Ireland: Meeting Family

Serious procrastination has been going on.  I decided last November that I would finish writing about our Ireland trip we took almost two years ago.

It didn’t happen!  I decided to share about our last few days in a big (looong) recap.  We saw some of the most gorgeous places and met up with another McAlpine family.

Friday, October 5, 2012

We started our day in Knock, in County Mayo toward the western coast of Ireland.

Knock is a Catholic pilgrimage site of an apparition of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and Saint John the Evangelist.

We visited the shrine and a museum where we learned about the stories of the 15 people who claimed to witness the apparition.

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We were very excited for the rest of our day, driving further west to Castlebar — to meet the Irish McAlpine family!

Mike and Jean went to Ireland a few years before our trip and had met up with distant relatives, Mike and Rita McAlpine.  Our Mike McAlpine and their Mike Mcalpine’s distant-grandpas (not sure how many greats) were brothers. One brother stayed in Ireland while the other brother emigrated to Canada.  Connecting with them was one of the big highlights of our trip.

We visited their home where we drank tea, chatted, and learned all about their family.

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They were so incredibly welcoming.  I loved Rita’s energy — she was so warm and friendly and fed us incredible leftover wedding cake.  The first thing she told me was that she loved my purple and gray tennis shoes.  I laughed when I saw that their bathroom walls were the same purple color.

Mike was more quiet and reserved — it was really interesting talking with him about their home and farmland.  Space is a lot more scarce in Ireland so farms and fields aren’t much more than a few acres.

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We chatted with Mike and Rita’s children as well.  We were incredibly surprised to find out that one of their daughter’s was on her 9th month of PAID maternity leave.  Between paid maternity leave from the government and her employer, she wasn’t going back to work until her baby was one year old!  Awesome.

Their family loved traveling so we heard about their trips, including to the U.S. One of their favorite things about the our country? Kohl’s!  They were jealous that I get to work right across from one.

After a long chat, we took a drive.

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We drove down the tiniest, windy-est roads yet and found the plot of land where an old McAlpine ancestral home used to sit.

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An older woman joined us because she grew up there and could remember some of the homes and families.

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We loved seeing this little plot of land.  Not much was left besides a few stones but it was very inspiring to think about distant McAlpine relatives living right here.

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After we were done, we thanked the McAlpine’s for sharing their time and family stories with us.  We were so grateful to spend time with them and make a meaningful connection to the country we were visiting.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

The next day, we drove to Clifden with some great photo ops along the way.

Pictures like these make me miss Ireland so much!

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Goofy people, gotta love them.

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We knew that we wanted to make a stop at Kylemore Abbey.

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This was a great place to visit!  The castle was built by Mitchell Henry in 1867.  It was eventually bought by Benedictine nuns and converted into an abbey and boarding school.

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Can you imagine going to school here?  It’s no longer a school but the nuns still live here while the buildings and walled gardens are open to tourists.

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We made it to Clifden and our jaws dropped for these incredible views along Sky Road.

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Clifden Castle was a fun stop — one of the least restored castles we had seen.

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We also visited this church where we found our last name!  A McAlpine priest was buried in the cemetery and his name was in one of the stained glass windows.

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That night we visited a few pubs in town so we could hear live music.  We listened to two younger guys play guitar and banjo.  We requested a couple songs. We asked if they knew Grace, a song about Grace Gifford who was married in Kilmainham Gaol a few hours before her husband was executed — the story we learned about during our time in Dublin.  We also asked if they knew McAlpine’s Fusiliers.  (Apparently this part of the Ireland trip was all about finding connections to our name.)

The two boys didn’t know the songs, but we hopped across the street to another pub where the players knew them!  They played both of them for us, and we couldn’t have been happier.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

The next day we had an extra special breakfast at our B&B!  The owner, who was very funny and energetic, cooked us delicious crepes.  I really enjoyed them and discovered the wonderful combo of crepes topped with Nutella, yogurt, and strawberries.

I would love to make that combination again, but I’m afraid to buy a jar of Nutella — no self-control around that stuff.

Our itinerary for that day was simple – see the Cliffs of Moher and get into Shannon so that we could fly out the next day.

The Cliffs were incredible. And chilly. It was oh-so-cold and windy so we power-walked and took pictures quickly.

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Windy pete!

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I’m realizing my pictures don’t do the cliffs any justice.  They were gorgeous and a great final sight for our incredible Ireland trip.

These days I’m having fun remembering our Ireland adventures and thinking we need to go back. For now we’ll fondly remember the trip and all of our favorite parts – green landscapes, beautiful castles, delicious rustic foods (the butter), friendly folks, and family.  If we’re lucky, we’ll go back someday and enjoy it all again!

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