Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Opening a Closed Door

I think that sometimes it's good to really know.

I found out how I really felt recently. I had a relationship that had petered out and I felt a lot of different ways about it... a lot of conflicting ways.

I had been sad.
I had been mad.
I had been indignant.
I had taken responsibility.
I had felt regrets.
And sometimes confusion.

Mostly, I was able to chalk it up to a relationship that I had gotten to have -- but that was now in the past.  Most of the time, I was okay with that. I had healed. I was at peace.

But sometimes I wasn't... sometimes I was still confused and angry and hurt.

In a whimsical moment of nostalgia, I wrote to them. It wasn't a big thing... It was a "Hi, how are you?" sort of email. It opened a door if they wanted to answer it.

After I sent it, as soon as I sent it, I thought, "Was that really a door you wanted to knock on? Was that a door that you want to walk through or is it better if it stays closed?"

I sort of hoped that they wouldn't answer the email -- so that I wouldn't have to answer the question. If they didn't answer, it wasn't on me. I would be absolved of the choice.

But, they did.  So I had to really think about it. Is this what I wanted?

I thought. I talked to someone. But I realized that I really didn't need advice - at least not from someone else. What I needed was to listen to myself.  I needed to listen to my heart and decide if walking back through that door was where I wanted my path to go.

And, in the end... it wasn't. It was a relationship that I valued deeply while I was in it. But I had changed, and there were parts of it that I just didn't want back. I didn't want to feel the same way.

So, I closed the door. Politely, nicely, kindly. But, this time, I closed it with the knowledge that it wasn't meant to be part of my future... and I was deciding with my eyes open that I didn't want it to be.

And knowing that makes it possible for me to move on and leave behind the sad and the mad and the indignation and the regrets. I can finally let those go, and I can move into what the future holds without looking back and wishing.

I can move into the future with a head held high and be confident -- because now I know.

Belfast and a Castle

Well, I realized I never finished the Ireland trip here....  so the last day! (As I can remember it!)

SATURDAY - Belfast and Cabra Castle


So, on Saturday, we woke up and enjoyed our last breakfast in Ballycastle, and then got in the car and drove down to Belfast. I hadn't originally planned on going to Belfast, to be honest. I'd never quite felt pulled to it (for what reason, I don't know), so I'd left it out of my trip planning.

But, after reading the Rebels of Ireland shortly before our trip, I wondered if maybe we could drop it into the itinerary. A friend of mine encouraged us to go and just soak it up a little -- but I wanted to be in Kingscourt by the early afternoon -- so I decided to go, but we only had a few hours.

So... mostly, the plan was to walk around and see what struck our fancy.

Honestly, I really liked Belfast -- way more than I liked Derry, and if I could do that over again, I'd spend a lot less time in Derry and a lot more in Belfast. We went to St Georges Market and walked around a bit -- sort of an indoors Pike Place. There was a guy in the middle playing music and it made me laugh because I knew EVERY SINGLE SONG from Celtic Thunder et al.

After the market, we just sort of wandered toward the middle of town. I thought maybe we might take a Black Cab tour (which we never did) so we headed in the general direction of where I knew we could pick one up.  We walked by a little bakery that had the most delicious-looking treats in the window, so we stopped in for chocolate eclairs and coffee, and took them into the park.

Where we watched the Olympics on a giant TV.

It's probably a good thing I didn't get a chocolate eclair until our last day.  Because it was the bomb and, if I'd known they were that good, I probably would have had one every single day of the trip!

After that, we wandered a bit... stopped into Avoca to do some shopping. Well, I did some shopping.  Joel.... waited patiently.  I hemmed and hawed over this pretty delicate knit scarf from an artist in Wexford.  It was sort of expensive. I didn't really NEED another scarf. But, I remembered what my friend Diana had said to me about souvenirs, and gave myself permission to buy it.  :)

I wanted to give ourselves plenty of time at Cabra Castle (and it was starting to rain) so we said Goodbye to Belfast and headed back to our car.

A couple hours on the freeway (which was an actual freeway!!), and we arrived at our final night's lodging. A night at a castle! Happy me!

This was totally different from anywhere else we stayed.... and I thought it was definitely fun! I'm pretty sure they reserve most of the rooms in the ACTUAL castle for honeymooners and their wedding parties, (plus I'd snagged a reservation pretty late notice), so we were actually in the courtyard -- in what I think used to be the stable quarters.  But it was lovely and comfy and I was happy.

I talked Joel into going on a walk with me through the woods on the grounds...

Joel's never going to go for a walk with me in Ireland ever again. Once we got halfway into the woods, it started to pour... and I do mean pour.  We were totally soaked by the time we got back, and had to sprint across the golf course and parking areas to get back to our room.

We spent our final evening in the hotel pub... We drank at the bar for awhile (took awhile to snag a table) and then had a leisurely dinner. Pizza and lots of Guinness!

And then that was it!

Sunday, we got up early and drove to the Dublin airport.... and home we went. :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Derry and the Northern Coast

THURSDAY - Derry

We woke up this morning and went downstairs to the basement at our B&B in the Moy and had breakfast. Watching my husband try to drink coffee out of teacups with teeny-tiny handles is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

And then we made our way out of town toward the Northern coast. We drove up through Dungannon (which I've been pronouncing wrong for nine years, btw), and stopped at Dungiven Priory. I enjoyed this little stop.  You had to walk a ways from parking your car to get to the ruins...  Unlike the ruins in the Republic, this one's graveyard was only old gravestones, and they purposely didn't keep them cleaned up, and it made the place seem more authentically ruined. lol I don't know if that makes sense.  

At the back, there was a path that you could climb down to an "environmental park." I'm not sure what this means... as it mostly led down to either, on one side, someone's farm. Or, on the other, an abandoned hydroelectric facility that appeared to be mostly used for teenage drinking parties (judging by the trash inside one of the buildings).  Behind the building, however, you could meander down to the little creek and I rather liked sitting on a rock and watching the water trickle by.

We continued on our way into Derry. I really enjoyed driving through Co Tyrone... I thought it was lovely. I think Joel enjoyed it because the roads were better.  Thanks, United Kingdom!  Derry was interesting... I think Joel liked it more than I did. For some reason, I found it a little suffocating - I don't really know why.

Derry is a walled city -- you can climb the stairs to the top of the wall and walk the entire perimeter -- which we did, stopping to read all the informational signs along the way.  It took me almost the entire perimeter to figure out what seemed weird about it... and I finally realized that, after a week in Ireland, it was that the English weren't depicted as the Bad Guys.

After walking the walls, we dropped down and walked through the Tower Museum -- Joel was really interested in the Siege of 16-something.  But they had creepy mannequins!  I'm always afraid those things are going to come to life. (I know. I have issues.)  After the museum, we found our way across the Peace Bridge and went to lunch at the Walled City Brewery, which was really good!!

By the time we made it back to our car, it was getting later in the day than I had anticipated -- so we dropped the rest of our plan and just drove to Ballycastle to check into our B&B. I liked our room there -- though I couldn't figure out the shower!  We walked into town and had dinner at the Diamond Lounge.  By this point, I was starting to wear out a little -- so we called it a somewhat-early night and went to bed!


FRIDAY - Northern Coast

We had to cut short some of our plan the day before, so this morning began with me sitting on the bed with the two days' outlines and pulling out a new plan for the day that would make sense. So after breakfast, we headed out on the  Glenshesk Scenic Drive.  This takes you out of Ballycastle into the surrounding farmland and eventually makes its way to Armoy.

From there, it's a hop and a jump to the Dark Hedges. This little road has been featured in the Game of Thrones series (which I have no interest in), and can get pretty busy -- but we were there fairly early in the morning, so it wasn't completely overrun yet. It's apparently ranked in the Top 5 of the World's Tree Tunnels -- which I did not realize was a thing -- but yay? It was pretty though... we walked a bit further along the road (which, in Ireland, is always a bit death-inducing) and came across a tree tunnel that we liked just as much (but nobody else cared about).  And then walked a bit on the grounds of an imposing old house that was now a golf course.

Well, the house wasn't a golf course. 

After making our way back up toward Ballycastle on another twisty road through farmland (Joel may not let me plan the driving routes anymore!), we headed out onto the Torr Road -- which is supposed to be a lovely (if narrow and turn-y) drive along the northern headland -- with gorgeous views of the coastline.

I'm sure it's lovely.

Unfortunately, it was rainy and foggy and we couldn't even see the edge of the cliff, much less the ocean.  Which I thought was funny.  Best laid plans...  At one point, Joel pulled over so he could drink his coffee before it got too cold. But, there was a gate into someone's sheep pasture across the way -- so I decided I was just going to go explore!  I left Joel in the car and trudged my way down the hill to get a better view of the coastline -- and the fog cleared just enough that I could make it out - and I found a little collection of old stone cottages along the way.  My shoes and clothes took hours to dry out, but I thought it was totally fun and worth it!

After that, we headed back west a bit to pick up a couple of the things we'd missed the day before. First, we went to Bushmills and took a tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery - which I thought was kind of interesting.  And you got whiskey at the end -- Too strong for my cup of tea, so I had a hot toddy instead. I just got comfortable with beer!!  We walked further into town for a bit of lunch at a cafe, which was a cute little place on the center square.

The sun was finally starting to clear by that point and it was getting later into the afternoon, so next was a stop at the Giants Causeway. Our B&B host had told us that we could save a bit of money by parking at the 6-pound train station, instead of the Causeway parking lot.  There ended up being no one at the train station to pay, so we just left our car there for free.

After a rainy morning, it really turned out to be quite a lovely day -- so after making our way to a perch on the Causeway, we just sat there for a good long while, enjoying the sun and the breeze and the water. It was quite beautiful!

When we'd had our fill, we made our way back to Ballycastle and walked into town for dinner and our last night at a town pub.  Neither of us were really starving and it was proving a bit difficult to find a place to eat anyway (nobody serves food there after 9)... so we just stopped into a chip shop for a bit of fish n chips.

The sign on the wall made the fish look about the size of a KFC chicken strip -- so that seemed perfect for the amount of hunger I was feeling. However.... it was actually the size of an entire fish. I always thought it was just Americans that served super-huge amounts of food at restaurants. But no. Everywhere we went in Ireland, I almost never was able to eat it all!  A few drinks at a pub, and then we made our way back to our bed. :)







Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Day I Visited the Village they call the Moy, Part 2

Tomney's Bar is an adorable place. It's like what you would imagine an Irish pub to look like... except better. You walk in to the first room, and it's all dark and wood-y.... but then there are more rooms beyond. So many of these little gathering rooms... plush leather-y couches to relax in, stuff all over the walls (but in a good way). I should have taken pictures, but I forgot... You would love it.

So we ordered a couple pints and made our way into the only room that had people it, a group of guys gathered around the TV watching a soccer match. Joel's been liking watching the different sports on TV while we've been here, so I thought that would be an okay place to start.

But then, I wasn't so sure. It sort of felt like intruding on their little place and I spent the next 15 minutes of the soccer match, wondering what the graceful way was to remove yourself from a room you just entered without being just as rude to walk out of it as you were to walk into it. A touch miserable.

Eventually, one of the guys started some small talk with Joel, and it was much more comfortable after that. Thank you, Mr Guy from Uruguay, whatever your name is. Not long after, we all started to warm up to each other and it was a pleasant evening. Seattle-ites are kind of like that, too. We'll like you... but we're going to hold you at arm's length for awhile until we've decided if you're okay.

I've discovered that I really love the small town pubs... but not so much the big ones. And this one went into the small town pub category. I thought the bartender was a sweet guy...  Another guy there, who I think was connected with running the pub somehow, was fun as well. He told a story that I think was about 10% true and 90% embellishment, but it was funny nonetheless. An older gentleman joined us at one point, and he struck me as someone who would be quite kind, and I enjoyed talking travel and politics and sports with him... until...

"Well, the next obvious question," he asked... "What brought you to this little village?"

I cringed inside... it was the one question I sort of hoped I wouldn't have to answer. "Oh... I really don't want to tell you." I wrinkled my nose a bit and looked up.

The guy sitting across from me laughed. "It's Ryan Kelly, isn't it?"

I sighed with embarrassment.  "Yes... but! Oh, I have no excuse. Yes."

I hoped that wouldn't ruin the good vibe... and I was glad that it didn't. The conversation fell away from that subject soon enough... and except for being introduced as "Ryan's biggest fan" *SIGH!!!* to every new person that walking in the room, it was alright. I brought it on myself.

All in all, it was a fun night with a bunch of nice people, and I'm glad we did it. I felt very apprehensive about visiting the Moy, though I had doublechecked 97 times that it was alright...  but I'm glad I went. It was fun and my friend Diana was right. I would have regretted it if I hadn't visited.

The Day I Visited the Village that they Call the Moy, Part 1

WEDNESDAY -- Belleek and the Moy

We got up this morning and had a pleasant chat with our B&B hostess. Serious, you guys. I have eaten more sausage and bacon in the last week than I have ever had in my entire life.

Today, we were off to Belleek so I could do a little requested shopping for my mom at the pottery place -- and I'll be honest, a little for me, too. We walked into town, intending to have lunch at the Thatch Coffee Shop which I'd read good thing about.  I walked in and promptly walked back out. Too busy and too dark for me.  But we wandered back down to the cafe on the corner, whose name i can't remember but might have Lemon in it. I liked it much better... light and airy... probably too girly to take your husband to, but the food was good, light, and simple.

Over lunch.... I said... "So....  about this place we're going to tonight.... ok, it's the only weird thing I've done the whole trip..."

Joel raised an eyebrow at me. "Only? You've stopped to say Hi to every single cow and sheep we've encountered."

"Ok, I didn't know I was going to like Irish livestock so much. That doesn't count. I meant, the only PLANNED weird thing. So... this town....  it's Ryan's hometown." Ryan is a musician I met who, over the years, has become my friend. "He's not even there. I just wanted to see the place he talks about."

I got a "I will humor you but you totally owe me" look in return.  And I'll own that -- I so do.

It was interesting to drive across County Tyrone to the Moy. We'd just spent several days in the Wicklow Mountains and the West of Ireland -- both landscapes that seemed fairly rugged and hardy. They were the kind of places that you understood the people who lived there were made of tough stuff... that they endured hardships that they didn't really speak of because it was just something that came with the place.  I'm sure I'm romanticizing that... but that was the impression it gave off.

Co Tyrone was a completely different landscape altogether... rolling hills of green farmland, big full trees, nary a stone wall to be found... It feels peaceful, like a place that you can draw a deep breath and relax. Let the world go on without you, don't you know, because this around us is all fine. I liked it.

We drove into town and checked into our B&B, which had this adorable Victorian vibe going on.  Different from anywhere else that we stayed.. so I liked it just for that. The lady who checked us in was super nice, and I liked her a lot.

"So." Basically, anything I say after that word is going to be weird. "When we drove in...  Okay, a super long time ago, Ryan wrote a song about this town.... and I noticed one of the streets he sings about when we drove in. Do you mind if we go out and hike it?....Just to say I've been there?"

So much owing, you guys.

It ended up being a five mile walk. In the rain. With a mile on a highway that had no shoulder, sidewalk, bikepath, anything.  Basically, it was like "Here! Come to Ireland! Die on the highway!" But I ended up walking through three lines of the song! That's worth it, right?  Okay, I know. So much owing. (There were also baby goats and cows to talk to. So awesome!)




Takin' a stroll over Drumgrannon's Hills
And back by The Major's Lane.
I walk the fields of Listamlet,



Eventually, we made it back and changed out of our soaking wet clothes and went to dinner at the hotel down the street, which was really good. I ordered an "8 oz" steak. I looked at it so quizzically when it was delivered that Joel asked me what was wrong.. "Nothing... I just... How is that 8 oz???"  It was huge.  But totally yum. It didn't need a thing but the steak.

And then it was off to the pub...


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