Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Simply Wonderful Day Part 2

Our last night at the barn was bittersweet. Liz had a group of Americans that arrived to stay the night, along with a few men from Scotland, and then there was us, and Mary, and Una, and Liz. We all had a splendid lasagna dinner, but I was a little restless for the after dinner part. After dinner and pie was cleaned up, we all gathered in the story room in chairs that had been set up in a circle. Many people from the surrounding area came to join us, a few new people entering through the red door every 5-10 minutes for awhile, most with their own instruments. Liz started everyone out with a story, and people took turns either telling a story, singing a song, or playing music. Liz was almost like an MC, and she would ask someone if they would like to share something or sing. As we sat there, captivated by everyone's talent, I wished I had prepared something ahead of time to share, but I am a mess if I am not prepared for something. Four of the people there were a family, and they all played different instruments and performed different songs at the session. They were remarkable. I cannot put into words what we felt as we experienced the true hospitality and talent of all of these remarkable people, and it is something that can never be recreated for me. It is something we will never forget. I plan to go back one day, and next time, I will be prepared to share something myself. Here are some photo and video highlights. Turn your volume way up.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Simply Wonderful Day Part 1

We started out the morning down in the kitchen with some toast (Eva discovered cinnamon sugar thanks to Mary) and coffee and lots of chitchat. It wasn't long until we were on our next adventure--The Giant's Causeway. Liz very kindly dropped us off in Ballymena, after pointing out the various places we might want to visit while we waited for the bus that would take us to the Giant's Causeway. We crossed the street to have a small breakfast at a local cafe. Eva ordered the Irish breakfast with the fatty bacon, and I had a lovely scone with jam and coffee. We still had a bit of time until the bus would arrive to take us to the coast, so we leisurely strolled down the street to a Celtic gift shop. Suddenly I realized that while we knew where to catch the bus, I could not remember what time to catch the bus. I searched through my purse for the brochure Liz had, but could not find it. Must have left it in her car. I asked the person at the shop if she knew what time the bus came, and she very nicely called the TI down the street, and then told us the time. I thanked her, but that didn't seem right to me, so I left Eva and decided to walk down the street to the TI and check it out, hoping they would have a brochure.

I talked with the woman there for awhile, and I found the brochure, checked the time, and it seemed she was right. We still had another 40 minutes to go, so I ducked into Joe's, a pub I had read about online. The pub was not open yet, but the restaurant was open upstairs. When I reached the restaurant, I explained to the very nice man that I didn't want to eat unfortunately, just have a drink. He said that would be fine. I chatted with him for awhile, then grabbed my cider and a table overlooking the street. Eva arrived just a few minutes later, and we killed time reviewing the photos on our cameras that we had taken. We still had about 10 minutes until the bus was supposed to show, but we headed across the street because we didn't want to miss it. As we were standing there a very nice woman stopped to ask us what we were waiting for. When we told her, she told us very nicely that the bus had already left, possibly an hour ago. Panic was starting to set in, as we would have no other way to get to the coast if we missed the bus. I kindly explained that she must be mistaken because I have the brochure and woman at the TI had told me this was the correct time. It was then that I noticed there were two timetables on the brochure. One was for coming from Belfast and one was for going to Belfast. We had been looking at the wrong timetable the whole time. I ran across the street hoping that I was wrong, and the lady at the TI assured me that the bus would be coming any minute. Needless to say, minutes later I was crying on the side of the street because there was no bus, and we were not going to be able to get to the Causeway.

Eva went to go talk to the lady at the TI to see if we could hire a cab or something, and all of a sudden she came back with a different woman and said that it was all fixed, and they had it all worked out. I got into the woman's car, not having a clue about what was going on, and not really caring. She drove us to another town about 15 minutes away or so to a different bus stop, and we were able to catch a different bus from there. I was so grateful that it worked out, and that people went out of their way to help us. Before we knew it, we were at the Causeway, trodding down the hill. Oh, what a sight! We spent a few hours there, enjoying the view, and listening to the folktale of how the Giant's Causeway was formed. We cannot wait to share it with our classrooms. We were also able to buy some books at the gift shop for our classrooms. It was hard to leave such a beautiful place, but the day wasn't over yet. We were very much anticipating the music/storytelling session at the barn that night.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tales from Northern Ireland

After finishing our tour through Belfast, Liz drove us to Ballyeamon Barn in Cushendall. It was just as it had looked on Google Earth Street View! It was a surreal feeling as we pulled in the driveway and the red doors said welcome almost as though we were old friends. We met the barnminder, Mary, and she showed us up the steep stairs to our private room, which was actually more like a suite since it had a living room/office as well. It was just as cozy as I had imagined it would be, but when you peeked out the window, you were almost awestruck by what you saw. I always thought Ireland was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, but it was simply stunning at this moment. Mary had cooked everyone some Chinese sweet and sour pork, and we all gathered downstairs in the kitchen/dining room to have a nice dinner with lots of chatter. When we were through, we all clambered into Liz's car for a drive through the Antrim Coast while Liz pointed out the points of interest as she zoomed around curves before dusk rolled in. One of the sights she showed us was the Slemish Mountain where St. Patrick worked as a slave. The first place we stopped was a scenic hill on the Waterfall Walk.

Eventually we arrived at the Glens of Antrim, and I was quiet trying to hang on Liz's every word and take in what was before us. We parked the car and walked past a restaurant/hotel into trees and brush. Ahead of us was a waterfall, hidden within the trees and green.

This is us with Liz on a bridge in front of the waterfall. Next we headed back into the car for even more beauty. She took us to the beach. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

We drove a short distance more to explore ruins of an old church.

Followed by a final story from Liz and a stop to a cemetery to search for the headstone of the person in the story. What a day! And the next day was even more beauty and stories.