I’ve done a lot of travel on my own without a tour or a guide, but at this stage of life, there’s a certain ease to having someone to do all the thinking, all the transporting, all the planning.
This trip is a luxury tour. We travel by motorcoach, the fancy name tours give buses to pretend they are luxurious and not horribly uncomfortable and by train (soon). Our itinerary has been planned and prepared for us. We just show up where we’re supposed to on time.
Besides the relaxation of this mode of travel, it’s easy and fun to meet new people. The average age is about ours, with people on the high end (80s) and low end (20s). But most of our fellow travelers have the means for a trip like this and time that retirement provides.
The other night we met some fellow FSU alums. S is 83 years old and she graduated in 1948 from what was then Florida State College for Women. She married her college sweetheart, like I did, and he was in the first class of men at Florida State. I knew that the women’s college preceded the FSU I knew, and that men started attending right after WW2, but history really came alive when we heard them tell their story.
The down side of this kind of travel is that the itinerary sometimes seems inexplicable. Today it was mostly riding on the bus. Zzzz.
We left the paradise that is Dromoland and took a very long ride to a small family dairy farm. All images from the farm.
Ok, so why a dairy farm? We wondered, too, until we were introduced to our host.
He’s a charming Irish man who told us wonderful stories and even did a great recitation of the Mona Tierney poem that ends What is it all when all is told? He was adorable.
He even showed us a Singer sewing machine bought by his grandmother 120 years ago—second hand. All the family’s clothes were made on it.
Oh, that’s his son with him. What is it with these gorgeous Irish men? Who knew?
He gave us a little tour of his milking barn, which handles his 100 black and white Holsteins. We saw cows and calves.
The farm’s 18-year-old border collie, Colleen and a brand new puppy, just acquired, were also popular attractions.
His wife prepared all 40+ of us a light meal: a slice of roast turkey, a large tablespoon of coleslaw, a tomato wedge, a scoop of potato salad, Irish soda bread, raisin bread and cherry trifle. We were crammed into her small home , seated in the dining room, living room, kitchen and in every nook and cranny.
We then took a very, very long ride to the town of Killarney. An interminable ride. On the ride we listened to Bono and U2 do The hands that built America. When we arrived, we had an hour to power shop.
Since our next hotel room would have a fridge, some acquired spirits and soft drinks. As we waited to board our bus, a few of the men were talking: two doctors and a sales guy, each over 60 and each holding a bottle of diet soda for their room.
Sales guy: That couple over there has three entire six packs for their room!
Doc 1, ruefully: It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.
Doc 2: It’s been a long time since I’ve done regular coke!
Our group is a lively bunch, all living life to the fullest, not waiting around to die. I’ve always been the youngest in groups and this is the first time I’ve really felt like I belonged to the club of older people. People who had failing memories, aching bodies, insomnia and took it all in stride. Who knew being older could be so much fun?
Even so, I’d trade it in a heartbeat to have 40 back.
Arriving at our Killarney hotel, Dunloe Castle, we were greeted by several sweet young girls who did half an hour of River-dancing for us. Cute cute cute, but they moved too fast for us to get photos. Actually, we screwed up the camera setting but it’s fixed now.
Incidentally, there’s lots of big drama in the city of Killarney. The horse and buggy drivers are in a snit because the town is requiring their horses to wear nappies. Yea, that’s diapers, or dung-catchers. The drivers, all men, are probably a bit embarrassed to be driving a diapered horse, I would guess, so they’ve fought it tooth and nail. They claim the horses suffer from chafing.
Such is life here in the Irish countryside.
The farm was a magical place. It’s lovely here in Killarney. But we would’ve elected to stay at Dromoland and do more of the many unique activities they offer.
By the way, I saw Dave, the falconer, on my way out of Dromoland this morning. He looked just as gorgeous as he did yesterday, in the same outfit (hopefully a clean one.) I thanked him again for what I’m certain will be the peak experience of our Ireland trip.
He called me “ma’am.”