“The holly green/ the ivy green/ the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen/ is Christmas in Killarney/ With all of the folks at home…”
We couldn’t help ourselves, the husband and I. Every tidy town in Ireland is in a nascent state for the holidays, but Killarney is fully there. Yesterday, after a short hike to Torc Waterfall – stunning and loud, then Muckross House where we imagined ourselves living while Erin attends Trinity College, and then Ross Castle — medieval and cold, all in Killarney National Park, it was into town for tea and hot chocolates. I know Dickens was from London, but as it started to rain and we ducked in and out of storefronts on the main street, the only thing that was missing was Tiny Tim and snow…and Bing Crosby. Christmas was indeed in Killarney – we only stopped singing the song when we got back to Kenmare and waded into an Irish shop filled to the brim with Aran Island sweaters. It reminded me that my own – given to me by my parents after their trip here nearly thirty years ago – was zipped in plastic under my bed in California. I’d tried to wear it when I lived in New York, but quickly discovered it was too warm for indoors. There’s a reason you don’t feel sorry for all those sheep grazing in the fields, even as the temperature dips below freezing. They’ve got those sweaters on.
Today, we said goodbye to County Kerry and made our way to County Clare, via the ferry from Tabert to Killimer. It rained through the night but the weather has been good to us during the day. The sun started peaking through an hour into our trip so by the time we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, the skies were blue. The backlit scenery didn’t make for the best photos, but when you’re there, taking in the dramatic majesty of it all, it’s hard to care.
Instead, I thought about the girls before they were born, and how each time we thought to name them, we thought of Ireland. Now here I was watching the three of them laughing together and looking into the sun with their sparkling blue eyes, standing at these cliffs, arguably the most emblematic of Ireland’s scenery. It was perfect (and also windy and very, very cold.)
Though the Ring of Kerry was stunning and varied in its offerings and I loved every moment, the drive today through Clare heading toward Galway was my favorite. Most of it was along the ocean, with stone walls breaking up green meadows where sheep, horses, and cattle gathered to do whatever it is they do. The villages were picture postcards – each with their own Murphy’s Pub or Finnegan’s Bar – and I made the husband stop the car so I could capture a rainbow in the distance. Pots of gold and leprechauns were just beyond.
We’re finishing up the night in Galway now, after a lovely dinner on Quay Street. You learn to say ‘lovely’ a lot more here. I’m looking forward to a morning run in along Galway Bay before heading back to Dublin and our flight home. There are several hours between now and then so I won’t say goodbye just yet. I can’t.