Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chelsea in Donegal

This blog is a day late because last night I was feeling like "rubbish". Not sure what was causing it, but I was in bed from 6:30pm and barely got up the entire evening. However, before my bout of illness came over me, the day was really fun!

Once again, we woke up later than we intended. Thankfully it wasn't too late to make it to breakfast. We came down at around 10:30am, and breakfast ended at 11:00 so we decided to get ready afterwards. The dining room was very crowded so they had to seat us in the alternate room, which was smaller and much quieter. However, I kind of liked the peace. We ate a delicious breakfast then headed back to our room to get ready for the day.

Our main mission for the day was to geocache. If you've ever read my blogs before you'll know what this is more or less, and if you don't yet, Google it because you should! Anyway, there was a cache near where we were staying on the edge of the lake. We drove around the narrow roads until we found a place near the cache to park. The cache ended up being a bit difficult to find, and required us to nearly climb down a shallow embankment to search under the roots of a tree. Mom, with her wellies, graciously volunteered for this (aka: I wasn't climbing down there in my Toms so she was our only hope!)

After we found that cache, we soaked in a bit of the surreal scenery surrounding us. The lake was gorgeous and lots of hills, and even mountains in the distance, entrenched it from all sides. Absolutely stunning. What I think I liked the most was the sound. It really sounded like nature. Just the soft sound of waves lapping at the shore, a few birds chirping, and that was IT! No cars, no voices yelling, no interference. Just nature.

When we had had enough of nature (a hard call to make), we hopped back in the car and ventured into the nearby town of Donegal. The town was quite small but boasted a castle and a city center. While my mom's driving on the left has improved a lot (as has her confidence), we still managed to get "stuck" in a roundabout, but as she will insist that I include, only ONCE! When we managed to find the correct exit the second time around, we hunted for some parking. The "pay and display" spaces were all full, so mom parked behind another car along the side of one of the back roads. There weren't any signs that it was illegal, but I had a bad feeling, so when I spied a primo space near the front on our walk to the shops, I went and moved the car. Yes, that's right, I actually drove on a real road, on the left, in a manual transmission car, in Ireland! It was all of 200ft, but who's counting!?

We walked about the shops for a bit, but found nothing of much interest. So, out came the geocaching app! I found a cache a half mile away, so we headed back to the car and drove along the main road. And, to add to my accumulated distance driving, mom let me drive there! However, since she was quite unused to being a passenger on the left, she had a few mishaps. First of all, navigator she is not. She had me pull right into a driveway of a dental surgeon, then as I was turning around in the back parking lot, a man who I assume was the surgeon, was staring at me out of the window, thoroughly bewildered. Then I had to turn right again (right being the more difficult direction) onto the road behind a blind curve. I was so freaked out that I couldn't see and she had to help me. I screeched us out of the parking lot as best I could when the coast looked relatively clear. A few hundred feet later she had me pull into the proper driveway, but pointed to a spot to park in too late. As I was backing up, on a hill, in a manual, she literally screams "CAR!" I slam on the breaks, heart beating wildly, check my mirrors (again) and see... No car. Being on the left had put the mirrors in a position she wasn't used to and they played a trick on her eyes. No one was behind me, but she had thought there was because of the angle of the mirrors. I managed to pull into the spot, finally, and gave over the keys immediately. My left foot was cramped from riding the clutch most of the drive, due to slow traffic, hills, and screaming mothers. I think I'm done driving in this country, thank you very much!

After that incident, we found the geocache that was hidden in a pauper's graveyard. It was sad and a bit creepy. The stone talked about how many Irish died in the potato famine, as well as thanked the Choctaw Nation for their support. Thoroughly confused, I asked my mom if it meant the Choctaw, as in, the Native American tribe. Neither of us had heard of this, so I did a little research. It is really an amazing story and it's a shame that it's not so well known. If you're interested, here is a link published by Irish Central in December of 2013. The Choctaw gave $170, the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars, to the Irish Famine Relief fund, only a few years after the Trail of Tears, in 1847. An amazing story...

So, we found that cache, then decided to hit up the other caches in town. In total we found 6 in Donegal, plus the one by the lake. They were located in/near sites such as: a former workhouse turned modern town hospital, a textile mill (my favorite - a sneaky cache!), outside a rail-road museum, on a bridge near the Donegal Castle overlooking the river running through the town, and outside beautiful St. Patrick's church. While looking for the one outside the church, a genial old Irishman spotted us searching and asked if we were taking some photos (I had my camera around my neck). We said "Yes, of course!" and began snapping away. He chuckled and went on. :) Near the end of our hunting, the rain began again (it had been off-and-on all day), and this time it was accompanied by HAIL! Again! What the hail, Ireland!?

Cold and a bit wet, we decided to take our picnic we had packed back to our cozy room in the hotel and eat there. So, we headed back and ate our salads, bread, cheese, chocolates, and wine on the bed in the hotel while watching British game shows, which were actually pretty darn interesting. One was called the Tipping Point, and the other was the Chaser. Both involved trivia and it was fun to watch and guess the answers as well as see some awesome players, as well as some pretty crappy ones.

I was tired after eating so I had a nap, but when I woke up, I felt absolutely awful. My stomach was churning and I didn't want to move from the bed. I stayed in bed the rest of the evening, nursing a big glass of water. After Skyping with Romeo I was able to eat a few dry crackers, but I needed to sleep it off, so we tried to make an early night of it. (I won't leave you with a cliff-hanger; I was well again in the morning!)

We're half-way through our amazing Irish journey, now! Cheers!

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