Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mahon Falls, take 2

I finally signed up for a YouTube account so I could upload the video I mentioned in my last post. (The quality is much better when I play it on Quicktime. Boo.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

holiday weekend #2

Let me tell you something about Waterford: if you go down there only to visit the crystal factory, you really ought to be nettle-whipped. The mountains, country roads, and sea views are so, so lovely! (And much of that crystal is now so, so produced in Turkey.)

Ponies in a pasture on the River Suir, just outside the town of Carrick-on-Suir (just before the one on the right tried to chomp on Brendan's arm):

(Carrick-on-Suir is technically in Tipperary, but people have Waterford tags on their cars and root for Waterford sports teams, and the 'Welcome to Waterford' sign is within spitting distance of Brendan's house. Hence my initial confusion over which county Brendan is actually from! Tipperary is also a county of beautiful mountain and pastoral views--see the post before last.)

Until this past weekend, Ardmore was my hands-down favorite place in County Waterford, but check out my pics of Mahon Falls in the Comeragh Mountains:

(I also took a panoramic video, but I think it's too large to upload. Drat!) It was awfully cold and blustery up there, but those storm-clouds in the second photo held off until we were back in the car. There were all these grizzled sheep moseying up and down the sheerest mountain-faces, the waterfall was awesome, and there weren't too many other people. After our walk to the falls we kept driving, and the road was spanned by the most complete rainbow I've ever seen.

You could actually see where the rainbow ended on both sides.

Here are some close-ups of the Harry Clarke windows at the Church of Saints Quan and Broghan, Clonea:

I'm not sure which saint this is, but here's a detail from the bottom of the same window:

Actually, there seems to be some uncertainty as to whether the later windows were done by Harry Clarke or Evie Hone. A Google search gave me no answers, and I've left my Harry Clarke book at home. I must look it up at the library. Anyways, from the earlier set by J.J. Clarke & Sons, here is St. Brendan the Navigator, along with a picture of a certain name- and beardsake:

...looking slightly less holy.

After we visited the church in Clonea, we went to Mothel holy well where the locals walk through the stream seven times on pattern days.

(The well is at the roots of that tree. Notice the sign--apparently the water used to be known for its purity, but it's now contaminated.) There's a small dolmen in the field beyond.

Getting well off the tourist track feels great, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Couldn’t Ask for Better Neighbors

I’m back in Tipperary this weekend, at Brendan's parents' house in Carrick-on-Suir for Easter. Here is a view from their backyard:

Now, living right beside a graveyard might creep some people out--but the way I see it, there are bodies buried everywhere. These are just the ones that are marked.

Last night we were walking into town (so I could sample the spudballs, a local delicacy; alas, there were no more to be had at Fats Quann's takeaway), and as we were passing the graveyard Brendan pointed out the eerie blue lights inside--the same solar-powered lights you can get for your front walk, which charge all day and illuminate the sidewalk at night. If there were any honest-to-God orbs floating about you'd hardly have noticed them.

You expect this kind of elaborate grave-tending in a predominantly Catholic country, but I still wonder at the time and expense behind all those rotting wreaths, water-logged flower-globes, sentimental plaques (which often include a photograph of the deceased) and battery-operated candles. It seems like a significant part of Irish culture--something that, unlike the rural custom of forming a digging party when a neighbor passes on, won't be dying out any time soon.

(Blame Seanan for the offaly bad pun.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

holiday weekend in Tipperary

Seeing as I can't stand drunken rowdies and all the noise, stench, broken glass, and damage to public property they leave in their wake, I make a point of getting far away from city pubs on St. Paddy's Day. This year, my friend Seanan was kind enough to invite me and several other friends down to Tipperary for the holiday weekend, and we had a couple of nice long walks in the Silvermines and around Lough Derg (on the Clare side, just north of Killaloe). Seanan also cooked the most amazing dinner ever and we were all very jolly:

I didn't bring a camera on this recent Silvermines walk, but here are a couple of photos from the first walk back in October:

Looks utterly peaceful, right? Well...our walk this past weekend was downright creepy. Seanan's mom dropped the four of us (Seanan, me, Charlene, and Clare) off and would meet us back in the parking lot in two hours. Maybe 45 minutes into our walk, we came upon an SUV on the road (which was barricaded at the entrance--these roads were meant to be vehicle-free, for the most part). Two young men emerged from the brush with an empty wheelbarrow, and while we were still a good bit off they put the wheelbarrow into the back and drove off. We were unnerved by this--what could they have dumped out here?--and after poking around in the brush and finding no corpses or broken-down washing machines we decided to turn around so we wouldn't run into those shady dudes again (and we had to turn around eventually anyway). We were joking that they might come back and kill us all for being witnesses...and then we heard the SUV approaching again! It was so quiet we could hear it coming from a ways off, and I decided to jump into the brush and hide behind a tree. I got made fun of afterwards, of course, and it was pointed out that if they had been intending to gun us down surely they'd have noticed there were only three out of four on the road.

But that wasn't even the creepy part. On our way down the hill to meet Seanan's mom, we leaned over a stone bridge perched maybe twenty feet over a little stream, and what do you suppose we saw? A dead dog. It was huge and black and its fur was slick with rainwater. We couldn't see its head or rear because they were covered by one of those industrial-strength garbage bags. Why in God's name didn't its owner give it a proper burial? It led us to wonder if the poor black dog had met its end by unnatural means. I wanted to call someone--at home you'd call the public works people and someone would come by in a yellow truck to pick it up--but Seanan said it was unlikely anyone would do anything about it. The whole situation was odd, and vaguely sinister. I've seen plenty of dead animals before--sheep carcasses on the beach, having fallen off the cliff above; and all the bodies of birds, seals, and lizards forever proving Darwin right on the Galapagos—but in those cases there wasn't anything more troubling than 'survival of the fittest' at work. Somebody put that dead dog in the stream. It was premeditated. It freaked me out.

Other than that—hey! We had a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Modern Ireland

When some people (who've probably never been here) think of Ireland, they have this image in their heads of rolling green hills, pristine lakes, and suchlike. Not to say that image isn't accurate--only that it isn't complete. Take for instance this lovely shopping cart o' refuse Brendan snapped with his camera-phone. This is the kind of stuff you find sludged over on the bottom of the canal here in Galway (though the swans often distract you from noticing it). At least it's tidy...?

Seriously though, I had a special section in my Moon guide on environmental issues, and I got fairly disgusted over the course of my research. When you're here on vacation it's easy to forget that even the most beautiful places on Earth have their landfills and tainted drinking water (tainted with what, you don't need to know).