Saturday, November 8, 2008

Such memories!

My trip to Ireland was with my niece, Leslie, and one of her son’s, Colin. Inviting me on their journey was a once in a lifetime opportunity, one that I shall never forget the memories created!

We spent seven nights in the Republic of Ireland. There was just not enough time to explore Northern Ireland on this trip! Maybe another time...

Dates are written as they are in Ireland... day first, then the month! Right click on the links and "Open in new window" - otherwise you'll need to use the "back" button to return here and continue reading about my Journey in Ireland!

Wednesday - 29/10/08
About 7:30 a.m., we arrived in Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland! After retrieving our luggage, we breezed through the Border Patrol and Customs Officers, picked up the rental car, then we were off!

We immediately got lost, but finally found our way north to Trim, County Meath, Ireland.

By the time we reached our B & B – The Highfield Guest House – what had been a soft rain, turned into snow! It rarely snows in Ireland… and, thankfully, it was a “short spell” and cleared off nicely, leaving damp brisk air, perfect for walking across the street and touring Trim Castle! Read, if you will, the history behind this castle (which began construction in 1173)!

You may remember Mel Gibson’s movie Braveheart. Although based on the people of Scotland, he used Trim Castle (with grand modifications) in his film. Even now, with the film’s reconstruction/props gone, the remaining castle was a treat to explore!

After our tour, we explored the village of Trim. I ate a “bun burger” – the Irish version of a hamburger that brought to mind the type of hamburgers one would find at the State Fair of Texas…. Needless to say, I do not recommend a bun burger!

Thursday - 30/10/08 -

After a warming breakfast of tea, juice, breads, porridge, and eggs, we were off to Newgrange, County Meath. This prehistoric passage tomb, built about 3100 BC, was incredible. Just to know that I stepped inside a place that others built and used 500 years BEFORE the pyramids of Egypt, words cannot describe the emotional feelings I experienced.

We ate a “grand” lunch at the visitor’s center, then returned to Trim, about an hour away. Because we had toured the Trim Castle late the previous afternoon, we did not have an opportunity to tour the "public lands" around the castle. So, we were soon off again walking around the beautiful landscape.

Friday - 31/10/08 - Halloween

After another warming breakfast, we packed up and headed to Galway, County Galway. We found our next B & B, A. Asgard Guesthouse, without too much trouble. Leslie’s doing all the driving and is getting quite experienced maneuvering through the roundabouts with ease.

Soon after our arrival, the proprietor highly recommended we drive the two+ hours to view the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare because it’s perfect weather and “one never knows what tomorrow will bring.” So, we were off again!

What a joy! Again, words cannot express what I saw… first and foremost, the sun setting on the Atlantic Ocean… something that can never happen in the States!

Leslie did an excellent job driving back to Galway after dark! The roads are harrowing enough when you can see them! We did travel a different way back and missed lots of the narrow, switch-backs, mud slide areas.

Upon returning to the B & B, Colin and I walked down the hill and explored Eyre Square while Leslie worked on relaxing from the tense driving exercises! We had fun watching people gathering dressed in costumes and celebrating Halloween. I did see one couple that had a clever “couple” costume… he was dressed as a toothbrush (bristles and all) and she was a tooth!

Saturday - 01/11/08

We had breakfast in an atrium setting looking out over a beautifully, albeit small, landscaped yard. Hot tea, several varieties of breads, a choice of jams, a couple of fried eggs, and scrumptious Irish sausage filled my tummy nicely!

Because it’s Saturday, Galway has a weekly farmer’s market that we had to explore! Shops lined the pedestrian street, then a side street opened up and had all sorts of crafts, foods fresh from the field, smoked salmon, oysters, cheeses, olives, and, of course, breads! This is where/when I found out one cannot purchase fleece, or skeins of yarn already spun in Ireland (something that had been on the top of my souvenir list!). In fact, I was told Irish spinners buy their fleece from England! It was explained that it is too cold in Ireland and their sheep produces coarse fiber, too coarse for making socks! So, I bought a pair of woolen socks knitted by the locals of County Connemara.

Once we had walked and shopped to our heart’s content, we went back to the B & B and took the car out to Kylemore Castle, County Connermara. It was a spectacular drive – the countryside was “brilliant” along the way and the hour was growing late by the time we arrived. In fact, we only had a little over an hour to tour the entire place! The Walled Garden closed before the Abbey, so we strolled through there first….it is a Victorian Garden in a grand scale! Then we went inside the Castle/Abbey and learned more of its history. Time ran out before we had a chance to experience the Gothic Church, not to mention the visitor’s centre or pottery store! Oh, well!

Sunday – 02/11/08

After another pleasant breakfast in a relaxed atmosphere, we packed up and headed south to Kinsale, County Cork. Along the way we stopped at the Blarney Castle and grounds. And, yes! I kissed the stone!!! After walking up the narrow circular stairway about four stories worth, I certainly did kiss the “Stone of Eloquence” … that was work! Fortunately, along the way, I was able to step out and experience whatever room it was. I felt a tremendous amount of empathy for those who lived there long ago and had to use the castle on a daily basis! The blasted “kitchen” was several floors up from the bottom! Carrying food and water up there, dressed in long skirts, rather than jeans, must have been very trying!

It was on the castle’s estate that we saw such amazing trees! According to their website, they had: Ancient lime, oak, beech, and gnarled walnut trees. One must remember, this castle is about 600 years old!

Still on the castle's estate, we went into the “Rock Close” area … Oh My Goodness! This area is not only mystical, but magical as well. Something interesting happened along the way that I did not discover until much later, after returning to Texas, but that’s a whole other story I will share later…

On the way to Cork (we had to go through Cork to get to Kinsale), somewhere, along the way, I saw a full-size stainless steel replica of a Model T! We certainly passed by it too quickly to get a snap shot, so I just did a Google and found it on the Internet! I did not realize Henry Ford was from Ireland!

We then got back in the car and drove another hour or so to our night’s destination, The Old Presbytery. The B & B was beautiful, but our room was on the FOURTH floor! Of course, they had no “lifts” to get my luggage upstairs! Oh, well, another mode of exercise! One would think I would have lost weight with all this walking and climbing and carrying… but, the soda bread and cheese and garlic butter was too good to resist!

The Village of Kinsale, County Cork, is a historic, delightful harbor town constructed upon a hilly mountainside. Views were breathtaking!

Have I mentioned how well Leslie did on the driving? Totally brilliant! Because Ireland is a left lane travel, the steering wheel is on the opposite (right) side from our vehicles, yet the pedals are position in the same order as US. I thoroughly enjoyed being on the left side of the car… putting my “good” ear toward Leslie and Colin (sitting/suffering from carsickness in the backseat).

We did an informal walking tour of the town while waiting for our selected restaurant to open (6:00). At the Crackpot, I had a delightful pumpkin soup and mushroom/leek lasagna.

Monday – 03/11/08

Another awesome, hearty, Irish breakfast! This was the only B & B (or restaurant) the entire trip that used cloth napkins! It was an elegant touch that was greatly appreciated.

Our plan was to walk the two miles to Charles Fort. At the time, we did not know of the lower harbor route, so the up and down hills got to me about half way there. I tried! So, Colin & I stayed at a turnaround while Leslie returned to the B & B and fetched the car! About 30 minutes later we were again on our way and it was confirmed with the remaining terrain I never would have made it all the way!

After our self-guided tour of the fort, we headed out of the area further to find the Drombeg Stone Circle. We were the only folks experiencing it at the time. It was a pleasure to take our time, gaze over the countryside, and read and learn about this amazing historical find. This circle dates around 153 BC to 120 AD !!!!

Once we returned to the B & B, Colin and I struck out and walked the town again while Leslie recouped from driving! We bought some Apple Tarts and brought them back. When the tea was ready, we had a nice “afternoon tea” with dessert in the empty dining room. After we all rested we headed back down the hill and began a quick search for a pub. We decided on The White House, and Leslie and I had our first (and only) Guinness! Unfortunately for Colin, no one was playing Irish music so he was unable to totally experience an Irish pub!

Tuesday – 04/11/08

Our final day in Ireland began with a delightful breakfast in the company of two friendly couples that had also shared the dining room the morning before. One couple, we had met previously at the Crackpot on our first night in Kinsale. They are from California and spending about six weeks experiencing Ireland. The other couple was from Northern Ireland, near Belfast, spending a couple of days on holiday to “refresh” themselves away from home.

We left Kinsale and headed toward Dublin, stopping along the way at Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary. Mindie Burgoyne explains it well. I can only simply say, the view from this 11th century site is breathtaking and is easily imaginable how it must have been, back then.

By 4:15, we had arrived in Dublin and were checked into the Bewleys Hotel Newlands Cross… the countdown to our return home had begun.

Wednesday – 05/11/08

We left the hotel bright and early and arrived timely to return the car (a Toyota Avensis) to the “car hire” place, then checked our luggage. Our American Airline flight was scheduled to leave at 10:30 a.m. (Ireland time) and I believe we were relatively on schedule. A tad over eight hours later, we arrived in Chicago (12:30 p.m. CST). After breezing through Border Patrol and Customs, Leslie and Colin and I said our goodbyes as they headed toward their flight and I went outside to relax and call Bud, then Mother & Daddy, and Robin!

I finally arrived in Dallas, Love Field, and was in Bud’s arms by 8:30 p.m.

I shall add here, the proprietors at each B & B were very warm and friendly, offering advice, assistance, and encouragement to my journey. I will never forget any of them, including their amazing staff.