Thursday, July 21–Tullamore, Co Offally

Clonmacnoise; driving through Athlone looking for the castle and cathedral; Clara, the Clara Bog Interpretative Center, and the bog; dinner at Supermac

Tudor Lodge B&B

Black VW Passat sedan

Slideshow

11/24/2016

While I was preparing for this trip I thought "I'm going to be gone a long time, and might need to print something sometime" so I bought a small Canon portable printer to bring with me. Since I was flying first class to Ireland on Aer Lingus that meant I could bring three checked bags and two carry on items with me for free. After I arrived I've been able to carry everything in the car I rented. I've never actually needed to use the printer, since I've been able to get everything from tickets I order online to airline boarding passes either as text messages or as attachments to email.

On August 1, however, I am flying from Dublin to Glasgow, then later from Edinburgh to London, and from London to Paris. I've decided that I am going to ship a couple of things back home before I fly out of Dublin and the cost of shipping is primarily determined by the weight. I could either include the portable printer in what I ship back–or, since I already have two excellently working printers at home, I could just get rid of it.

I like Tudor Lodge, my B&B here in Tullamore, and like my hostess, Marie, so this morning I asked if they had any possible use for a portable printer either for themselves or to keep on hand in case any guests need to print something. I explained that it's brand new, and that I don't need it and would prefer to not lug it around with me or pay the cost of shipping it home when I don't need it there either. Marie asked me what I wanted for the printer and all the appropriate cables, and I told her it was up to her (although I wouldn't mind a discount on my stay), so that's sorted out.

The weather today was chilly again, although when it wasn't drizzling or cloudy or breezy and the sun was out it was almost warm.

This morning I headed on out to the marvelous old monastic site of Clonmacnoise as I had planned. The route the Garmin sent me on was mostly OK with the usual occasional bits through towns and rarely on a single lane country road. Clonmacnoise is wonderful, on a site above the River Shannon where you could watch the boat traffic below. The visitors center is very well done, and houses the actual original stone crosses which have been moved inside to avoid further erosion and replaced outside with replicas. I wandered around for a bit, including into the much newer cemetery adjacent to the site, and was reminded once again why I chose to prebuy a cremation package with dispersal of my ashes included–grave stones and grave sites can last for hundreds of years longer than there's anyone left to take care of them. Dad died fifteen years ago, Mom died two years ago, and apparently some of my siblings still have some of their remains. No one will want to come visit where I'm buried if I prebought a burial package or where my ashes are housed if I bought that kind of package.

Anyway, back to Clanmacnoise. The visitor's center is very well done, and so is the small shop by the entrance to the parking lot, and the short video about the site. I went on part of the guided tour which was after the English-language video before heading out to my next stops.

I wanted to find Athlone and the castle and cathedral there, and I did, but traffic in the area was apparently much worse than usual because there seemed to be a large wedding taking place in the cathedral. What I could see of the castle and the cathedral were both stunning and in other circumstances I'd have loved to visit them but I hate driving through narrow city streets looking for somewhere to park, so I looped around, found somewhere I could reprogram the Garmin, and left again.

I had planned on having lunch in Athlone since it was now about 1 PM but that didn't work out since I didn't stop. I hoped that I'd find somewhere to eat in Clara near the Clara Bog Interpretative Center. Once I got out of the Athlone city limits and traffic, the road to Clara was excellent–wide, two lane roads. The Garmin didn't find the Center but once I got to the city I found it quite easily. It's very well done, and has a very well done video about the bog and its importance. The Clara Bog is the largest intact surviving example of a raised bog. The Center shares the building with a small branch of the local public library.

The bog itself is a couple of kilometers outside of town, and unfortunately I didn't pass anywhere to find something to eat there either. The bog's huge, but visitors are confined to a 1.2 kilometer looping footpath that goes quite a ways out into the area. It's surprisingly pretty, and the weather then was quite lovely as well. Oddly enough the area reminded me quite strongly of the walkway into the Everglades at the Ah-Ta-Tiki Seminole museum on their reservation back home.

There was an attractive woman I noticed because she passed me once and then lapped me again on my single trip around. As she was passing me the second time, I jokingly asked her how many times she does the circuit and she said two or three times–she was listening to some kind of 5 K exercise program telling her when to run and when to walk. I said I sure understood using the walkway as a track–it was safe, good footing, level, and she didn't have to worry about being hit by vehicle traffic.

I had intended going from Clara Bog to the nearby monastic site of Durrow, which I'd forgotten had a connection to Clonmacnoise–at one point in Ireland's history there was a turbulent period when rival monastic settlements actually went to war against each other, and hundreds were killed in a clash between the two. This actually rather similar to the circumstances leading to St Columba's being exiled from Ireland which resulted in his becoming central to the re-Christianization of Scotland.

Either I kept missing the road I was supposed to turn off onto, or there was some problem with Google Maps. I finally gave up and followed the signs back here to Tullamore and the B&B when I'd passed the same area three or four times looking for the turnoff. It was now around 4 PM and I still hadn't had any lunch. I thought I'd eat something at the Tullamore Dew visitors center but there was no parking there and the streets near it were jammed, narrow, and twisting, so I just drove back on up the hill past the B&B and bought a late lunch at the Centra up the street to have here in my room.

I knew there was going to be music at Eugene Kelly's down the street from the B&B and thought I'd see about having dinner at the Bridge Hotel first, so I started walking downtown around 7 PM and it was slightly drizzly when I left. I noticed a lot of people heading into and towards the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) building when I was going past.

I got to the Bridge Hotel, and liked the bar but didn't really like what I saw of the available seating–mostly high bar stools and tables–and the music was too loud for me. I decided to have a light meal, a burger, at the Supermac up the street on the way to Eugene Kelly's instead. I think Supemac might be the Irish equivalent of McDonald's, which they of course also have. When I got to Eugene Kelly's a bit after 9 PM I learned that yes, there would be music there, but it wouldn't be until 10:30 PM, so I decided not to stick around even for a pint but asked them to call a cab for me to take me back up here to Tudor Lodoge.

I decided to take advantage of the free time and backup the pictures I've taken since the last time I did so, and to catch up on my lists of what's been played on the podcasts I listen to which I haven't done since a couple of weeks ago. I mostly finished with those, and will finalize the update tomorrow.

I've decided not to play tourist here in Tullamore in the morning but to just get my trip to Wexford out of the way instead, which takes 2.5 hours directly. If the weather's good I might detour to New Ross, 2 hours from here and then .5 hours to Wexford, since it has several tourist attractions and sites of its own that I'm interested in.

I still have no idea where I might find some traditional Irish music in Wexford tomorrow and will have to ask at my hotel, Killiane Castle, when I get there. I looked online and didn't find much information but I did see that the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland has a concert in the National Opera House Saturday night. I tried to book a ticket online but their system seemed to have a glitch and I'll need to call the box office tomorrow before I leave here.

It's now after 1 AM and my typing ability is even worse than usual, so it's time for bed.


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