Riding Vacation in Ireland: Day 3

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004
As you may recall, I told you yesterday that we were mounted on the most fabulous hunt horses. Tuesday is Hunt Day in Coounty Birr so my “Single friends” and I had a free day. Many of the saddle-weary opted for a day at the spa.

Some luxuriated in the hydrobaths resplendent with various salts. Sore muscles were refreshed on the massage tables, chipped nails were appropriately repaired, and many went shopping.

One group chose to spend the day in Tullamore and told me they had a “grand time of it!”

The group I went with spent the day with the loveliest hackney driver, affectionately named Uncle Seamus by “his girls.” I am sure the folks at Cross Country International who arranged our trip never anticipated the tremendous bond which has developed among so many of us. I personally have never placed shopping at the top of my entertainment list; however, this trip has made a convert out of me.

We decided to travel to Galway, and Seamus regaled us with stories and points of interest along the way. We stopped for an hour to explore an old abbey and were amazed at the architecture and craftsmanship. We felt the spirituality of the environment and kept our conversations to a minimum so we could drink it all in.

Once in Galway we ate at a lovely little pub and started the shopping experience with gusto. Anne and Dianne gave new meaning to “varsity shopping.” But each of the little shops was quite special–the clerks took their time with us and chatted, giving us a bit of the history of the shop and the areas.

Dianne bought a beautiful royal blue handknit jacket from Anne O’Maille’s Sweater Shop. You may not remember Anne, but she was on “Oprah” explaining her involvement with the cottage industry in Ireland. Anne gave all of us a complete explanation of each stitch and who made each sweater. She was very instructional, but the biggest kick was watching Seamus sit on the stool and watch us model the clothes. He was very diplomatic and I can only attribute his demeanor to his Irish heritage and 25 years of marriage to the same woman.

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We wandered from shop to shop experiencing friendly repartee from everyone we met.

At last Kathy, Dianne and I made our way to T. Dillon’s on Quay St. This is the home of the original Claddagh Ring. The cozy shop had the complete history of the gold rings, as well as original handwritten notes from royals (Princess Grace, Prince Edward) and United States presidents and statesmen, including John Kennedy. This shop is the only place in the world that still sells the original Claddagh ring. Once I heard that, a beautiful gold ring just jumped onto my finger (turned in the appropriate direction)–and since it would not come off–I had to buy it. I promised the lovely lady who sold it to me that if it worked I would be back to let her know.

The ride home was quiet, but once back at Kinnitty Castle the ladies changed and headed to the local pubs. We finished up the evening (actually the morning in the Dungeon bar. I’d like to let you know what went on there — but… what goes on in the Dungeon Bar stays in the Dungeon Bar. I’ll just let you know that we invented a new drink and wore out three bartenders!

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