Fish for breakfast is something we don't have usually in Chicago, so I had the fillets of Plaice, a sweet, flaky type of fish, along with two poached eggs for breakfast. I forgo coffee in Ireland as the Irish know how to make a serious pot of tea. I also drink it Irish style, which is with a good pour of milk (unfortunately no half and half here) and a spoonful of sugar. That is enough to keep me running until dinner.
I decided to explore Ennis and was really taken with the town. The streets are crammed with a variety of shops, from antique dealers to Chinese acupuncturists. The butcher shops are filled with various cuts of meats and the market stalls were hawking fresh carrots and Irish potatoes alongside Spanish oranges and lemons. The streets are terribly narrow and wind and curve much like a cow path would. For that is what they originally were, and one would be hard pressed to get anything bigger than a Honda CRV down them. So it is a walking world, which makes it a people world, which makes it an interactive world. You literally are strolling with strangers and if not in conversation, you at least look them in the eye and smile.
Stopping back at the hotel, I saw that the FitzGerald reunion was in full swing. Cousins from England had come over to meet Brian's American cousins and family. What brought them together was very interesting. If it had not been for our playing St. Joseph Island in Ontario, Canada, the reunion may not have occurred.
On one of our trips to the island, there was an article written about Brian's and my Canadian roots. Brian's great, great, great grandfather was an Irish soldier fighting in the British army during the War of 1812 against the Americans. He was a courier for the brilliant tactician General Brock. During the storming of the American Fort Niagara on December, 19, 1814, Garrett FitzGerald, from Limerick, Ireland, came into possession of a prayer book. Family history was recorded in it and somehow, over the years, it was lost to the family. A rare books auction house in London received the book and while googling the provenance of the book, came across the article about Switchback's Canadian roots. They contacted Brian, who in turn contacted his Uncle Art, the family historian. The English side was also contacted and together the extended family purchased their family book back. There it was, carefully set on the table. I touched the old leather cover and took a photo of the inside inscription. How amazing that this occurred!
The Burren is a part of Ireland that is bereft of topsoil and instead is covered with a cracked shell of porous limestone. This limestone will filter rainwater deep within it and so there are many caves and underground streams that proliferate below the lunar landscape. Between the fissures is what topsoil has been deposited, and because of the fissures and the bare stone, the sun heats the rock and plants thrive deep through winter. It also allows alpine and Mediterranean species to grow next to each other.
Mick had been teaching the tour group about the fairy forts. These circular indentations are actually the remains of early Bronze Age settlements. Much like the Hopewell Indian palisades that are found in the Midwestern US, these are beamed earthen circles that had a wooden palisade upon it. Huts would be built inside to house extended families, and at night, the cattle, sheep and pigs. About 45,000 of these are found in Ireland. The family farm of Bolinree had one such fort. Over time people forgot the true purpose and instead equated them with fairy forts, or more specifically, the portals between the land of the "Sidhe" (pronounced Shee), or fairies, and our world. Mick brought us out to one such fort and we carefully walked inside and examined the interior. Offerings were left on a mound in the middle; bird feathers, coins, strings and ribbons and the inexplicable presence of one of those plastic dental floss things. We posed for a picture and I left a coin for the Sidhe to make sure they wouldn't give us a flat on the way back. Mick did relate a story of how a woman on a recent tour that his friend was driving brought back to the coach a sprig taken from a fairy tree in the middle of a ring fort. Even though the driver was a keen sceptic, he nonetheless told the woman to bring it back as he would not allow it on the coach. That night the tour group got the keys to their rooms. All the key cards failed in the doors. Once that got straightened out, the woman who took the sprig woke up to find that a tub above her room leaked a perfect stream of water into her open suitcase during the night, completely soaking everything inside. The Sidhe? You decide.
while the rest of us will continue on for the "dessert tour" in Scotland!
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