Lasting impressions

We are leaving Enniscrone tomorrow for Dublin. We have been here almost eight weeks. Our original plan was to choose a small and inexpensive place in Ireland to kill some time before we could head back to Continental Europe to continue our adventure. We had not really planned on staying here as long as we did. In fact, when we finally decided to leave we ended up choosing to stay here for yet another week before heading out.

This is a very pleasant place. We have been told by some people local to here that it is a much more pleasant place after the rush of tourist season passes. Living on PEI, I can understand that sentiment. There is a stress associated with the tourist season that (personally) tends to result in a tiredness with the busier pace and anticipation for the end of the season. Given that part of my livelihood comes from visitors to PEI I do not want to give the impression that I do not like tourism–I like it a great deal–it is just not as “laid back” as those few months in the fall when the weather is still warm and the back roads are empty.

Enniscrone is much like that. This is a slow town in a beautiful location. It is not a rich place. There is a lot of farming: we look out our windows at the beach, the church, the gym / pool, castle ruins, and cattle grazing. From the town office, a walk of 500 metres will allow one to pray, work out, surf, or milk a cow. The people are friendly and Ballina is a few minutes away if there is a need for more city-like amenities. I like it here.

There have been many memorable moments in Enniscrone. I could ramble about most of the ones in the following list for an uncomfortably long time. Because we are packing today I will suffice to list them out with a few notes and maybe have the chance to come back to some of them later. While in Enniscrone we

  • drove on Irish roads – this will remain with me for the rest of my life. The roads are small, winding, and staggeringly beautiful–at least some of them are. Roundabouts are a way of life and seem to work very well. Using them regularly came to make perfect sense. That was about all that made sense on the roads as all other rules appeared to be “guidelines”. We encountered cars parked (PARKED!) facing the wrong direction in the centre of one lane of the roadway. I ceased to be surprised by what I saw.
  • walked on ground containing the evidence of civilization from over 6000 years ago – I have not been able to figure out why I felt so in awe of these remnants of ancient people. In many ways these were just piles of rocks in astounding surroundings; there is really something special about Céide Fields. There are also ruins outside of our window in Enniscrone with cattle grazing through them.
  • ate blackberries from the hedgerows – blackberries are everywhere along the side of the roads. Our walks in the mornings would take us along the roadways were we could stop and pick berries to eat on the way or to put in pancakes when we returned.
  • allowed the girls to wander about without us around – because we live on a large plot of land at home, the girls can wander around our place for hours and not leave our “yard”. They are perfectly capable to do this but the feeling of having them go to the shops by themselves or go out playing around the town with their friends was different. It felt like they were getting that much more ready to take care of themselves
  • have walked on the beach – the beach is large, the sand is firm, and the water is beautiful. Many people walk their dogs in the mornings and a few ride horses. The decent to the beach from the roadway near our house is about 20 metres of stairs or sloping walkway. The occasional pile of horse apples has been found on the concrete walkway down to the beach.
  • struggled with the accent – there is some Irish spoken here and one of the television channels has a number of Irish programs. Some of the English spoken here is in such a strong accent to my ears that I cannot tell it from Irish except that close listening will allow me to pick out English words that are not proper nouns and so are likely part of an English sentence. When we buy our meat we cannot understand what the butcher says to us–we speak to him in English and I think he speaks to us in English (picking out some words) yet we have to look at the numbers on the till to figure out how much we owe.
  • found the meat and fish to be excellent – the meat and fish at the butcher shop is labelled by farm, location, and the name of the farmer. We had supper with a local lady who farms and she described the tracking that must be done with individual animals and it is very impressive. She did not feel it was excessive or overly bureaucratic. It was a way to show pride in her produce.
  • noticed that schoolchildren all wear uniforms and many are in single sex schools – the differences from schools on PEI does not seem to have affected the general attitudes of schoolchildren in either country.
  • watched some GAA matches on television and in the field behind our house – I am fond of Gaelic football and was able to watch (on television) the final playoff matches. I have seen less hurling and cannot appreciate it as much–it is amazing to watch, though. One of the girls that Robin and Sarah play with is on a football team so they got to play with the ball some and learned a little more about the game too.
  • used the public library a lot – Jan counted up the books we have read while we were in Enniscrone and it is over 30. The library service allowed us to order books to be brought into Enniscrone from other libraries and they arrived usually within three days. Both librarians were lovely and very helpful
  • saw a lot of concrete block construction – wood appears to be used to frame the roof and concrete blocks are used everywhere else. Older buildings are stone and concrete (sometimes appearing to be something between poured concerete and laid stones). By PEI standards there is an enormous amount of concrete and stone work. Akin to the work of amateur carpenters at home, not all of the stone fences and walls are exactly straight.

These are the main things that come to mind. Jan and I went for a walk along the beach on the way home from the butcher shop this afternoon and I took a few more pictures. I attempted to make a panoramic view from the beach and even that does not do justice to the area. I am excited to move on and continue with the rest of our vacation but I will miss Enniscrone.

Going into Ballina on the bus

Yeterstday I went from Enniscrone to Ballina on the bus for the first time. I had to buckle my seatbelt on the bus. When I was in a book store I got a book called “D E T O X”. After I got the book we walked back to catch the bus back to Enniscrone. I saw some kids at the bus stop from a school. The public bus was their school bus. Some kids put there bags in the luggage area in the side of the bus. If you have ever been on a bus then you would know what I am taking about.

The dogs I like and dislike

Since we are leaving soon we want to record a lot more details about Enniscrone. I’m starting with animals since there are a lot of dogs I’m starting with dogs.

My favorite dog is Arthur. He belongs to Ellen and Rose. He is brown and old. He loves to be cuddled and hates cellphones. My second favorite dog is Oscar. He is black and slightly brown. He belongs to Ellen and Rose. He loves cuddles and hates being alone. My third favorite dog is Butch. He lives next door and is white with black spots. I don’t know his owner’s name. He loves playing fech and hates the rain. My forth favorite dog is Maceeda. She is a brown husky. I don’t know her owner’s name. She likes Arthur and is pregnant with his puppys. She hates pepole. My fifth favorite dog is ?. He lives next door. He is brown and white. He likes pepole and hates being alone.

The dog I dislike the most is Baily. She lives across the street. She scarese me beacouse she can leave her yeard at any moment. The dog I dislike seconed most is Maceeda beacouse she allways barks.

I like more dogs then I dislike.

No turkey, lots of gobblins

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone! We did not have a Thanksgiving turkey yesterday, which is not a surprise given that we never cook turkey. We are of course, happy to eat the turkey’s of others. We did have baked fresh cod which was a wonderful treat. We have a very good butcher’s shop here in Enniscrone which has fish too. In addition to the fresh cod, we have had farmed organic salmon. The fish has been lovely, very fresh. They get a fish, cut it into fillets or steaks and sell it that day. Once the fish is sold there is no more until they get in the next one. The origin of the fish and meat are written on a chalk board behind the counter of the shop. It is wonderful, you know exactly where the food is coming from. The meat has the farmer’s name and the lot number of the animal. They fall short of listing the cow’s name as “Bessie”, but I bet you could ask and find out.

I really like this shop. It gives a wonderful sense of security that they know where their food is coming from and which of their neighbors grew and cared for it. I also really like the owner. He is a ruddy faced man who wear a jaunty cap and shirt and tie under his white butcher’s jacket and green apron. He always has a smile and a great hello and goodbye. I only understand about half of what he says in between hello and goodbye, but he is kind and sells great food.

Thanksgiving is not celebrated here in Ireland. It is, of course, a New World holiday. Rather than Thanksgiving, Ireland celebrates Halloween with a bank holiday weekend. Halloween in Ireland dates back to about 100AD and the Celtic pagan festival “Samhain” which is the end of summer festival. The Celts believed that on the eve of Samhain, the dead would revisit the mortal world. Huge bonfires were lit to keep away the evil spirits. Bonfires are still lit today in Ireland in both the country and in towns. Some fires take days to prepare before Halloween. I hope that they do this in Northern Ireland as well because that is where we will be on Halloween.

My Birthday yesterday

A few days ago I had my birthday party. It was themed spa day, I had my two new friends over (Rose and Ellen). These are a few of the things we did, a facial, paint each other’s nails, finger soak, and a lot more it was very, very, very fun. The only downside was that Rose and Ellen had to be home by 7:30 so our time was squished a bit.

These are a few of the things that got delayed. Making smores, watching all of Ratatouille, playing at the park, foot soak, colouring pictures, and doing each other’s hair.

One of the things that we did do at my party was eat birthday cake. It was very chocolately and delicious. One problem was that it was slightly too sweet and we did not make it ourselves. When my father cut the cake, my friend Ellen started saying cake murder whenever she saw dad. At one point my mother was in the kitchen with my dad and Ellen said, “murder, nice lady, murder, nice lady” over and over again until I pulled her away so that we could go to the park.

Another thing that was too sweet for me were the smores. We made them with chocolate cookies and marshmallows. We could not find graham crackers here so we used hobnobs… they are very yummy as cookies, but too sweet for smores!

“Back” in Ireland

So today I am at it again; waiting to see a doctor about my back. I have been too timid to try a chiropractor here in rural Ireland. I have not had my back treated since my last appointment with Ted in Amsterdam, well over a month ago.

When I first arrived in Enniscrone I tried to find a chiropractor in the closest town, Ballina. Normally I use the internet like a good little geek to find out what I need. Unfortunately, I could not get any information on the chiropractors in Ballina aside from an address or telephone number because the national chiropractic association website is no longer available. I suspect that it may be due to the backlash from a recent libel suit by the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh. This suit was dropped partly due to a backlash against the libel suit which resulted in 1 out 4 chiropractors in Britian being investigated for allegedly making misleading claims in their advertising. When I tried to do a general search on the individual chiropractors in Ballina, I could not find much information beyond name, phone number and address. It did not fill me with confidence.

I figured that I would keep doing the exercises that Ted taught me and suck it up (with the help of robaxacet and biofreeze cream) To my dismay, robaxacet is a prescription drug here in Ireland. I have hoarded my last two tablets of Robaxacet for almost four weeks without caving in. Tomorrow I really want to visit Enniskillen to see where Mom’s grandmother Selina Upham Fowler came from. Unfortunately, visiting Ennniskillen means a three hour bus ride there and another three hours back. I don’t think sucking it up is realistic for a six hour bus ride.

So here I am in the waiting room of the surgery (we would call it the doctor’s office or clinic) in Enniscrone to see if I can a prescription for a drug that I would normally pick up at Murphy’s Pharmacy or the superstore at home without needing a doctor. I think that I had better see a chiropractor in Dublin of Belfast before we start the next leg of our traveling.

There are a number of people waiting with me to see the doctor – he is a locum doctor (fancy word for substitute) because the two regular doctors here in Enniscrone are sick today.

— break to visit the doctor —-

So it turns out that lovely substitute doctor is just back from a fishing trip in Miramichi, my home town. He loved the colours of the leaves – I hear it is really beautiful right now. There may even be a few new maples trees in Ireland at some point… as long as they survived the trip in a suitcase! I have a new prescription for my back to try out tomorrow on our way to visit Enniskillen. I doubt we will find any relatives, but there is a really nice castle close to the bus station that we plan on visiting.

Looking to the rails

As Sarah mentioned, we are getting ready to start travelling again. Enniscrone was as lovely as we could have wished; but, as Janet pointed out, if we wanted to relax in a beautiful spot by the ocean in the fall we could be back on PEI.

An interesting footnote to staying here was the temptation to remain because the cost of living is so low. We could stay in Eniscrone for quiet a while and not burn through our vacation funds. This does somewhat go against the philosophy for our vacation where we wanted to see as much of Europe as possible and stay in one place long enough to appreciate it. So, it is back on the road rails for 5 or 6 weeks of travel though Ireland and the United Kingdom before we head to warmer climates in Europe. Our preparations have also brought back into sharp focus the cost of staying in a larger city. We have also agreed to spend the money to live for a while in Dublin, Belfast, and London (and likely Edinburgh).

These stays will end up being slightly shorter than previous stops and focus more on visiting the tourist highlights. We are still planning. I bought a rail pass for Ireland that provides us with 5 days of travel over the next month and a rail pass for England, Scotland, and Wales that gives us 8 days of travel in the month of November. I am anxious that they arrive before we leave. We are planning on leaving on October 16th (a week from Saturday).

We are planning on at least a week in Dublin and up to a week in Belfast before crossing over to Scotland. The remainder of our time will be used to toddle around Ireland and visit some of the cities on the west and south of the country. If all goes well we will take the girls to the Vale of Avoca (complete with pub) which is the home of some of my ancestors. We are also planning on heading up to Enniskillen (complete with castle) to visit the home of some of Janet’s ancestors. Other than that, we will pick through some historical sites and places of interest. If you have suggestions, I would love to hear them.

The walking man walks

We are doing a lot of walking. As we approach an almost normal routine (I have noticed that we are using the word “home” much more to describe where we are staying in Enniscrone) our trips and adventures are limited to a much smaller radius from … home.

This past weekend was the Enniscrone walking festival where a number of walking excursions were organized with guides to lead us around the beaten paths. We all went on a historical walk around Enniscrone on Saturday (the girls went on a walk with the local school on Friday for a walk down the beach). There was a moment on the walk where we were standing in the ruins of an old castle (mid-1600s) where the guide pointed a a spot about 500 metres away and mentioned that the pile of stones was a Bronze Age tomb. In front of that tomb about 100 metres was a Stone Age tomb. Turning about 45 degrees to the left and looking aback about another 400 metres was a circular living area–possibly for animals–from the Bronze Age. The castle we were standing in–having climbed under the electrified cattle fence and over the people-please-do-not-enter fence–was the second rebuilding of a castle that was originally built on a circular fort from the Bronze Age. We had to step around cow dung because this stuff is so common around here that cattle graze on 5000-year-old artifacts.

Coupled with this was the ability to track ownership of the land back well over a thousand years through church, court, and tribal records. I cannot remember the details of the history; it was too much for me to maintain when my brain was being awed by what I could see around me. You can get a bit more information by clicking on the image above. The picture has Valentine’s church in the foreground and the castle in the background.

One thing I did remember was that there was an old castle just beyond Land’s End that was falling into the ocean. The landowner would not let anybody view the castle on his land but it could be seen from the beach at low tide. When I eventually took my walk to see the castle I was rather underwhelmed. The only thing that looked made by humans along the beach was the bit of wall in the photograph above. Compared to standing on the hill in the ruined castle it was a bit of an anti-climax. For a quiet little tourist town where the houses all try to face the beach, this place has an amazing historical richness.

Romantic addressings

Yesterday at lunch we were interrupted by a knock at the front door. As it turns out, it was the mailman delivering a letter to

The Noye Family
(from Canada, living
back near Waterpoint)
Pier Road
C. Sligo

The address prompted a bit of a chat as he delivered the letter whereby I suspect he added us to the mental list of addresses he would storehouse until we left sometime next month.

The best part was that he was not at all surprised or in any way put out by the address. As I mentioned earlier, it is hard to know what the address of our house might be. The postmaster gave a couple of good guesses and my flippant remark about addressing a letter to the Canadians living near Waterpoint ended up working perfectly well. Notice that there were no numbers anywhere in the address.

The envelope and card inside were printed in a manner similar to the first sentence of Anne of Green Gables. If ever I were to fetishize printing and paper, this letter would the gateway drug into that dark world. After pouring over countless pages of laser-printed drek vomited onto dreary economical paper, I am taking a dangerous pleasure in cotton paper imprinted by an Adana Eight Five.

Going on a nature walk

Yesterday Robin, Mom and I went on a nature walk with Ellen and Rose’s school. Here in Ireland they call grades “classes”. My friend Ellen is in class 5 and Robin’s friend Rose is in class 4 which means Ellen would be in grade 5 and Rose in grade 4.

Climbing up the sand dunes was hard for me but with Mom’s help I got up. It was a lot of fun for me to walk on the sand dunes because you are not allowed to walk on the sand dunes back on P.E.I. It was a wonderful walk on the beach.