Boulevards & Byways

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

One Great Photo

Slinging my camera over my shoulder, I was enthralled with the prospect of capturing some truly wondrous photos. After all, I was on vacation in western Ireland, strolling through quaint towns with thatch roofed homes, traversing grand medieval Castles, and negotiating narrow roads that snaked their way through the verdant country side.

Before we left home, I spent time researching major tourist attractions and drilling the travel agent as to the sites and areas most worthwhile to visit.  “You should visit Blarney Castle and kiss the stone.” The travel agent informed me, while pointing to a photo of a person lying on the ground, bending over backwards and kissing the underside of the ledge. I knew from my research that the only way to reach the stone was to perform an acrobatic maneuver in order to acquire, as folklore dictates, the gift of gab and eloquence.


“What about the Ring of Kerry? I quizzed. “Is there a bus tour we can take? How long is the tour? How far away is that area from our hotel?   “The ring of Kerry, her face lighting up, “is a peninsula and one of the most beautiful and scenic areas of the country. There’s  a stop at a farm where you’ll  see a sheep herding demonstration.

“I heard the Burren is an interesting region.  What can you tell me about tours in that area?”  “The tour to the Burren,” she informed me, “includes a stop at the Cliffs of Moher and is an all day trip from 10am to 4pm.” “The Cliffs of Moher, I just have to go there too!” My list kept getting longer and I began to wonder how we were going to see everything during our six days in Ireland.

“I’d like some time to relax,” My husband  bantered, “and the kids aren’t going to want to spend hours every day on a tour bus.” I spent more time researching and the photos I found online of the Cliffs of Moher were captivating.  Considered to be one of Ireland’s top visitor destinations, 700 foot high cliffs lined 5 miles of coast along the Atlantic Ocean in County Clare! “One million visitors a year can’t be wrong.” I told my husband as he pursed his lips and tilted his head.  What could he say?

The next day we were on the tour bus, on our way to the Cliffs of Moher.  The day was foggy and a gentle mist surrounded the bus.

I gave my family a quick rundown of what we were going to see.  “It’s a vertical sheer drop into the Atlantic Ocean.  The cliffs are composed of beds of shale and sandstone that are 300 million years old.”  My family nodded their heads, appeasing my excitement. “I’m going to get some remarkable photographs.”  I boasted to anyone at this point who would listen. Other tourists on the bus nodded their heads. Could they too, be tired of my excitement?  “Wait until you see how beautiful these cliffs are.  Amazing doesn’t half describe them from what I’ve seen on the internet.”  And on and on I went about their splendor and opulence.

“THEY say you can see river channels at the base.” “Who are “THEY”?” my daughter remarked.  I can always count on her sarcastic whit.        “Am I the only one who is excited to see the cliffs?  Has anyone else bothered to do any research online?”           “Why do we have to do research when we are going to see them first hand?”  My 18 year old son remarked.

Okay, I got the hint, no one else really cared, and I kept my mouth shut for the rest of the trip. While on the bus, I noticed the white specs of sheep we had been passing were getting harder to see.  The fog created a barrier between everyone in the bus and everything else on the outside. The raindrops too, like a blanket, quickly covered our view as they hit the windows, sliding down the full length, leaving their mark, as if to tell the next splatter where to go.

“Not to worry,” the tour bus operator touted, “the rain moves from the west, to the east of Ireland. By the time we reach the cliffs, the weather should clear.” I was optimistic.  I’m going to get some really great shots, I thought to myself this time.

The bus slowed and I was barely able to see the sign, “Cliffs of Moher Visitor’s Center.” “In 2007 a brand new visitor’s center was built, housing a restaurant, gift shop, various exhibits and photographs of the cliffs. ” The tour guide went on. “Prior to 2007 there were no safety barriers and sections of the cliff were known to give way.  You were easily able to walk to the edge to view the Atlantic Ocean.  Now, safety is a priority and there are viewing platforms of varying heights and well-engineered barriers.”

I can’t see anything. Thank goodness for the barriers. The fog totally surrounds the bus and I panic.   How am I going to get any good photographs?  How will my family really know what the cliffs look like?  They didn’t do any research.

Visibility was about 10 feet and the smoky white veil reminded me of a spooky movie. We step off the bus and I run to the nearest railing. Nothing. I run up a few stairs to the next viewing level and look out.  Nothing.I call to my family, “Come on up here,” as I run further, “maybe we can see something from all the way up at the top.”  My voice trailing off as I get further away from them.  Nothing. I’m heartbroken.   I can’t even tell where the cliffs are. I can’t see a spec of ocean water.   We listen carefully and hear the faint crash of a wave. “Wow, these cliffs must be amazingly high” my husband reflects, “I can hardly hear the ocean.” “Well if you did some research, you would have at least had an idea of what they are supposed to look like,” I was annoyed I couldn’t see the cliffs and annoyed he didn’t listen when he had the chance. But I couldn’t even tell where they were. “Do you think the cliffs are over there?” I say to anyone who might be listening while pointing towards a square sign with a red border that shows a person falling backwards off a cliff.  Squinting, as if that was going to allow me to part the fog as Moses parted the red sea, I  hoped to get one small peak at these illusive cliffs.

“Come on, let’s go.”  My husband annoyed at not being able to see them either, held the door,herding us in the direction of the visitor’s center.   It felt as if a years’ worth of tourists were inside. Shoulder to shoulder, huddled together, they moved aimlessly, happy to be protected from the rain and pushing their way through to get a glimpse of a photograph or exhibit of what they were never going to see on the outside. I spot a very large panoramic photograph of the cliffs with the grand Atlantic Ocean at its base.  I lift my video camera and proceeded to videotape. “Here we are at the Cliffs of Moher,” I narrate…”these cliffs are 700 feet high and the view is spectacular…” my voice trails off as a form walking like Harpo Marx walks in front of the camera. It’s my son. He makes a funny face and smiles at the camera and we laugh. I can always count on my kids to lift the mood, but on the inside I realized I never will get that one great photo. We were all quiet when we arrived back in our hotel room. The rain tapped loudly against the windows and was magnified by our silence which somehow coincided with my husband’s frenzied tapping on the laptop we brought with us.

“Quick, come here,” he exclaimed, “you have to see this!  Look at these photos of the cliffs, you are not going to believe what we missed! Here’s a video someone posted on-line, too!”  His excitement was way too much to contain. We all huddled around, eewing and awing. Cloudless cobalt sky, soaring cliffs miles long, the Atlantic Ocean with waves of indigo and white breaking against its base. Everyone agreed, and we added it to our own collection. I finally did get that one great photo.




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