July, 2003

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Day 6, Saturday    
     In the morning, we decided to explore the rest of Sheep's Head Peninsula.  We continued on around the coastline toward the point.  We could see across the bay to the fifth and southernmost of the peninsulas, Mizen Head.  Maybe we will hit that one on our next trip!
     Almost immediately, we discovered a castle for sale!  It was quite a small and cozy one, an old watchtower, called Kilcrohane Castle, right by the water.  There was a for sale sign for it on the gateway.  I have always fantasized about buying a castle in Ireland, and renovating it to live in. And here was my chance! 

Kilcrohane Castle - for sale!

     After further reflection, I decided that Kilcrohane Castle might be a bit too small, and it was not really in the best area of the country for horses.  Perhaps I will stick to my original plan, and find a large grand castle up in County Tipperary somewhere, perhaps at the foot of Slievenamon.  But this one looked like it could be a perfect little weekend getaway castle!

     We followed the narrow winding road out toward the point.  We stopped several times to wait while sheep ambled out of the way; the road goes right through their grazing areas, and they are not fenced away from it.  We went out to the end of the road where there is a tiny village called Toreen, consisting of about four houses.  We parked the car and walked along the hiking trail known as the Sheep's Head Way.  This is a path that goes all the way around the peninsula; it is marked by a symbol of a little stick figure man walking, stenciled in yellow paint on the rocks or fence posts every so often.  We called him the walker, and saw him many times during the trip!
      We followed the hiking trail along the ridge up to the ruins of another old signal tower.  You can sit in that high spot and look down and see the water on both sides at once.  You can also see the other peninsulas in the distance.  The surf was pounding the rocky cliffs far below us, and a strong wind was blowing.  We were glad we had put on our waxed jackets, as it was quite chilly.  The land was very remote and barren; no trees to speak of, just rocks and heather, wind, grass and sheep.  It had a unique and amazing beauty all its own.  Once again, we were very glad we had stumbled across Sheep's Head.   It turned out to be one of the best spots we visited!

View from the Sheep's Head Peninsula

     We stopped at a small shop and bought some good Irish cheese, crackers, cookies and wine.  We drove over a mountain pass aptly named The Goat's Path.  Again, there were no trees, and the land was very rugged and rocky, with incredible views from the top; we looked down across the water to the Beara Peninsula to the north and the Mizen Head to the south.  There was heather and gorse, and some really interesting flowers that looked exactly like tufts of sheep's wool caught on twigs.  We stopped at the top and had our picnic, in the car, because it was too windy and cold to sit out at the picnic tables!  There was a wooden sign at the crest with the Sheep's Head Peninsula motto:  "Water and Ground in their Extremity."

     From here, we headed over to the Beara Peninsula.  As I had been told last year, Beara was very beautiful and secluded, with fabulous scenery and not too many people.  We skirted around the Bantry Bay, passing through Ballylickey and Glengarriff, and followed the coastline around to Adrigole. The landscape was beautiful.  Down along the coast there were some areas of trees, and many shrubs and flowers.  Everywhere we looked were hedgerows of wild fuchsia in full crimson bloom.  As we went higher up, the land was very unique, steep and mountainous, with rocks and grass and heather, but almost no trees.  It reminded us a lot of Connemara, very remote and somewhat desolate, in a wild and beautiful way. 
     We turned inland, and traveled over the Healy Pass.  This was incredible!  We followed the narrow road up and up, around the hairpin turns, as it traversed back and forth up the side of the Adrigole Mountain.  We passed stone bridges over swift falling streams and waterfalls. 

     When we got to the top we could look down over the whole mountainside, and see the winding road like a ribbon below us, and the Bantry Bay in the distance.  We watched sheep running along sheer rock ledges, very nimbly negotiating the treacherous slopes.  We stopped at the top and walked among the grassy knolls and rock formations, and admired the views on both sides, with the Bantry Bay to the south and the Kenmare River to the north.

Healy Pass

     When we descended from Healy pass we turned westward along the shore and headed out toward the point.  We noticed at this point that we had put over 700 kilometers on the rental car. (For the metricly challenged, a kilometer is approximately six tenths of a mile.)  We decided that our goal was to see if we could clock up 1000 kilometers of driving by the time we finished the trip.  Remember, the car had only 46 on it when we started, so this gave us an odometer target of 1046!
     As it was getting on toward evening, we started the hunt for a B&B.  This turned out to be even harder than the night before because of a wedding in Castletownbere, which had booked most of the rooms within a 25-mile radius.  We were advised to travel on around the coast to the town of Allihies, out near the end of the peninsula.
     As we followed the shore along this route we passed the Coulagh Bay.  Looking out to the water on our right, I suddenly saw sleek fins slicing through the waves.  Dolphins!  There were dolphins in the surf!  We stopped and watched them for the longest time.  There were about a dozen of them feeding near the shore, and as we watched they came closer.  They started to play, cavorting and leaping out of the water.  It was an incredible time, standing on Ireland's western shore, watching dolphins frolicking in the last rays of the setting sun.
     Presently the dolphins moved on, and so did we.  We came to the tiny town of Allihies, and found a B&B right in the town. 
     After dinner we drove out to the point, where there is a cable car to Dursey Island.  We had been warned not to ride this cable car, because even though they do sluice it out after the cows and sheep go across in it, it is often unreliable, and we might get stranded out on the island.  It did indeed look quite archaic!  The island looked interesting, but by now it was after ten o'clock at night, and nobody was about.  We noticed a signpost:  Moscow 3310 kilometers!  We appreciated the tongue in cheek humor, and wondered about the origins of this sign.

Day 7, Sunday     

     Allihies' claim to fame seemed to be the Copper Mines.  Apparently it was a big copper mining town in the late 1800s.  We set out across a cow pasture in the morning to visit the mines.  

In the cow pasture

     First we came across several smaller mine entrances.  We discovered a small square stone building, quite old, and behind it was a hole in the ground, well surrounded by a tall and impenetrable barbed wire fence meant to keep people away from the mineshafts.  We tossed a rock over the fence and into the mineshaft, and you could hear it bounce off the shaft walls repeatedly, on its way down, down, down, before eventually making a noise like a splash at the bottom.  Creepy!  As we drove on, we saw probably a dozen other mineshaft entrances, always strictly fenced off. 

Allihies Copper Mines

     We went in search of the main entrance to the Allihies Copper Mines.  We had seen this structure in numerous pictures in town, at the Pub and the B&B; it seemed to be Allihies' signature edifice.  As we were driving along we sighted it close by, part way up the side of the mountain, so we turned up a lane leading in that direction.  The narrow way wound up the slope towards the mine entrance, but just when we thought it would take us to the mine and dead end there, we realized that the lane had bypassed the mineshaft and was heading up over the mountain pass. 
     The lane got narrower and narrower, and more and more windy.  Before long it turned to a gravel track.  The little road continued to climb; we negotiated hairpin turns and incredibly steep slopes, and sharp rises where you could not see the road drop down on the far side.  I was somewhat nervous about driving this little lane, as it was too small to be on the map, and it continued to get smaller and rougher the further we went.  We didn't know if it would go all the way through, or if we might find a dead end and have to back up for miles, as happened to us once on an earlier trip.
     Eventually we reached the top, where we could see the Coulagh Bay in the distance, and started down the other side.  Soon we came to a wire and orange mesh gate right across the road.  We had to lift the post out of its socket and drag it to the side to get the car across, and then replace the gateway.  We weren't sure if the road really continued, or if we were going to end up in some sheep farmer's back shed.  We continued to anticipate the possibility of miles of hairpin turns in reverse.  But after continuing on down the little lane we eventually came to a crossroads where another tiny lane joined our way, and a hand painted signpost with an arrow pointing to the left, which simply said 'Pub'!  Only in Ireland!

     We went on to the town of Castletownbere, where we visited the Dunboy Castle.  This was an old ruin of a castle built by Donal Cam O'Sullivan in the 1500s.  It has a fascinating history.  During the siege of Dunboy in 1602, cannon guns battered this castle down.  O'Sullivan was away at the time, but returned from his travels to find his castle in ruins.  He set out on foot from Dunboy with 1000 people, many of them wounded men, elderly, women and children, heading for the town of Leitrim, 600 miles away.  They crossed over the imposing Healy Pass and through much difficult terrain, enduring severe weather, disease and starvation.  Of the 1000 people who started on this desperate journey, only 35 survived to arrive in Leitrim on January 16, 1603.  One of the survivors was O'Sullivan's uncle, Dermot, who was the historian that recorded their journey.  There is now a marked hiking route called the 'O'Sullivan Beara Way' that follows the course of O'Sullivan's flight from Dunboy to Leitrim.
     Also near this site was the Puxley Castle, built in 1730 by John Puxley.  His grandson 'Copper John Puxley' moved to Allihies in 1812, and later added the 'gothic extension' on to the castle, turning it into a grand country home.  In 1921 this structure burned, destroying the roof and many of the rooms.  This seemed to be the fate of many of the old castles and homes from that era; we were often hearing or reading about how fire destroyed these places.  But the shell of Puxley Castle was still beautiful to see!

Puxley Castle

     There was an inlet with a small harbor right below it, and the remains of the wreck of a large wooden ship lay there, its curved ribs looking very skeletal in the mostly decayed hull.  Jineen found two lovely sea snail shells; unfortunately the snails were still in them!  We were concerned that they would stink, but she was determined to kidnap these defenseless creatures; I think she had a plan for the removal of the little corpses.  

     We had a picnic lunch at a little quay down by the water, and made our travel plans.  We has seen most of Beara by now, it was time to move on.  After all, we still had many kilometers to put on the rental car!  We had really enjoyed the peninsulas and the coastline; the only trouble with that area was that castles were in short supply.  We decided that it was time to do some serious castle hunting!  We got our maps and located every castle marked on them, and planned a route back towards Limerick that would take us to as many of them as possible.  And we kept a sharp lookout for uncharted 'everyday castles' along the way!
     As we drove, we sighted a small square castle off to the right of the road.  We drove partway down a small lane, and walked over a narrow bridge, and on to the Inchigeelagh Castle on the River Lee.  It was in a farmyard, but nobody was about, so we just walked through the farm like we owned the place and entered the castle.  We found that here was an old castle in the process of being restored.  There were new wooden floors on every level, and it was obvious that work was in process to convert it into a home.  How cool that would be!  As we furtively headed back through the farmyard towards our car we had a little fright; suddenly we heard a snarl and ferocious barking behind us!  We were very startled and alarmed, but to our relief found that the vicious guard dog was actually locked in an old slatted horse trailer.  Had we known of his presence, we wouldn't have been so bold about entering the farm uninvited!

     We went on to Macroom, where a castle was marked on the map, but it was right in town and way too touristy, so we passed it by.  We preferred the more out-of-the-way ones!  But outside of town, we sighted yet another of the ancient square castles.  It was out in the middle of a cow pasture, but built up on a rock outcropping, in a position that you could tell was very strategic from a defense standpoint.  It had an iron railing beside the front steps and a plaque showing it was a National Monument, but unfortunately the doorway was barred so we could not enter it.

Castle near Macroom

     We continued on.  We were approaching our goal of 1046 on the odometer!  About 6:30 pm, we arrived at the Kanturk Castle.  It was a fairly large stronghold, beautifully restored with informational signs around it.  It was built around 1625 by MacDonogh McCarthy of Duhallow.
     The most intriguing thing about Kanturk Castle was on one of the information signs.  It told how there was a neighboring fortress, called Dromaneen Castle, 13 kilometers to the southeast.  But it didn't say where!
     It is interesting visiting these castles that are marked on the map and have been carefully restored and opened to the public, complete with signs giving history and information.  But somehow they lack the excitement and romance of the ones we discovered for ourselves!  Dromaneen Castle was one of these discoveries.  Having learned of its existence while in Kanturk, we were determined to find Dromaneen.  We got out the map and figured out which roads might be 13 kilometers southeast of Kanturk, and drove down them all.  Lo and behold, we saw the castle in the distance; but getting there was quite another matter!
     It was getting late by this point, so we thought we better begin our search for the illusive B&B before further adventuring.  Actually, being Sunday, it was easier, and a couple of calls from a public phone secured us a room at the Riverside House in Mallow.  We had dinner at the White Deer, a lovely pub that we had enjoyed on a previous visit.  Then we went out in serious search of the Dromaneen Castle!
     We drove up a small lane that seemed to be in the right direction, only to find it barred with a metal gate, and a German Shepherd lying in the road as if on guard.  We then proceeded to drive up every other small road and lane in the vicinity, looking for a way to get close to this castle.  To no avail!  A Sugar Factory owned most of the lands around the area, and their 'No Trespassing' signs were very graphic and strongly worded.  We were just beginning to think it was impossible, when we came across a couple by the roadway cutting honeysuckle.  We stopped and asked them if there was a way in to the castle, and they directed us down a small lane.  The very lane we had gone down in the beginning, which was barred!  The honeysuckle couple informed us that yes, we were allowed to go to the castle.  The farmer who owned the land had barred the lane, but there was a public right-of-way through his farm to the castle.  He didn't really like people coming across his land to visit it, but he did not have the legal right to stop them.  He was allowed to close the gate, but was not allowed to lock it!  We were psyched; we had been just about ready to give up on getting in to that castle, but now we were armed with the info we needed!  But by this time it was almost ten o'clock at night, so we decided to leave any further castle sacking until the morning.
     We returned to our lodging.  Having been unsuccessful in removing the snails from their shells, Jineen decided to pickle them in a bottle of leftover wine.

Day 8, Monday  
     Success!  We conquered Dromaneen Castle!  We went back after breakfast and found our way down the little lane again.  And this time the gate was open!  Armed with the knowledge gained from the honeysuckle pickers, we drove right up into the farm, left our car in a gateway, and climbed the farmer's fence into the cow field.  No sign of the farmer, no sign of the German Shepherd.
     The castle itself was fairly large and quite interesting.  It had not been restored, so in places the walls were falling in, and it was very overgrown with weeds and grass.  But it was really beautiful!  We wandered from room to room, and tried to recreate in our minds what it must have looked like when it was an inhabited fortress.

Dromaneen Castle

     We were constantly amazed at how these National Treasures, these incredible castles, were practically inaccessible, and almost impossible to find!  There would be this fabulous ruin of a castle, grand and majestic.  But it wouldn't be on any of the maps or brochures.  There would be no signposts for it, and often no roads to it.  You would park on the side of the road in a gateway or boreen and walk across some farmer's field, thinking you might be shot for trespassing; and when you finally snuck out to the castle, you would find a plaque showing it was considered a National Monument and was open to the public.  But how the public would ever be expected to find it was a total mystery!  Dromaneen Castle was a good example of such a place.  I don't know how many visitors it has, but probably not too many, because it is hard to believe that there are many people who are as persistent as we were in finding a way to get there!

     The people who ran the B&B had told us there was to be a Horse and Pony Fair in the nearby town of Buttevant that day, so we decided to go see it.  We had actually stopped by the night before to check out the area, and had enjoyed talking with a very handsome Garda (policeman) who was there to prevent problems; he told us quite a lot about the fair.
     Once a year, Buttevant closes its streets to car traffic, and holds this fair.  It is mostly a place where the Traveling people (or Gypsies as we would call them) come to sell and trade their horses and ponies.  All of the through traffic is rerouted, and people park their cars in the road and walk into town.  We were warned that if we didn't get there early, we might have to walk for miles!
     The Garda directing traffic sent us through towards town, and warned us to lock our car and leave all valuables out of sight.  We rather paranoidly crammed all of our suitcases and riding gear into the trunk of our car, so the car itself looked empty!  We were there fairly early, so we didn't have to walk far.  And the fair was amazing! 
     I have always been fascinated by the lifestyle of the Traveling people.  You will often see their camps by the side of the road all over Ireland, with camper style caravans, and horses and ponies tethered by the roadside to graze.  They travel from place to place, perhaps finding temporary work, often selling and trading, sometimes stealing, perhaps staying until local inhabitants drive them out.  They have fairs such as the one in Buttevant, where they sell to the general public, as well as trading among themselves.  This was a great chance for us to observe the Travelers up close!
     The entire town was lined with booths, selling everything from antiques, to shoes, to power tools.  Few cars came through, but the streets were becoming increasingly crowded with people, horses, ponies and donkeys.  There were horse trailers in side streets, often with up to a dozen ponies tied to them.  Horses and ponies were tied to car doors, to signposts, and to each other. 

Buttevant Horse and Pony Fair

     There were people riding horses up and down the streets, kids bareback on ponies, and people racing up the road in pony carts and sulkies.  Local farmers and horse dealers brought some of the horses and ponies to the fair, but the majority of them were owned by Travelers.  We saw some very pretty ponies, though few horses of quality.  There were dozens of what I think of as Gypsy Ponies.  These are large ponies, usually pinto, with a stocky build and marvelous thick feathers around their pasterns.  We saw a pinto stallion tied on the sidewalk, he was unique in that he had a huge mustache; something I had never seen before!

     We saw mares with foals running loose at their sides, dozens of donkeys or burros, and a varied assortment of horses.  People were riding many of the horses and ponies up and down the street showing off their training.  Prospective buyers would get on them to give them a try.  We saw several people come very close to being bucked off right in the street!  Most of the horses and ponies looked well fed and cared for, but there were a few that were really pitiful.  The whole thing was somewhat surreal, like a scene out of the past, something you would have expected to see a century ago: yet it is a way of life that is still going strong today.  Only in Ireland!

Buttevant Horse and Pony Fair

     Presently we left the fair, we waved to our friendly Garda on the way out.  We were relieved to find our suitcases still safely crammed in the boot (Irish for trunk), and we were on our way again. 

     Next on our agenda was Kilcolman Castle.  This was one that was marked on our map, not far from Buttevant.  We could see in our atlas that it was located between several small country roads, sort of in the middle of a five-sided block.  But we could not tell which road would take us the closest.   It proved very hard to find indeed, we could barely see the top of it from just one spot on the surrounding lanes.  We drove twice around the block before finally just abandoning the car and setting out across the fields.
     Kilcolman Castle proved to be quite a challenge!  It stands alone, across three fields.  We climbed the gateway by the road and crossed a sheep pasture, and then climbed another metal gate, this one made more demanding by the addition of electric wire.  We then went through a hay field and had to find a way to scramble over another fence, this one consisting of 4 or 5 strands of barbed wire, with a couple of strands of electric wires thrown in for good measure, over top of an old tumbled down stonewall.  Then we made our way through high weeds and scrub brush, to the castle itself.  Success at last: we had arrived at the castle!  As I have mentioned before, the hunt is half the fun.  Invest in the journey! 

Kilcolman Castle

      It proved to be a really neat castle.  We were able to enter it, and we climbed the spiral staircase right up to the top.  There was sort of a balcony covered in grass about half way up where we could stand and look across the fields.  This is one of the really interesting things about these old castles.  On the top floor or roof, there is generally a layer of soil several feet thick, with grass, shrubs, wildflowers, and even trees growing.  This layer of soil has accumulated over time, since the castle was built, from dust in the air, bird droppings, and bits of debris carried on the wind.  So over the ages, impromptu gardens have formed on the tops of these ancient strongholds.

     We headed for the town of Liscarroll.  On the way, we passed the Donkey Sanctuary.  This is apparently a home for rescued or homeless donkeys, and there were dozens of them grazing in the pasture alongside the road.
     When we came to Liscarroll, we found that there is a large castle right in the town.  It had four very high walls, and a padlocked iron gate.  There was a nice little park area just below the fortress wall.  A group of teenage boys hanging out there told us we could get the key from O'Brien's pub up in town; but unfortunately nobody was there, so we did not have success in entering.  We did, however, have a nice little picnic there in the park below the castle walls.  We had cheese, bread, and a bottle of good white wine.  Unfortunately, we had no corkscrew to open the wine with.  In my attempt to push the cork down into the bottle with a spoon, I managed to break off the neck of the bottle, leaving a sharp and jagged glass edge that looked like a weapon!  But fortunately, we could still pour the wine into our paper cups, and we kept the vicious looking wine bottle concealed so as not to scare the unwary!   

     We went on to Rathkeale, where we visited the Castle Matrix.  Again, this was a castle that was on the map, but very elusive to find.  We drove around the block about three times looking for it.  There was a signpost in town, but none once you get near the castle; we luckily glimpsed some stone ramparts sticking up above the trees and used this as our landmark to find the way.  We finally arrived around 5:00 pm.
     It was obvious that the castle had been renovated, there were glass windows, and it looked like somebody lived there.  We stood for some time in indecision; the castle was on the map and signposted, so it must be open to the public, but we didn't want to disturb the people who had made it their home.  After a while we got up the nerve to knock on the big wooden medieval-looking door, and a women came to the door.  And we embarked on another adventure!

Castle Matrix

     The woman invited us in, and told us some of the history of Castle Matrix.  It was a very old castle, nobody was sure when it was built.  Her now-deceased husband, Colonel John O'Driscoll, had renovated it about 25 years ago.  The woman proved to be very spiritual, very much into numerology and numeric relations, and indeed, somewhat spooky.  She brought us into the first-floor dining room.  We noticed that the light was very dim; indeed, there was no light inside the castle except for what came in through the deep-set windows.  The castle was renovated and modernized, but none of the electric lights were on, and there were candle sconces on the walls, all unlit.  We stood in this darkling room, full of authentic heavy wooden home furniture that had been donated from a monastery, and noticed that above the fireplace was an extensive collection of weapons: ancient swords, spears, crossbows, and those spiked balls at the end of a chain.  We felt a distinct sense of unreality.
     She offered us a tour of the castle, which sounded intriguing.  We told her yes, we would love to see the rest of it.  She said she would get her father to give us the tour, as he enjoyed showing people around.  She left us there and was gone a long time.
     Presently she returned, with her father.  He was very old, stooped and hunchbacked, and he had the distinctive trait that one eye could look at me and one eye look at Jineen, simultaneously!  His hands shook visibly, and he liked to use his hands to emphasize what he was saying, so this heightened the effect.  I could not help but be reminded of a gargoyle.  The music from The Adams Family kept running through my head.  He beckoned to us to follow him; he would show us around the castle.  Jineen and I looked at each other skeptically.  Was he going to show us the dungeon?  Would we ever be heard from again?
     Actually, once we got used to him, our guide, Anthony William Forrest, born in Canada, turned out to be an incredibly nice man.  He will be 89 years old this October.  He was very spry and active, and led us up the typical winding stone spiral staircase.  The rooms in the upper stories were behind big wooden doors with iron strap hinges, which he unlocked as we entered, and then locked again after us when we left.
     The castle was impeccably restored.  Everything was very authentic.  Huge wooden beams supported the ceilings on each story.  The floors were of flagstone and tile, and the walls were richly carved in many places.  The rooms had chandeliers of candles.  There was antique furniture from France, Germany, India and Yugoslavia.  There was a magnificent library upstairs, with thousands of books from all over the world.  There was fabulous furniture, antique, of heavy wood, with exquisite carving.  There was even a statue of Sir Walter Raleigh!
     Upstairs, there was a tiny room, formerly occupied by a man and his wife who had been the caretakers of the castle.  The room was very small, mostly taken up by the large wood-framed bed from India.  Anthony told us that the couple used to spend most of their time in that room.  When a car drove up, they would open the window and call down to find out what the visitor wanted, and if they wanted a tour, then the couple would go down and show them around.  Otherwise, they stayed in their room!  I was afraid to ask what had become of this couple!
     Up another floor, there was a private chapel.  The local Priest used to come and conduct services for the family right there in the castle.  There was a lovely old church bell with a pull rope, and we got to ring the bell!  Anthony also showed us a secret passageway where there were chains and shackles attached to the walls.  Ultimately, we came out on the roof, where we had a fabulous view in all directions.  We decided that this could be a good castle to live in!

     We set out on our way back towards Limerick, as sadly, we had a flight out of Shannon in the morning.  At 6:56 pm, just as we passed the famous Dunraven Arms in Adare, we met our driving objective, the odometer clicked over to 1046!  So subtracting the 46 on the car when we started, we had driven 1000 kilometers!
     We found great lodging not too far from the airport, at the Mooghaun Farmhouse.  We had dinner at a pub called The Monk's Well; the food was good, but it was very slow!  We still had a little daylight left, so we visited the Quin Friary.  An Englishman built it as a castle in the year 1280.  Six years later, in 1286, it was attacked and burned by the Irish.  It was turned into a Friary in 1433.  It stands right in town, with a little stream running by, and has a very peaceful atmosphere.  We sat there on the wall of this ancient place and watched the sunset fade to twilight, our last night in Ireland.  Until the next trip, that is!

Day 9, Tuesday         
     We got up early and headed to the Shannon Airport.  We returned the car with 1097 kilometers on the odometer, for a driving total of 1051.  We thought that was pretty good, though the grumpy guy we returned the car to at the rental place was not too impressed.  "What did you do to it?" he snapped.
     Generally Shannon is not a crowded airport, but because one of the major Irish airlines had closed down the day before, the lines were really long, and we barely made it to our flight in time.  As we hastily filled out the Customs and Immigration form, we saw that along with a whole list of rather vaguely worded questions about were you carrying large amounts of currency, any plants, live animals or foodstuffs, it specifically asked if we were carrying any snails!  So Jineen is an International Snail Smuggler!  And I guess that makes me her accomplice!  (
Perhaps once they have been sufficiently pickled, they would be considered escargots rather than snails.)

     As much as we enjoyed our trip, it is always nice to return home.  And this time, we had a special treat.  Melissa and the working students had painted the show jumps when we returned!  This was a delightful surprise; the jumps hadn't been painted in several years and sorely needed it, but we just hadn't had the time to get it done.  Where they found the time while we were gone, I don't know!  But they had done a fabulous job, getting very creative with color combinations, and had two lovely colorful courses set up on our return, one in the outdoor arena and one in the indoor.  So much thanks to Melissa, Erin, Kelly, Lin, Mariah and Emma for this wonderful surprise, and more importantly, for doing a great job of taking care of Windchase while Jineen and I were gone.

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