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Lazy, Rainy Sunday in Limerick

This entry is part of a series, Ireland 2009»

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This morning dawned gray and damp, which means it was later than normal before the birds began chirping outside our window. In fact it was nearly 4 A.M. before the serenade began! I guess they stayed in the pub too late or something, and just couldn’t bring themselves to start at 3:30 like the previous mornings.

Paula Jo slept straight through the raucous music. I got up and looked over some of the photos she’d rated, then decided I needed a nap. It was nearly 6 A.M. by then, so you can see how I’d need a few more winks. Had to get my rest, as we planned to tour Limerick, the birthplace of my favorite poetry!

Once we finally got going the day went smoothly. We leisurely prepared for the scheduled afternoon’s tour of Limerick city by making it to breakfast late and then taking our time over all the goodies. PJ wanted Irish oatmeal, but they didn’t have that and brought her porridge instead. Our server was a cute young lady, very Hibernian in appearance, with a beautiful accent and a quick smile. She even had the stereotypical red hair! Which makes her family, of course.

We walked down and back through the village after that, simply to enjoy the Sunday morning quiet. The church bells rang, and that was about all the sound you could hear; even the birds were hiding or napping by then. It was still misty, and we used an umbrella for the first time on our trip.

Limerick Cathedral Organ

With a couple hours before John was scheduled to stop by, we decamped to our lovely suite and chilled out. Paula Jo sorted pictures and I read more of Pratchett’s “Wintersmith.” She made me read out loud, again. She’s now officially hooked on Pratchett’s Discworld, as Jessi and I have been for years. I fully expect her to download several Audible editions as soon as we get home!

We returned to the lobby of the Dunraven just as John was arriving out front. In a couple of mintues we were off to Limerick to see how much trouble we could get into what we could see. The day wasn’t that promising for pictures, with lots of gray clouds and occasional sprinkles. God washes Ireland right often, though, and we’d had more than our fair share of great photo weather so far. (Besides, I own Photoshop, and I’m not afraid to use it!)

We began with a driving tour of the new University in Limerick. A great place, with lots of very modern buildings. At least everything we saw looked functional, unlike some of the architectural abominations structures we saw at Trinity College in Dublin. Some of the architects didn’t even visit the site, before or after their building was completed! Sad. But I digress.

Access to the University is very good, and there are special buses that run to bring students. Lots of amenities too, including restaurants and banks, right on campus. A very progressive learning environment. (I wonder if they need a retread chemist? Hhmmm…)

We next found Limerick Cathedral and shot way too many photos of that fine edifice. I ran around like a two-bit floozie running through five pubs, double-parked and overworked. Man, that’ll get your appetite all in a tizzy! Even PJ decided we needed a snack next, to tide us over. Say, about 4,500 calories or so. Each.

Guinness Table

Man, I have GOT to get me one of these…

John knew just the place, downtown along the canal. The Oyster House and Locke Pub is an active and popular taphouse, even on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The sign promised Guinness, so I was game to give it a try. The seating area had a really intriguing table: A pour-it-yourself set of taps! Guinness from one, for those who like stout ale; and Carlsberg pilsner for those wimps who have no taste who prefer lighter potations. I tried to find out where to order one, but the barkeep wouldn’t tell me.

We settled in and ordered drinks all ’round, then worked through the menu deciding on our snack. John chose a ham sandwich, I had the soup and sandwich special and PJ had creamy Spaghetti Bolognese. My soup was a very tasty tomato basil, but not as great overall as we had dined on at the Wild Geese. (Then again, there are probably only three places in the world that can match that place’s tomato basil soup, and none can exceed it. Leastways, that’s my opinion.) PJ’s pasta dish was intriguing, as we seldom make creamy tomato sauces for our Italian dinners. I was informed, firmly, that we would be trying more such sauces in the near future. I made a note in my traveling book and we moved on.

To settle our lunch we walked across the street from the pub to an old Protestant church and school. This was another great photo opportunity. The weather was breaking up a bit, but still lots of dark clouds around. Maybe enough blue sky to make a Dutchman’s britches, but I don’t know if that counts in Ireland.

Limerick Church

The churchyard had lots of interesting burial crypts and graves, well maintained as such things go in Ireland. Lots of history. The church wasn’t always Protestant, of course, given Irish religious history. So some of the city’s notables, of both religions, lie sleeping together peacefully in the yard south of the chapel, along a portion of the ancient fortifications of Limerick.

Limerick WallI mentioned to John that it was interesting that such a mixture of graves was to be found next to a Protestant Church. He said it wasn’t abnormal, though. Then he pointed out that it was about the only way to get Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants to tolerate each other, waiting until they died and then burying them together.

We walked a couple of blocks over and entered the ground of King John’s Castle, a 13th century fort on an island in the Shannon. King John was lord of all Ireland at one point, and as such he had the right and privilege to mint coins. He had the fort built beginning in 1200, and in doing so he buried many Viking houses and structures. Restoration and archeological investigations are ongoing.

This castle, unlike others in Ireland, saw plenty of action over the centuries. In 1642, the Great Siege of the English trapped in the castle by the Confederate Irish Army under General Barry lasted for several weeks, with the English finally ceding the castle as starvation devastated the defenders and sappers brought down several walls of the fort.

There are stories that the English were well-treated at first, but then later tortured and drowned in a massacre that saw only one survivor. Indeed, English reports at the time said over 150,000 English across Ireland had been killed, which was more than there were English in Ireland at the time.

These purported massacres ultimately led to the Cromwellian punishment and subjugation of Ireland a few years on. Limerick Castle saw battle in that campaign as well. King William of England, in 1690-91, also campaigned in Ireland after yet another uprising of the population. (You’d think they’d learn.) He sent General Douglas to lay siege to Athlone, while he marched on Limerick and King John’s Castle. Douglas was repulsed after only seven days at Athlone, so he marched to support his king.

William’s artillery train was blown up by the Irish insurgent general, Patrick Sarsfield, in a momentous foray against the English foe. Sarsfield became a national hero that day. Later he would die in France, after the English won in Ireland and expelled the Irish combatants and their families. Indeed, that great exodus produced the Wild Geese, the mercenary Irish who could fight with any army in the world but Ireland’s, or against the English, as part of the peace settlement after the Williamite expeditions.

Great, sad history. No wonder the Irish are so combative at times! John reminded me that God invented the Irish to rule the world, but then the Irish invented whisky. Seems true to me!

Castle Turret

We walked all the battlements and the grounds, which are most interesting. When we’d seen pretty much everything, and taken way too many photos, we withdrew to the gift shop to catch a breather and pump up the Irish economy some more. Trinkets galore, and somehow neither Paula nor I could resist buying “just a few more things.” As we paid and packed our boodle into PJ’s backpack, I groaned at the thought of getting all this stuff through Security at the airports. Oh well. And did I mention that Paula’s backpack is hers in name only? Guess who carried it. But only when it got heavy, of course.

The main museum in downtown Limerick was closed, unfortunately. We walked a bit along the Shannon, then toured through the business district. Rain was settling back in, and we decided to call it a day. We headed off to Adare, where we drove through the Manor grounds along the way and looked at the new houses being built. If you have few million Euros lying around loose, you could pick up one of these domiciles. Right on the golf course!

The tour of Limerick was nice, and polished off a lovely Sunday in Ireland. We never found where the Limerick was invented, though…

Enjoy the (Rainy Poetic City) Heat!

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