On Thursday of our week together in Galway, many of us went horseback riding.
That afternoon we took family pictures and after a wet morning, it was thankfully sunny and dry for the pictures. It took about two hours and not every picture was a winner.
We did have some nice pictures though!
Patrick and Danny were especially excited to find snails in the courtyard during the photo shoot.
That night, my brother Paudh cooked an amazing feast for our large crowd. We had lots to eat, including peas with leeks and mushrooms.
There were shrimp with a citrus herb vinaigrette.
Everyone joined in, singing songs, playing the piano and guitar, reciting poems, and dancing to the music.
Two teachers in the group, Paudh’s wife Amy and Brian’s girlfriend Alyse, led us in interactive songs with hand and leg motions.
For this special occasion, Annie, Katie, Colleen did a one-time reunion of “The Lidity” a musical performance group they had created about 15 years ago. They sang and danced an original and hilarious composition about our trip.
It was such a fun night with many songs of fighting and loving and dying and drinking. Mom cried a lot, with every sad and sentimental song. We ended the night singing “The Parting Glass” but not really, since the singing and drinking kept going for another hour or two.
The next day, Brian and I and the boys went to see our Keenan relatives, living not far from the castle where my family was staying. We went to the home of Martin and Mary Keenan. They live across a field from their daughter Geraldine, her husband Tom and their two daughters. In the pictures below, Geraldine and Tom’s house is on the upper left and Martin and Mary’s home is on the upper right and below.
Brian’s great, great grandfather John was born on this property. When he was 16 years old, John walked 40 miles to Galway, got on a boat to Boston, settled in Columbus, Ohio, and started a furniture upholstery business. He got married, had about five kids, and lived the rest of his life in Ohio. Three of his sons – John, Peter, and George – moved to Chicago when John the son was about 17. The brothers invented a device to pump beer faster from a keg. The brothers were very successful selling the device and turned it into a manufacturing business. They branched out and began helping to set up bars in Chicago, selling counters, cabinets, tables and chairs, glassware, etc. to new bars. The business flourished and over time the brothers expanded and diversified into other fields and products, which helped them survive once prohibition began. John (son of John who had left Ireland) had five kids and lived in Chicago. One of his sons, William, is Brian’s paternal grandfather who married Genevieve, a Chicago girl. Behind Martin and Mary’s house is an old cottage, now used for farm storage, where Brian’s great, great grandfather John was born.
Brian’s great, great grandfather John left Ireland and John’s brother Martin stayed in Ireland. While one brother made a life in the United States, the other did so in Ireland, and the two never saw each other again. Brian’s dad John and Martin (whose home we visited) are the great grandchildren of those two brothers John and Martin.
Here’s a photo of the grave of Martin who stayed in Ireland, along with graves of his descendants.
We had a nice visit with Martin and Mary and their son in law Tom who is a detective in Galway. Their daughter Geraldine and two granddaughters were out of town. Patrick wasn’t loving the idea of group photos, but we did it anyway.
Patrick and Danny had fun playing with the Keenan tractor. Martin gave Brian a piece of the building where John, Brian’s great great grandfather, had been born.
We said goodbye to our Keenan relatives and went to meet the rest of the Collins clan at Ashford Castle for a guided “hawk walk” with birds from the castle’s falconry school.
Danny and Patrick brought with them the stuffed animal falcon Brian had bought them in Dubai last year.
Before going on a walk in the woods with the hawks, our guide taught us a little about the different birds at the castle. He showed us peregrine falcons which can move at a speed of 247 mph making them the fastest animal on earth. The falcons have very strong beaks and can dive at high speeds to chase food. They are raptors which means they kill their prey with their claws. Peregrine falcons are commonly used in the sport of falconry, which has been practiced for over 4,000 years.
We met Dingle, a four pound Eurasian eagle owl. Our guide told us that the idea of a wise owl is false and owls are actually lazy and not smart. An owl’s head can rotate up to 270 degrees.
Next we met the Harris hawks which would accompany us on our walk in the woods. At only four months old, the birds can begin training in falconry. The hawks at Ashford Castle eat raw pieces of beef, chicken, quail, mice, rat, and pigeon, as the birds need a varied diet reflective of what they would eat in the wild. The birds are weighed daily to ensure they maintain healthy weight and eat an appropriate amount. The hawks only get live food when they are hunting for food, and are not fed live food in captivity.
The Harris hawks at Ashford Castle are from Arizona and Texas. The females are dominant and larger than males. The birds have no loyalty and are only interested in food. Our guide warned not to pet the birds, especially when the hawks are eating, but told us not to worry about the beak since the birds don’t use their beaks to attack and aren’t interested in people anyway.
Here’s my brother Matt with Inca, a male hawk, and Matt’s wife Noura with Saura, a female hawk.
Lowering a gloved hand tells the hawk to fly away, leaving the arm of its handler. Holding up a gloved hand, with a closed fist, tells the hawks to come back, since the hawks know there will be food in that fist. As soon as the hawk landed on our forear, we opened our fist and the hawk had a little snack. Danny and Patrick were convinced that the food for the hawks was the butts of rats, cows, and chicken, and not any other body parts.
The boys were fascinated by the hawks. When it was Brian’s turn with the hawks, I started to take Kevin from the baby backpack Brian was wearing. The guide said not to worry, since Kevin was on Brian’s back and not his front. So we left Kev with Brian and they both enjoyed seeing the hawks closeup. My dad skipped handling the hawks in favor of walking with my sister Nora’s three week old baby, Barrett, sleeping bundled up in a blanket and inside my dad’s coat.
After we left Ashford Castle, we explored the town of Cong, just outside of the castle gates and famous as the place where the movie “The Quiet Man” was filmed.
We did a little souvenir shopping and had drinks at a pub in the town.
We also explored the ruins of the Cong Abbey.
We walked past a fisherman carrying a large fish he had just caught. The boys asked him if they could look at the fish, and he let the boys hold it. After having caught nothing on our own fishing adventures, the boys were thrilled to hold and see this big fish up close!
That night, our last night together, we all had dinner at a restaurant in Barna. Somehow the waiters got the idea that it was my mom’s birthday and they gave Brian a cake to deliver to her.
Danny loved seeing and snuggling with baby Barrett and Kevin had fun with his socks on his hands!
It was another delicious and hearty meal!
The boys, all four of them, were being silly as we left the restaurant.
We went back to the castle to finish packing and getting organized to leave the next day. In the morning, we had breakfast and got ready to hit the road, saying goodbye to the rest of the family who was heading back to Dublin for their flight back to Chicago.
Having said our goodbyes and hugged everyone, we left the castle and started driving south towards Cobh, stopping to visit the Celtic Crystal factory and watching a craftsman make an intricate design on a glass bowl.
We had lunch at Papa John’s, since that’s not an option in Paraguay, and continued our drive. We arrived in Cobh and checked-in to our hotel over looking the harbor and St. Colman’s Cathedral. A cruise ship was docking.
We went for a walk around the town. We saw signs, denoting the “Titanic Trail” pointing out interesting and historical sites around the town.
We walked to St. Colman’s Cathedral, anchoring the town skyline. Ground broke on the cathedral in 1868, though work was not completed until 1916.
When we showed Danny the statute of St. Daniel and a lion at the cathedral, he was ecstatic to finally see something with his own name, sick of seeing so many things named Patrick.
We didn’t tell him (or Patrick) about the even larger St. Patrick statue on the top of the cathedral.
It is a beautiful church.
The cathedral overlooks the harbor where the Titanic made its last stop in 1912 to pick up passengers before its ill-fated attempted crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. Below is a picture of the cathedral cornerstone and a sign on the side of the cathedral.
Cobh has a museum dedicated to the Titanic and a memorial to commemorate the Lusitania passenger ship, sunk off the coast of Ireland in 1915 by a German bomb. Rescue and recovery efforts were based in Cobh and many recovered bodies are buried in the town cemetery.
The picture below, taken from the deck of the Titanic, shows the dock at Cobh with the cathedral in the background, though the spires had not yet been installed.
Here are photos of the of Titanic before it left Cobh.
The main street in Cobh still looks much the same as it did a century ago.
We enjoyed walking around the town. Though the temperature was in the 50s, Danny said to us, “Don’t you guys think it’s really hot out?” We told him we did not think it was hot out. He insisted it was hot. It turns out he saw an ice cream vendor up ahead and after Dan remembered Brian denying Dan’s request for ice cream because it was a cold day, Danny thought he was sure to get ice cream if he complained how hot he was. Nice try, Dan.
We had a great dinner. I had mussels and scallops, but didn’t eat the bread pudding that came with the scallops.
The next morning, we got our luggage all packed and organized for our trip back to Paraguay. As we loaded up the car, Danny and Patrick were fighting and Brian stepped between them to stop the fight. As he did, he fell and sprained his ankle in parking lot. I don’t know how to drive stick shift, much less on the wrong side of the road, and thankfully Brian was still able to drive. We hit the road for Waterford.
As we arrived at the Waterford factory, we discovered that Kev had a disastrous diaper situation requiring a wardrobe change. Not wanting to dress him in the clean clothes we were saving in case of any soiled clothes during our flights, we dug around in our suitcases for his cleanest dirty clothes and got him dressed again.
We had warned Patrick and Danny ahead of time and repeatedly not to touch anything in the store. Thankfully they listened. And we kept Kevin confined in the stroller. The boys like seeing the Waterford sports trophies.
We saw Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington DC themed pieces, and a $32,000 Cinderella carriage. The boys pretended to be a bear, while standing next to a large crystal bear.
We headed back to Dublin along the eastern coast of the country.
We retuned our rental car, checked in for our flight, and Brian and I had one last Guinness at the airport. We grabbed chicken nuggets for the boys. Our flight to London was delayed almost an hour.
When we landed in London we ran through the airport. Even though our next flight was leaving from the same terminal where we had arrived, it was still a long way to the gate. We had to run quite a distance, go through security again, take a train, and take several escalators. Danny kept saying, “I’m trying my very best to hurry up to the gate.” Danny also stopped to do push ups because he said the exercise would help him go faster. Brian, with his sprained ankle, hobbled through the airport.
Thankfully, the airline held the plane, though not for us. A passenger intending to take the flight from London to Brazil had lost his passport somewhere in the airport after passing security. The airline wouldn’t let him board the flight and it took quite awhile to locate and remove his luggage from the plane. We were very glad to have made the flight, otherwise we would have had to wait another day for the next flight to Brazil. It was a long 12-hour flight but the kids were great and slept most of the way.
Our flight left London about 45 minutes late but we only landed in São Paulo about 10 minutes late. We had just under two hours to catch our connecting flight home to Paraguay. We had to grab our bags and run to the gate to check in for the new flight. Unfortunately, we arrived at the check-in counter two minutes after they closed check in for our flight. We tried to plead our case, but I think the airline had already given away our seats so we were out of luck. The airline said the earliest they could get us to Paraguay would be Wednesday night, maybe. They were very unhelpful. In the end, on Brian’s suggestion, the airline sold us tickets that would get us to Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, just across the border from Paraguay. That flight was seven hours away, but at least would get us home that night. We walked all over the São Paulo airport and we made Patrick and Danny do school work while we waited for our flight.
On our flight, we flew over the hydroelectric Itaipu Dam on the Brazil-Paraguay border.
We got our luggage and took a taxi across the wide open and completely unsecured border to Ciudad del Este, for our flight to Asuncion. The kids were exhausted and all fell asleep on me during the taxi ride.
At the Ciudad del Este airport, the boys were excited to see drug dogs, donated to Paraguay by the U.S. Embassy.
We boarded the flight to Asuncion and Dan threw up everywhere as soon as we sat down in our seats. Thankfully the flight wasn’t full, so we were able to switch seats.
By the time we got home, we were all destroyed. Kev was so happy to be in his own crib and snuggling with his own things. Next morning, Danny woke up with a fever. Patrick was excited to go back to school and see his friends. Brian, who was having trouble walking, went to the doctor who told him he had a severe ankle sprain. It took weeks for it to heal!
We had an amazing time in Ireland and are so grateful to my parents for this trip and the chance to spend time with everyone.