It’s been a while since my last post, a fact due not to negligence but a trip to Ireland. My mother came from Canada to visit us in Germany for two weeks at the beginning of April and KT and I (aided, rest assured, by the cunning plans of NP) arranged to take her on a surprise trip to Ireland for five of her fourteen days with us. My mother’s side of the family is of Irish descent and she has always wanted to visit: we arranged things carefully so that the surprise wouldn’t be leaked in advance and then sprung the itinerary upon her after she arrived. At first, she felt we might be joking, but soon came around to the idea that we were in actuality all off to the Emerald Isle for a few days (with plenty of time also to enjoy all that Heidelberg and its surroundings have to offer).
This was a big trip for us all, as it was the first time that we’ve really travelled on a holiday with NP – she has flown before, but previously to visit family or to move to Germany. Since her last flight, NP is also now close to walking and interested in almost everything she lays her eyes on (the only things she is not interested in are the safe things incapable of causing her any bodily harm). We were unsure how she would react. Our itinerary looked something like this: day 1, arrive in Dublin and drive rental car west past Maynooth to B&B; day 2, drive to Cliffs of Moher on west coast of Ireland, then drive south to take ferry across to Ballylongford (site of the Carrigafoyle Castle and stronghold of the O’Connor clan) to B&B; day 3, drive south west to Blarney, kiss Blarney stone and walk in gardens, suffer (from my perspective at least) through an obligatory shopping trip to the Blarney Woolen Mills, then drive slightly north past Mallow to B&B; day 4, drive back to airport, drop off car, then take bus into Dublin; day 5, day in Dublin, including trip to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells; day 6, flight back to Germany.
Everything went very well. NP could not have travelled better on the plane. While other children screamed, NP smiled at people through the seats, charmed the flight attendants, and made us look like gold-standard parents. On a bus journey back to the terminal in Frankfurt, she entranced a group of young Greeks by waving coyly at them: these poor young couples may now have an absurdly unrealistic vision of how babies behave on a daily basis. She also slept wonderfully in the car, to the extent that she had two solid naps per day as we drove on winding roads through the Irish countryside. Not every moment was perfect – she didn’t always go to sleep well in the evening, which meant a lot more playtime than we felt we had in us. This also meant that she, uncharacteristically, took to getting in bed with us in the morning after she first woke up (circa 6:00) to doze for another hour – pleasant, you may think, except for the fact that she dozed sideways in the bed, giving KT and me about 10cm of bed on each side, and kicked in her sleep. And she did strive to impale herself on the grates of fireplaces in more than one of our B&Bs. But she kept out of the Guinness while in Ireland and generally did us proud.
It was a busy schedule, as we tried to fit a lot into just a few days, but I managed to find time to do my training sessions. On the Saturday we arrived I had a rest day in my schedule and this week has been a lower-intensity week after some harder sessions the week before. On the Sunday, I got out for my run near the end of the day in Ballylongford, on the west coast, after the drive west and the trip to the Cliffs of Moher (picture at the top of the post – no doubt, one of the most photographed sites in all of Ireland). The scheduled training session was a flat run in lower heart-rate zones (about 13kms), and I therefore had perfect terrain, running along the coast and past some old castle ruins. The Irish countryside can look harsh, even bleak in certain weather, but somehow the varied shades of damp green often seem to shine against the grey of clouds. The only downside to this run was that it was raining pretty hard and the wind was up, but it wasn’t cold and it was great to stretch my legs after a long day in the car. Here are some pictures of the coastline I ran along (our B&B is the white house in the background, on the island. I should like, incidentally, to thank our wonderful hosts Patricia and Garrett at the Castleview B&B for pretending that they did not think I was completely crazy for going out running in the rain, and for the wonderful home-cooked meal they served upon my return – the care given to the meal was particularly exceptional given the awkward moment upon our arrival when I informed Garrett that we are vegetarians and he in the next breath informed me that he is a beef farmer):
On Monday I had another rest day, during which we visited Blarney and I got in a bit of extra stretching and athletic work by leaning back to kiss the Blarney stone. KT in fact got the greatest workout of that day by bravely climbing up to the top of the castle with NP strapped to her front – no easy task, let me tell you. As I stood watching my mother and countless other tourists lean precariously backwards off the side of a precipice (with an Irishman assisting and a metal cage below to catch any particularly slippery sightseers) kiss the Blarney stone, I thought to myself, ‘This is one of the most absurd rituals I have ever witnessed’. Then, before I knew it, I had succumbed to the power of the queue and was myself putting lips to bluestone.
I did my run the next day once we got into Dublin. It had been rainy on and off during the day, but the late afternoon brought with it a good stretch of sun, during which I got out to the beautiful Phoenix park in Dublin. Here is a photograph of the park (which shows the paths parallel to the roads along which I ran), not taken by me as I didn’t have a camera while running and didn’t get back there otherwise:
This run was an interval training session (6 x 1km fast, with slow 400m sections in between, plus warm-up and cool-down: 14kms overall) and the relatively flat paths in the park gave me some reasonable terrain on which to do this, given that I didn’t have a track to hand. The run out to the park and back through the city wasn’t much fun, as the traffic was hard to navigate. We really enjoyed Dublin, so much so that we’d love to go back to visit for a longer stretch at some point, but we found the traffic, or rather the traffic signals, to be less than pedestrian friendly. That said, once in the park, I felt almost as though I wasn’t in a city at all, and I really enjoyed the run. It was once again great to stretch my legs after so much sitting while travelling, and I felt like I had a lot of energy.
On Wednesday, we spent the day visiting Trinity College, took a peak at the Book of Kells, and did a lot of walking around Dublin. This was a workout in itself, as I was wearing NP for much of the morning – it’s amazing how much harder the going can be with 10 kilograms strapped to your front, a reminder of how hard it can be for the body to have extra weight on its frame. I’m not quite sure why I find being a tourist so exhausting, but I can only visit museums and art exhibitions for a few hours a day before I need to lie down and sleep. A similar, but far more extreme, fatigue can quickly overtake me in a situation where I’m forced to go shopping (I last usually somewhere between 5 to 20 minutes). My guess is that in both these situations my fatigue has something to do with the air in enclosed buildings with a lot of people and the amount of standing around. In any case, I was ready by the evening to wake myself up with a quick swim workout.
I found a public pool in the Dublin city centre, the Marckievicz Swimming Pool, not far from Trinity College and made my way there after dinner. One downside to this swim was that, due to tight scheduling, I had to go almost immediately after eating dinner (at a lovely vegetarian restaurant called Cornucopia): never again will I swim within 15 minutes of eating a sweet-potato curry! Otherwise, however, I really enjoyed the swim. The pool was not the newest pool, and was a bit shallow at one end, but it had six lanes across divided into fast, medium, and slow, and showed itself to be a good pool by having a proper swim clock on the wall (see slightly blurry phone pictures below)! It was busy, but I would recommend it to anyone in search of a swim while travelling in Dublin.
I arrived back home after the swim feeling greatly refreshed and left Dublin this morning with fond memories of Ireland and our trip. Now that I’m home (for a few days at least), I’ll be posting more again soon on travelling and training, and on some new equipment I recently acquired (including an exciting pair of new running shoes!).