S: Ireland 2010 - Castles, Cathedrals, and Green Pastures
FC: Ireland 2010 | Castles, Cathedrals, and Green Pastures
1: Jim and Adeline both have Irish ancestors. His mother's name is Lorraine McKay. Her father's name is Owen Foley. Her mother's name is Kathleen McKeown. All of her life, Adeline has dreamed of traveling to Ireland to visit her homeland. She always wanted her first trip to Europe to be to Ireland. It turned out to be her third. Since this trip was so important to her she tried not to let herself get too excited. she went with no great expectations, so as not to be disappointed with anything that she might experience. We had not taken an extended land tour before, nor had we traveled with this tour company. And, of course, we had never met any of the people with whom we were to be traveling. And, much to our surprise, it turned out to be one of the best vacations we have ever taken! The Luck of the Irish was with us for the entire trip. With the exception of one excursion, sunshine and rainbows seemed to follow us wherever we went. We had one of Brendan's best and most experienced tour guides in Martina Kavanagh. We had a great bus driver in Paddy Guilfoyle. He skillfully steered the enormous tour bus along narrow, winding country roads and through tight streets that we would not have want to steer ever in our own little car! We had a great group of people (all from the USA) that were both friendly and funny - most of whom we would travel with again given the opportunity. The local people that we came across were both knowledgeable and friendly. Never before have we taken so many pictures. Thank good for digital cameras as we took more than six hundred pictures. The scenery was beautiful everywhere we went, even the desolate areas. We were both content much of the time just looking out the windows. Sheep and cows dotted the landscape along with horses, donkeys and goats. Farm are separated with hedgerows or low stone walls. Everywhere you looked there were crumbling down stone houses right next to built up modern houses. And, of course, everything was green. Our story begins...
2: London | Our flights were long, but uneventful. We reached our hotel at 1PM local time. After a short rest, we were on our way. At the last minute, we changed our itinerary from the British Museum to the site of downtown London. What a good idea that was. It turned out that Pope Benedict XVI was visiting the next day. We took the Underground to Green Park. We walked through the park to come upon Buckingham Palace. Adeline was disappointed that the Queen did not come out and greet us and that there were only two Beefeater guards. We then walked by St. James Park to Westminster Cathedral. It was very busy and everywhere they seemed to be setting up for something special. We were happy to have changed our plans. On to Big Ben, the Parliament, The Eye and Ministry of Defense. Friday night at six o'clock, we had a hard time getting into a pub, so we just ate at a deli, rode the Underground back and collapsed. A good first day!
3: Buckingham Palace
4: Westminster Cathedral
7: Day Two started with a big breakfast and another trip downtown. camera and map in hand, we explored the British Museum. Over the next three hours, we saw wonders that the English stole from all over the world, the Rosetta Stone may be the most wondrous. We also saw the Elgin Marbles, mummies, an Easter Island statue and lots of history. Back to the airport for a short flight to Dublin and then checking into our hotel that we booked nine months before. When the receptionist said "There seems to be a problem," Jim's heart sunk. They booked us into another nice hotel. We had a cocktail and headed straight to bed.
11: Rosetta Stone
12: We woke up to a rainy day in Dublin. We walked to the train station and caught a train to downtown Dublin. After one wrong turn, we found our way to our "Hop on, Hop off" tour bus. We waited in the rain. When the bus arrived, the only seats available were in the open top of the bus. Great seats, but a little wet. The driver was quite a comedian. When he started singing "Molly Malone", Adeline joined right in. We hopped off the bus at the Guinness Storehouse. A seven story self guided tour included a pint at the Gravity Bar on the top floor. Adeline actually enjoyed the beer and the party at the bar. We next hopped off the bus at Grafton Street, a pedestrian mall shopping area. Adeline had tea and scones at Brewley's. We got soaked walking back to the train. At our hotel that night was the Miss Ireland pageant. Adeline wouldn't let Jim stop and admire the view. Fish and chips for dinner at a hotel pub next door.
13: Dublin | Molly Malone
14: After sleeping in and breakfast, we asked for a taxi for the 5 minute ride to our new hotel. We saw fifty taxis go past the hotel and waited 40 minutes before getting a taxi. We found out that the all Ireland Gaelic football game was today in Dublin. In fact, the team that eventually won was staying at our hotel. We found our tour leader and introduce ourselves. Adeline loved the way Martina pronounced her name "Adleen". We had a bus tour of Dublin, including stops at St. Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity College. We learned the whole history of St. Patrick. A church has been on this site since the 6th century. The current building is from the 13th century. At Trinity College, we saw the Book of Kells and three other ninth century manuscripts. Quite impressive. We walked through the Long Room with more than 200,000 old volumes. After an evening welcome drink, we headed out with the group for trip to the coast and dinner at a lovely restaurant. Fish Pie and fruit crumble were the highlights. Back to the hotel, where the celebration was in full swing for Cork, the winning team. 1400 partiers kept it up late into the night. At 6AM the next morning, it looked like a war zone in the lobby with bodies all over!
15: Jonathan Swift | St. Patrick's Cathedral
17: We started today with a nice drive through the countryside to Glendalough, a monastic settlement founded in the sixth century by St, Kevin. A local legend claims if you can wrap your arms around St. Kevin's Cross you are granted a wish. Adeline tried, but her arms were too short (or her chest too big). Jim's favorite lunch was today (pictured at the left) at a riverside hotel. We also had a short walk along the river after lunch. Another short bus ride took us to the town of Waterford. Our hotel, Dooley's, sat right alongside the docks. We had an afternoon city tour with Jack. Our guide took us to an 18th century shipping magnate's home, Catholic and Anglican churches (designed by the same man), and a tower built by Vikings over a thousand years ago. It is the oldest building in continuous use in Ireland. One of the churches contained one of a kind Tiffany style Waterford crystal chandeliers. We ended our day at the Waterford crystal showroom. Lots of beautiful items. We decided upon something to buy, but were told the same items could be bought cheaper at a later stop. Hotel dinner tonight....Meat, gravy and potatoes......lots of potatoes.
21: Jack | Viking Tower
22: Our first stop today was at the Jameson Whiskey distillery. We walked through the entire "old" plant where all of the whiskey was made up until the new plant was put on line in 1985. We were amazed at how simple the process is to make whiskey. It is triple distilled and aged a minimum of six years, Jameson was to be added to our bar when we returned home. Everyone got a nice taste of Jameson's at 10:30AM. We left a happy group. Winding our way through the Cork countryside, we ended up at Blarney Castle. We had two hours to explore, eat and, of course, shop. This was Jim's favorite spot. He braved the 100+ steps up to the top of the castle exploring each nook and cranny along the way. Then, he kissed the Blarney Stone at the top of the castle. From down below, Adeline snapped his picture. | Blarney Woolen Mills provided us an opportunity to help the local economy. We bought Waterford crystal, shirts, linens and Tara china. Our day continued when we got to Killarney. We had a "jaunty car" ride through Killarney National Park. The horse and buggys held 10 people each. The driver talked non stop. Our driver chided the one behind us that they were "leaking diesel" when their horse relieved itself. There was some beautiful scenery and it was nice to be out in the fresh air. That evening we went up to the country to a pub called Fishery. We were entertained by Brandon Moriarty, a local singer. We all drank and sang along. A very Irish dinner (lots of potatoes) that was really good followed. Whew, a long day!
23: Midleton | Bob and Bruce | Shirley and Susan
28: We started the day off right with an Irish Coffee provided by a local gift shoppe. Adeline purchased some earrings to replace ones that broke. It was our turn in the front seat of the bus. We saw an amazing sight, the brightest rainbow we had ever seen. We could see the whole thing, but not the pot of gold or the leprechaun. During our scenic drive around the Ring of Kerry, we stopped at the Thatch Cottage for an Irish lunch. Hearty soup and bread. Adeline was excited to have the author of a cookbook autograph her copy. The afternoon continued traveling around the countryside. We stopped at a Virgin Mary shrine along side the road. Jim talked to some of the people stopped there just to hear their accent. We stopped in a little village for snacks and to stretch our legs. Adeline found some teal Irish wool yarn and had to buy it. Adeline took Jim's picture with some seniors out for the day. | Jim thought it was delightful that they were all singing a song about the stone in front of Dan Murphy's bar. We ended our afternoon with a photo stop showing the three lakes outside of KiIlarney. With the rest of the afternoon to ourselves, we ventured out into the town of Killarney. Adeline found another yarn store and after chatting with the proprietor, she purchased some interesting ribbon yard. Not sure what to make with it, but it was the most interesting skein in the store. Jim found an off license store and bought some Cork Dry Gin and tonic. Found a Foley restaurant and a Foley Stout window. We went back to the room to enjoy our drinks. A late dinner finished another long day.
29: Ring of Kerry
33: We got a very early start today. After a short drive, we took the Shannon Breeze ferry across the Shannon River. There was a light rain, but this did not deter us from the beautiful scenery. Another 90 minutes took us to the Cliffs of Moher. We spent two hours hiking to the three overlooks of this natural wonder. Once again, the weather was wonderful. We spent another 90 minutes traveling through the Barrens. A very lifeless part of the coast, very different than any other landscape we had encountered. The weather was damp and gray when we arrived at our next destination - Rathbaun Farm. This is a typical working sheep farm including a 200+ year old farmhouse. As a peat fire warmed our outsides, we enjoyed tea, scones and Guinness cake. Frances, our host, told us about the farm and how our visits keep it alive for everyone. We saw many different types of sheep, an old border collie rounding up sheep, a big pile of peat and a sheep getting shorn. It was very interesting that the wool has little value due to the climate of Ireland. It costs more to shear a sheep than can be collected for the wool. Our final stop was Galway Cathedral. Though it appears to be an old cathedral, it was built in the 1960s. It has an altar in the middle of the church and a tribute to JFK. A pipe organ played as we visited. Adeline lit a candle for her father's surgery. As it was International Arthur Guinness day, we toasted him with a pint before going to dinner. We had our best room of the trip at this hotel. A HUGE corner room facing Galway Bay.
38: After a trip through the Connemara countryside, we stopped at the Connemara Marble Factory. A short tour and a longer visit in the store made it an interesting stop. The Irish countryside that we traveled through today was much different. It was rocky, mountainous and much more brown. During our travels, we passed by the bridge that was a focal point in "The Quiet Man". We saw some interesting mussel farms on Ireland's only fjord - the Killary. We continued onto the grounds of Kylemore Abbey. It was built as a home in 1860s on a nice lake. It included a mini Neo-Gothic church, some gardens. It was a really nice walk as well. We joined some fellow travelers for dinner at the hotel pub. It was one of the better meals that we had.
39: Bridge - The Quiet Man 1952
40: We stopped at the Holy Well - a local shrine dedicated to surviving the Black Plague. We saw the grave of W.B. Yeats at Drumcliff Church in County Sligo. Next, we went to the Belleek Factory. It is just across the Erne river in Northern Ireland, which belongs to the United Kingdom. We had a very nice tour through the entire factory. There was an artisan working in each area even on Saturday. Everything is hand made including every petal on every flower and every reed in every basket. We enjoyed a couple of Jamesons before dinner at the hotel. Not a great dinner, but at dinner was a group of about 20 young women at a "hen party". They were all dressed up as their favorite Disney character. | The first stop today was Clonalis House. Home to the last 25 generations of O'Conors and the last Irish King. The lady of the house, Margarite, gave us a tour of her home. We stopped in Carrick-on-Shannon for a one hour lunch river cruise on the Shannon River. We were entertained by a pair of Irish musicians playing Irish favorites. For a while, one of them played an Irish Bagpipe.
44: Today,we visited Glenveagh National Park and Glenveagh Castle. Built 150 years ago, it was lived in until 1980. We had a guided tour through the house and then walked through the grounds and gardens on our own. We had an afternoon off to rest and do a little local shopping.
46: Today, we headed to Derry on the River Foyle crossing into Northern Ireland. Our guide to the old city was Rowan McNamara. He was half Irish and half Chinese. He was also a fantastic guide. We learned a lot about the "troubles" between the British and Irish across the ages. He took us on a walk along the wall in old section of Derry, the only walled in city in Ireland. Back on the bus, we headed to the Giant's Causeway. An awesome natural volcanic rock formation, Jim enjoyed climbing around on the rocks. Adeline kept to the level area. We stayed this night in the Ballygally castle which includes a tower where a ghost lives in the "Ghost Room". During dinner, the ghost paid us a visit and Peter's chair broke underneath him and deposited him right onto the floor.
50: Today started out with an interesting buffet item - Bushmill's whiskey with your porridge. We had a short drive down to Belfast where Rosemary gave us a bus tour of Belfast and another history lesson. We were on our own to explore for the afternoon. We went to a great tourist information office and loaded up with souvenirs. Saw lots of old Victorian buildings including City Hall. We went into the Crown Bar and saw the "snugs", After a nice dinner at Robinson's, we went into the Europa Hotel, it has the distinction of being the most bombed hotel in Ireland. | Ballygally Castle Hotel
51: Belfast | Carrick Fergus Castle | Northern Ireland Assembly | Ilse Macgee
52: Our final day took us to Downpatrick and St. Patrick's Cathedral. Here was the grave of St. Patrick. It also has a really interesting seating arrangement for the church. A nice drive took us to the Boyne River Valley to look at Celtic ruins that predate Stonehenge by 500 years. We visited the Knowth site at Bru na Boinne. We climbed up on the largest mound and were rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the valley. We ended our tour at Taylor's, a 200 year old bar that looks like a modern day theater. We saw a show with a great tenor, a comedian, and some very energetic dancers. Dinner and Irish coffee came along with it.