Friday, August 30, 2019

Ireland: The Return Home

When we booked our ferry from France to Ireland, we had the choice of disembarking either in Rosslare or Dublin. Can you even imagine driving off a ferry in downtown Dublin and, for the first time ever, driving on the "wrong" side of the road? Me, neither. 

My Mom, who lived in England for several years, told me "just follow the cars in front of you" and she was right. I managed to get us off the ferry, through the town of Rosslare and onto the M11 heading for Arklow. Along the way we spied an ALDI with an empty parking lot, so we wheeled in and bought some food, then continued on our merry way. It was way more stocked up than the ones we’ve been to in France and everything was labeled, "Irish". Irish beef, Irish cream, Irish this and Irish that. It all had to be good, right? So of course we bought too much. And five days later, we again had to empty our fridge as we headed into Dublin for a week. Will we ever learn not to buy so much food? It’s like we are preparing for a famine. :)

I had read that driving on the left side of the road was actually easier with a left-hand drive vehicle and I believe that's true. Steven had quite an adjustment as a passenger since all the cars coming from the opposite direction were on his side. And at times they seemed to be awfully close. On skinny roads, though, I could see exactly how far to scoot over without hitting the bushes, or falling off the asphalt (something you really don't want to do, as there can be quite the drop-off!). Our French registration might have alerted folks to stay out of our way, because most people give us a wide berth, thankfully. That, and Bijou looks gigantic coming down the road. 

The very first few minutes off the boat and onto the road in Ireland!

This sign is for us!!

We arrived safely at our destination in Arklow at Moneylands Farm, a combo B & B and self-catering accommodations, conference/leisure center, RV park, swimming pool and café. They have all the commercial angles covered. Since we planned to be there a while, we were parked away from the motorhome area, behind the tennis court. It was a lovely area with a beautiful view, even if Bijou got pelted a few times with rogue balls. Tennis talent was on the lower end of the scale at Moneylands Farm.

Safe and sound at Moneylands Farm in Arklow.

Each night in Arklow brought a dramatic sunset.

We chose this place for a couple of reasons. First, Steven's best friend Kieran lives just a few kilometers away and two, we needed a safe place for Bijou while we spent a week in Dublin visiting Steven's parents, Paddy and Elizabeth. It worked out perfectly. So well, in fact, that Steven had a night out with Kieran and stayed over, while I enjoyed a glorious evening with a bottle of rose and a few snacks all by myself! It was heaven! I had most of the next day all to myself, too. I did a little cooking, organizing, reading and whatnot. I made the bed and grabbed the handle to lift it up to secure it in its overhead position, but it would not budge. How frustrating! Arm strength has never been my strong suit, but I'm not that weak for pity's sake! I'm sure the struts that help give it lift are shot. We are getting those things replaced as soon as we get back to France, and I guess a little arm strengthening exercises wouldn't hurt, either. Ugh.

Besties. Steven and lifetime soulmate, Kieran.

Alone time in the rig. Bliss!

We had a wonderful week in Dublin, spending our days out and about in what turned out to be some pretty nice weather. We gathered with family, had a fun night out and spend time at the beach with Steven's sister, Deirdre and her beautiful horse. We visited Philip at his bakery in Stoneybatter in Dublin City and had lunch during a massive downpour. Most evenings we sat around the dinner table engaged in spirited conversation with the parents. As usual we were well fed and watered, so to speak, so I decided Steven and I would make dinner one night. I am always hesitant to do this in other people's kitchens, because I am not really a clean-as-you-go type of cook. When I put a meal on the table the kitchen looks like a wrecking ball has been through it. That's just how I roll. But since Steven was on board to clean, we went at it, and turned out a fab meatloaf. I have been making this meatloaf for at least a decade and it is still my favorite. You should try it. (Bobby Flay's meatloaf.)

Hanging out at Bettystown Beach while Deirdre and her friend rode their horses. This is us with Deirdre’s husband Maurice and son Adam.

Deirdre and Steven share a laugh!

Deirdre and her horse Elena.

Steven with his brother Philip. No, they are not twins :)

Linda and Philip outside his shop, The Green Door Bakery.

Kate, Philip’s assistant, with Jackie and Lauren (Philip’s wife and daughter).

The gang! Front row: Steven’s dad and mom and Linda. Back row: Adam, Maurice, Joshua, Deirdre and Steven.

That meatloaf is covered with a carmelized balsamic glaze, not burnt. :)

On the day we left Dublin to go back to Arklow for a few days, we celebrated our fifth anniversary of fulltime travel. It's hard to believe that five years have passed since we pulled out of the RV park in Issaquah and made our way to Bellingham on our maiden fulltime voyage. We were so ready and so excited. We have loved every minute of this lifestyle and hope to continue traveling for a good long while. 

The Sunday we were in Dublin happened to be the Feast of Saint James, who, you might recall, is the patron saint of pilgrims. (Look at me go with all this churchy stuff!) At St. James's Cathedral in Dublin there is a pilgrim office which offers information on medieval pilgrimages in Ireland, so we made our way down there with time to spare before they opened. So for the third time in as many months, we attended mass. It was mostly about the Camino de Santiago and the life of a pilgrim, so we were fine with that. Afterward, we made our way to the office and purchased a pilgrimage guide book and two Irish Pilgrim Passports. While there are multiple pilgrimages in Ireland, there are five specifically that one must hike in order to claim a Teastas Oilithreachta, which is a certificate of completion, the closest thing the Irish have to a Compostela.

The pilgrim’s office at St James’s Cathedral in Dublin.

We’re ready to go!

Inspired by our recent Camino walk, we wanted to experience some of Ireland’s beauty on foot.

Imagine our surprise to find that one of the five pilgrimages, St. Kevin's Way, was not far from where we were parked in Arklow! A plan was hatched. Well, less a plan than just a "hey, we should do this" kind of thing, but it's as close to a plan as we get. We tossed the idea around for a few days. Our problem was, what do we do with Bijou? It's a 30 kilometer (18.6 mile) hike, so wherever we leave Bijou we have to be able to stay for two days. The night before so we could get an early start and the night after, because 30 kms is a good long day and the last thing we'd want to do when we were done was drive somewhere. We checked out local campsites, of which there is exactly one. The reviews don't inspire confidence, so we scratched that. We checked out camping apps and there it was - overnight parking allowed in the Visitors Centre in Glendalough, the location at the end of the walk. Now all we had to do was find transportation to the start in a little village called Hollywood. 

It was pretty busy during the day but Glendalough Visitors Centre parking lot emptied out in the evening.

Glendalough has a wonderfully preserved ancient church and round tower on show.

We’re going to Hollywood, baby!

A local taxi picked us up on 7:00 a.m. on a perfect Thursday morning. It was cool and cloudy, but no rain was in the forecast. We drove through the mountains to Hollywood where he dropped us off right at the start of St. Kevin's Way. 

Did you know there are more sheep in Ireland than people? Seriously, I looked it up and there is actually a 2016 consensus that confirms this. There are a million more sheep than people. Five minutes into our hike we had stepped in more sheep shite than in the whole 500 miles of the Camino. They are kind of adorable, though. But if there is a path to walk on, there is a path for the sheep to shit on. 

Our hike took us through the Hollywood glen, an abandoned old quarry, down quaint country lanes, a few kilometers of treacherous road walking, and down a lane that abruptly ended in front of a farmer's barn. We carried on through areas where the path became overgrown with ferns, where we had to forge our own Way. We followed along the King's River, which was rusty brown from the tannins of the bog. We had cloud cover to keep us cool and when the sun came out, we walked in the cool forests. We had our picnic lunch on the bridge at the river. The bogs were, as you might expect, boggy. Muddy. We were thrilled to have a few areas with boardwalks built for pilgrims to walk on. We climbed up and up, until we reached the Wicklow Gap, one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland. 

We made some new friends along St. Kevin’s Way.

Yellow arrows were reminiscent of the Camino de Santiago.

We had to cross a few gates along the Way.


Are ye jokin’? Where’s me machete?

We sat at the top taking in the views, enjoying our afternoon snack. It was leaving the Gap that the trail veered off into a serious bog with no boardwalk. We went this way and that, jumped over puddles and sank deep into the mud. We stopped on more than one occasion to assess whether or not to turn back and simply follow the road. Neither one of us wanted to give up and take that way out, so we kept going. I wondered, after all we'd been through, if St. Kevin's Way would finish off my beloved Oboz boots, but soon enough we had picked a path out of the bog and on to higher ground. From there, it was all downhill, literally, until we reached the monastic settlement of Glendalough. 

Black boggy yuck.

Finally headed down to Glendalough. 

Nine hours and twenty minutes from our start, we returned to Bijou. We were wiped out, as tired and sore as any day on the Camino. In fact, this day was a further distance than any day we'd had on the Camino. I said at the time we enjoyed thirty percent of the hike and endured the rest, but time and rest offers perspective. Long distance hikes, by their nature, are not physically easy or comfortable. In retrospect, it was a wonderful hike. I don't want to do it again, but I'm really proud to call this one done!

We walked over to the Visitor's Center with our Pilgrim's Passports and got our stamps, then went home and went to bed. Later, I was awakened by the sound of lashing rain and was overcome with relief that we weren't getting up early to walk. A few hours later, when we got up, we were somewhat refreshed and ready to hit the road. Slane Castle was calling our name. 

Up Next: More family time and heading north.



  1. Replies
    1. Yes, it was beautiful! We are enjoying diving into Ireland's history a little more on this visit than we have in the past. So interesting!

  2. WOW! You guys are getting to be quite the hikers. You've covered more in the last 4 months than I have in my life. All props to you!!

    1. Thanks, Fred. Truth be told, we've covered more in the last 4 months than we have in OUR whole lives! :)

  3. Love the family photos, love the hiking. But best of all, I love that photo of your evening at home alone. -))

    1. That was such a lovely, calm evening. The sunset was gorgeous and my wine was delicious!

  4. You two look great after all that walking. Such a green place to hike.

    1. Thanks! If only we could keep it up on a daily basis, but alas. :) The whole place is incredibly lush and green.

  5. What a grand time!! Steven's family is so cute. He and brother could definitely be twins! After all those miles too bad you can't lift the bed with your legs :-) And then you walked even more! In shit and bog mud. But wow those views along the trail are incredible. Love the one sheep at the side of the road - waiting to scare a car? That meat loaf is reason enough to come to where you are - damn it looks good. Happy 5 years - what fun it's been!