Monday, 3 May 2010

A busy two days

The trip to Ireland worked out very well; it was an early start for us, and I repacked our two rucksacks into three smaller ones, as I was paranoid that a Ryanair jobsworth would insist that our bags fitted into that carry-on bag "cage" they have at the gate before boarding. In the end my fears weren't realised, no-one's bags were checked, and there were plenty of passengers using bags that were bigger than Ryanair's rules stated. Lara was fine on the plane, only getting a little spooked by the loudness of the flush when Olga took her to the toilet.
Our first stop after picking up the hire car were the Cliffs of Moher, more than 200 metres of sheer cliff face rising out of the Atlantic. It was a bit wet and cloudy, with a strong wind, but they were still a magnificent sight, especially if you could focus on the seabirds swirling around to give the cliffs a sense of scale.  The relative lack of safety fences made a refreshing change - there was a four-foot high wall, but that was it. Anyone who clambered over that on a windy day for a better look pretty much would get what they deserved.
After that we headed south to Kilkee, a coastal resort town where I lived for a month in the summer of 1996 whilst doing some fieldwork for a research project. It was livlier in July than a wet & windy April midweek, but the beach was nice, and Lara enjoyed jumping in the surf as the waves came in, although the inevitable did happen, and she overbalanced, and got a forehead full of sand and seawater. After the tears had subsided I managed to convince her that she had been swimming in the sea, and this made her feel much better about the whole incident. We had our first pint of Guinness in one of the few bars that was open, then drove the 5 miles or so up the Shannon estuary to Kilrush. The pub where we'd spend the night was right on the market square in the centre of the town. The room had a large shower rather than a bath, and Olga had experimented once at home with Lara having a shower (whilst in the bath, using our hand-held shower head) but Lara decided she was happy to have a "proper" shower with Mama, and whilst she was a bit upset with the water on her face, she came bursting out of the bathroom proudly boasting to me that "I had a shower, Papa, I got clean hair!".
We had a lovely meal in the pub, and a couple of pints of Guinness and an Irish coffee each before we decided it was time (9.30) to let Lara go to bed. We'd not brought the monitor, partly as we couldn't fit it in the bags, but also because it's harder now to get Lara off to sleep in a strange room unless we're there, she gets too excited. As it was she wouldn't go to sleep until we did, but as she'd had two good naps in the car whilst we were driving around, it wasn't a big deal that it was after 10.30 before we all went to bed.
Lara slept until her regular wake up time of 7.30, then we went and had a lovely big, cooked breakfast, then went for a wander around the town. After some window shopping, it was back into the car, and we went for a scenic drive along the coast, using the minor roads and a map printed off google to navifage to the Loop Head lighthouse. So long as I kept the Shannon on my left and the Atlantic on my right, I knew I was going in the right direction.  At this lighthouse you can get easy access to the cliff edge, and whilst the cliffs are merely 100 metres high here, that's still enough to give you butterflies as you glance over the edge on a windy day. Lara was allowed to get within 3 metres, and that was only with her reigns on, and one of us with a tight hold, but to be fair, she was more interested in shouting "Be careful!" at me than going near the edge herself.
We had lunch at a bar on the Shannon estuary (seafood chowder for Olga, with fresh octopus!), where I remembered going once in 1996 (it claims to be the closest bar to New York in Ireland), then we drove along the coast back to Kilkee for more playing on the sand. It was nice to have a late flight, as it meant we didn't have to rush back to the airport, and as it was we had enough time to repack the bags again at the airport (just in case, and to accomodate the extra shopping we'd bought) and get Lara into her jimjams, so we'd not have to disturb her once we got home. Lara was still full of beans, and even though the flight took off a little late, at 10.20pm, she stayed awake all the way back, even shouting "Hold On!!!" when the plane made a rather bumpy landing at Stansted.
She did sleep all the way home in the car, and barely stirred when I took her from the car and put her straight into bed at 1.30am. Putting her jimjams on earlier had been a good idea, as I think if she'd woken up she'd have been ready for more playing.

When we sat down and thought about it, we agreed that it felt like we had been away for more than one night, we'd packed a lot of sights and playing into two days, and it's the kind of thing we'll do again.

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