Adrenalin, Cliffs, Gab, Dingle, Crystal & Castles

Trip Start Jun 16, 2008
Trip End Jul 02, 2008

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Flag of Ireland  , County Louth,
Friday, June 20, 2008

Well, hope everyone wasn't too worried about us since we've been out of contact for roughly three days...just haven't had any access to the web since we departed Atlanta Monday night and we just got into our second accomodation location about five hours ago.

Anyhow, we made it. Our near-eight-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean ended around 11:15 a.m. in Shannon, Ireland, on Tuesday. Since that time, we have seen a lot of southern Ireland to say the least, and I will paraphrase those experiences here and, of course, am posting photos as well. Also, make sure to zoom in on the map so you can see our travels point-by-point.

June 17 - Day 1 - Adrenalin Rush, Road Kill(er) and Big Tall Cliffs
The flight over the Atlantic was exciting enough, adrenalin keeping most of us up during the overnight flight. One of the neat moments I realized was that I got to see the sun set in Atlanta and then saw it rise again only about eight hours later as we passed over the Atlantic. I could literally see out my window the sun coming up in the east and, at the same time, it still being very dark in the west - just a pretty cool site.

From the air, and later on the ground, Ireland bore a lot of striking resemblances to Mississippi honestly - farmland in every direction, cattle grazing upon it (and the stinch that goes with them), and tractors slowing people down on the roads. My first image of the country from the plane was cliche' - green everywhere.

After we checked through Irish customs with little fanfare (we declared nothing), we immediately hit the highways and byways of western Ireland and headed for the Cliffs of Moher. The first 10-15 minutes were very interesting for those of us less experienced at driving sticks, but I was proud of myself for handling that, driving on the road side of the road (and the wrong side of the car) all whilst also getting acclimated to the Irish traffic signs (I do love the fact that one of the standard speed limit signs is 100 kmph. Yes, thats KILOMETERS per hour, not miles. That's 60 mph (rule of thumb is multiple kmph by .6 and you get mph). Another thing they aren't concerned with over here is overall space on the road, which I'm sure dates back to older days when they didn't have pavement. Some of the smaller byways we drive don't seem like they're much more than 30-40 feet wide. To boot, many of them are sided by beautiful stone walls. Beautiful, yes. Forgiving to cars, no. So you really have to heighten your attention on the road.

BTW, we are driving a Skoda Octavia (UK-bred car) with a diesel engine. Let me just say this baby has some pickup and gets unreal gas mileage. We drove roughly 1,200 kilometers on 55 liters of gas. That equated to about 51.4 miles per gallon...pretty solid return on the Euro.

The Cliffs of Moher were pretty impressive. Located on the extreme western coast, they tower above the Atlantic and are a combination of stone and grassy, mossy-looking facings. As in America, the Irish are no less quick when seizing an opportunity to make money and it looks as if the cliffs have definitely been marketed more in the past 10 years or so, as a visitor's center with full restuarant, video theater and several gifts shops adorn the walkway approaching the cliffs themselves. Not shocking, it was very windy on the edge of the Atlantic, as the prevailing westerly wind blew in briskly over the cliffs. We found ourselves literally being stood up by it at times while leaning forward.

After leaving there, we reversed our route back to Shannon and then another hour-and-a-half south to the Cork/Blarney area, where we would reside for the first two nights at the Killarney House B&B. On our way down, we past the town of Croom, which we got a giggle about, wondering if any of Sly's ancestors are Irish. Our host at the B&B, Carolyn, welcomed us and even set up a dinner reservation for us in downtown Blarney at a local inn. The fare was pretty traditional, but it hit the spot with 16 people who were hungry and half asleep at the same time.

Following dinner, we returned to our headquarters where no one had much trouble hitting the hay.  I know I didn't budge for about nine hours. Our adrenalin had carried us through the day and that was just enough for a great start.

June 18 - Day 2 - Puckering Up For A Different Lady, Dingling Around
After sleeping soundly, we arose to an 8 a.m. breakfast prepared by our keeper and her daughter. The most important meal of the day (which I rarely eat) was very traditional (corn flakes, eggs, country ham and toast) with the exception of hot tea (which we also had the night before). Needless to say, I added a bit of sugar to the tea. So, yes, I have had sweet tea in Ireland.

On the agenda for the morning was heading back into Blarney (we're only talking about a mile or two here folks - it ain't New York City) and taking in Blarney Castle. Of course, the most famous part of this attraction (where we noticed about 80-90 percent of the visitors were not of the Irish persuasion) is the kissing the Blarney Stone. Actually located on the top of the castle, all 16 of us stood in line to hang upside down 90 feet up and give a big ole' smooch to a rock. Now, the saying goes that kissing the Blarney is to bless you with the gift of eloquence (having or exercising the power of fluent, forceful, and appropriate speech). This is sometimes paraphrased as the gift gab (to talk or chat idly; chatter). I don't mind eloquence, but I think I will need to kiss the stone a few more times should I want gab because my mother has that market cornered! Despite that being the impetus that drives people there, the castle and the estate's history were actually very interesting to take in.

We returned to the B&B for a little break after that before heading out on our next excursion, which was roughly a three-hour trek (which we made at least five) to the Dingle Peninsula, located on the extreme southwestern corner of Ireland. There isn't really a single site to see on the Peninsula, which is flanked on three sides by waters from the Atlantic. It's just a grand "scenic route" that winds its way through grand mountains and valleys that are filled with rolling farmland and small towns all along the way. Sheep and cattle are seen virtually everywhere and the landscape is just incredible to behold.  I can't say much more about the area than to let some of the the photos I posted below speak for it. Truly enjoyable. Definitely makes you say "We ain't in Vegas anymore, ToTo."

Following our tour, we stopped for a meal at Sammy's, which was a simple restaurant with great food based right on the beach (and there were surfers in the VERY cold water) of the Atlantic inlet on the southern side of Dingle Peninsula. Then we had about a two-plus-hour drive back home and spent our second and last night in Blarney.

ADDENDUM WHILE I WAS COMPOSING THIS ENTRY: Just heard a certain golfer is out for the year with a knee injury. Dang the luck.

June 19 - Day 3 - Glass People, Castle #2, Driving North
After a little less sleep than the night before, we arose to get ready for another solid day on the town Thursday. While dressing, I discovered that Fred and Wilma Flinstone don't speak Irish here. After another fine breakfast from our host, Carolyn, we bid her adieu, loaded our four-vehicle caravan and hit the road, travelling south for about two hours to Waterford. During a pit stop, William (Viv's brother) and I noticed some Irish candy bars were being touted by Eva Longoria and we decided those would be the ones we would buy if the need for candy arose.

Vivian took the wheel for the second day in a row (I was on navigation and photo duty) and I think she's liking the wheel. I am too, but who am I to argue about driving when I can take it all in from the left seat. Another thing we've noticed is, while roads are pretty-well marked (speed limits range from 50-120, btw...remember in kmh), we have only seen a handful of smokies on the roads. Oh, and one thing they've done that we Americans should have done a long time ago are roundabouts. They rock, taking the place of intersections with stop lights in most of the country. They do still have lights, but they are pretty limited, especially in the more rural locales.

Anyhow, on to Waterford where the attraction was, yes, the international Waterford Crystal factory. Pretty cool stuff. We took the tour and got to see them blowing, shaping, marking, carving and polishing the fine glass. We were also shown examples of pieces they had done - many from the sports world in fact - including the Super Bowl trophy and many you may have seen from various pro golf and tennis events over the years. But it was pretty neat to see "how they do it". James, Vivian's nephew, even got a little crowd interaction work in when our guide handed him a piece of rejected Waterford to smash into pieces. I mean, come on, how many times will we get to do that in our lifetimes? James is one-up on us forever in that category I'm betting. Following the tour, there was (of course) a large gallery of Waterford pieces for sale and that ended up being a bad thing for some of the men in the group. But we lived through it.

An hour later, we found ourselves in downtown Kilkenny, north of Waterford, where we took in Kilkenny Castle. We got a lot of history from our informative guide about the grounds, which date back to the 13th century (if I remember right). The castle has been restored over the past 15 years or so, a project that is still on-going. All I can say is this, the folks that live there had one heckuva a backyard (about 50 acres) - not a bad spot for a par 3 course in my mind! Kilkenny itself was a classic looking town, with small streets and stores stacked next to each other downtown, all with a spectrum of colors painting the area.

The remainder of the day was spent travelling due north to our next resting spot, the Lynolan House B&B in Dundalk, located north of Dublin. We ended up in downtown Dublin looking for our evening meal and ended up eating "take away" (i.e. take-out only) pizza and sandwiches on a sidewalk just west of the downtown district. After that, another hour north to Dundalk, our hitchin' post for the next two nights where I am posting this entry from.

That's all I can muster for three days. Pardon me if I goofed on any grammar, as most of this has been penned in the wee hours of the Irish mornin'. Again, make sure to check out all the photos below. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. (Note that a few of them have a larger description associated when you click on them to enlarge; also note that the system associates photos with the location you blog from if you post them there, so pay no attention to things like Kilkenny - Dundalk, Ireland. Those are actually two different cities).

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