Cong Ireland: of Forests Primeval, Ruins and Emerald Waters: Day Eight Part Two  

Posted by Heidi

We reluctantly left behind the beauties of Lough Corrib and it's surroundings (see Day Eight Part One Here) and pulled into Cong, an idyllic town that straddles Counties Galway and Mayo.  I was delighted by the tidy gardens fronting the charming houses.  Below is a detail of the above picture treated to the dry brush application through Photo Shop.

There were so many houses I wanted to photograph but we had less than two hours to see all of Cong and there was just so much to see; I had to settle for a few shots on the run.  Cong is famous for being the city in which the movie The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara was filmed.  Much of it is still the same.

Around the corner from the house above was this view of the River Cong (or so I assume since we were on our own, i.e. tour-guideless, and this is the only river I can find a name for) which I have treated to the dry brush application.

It was difficult to decide which way to go but a riot of flowers always clears the mind.

Another darling house that I shot on the run.  I so wish that car hadn't been parked out front but this is somebody's dwelling place, after all.

Finally, we decided to head for St. Mary's Church, though Public Toilets were always a popular choice of mine the entire time we were in Ireland.  (Why are there two signs for the church?  We don't know.)

This square tower helps to date the church back to within the first hundred years or so after the Norman Conquest in 1066.  That makes this a very old church, indeed.

We walked around until we found the arched entrance.

Through one of the arches can be seen the square tower seen a few photos back.

Onward and upward.

One could smell the age clinging to the stones.

Back out in the inner courtyard was a graveyard.  One of the walls was punctuated with a series of archways.

Some of the grave sites had standing tombstones or crosses while others had markers that were flat against the ground.

This archway was incredibly detailed and beautiful.

I wish I knew what this row of arches signify.  They are too low for windows.

This row of arches are across the green from the ones pictured above.

A view of the far row from between the near one.

This side of the last door-sized arch is even prettier than the other.  The hours of labor and skill that went into this boggles the mind.

If you look closely you can see a little face in the bottom right corner of this photo.

An archway like this is pretty enticing.  So,we went through it.

What I didn't realize at the time was that I was now on the grounds of Cong Abbey.  This is the Monk Fish House, or the ruins of it, anyway.  Can't you just picture a monk sitting on the ledge, his sandaled feet dangling above the water?

I doubt this skiff is as old as the fish house but it made for a lovely photo.  The water here was gorgeous!

So, the monks back then were kind of short.  Since I have been home I have learned that one of the reasons why so many ruins in Ireland are roofless is b/c they were made of slate which is quite expensive and desirable--so they were sold (or taken).

These tree roots are reminiscent of Celtic knot work.  One can see how the roots of a Yew tree prompted so much art work.

I wish I had known at the time whose face (at the top of the arch) this was meant to be.

This face marks the burial place (generally--I don't know his precise burial location) of the last High King of Ireland,  Ruaidhri Ua Conchubair (in the Gaelic) or Rory O'Connor.  He is infamous for being a weak king who allowed Henry II to invade and take over.  Rory was expelled from his own kingdom (he gave up the high kingship in favor of a smaller one) by his own family and died at the abbey in Cong--where he was buried.  Again, if I had known, I would have looked for his grave.  However, being that it happened nearly 1,000 years ago, I suspect his exact resting spot is unknown.  (I'm voting for the car park.)

The back of the same wall.

The Monk Fish House through the trees.

This view is of King Rory's face again--I snapped it because all of this greenery made me think so much of Northern California where I have lived for most of my life.  In fact, in most of Ireland, I didn't feel as if I were in a foreign place at all.

Mary's comment just prior to taking this photo was "This is why I came to Ireland".  

At this point we were running out of time if we were going to get anything to eat.  We ran across the various bridges into the town proper and ordered up ice cream cones  from a store decorated with huge posters of the movie The Quiet Man.  The structure had originally been the bar in which a number of iconic scenes happen.  It looks totally different now, but I still wish I had taken it's photo.  I had time for one more picture of the Knock Your Socks of Hydrangeas before getting on the bus and heading out.

Next time:  A fishing port, a woolen mill and a gloriously beautiful graveyard.

Galway, Donegal and Connemara, Horses, Blue Skies and Cottages: My Trip To Ireland Day Eight Part One  

Posted by Heidi

Day Eight began with a trip into Galway.  Our tour guide explained to us that the floor at Galway Cathedral is made of the red (really orange) and green Connemara marble which is in very short supply.  These days it is produced into mostly jewelry and a few larger pieces such as vases and bookends.  We did not spend much time at the cathedral but I did get a photo of the floor (which really is beautiful).

Mary and I love churches but this one was built in the 1960's and didn't hold the same allure for us as most of the others we had seen.  We were far more interested in getting a better look at the fisherman we spotted standing in the River Corrib as we drove into town on the bridge above them.  It was really quite striking, much more so in person than in the photos.  The roar of the water was quite impressive and much bluer than it looks below.

Detail of the above photo (see the house to the right of the bright blue awning) given the dry brush treatment.

I think we were in Galway for all of 45 minutes.  We then headed into Donegal which had a very different vibe than any other Irish city we had visited.  Downtown was quite small but it had a variety of more modern style shops rather than traditional. We took very few photos here because we spent most of our time shopping and looking for gluten free food (I was feeling pretty food deprived, in general, by this point).

Donegal had some architecturally interesting buildings.

This blue one was a multi level clothing, jewelry and china store.

We were in Donegal for about an hour and a half (I think I had Irish Rocky Road for lunch--yum!) and then we headed for the little factory where Connemara marble jewelry is made.  We had a tour and I was very taken by this piece of tile that looks almost like a landscape painting.

The factory was really quite tiny and we walked through a narrow room that was lined with tables and workers on each side.  Many of them were high school aged kids.  We spent most of our time in the showroom but everything was far too expensive for our budget.  We hadn't been to Belleek yet and that was where I intended to drop most of my blunt (spend most of my money--hey, I write regency era books, doncha know) so we just looked.  Then we went across the street to the museum.  I thought that the vintage and antique pieces pictured below were far more interesting than the ones currently for sale.

The museum smelled like heaven thanks to the peat fire that was going.  Note the angel face set into the niche on the right.

Dry brush version of angel face detail . . .

Another room featured this glorious statue of Mary and the Christ Child.  I am not Catholic, nor were my ancestors (in short, it is not in my blood) but I do think this is beautiful.

I couldn't resist snapping a picture of some dried out peat logs to show the Irishman I married.  After all, peat logs ARE in HIS blood.

We then drove to this lovely spot where there was enough room for the coach to pull over and we could get out and take photos.  It was a glorious half hour and I took way more photos than perhaps I should have.  However, this looked exactly the way I have always pictured Ireland to look.  So little of it actually does, at least not the parts we spent most of our time in.  We were happy to see all that we did but Mary and I would love to rent a cottage right about here and live in it for at least a month.  (Actually, Mary said that if someone would just toss her some food a few times a day, she would literally live right here.)

Dry brush version of a detail of the photo above . .  .

I just love the photo above but I think I love this one below even more.  She is surrounded by so much beauty and yet she is still the most beautiful thing in the picture.  It was a half hour of pure happiness for her.  One of the horses came up and actually licked her camera.  She was in heaven.

Here is some of the gang taking photos while I was taking photos of the pink house behind the tree (natch).

Dry brush version of detail of the above photo . ..

Really, we would have been happy to stay right here . .

It would have been so fun to just hop on its back and gallop away.  (Next time:  Cong--the city in which The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara was filmed.)