Day 39

Feeling: a bit bus-sick and foggy, very full, sweaty with dancing, a sore lower back after reclining in bed too long
Smelling: white tea with cranberry, a smoky smell outside the caves
Seeing: County Kerry’s countryside, the illuminated stalactites and stalagmites of Crag Cave
Hearing: a trad band of a banjo and drumset, a trad singer with his guitar telling us about life in Kerry, the Gloaming on my iPod
Tasting: some really good hot chocolate, way too much dinner (salmon and root vegetables and chocolate cake and coffee and bread and salad)

I spent the morning observing the time-honored tradition of pretending that Friday morning was the weekend already after staying up too late on Thursday night pretending that it was the weekend already. So that was eating overnight oatmeal in bed and watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Which put everything that I needed to do at the last minute, but thankfully I didn’t have much.

The bus left a little past two p.m., and the ride was smooth. I listened to the most recent episode of The Splendid Table for the first leg, then we arrived at Crag Caves.

One of the towns we drove through was Macroom. It’s a farm town, which means that it’s rather quiet most days but on market days becomes a buzzing center. Our tour guide explained to us that it was very difficult to drive through because plans for a bypass were postponed because of an endangered snail that lived there. At least, I thought she said snail? It was a bit hard to tell between the general bus noise and the dialect barrier.

We passed through another town, Killorglin, where they have the Puck Fair once a year. This involves capturing a wild billy goat and making it king of the town. And they make sure to do it humanely, with a veterinarian to look after him and such. I’m very disappointed that my term of residence in Ireland doesn’t coincide with the Puck Fair.

It was set up in a pretty touristy way, where the first things you saw were the café and several rooms of gift shop before going through some unassuming pale green doors that led to a covered path which led down some metal stairs which led to some concrete stairs which led into the cave.

The tour was pretty short, and the guide’s delivery rather brisk, but the cave was impressive nonetheless. There were small, thin stalactites dripping from the ceiling and stalagmites that looked like candlesticks, wine bottles, and even the Madonna, to name a few of the interesting named formations.

I had some tea to soothe my queasy stomach, then we got on the bus for the way to the hotel. Near the hotel was Cahersiveen (I think?), the hometown or birthplace or both (?) of famed political leader Daniel O’Connell. I don’t really have much to say about this except that I found it amusing that our tour guide pronounced Barack Obama’s first name like “barrack” when telling us about how our POTUS cites O’Connell as one of his inspirations.

After about a half-hour of settling into our rooms, we met for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. That was a fun time and quite a treat. I honestly didn’t feel the need to indulge in every free food opportunity that came my way my first year in college, but oh man do I feel it now. And if there’s salmon? I’ll be there

We were all feeling stuffed by the end of dinner, but we couldn’t go to bed quite yet. First we had a sing-along of traditional Irish ballads, with a singer who also taught us about life in south Kerry. He’s also a documentarian and radio (?) news announcer, so he knew quite a bit about the place. He told us that movie stars have been coming to the area for decades to get some quiet– the place’s got a reputation for letting hugely famous people just live their lives like locals. Except, apparently, when Michael Fassbender comes back to visit home.

All I can say is that I hope Cillian Murphy makes frequent visits back to his hometown. And likes to visit the Lough.

Once our stomachs were relatively settled, it was time to learn some céilí dancing. Our tour guide had told us don’t worry about all the food you ate, you’re about to work it off, but I sort of underestimated how much work we’d actually be doing. Luckily certain steps that we learned were re-used throughout all of the dances.

I’d heard that the area had won the Dark-Sky Award, meaning it was one of three places in the world considered the lowest in light pollution. But as we were near a town, it was still very hard to see anything, dammit.

I FaceTimed with my family for Shabbat blessings, this time being somewhat close to sunset where they were. I brought a defrosted portion of challah with me (sadly not round for the High Holidays) which was delicious and tasted like home.

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