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Trip Report TRIP REPORT: 13 days in May to both Irelands

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Never written a trip report before but I know the world is holding its breath ~ so here goes. Group of 6 - business owner me and my dog breeding wife; insurance executive and his professional artist wife; CRNA (for those in Waxahachie [we are all Texans] that is an anesthetist); and marketing executive with my firm. All experienced travelers but first trip to Ireland except for me and my wife. This was a GOLFING experience for our 1 handicap insurance guy. He golfed and we drank beer (we are wine lovers by the way) and toured.

FLIGHTS We all traveled via Delta business/first. Since we are kinda cheap, used miles to obtain tickets. Poor Delta, they were a top tier airline at one point. Maybe again someday. Generally very nice. As you probably know, they are clinging to the old reclining seats and have not gone flat (for the most part). The 767s were very nice. The 757 from Shannon back to JFK was OK but with 5" less leg room, not as comfortable as the larger planes. Our flight from JFK to San Antonio left the gate on time at 6:15pm and guess what time we actually took off (have to read at the end of this report). I plan on traveling less when our miles run out ~ once business cannot go backwards.

GOLFING TYPES Our expert golfer ranked the links courses as follows: Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Royal Portrush, and finally Lahinch. I am not a golfer but he would want me to tell you that he used a caddy, he shot an average of 74-75 and never lost a ball (apparently that is significant). I think he "really" liked playing Ireland.

ITINERARY Yes, yes I am obsessive. I made reservations almost a year in advance. I looked into renting a van and driver but that was going to be 17k so we rented two cars. We paid about the same but I got a SAAB and the other guy got a new Audi A7. We went to Italy together a couple years ago and quess who was upgraded to the Mercedes? You guessed it.

Dublin to Belfast: stopped at Newgrange. Worth the stop. May still not high season so not so crowded. Stayed at The Merchant Hotel. Incredible. Bar cheap and fun (they actually served wine). The restaurant unbelievable. SUGGESTION stay in the newly decorated rooms overlooking the courtyard. Quiet unlike the outside rooms. We like pub/local fare so we very much enjoyed eating at Muriel's. Down the street from the Merchant.

Yes, do the Crown Liquor Saloon. Have your hotel book the snug ahead of time. Pat with Belfast Attractions picked us up at the Crown for the Black Taxi tour of Belfast. He is great expecially when it came to explaining the conflicts. We used Pat about 4 hours and saw the wall murals, landmarks, titanic shipyard, etc. Those taxis are not comfortable so bring your cushion (just kidding about the cushion). Sorry, I know some of the history of the conflict but will never understand. Some of our group was catholic and some protestant. The separate working class neighborhoods made us feel somewhat uncomfortable. From what Pat said, the conflict could happen again.

Drove to Bushmills along coast road. Plan on plenty of time ~ you will need it. Stayed Bushmills Inn (try the smoked salmon appetizer). Extremely nice and people wonderful. Did the regular things: Giant's Causeway, Bushmills Distillery, carrick-a-rede (windy windy windy ~ how much wind would it take to close the rope bridge?), Dunluce Castle. Suggest eating Ramore Wine Bar BUT get there early. It is crowded and we did not order right away and the lobster special was sold out.

JUST A WORD My wife and I did not go to Northern Ireland last time. We absolutely loved that side of Ireland. All the people wondereful and so many things to do and see. Yes yes it will add to the driving on "driveway" roads but please consider.

Drove to Westport on way to Doolin. Stayed Boulevard Guesthouse. Very polite and nice. Great location but far from plush. Go to Matt Malloy's Pub.

Drove to Doolin. Stayed Sea View House B&B. Great location, people, food and rooms. I agree, the front steps are dangerous but they understand and are trying to figure out the best way to modify. Suggest couple with not too much luggage stay room 2. If have a great deal of luggage, use room 1. Once again, did all the usual things: O'Connors's Pub, Kenvarra, burren, Tea & Garden (Spielberg cheese cake), Cliffs of Moher. We did the cliffs from the boat this time. This was suggested by Sea View and we concur. Having done both, the boat view was better but do both time permitting. Oh, when doing burren and returning to Doolin, do the coast road. Absolutely stunning with llamas, mini cliffs of Moher, etc.

Drove, via ferry, to Killarney. Stayed Loch Lein Country House. Enough said about this great place to stay. Yes, you can find places that are more lavish (and Killarney has plenty of upscale hotels). This place is stunning with outstanding views and accommodations. Room 101 sometimes gets wifi but otherwise, hang out in living room in common area. We were in 102 and the A7 Mercedes Benz guy made fun of us. We loved these host and the Loch Lein. Only advice, make sure, if you order a steak, that they understand US terminology about how to prepare.

Did all the usual things (with one exception): Killarney National Park, Dingle, Muchross, Ring of Kerry, Gallarus Oratory. Suggest doing the one different thing: drive Valencia Island. Ate Moorings in Portmagee (was good but VERY crowded with "bus people"). SUGGESTION get in the show room and see entertainment at Kate Kearney's Cottages. Also, get your t-shirt and eat at Murphy's Pub on College.

SPECIAL TREAT TO END WONDERFUL TRIP We departed from Shannon. So, the last night we stayed at the Dromoland Castle. FYI we pronounce it wrong. Ask a local. Now, I made the reservations originally directly through them. Later, I saw a significantly lower price through Expedia. I suggest shopping their prices. Just as stunning as everybody says. Walk the grounds and eat in golf proshop. We arrived just before lunch. That gave us enough time. Great last night.

Loved the country and the people. Ireland, is one of those places that you could love or not understand what all the hype is about. We loved it more this time than our last trip. Homework and itinerary is vital ~ do your homework. The people could not be more accommodating. I only hope y'all enjoy Ireland, including Northern, nearly as much as we did.

OH, THE PLANE After we taxied the first time for about an hour and a half, the pilot said we were running short on fuel so we had to get out of line. He taxied back to terminal for an additional 10 gallons and we got back in the waiting line. Departure, 9:00pm. Almost 3 hours.

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