Ireland · travel

Ireland from West to East: The Ring of Kerry

My morning in Killarney, given that I was in what was by all accounts a modern hotel, was rough. My request for a new room / new roommate the night before couldn’t be met, the hotel couldn’t fix our toilet (though they generously sent someone up to at least clean all my roommate’s trash out of it), and we still didn’t have hot water. After dozing off, my roommate woke me up at 4am to discuss her string of loser ex-boyfriends, dysfunctional family, and her on/off again drug problem.

“Look, I’d love to talk to you about this (LIES), but it’s 4am.”

She apologized for the next thirty minutes.

Around 7, I got up, scowled at the unflushed toilet, took on the task of filling the toilet’s tank with tiny cupful after tiny cupful of water, flushed, and repeated for my own use. I couldn’t use our shower because my roommate had left it full of soapy, curiously dark grey water along with another trashcan of tissues, glass, and used pads. I was tired. I was hungry. I was swearing a lot.

In my stupor, I had already undressed to bathe but now had nowhere to actually do it. So I slipped into the hall in my tiny tea towel and knocked on my neighbor’s door.

Stacy opened the door. “Helloooooo!” she sang.

“Can I borrow your shower? Mine has no hot water and is full of trash.”

After explaining the general state of my room and roommate, I was offered their glorious, hot shower. For two minutes. The rest of it was ice cold.

“We knew the hot water cut out because we heard a ‘WAAAAH!’ from the bathroom. Isn’t it weird that it just drops?” I nodded back and chattered my way out to the hall. Then I realized I didn’t have a key. Then I realized my roommate was gone. Three doors down was our incredibly good looking guide who, for whatever reason, had a universal key. Tea towel barely covering anything, I shimmied to the door. Any wider leg movements would leave me open to exposure. I rapped on the door. No answer. Three more raps. No answer. Three more. He opened it, startled.

“Yeah…I got locked out of my room.”

“In a towel?”

“I had to borrow a bathroom and then-“

“Right.”

Briefly, I toyed with the idea that this whole scenario was in line with “plots” from adult films. Any daydreams of vacation conquests vanished when he fumbled the keys, began stammering and, in sheer embarrassment, bumped past me to get to the door. “Well, that’s a promising start,” I thought to myself.

After breakfast, we gathered out front for the morning brief. “You have a few options today, ladies and gentleman,” our guide boomed from the front of the hotel. “You can walk to the center of town to watch the parade for St. Patrick’s Day and spend the day getting immensely intoxicated-“ cheers from the back – “Or you can join us for the most famous bit of Ireland- I love it, everyone loves it, if you don’t love it you’ve probably died- THE RING OF KERRY!”

Weak cheers.

Hannah leaned over to me, “What the hell is wrong with these people?” About half our bus stayed to get plastered in the pubs. The rest of us loaded up and began our journey through the most famous part of Ireland.IMG_5840.jpgIMG_5851.jpgIMG_5823_2.jpgIMG_5863.jpgIMG_5868.jpg

Our first stop was at the Kerry Bog Village documenting 1800s rural farm life. Irish Wolfhound pups flopped around in long grass as fully grown hounds watched from afar. They were stoic and majestic, aloof and intimidating. One of the girls cooed at a large male. Warily, he took a few steps forward. The caretaker, an elderly man in tweed and corduroy stepped over to him, removed his flatcap, and patted him on the head. His head nearly reached the man’s shoulder. With a wide-mouthed yawn, he sat down. “The babes you can play with if ya’ like but those two-“ he gestured to the parents- “I’d leave well enough alone. These are working dogs- hunters- and they can be a bit temperamental.” The hound turned its large head and stared darkly at its pursuer. She took a few steps back.

I wobbled over to the café, vertigo still in full force, where we all got rounds of Irish coffees before setting back out for the rolling hills and lakes. On the bus, wailing traditional hymns and dancing songs played out. We learned Galway Girl. We sang Happy Birthday to a birthday girl, much to her dismay. We replaced traditional Irish songs with Sublime’s Santeria, Beastie Boys, and TLC.  We became an unruly, out of tune acapella group. And then the hills began to roll alongside pebbled streams and creeks. Lakes formed in the crevasses between rocky outcroppings. Everything opened up before us and everyone fell silent.

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On our way back, our guide had a jig-off with Brittany and Stacy at the local pub. We watched the bizarre Dublin parade on tv- “Is that a giant wooden spoon dancing down the street? With eggs? Oh, the Chef’s beating the eggs! Oh no!” Brittany called out, losing her steps.

We stopped in a tiny town where we were warned: “Don’t bet on anything, don’t buy anything if it’s not in a shop, don’t wander off with anybody to look at anything- better yet, if it’s not the shop owner, don’t talk to anyone. Just stick to tea and lace shops.” Handmade lace sat in stacks in small pastel shops. Outside, the walkways were lined with car boot sales selling all manner of used goods- homemade mix tapes, car parts, bootlegged dvd’s, shoes. As we gathered back on the bus, Kent showed off his new Nikes.

“Two dollars!” he gushed. “Brand new!”

“More like newly knicked,” our guide mumbled before shooing our bus driver on.

Our driver, Stephen, was in his late sixties. He loved his job, he told us, loved seeing all the fresh faces, loved showing visitors his country. “Just don’t leave your trash- our your stolen shoes- in my bus!” he warned before breaking out into a mournful folk tune. Our guide’s eyebrows rose.

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