Loc: north carolina
Re: IRELAND, first time, help please!
05/23/09 02:11 PM
It is Monday morning, and we enter our last 5 days of Ireland exploration today. First we have our wonderful breakfast in the Ballyseede Castle, look across the grounds one more time, load up the car, and of course, give Arthur and Einstein one more rub. We head northeast to the small town of Adare. We wanted to visit it because it is famous for having some of the original styled thatched roofs that Ireland was famous for. We get into town, and they are right on the main road. It is interesting to see the construction of them, and we are told that they can hold up for 10 years or so.
Next, we had planned to go to Limerick, and visit King John's Castle. It was built in the 1200's, and sits right on the Shannon River. Mary Clare O'Doofus had a tough time with this one. As are many attractions, it is right in the center of town, so there are many one-way, narrow streets. Mary Clare about blew a transistor or two before she took us around our elbow to find our thumb! Once winding our way there, I was a little disappointed. With the castle sitting on the river and with the front view of it being obstructed by a large visitor center, the only good exterior view of it was from across the river, which meant more BIG CITY TRAFFIC. We did not even go in, as Frommer's said that it was overrated, and what was there did not justify the price charged. At least we were able to mess with Mary Clare a little bit.
Next, it was just a few minutes to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. The castle is from the early 1400's, and has been restored with period furnishings. During the day it is open for visiting at your own pace, and is very interesting. At night, they hold two dinners there, in the Medieval style. If you have been to that type of dinner show before, then you are familiar with it, but to do it in a location that is original adds a great deal to it. Surrounding the castle, is about a 20 acre park, Bunratty Folk Park. It is a re-creation of a 19th century Irish village, complete with the thatched roof cottages, school, and an entire Irish small town street. They are all open to visit inside, and gives a great glimpse into earlier life in the country. Once again, this is somewhere that you can spend an entire day if you have the time.
Now, northwest through the town of Ennis, on to another of the main attractions of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs are about 700 feet straight up, rising out of the wild Atlantic Ocean. They stretch for about 5 miles on the coast, and are unbelievable. There is a tourist center at the top, and if the weather and visibility is very bad, access to the cliffs is limited. After all it is straight down, and that first step is a killer! They are a definite must-see.
In addition to the Cliffs, this is another place that we had looked forward to. There is a small town here, I mean s-m all. But is is known world over for its music. Doolin is so small, they had to widen the road there to be able to paint the white line down the middle. It is so small, the welcome to, and you are now leaving signs are on the same post. It is so small, well, you get the idea, it ain't big. It only has a couple of pubs, but on any night you can find some of the best true Irish music going on there that you can find anyplace in Ireland. We stayed at O'Connor's Guesthouse while we were there, and so we thought we would try something different, and go to O'Connor's Pub! Actually, no relation, what are the odds of more than 1 O'Connor in Ireland? It was a great evening, as usual, it was packed with mostly locals, and some tourists. Watching everyone enjoy themselves in the pubs is just a great feeling. Pub is actually short for public house, so there, a pub is not what we would normally look at as a bar. There is plenty of Guinness downed, of course, but it is more about the meeting and talking and enjoying, than the drinking-absolutely unforgettable. After some excellent pub-grub, everyone gathers to the center of the pub right in front of the bar, where the music takes place. Local musicians are there, and if can play an instrument or sing, you are welcome to join in, and maybe become a star! We didn't last as long as the music did, so back to the room, and time to crash.
Another yummy Irish breakfast, and we go past the pub again about a mile to catch the ferry to the Aran Islands. There are 3 islands, and we are going to the closest, Inis Oir. Although you hear so much about Ireland being green, part of the green was some of the people on the boat going over! I have to admit, it was very rough on the sea that day, but some people may not remember all of it. When we landed, my wife said we were moving there. Not because it was so beautiful, but if we didn't move there, it meant another trip back on the boat! On to other things. The island was beautiful. It is the smallest of the 3, and the first language of the residents is Gaelic, although English is also spoken. We went to a pub, and, once one of us felt like eating again, had some more great pub-grub. We wandered the small town, and walked to the ruins that sit on the top of the island and give fantastic views. You can see the layout of all the fields with the patterns the stone walls make, and see for miles. I guess we are not moving there, as while we were there, some wonderful tourist had a couple of extra motion sickness pills that she sold to my wife for only $50...just kidding, the wonderful lady gave my wife her last 2 pills and we made the trip back, thanks again! Leaving lovely Doolin, we drove around Galway, and west to our B + B for the night in Clifden, the Ardmore House.
The Ardmore House sits right on the Atlantic Ocean, and since we got in late the prior evening, we did not get to see the wonderful view it offers. After a great breakfast, with all effects of the boat trip behind, we walked the short walk to the cliffs right behind the house. The view was beautiful. The owners have placed a picnic table out there, so if you wanted to have a lunch there you would have a wonderful view. It was very windy the day that we were there, so if you plan a lunch, hang onto your sandwich!
We packed up, and headed northeast about 10 minutes to Kylemore Abbey. The Abbey is Gothic, and sits on the edge of beautiful Kylemore Lake. It also has some great gardens to walk, and a large restaurant. If you like beautiful buildings and scenery, don't miss it. Next, we head east about 25 miles to one of the things I had really wanted to see, the town of Cong. Nope, nothing to do with a big ole monkey. Cong is where the 1952 movie, The Quiet Man, with John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara and Barry Fitzgerald was filmed. It had to have had one of the best fight scenes in movie history in it! On the way there, we ran into our first traffic jam out in the country. Actually, we didn't run into it, as the traffic jam was sheep in the road! A whole covey of the guys were in the road as we came around a bend, and I think in their language, they said that the road belonged to them. Anyway, they finally moved, and we continued on to Cong. By the way, we had lamb chops that night.
The original house is no longer intact, but an exact replica, including the thatched roof is in town, including items like Mary Kate's table and chairs, and the tandem bicycle. You feel just like you are in the movie while in the house. There is a walking tour that covers many of the sites used in the movie, including a stop at the ruins of the original house. If you like the movie, this is a great stop, and yes, I bought a shirt with The Quiet Man logo and John Wayne's picture on it.
Now, northwest to the coastal town of Westport, for our stay at the Cillcomen Lodge B + B. We walked out for dinner that evening, and on the way back, we saw a field full of, wait for it, sheep! How suprised were we? Becoming Dr Doolittle for a minute, I thought I would speak with them. I started with the simple things, like baaaaa, and strangely enough, they came running to the fence beside me. They didn't appear angry, so I don't think that I offended them. So I continued, and they came closer. Then, I said 'lamb chops', and honest, they all took off running. We couldn't see anything other than sheep butts! Was the funniest thing I ever saw...well, maybe you had to be there. So back to the room for the night, and get ready for another day.
We are in the home stretch now, only 2 days left. We drive east from Westport, (does that sound right?), for a scaled-back day, seeing ruins and great scenery along the way. We go into Ballina, as I had heard it was a very pretty town, and also because I had heard nothing but good things about a restaurant there. I'm a foodie, if the 'lamb chops' hints didn't tell you that already. The name of the restaurant is The Broken Jug. If you are in the area, that is a must do. There were so many choices that it was hard to pick, and don't be slow choosing, as they keep loading you plate with food. Everything was great, and the desserts were sinful, not to mention huge. Probably one of the best meals we had in Ireland. Thinking of that, I cannot remember ANY meal that was not good. Some years back jokes were made about Irish food, but that is no longer the case. You will be hard pressed to find something that is not very good! Of course, you may get an argument about that from the sheep.
Southeast out of Ballina, we head down to do what is called the Lough Derg Drive. Lough Derg is a large, long lake in the center of Ireland, and it has some great scenery along it. We chose to drive the western side of it, through great scenery, and many beautiful little towns on the lake. The day brought us right outside the city of Athlone, to a small town called Glasson, and to our B + B for the night, The Benown House. We settled in just before a storm came up, and before we knew it,the wind was howling and it was very dark. We heard the rain pounding on the roof, but it sounded very loud, and as I looked out, there was a hailstorm! They say in Ireland, if you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes, it will change. While here, we have now seen almost everything except snow!
Our last full day starts with another great breakfast, and then south toward Shannon, as that will be where we depart tomorrow morning. I wanted to stay close to Shannon, as our flight back to London was in the morning. Shannon is not far, but we swing west just before Shannon, and go a few miles north to a small town named Newmarket-on-Fergus. I tell my wife I want us to see one more castle, (you can't see too many castles), before we check in to our last B + B near the airport. We drive to Dromoland Castle, with its history going back over 1,000 years. It sits on over 400 acres, has a great golf course, and is known as one of the finest castle hotels in Europe. As we drive up, it is breathtaking. Between the long drive into the grounds, the sight of the castle as we near it, and the countryside in general, everything is perfect.
Near the front of the castle, I stop for my wife to take one of over 1,000 pictures she took on the vacation. She gets out of the car, and the ground starts to become covered with ducks. They begin to walk toward her, as they apparently are fed by the tourists. Seconds pass, their number doubles, triples...ducks everywhere! I think at this point, even Mary Clare O'Doofus was a little concerned. As we had nothing to feed them, my wife eases back into the car, and tries not to slam any beaks in the door. I think she was successful. We drive around the castle, and the entrance area is gorgeous. There is a 1975 Rolls Royce there, which we later found out had been owned by Sir Lawrence Olivier, and it is used as their limo. I pulled up to the front, and was asked if we were checking in. My wife sort of laughs, and I said, 'what the hey, let's do it'. Of course, I already had the reservation, and she had no idea that we were staying there. We are escorted inside, and I do the check-in while she walks around with her mouth hanging open. Of course, she was not too much in shock to take pictures.
Needless to say, everything about the castle was perfect, the service, the room, the food. When we got to our room, it had a huge flat screen tv, that even had a welcome on the screen with our names on it. The place is first-class all the way. After check-in, we took a carriage ride with Sean, (of course), and his beautiful horse Lily. Sean was excellent. He rode us around the grounds, across the golf course area, back into the wooded areas, all the while telling us the history of the castle, and even showed us the tree where the fairies live! He gives an excellent tour, has a wonderful personality, and takes great care of his animals. I highly reccommend taking his tour while in the area, even if you do not stay at the castle. Tell him Dave + Cindy say hello. I am not sure if it was a compliment or not, but he said that I was, 'a bit of a rogue'!
That evening, a wonderful meal, great service, we met some golfers that were from Boston, and we talked about the NFL draft, and eased back into non-Irish things. My wife did a 'girl-thing' soak in the huge tub, and I used a shower that was powerful enough to surf with. A great evening, and off to sleep. We knew that tomorrow was back to reality. The front desk knew that we were leaving early in the morning, and asked what time we needed to leave. They did the wake-up call for us, and I found printed directions to the airport, in case Mary Clare O'Doofus was still asleep. The had prepared a silver service in the lobby with tea, coffee, and about 15-20 warmed Danish of various types. I did my best to find a bad one, but alas, I could not!
Since we could only stay one night or have to sell the ranch and all the sheep, we loaded up, and made the short drive to the airport. Shannon airport is much smaller than that of Dublin, so it was a piece of cake, or is that Danish, to get through. We caught an Aer Lingus flight to London, and Northwest back to Minneapolis/St Paul, then back into Charlotte. We arrived in Charlotte about 10 pm Saturday night, the trouble is, our luggage didn't want to come back, and stayed in Minneapolis/St Paul. It did however catch the next flight out Sunday, and was delivered to our home on Sunday afternoon. It wasn't fair that the luggage should have a longer vacation than we did.
Ireland is a wonderful place. When asked over and over by our friends what we liked best about it, we both have to say, the people. As great as the scenery is, the stunning castles, cathedrals, and picturesque towns, the people will stand out as being the best overall that we have met in the world. I can't recall in 17 days even seeing a person frown. So if you are looking for a spot to visit, I can't say enough about Ireland and the wonderful people there. I hoped this helps anyone that is thinking of going, and if there are questions, please email me, I will do what I can for you.
Well, that was it, our trials and tribulations of Ireland. Oh yeah, Mary Clare O'Doofus was sent packing too, and I told the company that she may need to retire soon. She acted baaaaaaadly!