August 21, Friday
Night's Lodging: McSweeney's B&B, above their store
Weather: Rain mostly, sometimes very hard, sometimes drizzle. About 2 hours of sunny overcast. (Not so strange-at one point we had sunny rain-truly liquid sunshine!)
At 5 a.m. RAIN! The hostel front lawn was tent row - 7 or 8 pointed pimples on the grass - of a variety of colors, all of the small lightweight backpacking style.
Just about got my tent dried off to pack before the 2nd (or 3rd?) round of rain showers began. I packed up a soaking wet tent. Amid many hugs, we said our good-byes to Paddy and pedaled off in the drizzle.
[As I write, I am surrounded by drying laundry-sox and other finery atop a small heater, tent and fly draped around the room as if I am beginning an ancient Druid ceremony, clothes strewn everywhere to claim some space and air with which to dry.]
Naturally, within two minutes of getting on my bike, in the rain with morning cold muscles...a long hill to climb out of the coastal village into the overlooking hills. It was a given.
Off toward Bantry...the ride we didn't do in the cloudy dry weather yesterday. Just punishment, I suppose, for our wastefulness of "good" weather. "Good" was relative, of course.
We stopped in Bantry - in the drizzle - at the Bakehouse for breakfast goodies and tea. The baking smells overwhelmed me, and I lost control, ordering a chocolate eclair (my favorite), a scone and then a sausage roll. This after a substantial breakfast. We passed by a busy open air produce market and picked up some fruit to carry along. I was gorging.
Bantry was a cute town - somewhat touristy and we might have had quite a good time there yesterday. But then there couldn't have been 15 of us trying to mill about and cook in Paddy's kitchen - each "cooker" carefully eyeing his/her own pot of boiling whatever. And then trying to clean up adequately later.
We stopped at the Bantry House overlooking Bantry Bay, which on a beautiful sunny day was probably absolutely spectacular. Inside, another old mansion. This one in significant disrepair. We wandered through the musty smelling rooms and then...in the rain...to the well-tended and terraced formal Italian gardens in the back, the round lawn in front with various marble birdbaths which were either empty or growing plants. The rose bushes looked as if they were in production for rose hip jelly or sachets, so many blooms had gone to seed.
We left Bantry and headed down the peninsula - yet again another peninsula to visit. It started raining like hell, as if it were going to hail; we were all cold and soaked to the skin or close to it. I had put on my raingear by then, but it was a "cow after the barn door has been closed" event. I began to wonder how badly I wanted to see another peninsula. I was feeling more than a little tired of wild Irish peninsulas and was ready for other scenery. The coastal populated areas = "softer" botanical environment. Higher up and away from town = wild and rugged, untamed except by sheep.
We pedaled about one kilometer down the road and I decided I really didn't need to see the same kind of end-of-peninsula anymore. Although wild and very beautiful, I felt it was time to investigate something else. I was in the mood to head inland towards Cork to see agriculture lands. We all agreed and headed to Schull (Skull) to spend the night.
Decided that it was definitely a B&B night, at least for me - we were wet, and I needed to dry my tent and sleeping bag. Condensation around my feet had caused my bag to become damp. Considering all of the rain we'd experienced, my down bag stayed remarkably dry.
With a space heater ticking on and off, my socks and other finery precariously perched along the top, slowly drying, I flipped them over and over like cooking bacon. My tent and tent fly were spread out all over the room. Clothes everywhere! Looked messy, and smelled like warm wet clothing, but I was hopeful everything would dry. I indulged my cold-to-the-core body with a near scalding hot shower. Was able to do that decadent great American cultural thing of shaving my legs. Nicked myself a bunch of times. Either the razor was bad, or I was out of practice. Touring could do that to you.
Schull was a small town-colorful in the West Cork manner-pastel buildings. Kids on the street hawked their last two mackerels, dead in a bucket, eyes clear, and smelling slightly fishy. Since I was just about gorged out on peppered and/or smoked mackerel, I by-passed their offer. However, I was losing weight and had to concentrate on eating more...balanced meals. There was a tendency to neglect fruits/veggies and concentrate on Digestives (a cookie kind of thing).
This area was the homemade cheese area of Ireland and we sampled many of them. They were quite good. We made a short foray out of town to find West Cork Natural Cheese factory. No luck. Just watched a windsurfer instead. He carefully donned a full body wetsuit. The water looked cold to us too.
A real ice cream cone after dinner! There was very little "real" ice cream in Ireland. We found a store selling "Pizza and 'Cream." A very odd combination! One of the pizza combo's was Hawaiian. Even in Ireland....
After dinner I watched old men walking up and down the street, both pre- and post-Guinness...singly, or in twos, aiding each other in the complications of walking a straight path. None looking happy; all looking a bit fleshy from drink.