Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ireland Day 3 8.31.08, Poulnabrone, Burren

Megan and I are installed merrily in the Cashel House Hotel in - you guessed it - Cashel! We are overfed and tired from our stupendous day. We left Doolin and drove past the Cliffs of Moher to St. Brigid's Well, a miracle site attributed to St. Brigid. There we had a time of great emotion and longing, as Megan tied her mother's Irish lace handkerchief to the shrine, and we said prayers for our beloved dead.

We drove toward the sea and walked down the strand beside a lovely graveyard, near Liscannor, where we met a kind nettle-gatherer and dog rescuer called Dierdre. From there we travelled up the center of the Burren to Kilfenora, where we stopped for some potato soup in a lovely pub called Linnane's Irish Traditional Music Pub (too bad they weren't playing any at lunchtime heh heh - too interested in the football!). Then, a bit more north, I navigated us and Megan drove us to Cathair Chonaill Stone Fort, where an archaeological site likely to be a tomb was being excavated by a group of volunteers, including a professor from the University of Galway. They showed us a newly-found coin from Elizabethan days, as well as a pre-historic burial, chert pieces, and lots of pig bones. Megan was very very happy!!!

Reluctantly we pulled ourselves away and continued north to the Poulnabrone Portal Tomb, a megalithic masterpiece - four upright pieces holding a huge capstone that, like Pentre Ifan in Wales, used to be surrounded by a mound. There we were able to get close enough to the ground on non-privately-held land to be able to photograph lots of gorgeous Burren flowers, including campanula, bedstraw, meadowsweet, my friend the hart's tongue fern, and several other sorts of fern poking up out of the grikes.

We spoke a long while to a nice ranger who is sad about the 1 per cent of the 1500 visitors a day who pick flowers and take away rocks and deface the monument :( he says tour buses come in and he sees people taking bouquets of orchids away... *shudder*

The Burren is a truly astonishing place. How I wish I could bring Mom here!

Reluctantly again we moved Northward, but soon we were enchanted by the incredible views of the karst-rock hills with pastures leading right up to the exposed rocky hilltops. Lunar landscapes indeed.

We rounded the last Burren hill and entered Galway County, following its coastline around inlet after castle after inlet until we passed Galway town and came out into Connemara. On the way we passed the huge Connemara Pony Show and a long line of horse trailers. Sigh.

Then we entered the peat-and-heather-and gorse laden Connemara landscape that looked to us very like the Scottish Highlands, rolling hillocks, lochs, rounded female-looking mountains, sheep on the verges of the roads, lowering clouds with brief appearances by the round sky orb we call "The Yellow Thing" so as not to frighten it away. I only got us lost once on the long way up here - I swear there was no sign- really- and we finally arrived at 8. Megan looked at three different rooms before she settled on this third-floor one with ocean view.

Our new mottos, to help us not freak out while driving on the opposite side from usual on narrow roads with fast Irish drivers:

"Cuimhnigh a analaigh". (Pronounced "KWEEvnich uh aNAlig" - this means "Remember to breathe" :). The other is "Agus na scaoll" (AH-gus na scoil) which means "Don't panic!"

Of course there is no internet here :). So it is text-phone-blogging time for me. Will upload pics in Dublin I guess at the end of the trip.

This hotel is quite posh, and we are debating whether or not we should stay, but we are certainly here for one night and maybe two. On the grounds they have many famous gardens, including a rare tree collection, a heath garden, natural woodlands, a tack shop and a Connemara Pony stud farm. Ahem.

See why we want to stay? *enormous grin* But one thing is sure-we won't eat in the hotel's Amazing Restaurant again, even though they have a glorious harpist... And five courses ... And different china for every course...cause, well, we didn't know it was quite that posh :) Pub dinners from now on.

It sure was fun tonight though, we had a perfect meal, and sweet Megan even got me a champagne drink with strawbewrry in it. She is most thoughtful to have arranged this entire trip and to drive me everywhere and put up with my navigating and occasional white knuckles.

Tomorrow we may have to go see some ponies...Cashel House Stud is a famous and many-ribboned farm. *gleeful grin*


The Irish Adventure

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday Aug. 30 in Ireland

Megan and I arrived in Doolin in utter joy and checked in to the Cullinan's Restaurant and Guesthouse where we were immediately greeted by a calico cat and a donkey :) Megan then drove us all the brief way over the Burren to the Cliffs of Moher . . . ohhhhhhh . . . they literally take the breath away. We climbed all over Hag's Head. Megan had to hold my hand at one point as I had a serious attack of vertigo. While she clambered a bit farther I say on a muddy hillock and got misty. It was so stunningly beautiful, with the crashing waves and the seabirds below us . . . utter joy!

We reluctantly came back to the Inn for our stupendous dinner. We are putting Megan to bed early to try to help her jet lag. And I am obviously computing heh heh :)

Really looking forward to botanizing in the Burren tomorrow.
Oh -Megan says I have to say that today I remarked, after buying songbooks, and passing by the Hobbiton-like Celtic Jewelry Store that had closed: "I'd rather have ballads than jewels."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Made it to Ireland

It is midnight at the Park Shannon Hotel.

Left St. David's a little before 8am in the mist, arrived here also in mist. I am absolutely wrecked and won't write much-just to say that while Terry rested his sore hip after our dinner at the Farmers Arms last night, Tallis and I walked the dark mile down to Porth Clais in perfectly gorgeous, mysterious, muffling mist. We had an excellent talk. It was one of the best things that happened on the Moore Trip. I will always remember it, and I charged him to as well. Sitting over the river on the stone wall was ...well ...sacred.

It was very hard to say goodbye to them today. We were quietly affectionate on the train, playing our last game of Ipod Scrabble . . . I miss them so very much.

But here I am about to start a new adventure... After as much sleep as I can get! Good night...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Perfect Last Day in Wales

Easy lovely day. It began most touchingly, as I received a beautifully-calligraphed package delivered to the cottage from Carmarthen- Dr. Garlick had sent me a volume of his poems!!! It got here in less than a day, because the inscription said that he enjoyed our talk yesterday so much. And OH! What poems . . . I read them all through while Tallis took his shower . . . I could not be more grateful. What a lot of work for an eightysomething gentleman (on crutches, no less) to do for me. Love him.

We walked a mile to the Coast Trail, out our road and down to the bay, and hit the trail. I was overcome with delight at all the pretty wildflowers, and the glorious cliffs and surf and gorse and heather and ponies and rock walls and wheat fields and lovely red and blue rock and caves. The boys were very patient with me as I took picture after picture. We walked clear around the head, enjoying the views of Ramsey Island, and the nursing baby seal, with her Mum and Dad, in one of the the little bays, and the sand beach that I threw a wishing rock from, and the wonderful sea wind and the actual SUN that showed its face for the first time today (!). We didn't say much, just peacefully walked, and breathed, and I could hardly wipe the wide grin off my face, the entire time. Pure joy. Perfect freedom. Sacred quiet, even when we chatted. Flow. We have gotten to understand each other's rhythms in a new way, this trip, as our little comunity has been so close. Eating all meals together, going to sleep at the same time (what a concept), a gentle symbiosis. There have been no disagreements, no drama, just much laughter and many whole-making silences. When we get tired, we just seem to get more kind.

We had a sweet time in Saint David's Cathedral, seeing it at its best with actual sun filtering in. I prayed in the prayer chapel, and said the Pilgrim's Prayer by the bones of Saint David, lit candles for my beloveds, and said hello to Giraldus Cambrensis' tomb. Then I sort of drifted, just enjoying the rare and sacred beauty of Wales' most sacred Christian shrine. A small silent retreat. Cathedrals always make me think of Madeleine, of course. I met up with the boys eventually. Terry was sitting quietly in a pew, looking contemplative and listening to the organist rehearse. I came up and gave him a long holy kiss. We are feeling very tender here.

Then we walked, not saying very much, home to Amber Cottage, and got ready for a nap.

My feet are really painful, but I am doing what we call "Pulling a Sylvia", and just telling them to be quiet when they scream at me. Kila asked about my blisters, and I said I was ignoring them, as how many times in a lifetime have I hiked the Coast Trail? This would be the third. She asked Terry, who was beginning a nap on the bed, an hour ago, "Is she always so ridiculously cheerful?" And he said, sleepily, "Quite often". :) She told us when asked that we couldn't pay with a VISA . . . so I volunteered to go into town for cash.

I hobbled up our little street, leaving the boys asleep. I desperately want a nap too (would be the first on the trip), but someone had to go get the cash to pay Kila tomorrow at 7am. And this is fun, renting the town computer, hee hee.

Soon I shall go out into the rare and glorious sun and go wake my beloveds, and we will probably eat at our favorite pub, the Farmer's Arms.

God bless all who read this, may you too find surprising peace inside you today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

He was there!

Dr. Raymond Garlick was there at The Ivy Bush in Carmarthen, and we had tea with him and a lovely chat, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity for me to thank him for all he did for me so long ago. And to tell him about The Current Career - turns out both his kids, Angharad and . . . was his son named Iestyn? are both in film! I am going to search IMDB for them :) He gave me his address to keep in touch, and Dr. Jon Dressel's, and Malcom Gilbert the Soviet Studies and Geography teacher, and Ian Lloyd-Davies the Outdoor Pursuits teacher . . . and we talked about poetry and Dylan Thomas and Bryn Myrddin (though it is privately owned and you can't go there, it is near Abergwili, a little beyond, on the Llandeilo Road . . .) and the time he was at a P.E.N. meeting and met President Carter and loved him (he delighted Dr. Garlick by casually walking into the room and saying "hi" so unlike the Royals), even though he did not buy Fern Hill Farm after all, as there was a crisis in the Balkans, and . . . oh how can I speak of such a glorious and happy meeting? He gave me so much encouragement as a young would-be poet. The poems I wrote with him as my tutor were some of my best.

Then we went to the Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne, seeing his very writing hut (used to be a garage) and were most inspired, and had a simple lunch of Cawl and Brod :), then we drove to Pentre Ifan burial Champer on top of the Preseli Hills where the stones for Stonehenge came from . . . amazing . . . we tried to get into a nearby Iron Age reconstructed hill fort, but just missed it at 5pm.

Drove back to St. David's via lovely Fishguard, admiring the hills and sheep and horses and hedgerows and gorse and seabirds, and stunning sea views and tiny lanes beside sheer 12' hedgerows and one-lane passes through stone walls and tiny towns. . . Wales. I love it so, and it means a great deal to me to be able to share it with my beloveds. Wish Theo could be here, but of course then it would be about "Crazy Golf", as they call it here, and not so literary :)

Now we are about to either go play Scrabble, or go for a walk if my blisters will cope (they are a bit worse every day despite many blister protections I bought at the chemist).

Tomorrow is our last full day here. We think we will not drive any where, but walk the coast trails and fully grok the Cathedral. Then they come home to Theo and I join dear Megan in Ireland . . .

More pictures tomorrow if I can find a connection somewhere . . . if not, not till Ireland.

Bless all who read this!

Trinity College Carmarthen *sigh*

Amber Cottage, St. David's

Llansteffan Castle, Tywi Estuary

Day 7,8 Wales

It is 10am and we are rocketing along the road from St. David's to Carmarthen - one must go 60mph on these very narrow roads - scary backwards - and slowing of course for towns and places where the road narrows to one-lane. Just had our staggering amount of English Breakfast and showed Kila my fern photo from yesterday -a Hartstongue fern shot, which she says is good enough for her collection.

Yesterday we went in to Carmarthen and saw the college campus - wow has it grown! And tried twice to get up Bryn Myrrdin, foiled by the new development. We tried to have lunch in "Y Ceffyl Ddu", my old haunt, but it was closed, as was Kwon Yick, the old Chinese take-away of yore. Water Street and Glannant are the same, and St. Catherine's also.

We ate lunch in Blue Boar Bistro, which used to be a pub I frequented by another name, and there we met one Geraint Thomas, who lives there and who knew several of my tutors, including Dr. Raymond Garlick, my beloved poetry tutor. He told us that Dr. Garlick ought to be at the Ivy Bush today at 11, which is why we are headed back hope. Many folk in town speak of him in reverent tones, including the bookstore people in the market, who ordered us a book of his poems. I hope we catch him!

Then we tried for Bryn Myrddin the second time, gave up, and drove down the riverside to Llansteffan Castle, where we spent a long lovely leisurely time exploring it and walking in the mist on the golden sand below. I keep remebering poems I wrote 28 years ago in these locations - really odd. It was so sweet to just do almost nothing, just be together, laughing about silly things, often. ("Someone made these tracks... Or some THING...") No agenda, no pressure, just the gulls and the wind and mist and sand and crows and castle stones. Perfection.

We made it back to St. David's as dusk fell and went to dinner at "Cwtch" a sort of fancy place with utterly delicious food. I had this crab pate and a tender pork dish ... Ahh. Tallis told us about Kohlberg's theories about stages of ethical development. So it goes.

We sat there for a long time - and not just because it took the lady half an hour to bring our check :) Then back to Amber Cottage to fall into bed in utter exhaustion. Tallis had been coughing a bit, here and in London, especially in the back of the car with the nasty diesel fumes and no Recirc. setting in the air intake, but thank God he stopped enough to sleep. We all got a good sleep last night/this morning. The sea air blowing in the open window helps a lot. However, we all heard the car Kila calls the "Egg Fairy" bring the fresh eggs at 5am...we are eating earlier every morning as that seems to be the order of the day.

(Dashed into an internet café, computer in hand, to see if I can upload photos . . . it does one about every ten years but here is one of Terry and me at Llansteffan yesterday :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

So in Wales, unless we find an internet cafe on our rambles, I am going to just be doing text from my phone - which hurts my hands a bit. Suffice to say that I am in total hog heaven... Our tiny B n B, Amber Cottage, is sweet and a good bracing contrast to London luxe - our sweet hostess Kila managed to wash and spin our stinky clothes, though not dry them as I am discovering most Brits do not have dryers - finding a laundromat has proved daunting and Tallis had to buy socks in Marks n Spencer as all is were, as he put it, "stinky".

From the time the train turned up the familiar river Tywi and I saw Llansteffan Castle on the hill I have been in total rapture. I feel at home though the last time I lived here was 1980.

The boys had to restrain me from leaping off the train at the Carmarthen station! But then the scenery got even better as we proceeded to Haverfordwest and hired our car and swooped down hills nd up hills with Tallis riding shotgun saying "Dad! Too close to the kerb!" And through the familiar dell by Solva, with all the boats, and up the tiny narrow roads finallt to beloved St. David's. This is my third pilgrimage here, so it is the equivalent of going to Jerusalem, as medieval tradition has it.

We met Kila and strolled to the sweet cathedral where my happy-o-meter hit its peak, went to the new Refectory for a perfect and organic Hake supper, the gently explored the Close a bit before wandering past our B n B loving the hedgerows and the sea wind until my blisters fired up and we retired to Amber Cottage for a happy hour of Scrabble, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and U2. In bed by 10 and up by 6:30, though we have been trying to stay asleep. It is 8am on Tuesday and we are going to order breakfast a lot earlier tomorrow, as our open windows and the crows and the passing trucks and the hard bed do not make for sleeping in. :)

This is the only room that gets cell reception for some reason, here on the first floor. Rural mysteries. Terry and I said at about 7:30 that this last week has been the most we have just hung out together in a very long time, free of the need to always be on Theo duty. Tallis of course is an adult now in almost all ways and needs very little minding. We are amazed at the ease of life without the hypervigilance needed at home.
Now, how to be able to keep some of this peace back home? A topic for prayer indeed.

Almost my slot for breakfast. Better get ready. Love to all who read this from Pembrokeshire!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Worshipping at the Big House of God

Medieval GLEE!

The Tower, the Library and the Abbey

Today we got up late-ish, circa 9. Terry and I snuck down to breakfast leaving Tallis sleeping, and discussed the disturbing dreams I had had, probably stirred up by Vanessa Redgrave's play last night.  One of the things we discussed was my sadness over the loss of the other genetic kids - had had a sci-fi novel sort of dream about that theme. When we got back to the room at 10, I wanted a nap almost immediately and lay on the bed sort of dozing while Tallis finally took a shower around 11.  We hit the road at noon, heh heh.

We tubed over to the Tower of London and had a fabulous time exploring much of it. Of course there were excellent re-enactors there (*cheer*) We saw the White Tower with its armor displays, the Medieval Palace on the Wall, the chapel where Sir Thomas More is buried along with about 40 other famous, sad murdered Tower residents.

Then we tubed to the British Library where we saw many glorious things including the original "Beowulf" text, the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century Bible in Carolingian line drawings and letters!), the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, a Lindisfarne one, piles of amazing Books of Hours and Gospels, Beethoven, Handel and other famous musician's handwritten texts, Charlotte Bronte original manuscript, Oscar Wilde, a 3rd Century Buddhist Sutra for Tallis, and on and glorious on.

Then, enlarged, enlivened, enlightened, and exhausted, we tubed to Westminster Abbey for a very lovely Evening Prayer service, led by Canon Sagovsky of the Abbey, at which I met Sister Judith, an Episcopal nun who knows sister Mary Cristobel, and in which I cried because it reminded me so strongly of Madeleine. I lit a candle for Madeleine, and for lots of other folks I love. We sang"Be Thou My Vision", and  William Blake's "And did these feet in ancient times walk upon England's pastures green", as the service was partly to pray for the end of the Olympics, and to pray for the London ones in four years.

Then, limping from my new blisters, we took a double-decker bus for Tallis (to remember his stay here at age 5 when we came to see Lynn's play) and got a bit lost, stopping for not-very-good Italian food.  The company was lovely though of course, and we plotted some new SCA characters, inspired by our very medieval day.  After exiting the Dolce Vita Restaurant (though it wasn't), we limped along for a bit, quite lost, then gave up and took a cab home to the Milestone.

Wow do our feet hurt. It is 9:45 and we are sprawled out in our amazing residence and reading and listening to the Tallis Scholars sing medieval music on Terry's Ipod (since the hotel of course provides an Ipod dock *giggle*. I am going to have trouble leaving here tomorrow . . . except that we are going to WALES!!!!

Milestone Frupperies

Milestone, Milestone, can I stay forever?

Room 106


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Arrival at the Milestone of Milestones

Day 5 - Exhausted Moores at the Milestone

We had a very exciting and very tiring day today. We left the Victoria Spa B & B in Stratford at 9 and took the train to London, and a cab to the posh Milestone Hotel off of Hyde Park. I have really never seen a more beautiful hotel, or one so dedicated to amazing service; the introductory lecture alone took an hour, and I got much of it on tape to my glee. We got upgraded somehow to a suite, complete with bathtub (!!) and robes and slippers and fruit on the table and lilies that they took away for me, and organic scent-free soap in the bathroom and even paper business cards with our address for the weekend with contact info, and a daily printed weather report and on and on. Oh and you can watch TV from the bathtub if you want, I know because I just did it *insanely happy giggle*. They served us tea and biscuits while we waited for our room to be fixed up. And of course the wifi here is lightning-fast, unlike the Stratford trickle, so I uploaded some photos.

We sort of spun around in our suite, hugging ourselves in glee, and then ran out to the Globe, making it at 5 minutes before the curtain, to see "Timon of Athens" - which I have never seen as it is so rarely done. And you know what? The production was fabulous. I didn't expect lots of people dressed as black ravens doing Suzuki stomping and flying - but it totally worked. The lead was incredibly good and so were all of them.

They we walked up the embankment to a very old pub for dinner, and walked down to the National, had cake there (I watched) and went in to see a very touching production called "The Year of Magical Thinking" with none other than Vanessa Redgrave. We were all very sleepy and exhausted, but also riveted by her incredible performance. Terry was the first one to stand up cheering (unusual). It was about a writer who lost her whole family . . . I sort of don't like to think about how awful the story is. But it was gorgeous.

Then an excruciatingly-long tube trip home with 4 changes . . . and my lovely bath to soothe my aching bod and very sore feet . . . and I am about to fall into bed with those soft white sheets and that extremely soft coverlet. The boys are already asleep. We are all just wrecked. But merrily so!

I do not know what possessed Terry to book this hotel. But God bless him! I am glad I am getting to stay at a place like this at least once in my life. I want to bring Mom here someday! And my friends . . . and Theo . . . yeah, right. I just wish everyone could experience this.

Oh and we discovered that both Patrick Stewart and REM have stayed in our suite . . . *giggle* I know we will probably not stay anywhere like this again. I feel like "Mrs 'Arris Goes to Paris"!

Globe Theatre, Timon of Athens

Our Stratford Hostess, Victoria Spa B & B

Holy Trinity Church, Shakespeare's Grave