Sunday, May 27, 2007
We eat a quick breakfast at the airport (muffins and hot chocolate), and then board the plane. Throughout breakfast, I felt that I had a cold or an allergy coming on, which did eventually turn into a full-blown cold that laid me up for days.
The flight was pleasant, except for the fact that I couldn't sleep for more than a few minutes at a time.
I took many pictures of Greenland and the northern provinces of Canada out the window as we flew over them.
We will miss Ireland very much. The people there made my heart warm and made me feel so very welcome. The land is lovely, the cuisine is far better than you've heard, and the entire place made me feel at peace. Did I mention the people there are great?
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Left Berkeley guest house
Fire! (photos of the fire)
While driving through Wicklow Gap, some emergency workers were turning people around or on detours. They explained there was a fire in the gap and that we could not drive through.
Overall, the detours delayed us slightly over 90 minutes.
The worker who spoke with us gave directions, which we had to write down - being unfamiliar with the area. We programmed each city he listed for us one-by-one in to the GPS.
At one point, about 60 minutes later, our detour led us immediately through the fire - flames rose up on the left and right side of the road, both visible at the same time. Smoke billowed up from the fire on the right in dense sheets that blocked the sunlight like occluding flowing orange curtains. Kristin snapped many photos (see the link above).
Workers by the emergency vehicles stopped us and gave directions as to which paths were safe to take. They instructed us to turn on our "flashers" (hazard lights or "blinkers" in American parlance) and roll up the windows as we drove through the thick smoke.
Visit Glendalough (photos of Glendalough)
Glendalough (wikipedia) has a graveyard (photos of Glendalough graves), ancient church, a nice waterfall, and a pilgrim rest-stop.
While hiking up a trail at Glendalough, a girl asked me to stop and take a picture of her and her friends. I asked if they meant with my camera, and they said yes. I asked how I was to get the picture to them, and she said she would give me her address. I simply asked for her e-mail address, which she gave me after I took their picture, and have since e-mailed the picture to her.
We ate lunch at the the bar/lounge at the hotel at Glendalough. I had the roast beef, and asked for the horseradish mustard on the side. Good thing, too! It was spicy! (Ask Kristin...)
Dinner was at the lounge at the Clarion hotel at the Dublin Airport, where we stayed on our last night.
Free Internet in the lounge
We'd gone without Internet access for almost three days (shudder) and I spent some time hooked up in the lounge (where the Internet is free) updating the Blog, uploading photos, and e-mailing family that we would be leaving Ireland in the morning.
Although I did not go to the bar itself, the ambiance spilled over into the lobby and lounge area. For starters, they serve the full bar menu (including pub style food) anywhere in the lobby and lounge. Add to that the fact that the bar lights up different (alternating) colors with bright lighting under the bar and around the walls, and you could really get the feel for the place. First they are bright green, then they are purple, then they are red, now yellow, now blue...
Friday, April 20, 2007
A castle smack dab in the middle of the city, a very short walk from the guest house.
We had a skilled tour guide who gave a lot of detail on things, and actually asked questions of the tour group to make sure that we remembered facts she'd told us in the previous room, or to try to get us to pay attention to some details.
For instance, when she asked us which one of four book shelves in a room was original, the answer was the one with the slightly warped glass. Apparently, they didn't make glass as well when they originally made those bookshelves as they do now.
No photos were allowed inside, although I got some pictures outside the castle.
Lunch at Café Sol
We had a great lunch at a place called Café Sol (link).
Kristin had a vegetable panini (€9), I had a cajun panini (€9), and we shared garlic potatoes (€2.50). The food was excellent, the atmosphere was comfortable, and we enjoyed ourselves quite a bit!
Dinner at Lombardi's
After shopping for a bit, we strolled for quite some time before settling on a restaurant for dinner. We ate at a place called Lombardi's, which was quite elegant.
Kristin ate pizza margherita (€9.95).
I had spaghetti bolognese (€12.95). For a beverage I had a Peroni (Nastro Azzurro) Birra Superior (est. 1846).
We returned to Kyteler's Inn for another evening of music. On this night we saw a band called Uisce Beatha (link) who were great! Several Guinness enhanced the experience.
[Photos at Kilkenny Castle] [All Ireland photos]
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Cahir Castle (photos of Cahir Castle)
Spent two hours at Cahir Castle, from noon to 2:00. It turns out the castle was sieged in 1599 and lasted only three days (link to siege). Took many pictures. We self guided our tour, although they offer guided tours. Other than two groups of school children there for a class, there were only a few other people there.
Rock of Cashel (Rock of Cashel photos)
St. Patrick's Cathedral overlooks some long stretches of landscape around this 200 foot talll hill.
Several areas of the structure are under rennovation, but I got many pictures of the graves for Mark's submissions to findagrave.com. (photos of Rock of Cashel graves)
We ate dinner at a place called Kyteler's Inn (link). This place is amazing! Built in 1324, the owner run out of Ireland because she was accused of being a heretic, it's still in operation today. The bands who played were great, the Guinness tasty, the service friendly!
Our waitress is apparently named Snug.
Kristin had stuffed mushrooms (€6.95) which were "so-so, kind of oily," in her words.
I had beef lasagna with chips and salad. The lasagna was ok, the chips quite small, and the salad very tasty.
[Pictures of Cahir Castle] [Pictures of Rock of Cashel] [Pictures of Cashel Graves] [All Ireland photos]
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Adventures in County Kerry (wikipedia)
Breakfast at hotel. Sean: crepe with apples, bacon, Kristin: crepe
Stranded and Rescued - Cast
Big Savior: Declan the Ranger
Honorable Mention: Dorothy from Scotland
We find the Uragh circle on the Internet, and copy down the GPS coordinates. We then program them in to the Garmin, and let her navigate - turn left here, then drive 2.3 miles, turn right here, then drive 6.4 miles, turn left here, drive 1.6 miles. Here we are, puttering along a little road (speed limit 80KPH, 50MPH), slowing down for tight turns and dusty dips, driving carefully over steep rocky areas, when Garmin says we have arrived at our destination.
We look around - there's plains with rushes and grass rising up to tall hills in all directions. There's a dirt road winding fiercely before and behind us (only wide enough for one vehicle, no two-way traffic here...) Garmin insists we're at Uragh, but there's nothing like anything around us.
We then program the city located near Uragh, called Lauragh, and it's miles away, back the way we had come. "No problem," we figure, just turn the car around (somehow) and drive back to the road, we'll be on our way in no time. It was only 1.6 miles.
After quite a to-do (involving a 37-point turn) we finally get the car turned around and headed back... for about 200 feet. That's when we reach a rock that had been easy to drive over one way, that was impossible to drive over the other way. Every time we tried to drive over this rock, the tires would skid on the dirt and little stones on the rock, making the tire smoke madly.
We started with dusting the stones and dirt off the rock as best we could (and boy is that dry and dusty work!), and then made several attempts from different angles, including having Kristin drive the car while I pushed from behind - all to no avail.
I grab my water bottle and scout both directions as far as I can. Other than more winding road and hills, there was a side-trail to a house about 1/2 mile back towards the main road. I hike that distance, take the side-trail, and jog the entire distance to their front gate. At the gate, I hail the house repeatedly, but receive no response. I then jog all the way back to the road (more than another mile further back on our trail).
At the main road, the building we had seen there is nothing but an abandoned and bricked-up structure, not the beacon of civilization I had hoped for. No phone, no person with a two-way radio to call for help, etc. Just a couple of cars parked in what used to be a parking area for maybe 6 cars, and no owners in sight.
I cross the street and find a little trail leading off into some trees. It's a trail with wood laid down covered with chicken wire so it doesn't become overgrown. I march around for a few hundred feet but see no sign of anyone. I head back to the would-be parking lot to spy a third car parked there.
A nice Scottish lady named Dorothy is sitting in her car, reading a map, completely not expecting anyone to approach her. I'm sure my presence startled her as I walked on up.
I'm almost 6 feet tall, over 180 lbs, bald, some type of facial hair, talking in a non-Irish accent, and asking for help. Who knows what kind of trouble I could be? Dorothy is nice enough to drive me to a pub a few miles up N71, after I convinced her I am not a criminal (by telling her I'm from California).
After we arrived at the pub, she said she would wait around to make sure I was OK.
The nice lady at the pub directed me to the gift store next door, where a man gave me change and led me to the pay phone so I can call for roadside assistance.
As I am preparing to dial, a man walks up to me and asks if I am Sean.
Taken aback that some strange man should know my name, I reply that I am. He then says that he will help us tow the car. I thank Dorothy, and the man drives me back to our rented car.
On the way, he tells me how he was driving up that little trail when he saw Kristin minding the car. He offered to help, and she told him where I went, what I look like, and my name. Fortunately, he guessed the correct direction to drive (when he reached N71 from the side trail) and found me at the gift shop next to the pub.
He explained he is a forest ranger who keeps the forest in good condition. He drove me back to the car, put a tow rig to his Range Rover, and towed us back over the rock.
After introducing myself to him formally, he told me his name is Declan. Although we offered Declan money (20 Euro), he refused. He was unable to untie his rope from our tow hook, so he used an axe to chop the rope apart. I then offered him 10 Euro to pay for the rope, which he also refused. He told me to spend the money in a pub, and welcome to Ireland. He was very, very nice, and we wish to sing his praises to everyone! Along with an honorable mention to Dorothy for driving me to the pub! (Always mention nice ladies that drive you to the pub...)
We later looked up the name Declan, and it turns out it's the name of a Saint (wikipedia). I made sure to mention his name and tell the tale in two pubs (well, one pub, one bar) while in Ireland. Thanks Declan!
Lady's View (photos of Lady's View)
At the pub that Dorothy took me to, there's this amazing view called Lady's View. It's apparently called that because Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting enjoyed the scene. (wikipedia)
After Kristin and I were rescued, I had a great opportunity to take photos!
Uragh Stone Circle near Lauragh (Uragh Stone Circle photos)
Once we recovered from our trip up the trail, we continued on our journey to Uragh. We told Garmin to take us to Lauragh, then followed signs to Uragh Stone Circle. It was down another trail not too dissimilar from the previous one, but with slightly more signs of habitation. We occasionally passed a car, for whom we had to pull to the (left) side of the road.
From where we parked, we passed through a few gates in the fences designed to keep the many Irish goats (wikipedia) from wandering. They were shaped to allow humans (tall-thin) through, but not goats, who are shaped differently. Along the path, we walked carefully to avoid the many piles of goat droppings. Speaking of the path, at some points you had to guess which hill to hike over next, hoping the stone circle was in that direction.
The circle itself was fairly small, with one tall rock and four or five smaller ones. The view from the rocks was quite the sight, however! Two lakes were visible to either side. We took many pictures of the countryside, and Kristin took several pictures of me along the rocks.
Druid Circle in Kenmare (Druid Circle photos)
Once we arrived in Kenmare, we only had to drive down a few streets until we saw a sign leading us to the Druid Circle.
Much more of a traditional stone circle than Uragh, this circle is near the middle of the town, and is more heavily trafficked. While we were able to take pictures completely alone for 30 minutes at Uragh, we encountered three other groups at the Druid Circle.
I still got quite a few photos of the circle itself, and two horses in the next plot of land over.
Dinner at Mulligan's Irish Chop House (the pub downstairs)
High Street, 064 39854
Kristin had a "Toastie" sans ham €7.90
I had a very tasty lasagna €9 + Guiness. The side salad that came with the lasagna was tasty, as was every salad I was served in Ireland.
Watched some soccer
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
We ate great apple crepes, good bread - a good meal overall. I also had hot chocolate.
Ross Castle (Ross Castle photos)
Our first stop today is at Ross Castle (wikipedia), where I took many photos in places I was allowed. This includes anywhere outside the castle, and views out the windows during the guided tour, which costs €5.30 for each person. Fodor's says €5, but this is evidence that you should always plan on paying more than what's listed in a guidebook. No other photos were allowed inside.
Innisfallen Island - boat ride (photos of Innisfallen)
Next we took a boat ride (€15 for both of us) to Innisfallen Island (wikipedia) in Lough Leane (which means Learning Lake) (wikipedia). Innisfallen Island was home to a monastary.
Wildlife / birds (wildlife photos)
After the boat ride to Innisfalle, I got a change to take some photos of patient birds who posed for me.
Lunch visitor center restaurant at Muckross House and Gardens (Muckross Garden photos)
Pre-made sandwiches ~€5 each
Torc Waterfall (Torc Waterfall photos)
We hiked up a trail to Torc waterfall. Walking up to the waterfall itself was easy, but continuing the climb was literally and figuratively breathtaking.
We had offers of rides from Jaunting Cars (horse drawn carriages). The drivers were bordering on pushy while somehow remaining polite as they offered rides from various places we parked at as we accessed the sites. We might have accepted, except the price for a ride was €35 ($50), and we were able to drive ourselves in our rented car, and/or walk to each destination.
Tour Muckross House
We took a tour of the famous Muckross House (wikipedia).
For dinner we ate at The Laurels pub, "A great place to talk..." The back of menu mentions fine craic.
Kristin ate bruschetta, and I had fish and chips, and Guinness.
Towels and robes
This hotel has a sign in the bathroom: "Guests are asked not to remove towels or robes from the bedrooms. If you would like to retain any if these items please purchase them from the reception."
First, there were no robes supplied. Second, the towels feel like sandpaper - I'm not sure who would want to keep these towels!
[Photos of Ross Csatle] [Photos of Innisfallen] [Photos of Wildlife] [Photos of Muckross Garden] [Photos of Torc Waterfall] [All Ireland photos]
Monday, April 16, 2007
The dog incident
I am driving us from Daly's bed and breakfast to the ferry. Through a 30kmph zone, a dog tries to throw itself in front of the car, and keeps hunting the front bumper even while I do my best to miss it. Had I not swerved radically, we surely would have hit it.
O confused garmin!
While following the directions of the GPS navigator, we are led three turns into a housing tract with no outlet. When I drive out of it, the navigator takes us in a triangle of streets and leads us back into the tract.
We must stop and enter a different destination (the city name that the ferry will eventually take us to). Interestingly, the directions indeed tell us to board the ferry and go across the water.
The Ferry (Ireland ferry photos)
The ferry is literally pulling away from the pier as we arrive - we dig in for an hour wait.
Incidentally, the gps shows the purple line (which designates our path) going across the water. The written and vocal directions state to board the ferry. It is only odd to see the purple line going across the water because it is normally going along a road.
We spent lunchtime driving and snacking on Pringles.
Killarney, County Kerry
We arrive in Killarney where we will stay for three days, and unpack into our hotel.
After a lot of wandering through the city, we ate dinner at a restaurant called Mac's (Mac's Ice Cream)
Kristin had the vegetable stir fry (€9.95).
I had panini of the evening (€8.95), and a strawberry frozen margarita, which was very strong. They played blues music off an iPod hooked up to their speaker system - it sounded nice.
Bar downstairs in our hotel
I very much enjoyed this bar. It never had more than 3 or 4 other people in it at once. I was able to get an ale and read for an hour before bed, every night we were at this hotel.
I tried a new beer - Smithwick's lager. It has a very slight bitter taste, but the entire flavor is so light it's almost tough to tell it is a lager.
[Pictures of Scenery] [Pictures of the Ferry Ride] [All Ireland photos]
Sunday, April 15, 2007
We left the hotel, Ariel House, at 5:30 am (Ireland time) - nice place.
Next stop is the airport car hire (that's what they call a car rental agency) to hire the transport for the rest of our stay.
General thoughts on Dublin
- at night, while walking from bar to bar, people urinate anywhere as they walk along - I am assuming this is what they mean when they say pissing drunk. I frequently find myself stepping over fresh trail of urine, or walking past men (it always seems to be men for some reason) who are urinating on buildings or sidewalks
- beer cans and bottles are set down wherever people finish their drink as they walk (stagger) from place to place
- people run across the street wherever and whenever, even if cars are coming. I would not want to drive around downtown Dublin
The bus gets us to the airport, we pick up our rental car around 7:00am.
Most people have warned me that driving on the other side of the road is very tough to get used to. One person even related an incident in 1987 where Matthew Broderick mistakenly drove on the wrong side of a road (with Jennifer Gray in his car) and had a head-on collision with another car, killing them both.
It was not difficult at all to get used to driving on the left side of the road, or even to remember to be on the left side. (Maybe hearing the Broderick story kept me alert to that, though...) The tough part was learning to drive on the right side of the car. It is difficult to judge how far the car is from pedestrians, other cars, and curbs on our left. I nicked two curbs during the first couple of hours driving.
Bed and Breakfast - Daly's House
Our first Bed and Breakfast of this trip is Daly's House, run by Susan Daly (link). She is a kind and generous host who makes us feel very welcome. She offers great advice on sites to see, places to eat, things to do, tells us about the people in Ireland, and asks a lot of questions about where we're from.
Cliffs of Insanity (Cliffs of Moher) (photos of the Cliffs of Moher)
After we unpacked at Daly's House, we drove on to the Cliffs of Moher. We ate lunch there, and then walked out to the cliffs. When I started taking pictures, it was pretty foggy. As we continued to walk around taking pictures, the fog rolled in faster and faster. Soon, the pictures were of white and grey fog.
There are areas that are dangerous to walk. Story has it that the wind (which can get very gusty there!) has blown off more than one tourist. Other tourists were walking with video cameras and fell because they did not watch where they were stepping. Other tourists apparently fell due to the eroding cliff edge. And yet others threw themselves off for suicidal purposes.
There are many, many signs (mostly pictures, some with words) expressing the danger of going over the protective railing wall, or too close to the edge. There are also areas where people ignore these and head right over.
There's a tower there built during the 19th century "to increase tourism." I feel kind of ripped off knowing that a medieval looking tower or castle might be built for no purpose other than to increase tourism.
We ate lunch at the tourist center at the Cliffs of Moher.
I ate beef cannelloni with mixed salad (broccoli, radicchio).
Kristin ate Mediterranean vegetables on ciabatta bread with broccoli salad.
We shared a slice of caramel for dessert.
We mistakenly walked to dinner from our B&B (Bed and Breakfast) after the local pubs and restaurants closed or stopped serving food. So instead of food, I had 2 pints of Guinness for dinner.
[Pictures of Cliffs of Moher] [Pictures of Scenery] [All Ireland photos]
Saturday, April 14, 2007
This college campus is fun to walk around. It does, however, have many pigeons. I even saw one with only one foot limping around (when it wasn't flying).
Book of Kells
The Book of Kells is a very famous book which contains transcriptions of the four Gospels. It was made on vellum, illustrated and ornamented, and survives from 800 A.D. I have no pictures as they do not allow you to take a camera in. I wanted to argue that since they are charging me €8, I should be allowed.
Dublin Castle (photos of Dublin Castle)
Definitely the highlight of the day, I took many pictures at Dublin Castle - they allow you to on the tour in every room except for one.
Me standing by an arch in the castle courtyard.
Courtyard as viewed from within the castle.
A tapestry in the "battle axe" room.
They call it the battle axe room because the royal guardians would stand watch with huge battle axes. Unfortunately, there are no longer battle axe wielding guards, or I would have pictures of them also.
I also took pictures of the outside of Christ Church (wikipedia) (official site), but we did not pay for the tour so I have no pictures of the inside.
Graffiti (Many more photos of Irish graffiti)
After we finished the official tours, we went for a graffiti tour and I took many pictures of graffiti, which are pictured here.
Do I have a trouble reading this because of the Irish Tagger Font, or because it's written in Gaelic, or because they're using acronyms or names I don't recognize?
There's lot of graffiti in Ireland.
I took this picture from across the street to get the graffiti. It wasn't until we were back at the hotel room modifying the image that I saw the name of the shop, and decided to leave it there.
We saw this guy drawing with chalk - he made a beautiful
rendition of a picture he was copying from. You can't rightfully
call this graffiti - this was truly an art.
He worked fairly quickly - I could see it coming together before
my eyes. Much skill! I wonder how long it lasts when he's done.
[Pictures of Dublin Castle] [Pictures of Christ Church] [Pictures of Graffiti] [All Ireland photos]
Friday, April 13, 2007
We were picked up by the tour bus at Berkeley Court hotel at 1:45AM PST (9:45AM Ireland time).
The whole day was great and I took many pictures at the Hill of Tara (wikipedia), the outside of Newgrange (wikipedia), and the surrounding countryside of both. We were not allowed to take pictures inside Newgrange.
This night we had dinner at a restaurant called Milano (review) in Dublin (38 Dawson Street Dublin 2).
Kristin ate Fungotto, an appetizer (or 'starter' in local parlance)
For my dinner, I ate a very tasty Tortellini.
My beer was Birra Peroni Gran Riserva (link), Birra Doppio Malto Chiara - very good! This was the high octane version of this beer. They had a "normal" proof version, and a "near bear" version, but I did not try either. I will definitely look for this beer in the states.
The Fodor's (link) guide suggested several pubs. One which sounded very interesting was called Kehoe's (or John Kehoe) (link to review). The book stated that the upstairs is basically John's living room, which he happily shares with patrons who want to bring their drinks upstairs.
As a bonus, they were right around the corner from the restaurant we ate at. Unfortunately, however, they were ludicrously crowded! The patrons spilled out not only onto the sidewalk, but into the street. Cars had a trouble driving by. Seeing no easy way in to get a drink without elbowing our way forcefully, we wandered around a bit.
Our waiter from Milano's had two suggestions, but both were also overly crowded (although not quite as obscenely crowded as Kehoe's living room). We then walked to a pub called O'neill's (link), and I tried a Bulmer's vintage cider (link). I doubt I will drink this again, it was too sweet!
After that, we headed to another pub, who's name I do not recall, for a Guinness and some interesting conversation (locally known as Craic (wikipedia)) with the bartender. He very patiently and happily answered our newbie-to-Ireland type questions.
[Pictures of Hill of Tara tour] [Pictures of Newgrange tour] [Pictures of Scenery] [All Ireland photos]
Thursday, April 12, 2007
At 4:20am (12:20pm Ireland time) we are on the bus on the highway heading towards our first hotel. It's 17 degrees (Celsius) here.
We are staying for three nights at a place called Ariel House (Ariel House site). We enjoyed the hotel. Breakfast there was good every day. Internet in the hotel room. Less than two miles to Trinity College and Dublin Castle and other sites, so we were able to walk to our destinations every day.
After arriving in our hotel and settling in, we headed to our first meal. We dined at The Steps of Rome (link to a review) at 1:00pm PST, 9:00pm Ireland time.
I had a shredded beef with baby potatoes and salad, and Kristin had a margherita pizza. I also had my first taste of Messina, an Italian beer. We shared a Tiramisu for dessert. The Tiramisu has some coffee-ish substance in it and a strong flavor.
After dinner, we went to a pub called The Oliver St. John Gogarty. The first floor was filled with revellers listening to modern day rock and dance on CD. Upstairs we found a traditional folk band playing a bunch of tunes. I had another first taste tonight of a draft called Kilkenny, which was thick and creamy like a Guinness, but much lighter. (Kristin tasted both brews and liked neither - but she's not a beer drinker by nature...)
From what I can tell, the band performs folk music (locally known as Trad or Traditional Irish) performed by themselves and other bands who play at the same pub. I got their CD, Gogarty's Music II, a collection of 18 tracks, as a gift for Ron Glass. I also had one of the band members, one Noreen Leech, to sign the CD - she even drew a little happy face (or something) in it. She was playing violin at the time we watched the band (for about 10 songs). She can be seen in this picture here on the far right.
Tomorrow is a tour of Newgrange, and we have to wake up in a short time for that.
Back to the hotel!
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
At 6:20am here (UTC -8), and it's 2:20pm in Ireland (UTC).
Our plane leaves the ground at 4:30. We must report to the airport 3+ hours early due to new security regulations.
AER LINGUS (EI) Flight 144 (Status)
Departure LAX: 11 Apr 2007 1630
Arrive DUB: 12 Apr 2007 1030. That's a 10.5 hour flight after adjusting UTC.
Pictures for the trip can be found here: Ireland Vacation Photos