Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ireland trip Day 4, Killarney and Castle Island

 Today began with a walk from our hotel to Killarney National Park.  The largest of Ireland's National Parks and home of the largest stand of old growth Yew and Oak remaining. On the way we saw another Irish rainbow, this one actually touched the ground nearby-I've never seen that before!  I did ask who had the shovel but there was no little man so no pot of gold!  (Really, we just kept on walking.)  We picked up a naturalist for a guide who talked about the history of the park and the problems they currently have with invasive species.  Mostly, a subspecies of Rhododendron which is threatening to take over the park.  In an effort to stop this they are injecting the bad guys with Roundup, it takes three years to completely work and they leave all the dead in place to stop soil erosion.  There are many non-native trees and plants in the park as it was once an English estate and they liked to "collect" plants.  The tree above should look familiar to the west coasters as it is a Monterey Pine.  After a short lecture we took a hike The next three photos are views of the park lands.  There is a paved walkway throughout the park and it was being well used  by the locals and their dogs (not leashed.)  Isn't it beautiful ?  

 On our hike we passed a holy well, which isn't exactly a well, just a stone with two very circular holes.  It is said a monk knelt here and prayed for 400 years.  The Irish version of  Rip Van Winkle.
 Beyond the well we walked through the forest, learning about the difference between fern and bracken:  "Bracken is a fern but not all ferns are bracken"  Bracken has a distinctive single stem and grows fairly tall.  It grows where other plants have been disturbed and it was all over the Ring of Kerry.  I also learned that holly bushes/trees only have the sharp, pointed leaves until they grow high enough that the deer can't reach them then they become rounded.  I don't think we let ours get tall enough!
 From the woods we saw a herd of Irish Red deer.  I think they will be hard to pick out as most are lying down and a fair piece off but the view is still pretty.

In the afternoon I went shopping, bought only post cards and stamps.  Wrote the cards out to Brayden, Kolby and Alayna and mailed them-maybe they will get them before I get home!  I also bought a gift bag for the things I brought for our hostess that evening.  I didn't notice until I got back to the hotel that it was Hallmark, Corporate Headquarters Kansas City, Missouri! 

In the evening we got back on the bus for Castle Island, a nearby town, where we were to dine with Irish families.  I was lucky and drew the home of Tomas and Nita (see photos below).  Tomas is a school principle.  He began this school with only two students and now has over 200.  All courses are taught in "the Irish" except English which is taught as a second language.  He has also been a general contractor, building homes and selling them.  Right now he's not doing that as the economy is "gone to hell."  (I had noticed a number of empty homes, apartments and store fronts.)  Nita is attending school, changing her career again.  They have four children; their oldest is away at Oxford (or maybe Cambridge but you get the idea) studying law, one of the twin girls is in England studying radiation therapy and the other is finishing up her teaching credentials, the youngest son is still in their high school.

Tomas got out his guitar and sang with and for us.  He sang a song in "the Irish" which was just so lyrical!  Also John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and Garth Brooks' "The Dance,"  both are very popular in Ireland although the songs sounds quite different with an irish accent!  We were having such a good time that we were late for the bus, OOPS!

No comments: