Upon our return from Paris, Damon picked us up at the airport, then we stopped off at Kilmacduagh Monastery near Gort, so Mom could see an ancient monastic site.
After the Paris jaunt, Mom and I had two days to enjoy Ireland. Surprisingly, the weather was better here than in Paris. We spent a leisurely day in the Connemara region (see my previous post with background on this region), where we had lunch at an Irish/pub restaurant in Clifden, so Mom could try authentic fish & chips. Then we walked up to the John D'Arcy Monument, overlooking the town of Clifden, before driving out on Sky Road to see dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean along the coast of Ireland. Then we toured the walled gardens, chateau and church at Kylemore Abbey before driving back to Salthill. Though we wanted to go for a stroll along the bayfront promenade in Galway, we were too tired from walking in Paris for three days, so we skipped it. Mom did get to watch all the prom walkers each day from our balcony, though.
On our last day, we spent the morning relaxing at the apartment and repacking, then went down to the Ballyknow Quay at the end of the River Corrib in Galway to feed the swans, before driving down to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. Damon and I had visited Bunratty before, though we never attended the medieval banquet dinner held inside the 15th-century castle walls. Bunratty is considered Ireland’s premier visitor attraction.
Before our dinner, we toured the castle first; Bunratty Castle is considered the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland and is fully furnished. Built in 1425, it was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendour and now contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art which capture the mood of those times. Then we strolled through the Folk Park while waiting for dinner to begin. Bunratty Folk Park recreates 19th-century life in Ireland. Set on 26 acres, the park includes 30 buildings in a "living" village and rural setting, which spread out at the foot of the castle's massive walls.
We were greeting for dinner inside the castle with a glass of Mead in the main hall of the castle. The walls were draped in tapestries and our hosts dressed in vintage Irish clothes. We listened to harp and voilin players before moving into the dining room. We sat at long, wooden tables next to other guests (everyone at our table was American). We were given only a knife for utensils, so we could eat like they did inside the castle walls centuries ago. (They did give us a little cup of lemon water to dip our fingers into between courses.) We sipped soup straight from the wooden bowl, nibbled on spare ribs, then chicken and potatoes before dessert. Pitchers (pottery-style) filled with white and red wine, as well as water, dotted the table, along with platters of traditional Irish Brown Bread. The hosts sang Irish songs while we ate. Two tourists were also crowned "Lord" and "Lady" for the evening, and were fitted with crowns and special treatment during dinner. We chatted with tourists from Virginia and Texas, one of whom has relatives all along the Kansas/Missouri border leading up to Kansas City. A small world, as always.
The next morning, Damon and I left for Dublin airport around 2:30 a.m., and Mom left for the bus to Shannon airport at 3 a.m. It was a lot of fun to show Mom a little bit of Paris and Western Ireland. I wish she could have stayed a little longer, so we could have relaxed more and seen more at a leisurely pace, but she does have a job and other responsibilities that I have been thrived to shed for one year -- and only four months left of freedom!