Thursday, 8 September 2016

part ii: to Annascaul

The day to the Dingle was long. However, not nearly as long as it has taken to upload this post. 

We woke early to get to the Dublin train station in plenty of time. Showered, schemed to steal the bulldog puppy again, packed our last few things into our backpacks and hit the road.

The walk to the train was a few kilometres through a residential area. Mostly residential. Pretty sure we passed a prison too.


I was full of happiness. Filled with happiness? Happy. Nance and I travel well together and chat about the everything and the nothing. We were contemplating pack comfort on the morning walk.

We really haven't used our big packs much since buying them out of MEC money last year (thanks dad and Linda!). We had used them to lug things during our moves, but that's about it. We did zero weight carry training before this trip, so this could have gone much worse! The packs held enough for two weeks and were surprisingly comfortable once adjusted correctly...this adjustment process was a theme throughout our entire time in the UK. Baggage handlers tend to pick oversized backpacks up by one strap, placing all the weight on one slippage point. Finding exactly which strap had gone awry was a daily challenge.
The packs weighed around 15-16kg each, which isn't bad at all with good weight distribution.

So, we wandered to the train station early in the morning. The streets were empty. We passed a girl heading for the gym. Cats in windows. One or two folks who had yet to hit their beds for the night. I silently wished them good luck navigating the sidewalks.

At the station, we printed our pre-purchased tickets and headed to our platform. I haven't been on a train since I don't know when. Maybe Boston a few years ago. It was interesting to see our names digitally displayed over our seats. Not so private, that. 

Throughout the day, we passed endless fields of sheep, cows, and painted horses. Lots of farms had all black cows, something you rarely see here. Ninja moos. At one point we passed a garden with three donkeys. Not very majestic looking, are they? I love their fuzzy manes. What's a group of donkeys called, anyway? I think it's a drove. I could be wrong on that. Drove sounds right, though. Gawd, you'd never say I majored in English. I need an editor. 

Late morning, we switched from our spiffy newish train to a less modern one in Morrow. No fancy digital names and more crowded. Overhead announcements were all Irish first then English. Place names sound so similar that it wouldn't have been difficult without the English translation, though. If you ignore a lot of their vowels and some of the consonants, Irish isn't all that tricky a language.

The Dingle Peninsula is a nearly completely Gaelic speaking region. Folks speak English too, but signage is Irish. Locals all speak Irish amongst themselves. Not surprising, I suppose - it is the national language, after all. I quite like the sound of it. People speaking Irish sound positively happy. Interested. Pleasant. I may not blog about all of our trip, but let me tell ya, we did not hear a whole lot of pleasant tones in England. I'm getting ahead of myself. 

By this point, we were hearing much different accents than those in Dublin. A little flatter. More like Newfoundland's East coast. Still not difficult to understand, though. We shared a table with a man and his young daughter for a while. They were chatting and eating the ever-present cheese and onion Tayto crisps. Aged cheddar and onion. Three cheese and spring onion. Cheese and caramelized onion. Cheese and onion is the prevailing theme in UK junk food. A gross one if you ask me, but no one did.

Another shrug

Nearby there was a group of girls in their early twenties. They seemed to be on their way to a friend's wedding. Or to an evil villain's wedding. Hard to tell. I know mean girls exist, but their conversation was shockingly cutting. They were sharing the obscenities of previous weddings. Who was cheap. What was tacky. Favours, accommodations, shoe travesties. The dresses they just couldn't believe. The out of style fastenators. Who could have afforded more and who spent way too much. And I thought the cheese and onion chips were gross.

Thankfully that particular drove moved on after a few stops. After a full morning of train rides and eavesdropping, Tralee was within our sights.

At Tralee we grabbed our packs and checked the time. We had 45 minutes before our bus, so we wandered into the town to find food. You can guess what kind of crisps were in every shop front. Unable to find simple fruit, we opted for crisps and I had to try these.

Shamrock and sour cream crisps. They taste like onion and cream.

Tralee had Tralee was...uh. I'm sorry but it's hard to say anything positive about the feeling we got from Tralee. It seemed like people there had lived hard lives and they were the exception to the typically welcoming, attractive Irish. The bus station felt sketchy in the middle of the day - a far cry from the places we had been thus far.

A short while later we happily hopped on the bus for Annascaul and found the Ireland of movies. I can see why National Geographic calls this peninsula the most beautiful place in the world. Sheep-speckled rolling green hills as far as the eye could see. The flora was lush. Everything was green. The ruins of stone homes had been taken over by dozing cows. The buildings were few and far between. 

The road was terrifying.

One big ol' bus on a wee little road. I'm not a nervous passenger but my bladder was happier when I wasn't looking over the sides of the road/cliffs.

An hour later, we reached our stop, grabbed our bags from the bus, and looked around. We had arrived! It was breathtaking in the same way parts of Newfoundland are. Vibrant and lacking gawdy signage and ads plastered all over everything. Like home but without trees. The peninsula has been farmland for so long that many trees that may have been there are long gone. There are some right in the towns, but the landscape is devoid of anything taller than the tallest ram. We turned in a circle and every direction was like fairy tale perfection. 

Now to find our B&B. Annascaul is not a large town in terms of population (299 to be exact), but it is a bit sprawling. We didn't have to look long, though - the bus had let us out four houses from our destination. Excellent.

Annascaul House is perfect. It's pretty, the owners are friendly, the dining room is airy and bright, and the living room was comfortable. Our room had an en suite, a locking door, and a tray with tea, coffee, and biscuits laid out. Our host, Noel, met us at the door and showed us around. He is a delightful man who should never have kissed the blarney stone, or never needs to. His rate of speech is beyond compare.

We dropped our bags and lobbed ourselves at the bed, but decided on a walk around the town before naps took hold. The front door of the house had no inside handle. I've never seen that before. Tug the lock's bolt to open.

Annascaul is the birthplace and home of Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean. Autocorrect, knock it off. A nearby pub, the South Pole Inn, celebrates Crean and is loaded with historical facts, artifacts, and photos. It also has an adorable window to the South Pole that kids can open to hear recorded whistling wind and see styrofoam snow whip about. 

After a pint, we headed back towards our newest home and stopped at Patcheens Pub for a bite to eat. And yes, another pint. There was an Irish league rugby match on the telly and even the 70 year old women were cursing at the plays. Apparently, some fecking eejit was making a lot of badbadbad fecking calls. Fed and watered, we set off again.

Before getting back to our night's rest, we fell into yet another pub, this time Hanafins. This was one of my favourite spots of our entire trip. The entire interior is painted a plum color. There are fairy lights strung here and there at one end of the pub. On the opposite end, a wall showcases two rifles. Not sure why. A full sized Marilyn Monroe graced the door of the women's loo. Not sure why that either, come to think of it. All the while, the b̶u̶r̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶s̶t̶e̶n̶c̶h̶ wonderous aroma of peat was swirling about. It was 25 °C but the fireplace was burning hunks of peat. As much as I liked it, I really didn't understand much about this place.

We got comfortable and sat facing the bar, next to the fireplace. John at the bar  (is a friend of mine) owns the place. It had always been run by women, he told us. His grandmother, then his mother. He himself had been born in the pub, he mentioned casually while pointing to a spot on the floor. None of his sisters were interested in the business so he took over the bar from his mother. He is also the local history teacher and had plenty of interesting tidbits to share. If this weren't the third pub in under a few hours, I'm sure I'd even remember some of them!

It should be noted that the longer we sat, the more people poured in to watch another rugby match. Funnily, most of them were female couples. I'm not sure how a town of 299 people has a happening gay scene, but we had found it.

Before the onslaught of sensible footwear wearers arrived.

Exhausted from a day of doing very little, we had a few rounds and then meandered home, kippered from the peat. Nance suggested we join the growing group at the end of the bar, but they were fresh for a time and we were fizzling out.

On our way home we grabbed a few beer to bring back to the room to enjoy while watching women's Olympic soccer. Because our livers had gone six minutes without being tested.

We were watching France vs the US in the living room when a family from France came in. Their young sons joined us and the dad sat with us on the couch shortly afterwards. We all cheered France on (always love the underdog) and lamented the US luck/skill together. The boys were very into the game and it was a great, satisfying moment to watch such a universal event together.

Sleepy-eyed from the day's adventures, we hit our room where I journaled fora while. At this point in the journal I wrote "have to say the area is a LOT hillier than I expected. Should be an interesting week."

We had an extra day in Annascaul, so we went to bed knowing the next day would be a day of rest.

Nothing to report on the MS side. It was a pretty still day, despite all the travel.