Eighth Week: Iona to Dublin via Glasgow

Strawberry granola…the best I’ve ever had.

It’s only been a few days since my last post, but we’ve jumped around so much that I felt that I needed to give you all an update.

Before I rush into the trip, there have been lots of things going on in the U.S. that have disturbed me and some things that have brought me much joy. The South Carolina AME church shooting is forefront on my mind. Racism is alive and well, my friends, and we have to do something about it. Mix that racism with poor gun control and you’ve got yourself a real problem. I guess being over here lets me see things more objectively, but I see plenty of black people here, yet no one seems to treat them like they are treated in the U.S. I also notice that the police don’t carry guns. I know nowhere is perfect, but that seems to be a good sign. Second, I hear that people are in an uproar about the Confederate flag being taken down. If you don’t understand why that flag should be taken down, perhaps you’re part of the problem.

However, I am very happy to hear about the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex unions. In case you haven’t heard, our bishop, Rob Wright, has publicly given us priests permission to perform such unions, which I am glad to hear. In other Episcopal news, our General Convention is meeting this week and has elected the Right Reverend Michael Curry as our new Presiding Bishop! He is our first African-American P.B. and is one of the best preachers I’ve ever heard. I was hoping he would be elected. I think all of these things are positives for the Church and for the Kingdom of God. I’m sure not everyone agrees with me, but that’s OK. It’s a big church and we have a big God.

Back to the trip…when I last posted, we were on Iona, and it was cold. Our last full day there started off rainy and cold, but we were determined to get out and explore some more. We had our usual lunch at one of the few restaurants in the village: Martyr’s Bay, the Iona Heritage Cafe, or St. Columba’s, and by the time we were finished the sun came out! We decided to hike out to the west coast of the island to the “Bay on the Back of the Island.” The shoreline is covered in the most beautiful rocks you can imagine. They are piled everywhere.On our way out there, we stopped at a little art shop which was in the home of one of the residents. She told us about another hidden beach called Port Ban that we should visit on our walk. Nestled between these huge crags is a beach that you could only dream about in the States. Of course, the water was frigid, but with the sun shining, we had a great time. The interesting thing was that the beach didn’t have sand in the strictest sense. What looks like sand on the beach is actually bits of shells that have been pulverized by the waves. I’ve never seen anything like it.     That afternoon, we walked all the way back to the north end of Iona. Molly really wanted to get some pebbles to put in a jar to take back home, and I wanted a few Iona rocks for myself. Bronwyn, Liam, Molly, and I walked to “our” beach and spent a little while searching for rocks. I could have spent all day out there looking at all the different rocks out there. It really is an embarrassment of riches. I found a handful of the most verdant stones you will see. My backpack is heavier, but I don’t mind.   

On Saturday, we finally had to say goodbye to Iona. It was just so peaceful and lovely and I was so glad to share it with Molly and the kids. I got a bit wistful as we were leaving on the ferry.
Iona is also not easy to leave. We took a ferry to the Isle of Mull and hopped on the “crazy bus” that takes you across Mull to Craignure. This bus ride is ridiculous. It’s a one-lane road with all kinds of twists and turns. If someone is coming the opposite direction, the bus driver will slam on his brakes, ready or not. I have a pretty strong stomach and even I was nauseous. If you’ve seen or read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, you’ll know about the “Knight Bus.” That’s exactly what this was like. Grey’s new catchphrase is, “It’s gonna be a bumpy ri-ide!” After the bus, we got on another ferry to Oban, then a 3-hour train ride to Glasgow.

We had quite a walk to our apartment in Glasgow, but we were happy when we arrived. The flat was in the city center and convenient to everywhere we wanted to go. We had dinner at one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve ever been to. On the night we arrived, Bronwyn lost her very first tooth (finally!). Luckily, the Tooth Fairy also visits Scotland as well as the United States and England. Now Tai has another loose tooth, so maybe she’ll come to Ireland too. Grey is not happy about all of this, and is ready to pull his own teeth out so he can be one of the gang.

In Glasgow on Sunday, we stuck around the flat while Molly continued washing clothes since she hadn’t had any washing machine in Iona. Then, we headed out towards St. Mungo’s Cathedral, which is the primary cathedral in Glasgow. On the way there, we saw a real old-fashioned police box, which to us looks like a TARDIS from Doctor Who. A geeky moment, but we thought it was cool.
St. Mungo’s has an incredible Museum of Religion, so we took the kids there. They have numerous pieces of religious art and a great display on the major religions of the world. I caught one stained glass image of St. Nicholas, one of the few that doesn’t look like Santa Claus.     After the museum, we toured the cathedral and stayed for Evensong. While the cathedral itself is fantastic, the Evensong left a bit to be desired. They only do it once a month instead of daily like other cathedrals. Also, this cathedral is Church of Scotland (which is our version of Presbyterian), not Anglican or Roman Catholic, so you could tell the differences in liturgy. Liam fell asleep in the service and I wish I had gotten a picture of him. It was priceless. We found a little chapel in the crypt dedicated to St. Nicholas.      Today we made the trip to our last country Ireland. We decided to get a cab from our flat to the airport. The plane ride was very uneventful and I highly recommend Aer Lingus if you are traveling to Ireland. They are very accommodating, especially to me with my guitar. We got another taxi from the airport to our Dublin flat, which we have found is just about the same price as taking a bus, plus you’re not having to deal with luggage around a million people. Grey especially liked the taxi ride. We spent the afternoon walking around down O’Connell Street, stopping for groceries (thank God for Aldi!) and getting pizza and frozen yogurt. Afterwards, I stuck around the Temple Bar area while Molly took the kids home. After a long drought of music, I have found the Mecca of music here in Dublin. There are literally hundreds of pubs, each with a live musician. I first stopped at “the” Temple Bar, where there was a typical Irish folk musician and packed full of other tourists. I stayed for a bit and continued walking until I found one pub called the Porterhouse, where a group of guys were sitting at a table playing guitar, banjo, and pipes. They were excellent and there was hardly anyone there. So I sat and listened for a while over a porter and a lager (it was a brewery, and I made the mistake of asking for Guinness!). I made it home in time to tuck the kids in. Overall, a very promising start to Dublin.    Tomorrow we will do some touring to the hotspots of Dublin. There is lots to see here, and I’m afraid we won’t have enough time for everything. But at least I know where I can go to find some great music! More to come!

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