Article I submitted for publication
Hi - here's an article i just wrote and submitted to a travel web site for publication.
I Almost Lost My Mother – O’re the Cliffs of Moher
By Tonia Collinske
Weighing in at slightly under 100 pounds and 4’11”, Mom grasped me to keep from flying west. The wind rushing across the Burren, into the Atlantic is truly fierce. But the breathtaking view is worth a twinge of terror. And gales of laughter followed the harrowing moment.
Clichés about Ireland are all almost nearly true. The rain is soft. Except when it drowns. The hills are a thousand shades or green. Except for the barren Burren. The ocean is astounding. Except for the wee rollers on the islets. And the people? Well, they are simply grand.
Legend has it the fairies will seduce you to fall passionately in love with the island. The “white martyrs” of old left Ireland behind believing they’d made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith. Leave-taking of the Emerald Isle is viscerally painful for me.
Lifelong friendships are practically unavoidable if you take your time and open your heart. Our newly adopted Irish cousins, Paddy and Nuala Dermody (Premier Cycling), came to Newport Beach last year for a visit. They stayed at the Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel and absolutely loved it. We met them in 2000 and can’t imagine life without them now.
Each of our visits has been primarily to the “Midlands” where our ancestors lived, died, and emigrated. There is nothing as humbling as ducking into the tiny stone hut of one’s forbearers. About 10’x10’, a family of 12 called it home. Three sons made it to America during the famine. The others may have perished in a nearby workhouse. The hut, now part of a larger barn, is located near Killavilla an Anglo-Irish estate. Mr. Isaac Dann, owner of the barn, has always been a welcoming host when my relatives drop in to see the old homestead.
Often overlooked by tourists, the Midlands are mostly rural. Shannon Airport will drop you off at a great beginning point. Knowing what we wanted this trip, we headed straight for Nenagh, County Tipperary. A town of about 7000, it is near Logh Derg on the Shannon.
The first time we drove into Nenagh a few years ago, we stopped for lunch at Peter Ward’s Country Choice café. We fell in love with himself and the town. The food is superb (Peter uses locally grown, organic fare) and his travel advice was perfect. We drove along the waterside visiting Puckane, lovely wooden art, Terryglass, multi-year winner of the Tidy Town award, and Lorrha, our destination that year. Ruins of St. Ruadhan’s Abbey, founded in 540 A.D., are in Lorrha and have been incorporated into the existing church building.
Back to Nenagh and another taste delight. If you are a certified choco-holic, don’t miss Cinnamon Alley café. They serve a deeply rich cake slathered with warm chocolate sauce and topped with cream. Wrap me up and send me down below because I’ve already been to heaven. By now, you must know that I’m a sightseer and a foodie, not an activity-seeker.
For those looking for sport, the Midlands offers superb fishing, hiking, biking, sailing and golfing opportunities. I must admit, we were not impressed with the equestrian scene.
We spent two snuggly weeks at Nenagh’s Williamsferry B&B divinely spoiled by Brian and Mary Devine. The weather was fine in April and I spent many warm mornings quietly reading in the garden, sipping tea and nibbling scones. One must always be prepared to dash for cover though. Rain will happen.
Day trips in the Midlands area are easy and plentiful. Glenstal Abbey is a lovely and peaceful active Benedictine monastery and school with biblical garden. Clare Glens is a must-see with its cascading river and verdant overhangs - otherworldly.
The monastery at Clonmacnois, founded by St. Ciaran (or Kieran) in 515 C.E., has spectacular examples of high crosses. You can almost hear the Vikings grunting in unison as they sculled the river Shannon. The monastery was a favorite raiding spot forcing monks to hide in round towers.
The bog tour is worth a go if just to comprehend the country’s dependence on peat. A train skirts the bog while docents explain the process and uses of peat. From such a place came the Bog Man. You’ll get to stop and try your hand at digging and slinging peat bricks. The next warm fire and sweet smelling smoke will hold a new significance for you.
Adare is a bit touristy for my taste but it’s a great place to see thatched roofed cottages with bright painted doors and flowered gardens. Birr Castle Demesne is simply awe inspiring with its 19th century giant telescope, 1500 acres of garden and horse-drawn carriages. The current Earl of Ross still occupies the castle.
Catching the train into Cork city takes a short drive. Never forget that tractors, herds, and road works can wreak havoc with your schedule! We sat on a two-lane road for a good hour on our way to Thurles. A good chat was had on the road. We made the train on time and new acquaintances along the way. This is part of life in a rural country and what makes it so glorious. Relax, go with it.
Another nice way to see Ireland is self-catering. If you aren’t afraid to drive or willing to stay in a large city with public transportation, self-catering is perfection. You rent a home, cottage or apartment. Everything you need comes with the home. You can cook, do laundry, make a fire and keep your own schedule. We’ve self-catered in Lorrha, Dublin and Portroe. It’s a perfect chance to experience real life in Ireland. Again, we made lifetime friends this way.
Ireland is a small island – about 300 miles long and 174 miles wide. The Midlands is roughly a third of the island. Yet, there is no end of things to see and do, of people to meet. I’ve only scratched the surface in this brief review. If one is open to unplanned excursions along the way, adventures are endless.
The sad news is globalization. Housing developments are popping up everywhere that feels like every other development in the industrialized nations. Landowners are now hesitant to let tourists walk about freely visiting ancient ruins for fear of lawsuits. Sites are being fenced off and locked down due to damage done by too many tourists. So go now before it’s too late! You can still have a pint and listen to traditional music at Larkin’s in Garrykennedy.
I almost lost my mother
O‘er the Cliffs of Moher
Wind gusted and sea birds cried
Forging stone steps side by side
Upon foul ragged cliffs we peeped
Whilst grasping handrails, slow we creeped
“Look there!” I cried to Ma and Liz
‘Tis America, I see, I’m sure it ‘tis.”
Just as I gestured west to make my point
Wisely instructing, “One must simply squint”
A frightful breeze took hold her cape
Ballooned round ‘bout, grabbed her tiny nape
She pitched and rose like sail a’ bluster
Her delicate frame no match for zephyr
“Dear Mam!” I yelped, fearing for the worst
Seizing fabric, I snatched her back so fierce
“Hold on sweet Mam” I dreading cried
For it she’d flown she’d surely have died
Had I not been large and standing near
She’d have soared clear off to County Clare
Auntie Liz turned with mouth agape
To see her sister rise above the landscape
Began to chuckle, laugh and guffaw
“Let’s get us back to our calm Lorrha!”
She pleaded, doubled-over, in laughing throes
Gasping that she’d nearly wet her drawers
I teetered there upon that wicked berm
Pulled my Ma back in and planted her firm
We waived farewell to the awesome Moher
Thanking God above that I’d not lost
My own sweet Mother.
© Tonia Collinske 2/9/09