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May 15, 2006: Ireland Trip - Trim

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The guesthouse we are staying in is undergoing renovations, so it's been kind of interesting to come and go and have to maneuver around ladders and people painting or wielding power tools. Apparently they just opened up rooms again on Friday, so we have the luxury of staying in freshly renovated rooms. It's a nice room, although we've already discovered one thing these hotels lack which is so common in hotels in the US – there isn't a clock to be found in the room at all. Luckily Richard's aunt sent me my birthday present early, which arrived just before we left, and turned out to be a wonderful little travel clock, complete with alarm, and ability to program for multiple time zones.

Since the guesthouse is undergoing renovations, breakfast was served at a local cafe just around the corner. Three meals in and I've already discovered just how big meals here can be (and yet everyone seems to be in great shape – I suspect it's all the walking!). They brought us a plate piled with toast, then coffee and juice and there was cereal if we wanted it, and we also had the option of getting (along with all of that) a typical fry – eggs, sausages, potatoes, and ham.

Our first stop today was to the tourist office; or rather, that was intended to be the first stop, but we got there before it opened. And while we were standing there deciding what to do, another woman approached and we got to talking with her. Turns out she's from New Hampshire and was touring Ireland on her own and having a wonderful time. When we mentioned the possibility of tracking down an internet cafe she was immediately interested, so the three of us made our way over to the only one in town. Luckily it is located right across the street from a coffee shop, so we could get some much-needed caffeine while we waited for the guy to arrive to open the computer store where internet access was to be found. And luckily they had plenty of computers for use, all with high speed access, so all three of us could perch on a stool and plow through accumulated email, as well as drop a few quick notes to family just to let them know we made it to Ireland in one piece.

The main touristy thing we've done today was to visit Castle Trim. We've purchased Heritage cards, which give us access to a whole slew of places around the country, including the castle, which is the one where they filmed the movie Braveheart. Was rather fun as the guide pointed out the various spots from the movie, including where Mel Gibson was killed. Apparently a lot of locals from Trim were used as extras in the cast, and the man who played the executioner was a local schoolteacher.

The castle has been preserved as a ruin, so in many places you could see where floors or roofs used to be. From the top the view across Trim was lovely, and I'm sure it would be even more breathtaking if it was a bit clearer. We've found it kind of amusing that all the locals keep apologizing for the weather – we're just glad to get out of the unseasonable heat in California, and it's been just barely sprinkling all day, which hasn't bothered us at all.

We ate lunch in the cafe at the tourist office, where we met three more Americans, who chatted with us about their trip, noted that the Heritage cards are definitely worth the money, and made us feel slightly better about getting so lost yesterday on the way to Trim, since they noted they'd spent a good part of the day trying without success to reach the Hill of Tara.

This afternoon we've been mainly just wandering around Trim. We slipped into the St. Patrick's Cathedral and snapped a few quick shots of the interior – including the huge pipe organ in the back balcony, and the amazing artwork on the walls of the altar. In the course of our wanderings we also found another church (I think it's also called St. Patrick's) which has a bell tower, and every hour, if you listen carefully, the bells chime the time. This particular church was surrounded by a tiny little cemetery, with some gravestones so old the words had all but worn away. I also got a kick out of finding a little wool shop that is possibly the tiniest little shop ever. There were cubbies on two of the walls full of skeins of wool, but most of them were hidden behind clothing, or piles of boxes stacked haphazardly on the floor. They sold knit and crocheted items there and I was tempted to find out how much a knit sweater would cost, but couldn't actually get to any of them to check for prices. We also saw a rather bored looking calico cat camped out in front of the wool shop, and later on, found two very friendly little cats lurking around a house. They did their best to show how aloof they were until I called to them and held out a hand, and suddenly we had two very best friends who were all about weaving around our legs and getting some pets.

The sun rises quite early and also sets quite late in Ireland this time of year, so it's a bit odd (to us) to still have nearly complete daylight even at 9 at night. We finally tracked down that restaurant we'd been looking for last night, and went there tonight for dinner. We had some fresh cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup, served, of course, with bread, and skipped the main entrees so we would have room for dessert. Meals here so far have all been huge. Richard had something with chocolate and orange ganache and I had apple tart, which they served with a scoop of ice cream into which someone bizarrely added raisins. So I was trying to very discreetly pick the raisins out of my ice cream the entire time.

After dinner we decided to take advantage of the fact that it was still so light out and go for a walk. There were paved paths along the Boyne River, which runs right through town and right past the castle, and on the castle side of the river there were signs posted here and there talking about the restoration of the moat (they've allowed it to become a little wetland area). We got a kick out of finding a whole population of tiny black Irish slugs making their way across the path from the river to the marshy moat area.

On the other side of the river we noticed that there were some trails cut through the fields up the hill, and as we'd been eating dinner we'd noticed people coming and going on them, so we decided to do a little bit of exploring. Turns out it was a good idea, since we circled around and found the Yellow Steeple, which is a tower that is all that remains of what was once (I think) a monastery. It's surrounded by a fence, but the gate was open and apparently it's a spot for the local teens to go hang out and smoke, since there was a group there, still in their school uniforms, as we wandered around and did the tourist thing with the gaping and the oohing and aahing and the taking of pictures.

We've mapped out where to go for the next few days – we're planning three nights in Kilkenny so we can take in the surrounding two counties. We're also still hoping to track down a new copy of that lost guidebook (sigh). We found a wonderful little book shop up the road from the guesthouse, which did not carry it, but the man behind the counter was extremely nice and rung up a few places to see if they might carry it too (no luck). So now the hope is to order a new one from, and have it delivered to the place we'll be staying in Kilkenny – keep your fingers crossed that this all works out.

Pictures from our stay here in Trim are all here.

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