Sunday June 21st
Like a scene from a fairytale I called to the Globerollers through an open window, "Hello, fair ladies, where art thou?" Curtains blowing in the cool Irish breeze and sun shining down they emerged through the window and greeted me with cheer and glee and all was well....
Okay, so that's not exactly how it went down. Actually, I was freaking out after the clock hit 11:30 am and I was scheduled to meet the girls at this address at 11:00.. So for about 30 min and no sign of them I began creeping in windows, formulating a plan B, and crossing my fingers that these two goobers would come out and meet me. With no cell service we rely on wifi for communication .. and there wasn't any to be found. There was no way for me to get in the building to look for them and no one coming in and out to talk to. At one point during my window creeping I noticed an open window with a pair of tie-dyed cut off jean shorts clearly drying on the windowsill. These shorts were screaming Madeline's name, I thought "No one in Ireland owns a pair of shorts like those, they must be hers!" but I didn't have the courage to approach the window any closer than from across the street in fear that if I was wrong I ran the risk of being arrested for suspicious behavior in my first hour in Ireland haha. In the end, it was a young local neighbor that I worked up the courage to speak to that assured me that in fact the tie-dyed shorts did indeed belong to the Globerollers and that was their window, my instinct was correct! So.. Not as eloquently as proposed in the opening line of this entry, I approached the window and said "Yo!" Seconds later I was greeted through the window by Madeline's smiling face, green eyes bright with curiosity and excitement as to who might be calling to them from the street and I was relieved, calmed, and also very excited to have found the Globerollers.
Ah yes, who am I? I'm Tim, an old friend of Madeline's from Silver Bay YMCA on Lake George, NY. A place where we met during tennis lessons a few years ago and a place that we each hold dear in our hearts for the many fond memories it has given us living life in the moment under the stars of endless summer nights on the lake. We realized a few weeks ago that we both planned to be traveling in Ireland coincidently the same exact week! So, here we are. I have the distinct and honorable pleasure of being the third wheel of the infamous Globerollers for the Irish leg of their European Tour. We are blessed with a slick, loaded, jet black rental car that I snagged a good deal on and will be the primary means of travel all over our tour of Ireland as there are very limited trains or buses that could cover the amount of distanced we plan to. I admit it is strange driving on the other side of the car and on the other side of the road as I have never done this but I am a solid driver and I'll figure it out. Since neither of Globerollers have ever driven a car nor know how to I am confident there will be few instances of backseat driving if I drive us into head on traffic a few times haha, they won’t know any better.
Despite an almost near miss at the meeting spot in the morning, the day went really smooth and wonderful! We spent the afternoon on Howth peninsula outside of Dublin exploring Howth village. We admired the gorgeous Irish coastline overlooking several islands off shore. The views framed the quintessential coastline and shore homes overlooking the water. In Howth there was a cool boardwalk/wall that let to the end of the peninsula. It was a bumpy start but once we got out on it was accessible for the girls but really rocky and bumpy.
After the afternoon in Howth we checked in to the Charles Stewart BnB in Dublin that I believe the girls booked on booking.com. We were greeted by a bearded mumbling attendee who helped me get Roxy up the inaccessible stairs to enter the building. We checked in, found our room and overall were pretty satisfied with the room. In the evening we hit up Grafton street at around 11:00 pm and it was dead quiet on a Sunday night. But we managed to find the only bar open and it was a very cool spot with a rocking live band. We were stopped by the bouncer and Madeline was forced to remove her blades. The bouncer insisted and then tried to ease our disappoint by telling us that at least he let us in at all. Not sure what he meant by that? Like he was considering not letting us in at all for some reason, not sure? We had a great time there and rocked out to the band until they finish their set and made her way back to the BnB.
Monday June 22nd
In the morning for breakfast, things got tricky. The only way down to the cafeteria area was down a very sketchy stairwell, very steep, narrow and had a corner on it. With the help of burly biker looking man we got Roxy down the stairs in her chair and enjoyed a very good massive family style breakfast. Getting up the stairs was harder, there was no one left at all in the area so we did it with no help. Madeline and I were able to ease Roxy up slowly one stair at a time and we peaced out of there. With the rest of the day we visited St Patrick's Church which was very accessible with a lift. Madeline tried to ride the lift with Roxy to help balance her out but the lift attendant insisted that she wasn't allowed to despite them fitting with plenty of room to spare and being under the weight limit of the lift. St Patrick's was beautiful, very tourist friendly and I highly recommend stopping in there if in Dublin. We then did some shopping and errands at the Jervis mall area. Madeline didn't even try to wear her blades in the mall as she assumed from prior experience they would give her a hard time. Lastly, we ended the day trying to tour around and visit Kilmainham Gaol (historic prison) but arrived there 15 min too late for the last tour. It was a little sad but probably for the best as it is an old prison and likely has no ramps and lots of stairs. From Dublin we headed 2 hrs west towards the coastline. We arrived at an AirBnB booking just outside of Galway, Ireland. The booking advertised as a cozy chalet in the countryside but it was so much more! We were greeted by the host and his family and made immediately to feel like one of their own. Their farmhouse was beautiful with horses, cows, dogs, koi pond, and more, we were all in heaven! The chalet was very small but accessible and the host even got us a patio chair for the shower to sit comfortably. All we needed was there for us and more! Once we settled in we went into Galway and had a delicious meal on Quay St. at Gemelles Restaurant. The restaurant was accessible and very accommodating seating us at a convenient table and the meal was excellent.
Tuesday June 23rd
We had a comfortable sleep and woke up to explore Galway and the area more. Before we left the farm we were sure to spend more time with Kate (hosts daughter who was smitten with the idea of a few young travelers to talk to). Madeline gave her a ukulele lesson, she gave me a hurling lesson (she's a total jock, really good) and Roxy spent more quality time with the horses. We absolutely cherished our time in the beautiful countryside and were sad to leave but needed to press on to the next adventure. When we inquired about seeing some sites in the area in Galway we were too late to see anything so we decided to take it as a sign and use the time to chill and relax a bit. So day 2 was spent having a lazy day lying in the grass, eating gelato, and catching some rays in the sun. We had some amazing bagel sandwiches from a shack on the center quad for lunch. They were literally gourmet, so delicious. I had a pizza style bagel with fresh tomatoes, cheese, and pesto, and a pastrami style with sauerkraut topping (had to get two!). The girls had a salmon bagel sandwich that was divine. When the time was right we said goodbye to Galway which we liked a lot and drove about and an hour southeast to East Clare Golf Village in Clare County that Roxy found on booking.com. As we arrived at this beautiful golf resort we were very hopeful that it would be comfortable and almost luxurious judging by the buildings pulling in. Everything was brand new and fully furnished (like a resort timeshare) complete with TV, 2 full baths, full kitchen, and 2 queen sized bedrooms, it was loaded with amenities. The only problem, which was a big one, was that both the bedrooms were up about 12 stairs. There was only a sofa couch on the lower level, which we found out after checking in is meant for anyone unable to climb stairs. We made the booking just 2 days before and got a great deal, 45 euro for the whole place. As Roxy always does she requested an accessible wheelchair room. Apparently, all were booked solid and we couldn't move into one that night which was information not available to us when making the reservation. Roxy was understandably not thrilled but we liked the place so much and there was a full bath upstairs that it came down to sleeping on the sofa or in a comfy bed upstairs. We elected to boost Roxy up the stairs when it was bedtime and down in the morning and that was the trade off for the very luxurious accommodations. It worked out just fine in the end and we chose to actually stay a second night there since all our stuff was thrown about everywhere and we had a really early wake up call the next morning to make it the ferry in Doolin, where we had tickets to visit the Aran Islands.
Wednesday June 24th
I was able to get the girls in the car on time at about 8 am with lots of coffee, tea, and warm cheesy scrambled eggs warm and ready as they scratched their eyes and stretched their bodies awake at the breakfast table. We arrived at the ferry an hour and half away and found out that it was less of a traditional ferry as we know them and more of an old, small, very small fishing boat. The boat had zero accessibility for Roxy and they absolutely refused to allow Madeline on with her blades. We tried hard but they firmly threatened to kick her off the boat if she didn't take them off. Once we got Roxy onto the boat over the narrow on ramp which was studded with rails so impossible for her to roll over we were limited to about a 10x10 area on the deck of the ship holding on for dear life trying not to let Roxy roll over board haha. Roxy really had to use the restroom but it was truly impossible as the stairs to get below deck were far too narrow and steep and wet, forgot to mention it was cold and rainy the whole time. I really didn't have any confidence in my ability to carry her down the stairs into the restroom without her chair let alone her in it. Navigating around the boat was that treacherous. Somehow after a very nauseating and cold 1 hr 30 min journey we made it to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore, and immediately took cover in the nearest restaurant. It was here that Roxy and I managed to find the most magnificent work of art we may ever have witnessed! It came in the form of lunch, we ordered steak sandwiches that came served on multigrain toast with greens inside and garlic mayonnaise that was to die for. Roxy got baconnaise on the side which is exactly as it sounds, bacon flavored mayonnaise! Next to the bagel sandwiches this was my favorite meal of the trip. Madeline being a vegetarian passed on the sandwiches and enjoyed a hot cappuccino to revive her from the long journey at sea. As our luck would have it, after the quick break the clouds parted, the rain stopped and the sun came out to welcome an absolutely gorgeous day for us on the island. I was able to rent a bike and I conveniently brought a large rubber band with me on the trip (If Macgyver and Bear Grylls had a Boy Scout man child, as impossible as that is, I'd be him.) the rubber band was a great move as it allowed me to pull Roxy and Madeline all over the island to check out the scenery. This was crucial because we elected to the take the scenic route around the island and covered around 4 or 5 miles along the bumpy narrow roads. In the end, the island Itself was accessible as it was all gravel or stone roads and while a little bumpy there wasn't any where we couldn't get to if we wanted. To complete the busy day of sightseeing our port for the Aran islands was conveniently only 10 min drive from the famous Cliffs of Moher. These are of the most visited and photographed sites in Ireland. The rock cliffs drop from the bright green hilltops straight into the sea and they are much taller than appear in the photos. We can get a matter of inches away from the edges and you can feel the size of the cliffs when you peer over the edge. We rolled up and down a few of the paths that were paved well. Very accessible but really steep so I did a lot of pushing as Roxy already had a long and tiresome day at that point and we needed to work together to make it through. There was a significant length of the cliffs that we traveled along but at a point the paved paths ended and a dirt path began that ran for what appeared to be miles. We didn't care to tackle the dirt as we had a really great view from the accessible areas. After many beautiful pictures at the cliffs we hit the road and drove back to East Clare Golf Resort where we were able to book a second night. Much to the girls enjoyment we were able to sleep in the next day as we had such a long structured day yesterday we all needed to chill a bit and rest. We left the golf village around 2 and headed south west to Dingle.
Thursday, June 25th
Drove to rainbow hostel in Dingle, Ireland. Immediately greeted by the host/maintenance man who showed us directly to our room which was very accessible. He showed us some specific bathrooms that were accessible and even put a sign up that said "Roxy Only" so she didn't have to worry about competing to get in. Also, the host offered to free up a parking spot by the back door with was a smoother ride into the hostel on wheel than the front entrance. We unpacked a bit and settled into the homey rustic hostel that had a very cool mess hall with a large kitchen and long wooden dining tables that reminded me of a Viking mead hall. Guests and travelers gathered together around the table and dined after preparing their own meals to their preference. We went out to the hot spot in town, the Dingle Pub, and all had fish and chips that we enjoyed thoroughly. The pub was fairly accessible, just one step that separated the bar from the restaurant seating area so it's wasn't bad. Along with with dinner there was a great live music by a local guitarist who played a nice mix of Irish songs and some American oldies. I sparked up a conversation with the table next to us with a gentleman that appeared to be a local. He said to me, "You know last ones in the door have to sing a song," as he chuckled deeply in a joking manner as we just sit down at the table and we the last ones into the pub. I of course, knowing who I was sitting with countered back by saying, "Well that won't be a problem as my two lady friends are phenomenal singers and would put on a great performance up there!" He perked up and looked surprised that I was speaking so highly of them and talking them up. So I said, "Can you get them up there? Meanwhile Roxy and Madeline are none the wiser to my conversation as my back is turned to them and I'm talking low to the gentleman. Without another word he took off from his table leaving his two lady friends and disappeared in the crowd towards the bar. When he returned, he gave me a wink and said you're all set. Much to my entertainment, about 20 min later, just as we finished our fish and chips, the singer got on the mic and said, can I get a special performance from Roxy and Madeline please? Are you in the house? The girls heard and both were really surprised! Of course, after little deliberation they answered the call and joined the singer on stage at the mic and chose a song. With Madeline seated on Roxy's lap they sang Valerie with the guitarist playing along with them and the place went crazy when they finished. They brought the house down with their duo and put a quick plug in for the Globerollers and asked everyone to follow them! Much to all of our entertainment for the next 24 hours everywhere we went people shouted out to us from all over, "Hey Globerollers! Great job!" Apparently the entire town was in Dingle Pub and saw the performance haha. After the Dingle Pub we headed over to another hot spot a few doors down called the An Droicead Beag, which means "the little bridge" in Irish, and were greeted by a serious looking but very jolly bouncer who quickly escorted us to the side door entrance of the bar as we approached the entrance like VIP access. The bar was very accessible and we spent the night dancing and socializing as a larger live music trio played Irish tunes all night. Coincidently, though not surprisingly because it happens to me all the time I got to talking to some fellow bar goers and found out that a group of about 5 people were on holiday in Ireland and live in Springfield MA where I live, some living in the same neighborhood as I do! Also with them, was a long time Springfield College board member, the school where I got my Bachelors, Masters, and now PhD from. So that was cool, go figure, we are everywhere! That just made my night along with meeting up with the bride, groom, and friends from Westfield, MA of the wedding that I was attending on Saturday in Dingle! So the place was packed with familiar faces, it was an American invasion! We had a blast. It was definitely my favorite night of the trip in Ireland. Needless to say we shut it down, and made our way back to the hostel for the night.
Friday June 26th
The next morning we slept in a bit but wanted to get a good day of sightseeing in the Dingle area. I threw the tired girls in the car, headed west to the coast and was met by the most beautiful day Ireland has probably ever seen and the most beautiful 2 hr loop of the coastline I have ever seen. The views took us back as we cruised along the narrow curvy roads on the most western tip of Ireland overlooking the Atlantic. After this breathtaking drive we headed into the quaint town of Dingle for some shopping and lunch. After a nice afternoon in Dingle, sadly we had to say goodbye and begin the drive to Cork where the girls were flying out of at 5 am in the morning. We took a pit stop in Tralee where as the girls slept in the back seat I investigated what was a beautiful performing theater because one thing I really wanted to do in Ireland was see a bit of traditional Irish dance or performance. So when I returned to the car and the two sleeping beauties I woke them up gently to share with them the happenings that had occurred while I was in the theater. While inside I worked my charm on the theater staff and brought back to the car 3 comped tickets for the 8:30 showing of Fado Fado, a 2 hr folk musical about life on an Irish farm through each of the 4 seasons complete with live music, wonderful acting, and Irish step dance much to my delight! As I inquired about the accessibility of the theater I shared with the staff what the girls had been doing, traveling through Europe and blogging about their experiences with accessibility, and they thought it was such a great idea and experience that they insisted we have 3 tickets for free. They even threw in some Irish coffee to sweeten the deal for us. The girls were both really happy to be awaked to free tickets to a show and we got dolled up a bit for the night out and enjoyed the show. After the show and a feast of pizza at the only restaurant open in town, we climbed back in the car for the last time and we drove onward to the Cork airport and dropped the girls off in the middle of the night for their early flight to Amsterdam. It was a sad moment for me as I can't express how much I enjoyed my week as an honorary Globe Roller. We made some great memories, had more than a few laughs, and left our mark on Ireland in true Globe Roller fashion. With great anticipation and enthusiasm I look foreword to the future adventures of the Globerollers and have already ordered my wheels (sick razor scooter) for the next trip should I get the privilege to accompany the duo again. I love you girls, thank you for for an amazing week!
Third Wheel Extraordinaire,