"Red" Will Danagher

Trip Start Aug 02, 2013
Trip End Jul 25, 2013

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Where I stayed
Arch House Bed and Breakfast
What I did
Amazing countryside, a local carnival in Ballygar, castles, princesses, dragons! (Well, just castles.) Innisfree!

Flag of Ireland  , Leinster,
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"He'll regret it till his dying day, if ever he lives that long!" 

What a place this land is! I mentioned how "connected" I felt to it when I was in Dublin, but now I don't want to leave! So how can one go about illustrating the sights, sounds, and smells of such an enchanting isle? Some of you have been here before, others only in your dreams. And still some of you know not what to expect, or what you're missing. Such a beautiful island and language. But unfortunately, I have only till 5:00pm to explore it a bit more. I turned in my rental car and I'm finishing breakfast in Dublin -- a good traditional Irish breakfast consisting of toast, sausage, "bacon" (which is in reality what we would call "ham"), pork and beans, and of course, blood pudding (yeah, it's really blood, hardened [I hesitate to say, "coagulated"] with something in it that resembles rice. It's the first time I've had "scab" for breakfast [had to say it, sorry for making you gag!]) -- before I head to the City Center and try and get cultured. But no wheezing about the grief of leaving; I'll recount the experiences of the past two days as best I can.

. . . Nope. Not coming to me. Trying to think of the a supremely clever way of describing my drive through the Irish countryside from Dublin to Ath Luain (that's the Irish for Athlone, a town in smack between the east, Dublin, and Galway in the west (in Gaelic, Gaillimh). Cannot, so insterad I'll just write what comes to mind. Often the funniest things come to me then. 

So I set out from Dubby in the early morning, and it was raining a bit with low clouds. The previous evening's unpleasant experience of getting lost trying to find my lodging for last night was magically turned to joy after a decent bed and a great breakfast similar to the one I just described (scabs and all). The rainy, dark weather, though usually against my mantra to enjoy, was actually exciting, and it helped me get into the spirit of adventure as I headed to Athlone. The original plan was to just drop my bags of at my Bed and Breakfast, and then continue on the N4 going towards Galway to explore it for the day. The total trip until Galway should have taken about three hours, minus the half-hour or so I expected detouring to Athlone to drop stuff off. But what kind of traveler would I be if I had actually stuck to the plan? Instead I embarked on the 1.5-hour or so journey to Athlone . . . and took about three hours to complete it. I will never be able to express how incredibly scenic the drive and all the spaces between the two cities were (I mean, I've sat here this whole breakfast time trying to think of a way . . . just gonna have to give up!). Any beautiful image you have in your head of Irish countryside is likely somewhat off: being here and seeing it with my own eyes the way Darth Vader viewed Luke took away any visual inhibition that cameras automatically bring. It was sparkling. Rolling hills, round trees like those in Hobbiton, sheep grazing, blue sky, sunshine; everything was perfect. Thus I stopped often to take pictures, and even with my high class camera and my picky eye, I still found I couldn't capture what I was seeing. Here are some pictures anyway, and I hope you like them. Just remember to exponentiate each one, k? It was that beautiful.

So after getting to Athlone and before dropping my stuff off at a charming three-story B&B, I came upon a magnificent Gothic cathedral that I wanted to stop and check out. An old man walked up and I asked him if he knew where to find Sean Costello Street, which is where my lodging was located. He said he didn't know the area, but was visiting from Cork. I mentioned that I learned from Mom and Aunt Mary that many of my relatives came from there, as Cork and Kerry are evidently where all Sullivans originate, and introduced myself. Shocking as it was, his name was Michael -- Michael O'Sullivan of Cork. I expressed surprise at the coincidence that my brother had the same name (or would if our ancestors hadn't "Given in to the soup," as he explained how those who dropped the "O'" did so by giving in to the dictates of the British, who fed them), and he was stoked and impressed at the litany of beautiful Irish names in our family and how we love our heritage, and how I can speak a wee bit o' Gaelic. He taught me a few phrases in the native tongue and elaborated on how to pronounce the almost illogical way words are spelled in Gaelic. 

We already know there are some strange pronunciations to the way things are written in Irish; my own name shows that "S" followed by the vowel "e" produces the "-sh" sound (the same sound is created when "S" precedes "i"). But as for their strange diphthongs, an example is the town name of Galway, as I wrote above. "Galway" is the anglicized way of spelling Gaillimh, and shows how the "-mh" diphthong is pronounced like the "wh-" in "when," and how sounds run together quickly. Thus, the Irish would pronounce the name, "GAH-lihwhi. Confusing as that is, other severely confusing lexical eccentricities include the sounds produced by "-bh" (or rather, no sound at all), "-ao" (which makes a long "-ee" sound, like in the name Aoife [Eva]), and "-ui," or "-oo." Needless to say, when I write something in Gaelic here, I'll do my best to put the phonetic pronunciations as well for your ease in understanding what you would hear (yeah, like I'm sure you'll go around trying to repeat it :).

Anyway, Michael was a delightful old gentleman, and I got myself interviewing him on film. I know it's poppycock, but I didn't think to get a photo with him in it. He was going back to Cork the next morning (yesterday), and I was planning on trying to meet him. Unfortunately, Cork is much further than I thought it would be, and I probably wouldn't have been able to get there and back in time without rushing (something I wasn't keen to doing while on vacation). In retrospect, though I had a fantastic time yesterday, I somewhat regret not having headed down to Cork, to see the Sullivan homeland. Next trip I guess, though I hope Ole' Michaeleen's still around then. Please pray for his wife; he's traveling alone because she past away two months ago. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed (particularly beloved Ereann), through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.

So Athlone was amazing, and I was stoked I was to be going back that evening. In the meantime, I wanted to continue journeying on to Galway, where I had intended on seeing the Cliffs of Moher, along with other charming sites recommended to me by Brian and Kaitlyn, among others. But as I said before, part of traveling means changing plans. I had noticed on a map that the village of Cong was not too far north from Galway, and looking at said map, it seemed I could loop northwards from Athlone through Roscommon, head southwestward to Cong, then south to Galway and back to Athlone by 10pm (last check-in time). I really did want to see places where "The Quiet Man" was filmed, as its themes are woven into our family heritage like the design engraved on a Celtic cross. So upward I headed, stopping along the way to photograph the increasingly beautiful countryside, sheep and all. I found myself passing through countryside that changed little in its simplicity from town to town, yet still retained its charm. I got great at speeding along through narrow labyrinthine streets, as it was shocking how narrow and winding these things were, while freeway-speeds were the limit as people raced along the startlingly dangerous roads. Often I felt sure that the next car was gonna sideswipe me, or that I was going to lose my left side-view mirror on an ancient stone wall, but I kept praying and nothing adverse happened. It was actually pretty fun -- almost like a roller coaster in which you shift gears yourself (with your left hand). 

I guess it may have been too fun, because I must have kept missing street signs indicating names of places and routes to take. I'll give credit to the Irish that they were there, although I've seen nothing in this country to indicate that logical things to post on roads are actually posted. Anyhoo, I'm glad I did miss the signs that weren't there. Instead, I had a great time racing through the countryside, when lo! and behold, I ran smack into a town carnival (figuratively-speaking; I didn't actually run over any people). Evidently, yesterday was the annual carnival of the quaint farming town of Ballygal, and it's the oldest carnival in Ireland (or so the sign that was there said). So I got great photo opportunities of real Irish country folk as they took a break from the plough and the harvistin', to sell their wares or display their horses (or donkeys) for all the town to see. Them farmfolk sure know howda throw a party, as people came from kilometres around it seemed to participate in the fun. Pictures are below; please enjoy and comment!

So now I've been driving for much longer than I had originally thought I would be, and I'm glad I did. 'Twas only about another hour till I got to Cong -- or so I thought. 

One not fun thing about speeding through the skinny streets of any foreign place is the fact that the locals -- country folk or city rats -- know the area well enough to not need signs. And maps are somewhat inaccurate. And as I mentioned before, I had no GPS or internet, so I was left on my own (I already told you about how Irish folk give directions the way they design streets: indirect, and full of roundabouts). Thus, to summarize, Cong was much, much more out of reach than I anticipated it. So now I'm lost in a maze trying to find Cong, but not stressing too much: every experience is in some way a good experience when you're traveling (it had better be for the amount of money it cost you). And in the end, I finally got to Cong! The first striking thing about it is that at the T-intersection at which you could turn right to get to Cong, there's a castle! Beautiful and magnificent, this edifice welcomes you to the ficitional town of Innisfree from "The Quiet Man," and it sure is eery and beautiful like the movie depicts it! Sister Regina, did you actually go there? I vaguely remember you guys not getting to Cong, but to Connemara, where the stone bridge in the movie is. 

Cong features things in the movie I don't recall seeing in your and Erin's pictures, and I was delighted to have a Guinness in the Pat Cohan Bar, dinner in a restaurant called "Danaghers," see the church and Fr. Lonerghan's thatched-roofed house, and the part of the river where they fall in and where MaryKate speaks to father in Gaelic as he's fishing. You guys would have loved it! It was completely charming and picturesque, with monumental features that surprised me. Next to the latter part of the river was an enormous castle! Another one! Incredible, and green, green, green. I was very delighted to go there, and even though the lamb I had at Danagher's was only slightly disappointing, everything was like a storybook -- or a movie starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. 

It was all amazing, and I wish you could all be here. I spent much of the day wandering around Cong, and wouldn't you know it, I completely missed seeing Galway. On the way back to Athlone to crash for the night, I began planning the next day: south to Cork, then Galway in the afternoon, then back to Athlone. But as I said, Cork was too far, and shifting gears in a manual on the wrong -- I mean, "different" -- side all day long began taking its toll on me poor humble neck. So the next day wouldn't see Cork or even Galway, but I'll cover all that later. Till then, hope you enjoy and comment on all the pictures. Let's start a convo! Love you all!

Oh, just wanted to throw a huge "thank you" out there to Brian and Dan, Colleen, Aunt Mary, Mom, MarkyKate and you others who have left messages on here or sent me emails! Keeping up with the blog has been so time-consuming that I've fallen behind on my emails! God bless you!



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Mom on

Tears of joy, Tears of laughter, Tears because I wish I could be there with you!

You make me remember the song my Grandfather sang to me:
Sure a little bit of heaven fell from out of the sky one day
And it nestled in the ocean in a place so far away
And when the angels found it sure it looked so sweet and fair
They said suppose we leave it for it looks so peaceful there

So they sprinkled it with stardust just to make the shamrocks grow
It's the only place you'll find them, no matter where you go
Then they darted it with silver just to make the lakes look grand
And when they had it finished, sure they called it Ireland.

...I'm there with you, at heart!
I love you! Mom

George on

Hey Sean, I sure wish we together--there! It all looks amazing. It would br so much fun to go there. keep the stories coming!

Colleen on

Loving the posts and the pics, Sean! Keep 'em comin'! And don't worry about trying to think up entertaining jargon - the content, subjects and your ordinary wit make are entertaining enough! Love you! Say hello to the Denmark Sullivans!

Danunda on

Hey! I am so embarassed! I was folling someone elses blog! They visited Ireland and then went to france. There was a couple in it and no pics of Sean, I though, "dang, they could at least take a photo of him every now and again!" Man. I was commenting on pictures and writing comments on their blog. I finally figured it out when they said they did not visit the Lourve because they were there before, and a strange feeling overcame me...

MaryKate on

Haha Dan......oh my. I love it. Good experience, yeah? I love you! :)

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