Our B&B "Full Irish Breakfast" was very much like a full English or Scottish breakfast. A fat and cholesterol feast, with a lonely hot tomato to provide a complex carbohydrate balance to the plateful of protein. Today's first course or pre-course to the hot meal was a choice of cold cereals including museli.
Our breakfast companions were a couple from Japan, currently living in London. From them we learned that there is a feminine version of Japanese, and a masculine version. Frequently new speakers of the language, if they have been taught by the opposite sex, will misuse the language, reflecting not their own sex but the sex from whom they learned the language nuances. In Japan, this can cause both mirth and embarrassment.
Adare Manor -- Marble and mahogany bathrooms - totally enclosed toilets. Sumptuous.
(As I write, I'd think that I could say more about this luxurious manor with the incredibly manicured gardens, spacious formal rooms, large book-laden library, deeply-rubbed wooden winding banister and staircase. But no, all I can comment on is the very fine quality of the women's room.)
We pedaled on our way, the first full day began. With drizzle. It was a "soft" Irish day. Men were out cutting back the overgrowth along the road, using scythes now seen only in the Smithsonian.
A sturdy Irish man with white hair, a walking stick, and a brace of Irish wolfhound said "Good morning;" I responded "Good morning." "Nice and soft," he said, as it gently rained as we pedaled along.
We passed many castle ruins - seemingly one in each town. Much of the vegetation reminded me of Hawaii - lush and green.
Foynes was our lunch stop. We had been in full rain gear but hung it to dry on our bikes while we ate soup and scones in a cozy cafeteria-style restaurant filled with hardy men on their lunch break, and thick-waisted women happily mothering their many children. (We've noticed in paying entrance fees that "family rates" for admission include two adults and four children rather than the two adults and two children that we are used to seeing at home.)
I've passed slender elderly men upright on their one-speed bikes, basket in front, pedaling slowly down the road wearing traditional dark wool Irish caps and a day's growth of white stubble. I smile, and it is acknowledged more often by a shifting of eye focus than of lip movement.
We found a town, and a Maxol station, which sold small amounts of "paraffin" (kerosene) for our fuel bottles...Tracy's pint bottle for about 50p and my 1/2 pint bottle for 25p. As the station owner collected my small amount of change, he looked at my yellow rain pants and commented, "Aye, it's a soft day. Perhaps a bit too soft."
On toward Ballybunion and the rain began in earnest. Not just soft mist. Hard rain with thick heavy closely spaced drops. We pedaled vigorously. Ballybunion was our goal, and perhaps a dry place to stay. Our rapid pace, encouraged by the rain, was impeded by a herd of cows driven up the road by a young man in tall rubber boots wielding a long stick. It was soon milking time. Eventually we passed the twenty or so cows by closely following a bold pickup truck which inched by on the right, running interference for us. Once in front, I paused briefly in the rain to capture the event on film, quickly, before Lead Bossy could blindly plow through both my bicycle and me.
An impressive head wind with the rain made progress into Ballybunion slower than expected. My glasses dripped water as I worked to focus around the drops. The neoprene shoe booties which I thought were waterproof were merely windproof, acting in rain like a finely celled sponge collecting water off my rain pants. My feet were warm and squishy. It was a terrible feeling.
An impressive head wind with the rain made progress into Ballybunion slower than expected. My glasses dripped water off the lenses as I worked to focus around the drops. The neoprene shoe booties which I thought were waterproof were merely windproof, acting in rain like a finely celled sponge collecting water off my rain pants. My feet were warm and squishy. It's a terrible feeling!
Tracy had left us to detour nine miles out to Beal Point, with our usual agreement, "We'll meet at the T.I." Just as Jack and I touched the outskirts of Ballybunion next to a caravaning/camping spot, beginning to reconsider our idea of camping in favor of drier digs, Tracy arrived. Incredible timing. By this time we were all soaked through. We decided to try for a hostel; Tracy approached a woman out walking her dog. "Do you know if there is a hostel in town?" he asked. I couldn't hear all of her response, but she seemed to give Tracy detailed instructions in locating the only hostel in Ballybunion, "...down at the Beazley Garage. You can't miss it." I had interesting visions as to the accommodations. Bunk beds in the pits below the car lifts? Curled in tires for snuggy beds? We were so wet that it just didn't matter. It had to be dry.
Our hostel was spartan but full of kids, three dogs, one of which was an old German Shepherd, creakingly arthritic with hip dysplasia, plus Chocolate, the four month old fuzzy kitten.
(As I write, "Chocolate," is purring in my lap in the Ballybunion hostel. The wind is raging outside, rain pounds the windows, and three pairs of wet biking shoes sit in front of a peat fire to dry. Erin Beasley, nine years old, lives here and is anxious to talk. So we do.)
The storm during the night was fearsome. Sometime in the middle of the night I awoke to eerie silence. The wind had died. Was this the big storm that had impeded progress out of JFK airport?