Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Day 5 – The Skerrie Return to Dublin

Our time in Ireland was drawing to a close. We had to get back to the Dublin area today and get re-packed for our flight the following morning. We were hoping, though, that the way back would be a bit easier without the detour to Waterford we’d taken a couple of days before.

We woke up a little later than we had the morning before. Thankfully Ann was still serving breakfast in the breakfast room. We sat and chatted a bit with our friend the bank employee (who was also heading back to Dublin that day), then went upstairs to get things packed up.

It was really hard to pull out of the Ballykine House’s driveway… we’d had such a lovely stay there, and we really didn’t feel like we’d gotten enough of what County Mayo had to offer. We didn’t want to dawdle, though; we knew that we were going to have to go to bed early if we were going to get up early enough to return our car and make our flight the next day. It was a great day for driving; after five days of blue skies and sunshine the clouds were starting to roll in. I’m sure our Irish hosts weren’t that happy about the weather (the past five days were the ONLY sun they’d had all summer!), but it was great for us.

On the way back we drove through a number of small villages and towns, all photo worthy (again, we neglected to pull out the camera. After a while Trish pointed out that EVERY small town we passed through had something to photograph, and we’d never make it back to Dublin if we stopped at each one). We were very tempted to turn around and get a shot of a bridge we passed just outside of Rosscommon, though… it was a bridge over the River Suck. Now who wouldn’t want to memorialize that?

We did, eventually, need to stop for a little something to eat (and the bathroom). We found a pub called the Mill Barn near Crannagh at about 12:30 and pulled in. The place was all but empty when we walked in; we ordered some tea and apple crumble and were told that most of the deserts weren’t even ready yet (we’d come in very close to opening). We had profliteroles instead (cream puffs) – we were expecting a single plate to share and were instead brought our own plate. Made for a very sugary stop!

About twenty minutes after we entered the pub, people started coming in. First a person here and a person there, and then a great mass of people; the large room was soon packed to capacity. We looked at the various types of people all crowding into the pub – some older men in suits, some younger men in T-shirts and jeans. Older women dressed well and younger women dressed simply. Mothers with babies. It seemed like the entire small town was in the place.

As we finished our tea and desert, we told the waitress that we wanted to pay so that we could make a table available to some of the people who were standing at the bar. An older man in a suit heard us, and came over to thank us for freeing up the table – it turned out that all these people were the extended family and friends of a woman who’d died a month and a day ago. They’d just had a funeral service for her, and were coming to the pub for the Month’s Main (pronounced "mine")- a little get-together to celebrate the end of the traditional Irish mourning period. They mourn for a month and a day, and then, in his words, they "move on."

We had a lovely little talk with the gentleman about the cycle of life and death, and what a great tradition it was to have a pre-determined end to the mourning period. Knowing the purpose of the gathering made all the children in the room seem that much more important. They served as a symbol, if you will, of that grand cycle of life and death that we all go through.

We walked out of the pub and sat in the car for a bit. It hit us that we’d just been given a real gift, being able to participate in a gathering like that. For me, travel isn’t about going to see attractions or getting holiday snap-shots; it’s about getting to know a different people and learning about how they live. That little stop, with its profliteroles and tea human fellowship, was a great capper to the entire trip.

Our encounter with the Month’s Main party put us into a contemplative mood… the rest of the trip back to the Dublin area was filled with conversation about observations we’d made about the Irish. As we passed by our hundredth little farmhouse on some small country road, Trish remarked that "Doors aren’t insignificant things here." Any time you look at an Irish home, one of the most ornamental parts of it is the door; they really go all-out with glasswork, color, styling, and other elements to make the door stand out from the rest of the house.

It fits in nicely with their tradition of hospitality.

We headed down the N-6 through County Westmeath and the midlands, over the Shannon river and into the town of Moathe. Along the way we saw several groups of cyclists escorted along the road by Garda (Police). Oddly enough, they were all men.

We also noted that Irish animals seem to be much smarter than their American cousins… after five days of driving we only saw three pieces of road-kill. Either that, or the Irish road works department is much more scrupulous about cleaning them up.

Another thing I saw on the Irish highways of note… they don’t seem to have any sort of highway patrol. I never saw a police car, except when I saw the Garda escorting those cyclists. A bit of a surprise.

In Moathe, Trish caught sight of a shop bearing the sign "P. Egan." Looked like it sold antiques. We got a good laugh out of that.

Finally, around 4:30, we arrived back at the Hillview House in Lusk. We knew that we needed to hit the sack early, so we checked in and then headed back to Skerries to find a bite to eat. We were running a little low on cash so we found a bank in Skerries and I popped my card in to withdraw some Euro. I was horrified to find a message on the machine saying that my transaction couldn’t be processed and that the machine was keeping my bank card! After a moment, I realized that I’d put it in backwards, and rather than simply spitting the card out the machine was keeping it. To make matters worse, it was Sunday and we were leaving in the morning before the bank opened… so there was no way for me to get my card back. Luckily Trish had her card with her, so we used it to get cash (and are going to have to KEEP using it for the rest of the trip), and we found a pub to eat at.

Pretty simple faire for this evening’s meal (we’d had our fancy meal the previous night in Clonbur). Just a chicken panini for Trish and a steak panini for me… though the panini they brought me had steak, onions and mushrooms spilling out the sides; I ended up eating most of it with a knife and fork. That and a pint of Smithwicks helped to calm me down a bit after losing my card in the bank machine.

After we’d eaten I found a pay phone and called Washington Mutual. Apparently most banks shred cards stuck in their machines that aren’t part of their system, but just to be safe they canceled my card and issued me a new one (which should be waiting for me when I return to the states).

With that taken care of we bid Skerries a fond farewell and headed back to the B&B. We re-packed our suitcases for air travel and hit the sack, knowing we’d have to be up early the next morning.