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Ireland Day 3 & 4 - Full Update

Today we welcome guest blogger Rosemary who recaps our past two days of adventure below. 
Monday, October 6th
 Off to Killary Lakes catamaran cruise for a tour of Ireland's only fjord with narration and complementary Irish coffee.  An "iffy" weather forecast resulted in intermittent rain, thunder, lightning and even brief hail, but once again, sunshine when and where we needed it most.  The upside of all these intermittent showers is rainbows multiple times a day.  (What's the plural of rainbow? Radiance rainbows. We're getting used to seeing double rainbows.). Learned a lot about aqua farming (mussels, oysters), Ireland's neutrality in WWII and both British and German UBoats seeking shelter here, livestock and potato farming.

Richard's lecture today was on the history of education in Ireland, everything from the hedgerow schools, to the influence of the Catholic Church for better or for worse and subsequent reforms, including standards setting, relevant vocations and trades, with similarity to our emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  It's complicated but he does his subject justice.

Scenery of Connemara drive time culminated in visit to Kylemore Abbey, Gothic mini-Cathedral and walled Victorian gardens, check out the photo from yesterday's post. Originally built in mid 1800's as manor home for the Henry family, who were wealthy textile merchants.  He and his wife Margaret and their 9 children enjoyed the bucolic setting, trails, gardens, fishing ponds, and Eco-management way ahead of its time.  Sadly she died young after contracting dysentery on a vacation to Egypt.  The Chapel and mausoleum were constructed in her memory.  Both the Henry's are entombed here.  The formal gardens are among the best of their kind in Europe, but clearly the very best in Ireland.

Subsequently the manor fell into the hands of Duke and Duchess of Manchester who ultimately had to sell it to settle gambling debts.  Ultimately sold to Benedictine Nuns from Belgium whose convent was bombed in WWI.  They bought the property and converted it to a Catholic girls boarding school that operated until June, 2010.  Now the Sisters are still its caretakers and make breads and jams and soaps, conduct retreats and music lessons but it is administered by Kylemore Abbey Trust and its primary purpose is tourism.  We did our part today as we enjoyed its interesting evolution in history, the cafe, grounds and gift shop.

We returned for a final evening of free time in Galway.  Some enjoyed the comforts and amenities of Ardilaun Hotel and others ventured into city center for a final evening of dining, pubbing and "trad" music Galway style.

Tuesday. October 7
Leaving the well-appointed Ardilaun Hotel today.  We've been so busy, few have had the chance to use the beautiful lap pool, jacuzzi and gym, but those who did raved about it! 

Today's lecture from Dr. Finnegan is building us up for our visit to the North.  But first we must understand to fight for freedom in what is now the Republic.  We learn the distinction between self-rule and independence and the factions within the revolutionary ranks.  Many sacrificed their lives for the cause which inflamed a sometimes indifferent populous to embrace the ideal of self-determination.  Many of today's lessons will be witnessed in Dublin later in the week as we follow the trail of the 1916 Easter Rising and visit the Kilmainham Jail where the revolutionaries were executed.

As we move into Northern Ireland, one more lecture and then a walking tour with our guide Ronan, we learn of the similarities among the freedom fighters in the North and the Republic; voting rights, property rights, economic opportunity, education.  Derry has one of the best preserved walled cities in all of Europe, brought to the island by King James II's "Apprentice Boys", thereby "planting" loyal British subjects among the Catholic population.  Ultimately Ulster was divided with a portion in the Republic and a portion in the North.  He said it would be complicated and used Rory McIlroy's PR gaff and subsequent PR "course correction" as an example (whether he would ultimately play for the UK or Ireland in a future Olympiad; after saying I feel like a UK man, he ultimately said he was an Ulster man and wore the Ulster colors after winning the Ryder Cup).  I guess you had to be there!

An evening of free time, fellowship and dining.  Tomorrow off to Giant's Causeway.


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