Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ireland I: Limerick

We got into Shannon International Airport right on time last Friday, as our Ryanair hosts let us know by sounding a victory bugle upon touchdown. It was a good flight, mostly free of complications - I say mostly, of course, because I have now got two ear infections, possibly a ruptured ear drum, a sinus infection, clogged tear ducts, swollen tonsils, and a sore throat. I have been uncharacteristically healthy since coming to England, so it was [probably] just my time to get sick; I'm blaming Ryanair all the same. If the pilot hadn't cruised at the altitude precisely between my ears popping like normal and my ears weeping tears of blood for 20 minutes, I probably could have spared myself the ear problems. Oh well, I'm going to go see a doctor tomorrow or Thursday, and I'm pushing vitamins, Kleenex, aspirin, and nasal spray in the mean time. (And no, mom, my snot's not green. Although that would be a good way to remember the Emerald Isle, come to think of it...)

We spent Friday and Saturday in Limerick proper, walking around the city, doing some shopping, and getting a taste for the local culture. Oh, here's a fun bit of trivia we learned from our first cabbie: Limerick has over 365 pubs and a population of just under 10,000. Speaking of cabbies, if you go to Limerick you're going to meet quite a few. Things aren't prohibitively far apart on a nice day, but you would not want to walk around that town in December. Trust me. Actually, don't go to Limerick in December period. Everything was either closed for renovations, gone home for the holidays (the University's classes finished early last week), or not open until midnight. It's still a fun town, but it would be THE BEST town in the summer; I have faith in it.

Plus, the bus company runs all over the country, and Limerick is one of their major hubs. You can literally get anywhere from there - and most of the routes were direct. I think my only regret is not getting off the beaten path a little more. We 'discovered' a path a long the river that goes by some old castle ruins in the city, and the Uni students like to climb them, smoke a fag, and canoodle in the summers. Either that, or another day-trip into the country side. I guess I should also add that Ireland is kind of expensive. It's not impossible to live without cooking and without going bankrupt, but 9 times out of 10 we struck out on the first page of every menu we examined. All told, it was a great weekend. I just wish I wasn't so sick and that the English postal system wasn't hoarding my mail. How do they just lose letters? It's not like they have an over-abundance of them to process in our digital era.

We did not see all the interesting churches in Limerick, not even close. I think we saw four, two from a cab, and I think I only got photographs from the two we were walking by. 'Churches of Limerick' is another one of those additions to my 'Things to do in Ireland' list, but not any time soon. As much as I hate to say it, the only thing that looked remarkable about these things was the cemetery. Oh, and I did see St. John's Cathedral from a distance, but Chad and Gager weren't willing to walk over to it, so no pictures. Sorry. (That isn't it; it's something else on the other side of the river that we never fully investigated.)

St. Mary's Cathedral had the best cemetery, by far, but its tower and mystique were ruined by that oh-so-bothersome blight that plagues my history: scaffolding. It looked like they were just doing some routine cleaning and mortar work, so hopefully this won't turn into a St. Paul's fiasco where they 'clean' for 5 years straight and then start again. Anyways, we didn't get to go in even thought it's supposed to be open six days a week. Great, now I've got The Beatles' song stuck in my head; can you imagine a Hasidic Jew singing that? "Six days a week, I lo-o-o-o-ove you. On Sabbath, it ain't true. But six days a week - six days a week, I lo-o-o-o-ove you." OK, back to business:

These are the 'famous' West Doors. Limerick, aka 'the city of broken treaties,' has a motto. I'll let the nice people at St. Mary's tell you the rest: "In keeping with the City Motto translated as 'an ancient city well versed in the art of war,' legend has it that in the past the doorway had a more military [as opposed to ceremonial] purpose. During the many sieges of Limerick the defenders of the city used the stones around the door to sharpen their swords. They say the marks they made in the stonework can still be seen there to this day." Sounds like an excellent use of church funds to me! Oh, these doors are only opened ceremonially if you didn't get that before. But if you ever visit, don't let that put you off. Tug on all the little black doors just to make sure no one's home - that's what we did.

This one's called St. Munchin's Church. We found it along the River Shannon while wandering around near King John's Castle (which, by the way, is also closed on the weekends unless you book ahead as a group). Personally, I find the building more aesthetically pleasing and interesting than the Cathedral, but to each their own, I guess. Oh, and the one next to it is the view of the River Shannon from the opposite side of this church's courtyard. We momentarily considered following the River's edge into the countryside and just seeing where we ended up on those distant hills, but "too cold" and "too far" trumped "too cool!" once again. I'm kind of glad we didn't go out there, in retrospect. We did end up having a pretty good time in town that afternoon.

King John's Castle is built on what used to be a Viking settlement. It's one of those places that still has visible scars from the many sieges Limerick's been through, so definitely go see that if you're in town. And yes, they do mean the English King John. But no worries, the people of Limerick have several good ideas about what to do with the Brits and their sympathizers. (Hint: it's not nice). We talked to one of our cabbies about why Ireland doesn't have a tunnel system linking it to England like France does, and we kept coming up with one of three things: no Englishman wants to come to Ireland that badly, no Irishman ever wants to go to England, and "Feck, would ye give us giant drill an' expect nethin' bad t' happ'n?" Oh, and we got one instance of "Ah'd leeve th' damn Eenglish een th' tunnul, Ah wood." It was a fun conversation.

Limerick Museum is... well, it's tiny. It's OK. Right next to the castle and close enough to the big churches / Hunt's Museum to be worth the visit. They have an old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea-style diving suit! And lots and lots of tea sets, plus their sign hangs crooked. It made me giggle. A lot.

1) Here's Jules! And if you got that joke, well... good for you. I'm legitimately impressed.

As far as down-town Limerick is concerned, it's definitely more expensive than we were hoping. Again, not prohibitively expensive, but when given a choice between spending €20 on a meal or €8-10, and then blowing the rest at a time and place TBA... well, it's a pretty easy choice. Mom was nice and treated us to dinner here, so thanks! They had the high street all lit up for Christmas, and everywhere we went looked like they were halfway through updating their decorations for the holidays. I'm starting to get a little excited about Christmas, but since it's still a long way away in terms of paper-writing...

There, that's the sum of my holiday cheer and snot-muddled mind. And before anyone says anything about snow and Christmas being completely separate issues, they're not. Why? Because I want both, that's why. Besides, all it ever does in England (and Ireland, for that matter) is rain and form ice on the sidewalks. Oh, this stuff is from the inside of our hotel. I thought it looked pretty. We stayed at the Maldran, or what used to be the Quality Hotel. They really did a wonderful job, and we payed less for our accommodations in Ireland than we did in Prague (and that's saying something, because Praha is cheap.)

I'm in a chilly kind of mood. Who cares if it's sporadic and has nothing to do with Ireland, here's a bit of Robert Frost:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Anonymous said...

My Poor Timmy Tiger... I dont like it when you are sick!!! Where are the pictures? I want pictures. I've had enough snow to last a while.. We've had over 20inches in one 24 hour period..and more has come. And no doubt more will come! Feel better... I love ya, Mom

Anonymous said...

Choppy; changing thoughts within the same paragragh? I liked it just the same. I love u 2, Dad

Ray Yaegle said...

Yup, them's yer twitchin' dollers et werk!