Saturday, 19 May 2012

Ireland 2012, Part 5: Dubliners in Howth

For those who wish to keep track, we are now on Day 3 of our trip. The day is Monday, 9 April 2012, the day before my best friend's big day. Since her wedding would be the following day, Monday was her day to rest and this left the rest of us with a whole day to explore on our own.

Or so my husband and I thought.

First, a look at our Monday morning. The following images are from the rear garden that we have a 270-degree view of from our room. Makes me wonder if my best friend chose the room for us because she knows I love views like this--mainly because I'm hopeless in the garden.

And since we were to stay only four days at Stauntons, we decided to forego unpacking and lived out of our luggage for a little bit.

At breakfast we learned that one of the girls in the group got invited to go out of town to the coast to go see some five-metre seals--don't protest yet, there's a story behind that too!--and so the entire lot of us agreed to chaperone as would be becoming of a single lady in a foreign land. And of course, it was a chance to visit the seaside. And see some five-metre seals.

It was raining and because we were forewarned that the seaside might be colder than we think, everyone bundled up warmly and, once assembled, we called for cabs to take us to Howth.

First order of business upon our arrival: food and toilets. I'm not kidding.

The rain was pouring and the drive to Howth actually took longer than we thought it would and with breakfast, despite being a full one, about four or five hours past and no one with crisp bags in their purses or backpacks, the Filipino tour group demanded to be taken to a place to sit, eat, and warm up. Our obliging guide brought us to a lovely place called Ivan's where, much to my disappointment, the fish and chips were mere appetizers alongside the calamari that my husband loves so much.
We were quite possibly their noisiest customers. Truth be told, even at the hotel, when we all find ourselves at the breakfast room together, we literally fill the entire space with the sound of our laughter.

Sorry, folk who prefer dining in silence.

Certain that this would not be enough to fuel us for the rest of the afternoon's walk, my husband ordered a sandwich that we shared. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish one entire sandwich by himself and it would be easier for him to find something that he can finish in addition to the calamari and half sandwich than for me to find something I can finish by myself after polishing off the fish and chips.

This is our little group of happy trekkers. Left to right, our photographer cum documentation expert, Bahag, my best friend's baby bro Chino, our HMUA artist Ara, bridesmaid Ish, Irish tour guide and best man Donal, HMUA Assistant Leng, bridesmaid and cousin of the bride Che, Che's husband Pato, fellow matron of honour Millet, and her husband and groomsman Noah.

Back to the food.

This is the Ploughman Sandwich that my husband and I shared. The cheese was creamy, the rocket (arugula to others) fresh and crunchy, and the relish, whatever it was made from as I've forgotten already, giving just enough sweet and sour tang to balance everything.

The husband also ordered a pint of Guinness to warm up with...which I quickly gave up on as it was too bitter for me despite my new-found appreciation for the warmth alcohol gave.

It took us about an hour to eat, I suppose, what with all the chatting and laughter in between stuffing our faces full of lovely warm food, after which we celebrated the fact that it had stopped raining, and gathered outside Ivan's to wait for Donal to take us to the 5-metre seals.

Okay, the funny thing about the five-metre seals is this: apparently, some members of the group were having far too much fun the night before (a nightcap to our indoor picnic) and it was mentioned by our guide for the day that Howth is the residence of five-metre seals.

This triggered a debate on whether or not seals could reach that long and if he was sure he was talking about seals and not walruses or any other animal.

No, he was said to have replied. He really meant seals.

Now, if you didn't know this yet let me tell you now that these creatures are of immense interest to us because there are no seals in the Philippines except for zoos where they are often ill-cared for and malnourished. Among other things that we will not get into at this point.

Anyway, seals. We walked down this portion of Harbour Road (the one behind us in the photo above) to get to a dock area where I saw this (full feature on this guy in the albums)

and then these

Okay, even in photos I'm sure you can tell they are not five metres long.

They didn't all gather in this huge mass immediately. Apparently, trained or not, these guys love attention and seem to have waited for a larger audience to stand at the pier before surfacing en masse perhaps waiting for someone to toss them a morsel or two. This, by the way, is discouraged. As you saw before the seal photos, there are real boats docked here and teaching them to be hand fed by passers-by would not have been beneficial to their health or safety in any way.

Although there were bits of blue peering between clouds, there were never really any long periods of sunlight and we spent most of the day enjoying a cool though occasionally uncomfortable wind.

It amused our guide that we took pictures of this sign. I suppose it speaks of how different the cultures are especially since this is that kind of sign that we don't usually see back home.

I'm not sure how precisely to translate it beyond "Drive to far forward and you'll fall into the water."

And there really is a parking lot next to this sign, I just didn't take a full photo.

What I love about the harbour is that it was so clean. I mean, yes, there were some stray paper or plastic cups on the water's edge that, I think, made Donal cringe. Of course, that was nothing to us who have seen worse things wash ashore.

This is one very postcard worthy view that I saw. I find it so wonderful that they actually take time to plant and maintain a kind of park like this.

Right next to the park is this cross

In case you can't read it, the writing says

The cross represents the love of God,
The rope edge and shell motifs represent his nets.
The anchor reflects our dependence on him,
The rock...the safety of the land,
The swirling stones...the dangers of the sea
The twelve sides...the months of the year
The hooped railing...the rise and fall of the waves.

Christ of the sea
Christ of the fish
May we be gathered in the nets of God.

I wanted to write down the Gaelic writing too but I couldn't read the letters properly. >.<

There are no words to describe what a comfort and reassurance it was to see it.

I have no photos of Ireland's Eye that involve even the slightest bit of sunshine. In fact, once I post the blog on our second visit to Howth, you'll realise that this is actually my best shot of the island despite the gloomy clouds looming overhead.

Seeing the island made me feel like I'd never seen an island before; it looked so pure and tranquil...and perhaps it helps that it's uninhabited. Or at least, now it is. It just proves, really, that there are still so many places I need to visit here in the Philippines, knowing that we too have beauties such as this.

Speaking of beautiful things though, I loved this sign so much that I had to take a photo of it

as it speaks so well of the kind of discipline that is imposed on the local citizens. And no, I didn't see any dogs wearing disposable doggie nappies. People with dogs actually did have bags. So amazing.

This first image is the cliff area that our guide meant to take us to but being the people we are, it was a group consensus that we wanted to walk along the harbour instead.

He laughed and said, "I like you guys. You're lazy!"

To which we replied that it's our most endearing quality.

Of course, my husband being the kind of person he is, he made me promise we'd go back and take the cliff walk. Which we did later on.

I still thank Donal for pointing out that you can actually walk along the cliff path.

This is the path we followed instead. It goes along the coastline and ends at an old lighthouse. According to Donal, by this point nicknamed "Dhon-Dhon," though how I can't recall at the moment beyond it being a typical Filipino nickname for a name like his, it should have been a 15-minute walk from our starting point to the end but we took it at a snail's pace. It took us a total of 45 minutes to get to the lighthouse for all the photos we were talking along the way, and then another 30 or so to get back to our starting point.

This is one of my favourite shots of us at Howth

It's just one of those cutesy things. And if you just want to be silly it can pass for a Skechers ad, hahaha!

Looking at it now, I'm kind of sorry there are no faces peering back at me. I suppose it might not be old enough.

I'm not sure why this was left here, on its side, rusting and looking every bit an abandoned boat. Which it may have been.  It fascinated me quite a bit simply because I'd never seen anything like it before and coloured like this, it looks so old and quite dramatic at the same time.

We had a bit of an adventure after this with a dog named Buzzy who wandered into our group being all cute and lovable and kind of lost.

Or at least he appeared to be.

He kept walking alongside us and for a while we thought that he was on his way to his owner except...he wasn't.

Buzzy kept walking with us and proceeded to jump down onto the rocky shore where we were sure he wouldn't be able to jump back up. I was seriously contemplating jumping down after him but two things: one, I wouldn't be able to haul him up anyway and two, with my shoes on, I wouldn't be able to get back up myself.

In the end, a couple who'd been watching him with us helped us get him up and watched him walk off to wherever he was meant to be at. It was a wrench to leave him without finding out he would be perfectly okay but reading his tag told us he lived in the area and should be able to go home.

By the time we left Buzzy and were contemplating our return to the Centre, the sun was shining brightly and we were finally getting a little bit of heat back into our bodies. Despite this, we were still in need of a minor pick-me-up to help get the chill completely out of our systems.

Near the bus stop where we were to take our ride back home was a pub where we stopped to get a bit of rest from all the walking (and talking...and picture taking...) and warm up with various choices of drinks and crisps.

And so I end this entry with a picture of my very first taste of Irish coffee. Real Irish coffee and none of that nonsense with instant coffee packets and foam that disappears minutes after you've poured your drink. I'm still not quite so settled on whether or not I like it enough to want more or to even make the effort to make more for myself but it was something very, very much appreciated after all the cold wind by the shore.

And apparently necessary as the rain began pouring again as we waited for our bus.

Oh Ireland, you are the one place that has convinced me that alcohol is a necessity.

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