Atlas Obscura, Travel Guide to the Wonderful and Weird

I recently discovered the website Atlas Obscura, run by a group of dedicated travelers passionate for the weird, the forgotten, the unacknowledged and the almost-unbelievable.  Aside from allowing users to create profiles with maps of all the places they’ve been and bucket lists of the things they’ve yet to see, it’s a great platform for sharing weird discoveries that might not find a home in a Rick Steve’s travel guide or a Buzzfeed article of “Must Sees.”

You can find my entries – places and articles – on my AO profile, here.  I’m sure I’ll be adding more soon (expect pictures of one of Edinburgh’s underappreciated ruins, hidden, as it were, in plain sight) – in the meantime, here are two of my entries into AO’s compendium of fascinating places:

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Going Home to County Clare

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

-Seamus Heaney, Postscript

I wrote two weeks ago that I’d have to delay blogging about my trip to Carrowduff, Co. Clare; that was because I was at work on a longer travel memoir, published today on CNN.  In it, I talk about my own journey, about County Clare in 2014, and about the challenges to the American sons and daughters of immigrant parents who left them with a few stories, a few pictures, and little else with which to shore up their vague cultural inheritances.

Like so many American descendants of 19th and early 20th century immigrants, I have no family albums tracing my lineage back to New England ships, to British houses or German hamlets echoing back my own surname; the portraits in my parents’ dining room — a long nose here, familiar deep-set eyes there — are to an unsettling degree nameless. …

Read more on CNN.com.  You can also see my photos from Ireland here.

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The Ryan house sits on about forty acres of sloping farmland in Carrowduff, overlooking the rest of Kilshanny parish, below.

 

John Maddigan, once a neighbor of the Ryans, placed this post in recent years in the old Kilshanny church graveyard to mark the probable burial site of my great-great-uncle, Willie Ryan, and others from the Ryan clan.

John Maddigan, once a neighbor of the Ryans, placed this post in recent years in the old Kilshanny church graveyard to mark the probable burial site of my great-great-uncle, Willie Ryan, and others from the Ryan clan.