Ireland Trip report summer 2004

Apr 10th, 2006, 09:14 AM
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Ireland Trip report summer 2004

I posted this previously, but forgot to put Ireland in the title.

Our family took a trip to Ireland a year ago last summer, and it took me a while to get it together to post our experience, although I've always enjoyed those of others. Hopefully someone can glean something useful from our report.

Ireland Trip, July and August 2004

After months of planning, anticipating, reserving, researching, mapping, and imagining, our family of four: me, Bob; my wife, Sue; our two daughters, Anya, 13, and Meghan, 17 (at the beginning of the trip). We flew from Eugene, our home town, to Portland, and then from Portland to Frankfurt to Dublin, arriving just after noon Dublin time. Of course, we didn’t sleep all that well on the way over, and we were a little ragged at arrival. Fortunately, we’d flown into Dublin before, and kind of knew the ropes. We cleared customs, collected our bags, and headed for the Dan Dooley car rental desk. Our car was a Ford Focus, which had enough room for the four of us, our four 22 inch rolling bags, and our four small backpacks.

I’m glad I’d had experience, four years before, with the Irish roads, and we got out to the ring road without incident, and headed south towards Waterford. This was our first experience with a toll road in Ireland, and, other than some thick traffic, we progressed toward the road south toward Waterford. Our host at the Mayors Walk B&B in Waterford was gracious enough to send us detailed directions to Waterford, and I’d put together maps for each leg of our trip on viamichelin.com, so our route was fairly straightforward. There was lots of traffic though, for this was the Friday afternoon of a national bankers’ holiday, and lots of folks were headed out on holiday, particularly toward the coast.

With one small misdirection, we arrived at the door of the Mayors Walk, and were greeted by a smiling Jane Hovenden. We’d conversed via email, and she proved to be a wonderful host, with a very wry sense of humor. The B&B was an older place, situated on the hill above downtown Waterford, a fairly easy 5-10 minute walk to the Quay or to Arundel Square, the heart of Waterford’s shopping area. Once we got settled in, we strolled down the street to The Stand Restaurant, a nice, moderately priced (by Ireland standards) place that had attractive, tasty food. It’s located over a pub, but, by the time we’d finished dinner, we were all in, and headed back to the Mayors Walk for for bed. Our rooms were upstairs, one for the girls, and one for us. The bathroom was shared, and a couple of ladies from England had the only other room on that floor. Very cosy and comfortable.

We went to Waterford during the bankers’ weekend, because it coincided with the Spraoi Festival (pronounced spree). It was a good choice, because, within walking distance of our lodging, we saw myriad street performers, including jugglers, street theatre performers, acrobats, coneheads, you name it. It was a lot of fun, and a good beginning to our trip. The breakfasts at Mayors Walk were great, and I’d recommend it highly, especially at the price.

Next, off to Doolin!


mexicobeachbum is offline  
Apr 10th, 2006, 05:52 PM
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rex
 
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From your "other" post...

Author: mexicobeachbum
Date: 04/07/2006, 06:19 pm
We made a choice to drive to Doolin from Waterford in one day because we rented a house in town, self catering, and they usually rent Sat. to Sat. or Sun. to Sun. The place is called Ballyvara Farmhouse, and is literally a stone’s throw (if you’ve got a good arm) from Gus O’Connor’s pub. It’s owned by a woman named Breda Mehan, who lives just outside of Kilfenora. I really wanted to stay in a town for a week, where we could walk to little shops and pubs, and Doolin filled the bill. We had heard that it would be crowded the first week of August, and that was right on.

As one of our desired activities was to go to pubs in the evening, and enjoy the music, Doolin seemed to be the perfect fit. And, it would have been, except for the crowds. The music was great in O’Connor’s, McGann’s, and McDermott’s. And having the pubs non-smoking was a godsend for our family, but there were so many people crowding into the pubs, you couldn’t really see or hear very well. Fortunately, our hostess, Breda, suggested we try a pub or two in Kilfenora, which turns out to be the home of ceili music in Ireland. We toured the area by day, down to Lahinch and Ennistymon, Miltown Malbay, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, a day at Inisheer, etc., and headed out to Kilfenora at night. We went to a fine session at Linnane’s one night, followed by the weekly ceili with live music the next, and, after that, we enjoyed hearing a group of teenage musicians at Kitty’s corner. At the ceili, we met the matchmaker from Lisdoonvarna, the town famous for the annual Matchmaker Festival. The dancing and music were great, and not as crowded or crazy as the Doolin pubs.

A highlight of our stay in Doolin was a visit with Sue’s sister Cathy and her husband Mark, who spent a couple of nights with us in the farmhouse, and hit all the pubs in Doolin. They headed off to Kinsale and Dingle, but we were to reunite in Dublin in a week or so.

Just a few words about the farmhouse. It has been in Breda’s family for a couple hundred years, has slate floors in the kitchen, and four bedrooms (one is quite small), and a little garden off to the side. It’s not fancy, but is well located and a nice walk down to the ferries, or to anywhere in town. There’s an iron fireplace for a turf fire, which we had nearly every evening, and a washer, but no dryer. You can hang your clothes out on a line in the yard. The kitchen is fine, and we really enjoyed cooking several meals at home, especially breakfast.

We didn’t eat out everywhere in Doolin, but all the pubs had good fish and chips and a decent bowl of stew or soup, the Doolin Store had fresh baked scones every morning, and the Doolin Café had a very nice breakfast. The pub food in Kilfenora was very good, although getting a choice of potatoes with your lasagna made us laugh. There is a good internet café in town, and a gas station out near the highway. And, a couple of excellent music stores. One of them was just a couple doors down from us, and the music and the smell of their coffee lured me over almost every morning.

One day we took the ferry over to Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands, partly because it was a shorter boat ride, and partly because Breda recommended it as being the most Irish of the islands. It turned out to be a good choice for us. The day was clear and sunny, and the ride over was smooth. We hired a horse cart and driver to spin us around the island, and he proved to be a very charming gentleman, an ex-fisherman who was learning to make a living driving the cart. His name was Michael O’Flaherty, and his accent was very pleasant to listen to. When the cart drivers passed, they greeted each other in Irish. He told us stories about fishing and living on the island all his life, and it really made for a great start for our visit. We spent the rest of the day walking and looking at the sights and beauty of the island, while the girls hired bikes and rode all around. We ended up in a pub, naturally, and there was a gent with a guitar singing traditional Irish ballads with a few American folk songs interspersed. All in all, a very good day, and very relaxing.

We were sorry to leave our digs in Doolin, but we had to take off for Galway. We’d gotten to know Breda pretty well, and had tea at her house and gone to the ceili with her. I know we’d like to return to Doolin some day, just not during the peak summer season. May or late September would be ideal, I think.

On to Galway!

rex is offline  
Apr 12th, 2006, 09:35 AM
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We headed up the coast toward Galway, not a long drive but a beautiful one, with the Burren on one side, and the blue sea on the other. It’s a fairly narrow road, so there are a few dicey areas for passing tour busses, but we made it just fine. We had to stop in Kinvara , when we saw Keogh’s Pub looming in the distance. Keogh, or Keough, in our family’s spelling, was my paternal grandmother’s maiden name, so, of course, we had to stop in for a pint. It’s a very nice pub, and worth of a stop if you’re dry or hungry. From Kinvara to Galway is not a long drive, and, like magic, I remembered the route to our next stop, Cregg Castle, from our trip there four years before. Of course, the printed route didn’t hurt. So, it was off on the road toward Tuam, and we were amazed at the amount of commercial development on that road! Even on the little road to Cregg Castle off the main road, there are homes springing up everywhere.

We loved Cregg Castle when we stayed there last, partly because of the casual comfort of the place, partially because of the coolness quotient in staying at a castle, and mostly because of the nice people who own the place, and the nice people who stay there. And, of course, Anya remembered the dogs, a pack of mixed origin that roams the place, and entertains the guests with their myriad personalities. We were not disappointed this time. The castle, built in the 1600’s, sits on a 150 acre farm, and wandering around the grounds is mandatory. There’s a little old cemetery right out in the middle of the great field that’s worth a walk. This time, the remnants of one of the hurricanes that blew through Florida gave us one rainy day and stormy night, so we had to take our pleasures inside. The breakfasts are great, served in an elegant dining hall, and the great hall next to it is the site of music in the evenings. Pat and Ann Marie, the owners, are accomplished musicians, Pat on a variety of pipes and whistles, and Ann Marie on the boudhran. They play a few tunes by the turf fire each night, and guests are welcome to join in.

We enjoyed a day wandering the streets of Galway, which is a very walkable town, and went north of the river to a little pub that has live, traditional music. Ann Marie was playing there with some friends, and the music and pints were flowing. We ate lunch at Fat Freddies, which is a shamefully American place, but the kids were ready for pizza, and who can argue with that? We found a good internet/long distance shop, and connected with family and friends back home. The next day, after taking leave of Cregg Castle, we wandered around town a little more, stopped into a shop for some ciabatta sandwiches, and headed east toward Dublin.
mexicobeachbum is offline  
Apr 12th, 2006, 10:33 AM
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Enjoying your report, Bob! Did you find it to be quite crowded during the time you were there at the more popular spots? In the small towns? I'm considering whether we should do June/early July next year or March....
seasweetie is offline  
Apr 12th, 2006, 03:22 PM
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seasweetie: It was quite busy during that time. If I had my druthers, I'd go back in May or late September/early October, although with school kids, we don't always have those options. It was particularly busy in Doolin and Galway. Not so crowded in Donegal, but that's usually less traveled, anyway. The days are shorter in March, and the weather cooler.
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Apr 14th, 2006, 01:08 PM
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Crossing the country four times during our trip wasn’t what we might have planned, but we’d scheduled three nights in Dublin in the middle of our trip so we could meet Cathy and Mark there to celebrate Meghan’s 18th birthday in Dublin. So off we went, enjoying the view, and cruising along at breakneck speeds of 60 miles an hour until we reached a highway project with “loose chippings” (gravel), or a place where the main road abruptly headed right through the middle of town, with traffic invariably backed up for a mile because of a lone traffic signal, or something. My rule of thumb is, take the speed limit, in this case 60 mph, divide it in half, and that’s probably what speed you’ll actually average. Anyway, we’d made reservations in Dublin at the Harcourt Hotel for three nights. It’s well located, a couple blocks south of St, Stephen’s Green, and easy walking distance to Trinity College, Temple Bar, etc.

Getting to Dublin was easy. Getting across Dublin to the hotel was a serious pain, with streets changing names every block or two, and turning into one-way streets without warning, and lots of traffic. Sue kept suggesting we call the hotel for directions. I was kind of enjoying figuring it out for a while, and then totally frustrated about it later. We finally got there, met up with Cathy and Mark in the bar, dropped our luggage, and I took the car a few blocks to a parking garage, where I parked it for a few days. We didn’t even go back to it during our stay.

The Harcourt did turn out fine, and was affordable in a town where very little is. Also, they had a family room where four of us could stay, a rarity in Dublin. Cathy and Mark had a room in the front of the building, and had to endure a fair amount of street noise. We were in the back, and, because it was quite warm, we kept our windows open a night, and so had the constant hum of a large air conditioning unit next door. I guess it was white noise, though, as we couldn’t hear much of anything else. One of the redeeming elements of the Harcourt is a small pub downstairs where they have folks come in and entertain with Irish ballad music. We liked that a lot, because we know a lot of those songs. It was fun at the end of the day to come back, get a beer or a glass of Bailey’s, and sing along with the music.

We did a lot in Dublin, walking around, taking in museums and other sights. Some of us went to Dublinia, a historical view of medieval Dublin, on the Viking tour of the town in an amphibious duck, and to the national history museum. Others chose to wander the second-hand clothing and jewelry shops of Dublin, looking for retro bargains.

On Meghan’s birthday, we bought her the compulsory pint, and got a picture of her with foam on her lip before she spit it out. Her choice for the evening was not a pub crawl, but a trip to the Point Theatre for a rendition of Grease. It was much fun, and everyone in the crowd seemed to know the words to all the songs, so it turned into one, huge sing-along.

While in Dublin, we had a nice dinner at Kitty’s Caboodle, another at an Italian restaurant in Temple Bar called Trastevere, which was very good. We went there after a few rounds at the Porterhouse, a multi-story pub with live entertainment and lots of patrons. We had arranged to meet a couple there, one of whom is the son of a woman we know in Eugene. They both work for Symantec in Ireland, and it was interesting talking to them about living and working in Dublin.

Anya, Mark, and I walked several blocks to a very good Thai restaurant. Dublin, like most large European cities, has a very continental approach to food, and you can get any type of cuisine there. We avoided the big fish and chips places, but did eat once at Bewley’s, and I’m glad we did, because I hear they’re closing. It’s a shame, being a Dublin landmark and all.

Our few days in Dublin spent, we bade adieu to Cathy and Mark, and got back in the old Ford Focus, and took off for Sligo. Sort of. Actually, it was our intent to stop in and see the home of Charles Howard-Bury, who shares two of my names, and was the owner of a mansion, Belvedere House, and beautiful grounds just outside of Mullingar, in Westmeath County. Unfortunately, what we discovered, and was confirmed by a phone call, was that we’d left our video camera and bag sitting just outside the front door to the castle on a rock. So, back across the country we drove, back to Galway and out to Cregg Castle to pick it up. We got a good laugh out of it all with Ann Marie, and then headed north to Sligo.
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Apr 19th, 2006, 03:04 PM
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Sligo wasn’t originally on our flight plan, but we had intended to head up to Donegal, which we hadn’t already visited. However, we had met some folks from Eugene, Marcia and Lee Hawthorne, when they had an Irish young man come to visit a couple of years before. The lad, Michael, was spending two weeks in Eugene visiting Marcia and Lee, and we arranged to have him come visit Meghan’s high school for a time. It turns out that the Hawthornes rent a place in Sligo, and we called them for suggestions as to what to do and see in Donegal. They were gracious enough to invite us to stay with them, so we took them up on their offer.

Marcia and Lee live in a very comfy little cottage in Sligo, and welcomed us with open arms. Lee is the consummate tour guide. We really only had one full day to visit the area, but he made time to take us hiking to the top of Knocknarae, a local mountain with a cairn on the top, reputed to be the burial spot of Queen Maeve, that last of the Irish queens. He also took us on a spin around Lough Gill, a beautiful lake with gorgeous scenery. There, we toured Parke’s Castle, a restored stone family home on the shores of Lough Gill. We also took a ride out past Coney Island, for which the place in New York is named, to Rosses’ Point, where the golf course that Lee and Marcia play is located. What a beautiful golf course!

We ambled up to Cliffony, on the road to Donegal, and had dinner with the Hawthornes at La Veccia Posta, a small Italian continental restaurant with a great view, and terrific food. It was a great evening.

The next day we headed out to Donegal, our next stop. We had accommodations reserved at Rosearl B&B. It’s well-located, an easy walk to town, and the Mulherns who run it are very friendly and helpful. We had a family room, with a double bed and 2 twins. We spent two nights there. The breakfasts were great, and Martin was the convivial host. From Donegal, we toured the area, with side trips to Ardara to a woolen shop, where I bought a tweed jacket. Very nice quality items there. We also drove out to Glencolmcille, to see that area, and stopped at another woolen shop, where Sue bought a jacket, and I bought my current favorite, a wool sweater so soft, you can wear it over bare skin. We drove by the Gaelic language school, and up to Slieve League to see the highest seaside cliffs in Europe.

Slieve League deserves its own paragraph, if not for its beauty, which is remarkable, then for the utter terror it created driving up to see it. They tell you that you can walk the last two miles up, or drive up to the top. We chose to drive, and that was fine up to a point. We were feeling very superior to the folks we passed, huffing and puffing, on the way up. However, a couple hundred yards from the top, we met several cars making their way up. Now, here’s the thing. I’m not too crazy about heights, we’re driving on the left (sea) side of the road, with no rail, and a road that’s about wide enough for 1 ½ cars. We all came to a standstill. Sue is on the passenger (left) side of the car, afraid to look out the window, but afraid not to, in case I get too close to the edge. Remember, I’m driving a stick shift, with the gearshift on my left. I’m looking at the car coming down, and trying to get him to back up. I’m trying also, to keep my legs, which are working the pedals, from going to rubber. Finally, the car coming down will not go back, and I must edge closer to the abyss on our left. Eventually, painstakingly slowly, the cars from above negotiated their way around us on the uphill side. I had the handbrake pulled so tight, it’s a wonder the handle didn’t fall off. Finally, we got to continue our journey to the top of the hill, to see the wondrous view from there. Frankly, my nerves were so shot at that point, I didn’t even want to look out. At that point, clouds of black, obnoxious bugs discovered us, so even our attempts at a family photo were thwarted. Looking back down the road to see if the coast was clear, we got back into the car and slowly, but surely, made our way back down.
mexicobeachbum is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 11:58 AM
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We took a couple of country drives out of Donegal Town, out towards Killybegs and beyond to Kilcar to the Kilcara Woollen mill, where Sue bought lots of yarn. Then, we circled around and went to Leo’s Pub, home of Clannad and Enya, and back through Ardara, where I bought a wool tweed jacket. A highlight was Bialainn Na Sean Scoile Restaurant, near Glencolmcille. Everybody ordered lunch, and it was good, but we were amazed when they brought us a large bowl of boiled potatoes as a side dish. There were over a dozen potatoes, very tasty and hot. We buttered and ate them, but, sadly, couldn’t finish them all. The restaurant is a converted school house in an area that has fish processing facilities. We really enjoyed our meal there.

In Donegal town, we dined at Dom Breslin’s pub, a rather large place with a family atmosphere. Upstairs, there was a “hen party” going on, a group of young women obviously celebrating the impending marriage of one of their number. There was a lot of giggling coming from the rafters, and, at one point, one of the women came down and approached a middle aged man at the bar. After a couple of minutes, he retired to the jacks (restroom), and reappeared, handing something to the young woman. It turned out to be his boxer shorts, and when she waved them in the air, the others upstairs cheered and hooted and hollered. Apparently it was her task to convince a gentleman to give up his skivvies.

Next: Gone fishin'!
mexicobeachbum is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 01:09 PM
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I would love to hear the rest of this story, Bob!
edhodge is offline  
Jun 5th, 2006, 04:22 PM
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Thanks for the prod, Ed. I wasn't sure anyone was out there. I think I posted the original installment without adding Ireland somewhere, because it never comes up when I search for Ireland. Perhaps I should try to repost it. Anyway, I will roll out the next chapter.
mexicobeachbum is offline  
Jun 5th, 2006, 04:34 PM
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Searching will only find a pretty small % of all Ireland threads.

The best way to find your other threads is to click on your name -
janisj is online now  
Jun 5th, 2006, 04:39 PM
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Thanks, Janis. I'm just going to repost this on to yet another thread. I searched for it using Ireland, and it finds it.
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Jun 5th, 2006, 04:41 PM
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No - you don't need to start yet another thread -- this one is just fine.
janisj is online now  
Jun 5th, 2006, 04:44 PM
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Too late, I'm impulsive, what can I say. Hopefully the first one will disappear down the page, never to be seen again.
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Jun 5th, 2006, 04:47 PM
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But they are BOTH on the same forum = Europe.

So now you have two identical threads going full force - and all the comments from others are on your original thread. There is no reason to start a new thread -- honest!
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Jun 5th, 2006, 04:49 PM
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meant to say "your original thread - this one".
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Jun 5th, 2006, 04:50 PM
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Janis, I appreciate your advice, and I'm sure you're right, but I don't know how to make one go away, and the new one does come up when you search under "Ireland". I'm just going to finish the report and call it a day. Sorry to have wasted anybody's time.
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