The French Circus & The Mountain Full O’ Gold

“Have you an Irish farmer?”

The gorgeous view from the short amount we walked up Croagh Patrick

“Emm…you mean as a love interest?”

“Sure. Yeah.”

“Nope, no, still searchin’ for an Irish lad.”

And that was how the craic began. Over my cup of tea and his pint of Guinness, Joe, a local from the pub at the Buckfield Inn, the B&B in Kilmeena which I stayed in during my visit to Westport, Co. Mayo, reminded me of Jack Lemon in looks, humor, demeanor and expression. Quite the comedian this one, with a straight face most of the time, only until he made himself laugh would he let his smile crack through and a warm smile it was, the kind that I’d imagine my Pop Pop Spillman to have had. Carmel, the owner of the B&B, and Joe made it their personal mission to go up and down the list of eligible bachelors in the area, which turned out to be 2 hours of laughter as most of these bachelors are in their 60’s. Ha! I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve laughed this hard. After a while, they’d just call out names and start hysterically laughing and this made me laugh even harder, though I’ve never met any of the men, I could only imagine the state of the candidates which would bring them to such hysteria.

View of Croagh Patrick from down town Westport

After a fairly dramatic week on the farm, I stumbled into a rejuvenating weekend getaway. Westport is the sight of a well known pilgrimage called Croagh Patrick Mountain. A curious, volcanic-looking mountain that from afar looks sort of like half a lemon. On the train ride into town I noticed it immediately and knew that it had to be Croagh Patrick without ever having seen a picture because of it’s standoutedness, if you will. It’s about a 2-hour walk to the top which I’d love to go back there and do one day but I didn’t have enough time in my stay this weekend. There is a church at the top of it, but what I’ve heard and am most curious about is that the view is absolutely breathtaking, apparently you can see the entire town and all 365 of the islands that are off the coast of Westport. “One for each day of the year,” is what several locals told me when describing the view. Apparently Croagh Patrick is filled with gold. No joke! A few years back they tried to get in there and mine it but because it’s such a sacred pilgrimage sight the church and environmental activists would not allow it. I find it even more alluring and interesting that it is filled with gold, not because of the value of gold but because of the enormous amount of energy that the color gold holds and gives off. This mountain is beyond religion, it is a life force.

Statue of St. Patrick at the beginning of the trail up the mountain (Dad this was for you 🙂
Cirque Trattola - I walked into the star of the show on my way out of the bathroom!

However, I traveled to Westport for an arts festival. I met a girl in Galway City last weekend, Triona (pronounced Tree-Na), who was promoting the festival and in particular a french circus called Cirque Trattola. We ended up getting drinks and chatting it up in the most interesting pub I’ve visited yet. The name of it was Irish so my memory fails me at the moment, but as soon as you walk in the door you could smell nag champa burning and the DJ was playing a fabulous blend of reagge/dance/international music AND, my favorite part, there was at the time that we walked in, only one guy cuttin a rug on the dance floor. An older man, probably about 65, wearing a colorful hawaiian shirt, a down jacket, a pair of very dark sunglasses and a long white ponytail/beard combo, the kind that sort of blends together and you can’t tell where scalp and cheek meet. Turns out Triona was a wwoofer a few years ago herself – I’ve seemed to meet mostly people who have traveled on their own before and know what it’s like, which is really great, sort of kindred spirits coincidentally meeting all over the place! Anyways she invited me to stay at a friends house there so I decided to go for it but opted to stay in a B&B since I hadn’t done that yet. – Triona picked me up on Sunday from the B&B and showed me all around town! It was just the nicest afternoon, she gave me a great taste of the town and we were having so much fun I almost missed my train on the way back, literally running on to the platform and boarding just before it rolled away!

Triona and I and this beautiful Westport Beach!

And now ladies and gentleman, the circus. They acrobatic and could be likened to Cirque du Soleil but not entirely. It was absolutely incredible. I felt like I was in the basement of Tim Burton’s brain. Like it was a dream, like I was being let in on something no one else could see despite the packed audience. The show consisted of 3 main performers, one very strong man, one very thin man and a woman who couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds. I took my camera out immediately as I entered this dimly lit tent that seemed to have been erected so meticulously haphazard that it made me shiver. I had to capture this! Unfortunately one of the two, quite intimidating, french women who were policing the stands told me no pictures allowed…(but only after I captured this one shot! hehehe)

The Infamous inside the circus tent shot

The music was uncomfortable in the best way possible and  beautifully eerie and gave you that feeling that maybe, just maybe any second a big scary clown would come out and terrorize the tent while miniature clowns ran around to block all the exits…. This may not sound appealing but it somehow spiked all of my senses combined with the looming shadows above from the insane balancing acts that are happening below. At certain points of the show I was torn between watching the shadows on the slanted tent walls and the actual performers as both were equally beautiful, impressive and mesmerizing. One of my favorite parts of the show was probably the most simple of the tricks. One of the men pushed a broom around with a ladies dress – the kind that would usually be on a ghost appearing, hovering above ground in a movie – it was on a hanger attached to a long stick balancing on the edge of the broom. You couldn’t see the stick so it looked as if he was pushing it around with the sheer energy of sweeping and it was creepy and beautiful and breathtaking. This combined with the gloomy violin and accordion sound made the hair on my arms stand straight up.

The Traditional Irish Breakfast I was served at the Buckfield Inn

After the circus, it was relatively early and freeeezing, and being me I neglected to bring my coat because it was full of mud stains, but paid for it, I did. I walked into the first pub I saw, ordered a pint of cider, a borrowed pen and some scrap paper. This has been a common theme for me as I don’t like to travel with big bags or purses when I don’t have to so I don’t bring a journal or pen with me then. I’m sure people are looking at me like I’m a lunatic but I couldn’t hold all of the thoughts and energy flowing through me after that performance so I had to get it all out. From there I walked around the town a bit, passing the more crowded pubs by in search of my hole in the wall and I found it. A place called Hoban’s was less populated and didn’t have loud irritating American dance music blasting, neither girls in mini skirts and high heels which I wasn’t quite in the mood for. As soon as I ordered a drink, I realized that there was traditional Irish music playing in the back room of this pub and I knew this was my place to be. So I planted myself there listened to this fabulous, heartfelt, soulful expression and chatted it up with some locals. By the time I left there it was about midnight and pouring rain! I ended up running to the nearest awning and met a guy under there who so kindly recognized that I was having a hard time finding a cab and called a cab driver that he knew personally and then walked me to him. There were a lot of genuinely kind people in this town that helped me out!

Brendan Benson live at The Thatch "De Tatch"

I digress. I know I never posted last week, it was a bit hectic then. Anyway, last weekend was a bit of a flop because I went to Dublin without having booked a room in a hostel, B&B or hotel and apparently it was a busy weekend because they entire town was booked up and I couldn’t get a room anywhere! So I ended up just walking around the entire city exploring and shopping a bit then catching the bus back to Ballinasloe. I’m glad I got to Dublin, but I’m definitely going back in a few weeks because I really want to do the literary pub crawl that several Irish people have recommended to me!

This past Thursday was my half birthday. I am not 23 and a half years old. So clearly when Orla, an Irish girl that works on the farm a few days a week, invited me to see a concert that night I jumped! I left work a little early that night since I had to catch the bus to Kilbeggan, which is close to where she lives in Tullemore – these are both in what they call the Midlands. The bus ride was only about an hour. Orla picked me up in town and then fed me the most delicious homemade sweet and sour chicken ever and then we head to the pub where the show was. We went with her two friends Karl and Richie who for some reason I kept wanted to call Ollie. Karl is originally from Dublin and on the way to the pub I asked him what the name of it was, “De Tatch,” he said. Me: “Detached?” hahaha The pub was called The Thatch. Quite embarrassed about that, he told me that was a Dublin accent thing, not pronouncing “t h’s.” The guy we were meant to see was Brendan Benson, an American from Detroit. I didn’t think I knew who he was until I heard him play a song that I have on my iTunes! hahaha How strange and random. But the show was great, the one opening act was great too, Kevin Glass his name was, it was a great time all around! I got to spend the night in the Midlands annnnd the next morning on the way to the farm we drove over The Shannon!

******

Una and I at the market on Friday, both Fridays I've gone we really lucked out with the weather! This past one it only rained twice, in the very beginning and in the very end.

And finally, this weekend marked the beginning of the oldest horse fair in all of Europe! The Ballinasloe Horse Fair. It lasts all week long and I’m very much looking forward to experiencing the madness this Saturday. This fair, also, is known for being one of the largest gatherings of the travelers, which are basically modern day gypsies with a twist. I honestly haven’t experienced their presence first hand yet and have not educated myself on their lifestyles enough yet so I won’t say much about that, but all I know is that this week we are to be locking our doors on the farm as things are famously known to go missing when they’re here.

And finally, finally, we got another wwoofer on the farm! Ian from Washington arrived on Friday, another girl from Vermont, Carrie, will be arriving tomorrow evening and another guy who I don’t have any details on as of now will be coming in the end of the week. So, because of the full house I got to move up to the main house. No more cabin for me, I’m movin up in the world! 🙂 haha

******

Just a little tid bit…yesterday we were all eating lunch in the main house and it was a really, really windy day. All of a sudden something big flies past the door and I look out the door and see the cat holding on for dear life on the steps! The cat had blown past the door and I sparked a “never-ending laughter spell” as Michael used to call them. 🙂

Fun Facts!

  • The word “like” is used unnecessarily here, just as it is in the states, but in a completely different way. For example, someone would say, “The book was written in child’s terms, do ya know what I mean, like?”
  • On my way to Tullemore, I saw for the first time in my life a rainbow from start to finish, all in front of me! The entire arch! I was amazed and didn’t even know this was possible – but no picture unfortunately. 😦
  • Questions here are sometimes posed like this, “You have parsnips, have you?”
  • Most of the time instead of saying hello to someone on the street or in a public place and in passing, people usually say, “How are ya?” or “How are tings?” These phrases have become squished together and are spoken so quickly they sound like one word, “Howerya?” (this has been even further shortened by some “Hiya”) and “Howertings?” – You can imagine my awkward and delayed response to these the first few times I heard them. Smiling sweetly as I process the question, dissect the accent and such then, “Huh? Oh! Hi, yeah, I’m great how are you?” And most often the other person had already passed by and was too far away to respond. Hahaha, I laugh to myself every time I think about these types of stumbles.
  • When people are thinking between sentences their version of “umm” is “emm” which has been mysteriously working its way into my voice and I feel I have no control over it.
  • Saying, “Have a good one,” is not common here and I’ve thoroughly confused some people (mostly non-native English speakers) while working at the market.
  • One of the locals that I met on Saturday night and that goes to the pub at the Buckfield Inn every weekend, Sean, used to live in Tennessee and be Elvis Presley’s body guard. Normal. hahaha
  • Good food is “gorgeous”.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. you are just a bundle of 23.5 years of fun. Glad you’re still enjoying everything, Shanny, sounds like you’re meeting people all over the place. I’ve also found myself astonished at how helpful and generous people are to complete strangers like us. Perhaps we should make plans to travel together one day! Miss you, pooshpa.

    Like

    1. Shannon says:

      I MISS YOUR FACE-PIECE!

      🙂

      I hope to God we get to travel together some day and I’m so glad you’re experiencing the same kindness and generosity as I am! It is truly incredible the amount of love that people have to share. I can’t wait to speak to you in real time and hear all your stories as well. I checked out your blog and the pictures are freaking AWESOME. Good luck and have fun in your continued travels!

      Love and Miss you!!!

      Like

  2. Therese says:

    Shannon,
    Thank you for sharing ALL your stories…what more can life be about? Experiences and the love to experience them, you are so fortunate to have this opportunity! Love every minute of it…keep sharing so I can live it with you. Love you, XXXOOO

    Like

    1. Shannon says:

      Therese(ball)!

      Hahaha I miss you! I’ve been meeting so many people from Washington and I always think of you when they tell me where they’re from. 🙂 hahaha So glad you’re enjoying the blog! We shall catch up when I get back.

      Love you too!

      xoxo

      Like

  3. Vidya says:

    Shannon,

    I was your neighbor in Wallingford about 16 years ago. But when your parents and we (both Shekar and I) bumped into each other at the Media Fair and started talking, it was as if time never passed. She also proudly shared your cider story and your blog url which of course, I needed to check out.

    I am living vicariously through your blog while enjoying your style of captivating the reader. Good job. Ireland is one of those countries you hear about not necessarily read about. All I know are the pubs, St.Patrick’s day, Britain their lovely neighbor; and of course their music, dance and drinking. I can see there’s a lot more to Ireland than just that. I will keep reading your blogs as often as possible. This is a great way to chronicle and record experiences.

    -Vidya

    Like

    1. Shannon says:

      Hi Vidya!

      I would never forget you and your family – though 16 years sounds like a lot, it definitely does not feel that long ago! Thank you for the kind words and I’m so glad I could offer a new perspective on Ireland for you! It has some truly beautiful and magical places. I hope to meet up with you again in the future! Please tell Shekar and your family hello for me.

      Take Care,

      Shannon

      Like

  4. Danielle Yoch says:

    Ditto to Mrs. Webb’s comment 🙂
    Thanks for brightening my lunch!

    Love ya!!
    Danielle

    Like

  5. Eileen Webb says:

    Hi Shannon-a-Roo,
    today you made my lunch time sitting here at my desk on a rainy day eating the saltiest food and wishing for a glass of cider!!

    I am living vicariously through your blogs and loving every minute! !
    xxoo
    Mrs Webb

    Like

    1. Shannon says:

      Hahaha yes! That’s awesome! When I come home we will find cider and we WILL drink cider!

      Like

  6. Stella says:

    My Dear Shanny Girl,
    How are tings…..
    It is another rainy day here in Swarthmore Pa. but somehow you have managed to bring the sunshine into my day with your endearing stories filled with lots of love and adventure. I Tank you soooo much…..
    Tell the ole boys to send me that list of eligable bachlors…..LMAO….anywho…..tanks agin for the update. I find your writings so uplifting.
    Lots of luv luv luv…From “me” Stella…oxox
    still miss you however am sooooo happy for you and wish you continued blessings on your journey.

    Like

    1. Shannon says:

      You’re awesome Stella! 🙂 I’m glad you’re enjoying the stories – don’t worry plenty more to come upon my return! hahaha

      Like

  7. Dad and Mom says:

    HI Shanaroo,
    Thanks for the picture of St. Patrick. The mountain looks really cool. Be safe. Love Dad

    Thanks for all the updates Shan. Love your pictures. Miss you.love Mom

    Like

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