From Muckross we proceeded north, crossing the broad Shannon estuary by ferry on our way to the spectacular cliffs of Moher. When we arrived I purchased at the shop a decent map of Ireland, by Michelin. (We already had a few excellent 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey topographic maps of particular places, but for the whole country we had only the freebie from the car-rental company--which showed no mileages or points of interest, and even lacked a scale--and a two-page spread in a road atlas of Britain.)
The Michelin map came in very handy for finding our next sightseeing destination, the dolmen or portal tomb at Poulnabrane or Poulnabrone, a Neolithic monument of the "megalithic" ("large stone") sort, as is Stonehenge. It is situated at the edge of the "Burren," a hilly region of exposed limestone in northeastern County Clare. It stands a small way off to the side of a minor road, and there are no signs pointing the way to it till you get there. The difficulty of finding the place, combined I suppose with limited popular interest in Neolithic tombs, made this the least overrun of the tourist attractions we have seen so far--though when we arrived, we found ourselves less alone than we had seemed to be on the road getting there. Near the dolmen is a field filled with smaller examples of rock-stacking. It seems impossible that all the stacks could have stayed intact from Neolithic times, but perhaps a folk tradition is none the less authentic for succeeding generations' chipping in with repairs and even innovations.
After leaving the Neolithic site we proceeded as rapidly as we could here to Eyrecourt, the little town in eastern County Galway where I had booked the first of our three "self-catering" accommodations in Ireland. ("Self-catering" means you rent a house, cottage, or apartment for one or more weeks and do your own shopping, cooking, laundry, dishes, etc.). We saw considerably more of the Burren, and several castles ruined and otherwise. Michelin let us down once regarding back roads; but a brief consultation with a native, and a shrewd guess thereafter, got us back on track for Loughrea, where we found a Chinese restaurant (Stas already tires of Hibernian cuisine). I tried to call the landlady of "The Square" to advise her that we would be arriving even later than the 8:00 p.m. that I had specified in booking (and confirmed that morning by telephone from the hostel); but I got their answering machine, and it turned out they had already left their home in Ballinasloe, a dozen miles north from Eyrecourt, in order to await us. We wound up arriving at 8:40. I apologized for making them wait, but they were very nice and merely expressed relief that we hadn't made our way to Eyre Square in the town of Galway by mistake, as some of their previous tenants had done.
It seems odd to speak of taking a day off when one is "on holiday," as the British and Irish put it, but today that is precisely what we did. Stas and the girls did some overdue laundry, and I worked at catching up on various computer jobs, including this journal. Also the children got time to play and Stas to rest. I kept my promise not even to move the car all day. I walked the 300 yards to the local grocery this morning, and later we all took a little walking tour of the town. The weather was our fairest yet in Ireland (though after our walk there was a downpour and we scrambled to get the laundry out of it), and the town made a much more favorable impression in the sunlight than it had the night before.
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