Saturday, August 31, 2013

céad míle fáilte

...a hundred thousand welcomes! 

I so enjoyed the trip to the Quilt Festival in Ireland!!!  Yes, there were a few organizational frustrations (how do we get from the airport in Dublin on the west side of Ireland to the hotel in Galway on the east side, two and a half hours away? Oh, no one knows? Oh, it's $75?), but once those minor little details were resolved, it was a great trip.  The people were warm and friendly, the countryside is amazing, hotels we stayed in were great, food was good (as evidenced by the 5 pounds I gained...apparently eating fish and chips, eating Irish bread and butter, and drinking Jameson's whisky every night will cause weight gain. Go figure.)

The flight over wasn't too bad. Ireland is 5 hours ahead of EDT, and the flight is 7 hours, so we left NYC about 9PM and arrived in Ireland at 9 AM. The Dublin airport is very modern. Puts JFK to shame.

The tour was set up for us to do the quilt show for two days, then tour Ireland for the rest of the trip. We arrived on Wednesday, June 5th, a gorgeous, 70+ degree, sunshiny day. We took the aforementioned $75 bus from Dublin Airport and enjoyed the beautiful Irish scenery - a green patchwork lined with stone walls and dotted with sheep.  The land on the coast of Galway is really rocky, and as the rocks came up out of the ground, the farmers would stack them to mark off property lines.
Since our bus got us to Galway a little bit later than planned, we stopped and had a quick lunch (can you see the Burger King sign?),

and then went directly to the marble factory. From the marble factory, we went to the crystal factory. Guess what we were told? There is only one factory in Ireland where crystal is still made. Waterford Crystal (my favorite!) is made in Slovenia, Czech Republic and Germany now.  We went to the Celtic Crystal Factory where we saw a demo and had an opportunity to buy beautiful crystal. This master craftsman is doing the equivalent of free motion quilting, carving the design into this bowl freehand. Kind of like free motion quilting without marking 
the quilt!

We had a delicious welcome dinner the first night. One of our servers made a drink and asked two of us to taste it. Shock and surprise, I volunteered to test the Irish Flag shooter. The colors of the flag are green, white and orange, and this wonderful drink is made with Crème de Menthe, Bailey's Irish Crème, and Grand Marnier. The trick is to pour it slowly over the back of a spoon so that the liquors don't blend.

On Thursday, I took my first tour of Ireland in the beautiful Connemara Region. We drove through mountains, past lakes and streams to arrive at the spectacular Kylemore Abbey and Gardens.  The castle was originally completed in 1871, by Mitchell Henry as a gift for his wife. Hard to take a bad picture of this picturesque location. The gardens were gorgeous.

The Quilt Festival itself was fun...they had maybe 150 quilts...different displays all over the campus of the University of Galway. Aren't these cutouts cute? They had them all over the campus by the exhibits:

This one outside the prison exhibit says, "Guilty of Hoarding Too Much Fabric!"

The prison exhibit was comprised of quilts made by prisoners in the Art and Craft class in Limerick Prison.
I'm pretty sure this is the same guy who announced the birth of Prince George:
There was an exhibit called "I Believe" at the Galway Cathedral. The quilts were hung on the walls on the side of the cathedral, representing all faiths and spiritual beliefs. We ended up at the exhibit just as a Mass was starting and decided to stay. Tracy and I said if you had told me a year ago that I would be attending a Mass in Ireland, I would have looked at you like you were crazy! I lit a candle for Libby Lehman and one for my Mom.
On Sunday our bus left Galway and drove to Killarney. We stopped at the Cliffs of Moher, which as you can see from this photo is spec-tac-u-lar.
Monday we went to the Dingle Peninsula, another beautiful area. Ryan's Daughter was filmed in this area. Fun Fact #1: On a clear day, you can see the Statue of Liberty from here.
OK, not really, but Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula is the most Western point of Europe.

Our bus driver was the charming Derrick.

He was funny, knowledgeable, and an excellent driver! He called us his "little flowers."  And he almost left me. The back story...Derrick was very prompt and would tell us to have our "bums warming the seats" of the bus at a certain time when we made a stop. In Dingle, we stopped at a shop which engraved your name in Gaelic on a piece of silver...earrings, bracelet, get the idea...tourist trinkets. We were supposed to have our bums warming the seats of the bus at 12:30, and I got stuck behind a woman who was having problems with her credit card. I noticed that I was the only one from my bus still in the shop, but they said, oh don't worry, they won't leave you. Riiiiiiight. Thanks to Tracy for making sure I wasn't hitchhiking from Dingle. So for our visit to Limerick, we were asked to write a limerick about our Irish experience, and here's mine:

While shopping may give you a tingle
And your purchases make the registers jingle.
Best be fast on your feet,
Bums warming your seat,
Or Derrick will leave you in Dingle.

On Tuesday we drove to the village of Blarney, where of course there is the famed Blarney Stone at the Blarney Castle. You have to queue up and climb a gazillion stairs to the tower, so I didn't do it, but walked around the beautiful grounds. We had lunch in an old horse feeding trough.  (The red thing in the back is the trough.)
Fun Fact # 2:  You know those rhododendrons that you carefully nurture, water faithfully, feed fertilizer for acid loving plants, make sure that they get the proper amount of sun, and they die anyway?  They grow wild in Ireland. They're like weeds there! They are invasive. The Irish hate them because they take over the landscape!!!  This one was easily 15 feet tall...probably more. Taken on the grounds of the Blarney Castle.

More beautiful rhododendron on the grounds of the Blarney Castle.

The weather was perfect the entire time we were there...70-80 every day! It rained the day we left! The people were positively giddy over the sun, and just like people every where, flocked to the beach when the weather was nice.

And my most favorite thing?  They drive on the left in Ireland, so when you cross the street, you have to look the other way. In downtown Galway, some of the streets were painted with this:

I would go back again, but the list of places to go and people to see is a long one. International Quilt Festival of Ireland, the vision of Jim West of Sew Many Places travel.

My dentist said I need a crown. I said, "I know, right?" 

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