S: IRELAND APRIL 2011
BC: Happy Birthday Bob I love you, Barbara 8/17/2011
FC: IRELAND APRIL 2011
1: Our Ireland Adventure April 8 - 18, 2011 4/8 3:00 Treated royaly by our friend Conn and was chauffeured to BWI. All was easy getting to New Jersey and then overnight to Dublin - an interesting flight. They served dinner and breakfast along with drinks and snacks the entire trip. TV’s with lots of options movies, tv shows, games, news, music, etc. No problems – flight was not full so we stretched out some. 4/9 7:00 Landed in Dublin-waited for Nikki and Mike’s flight to arrive at 9:00. It arrived on time, however, Mike’s luggage didn’t make it. Would figure things out later after getting the car and driving to Ashbourne (15 minutes from airport) to the Baltrasna Lodge B&B. Greeted by Kathleen Kelly, owner. Lovely day and equally lovely and comfortable home! She directed us to downtown Ashbourne to buy Mike some “cheapies” at Dunnes Store. Really, it was nice, but luckily not too expensivehe got jeans (with a belt!) a shirt and underwear. We then took a bus to downtown Dublin to check it outbuy Hop-on Hop-Off bus tours and then ate at our first Pub in Ireland, Brannigans. Hade the first adult beverage (Bob and Mike had Guinness of course, Me Heineken and Nikki water). We all ordered Fish & Chips which were great! We then hopped on the bus and stayed on top to see the whole city – took about 1-1/2 hours. Got to see the places and mapped out the stops for the next day. We decided to go back to Ashbourne for a rest, and then ventured out for dinner in the small town. Found a lovely little wine bar/restaurant named “CORKS”. Cool place with absolutely great food. I had the Salmon Pasta with Asparagus, Nikki had crostini and quesadilla, Mike had a stir fry and Bob had mushroom stroganoff. The wine and dessert (apple pie a la mode) topped it all off. The jetlag set in and we went back and crashed for the night. 4/10 8:30 BIG IRISH BREAKFAST served at the Baltrasna Lodge by Barney Kelly (Kathleen’s husband). Barney is related to Mary Rita’s cousin Frank Buckley. Frank has visited them (about 19 years ago) and had sent several other friends and relatives to them for lodging. Barney was wonderful. He sat with us and discussed family and served us the true Irish breakfast, consisting of 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 bacon, and fried tomatoes, potatoes, toast, juice, cereal, yogurt, coffee. He gave us some tips on Dublin and we headed out to catch the 10:10 bus to City Centre. Walked from City Centre to St. Stephens Green– a beautiful full flowering park – got lots of pictures and enjoyed people watching. Walked over to Trinity College and toured the Book of Kells Library. We stood in que (line) about 15 minutes and we think we encountered a real leprechaun..that is this small stout woman with very strange mannerisms with an Irish accent butted in line in front of us-she really looked like a leprechaun! Wasn’t able to get a photo though darn it. We jumped on the hop-on/hop-off bus and proceeded to the Dublin Castle – walked trough gardens and took the guided tour through the inside of the castle and church. Part of the tour we were taken underground to see the original foundation of the 13th century wall, etc. Very interesting. It was on to the Guinness Storehouse for another wild tour. The tour included a tasting and was topped off with a full pint Guinness at the end - up on the roof top glass enclosed bar overlooking all of Dublin. Bad news was I misplaced two tickets for two free pints! Suffice it to say, Bob and Mike were not happy with me. We survived though. We hopped back on the bus and drove through the Phoenix Park area, with lots of people sunning themselves in the green green grass, playing soccer, riding bikes, feeding ducks, etc..
2: Barney & Kathleen Kelly Hosts (and related to Mike McKinley)
12: Jumped off again in the Temple Bar area to peruse the shopping/pub scene. Decided upon a small Italian restaurant “Botticelli’s” for dinner. Alfredo was our charismatic waiter who took very good care of us. Food and wine were fabulous! Dessert was Gelato of course. It was then to the famous Temple Bar – very busy, soccer game on the big screens throughout – and we had more Guinness (except Barb had Smithwicks as another first try). We then trekked it back to the bus stop back to Ashbourne navigating through a short cut alley way – came upon the “Turkish Social Club”a bit strange to us but interesting. Caught the bus (it was only 15 minutes late and then when we arrived back at Baltnasra Lodge, thankfully, Mike’s luggage had been delivered to his door. He was very happy and relieved that he did not have to wear the same clothes again the next day. 4/11 9:00 Breakfast with Barney: Enjoyed another “Irish” breakfast – chatted about family and asked his advice and thoughts regarding our next travel plan, that is, trekking across the mid-section of the country to Galway for a night. He thought it would take approx. 2 hours and that the road was all highway and easy to navigate. We decided to make a short stop halfway which led us to Athlone, a pretty little town on the river with a landmark castle near a huge church at the edge of town. We walked about the town, stopped in a sweet little coffee shop, and ended up walking around the whole town close to a military base and along the river back to our car. Beautiful bridge over the river and yet another perfect photo op. We drove another hour and arrived at Galway – driving down through the small city to the Spanish Quarter. We parked and walked to McDonough’s and ordered their famous Fish on a Stick and Chips. Did a little more walking/shopping - Bob bought a belt in Dunnes as he realized he forgot to bring a belt with him. From there, we decided to drive the coast from Galway up through The Berrens, going through Barna –and then stopped to take pictures of the “beach” at Spidal. There were children who were actually running through the water – it was a warm day, however the water is like ice there at this time of year anyway. Kids are the same everywhere. No fear and never too cold to go in the ocean! From there we drove through the Connemaugh National Park which was very mountainous and did not really look like you were in Ireland – every thing was brown (not green) and it had its own character, look and feel.The mountains (called Twelve Bens/Pins) were beautiful. We did encounter cows in the road – they stared us down – didn’t really budge until the last secondf. From there to Mams Cross and back to Galway. Checked into the most comfortable LIMA B & B with Marcella as our host. Rested and freshened up there. Went back down into Galway in search of the best seafood in Galway (according to TripAdvisor) Conlons. We walked, we searched but we could never find it. Finally, we stopped in a nearby tavern and was told that they were no longer open!!! Closed down recently. Man o man we were then steered into a wonderful place “Elwoods” a sort of higher end sports bar/restaurant. The food was really good - Mike had lamb, Bob had Salmon appetizer and Seafood Chowder, Barb had salmon dinner and Nikki was in need of a burger - and our server was very pleasant and fun. From there we went to Taaffe’s Pub which was suggested to us by the B&B owner in Doolin. She said if we are in Galway, we MUST go there for fun. Well, she was right. Very young crowd with very traditional Irish music. We entered and went straight to the back near the band and bar. We stood next to two guys who were having fun. Barb had her first Guinness (full Pint that is) and surprisingly loved it! The two guys struck up a conversation with us - very engaging. One guy (short one) said he was a chef in training from Dublin – he was quite the character – very colorful, smiley and jovial joking and laughing and singing along with the band. Nothing better than live Irish music! The place was packed even tho it was a Monday! Made it back to the B&B by midnight and slept soundly again.
16: 4/13 9:30 Waking up to rain on a tin roof was heaven. Our hosts, Sinead O’Connor and her husband Manuel served us a made-to-order Irish breakfast and even offered salmon instead of meat for Bob. Very very accommodating! We met another guest – an interesting lady from Vancouver Island Canadashe had just come through from the Ring of Derry and other southern points. Said it was absolutely amazing too. She introduced us to “bipp’ing” by sheep. We left Doolin and drove up the North coast road to Black Head (the surf on the rocks was crazy) and around back to Galway.our next adventure was to trek up to Donegal. On the way we drove by Sligo through Mullaghmore – there was an unbelievable coastal castle (someone’s home) and the coast again was a gorgeous site. We even passed a grove of palm treeswe certainly didn’t expect seeing those in Ireland. We arrived in Donegal just 15 minutes later and found it to be yet another interesting town on the water.we checked into the Ardenaugh B&B hosted by Tony and Eileen Mulher Tony met us, got us settled and offered to put a small fire in the fireplace for us.we went into town, parked at the harborplace and walked through the quaint town and shopped around. Walked up to the Donegal Castle (however touring hours were over for the day). We planned to come back the next day to go thru the castle in the morning.we then walked back down to the harbor, and went into Dom’s – a three story place with windows overlooking the harbor. We sat in “Dom’s Library” for Happy Hour and to rest our feet...Mike went to the bar and met the supposed “town drunk.” Mike said he must have been speaking Gaelic because he couldn’t understand much he was saying! After drinks, we walked through the town cemetery on the harbor and I looked for Irish names on the tombstones – giving ideas to Mike & Nikki for their 1st born. Dinner at The Harbour Restaurant – pizza, chicken and guess – Beers, imagine that. Went back to the B&B for a cozy fire and tea/bourbon cookieswatched TV: Killer Whales – documentary by a Scottish wildlife photographer; and documentary about Bigomy (UK woman married to 5 men). Interesting. 4/14 9:00 Light breakfast for Bob, Nikki and Mike; Big Breakfast for me! Had to go to ATM to get cash to pay for B&B (we hadn’t asked about credit cards)30 Euros eachgood rate. We proceeded to town again, to tour the Castle and revisit shops for wool hat for MikeNikki and I bought sweaters too. Eileen suggested we visit Slieve League (about 45 minutes from Donegal) and we were absolutely blown away with this site. We drove through Killybegs, a small fishing community with lots and lots of boats! Once we reached the “gate” – we opened it and proceeded up a one-mile drive with a few cut-backs and narrow road. There was a white cloud hovering over the very top of the peaks of the cliffs when we got thereblue sky and sunshineby the time we walked to the top (not really the top but up high) the clouds had lifted and we say the full peaks with blue sky above. It was breathtaking. Many photos were taken and there were some baby sheep on a steep hill near their momma - back through Killybegs and Dunkenneely known as a “tidy town”. From there we continued on through Ballboofey and Stranorlan (Rep of Ireland) and onto Strabane - Londonderry (Northern Ireland) – rush hour – city divided by RiverNikki spotted ASDA operated by Walmart! On to Coleraine and Portrush to Dunluce Castle on the Giant Causewaywhite coast and black rocks – and rope bridgewe arrived around 6:00 and it was still sunshine and warm – no jacket needed. Mike & Nikki were BIPPT by sheep.. By 7:30 we were on the “single carriage road” when we should have been on the “double carriage road”we drove through Antrim looking for a restaurant “on the lake”. | 4/12 9:00 Breakfast by Marcella: ANOTHER Irish breakfast - man do they love to serve MEAT! Marcella’s home is furnished very comfortably and she too is a gracious host. We then meandered a bit south to Doolin (approximately 1 hour drive) Checked into TWIN PEAKS B&B which we found on Trip Advisor and in our B&B book as being rated #3 of 37 best B&B’s by fellow travelers and they were right! A gorgeous (newer) home with pristine accommodations and fabulous made-to-order breakfast that included Salmon & Eggs (a delight for Bob). Once checked in, we headed down to the small shops in Doolin and then over to the Cliffs to sign up for a boat tour of the cliffs. The boat tour was not until 3:00 so we drove further south and came across a small coastal town of Liscannor and had lunch at a rustic restaurant, The Anchor Inn - the best mussels ever! Went back to Doolin/Boat/rough ride/Mike holding on for dear life/Nikki getting a little sick ;) Back to B&B for nappies. Bob and Barb took another ride along the north coast up through Fanore and found a mountain road back to Doolin. Very very picturesque. Saw a big jackrabbit and a 1300’s castle. Evening dinner at Gus O’Connor’s with music. When the “coffin dodgers” (bus load of retired blue hairs) showed up we moved our party down to McGowanst - now that was a true true Irish family-owned Pub with unbelievable music. Blackie – the piper from Shannon, was very entertaining along with a French guitarist and a red-haired lovely singer – and an old rocker type who sang a great Bob Dylan! Very cool all the way around. It was the only time we saw rain, pouring and that was at night when we really didn’t care! A great great time! 4/13 9:30 Waking up to rain on a tin roof was heaven. Our hosts, Sinead O’Connor and her husband Manuel served us a made-to-order Irish breakfast and even offered salmon instead of meat for Bob. Very very accommodating! We met another guest – an interesting lady from Vancouver Island Canada. She had just come through from the Ring of Derry and other southern points. Said it was absolutely amazing too. She introduced us to “bipp’ing” by sheep. We left Doolin and drove up the North coast road to Black Head (the surf on the rocks was crazy) and around back to Galway. Our next adventure was to trek up to Donegal. On the way we drove by Sligo through Mullaghmore – there was an unbelievable coastal castle (someone’s home) and the coast again was a gorgeous site. We even passed a grove of palm trees - we certainly didn’t expect seeing those in Ireland. We arrived in Donegal just 15 minutes later and found it to be yet another interesting town on the water. We checked into the Ardenaugh B&B hosted by Tony and Eileen Mulhern. Tony met us, got us settled and offered to put a small fire in the fireplace for us. We went into town, parked at the harborplace and walked through the quaint town and shopped around. Walked up to the Donegal Castle (however touring hours were over for the day). We planned to come back the next day to go thru the castle in the morning. We then walked back down to the harbor, and went into Dom’s – a three story place with windows overlooking the harbor. We sat in “Dom’s Library” for Happy Hour and to rest our feet...Mike went to the bar and met the supposed “town drunk.” Mike said he must have been speaking Gaelic because he couldn’t understand much he was saying! After drinks, we walked through the town cemetery on the harbor and I looked for Irish names on the tombstones. Dinner at The Harbour Restaurant – pizza, chicken and guess what else – Beers, imagine that. Went back to the B&B for a cozy fire and tea/bourbon cookies - watched TV: Killer Whales – documentary by a Scottish wildlife photographer; and documentary about Bigomy (UK woman married to 5 men). Interesting.
23: 4/14 9:00 Light breakfast for Bob, Nikki and Mike; Big Breakfast for me! Had to go to ATM to get cash to pay for B&B (we hadn’t asked about credit cards)30 Euros each-good rate. We proceeded to town again, to tour the Castle and revisit shops for wool hat for Mike. Nikki and I bought sweaters too. Eileen suggested we visit Slieve League (about 45 minutes from Donegal) and we were absolutely blown away with this site. We drove through Killybegs, a small fishing community with lots and lots of boats! Once we reached the “gate” – we opened it and proceeded up a one-mile drive with a few cut-backs and narrow road. There was a white cloud hovering over the very top of the peaks of the cliffs when we got thereblue sky and sunshineby the time we walked to the top (not really the top but up high) the clouds had lifted and we say the full peaks with blue sky above. It was breathtaking. Many photos were taken and there were some baby sheep on a steep hill near their momma - back through Killybegs and Dunkenneely known as a “tidy town." From there we continued on through Ballboofey and Stranorlan (Rep of Ireland) and onto Strabane - Londonderry (Northern Ireland) – rush hour – city divided by River. Nikki spotted ASDA operated by Walmart! On to Coleraine and Portrush to Dunluce Castle on the Giant Causeway - white coast and black rocks – and rope bridge. We arrived around 6:00 and it was still sunshine and warm – no jacket needed. Mike & Nikki were BIPPT by sheep.. By 7:30 we were on the “single carriage road” when we should have been on the “double carriage road”we drove through Antrim looking for a restaurant “on the lake”. However, we never found the lake! We drove through little Chinatown (there were 17 chinese take-out food places along the route we took). Decided to head on to Belfast and would stop before arriving at Anne’s house. By this time is was getting dark and we made a wrong exit in Belfastwent down to the docks where the Titantic was built! Did make it back on to the right road to Dundonalds & drove by a place that looked like it would be good for a quick dinner. We stopped, went in and was greeted by the valet and maitre’d. We were asked if we had reservations - it was 9:00 on a Thursday night, the bar was packed and the restaurant didn’t look too full but we needed a reservation or no service. We did use their fancy bathrooms though - nice. Kept driving towards Anne’s and came across Ye Old Elk Inn (tavern and restaurant). So we stopped, went in, were seated, set-up and ordered. A few minutes later the waitress returned with bad news. Kitchen closed. Odd. Loud speaker system with Soccer game ending - very loud. Once that was over, then they had a trivia contest they called Quiz Night. We declined to participate but once they started with the questions, we were able to answer most of them! Darn. Should’ve played. ;) Got to Anne’s at 10:15 – welcomed warmly with wine and whiskey - made sandwiches (turkey cheese and really good bread). She had huge prawns and salmon with crackers for Bob – we then drank more wine and whiskey by the cozy fireplace and talked talked talked. Fun stuff. Annie is a riot and a talker! 4/15 9:30 Breakfast with Anne. Beautiful bagels, fruit, juice and coffee! We walked to the bus (to downtown Belfast) and jumped off at the Tourism office downtown. Bought Tour Bus sightseeing tickets and jumped on as soon as the next bus departed. We were on top and it was a bit breezy that day. The driver took us all through the dock area (Titantic monument etc.) and then through to Parliamant and then through Shankill Falls area with many graphic murals and the site of the unrest of the 1970’s. The total bus tour was about 2 hours. It was nippy/windy that day. After that we walked to Victoria Centre (shopping center inside the city) and ate a wonderful Tex-Mex meal at Chiquita’s. Since it got a little cold we then went to Dunnes (again) to find jacket/sweatshirts for Nikki and Bob. From there St. Anne’s Cathedral,
27: the Crown Bar & EUROPA Hotel (the most bombed sites in Belfast rebuilt many times over). There were some celebrities arriving and red carpet treatment with cameras and security all around. We couldn’t recognize who they were but they must have been famous. We then meandered through Belfast looking for Kelly’s Tavern (old) and Mournes Seafood Bar, and White’s Tavern (a recommendation by Blackie). We did run into a Middle Eastern Fiddler with horn attached to it singing Hava Naquila. Hello Foto? We had another beer at Whites and listened to a guitar/singer who sand country music (Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash and John Denver!) Mike sang along with him to a nice old Irish melody – he knew the words (well at least some of them anyway). Altho we tried to have dinner at Mournes they didn’t have any availability until 9:00 p.m. so we decided to go back to Victoria Centre and we had a very nice supper of Tapas at LaTasca (Spanish restaurant)we caught the 9:15 bus back to Dundonald and arrived back to Anne’s at 9:45. She fixed us drinks (wee cans of soda – whiskey and rum!) and crisps and we curled up on the couch and watched TV – “Take Me Out” - UK reality dating show. Very funny. 4/16 Slept in late 10:00 We enjoyed a leisurely morning with coffee, croissants and strawberry jam (with no bits!) – drove to Belfast, parked and went to St. George’s Market – cupcakes (muffins), olives & peppers – listened to the jazz band who was performing there, checked out the “fish” marketwithin the market area they were setting up for a movie scene. I asked and they were shooting a Brendan Fraser movie called “Whole Lotta Soul” didn’t see Brendan Fraser but did see all the other actors who were extras and supporting actors. Very cool. Nikki & Mike ventured back to the shopping district while Barb & Bob tried getting into City Hall for a tour, except it closed at 12:30 on Saturdays and it was 12:45 by the time we got there. No biggie, we witnessed a Vespa Rally – hundreds of motor scooters in downtown Belfast all together. Unusual. We enjoyed a latte at The Advocate, a lovely corner restaurant bar serving great drinks! We met up with Nikki and Mike at 2:00 and went on to explore Carrickfergus up the coast. Carrickfergus is an interesting port town with a very historical castle –12th Century – Earl of Ulster was taken over by King John of England. 16th Century the castle was attacked several times and in 1602 CONN O’NEILL the chief of Clandeboye was imprisoned in Castle Carrickfergus!!!! After the tour we enjoyed lunch across the street from the Castle (castle-sea view) FISH & CHIPS and ‘wee bottles of water’ that were not so wee. On the way back to Belfast we drove through towns and meandered to get to the Belfast Castle – went on a roundabout almost went to the ferry to Scotland! The Belfast Castle has a beautiful “Cat Garden” and there were two weddings taking place in the banquet rooms-the picturesque view from the 4th floor of the castle of the mountains one way and the harbor and city the other - was fabulous and we ventured into the Castle Pub for guess what, DRINKS! On the way back to Dundonald we drove through Shankill – the area with all the murals and the eery feel of the unrest that was present from the 70’s. Stopped at the WineMark to pick up wine, etc. for dinner and back to Anne’s – first we enjoyed drinks at the bar/deck and watched a fantastic sunsetenjoyed “nobby nuts, peppers, olives and such” with cocktails. YUMMMMMY! We had more wine and then Irish Coffee with Pudding (pudding is wonderful chocolate cake) and Muffins (cupcakes). We moved back to the deck for pictures of the FULL MOON over Belfast. Unbelievable.
32: 4/17 9:30 Barb & Anne – Enjoyed conversation and coffee in the Conservatory. Chatted for an hour – laughing, telling stories – it was good crack! When everyone else got up we enjoyed Hot Cross Buns which is an Irish Easter time treat and CHAMPAGNE! More talk and more laughs were had by all.some of the sayings were so cute and notable – had to try and remember them: “Sorted” – get act together – organize; “Settle the bill” – get the check; “Coffin Dodgers” blue hairs; “Stinky Teenage Boys” yes!; ‘bits – no bits (pulp) – wee bits”; Dual Carriageway (highway); “No Panic” – no sweat. “What do you fancy?” “the flippin Republic” “Pet” Most literal: You’re Welcome! (when entering a home). Mike’s best: “I’ll phone you.” We said our goodbye’s around 12 and headed back towards Dublin, stopping to use our leftover British Pounds for a whole lotta snacks (listed below). About 30 minutes out Nikki realized she left her phone at Anne’s so we turned around to get it. No Panic. We proceeded back towards Dublin through Lisbon and Newry (the last town before entering the Flippin Republic) – we tried to visit the ancient ruins outside of Dublin but by the time we got there it was closed (sort of a National Park). We got back to Ashbourne to Barnie & Kathleen’s around 6:00 and rested “a bit”. We were again welcomed with open arms and warm You’re WELCOME’s. Kathleen and Barney prepared a feast for us. They invited Barnie’s older sister Mary and we think her two friends who looked like sisters, Jean and Kathleen. We sat and had wine, Irish Whiskey –and laughed a lot! Buffet dinner included turkey, potato salad, salad, sausages, wonderful bread and more. A real Irish home cooked meal. Wonderful! We had after dinner drinks and stayed up a bit too long (after 10:00). There was the great vinegar spill of 2011..on Kathleen’s new floor! Some of the sayings from that event: ”May the hinges of friendship never rust due to lack of lubrication!” “Future guests from Africa....it will get a lot darker sooner” Some of our take home goodies: Taytos, Nobby Nuts, Cadbury eggs, Chipotle chips – had to use of the extra British Pounds! 4/18 6:00 a.m.– early early early to the Dublin airport to return car (we couldn’t find the Enterprise place!) – got through security (twice) and U.S. Customs actually IN Dublin very convenient. We were almost late though. On the flight home Nikki was asked to move up towards the front (the larger seat area at least) to accommodate a mother with 4 young children. Amazingly, the kids were well behaved ages 8, 6, 5, and 2. Yikes! Arrival in NJ was uneventful and we were back in Baltimore by 2:30 p.m. where Conn chauffeured us back home. Nikki & Mike however had a 4 hour layover in N J before heading back to Pittsburgh – arriving home aroung 10:00 p.m. It was a fantastic journey and vacation. We loved every minute of it and will definitely return to see the southern part of the country...Cork, Kerry, etc
35: "A BIRD NEVER FLEW ON ONE WING!"