This time last week, Frank and I were flying back from Dublin. We were there for 15 days, and except for the first two nights, we were in a different city every week! For the first week or so, I was quite diligent about taking notes on everything I saw that might be useful for my NEXT next book (after I finish “The Potentate”). I typed my notes on the Evernote app on my iPhone, probably causing more than one person to roll his/her eyes at me and think, “Bloody Americans. Can’t even stop texting on holiday.”
Here are the highlights:
Friday, August 26:
- Trinity College: YES! That’s where my girl (whose name, I later decided, will be Rebecca) is going to study abroad! I took lots of pictures so I can describe the grounds accurately. Wasn’t able to see inside a dorm room, but that’s ok, I’ll have her live off campus.
- We stayed in an Air B&B with a local, who was there in the next room. I’ll base Rebecca’s apartment (apartment in Ireland, not flat, I take it?) on Niamh’s apartment.
- St Stephen’s Green: it’s a HUGE park, well landscaped. It’s going to be her “happy place,” the place she goes to think and work on homework (when it’s not raining and when she’s not in coffee shops) and write her own novel.
Saturday, August 27:
- First experience with a full Irish breakfast: black and white pudding included. Didn’t touch it. Had it in England; never need to eat it again.
- Went to the Guinness Factory. Second time I’d been there. The Gravity Bar at the top is by far the best part: 360 views of the city.
Sunday, August 28:
- We rented a car at the Dublin airport and drove to Glendalough, but because the streets were too narrow and there were a ton of bikers to avoid, we drove off the road and got a flat tire within like two hours. We drove on the rim for awhile and finally pulled over and waited for roadside assistance right by the CUTEST little cafe I have EVER seen. Frank was upset but I enjoyed myself. That cafe will for sure be in the book.
- Glendalough: a monastery built in the year 800. Not 1800; 800. This place has some serious history.
Monday, August 29
- Kilkenny castle: it’s restored to look the way it once did, and I took tons of pictures and copious notes. Rebecca’s story will center on a maid who works in a castle like this. The maid’s name is Elizabeth… Rebecca loves the Cinderella story and she feels she can identify with a maid far more than she can with a princess or a dutchess or a countess.
- The Rock of Cashel: the seat of the high kings of Ireland from back in the 1600s, later gifted to the church and now in ruins. Apparently it was the inspiration for Cair Paravel in the Chronicles of Narnia!
- Blarney Castle: gorgeous landscaping! Feels like a theme park or something. We both kissed the Blarney stone (I almost didn’t when I saw that I had to hang backwards over a sheer dropoff), but I don’t feel like I’m any more glib than I was to begin with. Still, it’s on the list of 1000 things to do before you die (one of them.) Check.
- That night at dinner, the live musician went around the room asking everyone who they were and where they were from. He asked one couple if they were “romantically involved,” and they said no, just friends. The musician, not buying it, said, “And how long have you been just friends?” They said ten years. He looks at the room. More awkward laughter. “Just the two of you on holiday?” They said yes. He goes, “I see, I see. And—just for economic purposes—would you be sharing a room?” Their embarrassment answered for them, and he goes, “Just friends! Yeah!” (…I will, almost certainly, be using this scene at some point!)
Tuesday, August 30:
- In Kenmare. I took fewer notes by this time.
Wednesday, August 31:
- Drove the Ring of Kerry, and attempted to ascend Skellig St Michael (think the last scene of the new Star Wars movie where Luke Skywalker showed up. You have to get there by boat). The waves were 6-11 feet high, depending on who you asked, and I was SO. SICK. WANTED. TO. DIE. We couldn’t dock because the waves were too extreme.
- Ended in in Cahirciveen, where we found Ballycarberry castle. Definitely my favorite ruined castle we saw there—it was all overgrown with ivy, sitting at the mouth of the sea, and the walk to it was lined with blackberry bushes… so picturesque!
Thursday, September 1
- Killarney: we hiked near Torc waterfall —so green and covered with moss, fairies could definitely live there!
- The Muckross House: another restored Victorian home, where apparently Queen Victoria did stay for two nights (and she gave them SIX YEARS’ NOTICE so she could get the place ready for them). At one point it was owned by Arthur Guinness (grandson of the guy who made Guinness)
- The Gap of Dunloe: apparently a famous Irish vista, with a stone bridge over a flowing stream right where the hills meet. It was beautiful, but for the inordinate number of gnats.
Friday, September 2
- Slea Head Beach: discovered this gem while driving the Dingle Peninsula. Gorgeous! Also, covered in jellyfish. I’d never seen one close up before.
- The Cliffs of Moher: we didn’t get there till about 8 pm and then went to the nearby city of Doolin, apparently the music capital of Ireland.
Saturday, September 3:
- The Cliffs of Moher again: all covered in mist, with crazy amounts of wind and rain. Apparently many mini-ecosystems of circulating air convection converge upon Ireland, making its weather highly volatile and subject to change in 5 minute intervals. It did eventually clear up.
- Poulnabrone Dolmen: a prehistoric burial site from around 3000 BC, these predate Stonehenge and the pyramids.
Sunday, September 4:
- Kylemore Abbey: one of my favorite places. This was just so gorgeous: a castle-turned-abbey sitting on a lough (lake) with lily pads floating in it, and there was a walk to a tiny chapel with benches and chairs overlooking the lake along the way. So peaceful, nestled into the side of a mountain.
- Lough Eske Castle: we got to stay in a castle that night! It had definitely been converted into a hotel, but there was this beautiful sitting room with Victorian furniture and a crackling fire in which we drank tea, and there was a hot tub all encased in glass… Amazing.
Monday, September 5:
- We crossed over into Northern Ireland, and it definitely looked more like the UK there. The pounds, the Union Jack, the red mailboxes with the crown on them…
- Dunluce castle: at this point we were starting to joke that we should have a drinking game, and take a drink every time we saw another castle (we were driving though, so… no.) But this was more like its own little city.
Tuesday, September 6:
- Belfast: 1) C.S. Lewis was from here, apparently. 2) We took a political black cab tour. Fascinating to learn more about the conflicts between the Protestants and Catholics (which was really more a euphemism for British vs the Irish.)
Wednesday, September 7:
- Still in Belfast: the Titanic museum. Frank is obsessed with the Titanic, so he already knew most of what was in the museum. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t say anything about what I thought was the most interesting detail of all: according to Frank, the Titanic was about more than the tragedy of a great ship sinking, but it also symbolized the end of the Victorian era of hubris in which man believed he could do anything. It almost sounded like the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament, when men believed they could build a tower that reached all the way to heaven: many declared the Titanic “unsinkable,” the safest ship ever built. That was why they didn’t bother to put enough lifeboats aboard, and why they didn’t bother to use steel rivets instead of iron ones (which never would have popped off when the ship scraped against the iceberg). A perfect concert of errors all converged to sink that ship, and shortly thereafter, WWI broke out. The age of “anything is possible” was dead.
Thursday, September 8:
- Carlingford: a really cute coastal town. All we did was wander around and take pictures (or, he took pictures and I read in a lot of picturesque and random places while I waited for him.)
- Malahide: we tried to go to Malahide castle but it was closed by the time we got there, so we just wandered the grounds. I went for a walk in the rain (I had an umbrella, though it was broken) while he took pictures and ran inside the castle when they were closing up. Went for a walk on the Irish sea.
Friday, September 9:
- Literally 24 full hours of traveling from waking up in Malahide to falling asleep in Tucson, and yet we chased the sun so it sort of felt like one day. I had to slap myself while driving back from Phoenix about every two minutes to stay awake. But thank God for melatonin and adrenal support — no jet lag in either direction!
Since getting back, I’ve started to reread my own journals from when I was 20 and studying abroad in England for research. I was a completely different person, it’s incredible… but I wrote in SUCH great detail, down to who said what in each conversation, and was surrounded by so many colorful characters. This is going to be the easiest book I’ve ever written!
Trying not to get ahead of myself, though. I probably have another two months of “The Potentate” before I even finish the first draft!