Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dublin to CDG then Home

Our wake up call came promptly at 3:30. We groggily dragged ourselves out of bed. The hotel sent coffee up to the room so while cleaning up and repacking I had a cup.

Then we went downstairs where the hotel had provided a small continental breakfast of tea or coffee and muffins. Very nice considering it was 4:00 in the morning. We really enjoyed that. Promptly at 4:30 our taxi arrived, we loaded up and headed to the airport. We were entertained by our cab driver with stories of the area for the entire trip, it was wonderful.

Once at the airport, we checked our bags and got in line for security. Dublin airport is too small to have Priority lines. We got our ok through security and headed off in search of our gate and a proper breakfast.

The flight to CDG was uneventful and pleasant.

We went through more security at CDG and boarded our Air France flight for the return to SFO.

We had a very nice flight and touched down at SFO 11 hours later. More security and customs checks then on to pick up our car and go to our hotel for the night.

We were so tired that we slept for 13 hours then headed back home. It's nice to be back.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Irish National Stud and Gardens then on to Malahide

After breakfast our destination was The Irish National Stud and Gardens then on to our hotel in Malahide. We had to drop off the car and arrange taxi service for an early morning flight.

The Tea House
The Irish National Stud and Gardens are incredibly gorgeous and steeped in history. They are reached by following the signs on M9 North. There is so much beauty to see there, Chris and I spent over 4 hours wandering the pastures, stalls, gardens and museum. We even had a delicious lunch there.

There is a nominal fee to get in. The first thing we visited was the beautiful Japanese Garden designed by master horticulturist Tassa Eida of Japan, between 1906–1910. The garden takes you through the journey of the life of man.
Mare and her foal

We walked out of the gate surrounding the Japanese Gardens and entered the roads taking you through the horse farm.

There are beautiful fenced pastures containing many gorgeous mares and their foals. The foals were very friendly and we could actually stroke them.

Then we turned a corner and entered the pastures where the studs were housed. They each had a sign with their lineage and stud fee and how much prize money they had won, among other information.

These horses are some of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen.
Invincible Spirit

St. Fiachra's Garden
There is a guided tour but we just decided we would rather walk around and experience it in our own way. It was drizzly and not very crowded so we could just stand and watch the horses or saunter up various roads that take you between the different areas of the compound.

A Stone Hut in St. Fiachra's Garden
We eventually made our way over to the entrance to St. Fiachra's Garden. This is a huge and magnificent parklike garden. Paths lead to ponds, streams, stone huts, statues and meander among beautiful flowers and shrubs.

We began worrying about time at this point and we were hungry so we went back to the visitors center where they have a cafeteria with pretty good food. We each had paninis, Chris had pasta salad and I had an excellent broccoli salad with hazelnuts.

After lunch we spent some time visiting the small museum and the foaling stalls. We also visited the stall containing the Falabellas horses. They are a rare breed of Argentinian miniature horses and only a few thousand exist worldwide.

We headed back to the car and continued on our way to Malahide.
We were staying at the Grand Hotel so we checked in there, got back in the car and drove to Dublin airport Hertz. After dropping off the car we took a cab back to the hotel. Our very nice cab driver shared lots of information about Dublin and Malahide and the Malahide Castle with it's 5 ghosts.

Unfortunately we were so tired by this time that we didn't have the energy to go and see the castle. We took a little walk downtown, then headed back to our hotel for dinner and a couple of Guinness before going to bed so we could be ready for the 3:30 AM wake up call.

Tomorrow, Air France and home.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Next stop Cahir, Cashel and Kilkenny

After a nice breakfast at The Old Presbytery we loaded up our car and headed toward Kilkenny by way of R600 toward the M8.

Cahir Castle
We wanted to visit Cahir Castle and the Rock of Cashal on our way to Kilkenny. Fortunately they're both off of M8 so it was very easy driving. It rained off and on most of the early part of the day and it was a little chilly. As a result, I got to wear my Irish wool sweater all day, yay.

We got to Cahir a little before lunchtime so we paid the nominal fee to visit the castle and started exploring. Cahir is one of the largest castles in Ireland. It was built on an island in the river Suir in 1142 by Conor O'Brien, Prince of Thomond.

When you drive into town it rises up right in front of you like a huge fortress, which of course it is.

There are a number of small rooms off of narrow, spiral, stone staircases to explore. Chris had to be very careful not to knock himself out when going through doorways. I am 5' tall and had to watch my head a couple of times.

We had a great time in Cahir castle, in fact I'd say it was my favorite. Some of the rooms have been completely restored and it gives you an idea of what it might have been like living in a castle. At the top of some of the staircases I actually had to climb into the rooms, I can't imagine wearing one of those long, full dresses that women during that time wore and climbing in and out of the rooms.

Rock of Cashel
When we had finished exploring we walked over to a little café across the street from the castle and had a panini and salad for lunch.

Now it was time to head for The Rock of Cashel.

We continued down the M8 following the signs toward The Rock of Cashel.

When we arrived we found a place to park, acquired our parking ticket and walked up the hill to the Rock. Unfortunately a large portion of it is covered in scaffolding and some of it is closed off for renovation. We still got to pay full price to go in though. Yay for senior discounts!

St. Patricks Cross
There is still quite a bit to see. We wandered through many chambers, one of which contained what is said to be St. Patricks Cross from the 12th century and possibly his crypt.

Cemetery with the
Irish High Cross in front.
We took some time walking around the cemetery on the grounds surrounding the Rock. The picture at the right shows the Irish High Cross in the foreground.

We then decided to walk down the path in the direction of the Hore Abbey that we could see in the distance. It sits all alone in the middle of a huge field looking very impressive and beautiful.

We found the path down to the roadway and then had a bit of trouble finding the entrance to the Abbey. We saw people climbing over the wall through plantings but thought that was a bad idea since the ground was very wet and muddy. We finally walked down a side road and found the gate and path that led to the Abbey.

The Hore Abbey hasn't been restored or if it has it's been a very long time. The roof is gone and it's very much a ruin but it's still wonderful to wander through. There are still statues, crosses and crypts. The feeling is much more peaceful than the Rock since there aren't the crowds wandering through. Only a few hardy souls willing to brave the walk and the rain.

As we were walking through the Abbey it began to rain again. We thought we'd better head back to the car and it's a good thing we did, we didn't get all the way back to the Rock before it started pouring. Neither of us had our slicker, just water resistant jackets and Chris didn't even have a hood.

We got to the car and Chris grabbed his slicker then went off to pay for the parking while I stayed warm and dry in the car, lucky me, I know. He came back quite awhile later and said he hadn't had the proper change so he had to go around to one of the shops and ask for some. Another lesson learned; always carry lots of coin in various denominations.

Brewery Corner 29
We wound our way out of Cashel and headed for the R691 which would take us to the N76 and into Kilkenny.

When we got to Kilkenny the weather had changed and it was nice and sunny again, we found a car park and went in search of our accommodation. We walked up and down the street for quite some time following Siri's voice but couldn't manage to find the Butler Court Guesthouse. Finally we went into another accommodation on the street and asked for directions. She very kindly offered to take us there.

The Butler Court Guesthouse is through a small gate which is why we couldn't find it, we didn't really know what to look for and there wasn't a number anywhere in sight.

We met Mary and she told us all about the place and took us to our room. This was the only place that we'd stayed in that didn't offer a real breakfast, just a continental in the room.

Since it was late we got settled in our room and then walked downtown to find the pub Chris had been anxious to visit, since they poured O'Hara's Stout which is seriously yummy.

O'Hara's is such a small brewery that you can't get the stout anywhere accept at their pub "Brewery Corner 29" in Kilkenny. We learned about O'Hara's when we were in Los Angeles having dinner at a place called "Engine Co. Number 28" but the last time we were there they didn't have it.

By the time we finished our beers we were pretty hungry so we went in search of a place to eat. We followed a street angling back toward our accommodation. It had started sprinkling again. We found a place called "Kyteler's Inn" that had what they called an interactive Bodhran Session. They also had food and drink so we went in. We were seated up on a platform in a very crowded area of the pub. We ordered fish and chips and Guinness. The music was being played by volunteers from the audience who were being instructed on the Irish bodhrán drum by a fellow who was very good on them. He was also a pretty good instructor because in a very short time he had these people playing quite well. It was really a lot of fun.

We finished our dinner and our beers and made our way the 1–2 kilometers back to our accommodation.

Tomorrow would be our last day in Ireland.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

On to Kinsale via Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park - Ladies View
This morning we got showered and packed before going down to breakfast. Right after breakfast Chris went up to get the car and bring it down in front of the hotel so we could load it up and get on the road to Kinsale. It was raining lightly off and on when we left.

We headed down the N71 toward Kenmare. This route gave us a little taste of the Ring of Kerry through Killarney National Park. Beautiful views, lush forests and even a small castle. It was a lovely drive on narrow roads. When we return to Ireland one of the things we'll have to do is drive the Ring of Kerry.
When we got to Kenmare they were having an event to raise money to fight breast cancer. There were pink bras hanging on cables over the road and pink bras in the windows of shops, signs announcing a 10k Cancer Walk/Run and they were setting up an area to have a small carnival. We walked all over town stopping under shop eaves when it began to rain. We went into a few of the shops and I bought a t-shirt and a few treats in one of them.

We got back in our car and continued down N71 until we came to Bantry where we decided to have lunch. We found a cute little cafe called "The Bake House" and went inside. They were pretty crowded which we took as a good sign. The food turned out to be very good and pretty reasonable.

Back to the car to continue on N71. We stayed on N71 until we got to Clonakilty where we switched to the R600 for the rest of the way into Kinsale. We followed google maps and Siri to The Old Presbytery our accommodation for the night.
Our room at The Old Presbytery

The Old Presbytery is family run and dates from 1750. All the rooms are furnished in the style of the period. We liked it very much, breakfast was good and our bed was quite comfortable.
Fishy Fishy where we
had a lovely dinner

We had been told about a place called Fishy Fishy where we wanted to have dinner. The owner and chef has a TV show in Ireland and he's very popular. The restaurant is hard to get into but we lucked out. When we checked into The Old Presbytery the young woman at the front desk asked if she could make dinner reservations for us and we said we would like to eat at Fishy Fishy if that was possible. She called and they had a table for us at 6:30pm. Yay! 

We put our bags in the room and relaxed for a couple of minutes then decided to wander around town and maybe find a Guinness. Since this was Sunday night a lot of the shops were closed so we just window shopped eventually wandering down a street slightly off the main drag where we found a little local pub. They had tables outside and the weather had turned nice so we got a pint and sat enjoying the banter of the people around us.
Kinsale Harbor at sundown

By the time we finished our beers, it was close to time for our reservation. We went back down by the harbor, the light on the water was so beautiful that I had to take some pictures.

We made our way over to Fishy Fishy and they seated us right away.

The food was every bit as good as their reputation said it was. Our server was excellent and witty. We each had the seared tuna. It was very fresh, perfectly cooked and presented, and delicious. 

When dinner was finished it was getting late and we were very tired so we walked back to our room and went to bed.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Off to Dingle and the Dingle Peninsula

To-go sandwich and a coffee
Next morning over breakfast we talked about whether to see the Dingle peninsula or the Ring of Kerry. We didn't have enough time to see both, we only had two nights, one full day then we were off to Kinsale. We decided on the Dingle Peninsula and are very happy we did.
Read the trash can, it
seems to work too as
we saw no full ones.

The day had turned out really nice and we headed up N22 to Tralee. It's not a small town but it gives the impression that it is. We parked our car and started walking around. We found some very cute shops and a cathedral as well as a nice little coffee and sandwich place to get a very nice to-go lunch we could eat along the Dingle peninsula drive. When we go back to Ireland I think Tralee will be on our list of places to stay, it's very close to the Dingle peninsula and we just liked the feel of it. 

We left Tralee and headed out N86 to Dingle (An Daingean).
Dingle is situated in a Gaeltacht region so the signposts are in Gaelic, some with no English but most with the English name in parentheses.

When we got to Dingle we were lucky enough to find a free parking spot so we left the car and started walking through the town. It's an adorable and colorful town and of course very tourist oriented. Well, we're tourists so that's perfect. You remember when we were in Dublin we found a pub called Neary's, well here in Dingle we found a place called Adams bar so we had to go in and have a pint.

Children playing in the surf
After our Guinness and another brief walk around town we collected our car and started navigating the Dingle peninsula. We headed out R559 toward Dunquin. Along the way we stopped at a beach area near Ventry to have our sandwiches and watch the children playing in the surf. It was sunny but pretty cold, I don't know how they did it.

Main cottage
From there we just continued driving, stopping frequently to take pictures. The views and scenery are breathtaking. We came to the Slea Head Famine Cottages and Animal Farm where they have some preserved famine cottages from the potato famine during the mid 1800's. There is the main farmer's cottage and several smaller peasant cottages as well as animal stables.

There are some animals there as well. This little pony really caught my eye as he was standing on this large rock trying to scratch his winter coat off on the edge of the balanced flat rock.

View of a section of the road
We left there and continued on our way following R559 around the Dingle peninsula. The road is very narrow (what would be considered 1-lane here) and since it's 2-way you never know what adventure lies around each turn. We were lucky enough to get behind a Land Rover for the worst of it so we just followed it through the gaps figuring if it could get through we certainly could. At one point we were within an inch or 2 of a passing truck on the driver's side and scraping the passenger side of our car on the bushes on that side. (The best investment we made on this trip was buying the full-coverage insurance when we rented the car.)

When we got to Dunquin, I rerouted us toward Murreagh on R549 so we could see a part of the Dingle peninsula not traveled by the tour buses. Very beautiful and rugged with farmhouses dotting the rocky countryside.

We continued following the road until we returned to Dingle. There we changed routes and headed for Conor Pass over R560.

Conor Pass view
By the time we got to the Conor Pass parking area the clouds had closed in and fog had obscured a lot of the view. As you can see, it was still spectacular.

We headed east on R560 toward Camp and another much lesser know pass on a road called "unknown". Siri directed us when to turn and we were off on our little adventure.

The road was like driving on a mountain biking path but a bit wider and paved, sort of. The only other's we met were 2 cars, a motorcycle and a guy hiking.
Sheep on Caherconree

There were lots of sheep grazing by the side of the road and up on the hillsides. They were different from some of the other sheep we'd seen as they had black speckled faces and were especially wooly. They didn't care a bit about us.

We crested the top and stopped the car to take a photo. It was so beautiful up there and so peaceful, not a sound except the occasional sheep bleating.
Top of Caherconree Pass

We headed down the other side and turned in the direction of Castlemaine and N70 to begin making our way back to Killarney.

It was pretty late in the day when we got back to our hotel and we were hungry and tired. We didn't want to go to a fancy restaurant for dinner. We just wanted something good and reasonably priced and a Guinness or 2. Low and behold, we looked across the street from our hotel and there was Sweeney's Hotel and Sports Bar, perfect!

Sweeney's from our hotel lobby
The place was crowded but we were seated pretty quickly.  We ordered salmon with chips and salad and Guinness.  It was really good!

There were a couple of soccer championship tournaments on the televisions. We were seated next to a German couple who were watching the Munich vs Dortmund game. We began chatting with them and got caught up in the game. They were rooting for Munich so we were too. It got pretty exciting when it went scoreless into overtime. Both teams played excellent defense. Even when Munich finally scored the game wasn't over because they have to play the entire amount of extra time. Then we were on the edge of our seats waiting for the game to end and hoping Dortmund wouldn't score. Munich put a cherry on top by scoring again and the game was over. Very fun evening. 

We went back to our room and went to bed.

Friday, May 16, 2014

First night in Killarney

View from our window
at the Roadford House
When we left the Roadford House in Doolin we headed in the direction of Bunratty Castle.  We finally found it after a couple wrong turns and noted that it is called "Bunratty Castle and Folk Park", uh oh. We parked our car and went into the visitors center to see how much it would be just to tour the castle. Nope, you can't just tour the castle, you have to tour the Folk Park too, at least you have to pay to tour the Folk Park too. It was going to be €30 (about $41 USD) per adult and a little less for me with my senior discount. Chris and I said we would think about it and left. We could see a lot of castles for that amount of money.

We left there and went in search of the town of Adare which had been recommended we see. Turned out to be a very crowded touristy town but we did find a good place to have lunch.

We decided to head to Killarney via N21 toward Tralee then hook onto N22 to Killarney so we could see more of the countryside. We were treated to ruins and lots of beautiful scenery. It was kind of rainy so we didn't stop much.

We arrived in Killarney late in the afternoon. It was raining pretty hard and we discovered that our accommodation at the Arbutus was right in the center of town with no onsite parking. We put the car in a pay lot a couple blocks away and shlepped our luggage to the hotel. We were given our room key and told that we could park for free in a lot about a mile away.
Brićin dining room

We took the elevator up to our room and discovered it was not cleaned. I headed back to the front desk luggage in tow to tell them what had happened. Chris put his luggage in the room and found housekeeping. Then he came down and told me he was going to go park the car. I waited in the lobby with another couple who were also waiting for their room to be cleaned. We were given tea and biscuits while we waited.

After we got into our room and had unpacked what we needed, to clean up a little and change, we went back downstairs and asked the young woman at the front desk if she had any recommendations for dinner. She gave us several and we decided to try the one called Brićin. It is one of only 2 places in Ireland where you can still get real Boxty. Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake cooked on the griddle and filled with some kind of filling; both Chris and I chose chicken fillet and vegetables in a creamy tarragon scented sauce and it was delicious.

On the way back to our room we decided to have a Guinness before going up. We popped into our hotel pub and were greeted with silence and stares. The bartender took one look at us and left for the back somewhere. We waited for him to return but after more than 5 minutes we decided to go next door to Murphy's for our beer. Hmm, I wonder what we walked in on?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

From Galway to the Cliffs of Moher

Dunguaire Castle
The next morning after breakfast we planned our route toward Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. We wanted to travel a route that would let us see the most sights so we headed inland instead of the preferred coastal route.

We first visited Dunguaire Castle just outside Kinvara, in Galway Bay. It was built in 1520 by the O'Hynes clan.

Poulnadrone dolman
Next we drove through The Burren, one of the largest limestone areas in Europe, spreading over 250 square kilometers. 
The Poulnabrone dolman is located in The Burren and that's where we headed. It is said the dolman dates back to between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. No one has an explanation as to how the large (>1000 lb.) flat rock was placed on top. The entire landscape is interesting to explore.

We spoke with one of the park officials who told us many stories of people defacing the area and stealing rocks.

Caherconnell Stone Ringfort
He also told us about an area a little further down the road called the Caherconnell Stone Fort that was an exceptionally well-preserved Celtic stone ringfort, — most of which were inhabited between 400–1400A.D. —  it has been suggested by historians that this one may have been inhabited up to the medieval period.

This is now used as an archaeological field school where students can learn archaeological techniques from leading archaeologists.

The Doorty
West cross
Back on the road to see the Kilfenora Crosses. There were originally 7 crosses in Kilfenora but the nicest one was removed to Killaloe in 1821. The original monastery was built in the 6th century and the cathedral which is there now was built in 1189 and 1200A.D. The two most famous crosses are the Doorty and the West.

The West cross is located outside of the cathedral in an open field with a little barrier around it. We wouldn't have know about it if the park official hadn't told us about it and to be sure to see it since it was the best one. 

We then headed off for the Cliffs of Moher. The light drizzle had stopped and the sun was out. The day had turned gorgeous. No wind and the temperature was probably in the upper 60's. Perfect for hiking the Cliffs of Moher.

We arrived, paid the fee and parked our car. It's about a 1k walk up to the actual Cliffs trail and then you are within a flat-rock barrier for part of the trail then you can make your way off of that trail and onto the trail that goes all the way around and into Doolin. The
views from the trail are spectacular, especially since the weather was perfect and the sky was brilliant blue. Birds nest along the cliffs and flowers grow out of the cracks and seem to pop up everywhere along the trail. On the other side you could see what might be Doolin, and the sea.

We walked out for a little less than 2 miles and then turned back. It was beginning to get late and we thought we should get checked into our B&B. 

We hopped back into the car and headed for Doolin. Glad we had Siri and google maps, we got to the Roadford House B&B with nary a wrong turn. 

 We were met at the door by Frank who checked us in and took us and our luggage to our room. He showed us were everything was and we asked about the best pub in town to go to for music and food. He told us McGann's and boy was he ever right. It was within easy walking distance so we didn't have to worry about having too much fun and trying to drive back.

Fish & Chips at McGann's
We got there about 20:30 and the place was pretty full. We were taken to a table for 6 that already had a couple sitting at one end. Our host asked if they would mind sharing their table and they said of course not. We ordered our Guinness and food at which time I noticed that a table in the corner had opened up. I suggested to Chris that we move over to it. As soon as we sat down I realized that we were going to have to move again when the musicians showed up as the soundboard was right next to me. 

I saw our waitress looking around for us and waved her over to where we were and she told us what we already knew, that we would have to move when the musicians arrived. 

Our food came shortly, I had ordered fish and chips and it turned out to be the best fish and chips I've ever had.

After eating I went over to a young couple sitting at a table for 6 along the same wall as the musicians table and asked if we could join them, they said sure. They turned out to be a very nice young couple from Amsterdam who were traveling around Ireland. We chatted with them for awhile until the musicians arrived.

 The music was fantastic! We enjoyed it so much that we stayed until they quit playing and the bar was closing. Then we walked back to our B&B and went to bed. 

I wish we'd had more than one night in Doolin.