lough Derg and she seems to care about the foods harvested in the area.

And, too, I have only her good word to help guide me here, in Ballina, Ireland. Or is it Killaloe, Ireland? You know I am in an obscure spot when i can't even propery identify it.

But I am in good spirits. I am about to eat my one and only meal for the day -- fish chowder and a side salad.

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Finally. I am hungry and of course hugely tired, but I know, too, that with each hour, things are just getting better and better. And I am about to eat and Mary tells me it will be good.

But let me back up some. My overseas flights were uneventful. Full of work and wakeful hours, but more or less on time. Enough so that I could grab this during the hour long layover n Paris: (I suppose you could call that, too, a meal but it felt puny to me... more like a snack.)

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I arrived in Ireland just before noon...


....and I can't say my first hours here were stellar. It's the usual mess with car rentals: the contract that you enter into has hidden charges and you don't find out about them until you're there, ready to pick up the keys and get going. And the car is larger than what they promise. Uff!

Alright, never mind. It will do.

Anything else?

Well, the weather. A few weeks back, when I first looked into coming here, I was prepared for rain. I mean, does it ever not rain in Ireland? But as I tracked the forecast, I was stunned to see a consistent promise of good, dry days. Sunshine even. And so  I packed accordingly. So why are my windshield wipers on as I leave the Dublin airport?

But this changes. 100 kilometers outside of Dublin and I actually do see strips of blue sky. 

One more small snafu:  toward the end of my mini-roadtrip, I get terribly lost in the maze of small country roads. I blame Google Maps. And Ed for not being here to help me out with map reading.

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But, eventually I am there. Where exactly is "there?" The village I am in (whichever of the two it is) rests at the southern tip of a large lake in south western Ireland. It seems that I've crossed half the country to get here and I probably have, but the roads are good, and everyone speeds, and there isn't that much traffic anyway and so it took me less than three hours to get here.

I chose this area in part for its scenic beauty: hills swoop down to a rather large body of water, fed by the springs of the Shannon River. Here, I can see the lake driving toward my rooms for the night.

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The accommodation is the other reason for picking this particular spot. To keep costs really low, I am using for all my overnights here. Do you know of it? People who have rooms and flats to share list them through this site. You're basically a guest at someone's place. Of course, the magnificence of your lodgings can vary tremendously. I only looked at rentals that were about 40 Euros (less that $60) per night.

Mary (who is about my age) is my host. She has a small cottage right next to her own home and she's trying out the AirBnB game. So far she likes renting it out. And I hugely like her place. Most of the Irish rentals are a tad old spinsterish. Not hers.

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So this is where I am. Just about a mile outside these two villages (Ballina and Killaloe), quite close to the shores of Lough Derg.

Just a few photos for you tonight. The Internet is terribly pokey and erratic and I'm afraid I'll go back to that state of impatience that always hits me if I waste too many hours on sruggling with WiFi during travels.

From my walk to the village:

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Okay, I'm there. I believe this is  Ballina:

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I stop at the grocery store briefly and watch the steady stream of kids pop in on their way home from school.


...and this one is Killaloe.

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If I understand things properly, they're linked by a bridge across the Shanon River. Beautiful views from this old narrow viaduct. In all directions.

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The Wooden Spoon eatery is just up the road after the bridge. Tonight it has a nice mixture of diners:  the usual couple out on a date, an older pair looking to eat somewhere other than home and then, too, it has a young mom with her two daughters. My gaze returns to them again and again. I can remember when my girls were that age and we ate out during travels on this side of the ocean. They were about as serious (when we were in public) as these two are tonight.

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I tell the mom later that her girls are good souls and I ask each girl if, by any chance, they're either 32 or 28, like my two back home. They assure me that they are only eight and five. Ah, that golden age of childhood when not a whole lot can rock your boat just yet.

And speaking of boats, I am now again crossing the bridge, where men are laying out nets. I ask -- what for?
They'll swim right into them?
Ay, and we'll pick them up tomorrow. 6:30 in the morning.

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The sun is sinking rapidly, A man in a very large wooden boat drifts by and then, as if satisfied, he points the nose of the boat to shore.

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One more mile and I'm home. Mary's home, but mine for the next two days.