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Fiddler DANCED on TOP of the bar in pub session: MAD FOR TRAD: Ireland 2011

Fiddler DANCED on TOP of the bar in pub session: MAD FOR TRAD: Ireland 2011

Old Nov 10th, 2011, 01:34 PM
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Fiddler DANCED on TOP of the bar in pub session: MAD FOR TRAD: Ireland 2011

IRELAND TRIP REPORT: SEPTEMBER 2011:

Clifden Arts Week & Connemara
Scenic Beara & Iveragh peninsulas with Ring of Kerry & Kenmare
Kilkenny Trad, Cahir Castle, & Rock of Cashel
Blues & Thai Food in Dublin
Pub Sessions in Clifden, Kilkenny & Dublin
plus The Burren

Music was the highlight of our wet & cold second trip to Ireland in September 2011. An Irish bodhran player in Kilkenny transfixed listeners in Bollard's pub with his deep soulful voice. At J. Conneely's bar in Clifden, 5 outstanding Irish musicians fiddled and piped with such a frenzied rhythm that even the 2-inch snowy crown atop the pint of Smithwick's leapt into the air gleefully! Fergal Scahill doesn't play music...he IS music. He plays the fiddle, guitar, and bodhran with his whole body and entire being. Fergal is a 4-Time All-Ireland Champion. He is the first man that appears in this music video in the link below, wearing a hat, and then he is accompanied by 4 other award-winning musicians, all named in the video description. (More music highlights later in this trip report...)
http://youtu.be/So_wq-bmo0E

Ireland was enduring the rainiest and coldest summer & September in over 40 years during our visit. On the Beara peninsula, we caught winds from the tail end of a hurricane, and my husband almost blew away as he was outside peering at a peat bog. I was in the car, which was rocking in the gusty blast of cold wind. Our days were punctuated by little spots of sun here and there. We were warmed by frequent scalding hot cups of tea, and home-made pureed vegetable soup, served piping hot with fresh brown bread.

Our nights were spent in lively pubs, enjoying a Guinness, which tastes like chocolate in Ireland, and tapping our feet in time to the jigs and reels played in pub sessions by outstanding musicians in Kilkenny, Clifden, and Dublin. It was raining outside, but inside the pubs the craic was mighty satisfying, and the Trad music was lively and exciting. The solo singers were inspired. A bodhran player with a deep and stirring voice sings "The Contender" in a pub session in Bollard's in Kilkenny in the video below.
http://youtu.be/uMN9rglfFN0

We even heard great blues in Dublin at a tasty Thai restaurant called Diep! Call and find out when the Irish blues group is playing at Diep...and make a dinner reservation...request a booth downstairs. The food is authentic and one of the few places in Ireland you can get spicy food if you wish. The waiter made excellent recommendations...try the appetizers! They have an early bird special that's a good value. We had our hotel make our reservation and we got the best booth in the restaurant! (They have tables and booths.)
Diep Le Shaker Royal Thai Cuisine
55 Pembroke Lane, Dublin 2
www.diep.net

Our first trip to Ireland had been in June/July 2006, when we enjoyed a record heat wave in Ireland, and didn't need our raincoats! While weather in Ireland is always unpredictable, we decided we prefer June and July in Ireland, as the days are longer, since the sun sets later. However June and July are more crowded. But you can always work around that by getting off the beaten path.

I will share highlights of our September 2011 trip to Ireland (our recent 2nd trip to Ireland). Below is our itinerary and accommodations. After that I will write more about highlights of pub sessions, best sites, and tastiest lunches & dinners. I will post a link to our photos and links to brief videos of pub music sessions, as soon as I can. This Trip Report for September 2011 includes:

County Clare:
--Bunratty
--Kilnaboy, Corofin
--The Burren

Counties Kilkenny & Tipperary:
--Kilkenny
--Rock of Cashel
--Cahir Castle

County Kerry:
--Kenmare
--Iveragh peninsula with Ring of Kerry
--Beara peninsula

County Galway:
--Clifden Arts Week
--Connemara

County Dublin:
--Dublin

FLIGHTS:

Fly LAX to Shannon (via London)
(Air New Zealand and Aer Lingus ...booked on the phone through Air New Zealand)

Flight Notes: Air New Zealand flight from LAX to London was fantastic; we had standard seats towards the back where there are a few rows with only 2 seats together which is ideal; no middle seat! new aircraft, roomy, good food, great entertainment system, great service.
Unplanned 6-hour layover in London was exhausting and next time we will plan to fly nonstop from LAX to Ireland!!!
Aer Lingus flight from London to Ireland: annoying. Aer Lingus is the most uptight airline we have ever encountered when it comes to passengers getting out of their seats, even when the flights are smooth. The same thing happened when we flew Aer Lingus in 2006 from LAX to Ireland.

Flights Home:
Aer Lingus from Dublin to London.
Aer Lingus was annoying; the check-in person harassed us about our luggage and made us check in a bag we had planned to carry on. Ask me for more details if you're interested.

Air New Zealand from London to LAX:
This flight was on an older aircraft. Big problem: our seats were too hot! This is quite claustrophobic on a long flight! The stewardess said this was a flaw with this particular aircraft: some seats were too hot and others too cold and nothing could be done about it. This is the first time we have ever had any complaints about Air New Zealand, which is our favorite airline normally.

TO BE CONTINUED! Lots more to come...
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Old Nov 10th, 2011, 06:48 PM
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ACCOMMODATIONS:

1st night:
Bunratty Lodge: Bunratty (near Shannon airport)
Address: Sixmilebridge P.O., Bunratty, County Clare
www.bunrattylodge.com
Mary Browne's hospitality is a warm Irish welcome indeed. We felt at home and I wished I had booked Bunratty Lodge for more than 1 night. This lovely b&b feels Irish and old-fashioned, and has antiques and collectibles displayed.

Room: Our 2 double beds were very comfortable with good pillows, and the room was quiet and very neat, clean, and charming. There was plenty of heat at all times, and you control the heat from your room. Good water pressure and plenty of warm water in the shower.

Food: The breakfast table was set with beautiful china, and the food was delicious, with several delicious choices. I had Irish oatmeal and the full Irish, which was accompanied by a nice selection of home-made breads. I mentioned how much I loved her home-made brown bread, and upon check-out Mary handed me some fresh brown bread for the road! There was a jovial atmosphere in the little breakfast room, and although we had our own table, we felt comfortable conversing with some friendly guests from India and Ireland.

Location: Bunratty Lodge is a convenient easy drive of 10 minutes or less from the Shannon airport. A short drive from Bunratty Lodge to dinner or to Bunratty Castle.

Conclusion: I really love Bunratty Lodge. I highly recommend Bunratty Lodge to visitors desiring a friendly, very comfortable, and reasonably priced b&b that is convenient to the Shannon airport. This was our 2nd stay at Bunratty Lodge, and our 2nd visit was even more delightful than the first!

4 nights:
Rosquil House: Kilkenny, County Kilkenny
Phil & Rhoda Nolan, proprietors
Castlecomer Rd., Kilkenny
www.rosquilhouse.com

--Tasty Breakfast at Rosquil House: Rhoda & Phil provide a variety of home-made choices at breakfast. They use farm-fresh ingredients. I love Rhoda's home-made marmalade which is orange/lemon/apricot, and her home-made apple cake.. Grains, fruits, and different omelettes are offered each day. Great coffee...it's dark roast Bewley's, plus good hot tea. Phil popped out of the kitchen to have a friendly chat with us when he could...he is full of information and has a pleasant sense of humor.

--Room & Ensuite Bathroom: We had room 5 upstairs facing the back with a USA 5-foot-wide Queen bed, and the mattress was firm and comfortable. Pillows were too hard but I bought a soft feather and goose down pillow at Dunnes store in Kilkenny for 12 euros, used it on the trip, and took it home in my luggage. Room 5 was medium-size and quiet with a modern décor. Good water pressure and hot water, and generous heat in the room at all times. The self-controlled radiator works very well. We found that our room had good sound insulation. A nice quiet b&b, especially if you request a bedroom facing the back. We didn't stay in the front rooms which face the road so I can't speak for them.

--Location: Rosquil House is a 20- minute brisk walk to the city center of downtown Kilkenny, and it's definitely NOT a scenic walk at all...so the location is a bit inconvenient, especially in rainy weather. You must walk on the side of a narrow road with fast traffic. We found ourselves walking in the rain, and probably should have paid for a taxi ride. By the last day we discovered convenient parking near Dunne's store downtown, but you have to pay unless you park after dark. It's a bit confusing driving in Kilkenny and parking is challenging.

--Conclusion: Rosquil House is a great value, with a tasty breakfast with plenty of choices; friendly, hard-working owners; and generous heat and hot water. Rhoda discounted the price for a 4-night stay, and I learned about discounts on Michele Erdvig's excellent web-site www.IrelandYes.com. I recommend Rosquil House for visitors who don't mind taking a taxi or driving into town and hunting for parking in downtown Kilkenny, and who would like tasty breakfast choices in a reasonably priced b&b. We don't recommend walking into town from Rosquil House, based on our experience.

4 nights:
Sallyport House: Kenmare County Kerry
www.sallyporthouse.com
The weather was unseasonably cold, windy, and rainy during our 4-night stay at Sallyport House in Kenmare, County Kerry. Therefore we didn't get the opportunity to enjoy any pleasant walks from Sallyport House, which is disappointing as Sallyport House has a delightfully scenic location. You feel like you are out in the countryside, near a river, yet you are a short walk from the pubs, shops, and restaurants of Kenmare's charming little streets. But we had to drive into town because of the weather. I think Sallyport House would be a delightful location in the warm spring or summer.

Janie, one of the owners, chatted with us upon arrival. I liked Sallyport House instantly...the ancestral home is full of antiques, and I could feel the history of the house. The location is scenic and peaceful, yet convenient to town.

Heater at Sallyport House: I was sometimes warm and sometimes cold at Sallyport House, as the heat wasn't on all the time...it came off and on according to how the owners set it. When I used my room phone once to call the owners in Sallyport House, they did turn on the heat, but it wasn't on all the time day and night. I didn't want to be a pest and keep disturbing them with phone calls.

I recommend Sallyport House for those travellers who are craving peace and privacy. It is a lovely spot. However my husband and I prefer b&bs with a more social atmosphere. During our 4-night stay, we met only Janie and no other family or staff. We saw Janie at check-in, breakfast time, and check-out, and she is pleasant and hospitable. While our needs were taken care of, and the owners were available by phone, this isn't a chatty guesthouse. Other guests at Sallyport House kept to themselves, were rarely seen, and protected their privacy...they didn't socialize with each other. For me, the atmosphere felt peaceful but also a bit lonely.

Breakfast: We had breakfast 4 mornings at Sallyport House, and the food was delicious, but I felt there wasn't as much variety as we had at other b&bs. Sallyport had a small buffet which included nice cheeses and fruits, plus a choice of 2 hot breakfasts we could order: the Full Irish or Smoked Salmon with an egg. The smoked salmon was the best we had in Ireland. Also the black pudding which came with the full Irish breakfast was the best black pudding I ever had...Janie said it was an award-winning Clonakilty black pudding. Breakfast variety was great for 2 mornings, but by the 3rd and 4th morning I wasn't looking forward to the limited breakfast choices. (Keep in mind that during a 16-night visit to Ireland, it is challenging to find enough variety at breakfast. Many b&bs offer the Full Irish or the smoked salmon, which are both delicious, but additional choices are appreciated when offered.)

Room & Ensuite Bathroom: We had a USA 6-foot-wide King size bed in a quiet room upstairs overlooking the garden. It was a lovely room with an old-fashioned “antique” atmosphere. Good water pressure and plenty of hot water. Nice views from windows. I wish the heat had been on 24 hours a day...it was on part of the time.

Conclusion: While we did enjoy Sallyport House, I feel I would have loved it more if we had stayed in the warm summer, when we could have taken beautiful walks. While the breakfast was excellent, I wish there were more hot choices for a 4-night stay. I recommend Sallyport House for visitors who prefer lots of peace and privacy and a scenic setting. This isn't a chatty guesthouse. Sallyport House costs more than some of the other b&bs we stayed in.

1 night:
Fergus View
Kilnaboy, Corofin, County Clare
www.fergusview.com

I was so charmed by Fergus View, which warmed my heart as well as my cold and weary bones! My husband and I both loved the ambiance at this cozy, welcoming guesthouse in the wild and peaceful Burren area of County Clare.

I wish I could adopt Mary Kelleher as my honorary relative (the honor would be mine) so that I would have an excuse to return again and again! This was our first stay at Fergus View, and we want to return for a longer visit. Mary is the most caring b&b hostess I have ever met. She has a nurturing heart, and an artistic touch. We also briefly met her friendly husband, Declan.

Upon our arrival, owner Mary Kelleher served us tea and cake in the cozy fire-lit sitting room. She talked with us and shared great info about the area. She is very knowledgeable about the Burren area. The fire was always lit in the sitting room until bedtime, and we returned to this cozy room later in the evening and met another guest, an Irish traveler who was so utterly delighted with her stay that her enthusiasm was catching. Fergus View was the most sociable b&b that we stayed at during this trip to Ireland.

Room & Ensuite bathroom: We had the small and cozy twin room for 1 night. Our ensuite bathroom was small but our shower was medium-sized and bigger than we expected, after reading tripadvisor reviews. The twin room has welcoming touches, thanks to Mary's thoughtfulness, and we found it comfortable.

Breakfast is special at Fergus View. Mary starts preparing Irish pinhead porridge the evening before. In the morning there was a menu with many wonderful home-made choices. (The menu changes so it isn't always the same). This was the wonderful menu of choices for our morning breakfast:

Home-made yoghurt with honey and fruit and toasted nuts
Freshly squeezed orange, apple or grapefruit juice
Breakfast fruit salad

Pinhead Oatmeal Porridge
Fergus View Muesli
Bran Flakes
Rice Crispies
Corn Flakes
Weetabix

Traditional Irish breakfast
Crepe with Kiwi fruit and maple syrup
Smoked Kippers with tomato
Kilnaboy Cheeses with grapes and kiwi fruit
Scrambled/poached/boiled eggs with bacon
--all eggs are free range--
Warmed Kilnaboy Goat Cheese with mushrooms and bacon on a toast base

Tea: Chamomile, applemint, pineapple mint, lemon balm, earl grey, and decaffeinated ceylon
Coffee including decaffeinated
Toast, Homemade Bread, Marmalade and Jams

Mary serves the food personally with pride. When she heard that we were getting over coughs, she surprised us with glasses of freshly squeezed apple juice from fresh apples, and she advised us to drink it right away to preserve the vitamins. We felt very well cared for.

I loved my breakfast, and it was my favorite on this trip to Ireland. We both enjoyed the Irish Pinhead Oatmeal, which has a wonderful texture, grainy and smooth at the same time. Then my husband and I shared 2 entrees: the Crepes with a sprig of fresh mint, kiwi fruit and maple syrup; and the warmed Kilnaboy goat cheese with mushrooms and bacon on toast. It was such a treat to have something so tasty and different from other b&bs...a nice break from the traditional Irish and smoked salmon. The food at Fergus View is gourmet in both presentation and in the quality of fresh ingredients.

Location:
Fergus View in Kilnaboy, Corofin, County Clare makes a convenient stopover between County Kerry and Connemara (County Galway). It's right on the edge of The Burren, a fascinating area. You could also do the Cliffs of Moher as a day-trip from Fergus View...but we already saw the Cliffs of Moher on our previous trip to Ireland. (Cliffs of Moher is about a 50-minute drive from Fergus View.) Fergus View is about a 20-minute drive from Kilfenora where Vaughan's pub has set dancing in the barn on thursday & sunday nights and a session in the pub on tuesdays. Please check the schedule of events for Vaughan's because it can be seasonal and it can change!

Conclusion: I highly recommend Fergus View for travelers who value a warm and friendly ambiance most of all, and who appreciate excellent cooking and fresh ingredients at breakfast. Fergus View is also a great value. My husband and I want to stay at Fergus View for 3 or 4 nights on our 3rd trip to Ireland, and explore the wild and peaceful Burren area, which we love. (We have visited the Burren on both of our trips to Ireland, and it still calls us back.) Fergus View was my favorite accommodation overall on this trip to Ireland!

4 nights:
The Quay House
Beach Road
Clifden, County Galway
www.thequayhouse.com

My husband and I enjoyed a 4-night stay at The Quay House, a unique guesthouse down on Clifden harbour. It's a comfortable 7-minute walk uphill into Clifden town centre from The Quay House. Clifden is a great base for exploring Connemara, and we timed our visit to coincide with Clifden Arts Week, which enriched our experience. We heard incredible music in Clifden! More about that later.
www.clifdenartsweek.ie

The Quay House is a 3-story Georgian House built in 1820 and sensitively restored. It is decorated in a wildly unique way...including a real tiger skin and other animal skins, mounted fish, and Victorian engravings, among other unusual items.

Two inquisitive pet pugs greeted us upon arrival. They didn't seem at all surprised by visitors. The owners of The Quay House, Paddy and Julia Foyle, took care of all of our needs. When I asked Paddy where the pharmacy was, he volunteered to loan me his expectorant for my cough, which was very kind of him! Julia took care of reserving me tickets to two musical events for Clifden Arts Week.

Breakfast is served in a pleasant glassed-in room that feels like a green house. A great complimentary breakfast includes lots of variety...natural oysters are offered when available (raw oysters). Some other breakfast choices are fresh fish, the Full Irish, and other choices including fruit.

Room: Our room upstairs was the romantic Mirror Room with a USA 6-foot-wide King size bed and a harbor view. It's a spacious and quiet room with an ensuite bathroom. Our room had a working fireplace with a supply of peat. We declared The Mirror Room to be the most romantic room of our trip! (Don't be nervous...there aren't any mirrors on the ceiling!)

We hope to stay at The Quay House again on our next trip to Connemara. I recommend The Quay House to visitors who have a sense of adventure, and who are willing to expect the unexpected. The Quay House is delightfully unique. It is also a great choice for visitors who want to walk to the pubs, restaurants, and shops in Clifden, while still getting a quiet night's sleep at The Quay House on the harbour.

2 nights:
The Merrion Hotel
Upper Merrion St., Dublin 2
Dublin
www.merrionhotel.com

Two thumbs up for The Merrion Hotel and for Dublin! Yes, yes, yes! My husband and I enjoyed a delightful 2-night stay at the classy yet understated Merrion Hotel, perfectly located in the city center of Dublin between St. Stephen's Green and Merrion Square. (Urban Dictionary defines “classy” as “a deeper, more meaningful word for “cool”. This seems fitting!)

We splurged for the pricey 5-star Merrion Hotel for 2 nights, and we loved the hotel, the location, and Dublin! The staff was outstanding, professional, and friendly. We felt relaxed and pampered at the same time. We enjoyed a friendly chat with the personable doorman who was wearing a tophat.

My husband amused me by pretending he was an aristocratic English nobleman who had traveled forward in time to room 395 at The Merrion. I cracked up laughing, since he is my flip-flop wearing, down-to-earth biologist husband in the real world.

Price & Room: I booked the “summer deal” on The Merrion's web-site... We paid 280 euros per night including all taxes for the Superior King Bed in the contemporary Garden Wing, with a quiet garden view, including free breakfast and free parking. Upon check-in we received a free upgrade to room 395, a King room in the Georgian Main house with a garden view! The Merrion is a pricey splurge, but it was worth it!

Quiet room: I'm a light sleeper, and before the trip I was concerned about sleeping in Dublin city center. I slept wonderfully well in room 395 in the main house with the garden view. I did request a quiet, romantic room, and room 395 was great!

Breakfast: Our free breakfast was outstanding. It included the Full Irish and the breakfast buffet, with many tempting fresh pastries and home-made granola, yogurt, fruits, etc. Good coffee and tea. Free breakfast at the Merrion is a great deal, since the regular breakfast menu is pricey. I was pleased that the mushroom that came with my Irish breakfast was a big juicy Portobello mushroom...yum!

Staff and Tipping: We were treated with respect by the entire staff who never made us feel uptight. There was never any pressure to tip. (I did leave a tip for the maid who cleans our room for example, and I left a tip for the breakfast room staff one morning, but the staff and the hotel never made us feel pressured about tipping.) In fact, I tried to tip the man who showed us to our room, but he politely waved it away and said “You don't have to worry about that.” At The Merrion I never got that uncomfortable feeling like someone was standing around waiting for a tip. This was refreshing!

Scent of a Fireplace: We had a wonderful and memorable stay. The only minor problem was a trace of a smoky smell in our room, which smelled like a fireplace smoke, not like cigarette smoke. We were offered to change rooms, but we didn't want to move out of the spacious and beautiful room 395. The staff set up an air purifier in our room for a day, but this didn't help, as I think the faint fireplace-smoky-smell was coming from outside through the window. It was a minor issue, and it didn't bother my husband's allergies at all. There are a couple of fireplaces downstairs with cozy fires, so it's possible that the wind just happened to be bringing a bit of smoke our way. I was impressed with the staff's attentiveness to addressing this problem. I'm sure if we had changed rooms it would have solved the issue, but we fell in love with room 395 and decided to keep it.

The Merrion is the finest hotel in the world, in my opinion! The Merrion Hotel gets 5 stars from both of us, my husband and I!

We loved Dublin during our short stay, and walked to Grafton Street, Trinity College, and the National Museum from The Merrion Hotel. We walked to as much of Dublin as we could fit in during our brief stay. Next trip to Ireland, I hope to spend 3 nights at The Merrion Hotel, if I can get another good web special!

Conclusion: I highly recommend The Merrion Hotel for visitors who are ready for a splurge, who want to experience a 5-star hotel, and who value a great central location and an outstanding staff. If you request a quiet garden view, these rooms are among the quieter rooms in the city center of Dublin. Try to get free breakfast included in your room rate.

Trip report to be continued!!!
COMING UP NEXT: HIGHLIGHTS: Pub sessions; Favorite Sites; Best Lunches & Dinners; Favorite Musicians! And PHOTOS. (Plus some short videos of music sessions.) I also might share our “Most Disappointing” spots.
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 04:47 AM
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So far, so good. Keep going!
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 05:11 PM
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VolCrew: Thanks! I have lots more to share...will post more soon.
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Old Nov 12th, 2011, 12:52 AM
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Enjoying your post!
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Old Nov 12th, 2011, 09:16 AM
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Video must have been Friday or Saturday because we were in the same seats Sunday and Monday. Fergal is a local and has a sound studio in town.
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Old Nov 12th, 2011, 11:18 AM
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This is a VERY useful organization for a trip report, Melissa. You are making it easy to find that exact information we all need.

I got a kick out of your review of the Quay House in Clifden. My daughters and I shared a triple room on the ground floor there while on a biking trip. Rather wild decor. We have a distinct memory of chasing spiders, but I think part of that was the ground floor room and the location right next to the harbor.

I remember the hosts, the location, and the breakfast fondly. All in the group had a great time describing their rooms. The travelers on the top floor were not so happy--in the middle of a heat wave, their room was insufferably hot.

For anyone who is biking, Quay House is right at the fork to go up to Sky Road.

Melissa, I also want to comment that my family has a soft spot for Air New Zealand, although we experienced them from LAX to NZ and points inside the country. I wanted to hug all the flight attendants. They do an excellent job.
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Old Nov 12th, 2011, 01:29 PM
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Very informative report. However, I don't think you will be able to get a direct flight from LAX to Dublin anymore. The only airline offering that was Aer Lingus and, unfortunately, they discontinued any direct flights from the west coast about 3 years ago. I go every year, usually in Sept or Oct. because of my work schedule. Usually I get great weather and yes, the days are shorter than in June or July, but the lack of tourists more than make up for it. Looking forward to your next installment.
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Old Nov 13th, 2011, 05:07 PM
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Tony2phones: Yes video was Friday or Saturday at J. Conneely's bar in Clifden...great seats, huh? I think we had to stand on Friday and then got there early on Saturday to get those good seats in fact! Tony2phones thanks a million for helping me to select Clifden Arts Week as a high priority because it ended up being one of the top highlights of our trip!

my computer is being fixed I'll be back soon...
TRIP REPORT TO BE CONTINUED
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