Travel # 12 -- April 1, 2005
Onward to Tralee

By Bob Corbett

We hopped an Eireann bus to Tralee at about 10:30 in the morning and in just an hour and fifteen minutes were in Tralee. It was a decent morning so we walked the 15 minutes from the bus depot up to Sion Lodge where Marian, the hostess was awaiting us.

There are some of you on this travel list who may well not know of my stay at the Sion Lodge in November 2004, just a four months earlier. On November 15, 2004 my brother John and his wife Terri were involved in a head-on collision while driving on The Ring of Kerry. The next day I hurried over to be with them. John was in a coma for 10 days, and had been moved to the Kerry General Hospital in Tralee. Marian ran the Sion Lodge B&B, directly across the street from the hospital and I stayed there the several weeks I was there until we were able to get John home by air ambulance. His wife Terri was released from the hospital some time before John could be taken home and she too took a room at Sion Lodge.

Marian is a very special person, treated us incredibly well, has marvelous wit and charm and is just plain out a very kind, generous and wonderful person.

We had come to Tralee for two reasons: to see and thank the hospital staff who took such great care of John and Terri, and to see Tralee since it is a lovely town, one I had gotten to know intimately. We only planned two days there, but they were filled with delights we hadn’t expect.

Marian is a rather reluctant B&B hostess. She doesn’t really like the business, but enjoys the people. The bulk of her guests are hospital- related. Doctors and other workers who are in town for a shorter stay of a few days or few weeks, and, like me, family members of people who are in the hospital. Marian seems to delight in offering this service and helps out folks like me a great deal, but her heart isn’t into B&B keeping.

She had told us that she wouldn’t even be there most of our stay. Her family owns and races thorough-bred greyhounds, and her daughter is also in gymnastics. On the week-end we were coming in Marian’s daughter was in a gymnastics meet in Dublin, and then they were hurrying home for a dog race their main dog was racing in.

She told us she would leave plenty of breakfast food in the refrigerator, but that we would be totally on our own, the only guests in the house. Unlike all the other B&Bs where we stayed she doesn’t live IN the B&B. Rather, their family home is about 10 feet behind the B&B, so it is a separate building.

When we arrived she greeted us, gave us a key, explained again that she would be gone and that plenty of food was there, that we could use the kitchen fully, and she even made a huge pot of home made Irish stew as a fringe benefit for us being willing to stay under these conditions. She also gave us a rock bottom price for the room for the two nights we were staying.

Then she took off! We had the house to ourselves. And it is a very beautiful place with lots of light pine. Clean as can be, very new looking.

Since I spent so much time here after John and Terri’s accident I know the town well. We walked into town, about a 20-25 minute walk and discovered we had his the jackpot. The Pan Celtic Festival was in town these two days, and there would be competitions at the hotels and other venues in traditional music dancing, fiddling, groups and other areas of music competition. Our first day was modestly warm and in the town square people were gathering since there was going to be an opening parade in the middle afternoon, the major competitions were the next day. We couldn’t have arrived in Tralee at a better time.

We first went to my favorite pub, Brewbakers where I had eaten nearly everyday of my stay there. I had the Brewbakers’s fish chowder, which I used to eat every day, and Sally had their home-made soup. Marvelous. I had thought there was no possibility of a chowder better than Brewbakers, but I realized that first morning, comparing their chowder with the chowder I had had just two days earlier at The Old Pier, that Brewbaker’s had met their match with Jackie O’Connor’s chowder. No matter, Brewbaker’s was delicious.

After eating we went into town and Sally did some shopping while I sat in the sun on a city bench and read my book. Sally appeared after a while, the proud possessor of two Irish wool sweaters and a nice scarf she needed in the chilly weather we experience many days in the rest of our trip. Soon it was time for the opening parade, and the people were all in ancient folk costumes, it was marvelous. The contestants were from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and other places. Lots of music and dancing.

When the parade was over we went over to an e-mail place for an hour or so, and when emerging walked back through the main square. There many of the groups performing a taste of what they would be doing in the competition and we sat in the chilly late afternoon weather enjoying them very much.

I’ve mentioned the Dunnes store chain in Ireland. Tralee has three Dunnes stores and I knew them all well. We walked up to the one closet to our house and got some wine for dinner, knowing that we had the Irish stew which Marian left for us. Oh my was it marvelous. We sat in her kitchen and just ate and ate and ate.

We’d been out a lot walking and in the chilly air, and were exhausted. We retired early knowing the next day would be WILDLY busy. First would be visits to the hospital to see folks, then back to the music festival. We couldn’t imagine what an awesome day the next day would be.

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Bob Corbett