Dublin, Republic of Ireland - then home
Friday, Oct. 11
This was a usual transfer day with bags out when we went to breakfast. We hadn’t been on the road very long before our guide had the driver make a quick stop so we could go inside the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in a small town we were passing. This one was Roman Catholic and had lovely stained glass windows.
The next stop was at Navan Fort, an ancient archaeological complex and ceremonial grounds. There was a nice interpretive center and also a model ancient hut where two ladies, in period clothing, told us about how life would have been during the iron age era.
Then we visited the Long Meadows Cider Company in Armagh. This is a family owned company with their own orchards and pressing facilities. They showed us a few trees, some old and some newer varieties from Europe. They are pruned low so the apples can be picked while standing on the ground. We saw their cold storage area and also where they make cider vinegar. In Ireland most cider is what we would call “hard” cider. It has about a 4% alcohol content. They blend different varieties of apples to make different flavors of cider. After the tour, they provided sandwiches and deserts, and of course some cider sampling with our lunch.
We drove on into Dublin, the capital of the Irish Republic, arriving about 4:00 at the Belvedere Hotel. It is a big city, but the core of it is still very historical. At 6:00 we joined our guide for a walking tour of the area and in search of a pub for dinner. We walked a long ways down O’Conner Street and ended up at Madison’s Pub for dinner. It wasn’t as noisy as many and they made room for the bunch of us.
Saturday, Oct. 12
This morning we met our guide and driver for a tour around the main and important parts of the city. Joan pointed out the historical places. It was a beautiful sunny day, one of maybe five we had on the whole three week trip, so when it came time to depart the bus we didn’t mind walking. This was the end of our driver Dave’s part of our tour. He had to head back to Ennis to start another OAT tour on Tuesday. That will be the last of the season.
So, we got off the bus, said our goodbyes and followed Joan on a walking tour. We started at the Dublin Castle. All that remains of the 13th century castle is one tower, but there are walls around an adjoining area where very high level meetings are held, and there is a green area where helicopters can land to bring in VIPs. We had noticed on our bus tour of the city that there were two cruise ships in dock. It was at the castle that we started running into large tour groups. Another stop on our walk was the Chester Beatty Library which houses a huge number of old manuscripts. At noon, Joan left us to our own wandering. We had noticed a nice store for good shopping, but better yet, a restaurant, so we headed there for lunch. After lunch the group split up a bit. We looked into seeing the Book of Kells, but by then there were only 4:30 tickets left. We went shopping instead and then took a cab back to the hotel.
Our Farewell Dinner was at a hotel across the street. It was a happy and sad event. On trips like this, you bond with your fellow travelers, making friends that sometimes last. We enjoyed everyone on our tour, and will probably be in touch with some.
Sunday Oct. 13
We had booked an extra day in Dublin so we could do some extra things that we couldn’t work in on the main trip. We spent the morning at the EPIC, The Irish Emigration Museum. It opened in about 2016 and is build in old underground warehouses that were built in 1817-1820 to store valuable cargo like tobacco, tea and spirits. It is on Customs House Quay along the River Liffey. It was inspired and built by Neville Isdell, the former chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, who is of Irish decent. It is the best interactive museum we have ever seen and won awards for such this year. It took us two hours to go through it, and one could have spent more time.
We had lunch at the museum and then caught a cab to take Melanie and me to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, and Paul back to the hotel to rest. We were able to get in a little earlier than the time on our tickets. The Book of Kells is a treasure of medieval Europe. It is a manuscript in Latin of the four gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.) It was done by early Christians in about 800AD. The calligraphy and decorations are elaborate. They can identify that four monks worked on it. The book has since been rebound into four books. The Long Room upstairs was even more impressive with stacks and stacks, rows and rows of old books, with ladders that made them accessible. Melanie and I spent about an hour there looking around before checking out a nearby store and then taking a cab back to the hotel.
For our final evening in Dublin we joined another couple and went to Murry’s Pub for dinner. Pubs are where you get the true feel of the Irish, as that is the gathering place after work, etc. Before turning in, we made sure we were all packed and ready to leave in the morning.
Monday, Oct. 14
Traveling home: flights from Dublin to JFK then JFK to Portland. Since I’m still using crutches part of the time, I ordered a wheel chair, which was waiting at each transfer point. That proved valuable, especially getting us through all the security, twice, and US Immigration and Customs. Again, this is where our Global Entry Pass really paid off.
It was a long travel day, and we made it home before 10:00 pm. Often, when we have been gone for a while, we return to find something has gone wrong. This time, the GFI outlet in the garage, into which we plug the hot water heater and the freezer, had tripped. No hot water and a total lose on everything in the freezer. Getting that fixed will be on the agenda. And, I have already made an appointment to have my knee looked at, again. Life goes on, and we are very thankful that we are able to travel and enjoy it.
No further trips booked, but I’m sure there will be something, someplace, sometime!!!! Check back for more pictures in the “Photo Gallery” section of the website.
Grace and Paul
Trinity College and the Book of Kells
Wednesday, Oct. 9
This morning we left Derry, Northern Ireland, and moved on to Belfast, which is the capital of Northern Ireland. As always, we never go directly to the next destination. There is always something of interest to visit along the way. This morning our first comfort stop was in Ballycastle where there is a lovely sculpture of four swans. They depict the Irish mythological legend of the “Children of Lir.”
Next we stopped at the Glenariff Forest Park. There is a lovely long nature trail to the top of the hill where there was a gorgeous view of the valley. For those who could, most of the group, there was a hike down the hill, which included over 150 steps. Toward the bottom there were lovely water falls. For the few of us who couldn’t/shouldn’t do that walk, we stayed on the bus and were driven down to the bottom so we didn’t have to miss the waterfalls. There were a number of falls coming from two streams. We settled in at the Laragh Lodge, which was all decorated for Halloween. This is a HUGE Holliday in Ireland. When the rest of the group arrived from their hike, we were served a nice lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
The last rest stop before getting to Belfast was in Larn. There we viewed a plaque honoring Paddy the pigeon who was given the Dickin Medal for being the fastest carrier pigeon used during World War II. He was released in Normandy at 8:15 on June 12 with a coded message on the Allied advance and returned to Hamptonshire in 4 hours, 50 minutes.
We pulled into Belfast in the late afternoon. It is a very prosperous city with lots of building going on aided by tourism which is booming. Our driver took us by the Titanic Museum and a few other places of interest to help us get oriented. At 6:00 we all met our guide for a walking tour of the hotel area, ending at the large dome where we could see a 360 degree view of the city. We had dinner together that night so that we could be totally free and on our own the next day, afternoon and evening. The weather had turned colder, so the down coat stays out and worn.
Thursday, Oct. 10
This morning we started off taking a ride with a “Black Taxi” driver/guide. We were divided up so each taxi took 4-5 of our group and gave us a tour of Belfast. The driver talked about the troubled times and took us to the Protestant and the Catholic areas of the city. There is a wall separating the two areas, which are still segregated. The murals on the Catholic side are painted depicting social and political events and opinions. They change every once in a while. On the Protestant side there are large photographs of border walls from around the world. At one location, we got out of the cab and signed the wall. As we heard from many, “Peace is a process still playing out and not a done deal.” Each of the drivers gave his personal perspective on the turmoil and shared how it affected them and their families personally. Some even drove through their own neighborhood.
Next we had a chance to hear from three fellows who were ex-political prisoners from the time of the “Troubles.” Two were on opposite sides of the war and had been politically active. A third fellow was a British service man who was stationed in Belfast. They have joined together to tell their stories and to promote peaceful solutions. Besides talking to groups like ours, they also go to schools to promote their ways of getting along. They are all still personally in danger if some activists were to take offense at what they are doing or saying. Their main take-away was that education is the key. We also heard the theory that it can take up to seven generations to change people’s thinking to a more positive point of view.
By now it was after noon and our driver dropped all of us off at the Titanic Museum. Before starting the guided tour, using an audio guide, we had some lunch. It took at least two hours to go through the well designed museum. The shape of the building is kind of like the bow of a ship and the height of the structure is the same as was the Titanic. The museum was extremely well done and walked you through the concept, planning and production of the ship. Since the museum is located right on the dock, at one point you can look out and see the outline of where the ship was built and launched. When we were finished with the museum we caught a cab back to the hotel and only went out again for some dinner.
Friday, Oct. 11
This was a transfer day from Belfast to Dublin with interesting stops along the way. More in the next post.
Monday, Oct. 7
We left Donegal at 8:30 for the short drive to Derry, Northern Ireland. It is also known as Londonderry, depending where you are. Because it was a beautiful sunny morning, we could make a stop at Grianan of Aileach, which is a circular defensive stone fort on top of a high hill. It was probably built in the 8th or 9th century by sun worshipers. It was excavated in the 1800s. It evidently was quite a treat for our guide to bring us here because the weather us usually too bad.
We arrived in Derry were we were turned over to our local guide, Ryan. We first drove through the “Bogs” area where we saw the many murals inspired by the almost 30 year long time called “the Troubles.” It began with the Battle of the Bogside in 1969 and ended with the Belfast Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This time had riots, political unrest, hunger strikes and other violence because of disagreements over the status of Northern Ireland. The core of Derry is surrounded by walls which still exist, and we walked on the wall part way.
To commemorate the peace in the area, they have built a “Peace Bridge” just for pedestrians over the Foyle River. It is a lovely curved bridge and we had a chance to walk on it during some of our free time. We also checked out the museum in Derry’s Guildhall. We were on our own for lunch, and headed for the “Pickled Duck,” maybe just because it sounded quaint, but the food was good.
In the afternoon we spent a little time at the “Free Derry” museum, which chronicles the Irish fight for freedom. We then checked into our “boutique” hotel, the Bishop’s Gate Hotel Derry, which is lovely. For some reason we were given the handicap room. Everything was normal until you looked into the bathroom. Then there were all the aids you could imagine, but no shelves. I got the small ironing board out of the closet and set it up in the bathroom, giving me a place to spread out my stuff. Dinner was all of us together at a local restaurant.
Tuesday, Oct. 8
Today was beautiful and sunny, which was excellent since we had several outdoor activities scheduled. The first stop was at an overlook viewing area were we could look down on the Garrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, which connects a small island and the mainland. It was built by salmon fishermen in the late 18th century. The bridge is about 100 feet high and 70 feet long and is now reinforced with steel cable. For those of us who were not going to do the long walk to get to the bridge, this was our only chance to see it. We then moved to the parking area and many, including Melanie, hiked the trail and took stairs down to the bridge and crossed it, one at a time. Of course, you had to come back. There were ropes to hang onto on either side. Meanwhile, Paul and I enjoyed some hot chocolate in the small cafe. It was very windy, but still sunny.
After lunch at a local restaurant we continued to Giant’s Causeway. This spectacular geologic formation along the Antrim Coast is made of columnar basalt. We from Oregon recognize it, as we have quite a lot of this volcanic basalt along the Columbia River Gorge. This area was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. These vertical columns are hexagonal in shape and are somewhat curved to fit together perfectly. Although the wind was still strong, at least it did not rain on us. Our guide said this was only the second day she had been there this season when it was not raining.
On the way back to the hotel we made a short stop at the Old Bushmills Distillery where some had a chance to sample some of their famous whiskey. It was a long day and we ended up having something in the bar before heading to bed early.
Wednesday, Oct 9
This is a transfer day to Belfast. More about that next.
Friday, Oct. 4, was our longest transfer day. We left Clifden Connemara to drive north to Donegal. The first stop was in Westport where we looked at the model “Coffin Ship” at the National Famine Monument. It is a tribute to the “Great Famine” that began in 1845. Around 2 million died at that time and another 2 million emigrated to other countries. Learning about it was very sobering.
The lunch stop was in Sligo. After a “Special” lunch at Hargadon Bros. where we could order three items for 10 Euro. The main reasons for the stop in Sligo was to visit the W.B. Yeats Society building. We had a very interesting talk by a local lady who told us about his life, family. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. We stopped by his grave in the small village of Drumcliff where he was buried in 1939. His body was brought back from France where he had died nine years earlier.
There was one last special stop on the way into Donegal. It was a lovely viewpoint of the ocean near the lovely Mountbatten home, or castle, set out near the cliffs. It was a surprise stop. We pulled into Donegal about 4:00 and settled in for three nights at the Mill Park Hotel. It is a very large, more modern hotel, located a five minute walk outside of town. Our driver did the usual drive through town first. It is a very small central town with three short streets shaped in a triangle. Dinner that night was included and in the hotel. There was a large wedding going on, as well, so the place was vey busy.
Saturday, Oct. 5
This morning was very special. We drove out to St. John’s Point where we visited Cyndi Graham who is a local weaver. She comes from a family of weavers and workers in the fabric trade. She has a lovely little old building where she has her loom and enough room to display products she has made. She explained the whole process she uses to set up her loom and weave. She demonstrated this, and I got some good video of the process. We have a very “shopping” oriented group and they had fun trying on things and made a number of purchases. Our guide said she was “Over the moon” with our purchases.
One of the special things Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) does is find and support local artisans. They make a contribution to each one as we visit. For example, the OAT contribution allowed Tom, the sheep herder, to put a roof on the little building where we went to ask questions.
We next went to Killybegs, the largest fishing port in Ireland. We met with a fisherman to discuss the fishing industry. Not only did we learn about the main kinds of fish they bring in from the seas, out to 200 miles, but the impact of the warming waters, bringing different fish farther north, now. Also, one of the benefits of Ireland joining the EU was that they provided a lot of infrastructure, including their docks. We would have had time to walk around, but it started raining hard, so we headed back to the hotel. That evening we just had a light dinner in the bar and turned in.
Sunday, Oct. 6.
There weren’t enough of us who wanted to take the optional tour out to Glenbeigh National Park, but Melanie and three others hired a car to take them. They enjoyed it, and it turned out to be a lovely sunny day. Paul and I took a cab into town and walked around. It is a very small town with a few shops open. We took the 10:30 guided tour of the Donegal Castle which was fascinating. The guide’s explanation of the three main families who ruled this northern part of Ireland for many years made the history come alive. This castle had belonged to the O’Donnell family who ruled the area from 1200 - 1601. It had been in bad disrepair, but has been restored somewhat. We walked around town, had lunch at the Abbey Hotel, and walked all the way back to the Mill Park Hotel. That night our dinner was included at a pub downtown. This was also our guide, Joan’s, birthday and in conjunction with the driver and some others, we had a card, chocolates, and a small cake for her. She seemed very pleased.
Monday, Oct. 7
We leave Donegal for the drive to Derry, Northern Ireland. More about that in the next post.
Wednesday, Oct. 2
Today we transferred from Ennis to Clifden. We drove north to Galway where we made our first stop at the Liam Mellows Gaelic Athletic Association club house. We were greeted by one of their members who gave us a detailed explanation of two of their favorite sports: Gaelic Football and Hurling.
He demonstrated Gaelic football and showed us a video pointing out the the various moves. This game is played with a ball that looks like our soccer ball, but the moves are very different. You can use your hands, bounce the ball and run about 4ish steps carrying the ball. The emphasis was on the ISH part because the number of steps wasn’t an absolute. You could score three points for putting the ball into the net under the goal post, and one point for getting it above the goal post, between the uprights.
Next he explained the game of Hurling. It is played using a stick called a Hurl which looks something like a short hockey stick with a wide base at the bottom. You use both hands to grasp it, with your dominant hand on the bottom. He demonstrated the moves and showed them in action in a demo video. THEN, we all put on helmets and went out onto the practice field to give the moves a try, for ourselves. It was amazingly hard, but it was fun watching the others, as I couldn’t participate. A lady at the Athletic Club made sandwiches and scones for our lunch. They were the best scones I have ever had.
The weather was dry and occasionally we saw some sun. In late afternoon we pulled into the coastal town of Clifton. The driver gave us two loops around the small town then to the Clifden Station House Hotel. After settling in to the hotel, we walked a few blocks to Guy’s Pub for dinner for Melanie and I shared a pizza and Paul had a huge bowl of muscles.
Thursday, Oct. 3
We have been keeping our attention on the approaching hurricane Lorenzo. It is the largest hurricane ever to move this far north in the Atlantic. Clifden sits way west on the Irish coast and very possibly in the hurricanes path. It was due to hit sometime during the day.
Our first stop for the morning was a visit to Tom, a sheep farmer. This was a day for all rain gear, including rain pants. When we got off the bus is was very windy, and shortly started to rain, hard. We still got to watch Tom work his border collie using voice commands. He sent the dog out to round up a group of sheep and bring them into a pen so we could see them up close and Tom could answer questions about them. The dog kept them in place just by looking at them. It was amazing. We then worked our way into a small building where Tom made tea or coffee for us, and we had more chances to talk about his sheep and his new two-week old baby. He runs a herd of 600 ewes and 5 rams of black-face mountain sheep. I asked about bummers, and he said he had 20 last year. His lambs will arrive the middle of April.
From the sheep ranch we drove to the Kylemore Abbey. This Abbey was built by Mitchel Henry in the mid 1800s for his wife. It sits on a lake and the total grounds are over 1000 acres including a 6 acre walled garden. There is a group of Benedictine nuns who still live in the Abbey. As a business they make chocolate, soap and skin care products. They still wear a traditional habit. By the time we got to the Abbey, late morning, the wind and rain had intensified so that it was very difficult to walk and not be blown over. We made it to the Abbey, which is set up like a museum of the time period, but we didn’t go further to see the Gothic Church. There was a lunch cafeteria on site and we had vouchers for a sandwich, soup, cake and tea/coffee. It was a lot to eat. As I looked around the room I noticed large photographs taken of the place and the setting. At the bottom they all said “Photographed by Lorenzo Mitchel Henry” who was the grandson. It was quite appropriate because we had been attacker’s by Hurricane Lorenzo that day.
At 1:30 we left the Kylemore Abbey and headed straight back to the hotel where we hunkered down for the rest of the day, expecting the worst of the hurricane. It really didn’t get any worse, as it had veered further south and we were spared a full hit. Happy for that. Dinner that night was included in the trip.
Friday, Oct. 4
Today we have a long transfer all the way up to Donegal, with interesting stops along the way. More about that in the next post.
PS: Knee is doing fine.
Sunday, Sept. 29
Today was the end of our Pre-trip. We left Dingle heading for Ennis. The first stop was in the small town of Anascaul to see the South Pole Inn Museum honoring Tom Crean. He was an Irish lad who joined the British Explorer Shackleton on a South Pole expedition. Because the Irish and the British were not getting along at that time, he could not share the fact that he had been on that expedition as a British soldier. He was honored later. Then, a short distance away we stopped at a small cafe owned by our guide: Joan’s Cafe. She let us in to see it, because it is closed now as she is busy guiding tours.
We stopped in the town of Tralee to visit the Rose Garden and sing the ballad “The Rose of Tralee” and hear the story behind it. Late in the morning we pulled into the small town of Listowel. The local guide, Vincent, was waiting for our group. He gave us a tour of the town and shared the many ways it is connected with the United States. Meanwhile, I sat leisurely in the lobby of the very old Listowel Hotel, enjoying some coffee and the view. The group came back and we had lunch in the hotel before heading out for Ennis in County Clare. It is very close to the Shannon Airport where we flew in a week earlier. We have seen so much: time has flown by.
We arrived at the Old Ground Hotel about 4:00 and by 5;00 We were gathered together for the official briefing for the trip, because now our group had the three new members. Our group is now full with 16 people. Afterward Joan took us on a walking tour to give us an orientation of the town. It didn’t take much, as our hotel is right in the center of town, across from a large church. We ended up in a pub for dinner where live music started at 7:30. It was very pleasant.
Monday, Sept. 30
Today was “A Day In The Life” of an Irish family. The group went out to meet a farmer and we walked in to his place which took about 45 minutes. Joan told me not to go and gave us an alternative plan. We, and another lady with new knees and a hip, took a cab to the public bus station where we caught the 10:30 bus out to the Cliffs of Moher. It had started to rain before we left the hotel, and continued to worsen as the day progressed. It was about a 50 minute ride out to the cliffs. When the bus stopped to let us off, it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. We spotted an arched tunnel into the hill, which turned out to be the entrance and box office. Fortunately we didn’t have to pay since they had a record of us coming in with the group. The wind was whipping through the tunnel, but I pulled out my rain pants and put them on before crossing the next distance to the Interpretive Center, Restaurant and gift shop. What unbelievable weather. After a brief stop in the interpretive center, we headed for the restaurant. From there we could see part of the cliffs. To rephrase that, we could barely see the cliffs through the mist and heavy rain, coming in sideways with the strong wind.`
After we ate,I decided to brave the wind and rain, and walked all the way to the top on one side of the cliffs. It was really all I could do to keep from being blown over. I took the long set of stairs very slowly. The wind was so strong at one point that it almost blew a crunch out from under me. A nice lady at the top took my picture. We were the only ones up there. Eventually, the group arrived from their morning outing, where they had also gotten drenched. Melanie and a few others hiked to the top and back before we headed back to the hotel.
We had dinner together at the hotel, then went to another room where we were treated to a musical program. Three girls, ages 12 - 16, played their harps, violins and a concertinas for us. Two of the girls were sisters and their father was there to move the program along. They talked about their training, which was private, and the music they played and their instruments. It was a fascinating evening with times for plenty of questions. They were amazing girls.
Tuesday, October 1
This morning, the weather was bad enough that the “Optional Tour” to the Aran Islands was cancelled. In its place we were offered a trip to the Bunratty Castle. Paul and I both took this option. While the rest of the group got a tour of the 15th century castle, including climbing up a small circular staircase to the upper floors, I was free to wander around the grounds. It is a large area where they had either original or replicas of old buildings representing the time period. They were all furnished to recreate the period. Then there was another section called the “Folk Park” which depicts 19th century life. Many of the stores in this section feature merchants selling many things, including hand produced pottery, woolen goods and food and beverages. There are also large fenced areas where some livestock is kept for petting, and also two gorgeous Irish Wolf Hounds.
Lunch was in a nearby restaurant called Durty Nelly’s followed by some shopping time at two merchants across the street. Still resisting. We were back to the hotel early so that we could get all packed ready to leave in the morning.
That evening was our “Home Hosted Dinner.” We were split into three groups and dropped at three different homes. Paul and I went with Norm, Barb and Mary Ann to the home of Jerry and Mary. They live in a very old stone house which they bought back in the 1990s and refurbished. It is gorgeous inside. They have both been business people and we had lots of good conversation about a wide range of topics. Jerry was the cook, and the food was delicious. Toward the end of the evening, Jerry explained a little about the game of Hurling and showed us the equipment used. It is a cross between a lot of our games: soccer, hockey, and some others along with a touch of mayhem . Very interesting. All too soon, Joan came to pick us up, at 8:00. We were not finished having a good time and learning about each other.
Wednesday, October 2 we leave for Clifden. More about that in the next post.
Friday, Sept. 27.
We left Killarney for our next destination, Dingle, and two night stay at the Dingle Benners Hotel, a lovely old place. Our first stop along the way was to visit a retired farmer and his wife. She showed us how they make scones and while they baked, he took the group around the farm to show us all of its parts and what all they and their son, who has taken over the farm, does to make the place pay. Dennis was quite the talker and he loves sharing. He showed our group how they cut peat and burned some to demonstrate how it smells. Being able to host OAT, sometimes twice a week, has made a huge difference in their financial lives. I stayed in the parlor, giving my knee a rest. When the group came back in we all had a chance to eat scones with butter and jam along with coffee of tea. It was a delightful stop.
The next stop was Inch Beach along the south side of the Dingle Peninsula. The wind was blowing hard, but we could walk out a ways toward the surf. There were brave young people actually surfing. After a lunch stop we arrived in Dingle at the Dingle Benners Hotel. We went out to dinner then turned in for the night. Melanie went with others to attend a very nice musical performance.
Saturday, Sept. 28
I must have had a bad reaction to the codeine the night before, so Paul and I did not go on the morning outing to Slea Head, the westernmost point in all of Ireland. They had a delightful time visiting a local farmer and seeing the famous beehive huts on this property, which are ancient and well preserved. When the others got back I went out for a walk with Melanie. We all ate in the bar together for dinner.
Sunday, Sept. 29 we transferred to Ennis to begin our main trip. More in the next post.
The Rest of Killarney
Sorry I messed up the banner, may have to wait until home to fix.
Ring of Kerry - Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019
We headed out from Abbey Lodge on the small bus with Mike as our driver, to travel the loop called the “Ring of Kerry.” This is a large peninsula that sticks out into the North Atlantic Ocean in the SW part of Ireland. We Oregonians know what it is like to drive the coast when it is socked in with clouds and fog. You get the picture of what our day was like. Often, we could not even tell there was a beach or ocean out there, to our right. In the center of the peninsula is a mountain range, the MacGillycuddy Reeks, with the highest point being 3414 ft. Nevertheless, Joan said it is difficult to climb.
Along the way we learned that farming is no longer the main industry, but has been taken over by Big Pharma companies and other tech companies, because of the Irish tax incentives. Cows and sheep abound everywhere, and they are all grass fed. There are about 7 million sheep on the island. Other crops are barley, wheat, oats and potatoes, in that order. Guinness and other breweries are big here.
One stop was at Waterville. Charlie Chaplin made if famous by spending a lot of time there with Walt Disney, and there is a family home still nearby. We had lunch in the small town of Sneem where we were served soup and sandwiches and a bit of desert before being given a half hour to walk around town and across a bridge over a lovely rapid flowing small river. So far, nothing to buy has caught my eye.
We returned to Abbey Lodge early, skipping a couple of stops because it was raining, and we then had time for a short rest before going out for our Welcome Dinner at Hannigans.
The Rest of Killarney - Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019
This morning we boarded jaunting cart, which are two wheel carts drawn by a horse. Our driver, called a Jarvey, was fourth generation doing this job and he had lots of stories and history to share along the way. We saw herds of deer in the fields and several bucks with large racks of horns. This was rutting season. The ride took about an hour or so to the Ross Castle where we got off the carts and walked around the castle to the boat dock on Killarney Lake. Even though it was windy, we took the open boats over the choppy water to a small island where there is an ancient ruins of an old religious building and a small chapel. It was very interesting.
However, as we walked around my knee got a lot worse, and when walking back down to the dock I felt something pop on the back of my knee, and I could no longer put any weight on it. David and Paul helped get me to the boat and then back up the long walk to where the bus would pick us up. While we were doing the slow walk, Joan was calling around to find a doctor who could see me. On her seventh try, to a family friend, she got me in, so the bus dropped Paul and me off and then carried on to their next stop. The doctor was very nice and he put my knee through all sorts of contortions, then he determined that it was a torn cartilage. He was able to find a pair of crutches for me and prescribed Codeine with Tylenol. The office called a cab to take us back to Abbey Lodge. I settled down on the sofa in the lounge with ice while Paul went down the street to a pub to get us some Irish Stew for lunch. It was good. I hung out in the lounge until time to go upstairs to bed.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group went on to have lunch at the Killarney House, which was commissioned by an Earle in the 18th century. It has been restored and has a lovely garden. From there the group went to the Troc Waterfall, which is quite lovely and good sized. It was a bit of a walk, but worth it, I’m told. Then, some went for a tour of the Muckross House. The group came back to the hotel pretty well drenched, as it has been raining hard.
Paul and Melanie went out to dinner and then brought back some food for me. By then it was time to work my way upstairs and carefully packed up ourselves for leaving in the morning. The pain meds had kicked in allowing me to move about using generally my toes.
Friday, Sept. 27, we left Killarney for Dingle. More about this in the next post.
We are off on another adventure, this time to Ireland. Somehow along the way, we have never visited any part of Ireland, and this trip just looked very interesting. We are traveling with our good friend Melanie Morris. This is an OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) trip with a maximum of 16 people, and it is full. The title of this tour is “Irish Adventure: Belfast, Dublin & Northwest Counties” but we are starting with the pre-trip to the southwestern part of the country, in Killarney.
As usual, we like to come a day ahead of the start of a trip, to give us time to adjust to the new time zone and catch up on some sleep. Our flights were fairly direct; Portland to JFK (five hours) then JFK to Shannon, Ireland (seven hours). Even though we had upgraded seats, they weren’t that comfortable, and there were some very bumpy sections, especially past Chicago and Iceland/Greenland. As it turns out, the Shannon airport is about a two hour drive to Killarney, the start of our tour. After some research, I found the Silver Bus company that does that kind of transportation, and booked them to meet us at the airport and drive us to Killarney. It was a beautiful drive through the country and some small villages.
It was about 12:30 by the time we arrived at Abbey Lodge, our accommodation for four nights. Our rooms were ready so we checked in and then walked into town, about five minutes away, to get some lunch. Hannigans Restaurant was recommended, and we had very good lunches. The next on our agenda was to get Vodafone SIM cards for our phones so we can call and text and even get email while we are here, outside of wifi areas. That took a little doing, but eventually we walked away with new phone numbers.
In the afternoon we met our guide, Joan Greene, and had a nice visit. By early evening, Paul was headed to bed, and Melanie and I headed back into town to get a little bite to eat. We ended up at Quinlan’s Seafood Bar where we enjoyed a bowl of seafood chowder. It was just the right amount. I think we were all in bed by 8:30, having managed to stay up all day without naps, and slept until a reasonable time in the morning.
Breakfast was served at 8:00 and we had the “Full Irish Breakfast” of an egg, bacon, sausage, broiled tomato and some potatoes. It was very good. There were other offerings on the menu we may try on another day. Melanies oatmeal, for instance, was served with a drizzle of Baileys. Yum.
We got organized and our guide got us on the 11:00 tour of the Ross Castle. We took a taxi to get there. It is a reconstructed castle that was originally built in the 1400s. The hour tour took you up four levels on a very narrow circular stone staircase. The castle was built as a fortification so the family could protect against invaders, and those who would steal their cattle.
Next we took a taxi to St. Mary’s Cathedral to be able to see inside. It had beautiful stained glass windows. It was built in the mid 1800s. It has been added on to and extended a number of times, including modern AV installations in 2005 for the 150 Anniversary. From the cathedral we could walk back into town and ended up at Murphys Bar for lunch. It is a traditional Irish Pub and the food was good. It seemed popular with the locals.
At 5:00 we were to meet with our guide for a short briefing about what we will be doing, especially for tomorrow. Most of the group eventually gathered. It seems like a very friendly group. Afterwards, we walked back to the center of town, back to Quinlan’s Seafood Bar for dinner. Bob and Helene and eventually David and Claudia joined us.
It was another early night to bed. This has been a very smooth adjustment to the time change. I managed to sleep until almost 4:00, which is normal at home. At about 5:00 the fire alarm went off. Other than waking people up, there was no problem. It seems that even the steam from the showers can set it off, so they ask us to keep the bathroom door closed for a little while after showering. For me, I was fully ready for the day and went down to the lounge at 6:00 to get started on writing for this blog post.
Now that we are all here, today starts the beginning of the tour. We will be driving around the Ring of Kerry today. More about that on the next post.
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Grace and Paul Pitzer are retired school teachers who love to travel and share their stories and photos with others.
Chronicles Grace's journey through breast cancer
Grace and Paul Pitzer
We hope you will keep checking back regularly to see what is new. I'm always out and about with some camera and love to stretch my skills and add to my volume of work.
Motto: "Pack light and take lots of pictures."