Lila had been very patient. She had swapped Dublin for Doolin, Waterford for Dingle, sweater shopping in Killarney for folk-dancing in Dripsey. She had not complained.
She had not rolled her eyes too much when I went for my walks across the fields of sheep, and sometimes she even accompanied me.
(This was the day we hiked to the Cliffs of Moher.)
But she was not to be denied Blarney Castle. She wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone. I tried not to roll my eyes. I tried not to feel all superior-like, and sarcastic. I did not say, Tourist trap!, though I thought it.
Foolish me. I did not stop to think there was a reason why Blarney Castle attracted tourists, and why it was there at all. It's not like it had just been built 50 years before to lure Americans. It had a history that dated back a thousand years. But in those days I was too smart for my own good.
We aimed our tiny car west again, and Blarney.
It was a gorgeous day. Our trip had started at the very end of March, with rain and rain and rain and rain. But now it was crisp and sunny, and the rhododendrons were blooming with their big deep pink blossoms along the side of the road.
For a "tourist trap," Blarney was very quiet. We saw almost no one else as we walked the grounds. And then we climbed the stone steps to the top, where the Blarney Stone lived.
There has been a castle on this spot since the tenth century, though the stone building there now was built in 1440. It belonged to Cormac McCarthy---not the American writer, but the King of Munster, who helped Robert the Bruce during the legendary battle of Bannuckburn.
The famous Blarney Stone, which Lila was determined to kiss and I was equally determined not to, was a gift from Robert the Bruce to Cormac McCarthy. It had been hewn from the Stone of Destiny, which apparently dates back to Biblical times and was used as a pillow by Jacob.
Neither Lila nor I had realized that kissing it was a feat of daring and athleticism.
The stone is built into the battlements, and it is not just lying there in full view for you to walk up to and embrace. No, no, you must lie on your back, grip the iron handles that have been installed there for this purpose, and then shimmy your horizontal body out over an open space three storeys above the famous Blarney flower gardens, stretching your neck and shoulders as far out and as far down as you can, until you are more or less upside down and you can reach the stone with your mouth.
And then, without worrying about germs or who had kissed it before you, you kiss it. And then you shimmy back. Here's a google picture to help you understand:
Lila and I walked up three flights of worn stone steps and came out onto the top of the castle. A man was sitting on a chair, reading the Irish Examiner and drinking a cup of coffee. He was wearing a cap, and he had a lined and weathered face. There was no one else around. When he saw us, he politely folded up his paper.
He showed us what we needed to do, and Lila lay down on her back. The man told me to hold her ankles, and I gripped them tightly, while he held her around the waist. She shimmied. She kissed. And then we pulled her back.
Your turn, Miss, he said, nodding at me.
Did I kiss the Blarney Stone? What do you think? (Poll below.)
Afterward, we wandered around the gardens, which were very green but just beginning to bud out. There's a lot of magic in the grounds surrounding the castle--wishing steps, and an old sacrificial altar that was allegedly used during the time of the druids.
Lila had strong objections to taking this picture. She thought it would bring the wrath of the ancient gods down on my head. But it's been 18 years, and so far, so good.
UPDATE: Ack! Blogpoll ate my poll. ah well.....
Jenny Barden in the Plotting Shed
1 hour ago