A Day Trip To Coole Park and Galway

August 8, 2010

A Walk through Coole Park, where W.B. Yeats and other famous writers and poets came to relax and write.

Today was a pretty relaxing day. We took a day trip out to Coole Park, where William Butler Yeats penned some of his poetry on the estate run by Lady Gregory, a patron and friend of his. Two of his poems, “Coole Park 1929” and “The Wild Swans At Coole” are obviously written, at least partially, about the park.

There’s not much to see there in terms of tourist attractions or gimmicky souvenir shops but it is a beautiful park. There is this sense of relaxation wafting through the air. It’s no wonder that many a poet and writer came here for inspiration. I would love to come back someday and spend a day lounging about the park with a notebook and pen in hand, just capturing the free-flowing words and turning abstract ideas into tangible, inky ones beneath my finger tips.

The "Autograph Tree" at Coole Park. W.B. Yeats was the first of many writers to carve his initials into the trunk. You can see them there next to 10.

We did go see the “Autograph Tree” where Lady Gregory had some of Ireland’s best writer’s carve their name into a thick tree trunk. W.B. Yeats was the first of the group to do so. To stand where my favorite poet stood so many years ago was intoxicating. I was feeling the same wind in my hair, touching the same tree he touched and standing on the ground he walked. I was hoping that the earth captured at least a hint of his essence and that I could draw some of his poetic genius into me.

We also swung by Coole Lake, where Yeats would have observed the swans he wrote about as an allegory to aging. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any swans other than some carved into a stone so I guess I”ll just have to live vicariously through Yeat’s observations.

Vincent Mulvihill, a talented, young hurling player from Tipperary, Ireland that we encountered on our walk through Coole Park.

On the way back from the Lake, we encountered a budding young hurling player named Vincent Mulvihill from Tipperary, Ireland. He demonstrated to our group how a hurley stick was used to bat around the ball, called a sliotar. One of our group member asked us if he wanted to go pro and he nodded yes but in Irish sports, going pro does not mean what it does in other parts of the word. Hurling players, and players of other Irish sports, are not paid much money, if any at all, and usually hold regular jobs despite their long hours of practice and play. There can really be no other reason to do it but for the love of the sport and for the love of Ireland. That’s pretty admirable, if you think about it.

Our next destination was Galway, known as Ireland’s Cultural Heart (Croí Cultúrtha na hÉireann). Like Dublin’s Temple Bar and Grafton Street, there were a lot of street performers, shops and pubs. We had about four hours to comb the city and enjoy the cool air and sights and sounds of the culture.

We first had a bite to eat at The King’s Head pub, where we learned some valuable lessons about eating out in Ireland. For simplicity sake, I’ll list them out:

  • Never assume that a refill on a drink is free. One of my classmates paid nearly three Euro for a tiny glass of coke and was charged another three for a refill. They will not take the money off your bill if you didn’t know you get charged.
  • Condiments are not always listed on the menu with other ingredients in the dish. You may ask for a burger without cheese but they may put mayonnaise or a special sauce you didn’t know about on it.
  • Waitresses do not seem to be as concerned about tips as American waitresses are. Therefore, one does not get their a** kissed. If you’re fortunate enough to have your order taken shortly after you’re seated, you may not see your waitress for the remainder of your meal. They’re friendly but don’t cater to your every need, ask you how your food was or constantly check up on you.

The cultural heart of Ireland, Galway.

Craft fair in Galway, Ireland.

Aside from that, I enjoyed the meal. The rest of the day was spent wandering through various shops, stopping to take pictures of street performers and musicians and tossing change into their opened cases and flipping through books in the Irish literature section at a couple bookshops. My favorite part of the day was wandering down a  narrow alley where a craft fair was set up. People of various cultures and specialties were peddling their wares in temporary booths they set up. We found some great handcrafted jewelry and bags there. I got a handmade leather cufflet with a harp design burned into it.

Now we are back at the University of Limerick dorms, preparing for a casual game of soccer tonight and then packing up our suitcases for the trip to Killarney tomorrow. Our leaving is bittersweet. We are all excited to to embark on a journey into yet another unique and exciting part of Ireland but we know that the end of our trip is nearing. Many of us have grown attacked the the campus and to this country and the thought of going home to Florida is, well, sad. We all miss our family and friends, yes, but nothing there could compare to the adventures we have gone on in Ireland.

Pssssst! Some of the awesome street performers.

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