Inside a Small Box of Chocolates

Farran Village, County Cork, Ireland-

In September of 2006, George and I decided to experience the Land of the Irish on our own without the aid of a touring company. We did this because we had a full two weeks to explore a place we had never been, and hey, it appeared on the map to be simply a small island. We would be free to roam with plenty of time to see everything by accommodating ourselves without the baggage (sorry, can’t help myself) another couple might bring along. We have learned in our travels that with each addition of another couple, the time spent on waiting and decision making seems to advance at a logarithmic rate with each new couple.  To our dismay, we were only able to see HALF of this incredible history-laden island (Ahem; take note, fellow travelers).

Ireland seems to pride itself on it’s ability to be hospitable in that almost every other house has a B & B sign out in front of it. We did not know this prior to going to Ireland.  We had paid a rather-ish small fee here in America to assure that we would have a place to rest our souls each evening just in case we’d find ourselves lost in the Land of the Plenty-of-Celts. This seemed to work out fine for us most of the time, but we spent way too much time looking for our reservations that could have been spent in a local pub listening to that cheerful Irish music and making International friendships. In addition, I’d like to say there was a vast array of styles of living in these pre-arranged accommodations. But, like they say, it’s like a box of chocolates. Had we just walked up to a home of our choice, we probably would have been more comfortable some of the nights.

In our adventures throughout the southern part of the country we saw several billboards advertising a Ballyseede Castle in County Kerry, an authentic and refurbished one, open to the public for the staying and what they thought might be rich Americans. We had arranged to stay one night in a castle when we were planning our trip; We were hoping this was the one. When we arrived, we were welcomed with a short tour and were told our room was not yet ready.  We opted to have a drink in the library. The bar library: dark, enchanting, friendly.  This castle was elegantly appointed with satin and brocades, replete with knight’s armor, dining hall, side-room bar library, moat, resident ghost (Hannah) and two live Irish Wolfhounds at the entrance (very asleep, apparently not bothered in the least by apparitions). All this on acres of green… just green… front and back, forests to follow in the distance.  We were prepared to sell our dated car back home if need be to be able to spend just one night in this wondrous abode. As it was, that was not necessary.

After a night in amazing luxury, the next day we seemed to have gone from riches to rags in our accommodations for the evening. However, we were later to discover that our host , Oliver O’Callaghan, was a treasure trove of local history, and was more than willing to join us while we partook in Irish oatmeal in the morning.  He was quite outspoken, making sure we were aware that the world-famous Blarney Castle (think Blarney Stone) was historically “full of crap and the English.” Hmmm. Well, after all, we WERE in Ireland and if you’ve ever read any books about Irish/English history, you’d understand. At that, he recounted a story about a different castle, one somewhat close in proximity to the very B & B we were breakfasting in.  He went on to describe how we should check it out on our way to Kinsale that day if we wanted to see a REAL castle, giving us directions AND a book of B & B’s in that area and others.

Standing up and clearing the dishes, he returned from the kitchen and added, “I’m going that way.  I’ll take you there!”

We packed up our bags and did indeed follow Oliver down several country roads we would never have found on our own. Soon we arrived at Kilcrea Franciscan Friary (est. 1465 A.D.), sitting quietly by itself in a bit of historical ruination. Oliver got out of his car, and to our amazement, walked up to the locked iron gate, took out a key and opened it! He then began to share stories about the place as he invited us to climb the tower (which we did… scary, considering the on-going natural destruction of the place). Apparently this was the place the local people would hide in from the Vikings when they were in town centuries ago. He continued to give us a personalized tour and discourse of the abbey as we walked the grounds.  When we came to the main part of the church (now roofless), he went on to explain that when the English (there they are again) took over Ireland, they did not let the Irish Catholics bury their dead on “English” land.  So, the Irish would bury their dead INSIDE the Friary because it “belonged to God.”  He also related a story about a young Irish Roman Catholic, a Captain in the Hungarian Hussars Regiment of Austria (1746-1773) by the name of Art O’Leary.  He was hot-tempered and became involved in a feud with a Protestant land owner and magistrate, Abraham Morris, when he returned home from Austria. Morris was also Sheriff of County Cork at the time and  laid charges against Art following Art’s alleged attack on himself and the wounding his servant.  The feud continued. Morris demanded that Art sell him the fine steed that O’Leary had brought back from Austria for 5 Pounds. The law of that age was that no Catholic could own a horse worth more than 5 Pounds and could be forced to sell a more valuable one on demand of any Protestant. Art refused and challenged Morris to a duel, which Morris declined.  Morris then proclaimed Art could be shot on sight because he was now considered  an outlaw. Morris led a contingent of soldiers that tracked Art and was killed with the first shot. Later, Morris was killed by Art’s brother while Morris was in a window of a place he was staying in Cork. To this day O’Leary’s tomb rests in the Kilcrea Friary with his epitaph which we saw and photographed. On our way out of the abbey, Oliver walked to his car, opened the trunk, and showed us a beautiful picture book he had written and published about the history of the Friary.  It was his only copy and he had no more. We were not surprised when we saw it; After all, we were now rich with personal information about the area and its people given to us by our Oliver. However we WERE indeed impressed with his study and knowledge.  Above all, we were grateful for his gift of sharing his time and this place of history with us.  If there really is any truth in the Box of Chocolates theory, we found a sweet Irish Creme in this one man.  Thank you, Oliver O’Callahaghan.

 

 

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Amazing Grace

 

DSC05870Hello.  My husband and I love to travel. We have had some amazing experiences because of this passion, but some of the most ingratiating come from the grace and kindnesses of people we have met on the road/cruise/boat that we happen across.  Which brings me to the purpose of this blog; within the passages I post, I hope to share the human-ness we have had the opportunity to come in contact with, thereby encouraging the same from you, the reader, to participate in the same manner, whenever you happen upon fellow travelers in need.  It is an amazing world of common need amongst people out there, given any moment and any place and time. What happens are the stories I am about to share, and, hopefully, the ones you may respond with. Welcome to Kinetic Kindness.

 

Crescent City, CA   June, 2010

Travel weary from pulling our 26 foot trailer from Orange County, my husband George and I decided to give in and try and find a place to stay overnight in what seemed like a simple community along the coast, nothing special, but easy to drive into. We didn’t want to unhook if we could find a place that allowed us to stay intact. We also didn’t want to pay an arm and leg in a city of this appearance; that is to say few bright lights and glaring  traffic. It was late for travelers to hunt for a spot unreserved.  However, we did see one that immediately that caught our eye next to the bay and somewhat uncrowded. We pulled in with fingers crossed and were greeted by a man looking about 60, an apparent hippie keepsake, who was friendly and more than willing to take our money. He gave us a spot close to the check-in area, exactly as we had asked for with pull through abilities. As we were setting up, I asked him if there was a store near-by we could walk to as we were short on supplies and needed to buy something easy for dinner. He pointed to a store about a block away.  I sighed a relieved breath to him and thanked him.

George and I continued to set up our rig and were almost finished when we heard a knock on our door.  There was our manager, hands full and aroma beckoning with fresh fried fish, cole slaw, fresh bread, and two slices of apple pie, all on good china (!) standing before us.

“My wife made this for you,” he started.  “She knew you didn’t have dinner things.”

We were stunned.  The delicious smell alone kept us drooling to the point of speechlessness. Finally, we managed to utter our grateful thank you’s as he passed the dishes into our rig.

I had to ask.  “Why did she do this?!  This is just so wonderful!”

He simply said:  “It’s what she does.” And then he left.

Needless to say, we gobbled up every bite as fast as we could.  By then it was after dark and too late to return the cleaned china to their rig.

In the morning, I waited until I noticed stirring about their spot and then ventured over to their site, dishes in hand.  Another woman (a friend?) was standing in their doorway as I approached.  The wife was outside, cleaning things up.  The woman in the doorway saw me coming.  She had a knowing smile on her face, but said nothing as I approached.

I walked up to the wife, dishes in hand, and said, “Oh my gosh.  That was so kind of you to send us dinner last night!  It was really a blessing as we were so tired from traveling. Thank you so much!”

There was no response from the lady.  She simply took the dishes without even so much as a smile.  No eye contact was made.  I looked at her friend in the doorway with a questioning look, but she, too, was silent except she had a friendly look on her face. I reiterated my appreciation, somewhat abashed this time, and  quickly went back to my own domain. I shared my experience with my husband and we both just sat and tried to figure it out. Was she deaf? Was her friend deaf?  Did she not have the ability to speak? Was she anti-social? Was she an abused woman?  Was she extremely shy?  Had she had trauma that left her speechless? Did she just not like me? Had her husband made her make dinner for us? Many of those questions I could not fathom being true after the care she had put in to making our dinner for us.

As it was, we ended up staying two more nights in this place along the bay, thanks to our manager/owner’s knowledge of the other people in the park (but that’s another story). I never saw the woman again out and about. To this day I still wonder about her.  Still, this I do know: Whatever her dilemma was, it made no difference.  Her and her husband’s kindness spoke soundly of their character, be it silent or deafening.