Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Western Ireland Recap

In a word - incredible. In another word - unexpected. I could go on. The journey to Ireland was awesome. The group I was with was fantastic - fun, connected, young and old(er), informative and laid back....the group made the trip extra special. The last picture on this post is the whole gang of us on our last night at the house before heading into town for a final night in Ennis.

I took probably 3000 pictures and have narrowed it down, on first shot, to about 30 that tell the story. I haven't even gone through the photos from yesterday. This is the Western Ireland I saw, through the eyes of local guide and coach driver Olcan Masterson (also an accomplished Irish flutist, perhaps the best in the country so the rumor goes). Most of these images were taken in a 30 mile radius, all in County Mayo, and all off the beaten path. No tourists swarmed these locales, the sun shone upon us almost half the time and when it rained, it was fine, because it is supposed to rain in Ireland.

A big thanks to Olcan, to the group, to my roomie Jasmine who I feel like I have been roomies with forever, and to Ron Zimmerman, the photo guide, and Jacque from Strabo Tours - what an amazing journey.

Rossanrubble sunset

two days before - same place - no sun in sight



sheep giving a massage

fisherman cottage

Ennis Friary

winding roads, cliffs, coastline and mountains

all in one photo. I think this was Loch Nafooey

Clare Island

Achill Island

Pirate Queen Castle - Grace O Malley

wild lillies along the coast

Clare Island Lighthouse

a rainy day in Galway

the people of Ireland

window of fisherman cottage, abandoned

Sheefreey Forest

Abbeys and Cemeteries

Full moon on midsummers eve

the gang -

Sandy, Kaye, Carolyn, Jasmine, Steve, Terry and Ron. And me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The first official day in Ireland with the tour group was fantastic. The trip is going to be very unplanned and very at the whim of the weather, so there is no itinerary and no actual idea what each day will bring - an adventure for certain. Last night we went to RossanRubble and it was the most spectacular view of the Clew Bay and the many islands off the coast of Westport.

I wanted to share these amazing photos, though they may be the last I am able to post before the end of the trip. It happens that this morning dawned rainy and several people had business in Westport town, so I was able to access an internet cafe for this post. Enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2008

An American in Europe

Traveling alone in Europe is a very different experience than doing so under the safety net of friends. When left to my own wits and devices, with no one to consult with and no one who has been there before, things become a lot more challenging but also a lot more interesting. Up until this point each place I have been has been with someone who understands me and speaks my language, both verbal and non verbal. Within England and Holland, I had a guide or a companion – a person experiencing with me the same situations or leading me to places where the situations can be interpreted if there was a need. But this haven could not extend beyond the borders of the countries where these friends live, and for just one day in this many day trip, I was left alone, to my own delight and peril.

I have been alone in Europe before. When I visited Canci for the first time I spent many days finding my way through the multi lingual transportation service of Holland and walking the streets by myself. But on this trip I have not had to do so except in the rare cases when I split off from the group for a few hours of solitary time. But on the day I left Holland for Ireland, I had to reframe my way of thinking and behaving, turn on my faulty internal navigation system, look more closely at signs and listen more closely to locals in case I should need assistance on my journey. The world is a very small place, and getting smaller every day. You can eat Indonesian food in Holland, Thai food in Scotland, buy French bread in Ireland and find Starbucks everywhere. A person from Ohio announces “go Buckeyes” in a kilt store in Inverness, a kid from Chicago hops on the bus in Ennis, a former colleague is discovered on the same tour in Edinburgh…yes, the world is a very small place. So you would think, given this, and given the fact the English really is an international language spoken by almost every shop keeper and desk clerk across every country, that traveling alone would be easy. But it’s not always. Even in this country, where I speak the same language, the system is different, as it should be, but also frustrating. And regardless of the kindness of strangers, there is always someone willing to prey on the ignorance of the American alone in Europe. Like offering to charge 35 euros for a cab ride 20 miles away when the bus will take you for 6.5.

Luckily I know better, and I think I know how to be as inconspicuous as possible, though the camera has a bad habit of screaming “tourist!!!” loudly and clearly for all to hear. But all the same, being on guard takes a lot more energy than leaning on a friend. And while a certain amount of relief is associated with the fact that I am meeting the photography tour group today and joining up with people who will lead the way, there is also a measure of disappointment that I cannot spend more time on my own. Despite the difficulties, the foibles and achievements resulting from traveling solo make for much more interesting story when the dust has cleared, the passport has been packed away and I am back on the streets of America.

Ennis - around town

Queen bar

Catholic church

friary - medieval ruins