Saturday, March 1, 2003 - Arose a little early to take a jaunting car through Killarney National Park. Captain the horse, in his long winter coat, lead our cart past Kerry cows, tranquil lakes, quiet creeks and the ruins of Muckross Abbey, built around 1448. In the distance stood Macgillycuddy's Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. A giant red deer, native to the area, darted across the path right in front of us. Herds were also gathered in the fields. Though the ride lasted only an hour, I was glad for the chance to see even a bit of this magnificent park.

Today's trip took us north, where took a ferry across the River Shannon, then continued along the rocky coast of County Clare. All along the coastline were the ruins of stone cottages, abandoned during the Great Famine of the 1840s. Two million Irish died in 5 years, and another 2 million left for America, devastated by the failure of the potato crop while the government continue to export food to England.
            There's a proud array of soldiers
            what do they 'round your door?
            "They guard the master's granaries
            from the thin hands of the poor"
It was at once a beautiful and heartbreaking landscape.

From heartbreaking to breathtaking - the Cliffs of Moher, reaching 700 ft. above the pounding ocean and extending for 5 miles. It was a humbling and awesome site to see. Stephen warned us that about 2 people plunge off the cliffs each month, and he had seen a woman blown off himself. This made me cringe every time I saw somehow hop over the wall and perch on the edge. I can't believe I had never heard of these before. It was truly an epic site.

We stopped for lunch in Doolin, then drove on past the crashing waves of the Atlantic. I laughed when Steve mentioned surfing in Ireland, but as it turns out the waves are huge and quite surf-worthy. In the distance we could see the Aran Islands, where traditional calls for boys are dressed as girls until age six to keep them from being stolen by fairies. As we moved toward Galway, a rainbow appeared, it's end falling into the ocean.

Galway was a quaint port city with wild nightlife. I joined a few folks from the tour for dinner and sampled oysters and smoked salmon, both heavenly. It took a while to find the craic, as every pub was packed with weekend partiers. We made our way to Taffes Pub, but had to wait for a fight in the doorway to clear up before entering. Lots of Irish from all over, dancing, chatting, and of course drinking. I could only understand every third word said by one fella from the west coast, but that didn't seem to matter. I'm only thankful the pubs closed at midnight or I'd never have stopped drinking! Great craic, to be sure. next>>

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