Ireland Recap Day 4: Ennis Franciscan Friary

Having spent every day driving, we opted to spend the morning in Ennis taking in some of the local attractions since this was our last full day before moving on to Tralee on Sunday. Feeling energized after breakfast we set out on a walk around the town. In the heart of Ennis is incredible ruins of a 13th century Franciscan Friary. Founded by the O'Briens, it has numerous 15/16th century sculptures carved in the local hard limestone. In it's glory days it was a flourishing community with 375 friars and 600 students. Much of Ennis actually grew up around the Friary which is the case with most towns in Ireland. The friary has been altered over time to suit the needs of whoever called the shots. The main bell tower now sports the four spires associated with Protestant church style. The admission fee and tour are less then a couple of Euros and is well worth it.

After the tour of the friary, we opted to split up for the rest of the morning so we could do some shopping (a tin whistle and music CDs for Jen and I) and have a leisurely morning. Jen and I walked around town and got some great pictures of the newer Franciscan Friary just to the west of the older ruins. It is located right next to the Poor Clare Monastery and has some great architecture. While walking around, we had a nice conversation with a older Irish gentleman who seemed very eager to talk about the Aran Islands and how we were liking Ennis and County Clare. I think the conversation might have been a excuse for him to put off the lawn work he was doing. Right across the street at the Poor Clare Monastery, there was a nun also doing yard work. We noticed she was also listening to an iPod which made us smile (the scene could have been a century old based on her habit/clothing and her gardening tools had it not been for the tell-tale white earbuds).

Ennis also has a great open air market where you can get anything from crepes and pastries to cordless drills. One vendor had an incredible selection of stuffed olives and grape leaves as well as other delights. We picked up a small bag of garlic stuffed green olives to go with our gourmet cheese from the Ailwee Caves and decided to call that lunch. Anne, Roger, Dave, and Stephanie decided to go for a drive to a near by ring fort while Jen and I opted to stay in Ennis and relax (driving in Ireland takes a lot out of you the first few days). We had lunch in the garden at the Old Ground Hotel while we journaled our thoughts and wrote out postcards. We also watched as the cathedral next door was made ready for a wedding that afternoon. We walked around Ennis a bit more and got some great photos of St. Columba's church on the other side of the river.

By dinner time, the rest of the crew had returned from their day trip with stories and photos. While we were out earlier, we scouted a good pub (Cruise's) to have our last dinner in Ennis. The pub had some great food and started their music early which added to the ambiance. Many of the musicians we recognized from the night before at the Poet's Corner. I guess the all do a circuit of the Pubs and will get together for the Irish version of a jam session. We had dessert from a local "fast-food" restaurant (hot muffin with ice-cream...how could you pass that up?) which we ate while sitting at the steps of the O'Connell monument. I guess we stuck out as tourists as a car of teenagers shouted out "Welcome to Ireland". We are not sure if they were sincere or just having fun...either way we had a good laugh.

While walking back to the hotel, we saw the most amazing thing that made us all think of home: a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro complete with South Carolina plates. We chatted with the driver who had it parked at the end of O'Connell street while is wife/girlfriend was in a nearby shop. He commented that he does not drive it often as it only averages 12 MPG. The car was absolutely beautiful though and every head turned as it drove down O'Connell street.

We had a few pints in the hotel pub while listening to some local music that evening. It was a nice way to wrap up our stay in Ennis at the Old Ground Hotel. I highly recommend this place if you plan on a visit to Ireland.

Pictures from the days adventure can be found here

Day 5 Preview: Tralee, Ballyseede Castle & the Dingle Peninsula