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Trip Report Ireland, Provence, Italy

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Below is my trip report of our trip in Sept/Oct 2013. While we had been lucky enough to travel to Italy and France before, this was our first trip to Ireland...and we loved it! In a nutshell we spent 2 weeks doing the west to east Ireland route, then a week in the south of France, then about 3 weeks in Italy, principally in Lucca (Tuscany) and Portovenere (on the Mediterranean coast, just below the Cinque Terre). We are a retired couple, early 60's.

Part 1: Flew from Boston to Shannon, picked up our rental car, drove north and east to Clifden, in County Connemara. Poured rain for 3 straight days, but no matter. For our first few nights ever in Ireland, Clifden was perfect - small, walkable, pubs on every corner. We learned quickly that we absolutely loved the Irish pubs, and the music sessions. What a treat to find folks of all ages enjoying the same music, and they all know all the words! Took a side trip to Kylemore Abbey, lovely, and to Cong, where the Quiet Man was filmed - terrific!

Part 2: Spent our next 3 days in Ennis, stopping in Galway on the way down. From our hotel in Ennis we easily drove to the Cliffs of Moher, absolutely spectacular. Another day we went up into the Burren, stopping to watch a sheep dog demonstration, so cool.

Part 3: Leaving Ennis we drove south around the Ring of Kerry (of course), and confirmed, again, that the scenery in Ireland is hard to describe, it's so beautiful. Spent the next 2 nights in Kenmare, lovely little town (aren't they all?).

Part 4: Kinsale, just one night, we'd love to come back to Kinsale. Had the best Irish food of the trip at a real restaurant, after way too much pub food. Went to the Jameson distillery, and got picked as a taster!

Part 5: 3 nights in Kilkenny - boy, did we love Kilkenny! It is such a pretty town, plenty to do, great music, wonderful castle tour. We detoured one day to tiny Castlecomer, where my mother's ancestors came from in the 1840's. Strolled the graveyard, taking pix of ancestor's names.

Part 6: Drove to Dublin airport, got rid of the rental car, hopped on a RyanAir flight to Nice, in the south of France, where we met up with friends. They had rented an apartment a little inland, great location for day trips to Antibes, St. Paul de Vence, Thoule sur Mer, Gourdon, Tourettes - one quaint, adorable hill town after another. The only disappointment was Eze - WAY too touristy. A great memory there however is managing to get locked inside the Post Office...pounding on the glass windows, while my friends outside laughed and my husband was desperately trying to figure out how to say "My wife is locked in the Post Office" in French! While in Provence we really enjoyed the great food - truth to tell, we found the food in Ireland was "OK", "fine", but by and large nothing to write home about. But in France - ooh la la! Duck confit, mussels, rabbit, and the best rotisserie chickens ever. We really enjoyed our week there - gorgeous weather, beautiful beaches, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous.

Part 7: Au revoir to France, ciao Italia! The 4 of us then drove into the Italian Riviera, first stop 2 nights in San Remo. Beautiful old town, walked the very pretty "lungomare", rode out an afternoon shower in a great little osteria.

Part 8: Driving south, we stopped for lunch in Portofino, which our friends had not seen before. Beautiful scenery, mostly beautiful people, had a delicious but ridiculously expensive lunch overlooking the marina. Location, location...

Part 9: Aah, Lucca! We had discovered this marvelous town the year before, and couldn't wait to come back. We rented an apartment for 8 days, a great location for day trips through Tuscany, so we went again to Siena, Volterra, San Gimignano (lovely, but way too touristy), etc. Also enjoyed just walking around Lucca, going to the Puccini concerts, eating absolutely incredible food. It was fall, meaning truffle and porcini season, and many of the trattorie had special menus - yum! We also happened on a "festa" celebrating 500 years of the walls around Lucca, and were treated to much pomp, costumes, and flag throwing competitions - so cool! I have relatives in Florence, so it was fun seeing them as well.

Part 10: Hated to leave Lucca, but...we drove due west, stopping at Torre del Lago Puccini, gorgeous. Then our next apartment for 5 nights in Portovenere, on the coast. Had a spectacular view of the water from our apartment, and it was convenient for a boat trip up the Cinque Terre. Having been before to Portofino, and the Cinque Terre, I wouldn't trade Portovenere for any of them! This is not a tourist town, but with all the beauty and culture and personality that would rival anything up the coast. Took a short boat ride one day to the island of Palmaria, for perhaps one of the best meals ever. In both Lucca and Portovenere not everyone speaks English, so knowing some Italian definitely helped.

Part 11: Broke my heart to leave Italy, but there you have it. Drove north, back into France, and spent 2 nights in Nice. Then flew RyanAir again back to Dublin.

Part 12: Since we hadn't "done" Dublin earlier, it was a great way to spend our last 3 nights of this incredible trip. We did the Guinness tour (really well done), and of course Trinity College, the Book of Kells, and the Long Room Library - what an experience. Really enjoyed just walking around the parks, and Temple Bar, getting our last fill of great music.

So, there you have it. We're already going through Italy withdrawal, and will probably do Ireland as well again. Happy travels!